I recently picked up a 5-pack of the Cohiba Siglo I from a cardboard box from 2011. I’ve had a bit of a hit & miss relationship with Cohiba over the years. When they are great, they really do offer something different, something unique that no other brand can offer. But they also have an unusually high miss rate, which is very off-putting considering the high premium i pay for what was once the “diplomatic cigars” of the Cuban government (that honor has since been replaced by the Trinidads).

When they miss, it’s not an issue of construction; that hasn’t been a problem with Cuban cigars for years ever since Habanos SA started using modern technology in the process i.e. draw testing machines, modern QA processes, etc. But, strangely, i find it’s an issue with the blend. It’s very possible to smoke through 25 sticks from the same box, and wonder whether 10 of them were even made in the same factory (they probably were not). The days when all Cohiba cigars were rolled exclusively in El Laguito, Cuba’s most famous factory, are long gone. Not a very well guarded secret, but since 2008, and perhaps even earlier, batches of Cohiba were already made elsewhere. Even the preeminent Cohiba Behikes were partially rolled in the Upmann and Partagas factories, to keep up with the crazy demand those cigars commanded in the early days.

The tobacco was still sourced from the same place, just the hands handling it were not of classical El Laguito lineage. And that, as in any hand made product, from luxury watches to Ferrarris, makes the world of the difference. The balance of the Cohiba cigar is so fine, that a small error in the blend, too much of A, too little of B, and C which should have been discarded instead of used, and it’s going to be completely off. Still a good cigar, but not a Cohiba.

So Cohibas have been a wary pleasure for me. I light up each one hoping that it’ll be excellent, and the let down when it isn’t is quite depressing because of the prior anticipation. This particular stick, a Siglo I, the perfect short cigar when on, did not disappoint. Full of the grassy notes Cohiba is known for, dark hay and smooth leather with a large dollop of spice and pepper. Even for a short cigar, it demonstrates some complexity, offering a nice punch right at the end.

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Verdict: 88/100. A lovely cigar, one that delivers on the Cohiba promise. Consistency issues have plagued the brand for ages, but there is not doubting it as the quintessential Cuban cigar when it’s performs as well as this particular stick. Deep, lush earthy flavours, grassy and spice, with that signature long Cohiba finish.

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