The Saint Luis Rey brand is not the most well-known of the Cuban marcas, but it isn’t for a lack of history. It dates back to a registration of the name in 1927 by a pair by the name of Zamora and Guerra. However, not much is known about it from that time until 1940, when it was relaunched at the behest of a British cigar import company. It has been in production ever since, and is currently classified by Habanos S.A. as a Local brand with minor market share.
Like all premium handmade Cuban cigars, the tobacco primarily comes from the Vuelta Abajo region of Pinar del Río, the westernmost province on the island, as well as the Semi Vuelta region of the same province. There is a good bit of discrepancy as to their flavor profile, as CubanCigarWebsite.com says they are generally considered to be full strength cigars, while a number of retailers tend to place them on the lighter side of the strength scale.
The name also has some uncertainty in its origins: one theory is that they are named for the main town in Pinar del Río, San Luis, that is the hub of the tobacco industry, while another is that they reference The Bridge of San Luis Rey, the popular 1927 novel by American author Thornton Wilder.
The Saint Luis Rey roster of current production cigars is small, with just three vitolas:
- Saint Luis Rey Regios (5 x 48) — Corona Extra
- Saint Luis Rey Serie A (5 3/5 x 46) — Corona Gorda
- Saint Luis Rey Double Corona (7 5/8 x 49) — Double Corona
This is the first and only time that the Saint Luis Rey marca has been used for an Edición Regional release. However, it is far from the first regional release for the Asia Pacific region.
The Asia Pacific region currently has 13 Edición Regional releases, dating all the way back to 2006, which was the second year of the program:
- Punch Super Robusto (6 1/10 x 50) — 2006 — Robusto Extra
- Ramón Allones Estupendos (7 x 47) — 2006 — Churchill
- Por Larrañaga Robustos de Larranaga (4 9/10 x 50) — 2007 — Robustos
- Bolívar Short Bolivar (4 1/3 x 52) — 2008 — Petit Robusto
- Por Larrañaga Belicosos Extra (5 1/2 x 52) — 2008 — Pyramid
- Ramón Allones Celestiales Finos (5 2/5 x 46 — 2009 — Perfecto
- Saint Luis Rey Pacificos (6 1/7 x 52) — 2009 — Pyramid
- Juan López Selección No.4 (6 1/7 x 52) — 2010 — Pyramid
- Por Larrañaga Encantos (6 7/10 x 43) — 2010 — Lonsdale
- Punch Sabrosos (6 1/7 x 52) — 2011 — Pyramid
- Quai d’Orsay Superiores (4 7/8 x 50) — 2011 — Robusto
- El Rey del Mundo Aniversario (5 9/10 x 54 — 2012 — Robusto Extra
- La Flor de Cano Grandiosos (5 1/3 x 52) — 2013 — Robusto
You’ll notice that the 6 1/3 x 52 Pirámides vitola has been featured three times in Asia Pacific regional releases. I sent an e-mail to The Pacific Cigar Co. Ltd., who is the distributor for the region asking for some insight as to why that is but have yet to hear back from them.
As for the 13 Edición Regional releases for the Asia Pacific region, it’s the most made for any country or region. Switzerland is second with 12, while Germany (Alemania) is third with 10.
If you’re not familiar with the Edición Regional program, here’s a quick refresher:
The Edición Regional program started in 2005 and utilizes the 17 local and multi-local brands for their releases exempting the ten worldwide premium global and niche brands. The cigars are limited production releases with a minimum run of 25,000 cigars and are made exclusively for a regional market, which can range from a specific country to a geographic region. The distributor for the market initiates the release and must also underwrite the costs of the release.
They are generally available for one to two years, after which time the cigar can be added to the line’s current production range. A distributor can also re-release an Edición Regional in a subsequent year, often with a note included in the box indicating that fact. The vitolas used for Edición Regional releases must be selected from current production vitolas, but ones that are not already used by that line. In addition, new vitolas from other premium brands are not eligible to be used as part of an Edición Regional release.
In addition, recent changes, as noted by Trevor Leask of CubanCigarWebsite.com, have included a lifespan of 12 months with release dates generally in August, September and October. In addition, while some regions have received multiple releases in a calendar year, in 2012 the Edición Regional program was changed to limit Edición Regional releases to one per distributor per year.
Finally, the cigars generally use the marca’s main band with a second red and silver band that indicates the region it was made for, in the format “Exclusivo ___” with the region’s name in Spanish.
Cigar Reviewed: Saint Luis Rey Pacificos Edición Regional Asia Pacífico (2009)
Country of Origin: Cuba
Factory: Briones Montoto/José Martí
Size: 6 1/7 Inches
Ring Gauge: 52
Est. Price: $15.00 (Boxes of 25, $375.00)
Date Released: 2009
Number of Cigars Released: 4,000 Boxes of 25 Cigars (100,000 Total Cigars)
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
At a surface level the Saint Luis Rey Pacificos looks like almost any other Cuban cigar with its medium brown color, a bit of color variation, visible veins and seams and some bumpiness to the roll. It has a bit of give to it, not particularly underfilled but certainly not overfilled. The shape is almost instantly recognizable, as it is shared with numerous other releases in the Habanos S.A. portfolio. The pre-light aroma has notes of sweet hay and a bit of barnyard, along with some faint and varied notes of cake and pretzel dough, with very little spice or pepper. With the pointed cap clipped, air moves easily on the cold draw, with notes of cereal grain (Cheerios, in particular) and wheat bread most noticeable, and again little if any pepper or spice.
As soon as I toast the foot of the cigar, I’m surprised by how much pepper is in the smoke, though this varies from cigar to cigar. Either way, the Saint Luis Rey Pacificos is definitely above medium in strength and body, and wastes no time getting down to business. The burn line gets a bit off track before it’s passed an inch in one cigar, though it doesn’t create a problem and doesn’t appear in the other cigars smoked. There’s a bit of a pretzel dough note that comes out in the smoke, while the flavor seems geared more toward a middle-of-the-road profile. It has notes of bread, cereal and some wood, with no sweetness or overt spice to be found. It’s very engaging without being overpowering and has backed off a bit from its higher octane beginning.
Moving into the second third, the Saint Luis Rey Pacificos stays between medium and medium-full in strength, and I’m wondering just how some have described this as a softer, milder cigar. It’s not overly peppery, but rather driven by intense notes of toast, wood, grain and hay. In one cigar, there was a touch more sourness than in the other two, and it also seemed to have just a bit of mint that I didn’t find in the others. Granted, I haven’t smoked the full catalog of offerings, but this has more oomph that I would have given it credit for based on certain tasting notes I came across. There are a few burn issues in the second third, more with keeping the cigar lit past the midway point.
When the cigar is able to keep itself burning, the final third of the Saint Luis Rey Pacificos is very enjoyable. More upfront notes of hay and wood dominate, with continued backing flavors of cereal grain and wheat bread toast adding a touch of complexity. Hints of earth start to come in at times but seem to be more a remnant than a current note. It’s far from being the most complex cigar I’ve ever smoked, though it is plenty enjoyable and leaves an enjoyable finish on the palate and in the nose. While there seems to be a touch more pepper as the burn line approaches the bands, the hope of finding any significant sweetness of pepper diminish with each puff, and by the time the cigar is ready to be put down for good, it’s clear they won’t be making a memorable appearance. While the overall flavor profile stays fairly one dimensional with only a slight bit of variance from where it started, it’s very enjoyable and would seem to work for most palates and situations.
- My last review of an ER started a spirited discussion about the program in the comments section
- The 6 1/7 x 52 Pirámides vitola is an incredibly popular size that has been used in a number of releases, including one of the most popular and well known Cuban cigars, the Montecristo No.2.
- Speaking of the Montecristo No.2, Habanos S.A. recently announced that a shorter version would be coming out soon, called the Montecristo Petit No.2.
- It’s worth noting that China has received two Edición Regional releases of its own; the Bolivar Armonías in 2008 and the Bolivar Distinguidos in 2011. Both were Perfectos that came in elaborate packaging rarely seen in other releases. These are separate from the other Asia Pacific releases as China is its own region and has its own distributor.
- The Bolivar Distinguidos was also released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between China and Cuba. It was packaged in a numbered ceramic jar that is reminiscent of the one used for the La Gloria Cubana regional for Cuba that I reviewed here.
- As for other marcas to only be used once for an Edición Regional: Diplomáticos (2012, Colleccion Privada for Spain); La Escepción (2011, Selectos Finos for Italy); and Rafael González (2013, Petit Piramides for Germany).
- Marcas used the most in the Edición Regional program: Ramón Allones and Bolívar, each 22 times. The former has been used twice in releases for the Asia Pacific region, the latter once.
- I’ve mentioned this in other reviews, but I think that when it comes to Cuban cigars, you’re better off using the softest flame possible, whether it be a match, cedar spill, or soft flame lighter. Torches just seem to char the cigar too much for my liking.
- I have to think that the cigars smoked for this review would have benefitted from a bit of dry boxing to eliminate some moisture that affected the burn in the second half.
- You may be thinking to yourself, hasn’t the United Kingdom received a bunch of ERs? Yes, but there was a bit of a name change that created a distinction. The Reino Unido (United Kingdom) region has seven releases, while Gran Bretaña (Great Britain) has four.
- The current lists of Local brands, as defined by Habanos S.A., includes Diplomáticos, El Rey del Mundo, Juan López, La Flor de Cano, La Gloria Cubana, Por Larrañaga, Quai d’Orsay, Rafael González, Ramón Allones, Sancho Panza and Vegueros, as well as Saint Luis Rey.
- Prices do vary on this cigar, depending on where you happen to purchase it from.
- The region covered by the term Asia Pacific is fairly broad and includes Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore.
- As a comment about the state of ERs, one retailer from the Asia Pacific region recently sent out an email talking about a recent regional release that he expects to be sold out by the second quarter of next year and how “that will be a nice change,” followed by a smiley face, seeming to indicate that Edición Regionals aren’t always quick sellers.
- As you’re likely aware, there is a non-Cuban brand with the same name, which is owned by Altadis USA.
- Final smoking time is about two hours and 15 minutes.
Avid readers of halfwheel will likely see a repeated theme here: as I've mentioned in many other reviews of regional releases, the cigars found as part of the Edición Regional program are typically enjoyable if not exceptional, and while that's basically the case again here, I do think that the Saint Luis Rey Pacificos is a good bit better than average. I readily admit that I haven't smoked the rest of the Saint Luis Rey catalog, and as such my ability to compare it to its non-ER brethren is lacking. Based on my experience with the Pacificos, I'd certainly be interested in trying them though, as the flavor profile is very agreeable: not overly strong, not too upfront with big, overpowering flavors but also not so mild or bland that it's a waste of time. The blend certainly doesn't seem to get lost in the Piramides shape, and the pointed head seems to concentrate the flavors a good bit and bring them a bit more to life. Yes, there is a premium price being asked for these cigars given the nature of their release, and I don't think I'd be willing to pay that premium on a regular basis. However, as an occasional splurge I don't think I'd find myself disappointed with them, and I don't think you would either. If nothing less, the Pacificos seems to be a good showing of the Saint Luis Rey marca and certainly has me interested in the rest of the line.