The number eight is considered lucky in China. In 2008, the number inspired one of the most unique Edición Regional releases of all time, the Bolívar Armonía, which was released for China with a variety of eight tie-ins: 2,008 boxes of eight, priced at 8,888 CNY, etc.
Pacific Cigar Co., which distributes cigars in over 30 countries throughout Asian and Australia, has used the 88 number before in some of its limited releases, but last year the two eights got a notably more prominent role in the form of the Rafael González 88, an Edición Regional for the Asia Pacific region.
The cigar uses the Britanicas Extra vitola, a 5 3/8 (137mm) x 48 perfecto shape with a slightly tapered cap. It was first used for the Bolívar Británicas in 2012 and then again for the Ramón Allones Perfectos two years later. Production of the Rafael González 88 is limited to 8,888 boxes of 10 cigars.
Our two paragraph explanation of Edición Regionals goes like this:
In 2005, Habanos S.A. introduced a new series of limited production releases that would eventually become to be known as Edición Regional (Regional Edition). The program took regular Habanos S.A. brands and gave their regional distributors special sizes that aren’t part of respective brands regular production line-up. In some cases, like the Bolivar Gold Medals, Habanos S.A. gave specific distributors sizes that had been discontinued, but most are sizes that have never been available for that brand prior. There’s one major exception to the rule and that would be perhaps the most famous ER, the Edmundo Dantés El Conde 109, which is an ER available for Mexico that is related to the Montecristo brand, but is largely its own brand.
The first Edición Regionals didn’t feature the red and silver secondary bands that read “Exclusivo (Region Name)” that have become synonymous with the ER releases.
As with many Edición Regionals, the Rafael González didn’t come out until the calendar year following its expected release; it was part of the 2016 program but didn’t come out until 2017.
- Cigar Reviewed: Rafael González 88 Edición Regional Asia Pacific (2016)
- Country of Origin: Cuba
- Factory: n/a
- Wrapper: Cuba
- Binder: Cuba
- Filler: Cuba
- Length: 5 3/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 48
- Vitola: Británicas Extra
- Est. Price: $22 (Boxes of 10, $220)
- Release Date: 2017
- Number of Cigars Released: 8,888 Boxes of 10 Cigars (88,880 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
While the shape is unique, it’s fairly familiar to me as I’ve reviewed both of the other cigars that use the shape. It’s a pretty weird size with a flat cap and otherwise a pretty small double perfecto shape. Aroma off the wrapper is creamy with some dried leaves around the medium-plus level. The foot is nutty with a slight creaminess, Pringles and some grassiness at the medium-full level.
The 88 begins medium-full with some earthiness, creaminess and lots of redwoods. The core develops to show some nuttiness over redwoods, white pepper and some lemon. The nuttiness varies between peanuts and macadamia nuts. Right at the middle of the tongue, the Rafael González has some harshness, though it ends up being more like a scratchiness on the tongue. The retrohale is toasty with some plain white bread, lemon and green grape, overall a bit more intense than the flavor in the mouth. Flavor is medium, body is mild-medium and strength is mild. While the draw starts a bit tight, the 88 opens up nicely and there’s no deductions for construction issues in the first third.
As I get to the middle point, the flavors seem to be departing the Rafael González. It actually picks up in the strength of the flavor, to medium-full, but there’s just a lot less going on. Earthiness really begins to dominate with some wet leaves and a generic toastiness right behind it. The nuts are completely gone, but I’m still picking up the white pepper and some lemon. One sample needs a touch-up, though otherwise, construction is great. Body is now medium-plus and strength ramps up, albeit only to the medium level.
Earthiness remains at the forefront of the Rafael González 88, now joined by some apple cider, black licorice and black pepper. Touch-ups are needed across all three samples, some due to a decreasing smoke production and one cigar because of a burn line issue. Flavor continues to pick up in intensity, now full, with the body joining it there and strength remaining at medium.
- This might be the most bizarre name for a cigar, at least as far as having to actually type it out or say it. Yes, the cigar is just called 88.
- I am hard pressed to believe that there is a less notable brand in the Habanos S.A. portfolio than Rafael González. There’s currently only three small cigars as part of its regular portfolio, one of which is mixed filler, and this is only the second Edición Regional for the brand.
- I’m quite fond of the boxes for the 88, particularly the text on the inside. Interestingly, that texted design isn’t used on the regular production vitolas or the previous Edición Regional.
- The second sample was packed too tight and required a second cut. That draw didn’t help the score at all.
- I’m a huge proponent of the shape. It hasn’t produced my favorite cigars of all time, but it just feels extremely comfortable in the hand.
- We paid a little over $200 for this box on the secondary market. Given the different laws and taxes in the 30+ countries Pacific Cigar Ltd. distributes in, the price will fluctuate wildly.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time is two hours.
While the cigar hasn’t received the one year of rest that the box suggests, it’s been quite a while. The short of it is, these cigars need more time. I’m not sure the Rafael González will ever turn into a bastion of complexity, but it definitely could use some additional time to settle down. I’m still a large proponent of the shape and hope we continue to see it in Edición Regionals, but for now, the 88 stays in the box.