Friday, June 15, 2007

The Smoking Lounge Review: Partagás Serie D No. 4

Size: 4 7/8"(124 mm)
Weight: 11.66 grams
Originated: DEC 05
Vitola: Robusto
Country of Origin: Cuba

The Spaniard Don Jaime Partagás Ravelo had worked in the Cuban tobacco business for years before establishing his own factory, Real Fábricas de Tabaco Partagás in 1845, on 60 Industria Street in Havana, one of the largest of its time. The name, which translates as "Partagás Royal Tobacco Factory," was supposedly chosen because of Don Jaime's status as cigar supplier to various European and Asian nobility. Don Jaime owned many of the best plantations in the Vuelta Abajo tobacco-growing region of Cuba and being able to choose from among the finest tobaccos on the island made the brand incredibly successful. Don Jaime is also believed to have experimented with various methods of fermenting and aging tobacco and is legendarily credited with hiring the first lector to read to and entertain the cigar rollers as they worked.

Don Jaime was murdered (supposedly by a jealous rival he'd been vying with in one of his love affairs) on one of his plantations in either 1864 or 1868 and his son José Partagás took over the business. Later on, the factory and brand were sold to a banker named José A. Bance, who in turn sold it to the firm of Cifuentes, Fernández y Cía in 1900. In 1916, Don José Fernández seems to have left the firm and Ramón Cifuentes Llano joined with Francisco Pego Pita to form the new firm of Cifuentes, Pego y Cía. In 1927, the firm would acquire the rights to the Ramón Allones brand and at some unknown point the factory began to produce a brand named for its owner, Cifuentes.

Cifuentes died in 1938 and Pego in 1940, leaving the Cifuentes family solely in control of the increasingly-prestigious factory and brand (it's unknown why Pego's heirs didn't claim anything) and renaming the company simply Cifuentes y Cía. In 1954, the Cifuentes family acquired the Bolívar and La Gloria Cubana brands from José F. Rocha and moved their production to their factory. In 1958, the Partagás Factory was the second largest exporter of Cuban cigars (the H. Upmann Factory being the only one bigger), accounting for over a quarter of all exported tobacco goods.

After tobacco was nationalized following the Cuban Revolution, the family's patriarch, Ramón, was initially offered the job of leading Cuba's tobacco industry, but refused and the Cifuentes family fled the country and the newly-formed Cubatabaco arm of the government took over the factory and cigar production there. After a hiatus of almost seventeen years, the patron of the family, Ramón Cifuentes began to produce Partágas and Bolívar cigars for General Cigar Company and the US market at first from Jamaica, but later from a plantation and factory located in the Dominican Republic, where they are still made today. Ramón Cifuentes passed away in 2000.

Before and after the Revolution, the Cuban-produced Partagás has been one of the most revered and highest-selling brands of cigars in the world. Many cigar connoisseurs consider this to be their favorite brand of Cuban cigars, with the Serie D No. 4, Lonsdales (now discontinued), Lusitanias, and Shorts all being incredibly popular and renowned sizes. The Partagás Factory (since renamed the "Francisco Pérez Germán" factory) still produces Partagás and numerous other cigar brands for export and has proven to be a very popular tourist destination for cigar smokers vacationing in Havana.

In 2002, when Altadis bought a controlling share in the Cuban government-owned cigar distributor, Habanos SA, a number of changes in cigar production were instituted. One of these changes was the decision to gradually turn the various brands of Cuban cigars to either all-handmade or all-machine-made lines, reduce the number of redundant sizes within a brand, and cut many low-selling cigars from production. Partagás, which has historically produced a variety of handmade and machine-made or machine-finished cigars, had several of its vitolas cut from production, much to the dismay of connoisseurs worldwide.

Since the introduction of the Edición Limitada annual releases, Partagás has gotten a special size made almost every year: the Pirámide in 2000, the Serie D No. 3 in 2001, the Serie D No. 2 in 2003, and the Serie D No. 1 in 2004. In 2005, Partagás introduced a new addition to its regular lineup, a pyramid called the Serie P No. 2. So far, this new size has proved incredibly popular with cigar connoisseurs.

Partagás also produces two machine-made cigarillos (the Mini and the Club) and a brand of cigarettes.

Appearance: This is one pretty looking habano. Firm to the touch, but with just a bit of give, and with the slightest of a reddish hue (not nearly as much so as say, a Hoyo Epicure No. 2), this cigar and its wrapper just begged to be smoked. This cigar was surprisingly smooth and classy looking compared to most of the Cuban cigars I have smoked, with nary a vein, blemish or discoloration. Just beautiful.

Pre-Light: An initial sniff of this cigar revealed without a doubt that it was a habano. that tell tale horse stable, earthy richness just seemed to emanate from this stick. The clip was a breeze with my new go to Synchro Cutter, the cut being flush and level and even. Pre Light Draws were of cedary woodiness and earthiness.

Burn/Draw: What a beautifully constructed cigar! The burn was not an issue at all, and in fact it has noted that this may have been the single best burning Cuban cigar I have ever smoked. the habanos I have had in the past have on occasion have had rather goofy burns, though never enough to detract terribly from the overall experience. This cigar had nary an issue. The burn was razor straight the whole way down. The draw was forgiving and produced volumes of great, flavorful blue-grey smoke. The as was light grey (and not nearly as mottled as some habonos I had smoked in the past), firm and held until I wanted it to be removed. Overall this was one well made smoke.

Flavor: Now, this is not the first PSD4 I have smoked in my lifetime, and I have enjoyed all the ones I have tried in the past. It was always a pleasant experience. Well I don't know if its because my palate is more fine tuned, or I have tried a wider range of Habanos or what, but this cigar was a revelation to me. More than ever before I was able to pick out notes and define what I liked about this lovely Robusto. Upon initial lighting and for about the first half inch this cigar explodes with a bit of power across your palate, all black pepper with a very distinct cedar note outlining your tongue (I had wondered if I had licked my humidor tray, haha!). In the middle section rounded out a bit, the smoke getting creamy, while the flavors stayed dry, with that fabulous Cuban earthy undertone creeping in, and the pepper fading out to some extent. The rich and round body of the smoke kept the cigar from tasting too dry. There is a specific note that I would like to try to describe that crept in here and continued to keep me fascinated the whole length of the cigar. See if anyone who reads this had done this before: have you every lit a very woody whiskey (say, Elijah Craig 18) sit on your palate long enough on your palate so that it evaporated a bit and the fumes traveled up into your nasal cavities, tickling them a bit and smelling a little tangy? An obtuse thing to suggest maybe, but this cigar had a note EXACTLY LIKE THAT! Too cool for words! the last third of the cigar, the woodiness got more smokey and the spicy pepper returned for a bang up finale. Overall this cigar is a great example how refined dry notes, intertwining with round creamy smoke can make for an intoxicating experience, as well as a powerful counterpoint to My Favorite Cuban Robusto. To say this cigar is RECOMMENED is an understatement. seek these puppies out. Hoard them, and enjoy them.



Jeebus said...

Now i wanna try mine!!!!

great review Tom

Carrie said...

I know this may or may not add to your review, but I myself had an experience while you were smoking this. As you can recall, I had JUST went to bed when you went back out the living room to light this one up. Well, it couldn't have been two minutes later, when I smelled something. Immediately, I was awake, sitting up in bed and smelling the air. I was overcome by the sweet smell of the cigar smoke wafting toward that part of the house, and it could be my unrefined sense of smell, but I could have sworn you had just lit up a joint. Smelled just like pot. I sat there for a few minutes wondering what you were doing, and kept sniffing and sniffing. I ALMOST got up to make sure you weren't actually lighting up a doobie. Well, fatigue won and I just let it go, and went to sleep with the sweet smell of 'whatever' you were smoking! :)