The world of cigars tends to move at a measured and relaxed pace – perhaps reflecting the state of mind one develops from working with a product that’s best enjoyed in good time. Thus, it came as a welcome surprise when not one but three big announcements were made this summer by Hunters & Frankau (H&F), the exclusive UK distributor of Habanos cigars.
First came the long-awaited release of the latest UK Habanos Regional Edition, in the form of a spectacular cigar under the El Rey Del Mundo marque. Named ‘La Reina’ (The Queen), every single cigar in this series has been rolled completely by hand at the world-famous El Laguito factory, home to many of Cuba’s most qualified rollers, which H&F believe is a first for any Habanos Regional Edition.
What’s more, La Reina has been crafted in the coveted Laguito No.1 vitola (7 1/2", RG 38) that was made famous by the Cohiba Lanceros and Trinidad Fundadores, the latter of which was once exclusively reserved for diplomats and VIPs visiting Cuba in the 1970s. In fact, the vitola was first created by legendary roller Eduardo Rivera (who is credited as a key figure in the creation of Cohiba) and offered to President Fidel Castro in 1963, around 20 years before it was made available to purchase. What makes La Reina even more interesting is the way the final blend was selected by H&F.
The unprecedented decision was taken to invite a group of UK specialists to attend a blind tasting panel of prototype cigars and allow the official blend to be chosen democratically. El Rey del Mundo was chosen as the brand for the release because, according to H&F, ‘its delicate flavours and subtle aromas lent themselves perfectly to this slim shape’.
The eagle eyed will note that this long and elegant smoke is in fact the 2018 market exclusive, despite hitting shelves in July 2019. This is quite common when it comes to Regional Editions and proves true the old adage about good things coming to those who wait.
Indeed, it seems that patience is a virtue long held by H&F, as their second announcement of the summer was to introduce the H&F House Reserve – Aged & Rare collection, which comprises cigars matured for a minimum of 10 years in the company’s warehouse. On top of receiving 10, 15, or 20 years of ageing, many of the cigars in this collection are also noteworthy for being First Releases (boxes delivered to the UK in the year they were launched), Discontinued Lines (cigars no longer being produced in Cuba), or limited editions on launch (such as Limited Editions, Regional Editions, Reservas & Gran Reservas). In order to guarantee the flawless condition of all products, each cigar is checked by a Habanos s.a. technician, flown in from Cuba, and every box stamped ‘Revisado’ (checked).
Finally, H&F also simultaneously announced their House Reserve – Series 1790, which the company has declared as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the House Reserve. Named in honour of the company’s founding year, Series 1790 will see the annual release of specially curated collections of ‘some of the rarest and most sought-after Havana cigars within the House Reserve’.
These collections will all be unified by a theme (such as by brand, speciality, or vintage) and come housed in bespoke humidors or boxes commissioned solely for the Series 1790. Collection Number One, of which only 30 are available, can be found nestled within a humidor constructed by Italian fine furniture makers DeArt S.r.l and comprises 10 cigars from each of the 17 UK Regional Editions released between 2005, the inaugural UK Regional Edition, and 2017.
What's more, each humidor has been individually numbered and signed by Jemma Freeman, managing director of Hunters & Frankau.
King & Queen
El Rey del Mundo La Reina and Johnnie Walker 18 Years Old
Bucking the prevailing trend for regional exclusives, which of late seem to consist mostly of stockier and often stubbier vitolas, Hunters & Frankau have chosen to indulge UK cigar smokers with an elegant Laguito No.1. Categorised as ‘light to medium’ in flavour, it is advisable to smoke this cigar slowly. However, those smokers who choose to sip rather than gulp will be rewarded with flavours that mirror the elegance of its construction: creamy, with underlying honey sweetness.
The 18-year-old offering from the undisputed king of blended Scotch offers up a complex nose packed with tinned peaches, golden syrup, dried pineapple, sweet and sour sauce, rose water, first-aid kit and the merest whiff of boot polish. The palate continues this theme: sweet and creamy, a slight smoky medicinal note lingers on the finish. Together, cigar and whisky make for quite the regal couple.
The Giant’s Workshop
Bolivar Coronas Gigantes (H&F House Reserve – Aged & Rare) and Glen Scotia 25 Years Old
Boasting 20 years of age, the Bolivar Coronas Gigantes (7”, RG47) released under the H&F House Reserve – Aged & Rare marque retain the brand’s signature rich and full-bodied character. Packed with notes of wood spice and leather, its savoury palate is balanced with sweetness and climaxes with a long and peppery finish. This substantial cigar, aptly named the ‘Giant Crown’, is a true titan of flavour.
But what to pair with such a bold and earthy character? The Glen Scotia 25 Years Old delivers steadfast distillery profile, despite its age, and nuanced tropical flavours that only true maturity can bring. The nose delivers canvas tent, almond-flour cake, curry leaf, beeswax, Danish oil, candied ginger, mango and papaya. These fruity notes serve to lift and cut through the heavy profile of the Bolivar, making for a complex and spicy pairing of huge proportions.