By Tad Gage
Partagas. Plain old Partagas. Not the Partagas Ciefuentes, or Partagas Serie S, Partagas 160 Signature or the other fine offerings in this classic line. But the plain old, reliable red-and-gold label General Cigar product I’ve been enjoying for years. Partagas: a brand so ubiquitous it can easily be lost in the sea of new brands, limited editions, fancy shapes and sizes, and cigars with exotic leaf with mystical names. Those are wonderful, too, but it was nice to wrap my lips around a good old Partagas.
In the interest of full disclosure, the Dominican-made Partagas has been a part of my humidor for the past 25 years. Mostly represented by the No. 10, a 7 ½ inch, 49 ring Cameroon-wrapped wonder that it is always perfect for a long, leisurely smoke, and the 8-9-8, which shows how well a 44 ring gauge cigar can be constructed and smoked.
At 5 ¾ inches with a 43 ring, the No. 2 I reviewed is a nicely sized stick for a modest but not extensive smoke. The Cameroon wrapper isn’t quite as oily or pebbled as many Cameroon wrappers I’ve seen, and there were a couple water spots and tiny tears. However, it is the genuine item – not just Cameroon seed grown in Ecuador or the Dominican Republic or some other country, but Cameroon-grown leaf from that West African nation. The cap was a bit ragged but generous and tightly applied. After all these years, I don’t even bother to check the quality of construction on Partagas cigars using the finger roll test. Why bother? It’ll be perfect. Reliability of taste and construction are two good reasons why, wherever you are, when you want to grab a good cigar, you can count on Partagas.
The wrapper, as I noted, is real Cameroon leaf, and I have to say that a real Cameroon wrapper, grown in the unique steamy African climate and mineral-balanced soil, simply has no equal. It is my favorite wrapper. There are some fine Cameroon seed wrappers being grown in various locations around the world, but General Cigar sources real, live wrapper from the Republic of Cameroon, located in West Central Africa. Because soil and climate have such a strong influence on tobacco, it is virtually impossible to replicate the taste of a particular leaf grown in this particular climate and soil. I resist saying this, but just as Cuban-grown tobacco is unique, there are times when certain tobaccos grown in certain locations simply cannot be replicated.
After a good toasting to the foot, the cigar lit easily and started a leisurely burn. The draw was, as expected, perfect, although this is not a cigar you want to use to see how much ash you can build. The ash is very fluffy and blossoms quickly. Don’t try to get an inch or two out of this or the ash will end up in your crotch. Just tap it out regularly, let it rest and cool down, and get over the biggest ash contest.
The cigar delivers immediate notes of cedar, cassia bark (cinnamon, but not so peppery) and toast. It’s mild and mellow, and continues that way for most of the smoke. This isn’t a challenging cigar. The traditional tough Mexican San Andrean binder used in the original Partagas line does a workmanlike job of holding everything together, while imparting a hint of sweetness and punch characteristic of Mexican-grown leaf. The Dominican Piloto Cubano and Mexican filler offer flavor without a lot of complexity. This really lets the Cameroon wrapper have a nice solo voice of clean and fresh light pepper.
Well-balanced and extremely well-aged, this cigar might bore thrill-seekers. It is mild to medium-bodied, but not bland. Please, let’s celebrate those cigars that deliver great flavor without requiring you to sit down or use a towel to wipe a nicotine-induced sweat. It’s any easy companion with just about any drink, and is a cigar that can be a good accompaniment to a martini in the evening, or a good cup of coffee in the morning. It’s not so assertive that it will battle a drink. The last third of the cigar builds a bit of pepper and spice as the tars concentrate – not because it’s blended to strengthen toward the finishing line, but due to the natural concentration of tars and flavors. That sounds bad, but in a well-made cigar, a little bit of tar and nicotine concentration is a fine thing.
It took Ramon Cifuentes 17 years to establish a new brand after leaving Cuba in 1961. I would imagine his first products were extremely disappointing to him. But what he developed, and what grew into a General Cigar mainstay, is a fine and steady smoke that never requires a second thought about construction, consistency or quality. Do not neglect this brand.
5 ¾ x 43
Binder: Mexico San Andrean
Filler: Dominican (Piloto Cubano), Mexican
Made in: Dominican Republic
|Tad Gage is the author of the best selling Penguin Books "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars," in its second edition. The book has sold over 40,000 copies worldwide, in three languages, and is available in stores and online distributors. Tad has made cigar connoisseurship accessible to beginners and veteran cigar smokes alike. He is delighted to answer questions through CigarChronicles.com. Just comment below.|