Launched in 1996, Cuaba is likely best known for being a Cuban line of cigars with a regular production that is made up of figurado cigars, and more specifically, double figurados. Currently, the marca offers four sizes, Divinos (4 x 43), Exclusivos (5 7/10 x 46), Distinguidos (6 3/8 x 52) and Salomón (7 1/4 x 57).
In fact, there has only been one non-salomon release in the brand’s history, the Cuaba Piramides Edicíon Limitada 2008, a 6 1/8 x 52 pyramid.
As Habanos S.A. has explained in the past about the brand:
Every Cuaba is made in the distinctive shape known as double figurado. This was the style that at the end of the 19th Century was all the rage for Habanos.
A century later, in 1996, this rich tradition was revived at the Romeo y Julieta factory where Cuabas are made. Double figurados are at the pinnacle of the cigar maker’s art and for this alone they merit a place in every cigar enthusiast’s collection.
Cuaba, like Cohiba, is a Taino Indian word dating back to the time of Columbus. It was the word for a highly combustible bush, which the Indians used to light their “cohibas”.
All sizes contain a blend of leaves from the Vuelta Abajo region and are “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” —totally hand made, long filler.
To celebrate the marca’s 20th anniversary, Habanos S.A. revealed a new limited edition size for the line, the 170mm (6 11/16) x 56 Cuaba 20 Aniversario.
The new size does not yet have a date scheduled when it will begin arriving at retail shops nor a price, but when it does it will come in these numbered, 50-count humidors.
- Cigar Reviewed: Cuaba 20 Aniversario
- Country of Origin: Cuba
- Factory: n/a
- Wrapper: Cuba
- Binder: Cuba
- Filler: Cuba
- Length: 6 11/16 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 56
- Vitola: Double Perfecto
- MSRP: n/a
- Release Date: n/a
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 1
Looking solely at its vitola, the Cuaba 20 Aniversario is a beautiful cigar; its curves don’t seem quite as pronounced as some salomones from other countries, but that doesn’t take away from the alluring figurado shape. The wrapper, while generally attractive, does have a few water spots that have tried to be hidden on the backside but are quite evident even from the side. The band, as you may have noticed, is unique to this release, with the phrase 20 Aniversario printed on it while maintaining some consistency with the standard Cuaba design. The roll is beautiful, uniform in fitness with flat seams and just a few veins, while the wrapper has a bit of mottling and a very fine grit feel on the fingers. The foot doesn’t offer many clues as to what the cigar might hold, while the wrapper is equally void of aromas. The cold draw is much more helpful and complex, with notes of lightly salted peanuts, wheat bread and a touch of slightly bitter chocolate. At times it almost tastes like an artisan s’more, particularly as the chocolate has had a few moments to soak into my taste buds.
While I’ve smoked hardly any Cuabas in recent memory, my recollections of them tend to be that they are rooted in earth and a bit of pepper, not so much brash as rich and heavy, and the first puffs of the Cuaba 20 Aniversario are certainly in line with those memories. While there is a bit of pepper to be found in the first inch, it’s certainly on the minor side, with the earthiness slowly shifting into a surprisingly tangy note that has me thinking prime rib drippings for a moment before red chili pepper comes creeps in and puts a dynamic twist on things. The flavor progression continues with another shift, this time to a gruff and dry pepper offering, with a bit of rockiness that adds to some irritation in the back of the throat. That too is a fleeting sensation, as the first clump of ash falls off past the one-inch mark and the gruffness is gone, replaced by a peppery profile that sits lightly on the palate but offers plenty of stimulation on retrohales. The draw and burn in the first third have been fantastic, with no problems to report.
The start of the second third continues the pepper-forward flavor format for a few puffs before yet another transition begins, this time a bit of the rougher notes return but with a hint of metallic mint. The two flavors are so distinct yet so intertwined that it’s hard to put an accurate descriptor to them, both offer a bit of coolness to the flavor while also contributing their own separate flavors and aromas. At times I’m getting a bit of mint chocolate milkshake, though the chocolate isn’t nearly as prevalent, while at other times it almost tastes like licking a coin. By the midpoint of the Cuaba 20 Aniversario, those flavors are gone and the cigar finds a groove with a slightly earthy, slightly peppery profile that I peg at medium-full in terms of flavor and medium in terms of strength. I’m a bit surprised that I’m not getting more nicotine out of the cigar given its profile, but the physical reaction is minimal if any, confined mainly to a lingering finish on the tongue and mouth.
The start of the final third brings about a couple of changes: first, I notice that the ash has gotten a few shades darker than where it had been earlier and now sits at a deep charcoal gray. Second, when I stand up to stretch for a bit, the strength of the Cuaba 20 Aniversario finally hits me, not overly aggressively, but enough to remind me that I’m smoking a cigar with a bit of kick to it. The combustion continues to be fantastic both in terms of draw and smoke production, while there is a bit of an issue keeping the burn line even, though it never gets too far out of balance. The final inches see a bit more pepper returning to light up the tongue while getting a bit rougher on the back of the throat, but it’s not too much of an impedance from taking the cigar down to a small remnant of its former shape.
- Given that there is no timetable for these cigars to be released, we have chosen to label it as a preproduction release. The same has been done with other cigars obtained at this year’s Festival del Habano XVIII, which includes the Cohiba Majestuosos 1966, Hoyo de Monterrey Elegantes and H. Upmann Magnum 54.
- You can read Brooks Whittington’s coverage of the Festival del Habanos XVIII here.
- This is just the second Cuaba to reviewed on halfwheel; the first was the Cuaba Tradicionales, a regular production size that Charlie Minato reviewed in February 2012.
- While some manufacturers are known for producing certain shapes, I can’t think of a brand that is only known for producing one broad shape such as Cuaba is known for when it comes to perfectos.
- If I asked most cigar smokers to rattle off the names of Habanos S.A.’s 27 marcas, I have a feeling that Cuaba might go unmentioned more times than it gets mentioned, which is a bit interesting given that the brand has been around for 20 years and has global availability.
- The quote on the drawer of cigars pictured above comes from Christopher Columbus and means “they were always men with a firebrand in their hands.”
- If I may harp on the packaging for just a moment, while I like it, I wish there was a smaller format available to purchase these cigars besides just buying singles. A 20-count dress box would certainly make some sense given the 20th anniversary, and would seem to open this up to more people buying them in quantity.
- In February 2014, the Cuaba Bariay was released, a 9 1/8 x 47 salomon that was presented in book format as part of Colección Habanos Book series.
- Habanos S.A. isn’t known for cranking out new brands, but Cuaba isn’t the most recently launched marca. That honor belongs to San Cristóbal de la Habana, which was launched in 1999. Also younger are Vegueros and Vegas Robaina having been released in 1997, Trinidad (1998) and Guantamera, launched in 2002. The Edmundo Dantes brand, which is only available in Mexico and is used for special releases in the country, was launched in 2007.
- That means we could see 20-year anniversary cigars from those Vegas Robaina and Vegueros next year.
- Ramón Allónes could also be due for an anniversary cigar, as its history traces back to 1837 by some estimates, making next year its 180th anniversary. The same could be said for Fonseca, which became a registered marca in 1907, making next year its 110th anniversary, as well as El Rey del Mundo, which was established in 1882, making next year its 135th anniversary. Bolívar will turn 115 next year as well, having been established in 1902.
- CubanCigarWebsite.com lists Cuaba as a globally available niche brand, along with Trinidad and San Cristóbal.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 20 minutes.
- The cigars for this review were gifted to halfwheel by an attendee of the Habanos Festival XVIII.
Anniversary cigars should be something special, and that is exactly what the Cuaba 20 Aniversario is. While I can’t remember the last Cuaba I smoked, I do recall finding them to be pretty good marca in the Habanos S.A. portfolio that just happened to come in one of my favorite vitolas. This addition to the line easily takes the top position in my memories of the brand, thanks to a profile that is clean from start to finish, near flawless construction and a profile that spends a good amount of time evolving in measured and well-thought-out steps. I don’t know when these will be released and I don’t know what they will cost, but I do know that I want some more.