Even the cigar companies that don’t want to be associated with Cuba seem to never get completely away from the island that made cigars famous. Then there are the American-based cigar companies that never want you to forget Cuba.
HVC Cigars is squarely in the latter.
The three letters are an abbreviation for Havana City, Reinier Lorenzo’s hometown, and multiple HVC releases have specifically referenced Cuba, its history and Lorenzo’s time there. One cigar is named after an infamous Cuban gangster and another is Lorenzo’s old address.
So it was of no surprise that when Havana celebrated its 500th birthday last year, HVC had a cigar for that too.
The HVC 500 Years Anniversary pays tribute to that, even if the name seems more likely to imply that the company is 500-years-old. It’s a Nicaraguan puro using tobaccos from AGANORSA, specifically a corojo 99 wrapper from Jalapa, a binder from Jalapa and fillers from Estelí and Jalapa.
It debuted in October 2019 in a single vitola, a 5 7/8 x 52 robusto extra, before the company announced two new sizes for 2020, bringing the total to three vitolas:
- HVC 500 Years Anniversary Tesoros (5 5/8 x 52) — October 2019 — 1,333 Boxes of 15 Cigars (19,995 Total Cigars)
- HVC 500 Years Anniversary Selectos (5 5/8 x 46) — May 2020 — 800 Boxes of 15 Cigars (12,000 Total Cigars)
- HVC 500 Years Anniversary Shorts (4 1/2 x 52) — May 2020 — 12,000 Total Cigars
Of note, the Shorts size is only sold through Privada Cigar Club, a Florida- based monthly cigar subscription club that also sells cigars like a typical online store. The vitola being reviewed today—the Selectos—is sold at retailers nationwide.
- Cigar Reviewed: HVC 500 Years Anniversary Selectos
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
- Wrapper: Nicaragua (Corojo 99 Jalapa)
- Binder: Nicaragua (Jalapa)
- Filler: Nicaragua (Criollo 98 & Corojo 99)
- Length: 5 5/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 46
- Vitola: Corona Gorda
- MSRP: $10 (Box of 15, $150)
- Release Date: May 20, 2020
- Number of Cigars Released: 800 Boxes of 15 Cigars (12,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 3
While the wrapper is a bit dull in terms of the amount of red hues, there’s a lot of oil on it. Once removed from cellophane, there’s an aroma of acidity, barnyard and a fruity sweetness I can’t place exactly. The foot smells sweeter with raisins, chocolate and nuts—kind of like opening up a package of trail mix. The cold draws are dominated by a chocolate ice cream malt flavor with some grassiness, wet leaves and acorns underneath.
Once lit, the HVC 500 Years Anniversary Selectos starts with wet leaves, acorns, charred meats and an acidic coffee. It’s medium-full and while there’s not a harshness, I wouldn’t say this is particularly smooth. Fortunately, the smoothing out process begins, though not to the point I’d like. That leads to a core of charred earth over pistachios, espresso, leather and acidity. I think if you’d want to describe this as a toasty coffee profile—maybe not burnt coffee—it would be a fair description. The finish has leather, cardamom, espresso and an umami flavor, though the latter seems a bit misplaced. Retrohaling provides a great contrast with flavors of fruitiness, creaminess and a generic nuttiness. The finish of the retrohale—both in comparison to the rest of the flavors and the initial retrohale—is a lot drier. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. Construction is a bit all over the place in terms of burn: one cigar smokes flawlessly, another shows signs of tunneling and another one is burning rather unevenly.
A generic nutty flavor and the espresso pick up quite a bit in intensity, though for most of the second third a toasty earth flavor remains the most dominant of the group. Fortunately, the smoothing out of the profile continues and, at times, I can pick up some juniper, though the profile is rather similar to the first third. The finish adds nuttiness and mild amounts of white pepper, though it’s hard to escape the toastiness. Retorhales are now led by nuttiness on top of toastiness and leather. The finish of the retrohales are creamier and eventually conclude with an armaretto-like sensation. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. Construction continues to be a sort of luck of the draw—two cigars are fine while one needs a touch-up—though at this point I’ve had to use my lighter on all three samples. If I wasn’t smoking this cigar for review, I’d probably be using it more to help smoke production, which is trailing off.
There’s finally a reprieve from the dominant toasty flavors in the final third of the HVC 500 Years Selectos. That being said, toastiness is still there, though now integrated with earthiness, leather, nuttiness and a lemon-infused creaminess. For the first time, it feels like the cigar has found a reasonable balance and settled into a groove. The finish is drier with both creaminess and a growing vegetal flavor. Retrohales have lemon and creaminess—now isolated from each other instead of intertwined—over top of herbal and mineral sensations. Two cigars need touch-ups, one to fix an uneven burn and the other to prevent the cigar from going out.
- While HVC isn’t a company that I think of being known for expensive cigars, I’m a bit surprised that this release is only $10 per cigar considering the packaging and limited nature. If I was gifted a box of these and didn’t know any better I would have guessed it was more than $150.
- I wonder how many blends one can make with just AGANORSA tobaccos. This should apply for most large factories but given that AGANORSA largely uses its own tobaccos, I sort of wonder how many different and unique blends a company like HVC—let alone all the companies that make cigars with the tobacco—can come up with.
- That being said, this definitely falls well within HVC’s profile which I find to be summed up as Nicaraguan-heavy, medium-full cigars.
- This cigar didn’t have a great balance. It seemed like the flavors were trying to compete with the toastiness for most of the first two thirds but ended up failing to ever reach that level. I really feel like there’s a lot more to be had in terms of flavors, but it was challenging for my palate to pick up much beyond the main three flavors because of their individual and collective intensities.
- One of the three cigars was a lot spongier than the other two.
- The original size—5 7/8 x 52—finished #14 on halfwheel’s Top 25 for 2019.
- I am not a huge fan of most uses of the knock-off Edición Limitada band on most cigars. It generally reminds me of a fake Cuban and that’s not the greatest association.
- It looks even worse here given how vibrant the gold is on the main band and how dull the gold is on the secondary band. I feel like the cigar would be better without it, or better yet, better with a custom band that HVC designed on its own.
- As much as I don’t like the secondary band, the main band and the boxes are very nice.
- The boxes for the Selectos are finished with natural wood instead of a painted black finish.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 45 minutes on average.
- Site sponsors Cigar Hustler and Famous Smoke Shop carry the HVC 500 Years Selectos.
The HVC 500 Years Anniversary Selectos is not as good as the original version. For the first time in a while, perhaps ever, I was smoking an HVC release that had issues with balance. During most of the first two thirds I wished the toastiness would have been dialed back to allow the other flavors to shine. The good news is that I suspect that this issue will go away with some time in the humidor and some of the flavors calming down.