El Galan Reserva Especial

El Galan Reserva Especial

It was William Faulkner who said, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” With the death of Fidel Castro and the relaxation (for now) of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, it would be good to remember what old Faulkner said. Regardless of what happens in the near future, what happened to Cubans during and after the revolution will continue to have an effect on thousands of Cubans and Cuban-Americans. There’s no escaping history.

The cigar business brings that history to the present, from seed to smoke. Take the subject of today’s little examination: the El Galan Reserva Especial. The founder and blender-in-chief is Felix A. Mesa, who is originally from the Cabaiguan region of Cuba. He comes to the industry with some familiar credentials: three generations of ancestors who worked the fields of Central Cuba and made their names in the business.

Look carefully at the band and you’ll see in the center El Galan himself, “the gentleman.” Flanking him are two small photographs: on the left is Felix Mesa’s mother, Ana Nancy, working in the tobacco field removing tobacco buds, and on his right Mesa’s grandfather Francisco working on his farm. (Check out a fine interview with Felix Mesa at hoochly for more.)

Like many cigar makers with Cuban roots, Mesa eventually made his way to Nicaragua, and today he operates a factory in Esteli where about half a dozen different blends are made. For many of today’s greatest cigar makers, Cuban roots now flower in Nicaragua.

El Galan Reserva Especial is a Nicaraguan puro made in four sizes:

  • Airosos – 5 x 52
  • Gallardos – 6 x 52 torpedo
  • Apuestos – 5 3/4 x 54
  • Obesos – 6 x 60

Construction Notes

El Galan Reserva 2

I test drove El Galan Reserva in the Apuestos size, a square pressed cigar with near-toro dimensions. The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro, rich and slightly rough. There are a few prominent veins and the triple cap is not quite perfect, but definitely serviceable.

The cigar is rolled well with a good draw and a slow burn that meanders a bit but corrects itself. Each one of the three I smoked for the review was consistent in this regard, so there’s good quality control here.

Overall construction: Excellent

Tasting Notes

El Galan 3

There’s a nice blend of sugar and spice here. The Apuestos open bright and peppery with a citric bite, but this is balanced by cedar and a touch of graham cracker on the nose. The body is medium, growing to full, and the strength is around medium to medium-full.

The pepper diminishes as the cigar develops and more savory flavors appear on the palate. The smoke becomes meaty with an earthy aftertaste. A few sweet notes continue to dance on the nEl Galan 4ose, but they deepen a bit as the cedar loses its edge and becomes more oaky. A finale composed of increased earthiness, char, and pepper closes out the cigar.

Conclusion

I don’t usually expect a lot of complexity from cigars with wrappers this dark, but El Galan Reserva delivers. It’s well built, consistent, and in the $6-7 USD range for all four sizes, it’s nicely priced. This is one to check out if you’re looking for a complex and meaty maduro.

But don’t take my word for it. Ask Jeff, writing for Casas Fumando early this year.

 

Final Score: 90

Advertisements

Partagas Ramon y Ramon

Partagas Ramon

I remember my first Partagas… a No. 10, if I recall. It was a smooth, mellow, mildly spicy cigar that tickled my virginal taste buds and left me a believer in the brand from that moment on.  Eventually I learned that the active ingredient in that blend is a Cameroon wrapper. For me, Partagas is Cameroon, and the Partagas Benji Menendez Master blend is the best of the lot. Okay, the Cuban Partagas is something else entirely, but the Partagas Black? No, man. I don’t know what that is, but to me it’s not a Partagas.

Cameroon wrappers came into popularity as a substitute for Cuban wrapper after the embargo was enacted in 1961. While many cigar manufacturers gave up in despair at the loss of Cuban tobacco, Stanford Newman (founder of the J. C. Newman Cigar Co. and maker of Cuesta Rey and Diamond Crown cigars) found that Cameroon wrappers might serve as a good alternative. Cameroon is certainly not identical to Cuban tobaccos, but it has a similar earthiness, plus an additional spiciness.

The Newmans and the Fuentes have done amazing things with Cameroon, but the folks at General Cigar have kept up with them. The Cameroon wrapper they are using for the Ramon y Ramon is a high priming, sungrown leaf cultivated in the Belita region by the Meerapfel family, who seem to have a monopoly on the choicest leaf in Africa.

The heart of the cigar is blended with a proprietary tobacco developed as a hybrid: agronomists crossed a delicate vintage strain with a more robust and disease-resistant variety to create the romantically named “PM01”.  Pair this with some Nicaraguan tobacco, hold it in place with a Dominican wrapper, and finish it off with that Belita Cameroon, and voila! — it’s a Partagas Ramon y Ramon.

Four sizes are in production:

  • Robusto – 5 1/2 x 50
  • Maxim Grande – 6 x 52
  • Gigante – 6 x 60
  • Fabuloso – 7 x 54

Partagas Ramon 2

Construction Notes

Cameroon wrappers add tremendous flavor and complexity to a blend, but they are rarely pretty. They tend to be brittle, dry, and they don’t look terribly appetizing. This one is a case in point: the wrapper is rough and dusty looking, a pale yellowish brown, almost grayish. On the positive side, the wrapper is strong and so far I haven’t had one split on me.

The roll is solid and the head is finished in a rounded Cullman cap. The Ramon y Ramon draws very well, burns evenly at a moderate pace, and leaves a firm light-gray ash in its wake.

Overall construction: Excellent

Tasting Notes

The Ramon y Ramon opens with the leitmotif that recurs throughout this cigar: earthiness  with a minty tang. It’s not the same earthiness that you find in a Cuban cigar — it’s not as subtle, not as bready, and it’s spicier — but it’s vaguely similar. The spiciness takes the form of cedar scents, white pepper, and cinnamon on the nose.

In the mid-section of the cigar there are bittersweet chocolate notes, a little more pepper, and a continuing eucalyptic mintiness. The body of the smoke is about medium, with a strength to match.

The complex and alluring aroma of this cigar never lets up, so I’m willing to forgive the excessive tannins that sneak in at the end. Keep a drink handy to cure your pucker.

Partagas Ramon 4

Conclusion

The Partagas Ramon y Ramon has a Cuban-style earthiness at its core; it’s similar to the Toraño Cameroon in this respect, but it’s more complex. The aroma alone is worth the price of admission, which is around US $7.50. For the moment this cigar is a brick-and-mortar exclusive, but it’s well worth a trip to the shop. For me, it doesn’t quite beat out the Benji Mendendez, but it creeps up awfully close.

Final Score: 91