Considering the country’s history with tobacco, it may be tempting to assume that just about any brand of Cuban cigar has been in existence for a very, very long time, but that is just not the case: marcas like Edmundo Dantes and Vegas Robaina have debuted only in the past 20 years.
Named after the historic moniker for the city of Havana, San Cristóbal de La Habana is a brand that existed prior to the Cuban revolution, but was reinvented in 1999. When it returned in 1999, its four vitolas all shared names with specific forts that protected the city of Havana during the Spanish Colonial period, though one of those four sizes—the 7 1/8 x 49 El Morro—was discontinued in 2013.
While it is well-known for its Edición Limitadas, Edición Regionals, Reservas and (Gran) Reservas, in 2004, Habanos S.A. added a new series of releases that would be available exclusively at the Habanos-licensed La Casa del Habano retailers, which is a franchise program made up of approximately 140 stores located in 65 countries. When the appropriately named La Casa del Habano (LCDH) Exclusive program began in 2004, the cigars were just different vitolas of existing marcas produced in unlimited quantities. However, since then, the company has expanded the LCDH offering to include other release types like limited editions or rereleases of previously-discontinued cigars.
One of the newest additions to the La Casa del Habano Exclusive program is the San Cristóbal de La Habana 20 Aniversario, a 6 3/8 (162mm) x 52 parejo vitola that was create not only to commemorate the 20th anniversary of that brand, but also to celebrate the 500th birthday of the city of Havana. The new release was shown off during the Festival del Habano XXI in 2019 but did not actually start shipping to La Casa del Habano stores until late 2020.
While it is not entirely clear just how many cigars are currently being offered exclusively to LCDH franchises, there have been at least 18 different cigars released over the years, a list doesn’t include a relatively new practice from Habanos S.A. of offering some cigars to both LCDHs and Habanos Specialists, a lower-tier designation, like the Cohiba Novedosos.
- Bolívar Belicosos Finos (2004)
- Bolívar Hermosos No.4 (2004)
- Bolívar Gold Medal (2004)
- San Cristóbal de la Habana Mercaderes (2006)
- H. Upmann Noellas (2009)
- La Gloria Cubana Inmensos (2010)
- Ramón Allones Allones Superiores (2010)
- H. Upmann Royal Robusto (2011)
- Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe (2012)
- Bolívar Libertador (2013)
- Romeo y Julieta Cedros de Luxe (2014)
- La Gloria Cubana Pirámides (2015)
- La Gloria Cubana Robustos Extra (2015)
- Hoyo de Monterrey Elegantes (2016)
- Trinidad La Trova (2017)
- Hoyo de Monterrey Escogidos (2018)
- San Cristóbal de La Habana 20 Aniversario (2019)
- Juan López Selección Especial (2020)
- Cigar Reviewed: San Cristóbal de La Habana 20 Aniversario
- Country of Origin: Cuba
- Factory: Undisclosed
- Wrapper: Cuba
- Binder: Cuba
- Filler: Cuba
- Length: 6 3/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Toro Extra
- Est. Price: $45 (Box of 20, $900)
- Release Date: November 2020
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
Visually, the San Cristobal de la Habana 20th Aniversario sports a gorgeous dark chocolate brown wrapper that is fairly smooth to the touch despite the surprising multitude of major veins present. There is a very limited amount of oil present and the cigar is extremely firm when squeezed, especially near the cap. Aroma from the wrapper and foot is a combination of hay, distinct orange peel, cinnamon, barnyard, cocoa nibs and cedar, while the cold draw brings flavors of citrus, creamy cedar, cinnamon, dark chocolate, grass and earth along with some nice vanilla sweetness.
Immediately after lighting the foot, the San Cristobal de la Habana 20th Aniversario features a combination of dominant flavors that include not only bitter dark chocolate but also a distinct creamy cedar note. Secondary notes of cinnamon, orange peel, leather and a small amount of floral flit in and out, and I am picking up some slight spice on my tongue as well. There is also a caramel sweetness on the retrohale that combines nicely with some white pepper, while the finish reminds me of generic coffee beans. Construction-wise, the draw is quite a bit tighter than I would like after a straight cut—albeit still smokeable—while the burn has issues out of the gate that result in a couple of quick touchups. In terms of strength, the 20th Aniversario is light enough that it ends the first third at a point about halfway between mild and medium, and seems content to stay there for the time being.
There are a few major changes in store for the San Cristóbal de La Habana during the second third including the dominant flavors, which morph into a combination of orange citrus and buttered popcorn that is not as unpleasant as it sounds. Lesser notes of peanuts shells, cinnamon, cedar, rich coffee beans, leather, gritty earth and the same slight floral fight for space in the profile as well, but none of them are strong enough to come close to the main flavors at this point in the cigar. There is also a bit more caramel sweetness and white pepper on the retrohale, but the spice that was noticeable on my tongue in the first third is long gone by the halfway point. In terms of construction, the draw continues to be a bit tight, while the burn also continues to give me enough issues to force multiple touchups in order to avoid larger problems. Strength-wise, the LCDH exclusive increases a bit as the second third closes but not enough to make it to the medium mark just yet.
The final third of the 20th Aniversario features yet another shift in dominant flavors, this time to a more generic but enjoyable peanut note laced with dark chocolate. Additional flavors of citrus, toast, cinnamon, coffee beans, hay, leather and earth are also present in various amounts, while the still present caramel sweetness and white pepper continue to be noticeable on the retrohale, albeit not strong enough to really affect the overall profile. Sadly, the burn again needs attention in the form of multiple touchups while the draw continues to be tighter than I consider optimal and the overall strength lands just below the medium mark by the time I finish the cigar with a bit more than an inch left.
- Newer releases in the San Cristóbal de La Habana marca have been named after ancient streets in old Havana.
- The first La Casa del Habano was opened in 1980 and was located in Cancún, Mexico. I visited the official LCDH in that country in 2010, but I am pretty sure that was not the original location.
- All three of the samples I smoked for this review had fairly tight draws, most likely due to the fact that they were packed to the rim with tobacco as you can see from this photograph.
- Samples for this review were taken from a box with the code RAT JUL 20.
- Speaking of the box code, the code for this release is printed not on the exterior packaging—as is the case with most of the Habanos S.A. releases—but instead can be found on the back of the interior cedar insert that covers the cigars. This is also the case with the H. Upmann Noellas jar from 2018 and H. Upmann Magnum 56 jar from 2020.
- The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel. We paid $45 each for the San Cristóbal de La Habana 20 Aniversarios on the secondary market.
- Final smoking time for both samples averaged a not very quick two hours and nine minutes, although some of that can most likely be attributed to the tighter draws I experienced.
I have enjoyed most of the San Cristobal de la Habana releases I have smoked over the years. With dominant flavors ranging from dark chocolate to buttered popcorn, the 20th Aniversario is enjoyable, at least from a flavor perspective Unfortunately, while I did have near as many issues with construction as Patrick did with the aforementioned H. Upmann Magnum 56, I can’t help but wonder how much better the profile would have been—not to mention how much higher the final score would have been—if I had not run into the tight draw and burn problems that plagued my samples. It is possible that I just happened to choose the worst cigars out of the box, but the experience from my samples makes it hard to recommend a release with so many construction issues, especially considering the price point it is being sold at.