Reviewed by John Saucer (June 2000)
I received 3 beautiful Cuaba Exclusivos from C.GARS Ltd ahead of the holidays. I enjoyed these on two separate occasions. One was smoked on a cool, clear night with a good book (and a nice glass of Balvenie) and the others later in a mini holiday herf with a fellow Cigar Family member (thanks Deadeye). This is a brand that I am quite familiar with as I am a fan of perfectos and have had the opportunity to smoke several sizes in this line over roughly the past 2 years.
What first struck me was the fine reddish/brown wrappers that included a nice somewhat silky sheen. This surprised me a bit as these had just made a long voyage to reach me and some of the Exclusivos I had smoked in early 1998 had wrappers that were far more rustic. All three were reasonably uniform in construction (or as much as one would expect in a perfecto shaped cigar). There were a few minor bumps and veins but no real soft spots and again their appearance was considerably better than had been the case with Exclusivos I had smoked some 6-9 months earlier. The pre-light aroma was not strong or intoxicating but it was quite appealing nonetheless in that earthy Havana way. I also noticed just a hint of sweetness but did not sense much in the way of spice on my lips pre-light.
An easy clip with my Zino and we're off to the races with the cigar providing a very easy draw. Right from the start, rich thick smoke curled off the end of this lovely perfecto. It continued to generate excellent volumes of smoke throughout. The first Cuaba smoked produced a light/medium gray ash that was slightly flaky but it clung nonetheless. The burn on both occasions was a touch uneven (only minor adjustments were needed) but this may have more to do with the unsettled state of the cigars after shipping than any question of workmanship.
The Exclusivos did pack more punch that there smaller cousin the Tradicionales but they may also have been a bit more one dimensional in terms of flavor. While I would categorize this cigar as more in the medium or maybe medium-full range, it did have the strong, satisfying Cuban flavor that I crave, especially after a big meal. In my opinion this is still a PM cigar. But it will not knock your socks off as can the occasional Partagas Serie D #4 or Ramon Allones Specially Selected. My palate has not tended to register the rainbow of flavors often ascribed to certain cigars by some reviewers. I can say however that the tastes that came to mind with this cigar early on were of earth, wood and maybe even some nuttiness. Some spice did kick in about 1/3 of the way into the cigar. But I would still describe the flavor of this cigar as straight forward tobacco rather than complex. The finish was a little short in my opinion.
Overall the flavor of the Exclusivos is indeed appealing/satisfying, and they provide close to an hour of enjoyment. They do not however develop the range of flavors nor the degree of spice I may find in my favorite Partagas. And it was difficult not to compare the Cuaba Exclusivos with the similarly sized Partagas Presidentes as I puffed away. Both are quality and rewarding smokes that I will continue to purchase. But if forced to choose (and thankfully I am not) the Cuaba just does not yet stack up to the depth, body and construction of the Partagas.