There are a number of brands in the Habanos S.A. portfolio that have fallen under the radar over the decades, and until recently, Quai d’Orsay would have to have been close to the top of the list.
Founded in the early 1970s when Valéry Giscard d’Estaing—who was the Minister of Finances in France and would eventually be named President of the French Republic—asked the state tobacco monopoly why there was not a specific French cigar. As a result, Cubatabaco blended the Quai d’Orsay brand, which was named after the wharf where the tobacco office was located on the Seine river.
While it has never been considered a large marca, Quai d’Orsay has always been quite popular in France, which may explain why three of the eight Edición Regional cigars in the brand have been exclusive releases for the country. Unfortunately, its popularity in that country did not stop Habanos from cutting the brand back drastically in 2015, leaving just one regular production vitola, namely the 5 3/5 x 42 Coronas Claro.
However, things changed in February 2017, when Habanos S.A. announced a fairly major overhaul of the Quai d’Orsay brand during the Festival del Habano XIX. As part of the refresh, two vitolas were added—specifically, the 4 1/3 x 50 Quai d’Orsay No. 50 and the 5 3/10 x 54 Quai d’Orsay No. 54—both of which joined the existing Coronas Claro to round out the final three-viola lineup. In addition, all three cigars were given new bands and box designs in anticipation of being shipped to major Habanos S.A. markets around the world.
Fast forward to February of this year, when retailers in France began receiving boxes of the first Edición Limitada in the Quai d’Orsay marca’s history: the Senadores. Priced at €19.80 ($21.90) per cigar in Frace, the 6 3/16 (157mm) x 48 grand corona is sold in boxes of 25 cigars. Like all Edición Limitada releases from Habanos S.A., includes tobacco that was aged for at least two years.
The Quai d’Orsay Senadores was officially previewed during a dinner in Paris on Sept. 12, 2019 that took place on a yacht along the Seine river. Although all Edición Limitada cigars are sold in stores around the world—excluding the U.S., of course—retailers in both France were given a short exclusive selling window for the cigars before it was offered in other countries.
There were three Edición Limitada releases announced for 2019:
- Ramón Allones Allones No. 2 (5 1/2 x 52)
- Quai d’Orsay Senadores (6 3/16 x 48)
- Montecristo Supremos (5 1/8 x 55)
- Cigar Reviewed: Quai d’Orsay Senadores Edición Limitada 2019
- Country of Origin: Cuba
- Factory: Not Disclosed
- Wrapper: Cuba
- Binder: Cuba
- Filler: Cuba
- Length: 6 3/16 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 48
- Vitola: Gran Corona
- MSRP: $21.90 (Box of 25, $547.50)
- Release Date: Sept. 21, 2019
- Number of Cigars Released: Not Disclosed
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
I am surprised at just how dark the wrapper is on the Quai d’Orsay Senadores, as well as how gnarly it feels thanks to an abundance of prominent veins running up and down the length. There is almost no oil visible and the cigar is quite spongy when squeezed, with one sample featuring a massive soft spot just under secondary band. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of intense barnyard, dark chocolate, wet hay, cedar, nuts and generic sweetness, while the cold draw brings super unique flavors of floral and dark chocolate mixed with leather, grass, cocoa nibs, aged oak and a touch of vanilla.
The first third of the Quai d’Orsay begins with a blast of brown sugar sweetness combined with black pepper and slight spice on my tongue, all of which morph into a combination of floral and aged cedar that has no problem dominating the profile. Additional notes include cocoa nibs, espresso beans, grass, lemon meringue sweetness, cinnamon and bread, with a touch of cinnamon bringing up the rear. Construction-wise, the draw is excellent after a simple straight cut, while the burn is giving me no issues so far and smoke production from the foot is plentiful. In terms of strength, the Senadores starts out light but increases enough to leave the mild range behind by the end of the first third.
There are some major shifts in the profile of the Quai d’Orsay Senadores during the second third, starting with the dominant flavors, which now include toast and earth followed by notes of cinnamon, leather, hay, peanuts, cocoa nibs, anise, barnyard and a touch of floral that flit in and out. In addition, there is a distinct saltiness on my lips as well as a graham cracker sweetness and white pepper combination on the retrohale. Both the draw and the burn continue to impress, and while the overall strength has no problems coming close to the medium mark by time the second third comes to an end.
Although the toast note continues to be dominant during the final third of the Quai d’Orsay, the hay flavor from the first two thirds increases significantly, followed by flavors of cocoa nibs, cinnamon, floral, leather, earth and slight citrus in varying amounts. The graham cracker sweetness continues to be a factor on the retrohale though there is a bit more white pepper as well. The saltiness on my lips that was so prevalent in the second third has receded quite a bit. The draw continues to give me no issues, but the burn becomes increasingly problematic resulting in a couple of touchups in quick succession. Finally, the overall strength increases enough to put the Senadores well into the medium range—and perhaps just a bit above that—by the time I put the nub down with less than an inch remaining.
- In a somewhat odd coincidence, while covering the Festival del Habano XXII last year, I apparently photographed a portrait of the man whose business in Cuba produced at least some of the boxes for this release. He would not tell us what was going in the boxes at the time, but they are fairly unique visually, and you can see some of the unfinished boxes in this photograph.
- Interestingly, Quai d’Orsay is the only brand produced completely in Cuba at the request of another country.
- When a list of new Habanos S.A. releases was leaked in August 2016, the two new violas in the Quai d’Orsay had very different names: the No. 54 was previously named Alma, while the No. 50 was labeled as Gourmet.
- As part of the relaunch of the Quai d’Orsay during the Festival del Habano in 2017, attendees to the formal dinner were not only able to sample all three regular production vitolas, but also a special Imperialies vitola that was made specifically for the dinner.
- The Ramón Allones Allones No. 2 is the only 2019 Edición Limitada that has not yet been released.
- When seeing this cigar for the first time as I was photographing it, I was extremely surprised at just how dark the wrapper was.
- The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel, we paid $27 for each sample.
- Final smoking time averaged one hour and 41 minutes for all three samples.
For those who have not tried many of the past releases in the Quai d’Orsay marca, the Senadores is about as good of an introduction as you can ask for. The profile is full of massive flavor shifts and complexity, along with excellent construction, especially in the first two thirds. Having said that, there are some balance issues as too many flavors fight for space at certain points. This is a great cigar now, but with the added bonus of having a huge aging potential in order to give time for the flavors to meld together to put the blend onto another level.