Cuban cigars for the English market (often called “EMS” — English Market Selection) are among the best quality Cubans anywhere in the world. Cuban cigars are very expensive there after converting currency into the British Pound, and this purchasing power commands the best stock of Cuba. Some vitolas are even only available via EMS. The Rafael Gonzales Coronas Extra is one such cigar.

Getting my hands on this cigar by chance, it was an eager addition to my humidor. After two weeks locked away, it was ready to be smoked and it, truth be told, it didn’t disappoint too much.

(Image lost) Poor burn, immature tobacco, fragmenting ash

A veiny claro wrapper greets the touch on this cigar: very green, rough wrapper. Its was a little hard under a few areas, perhaps due to uneven bunching during the manufacturing process, a sign of the times i suppose. The scent test was very plain — flagship Cubans such as the Cohiba offer a distinct earthy, spicy scent that tantalizes the taste buds even before the cigar is lighted. The Rafael Gonzales doesn’t offer too much in that department.

It lights well, and a few deep draws later, this cigar was away. But its flight was quite turbulent at times. Uneven burns, fragmenting ash, and, at times, a distinct lack of smoke, bit deep into the enjoyment of this Cuban cigar. Tastewise, it didn’t let me down too much — the mild spiciness of Vueltabajo (Cuba’s famed tobacco valley) was evident but as the cigar burned past the half-way point, its obvious that the best tobacco from Cuba is being increasingly reserved for their flagship brands: Cohiba, Montecristo, RyJ, and Trinidad.

(Image lost) It didn’t redeem itself even in the end

Verdict: Rafael Gonzales was never Cuba’s best brand, but it used to be better than this, surely. The burn was quite unruly, the taste was inconsistent — a truly forgettable cigar. I never thought i would say that about a Cuban.