Review: Troya Universales (Pre-Embargo)
When you think Cuban cigars, you do not think Troya. For many that regularly enjoy cigars from Habanos S.A., Troya might be a brand they argue is not even still around, or perhaps even Cuban. They would be wrong, more in technicality than in spirit.
Troya is still around, now one of Internacional Cubana del Tabaco S.A.’s (ICT) three dedicated machine-made labels, but that was not always the case. Pacific Cigar, the importer for Cuban cigars in much of the Asian market, describes the brand’s history as such:
Martínez & Co., located at 2000 Real Street, in Marianao, Havana, registered the brand in 1932. Its brand image stands out as one of the gems of Cuban lithography. It could be said that Homer immortalized Troy (“Troya” in Spanish) but Martínez & Co. put the name of the city conquered by the Greeks, in the mouth of smokers.
According to CubanCigarWebsite.com, during the late 1960s, there were as many as eight total Troyas on the market: six traditional premium cigars and two mixed-fill cigars. By 1980, the brand had been converted into one that fully produced mix-filler cigars and in 2005, the brand was removed from the Cuban portfolio altogether. In 2008, it was announced the brand would return to market under the ICT S.A. company and with the Coronas Club.
While at Inter-tabac 2013, Mitchell Orchant of C.Gars Ltd handed me a few cigars to try, one of which was an old pre-embargo Troya Universales a 5 2/7 x 38 Short Panatela in some of the yellowest cellophane I’ve seen this year.
The Universales was one of the older vitolas of Troya, handmade until 1980 and not discontinued until 2005. It appears that around the switch to machine-made, there was a red stripe added to the cellophane.
And the particulars.
Cigar Reviewed: Troya Universales
Country of Origin: Cuba
Size: 5 2/7 Inches
Ring Gauge: 38
Est. Price: $10.00 (Boxes of 25, $250.00)
Date Released: Pre-Embargo
Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 1
Before removing the cigar from the cellophane it was apparent the time in a box had left an almost perfect square impression on the cigar, a true box-press. After the overly yellow plastic was removed, the cigar actually contained a decent bit of aroma. There was the unpleasant: a somewhat light aroma that reminds me of what happens after you leave a half open water bottle out for a few days. The pleasant smells came from the foot: leather, nuts and some fruit. I wasn’t particularly surprised by this amount of flavor, cellophane helps to keep a lot in. The light earth wrapper was a bit rough, although consistent in color. From the cold draw I got some dried raspberry over pecans and a slight bit of pepper and bitterness towards the finish.
The Troya starts off with a mouthwatering cedar note and some saltiness to begin the first third. It’s not overly complex or detailed, but it’s a solid beginning for any cigar. Over the course of the first few minutes the profile gets nuttier, although the beginning two notes are still very much present. As the first third ends, there’s a noticeable bitterness creeping up from the back of the mouth. While the dark ash makes it a solid inch before falling off and the draw is good, the smoke production is lacking for the beginning parts of the Universales and there are times where it seems to be suffering as far as burn rate.
All of the minor problems I could pick out in the beginning parts of the cigar made themselves known in the second third. For a few brief puffs there was a wonderful lemon zest added to the Troya’s cedar and nuttiness, and then there was tunneling, harshness and bitterness. The three were related. From the mid-point of the cigar, the Universales became a battle keeping the cigar lit, keeping it burning straight and fighting through the rapidly declining enjoyment level of the cigar.
By the final third, any reasonable person would have called it a day. The cigar finally went out, and then it went out again, and again. The issues with what were only minor hard spots on the cigar had turned into roadblocks as far as the burn went. Despite my best efforts, the Universales just couldn’t stay lit and it took an already bitter profile into just plain nastiness.
- For those wondering, the embargo went into effect on February 7, 1962.
- As is mentioned above, the cigar definitely had a few mild hard spots. Outside of that, it seemed fine both in how it was rolled and stored.
- People are always amazed to hear that cigars with 50+ years of age can still have quite a bit of flavor, and much of it be enjoyable. While the last half of the Troya was far from those two positive descriptions, the first half was more than just respectable, no matter the age.
- That being said, there’s not an overwhelmingly large amount of reviews of cigars from this era, and many of them read like fairy tale stories. I’ve smoked a handful of cigars with serious age on them, they are hit or miss to say the least.
- CubanCigarWebsite.com’s history of the Troya brand is a bit confusing. The site lists the brand as being both deleted and reinstated in 2005. The linked press release above seems to indicate the brand was not reinstated until 2008. There’s also no evidence, that was not citing CubanCigarWebsite.com, that I was able to find that indicated 2005 was when the brand reappeared.
- There was a little bit of nicotine and a medium-body, which was a bit shocking.
- Last year, a full box of Universales from the 1970s sold at auction for £100. There seems to be a few post-embargo boxes that have floated around the London auctions over the last decade, but the pre-embargo versions seem absent.
- By the mid-1980s Lignum-2 began producing a version of Troya for the U.S. There were actually a variety of Troyas over the years, including one made by José Don Pepín” García. In 2008, Imperial Tobacco acquired Lignum-2 and Troya was added to the Altadis U.S.A. portfolio.
- For those wanting to simply own a piece of history and assuming you would need a loan to grab a single cigar with a half century or more of age, you would be shocked. While pre-embargo cigars from the major names can sell for around $100 per cigar, Clear Havanas—cigars using Cuban tobacco that were rolled in America—can be had for less than $25. The only problem is they don’t come up for sale that often and the there is no one place to purchase them.
- This would actually qualify as a legal Cuban.
- Cigars for this review were acquired in a trade with Mr. Orchant.
- Final smoking time was 55 minutes
- As with any cigar acquired in this manner, there’s no real way to guarantee how the cigar has been stored for the entirety of its 20,000-day-old life. Few, if any, people keep logs recording the conditions in their humidors every day of the year and the issue becomes compounded for every additional year or owner the cigar has had. That being said, the most important thing is to know who you are acquiring cigars from and how much they will guarantee the condition of the product. Some times, it doesn’t matter; but trust and some basic due diligence are oftentimes the only two things to fall back on in cases like this. While discussions of this issue come up more with both Cuban and/or vintage cigars, the same concerns could easily be applied to any of the cigars this site reviews and people smoke.
The Bottom Line: I had zero major expectations going into this review. Given that this was not my first rodeo with cigars with this age, I was not shocked when the cigar began smoking well, but it was nice to smoke a cigar that could actually be enjoyed, even if it was only for 25 or so minutes. We judge cigars the same way every time, and for that, the Troya fails. The reality is, the second half of the cigar was so bad, there’s little the first half could do to justify it. If you for some reason have some pre-embargo Troya Universales lying around and haven’t smoked one, I would, for curiosity’s sake, not because this example was sublime.
Final Score: 60