When i originally wrote this review, i was very sure that these cigars were Robaina padrinos (cigars that come from the Vegas Robaina in Cuba, from leaf grown there, and rolled there). Now, after receiving a lot of feedback from readers who have been to the farm, and personally received cigars from the Alejandro Robaina (e.g. the Flying Cigar), i’m not as sure as before. Their experience (with photos) show that the padrinos have a much lighter wrapper, though the size and the unfinished foot do match the padrino profile. Let me say that, despite the doubt, this in no way alters the review of cigar i had — which i will now rename to its proper commercial name, the PdR Sublimes — it is the best cigar i’ve had in 2010, and worth a serious look if you’re interested in a special custom rolled with Cuban tobacco.
Looks like i’ll have to wait a bit longer to smoke cigar i can be sure fulfills the promise made to me by Alejandro Robaina.
Edit April 2011: My good online-friend, Nino Munoz of The Flying Cigar, was in Cuba recently. Being a good friend of the Robaina family, he visited them and asked them about the claims Mercer Cigars make about these cigars being made by them. The claims were categorically denied. While, i’ll stand by my review that these were good cigars, i think that I will not be so forgiving when it comes to being deceived by their seller — i was led to believe (as the unedited story below recounts) that these were cigars made by and from the Robaina farm (i still have the emails to prove the deceit). It’s a small consolation that these cigars are now being marketed without abusing the good name of the Robainas, but i think the Internet should not forget that their birth was one of deception — to create hype about them, untruths were told. Whether or not this influences your decision to do business with this vendor is your choice, i must say that My Cigar Blog won’t do business with Mercer Cigars, as a matter of principle.
After a year of smoking some great cigars, providence would have it that i would smoke my best cigar of the year on the very last day, just hours before the new year arrived. After receiving it a few weeks ago, i was always planning to smoke it on New Year’s Eve — it’s a special occasion smoke. And now that the moment has passed, i feel that the 1 stick i had was certainly not enough. I’ll have to order more.
But, i’m getting ahead of myself. Every good cigar comes with a good story, and this one is no different. The story starts 5 years ago.
That’s night, Alejandro Robaina and his grandson, Hiroshi, visited Kuala Lumpur, and for one night only, graced a local divan/restaurant. It was a fantastic night, and despite his age, the charisma emanating from this man was as thick as butter; you could cut through it with a knife. There were good cigars going around, the finger food was tasty, and the company was excellent. It was as though the creme de la creme of the nation’s cigar community had turned up to honor the man.
Despite the mad rush for his attention, i was fortunate enough to spend 5 minutes with him, all to myself. In that short time, he asked me, “How do you like Vegas Robaina cigars?” I answered, “They are very nice, but i know that the tobacco that goes in them doesn’t always come from your farm.” We were talking through a translator. He chuckled at my answer, and as a goodbye, he said, “Then one day you shall come to my farm in Cuba, and i’ll give you a cigar that comes from my fields, 100%”.
Over the years since, i’ve found out that these mystical cigars do exist, and are given as gifts to friends of the Robaina family. I’ve spent a lot of time imagining the day when the Robaina promise would be made good. As fate would have it, i would indeed smoke one of these cigars, called Robaina Padrinos, or Robaina farm-rolled cigars, but via a roundabout way. These cigars have recently found their way off the island, and are now commercially available in very limited qualities.
So, i had a Padrino Sublimes in my hand. The promise was about to be fulfilled. And the timing was perfect: the last day of 2010, which has been a particularly good year for me. The cigar itself is quite imposing. A large 6.5 inch 52RG monster. Thin veins snaking along it’s length, but with a really good colour on the wrapper. Perfectly rolled, the construction is magnificent — firm to the touch, though not being hard. With an unfinished foot, the cigar certainly has a certain rustic feel to it. A rough, tough, appearance.
The scent prior to lighting is a calm, fresh tobacco presentation. I suspect nothing too fancy went into the preparation of the tobacco, unlike some of its aged RE/LE cousins, or even the double-aged tobacco that goes into Cohibas. Robaina tobacco is straightforward, simple, yet tenderly cared leaf.
Taking a full cut from the head of the cigar, i tested the draw, found it suitably firm, then started lighting it up. It takes a good minute to light this large cigar properly, but once it starts going, it really is very rewarding. Large plumes of smoke filled the space. The flavours were very complex, even in the first third. A combination of woody cedar, large doses of burnt caramel and honey sweetness. Perhaps one of the sweetest cigars i’ve had in a long time, as sweet as tobacco flavours can be. The leaf that went into this cigar is truly exceptional. A long time ago, i had a 1998 Cohiba Esplendidos. The flavours in this padrino sublimes reminds me of that cigar.
The second half keeps the pace of the first third, but with a bit more balance and refinement in the sweetness (less) and the smokey woodiness (more). Some touches of bitter dark chocolate begins to show, and this is where the cigar really shows its class by being able to present this combination of flavours in a smooth, coherent package.
The final third is an interesting expression of flavours. Most cigars tend to get darker as you smoke them down, largely due to the buildup of tars and smoke. But somehow, this one manages to go the opposite direction, and becomes quite floral, herbal, some grassiness. A remarkable change of pace, and executed calmly and efficiently. There is nothing about this cigar that doesn’t scream class. It just does everything that it does so well. The cigar ends with a pinch of spice, and the sweetness returns a bit. Completely unexpected, but just like everything else about this cigar, wonderfully appreciated.