I don’t like to think of myself as an obsessive chaser of certain cigars—not that there’s anything inherently wrong with it—but over the years, I’ve come to accept two truths: there are some cigars I simply won’t get, and that some cigars I really want aren’t worth the chase.

I bring that up because this cigar reminds me of a cigar that I did chase—and found—the La Gloria Cubana Deliciosos, the first Edición Regional release for Cuba which came out in 2009. Not only did that land it pretty high on my list, but the fact that it came in a beautiful ceramic jar, which is a relative rarity, made it only that much more desirable.

Long story short, just after the cigar came out on a humanitarian trip, I was able to visit Cuba and, after visiting seemingly every other retailer in the city and coming up empty, happened to find a jar in a hotel cigar shop.

Since that time, Cuba has received several more Edición Regional releases, and late last year, it received its latest, the Dipomáticos Leal.

The Diplomáticos Leal is offered in the Duke vitola, a robusto extra that measures 5 1/2 inches (140mm) long with a ring gauge of 54. It’s a vitola that debuted in 2009 with the Romeo y Julieta Dukes, an Edición Limitada release, and which has been used for a number of Edición Regional releases since that time. It’s also the same vitola of the Partagás Serie E No.2 and the Bolívar Soberanos, a 2018 Edición Limitada release. A total of 10,000 numbered dress boxes have been released, making for a total of 100,000 cigars.

For those unfamiliar, here’s the basic refresher of what the Edición Regional program is:

The Edición Regional program is offered by Habanos S.A. to its various distributors around the world. Each year, distributors can select one cigar to be commissioned for their region, though there have been exceptions when some distributors have been able to select more than one. Those cigars must come from a brand that was not part of the company’s former “Global Brands” (Cohiba, H. Upmann, Hoyo de Monterrey, Montecristo, Partagás, Romeo y Julieta) and must be a size that is currently not offered in that specific brand.

Edición Regional cigars are signified by a secondary red and silver band that reads Edición Regional, followed typically by the name of the region represented by that specific distributor. Oftentimes, the cigars do not arrive at stores during the year they are selected for, sometimes multiple years later.

This is the seventh Edición Regional release for the Cuban market:

The cigar is named for Eusebio Leal, a Cuban historian and the director of the restoration of Habana Vieja, or Old Havana. During his time as the municipal historian of Havana and the director of the restoration project, Havana’s historic center was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. Leal passed away on July 31, 2020, following a battle with cancer.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Diplomáticos Leal Edición Regional Cuba (2021)
  • Country of Origin: Cuba
  • Factory: Undisclosed
  • Wrapper: Cuba
  • Binder: Cuba
  • Filler: Cuba
  • Length: 5 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Robusto Extra
  • Est. Price: $13.85 (Box of 10, $138.50)
  • Release Date: December 2023
  • Number of Cigars Released: 10,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (100,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

All three of the Diplomáticos Leals look very good, with a slightly reddish-hued wrapper leaf that has even coloring, small veins and clean seam lines. Each is capped well, nearly textbook examples of a well-rolled cigar. Density is a slightly different story. The first cigar is firm at the head and foot but softer in the middle, the second is firm and a little more consistent but not perfectly uniform, while the third is the best of the bunch in terms of density and consistency. The foot’s prelight aroma offers some fabric threads, making me think of the stringy ends of a blanket, then some marshmallow with a light toasting, the dusty remnants of mixed nuts, and light, airy bread bringing up the rear. The cold draws of two cigars are a touch firm but with no restriction, while the third is smooth and almost open. The flavor is slightly sweet at first taste but then picks up some old, dry wood and a bit of almond. While I think the flavor is going to blossom, instead, it does the opposite, getting tight with subsequent draws outside of just a touch of cotton candy.

The Diplomáticos Leal offers a solid start that is a bit smoky, a bit peppery, and immediately attention-grabbing. Some creaminess is present in one cigar, but unfortunately, it’s only in that one. Early retrohales have some pepper that isn’t shy but doesn’t dominate or really even accentuate the flavor, rather, it extends its echo via a lingering finish. While the flavor isn’t overly creamy, the texture of the smoke has some creaminess to it, which helps soften what can be an occasionally rough and textured start. By the one-inch mark, the flavor is a bit fuller but not particularly nuanced, offering dry, thin earth alongside black pepper and backed by some creaminess, with the first two lingering on my taste buds after each puff. Retrohales have picked up in both fullness and intensity, making them more than just an accent to puffs. Construction is good as the draw doesn’t present any issues, and the smoke production is solid, though the burn line can get a bit uneven, and the ash isn’t particularly strong. Flavor is medium-plus, body is medium and strength is medium-minus.

As with a lot of recently-released Cuban cigars, the flavor is good, but it feels underdeveloped as the Diplomáticos Leal gets into its second third. There hasn’t been much change since the first third, though it feels like a touch of minerality is coming out of the earth. The profile is better than the first third as the earthiness has developed and smoothed out while maintaining a bit of creaminess and pepper and developing a touch of woodiness on the finish. Given where the profile has been, the midpoint of the cigar is quite good, yet a bit of sharpness on the finish suggests it has a ways to go before reaching its best expression. Out of nowhere, a touch of syrupy sweetness emerges, sort of a hard candy flavor. As this section comes to a close, retrohales have evolved to put the pepper ahead of the earth, while that pepper is a bit crisper on the taste buds. Flavor is medium-plus, body is medium-plus, and strength is medium. Construction is solid with a smooth draw and good smoke production, while a slightly uneven burn line and delicate ash are the minor things of note.

The final third starts with the flavor beginning to fall out of balance and losing the harmony it had in the second third. The earth goes back to being the drier expression it showed in the first third, separating from the pepper and adding a bit of its own texture and roughness. It’s an evolution that continues throughout this section, as the creaminess is nowhere to be found, allowing the earth to develop without any kind of counterbalance. The woodiness also fades away, though there is a bit more of an aromatic aspect emerging that gives the cigar more than just a singular earthy note. The final third finishes much like the first third started: rough, singular and indicating that the cigar needs some time to develop. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium, and strength is medium-plus. Construction remains very good, with no new issues developing.

Final Notes

  • I generally find the bands on Cuban cigars to be some of the toughest to remove, but these were some of the easiest. I don’t know if they are rationing adhesive, but these came off with minimal effort once I got a fingernail under an edge.
  • While I think the flavor has a ways to go in its evolution, I will give the three cigars credit for being very consistent in their flavor and evolution.
  • None of the cigars needed relights of their own accord. I did have to relight one after being interrupted by a delivery that took me away from the cigar for a couple of moments, but I can’t fault the cigar for that.
  • None of the three cigars hit me with much nicotine strength.

  • The company lists these as a 5 1/2 x 54 robusto extra. While not exactly identical, these are amongst the most consistent cigars we’ve ever measured.
  • The box code for these cigars is PAT JUL 23, and we purchased box number 04029/10,000. We paid $138.50 for a box in Havana during the Festival del Habano earlier this year.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 50 minutes on average.
84 Overall Score

These days, lighting up and reviewing a Cuban cigar feels like an exercise in balancing how good it is at this moment with how it good it might be after some proper rest and aging. The Diplomáticos Leal is a decent cigar at the moment, but far from stellar as only the middle third delivers the kind of profile I'd describe as truly enjoyable. The first and final thirds were good but showed the roughest spots of the profile, and thus what the cigar has to overcome. That all said, this was a pretty enjoyable smoke, and I have to think that with some sort of beverage, be it coffee or rum, I'd be less inclined to notice the rougher spots. I certainly think there is some potential for the Diplomáticos Leal, and I hope I'll get the opportunity to smoke a box or two of these over the coming years to see if I'm correct.

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Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and previously the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for Major League Baseball, plus I'm a voice over artist. Prior to joining halfwheel, I covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.