Reviewed by Joe Gellman (27th November 2000)
"Lucy, I'm Home," was a phrase many TV watchers heard, every week, in the 50's. With permission of Desilu Productions, I have to say, "Lusi, I'm home."
I previously described this cigar as the paradigm of perfection. Little did I know that "perfection" could be improved upon.
At 11:30 p.m., on October 25th, 1881, a little known event took place. A baby is born and almost immediately declared dead. An attending physician, Salvador Ruiz, the brother of the father of this tragic occurrence, does not despair of the situation. He approaches the newborn, with cigar in hand, takes a deep draw, and blows the smoke up the nose of the child. Repeating this strange procedure, a few minutes later the baby begins to move...he is not dead.
OK, what does this have to do with my review of the Partagas Lusitanias? Easy. The baby grew to be one of the greatest artists of all times, Pablo Picasso, and the Lusitania is one of the greatest pieces of Cuban art, of all times. So it's a stretch of the imagination to equate the two, but this is my tasting review!
This vitola is classed a Prominentes, and all cigars are 7 5/8 x 49 (for other countries, 194 x 19.45.) and weigh 17.86 gr. In November, 2000, I was fortunate to be privy to the rolling of this vitola by a Grade 9 torcedor. As I stood by his station, I realized this man was an artist. I was about to leave with a few other ASCers when the roller pressed a cigar into my hand.
When we left the factory I immediately lit the cigar. This is where I noticed the improvement on perfection.
The street was noisy, people bustling to places unknown. It was 80 degrees and there was a slight breeze from the East. I know this is a fact because I was told so by one of my fellow travelers. I was so engulfed in the cigar that I didn't pay attention to anything else. This is on the level. The cigar was so phenomenal that all else ceased, for me.
The first draw, to this perfect lighting cigar, was alive with the sweetest flavor I have experienced ... with a cigar. Sweet aroma mixed with woodsy tones were unmistakable, even in a City where sights and smells abound and strike at every sense. The nuttiness I recognized on my initial tasting review was far richer in this fresh-off-the-roller's-table cigar.
I am amazed that this cigar was destined for a cabinet, to be placed on a shelf, to be laid to rest for a few months, and then off to an unknown destination.
I have sampled Lusitanias from several retailers, in several countries. They have been young (2 to 6 months) and aged (over one-year), in dress boxes and in cabinets. While there is a subtle difference between the SPB and the Cabinet, there is a world of difference, all to the plus, between a freshly rolled cigar, just out of the rollers hands, and one which is off the shelf.
So far, all the samples I have tasted have been superb. The one I had in Havana ranks tops, for all time, but that is something you have to experience for yourself, if you are as lucky as I was. Otherwise, you are destined to buy the best from C.GARS Ltd and only hope to travel to the factory and pick up one of the greatest smokes of the greatest vitola, in production.
Reviewed by Joe Gellman
I have hesitated doing a tasting on the Partagas Lusitanias, for some time, now. I thought it was best to review cigars in everyone's price range. What a gaffe on my part. It is 9.30pm, Los Angeles time, October 8th 1999. I feel obligated to harass my friends at C.GARS Ltd and let them know that it is 70 degrees, here on my deck. The sky is clear and, even with the glare of city lights, I can see the stars. Katydids chirp and crickets are a-rubbin away. The sweet aroma of mixed Jasmine wafts by on a soft breeze, over the sides of my deck and here I sit, trying to make accurate tasting notes on a Lucy.
I lit up 15 minutes ago and have been totally enthralled in the delight of the smoke. I finally look up and notice a deep, dark gray ash, perfectly waiting for me to marvel at, on the end of this piece of art (in order to fully appreciate the ongoing permutations of a smoke I am reviewing, I have to wear my reading glasses, being unable to distinguish a cigar from a piece of wood at close distances).
To compound my gracious cigar merchants misery, I must advise that I am nursing the last of my 1924 Coutet a' Barsac (brought over from Paris in 1978, a gift from Pierre Jammet, the then owner of the Bristol Hotel - his father built it in the 20's and it was a splendid place to visit for a month).
Jay Hoggard's vibraphone is pushing out the sounds of Samba Pa Negra, with Grusin plying his talents on the acoustic piano with Dave Valentin blowing ever so gently on his magic flute. As Sammy Figueroa hits a high note at the end of his Cuica solo, I am bought back to reality and the deed of the day.
This cigar is a paradigm of perfection. It is exactly 19.4cm long and 2cm in diameter. Every cigar in my sampling is to this exacting proportion. The color is pretty close to Oscuro as a Cuban gets. It is silky smooth and lustrous with hints of meluza. Parejo is an apt description of this cigar. Very small 'goose bumps' on the leaf leads me to believe this is going to be a very sweet smoke. I am not let down.
The first draw portents a great smoke. The air is filled with sweet aromas. My prelighting taste is sweet and woody, a little nuttiness, also. The cut is without problems and the burn is smooth, from start to finish.
My first impression must be defined as 'awesome', even though that is a rather trite description; sweet, ambered, honey and a hint of a mystery nut. A subtle taste of ripe berries and the smell of the dew on early morning fall leaves comes to mind. I am drawn back to Paris of the 70's, under the vast trees, a strong mist rising from the forest floor in the Bois de Vincennes after a soft rain. It is early October, there, and I now know the only thing which would have made that memory grander would have been to have this cigar, then.
I feel my music is not doing justice to the cigar and quickly replace Hoggard with Faure's Pavane, played by Steve Erquiaga, followed by Faure's Sicilienne..... now I was getting all five senses working; taste, smell, touch, hearing, sight, and the addition of a 'mind trip' worthy of this monument to Cuban cigars (no smug remarks about Peyote, please).
I suspect I could describe the varouis smoking levels of this cigar but, to be perfectly honest, the aromas and taste simply grew to a crescendo on the last possible draw. Nothing marred this smoke.
I was reminded of what Kate Carrington wrote: 'And that subtle fragrance steals, just as a loving, tender hand will sometimes steal in yours, it softly comes through open doors and memory wakes at its command - the scent of that good cigar.' Or perhaps Lord Byron's description (which could have been of this specific cigar): '.... amber, mellow, rich and ripe...'
So many flavors rolled into this cigar make it both difficult and easy to describe. Light. Amber. Honeyed. Subtle woodiness. Fragrant. Floral tones through the nose and off the lips. Sweet. Not a bitter or harsh note to the entire smoke. So very easy to smoke. Such perfect ease of draw. Mouthfuls of pristine tobacco. Dark ash, holding on as the umbilical of a newborn, beckoning for me to partake of subtle wonders yet to come.
This cigar defies everything one had read about tasting. I can only suggest you buy a few and join me in reverie.
The Jasmine glides by, the breeze is afraid to disturb the smoke as it rises from the cigar. I am driven on to the last.
Damn you Cigar Merchants! Why are these so costly!? Oh, I guess this review explains it.
Reviewed by Andy Marinkovich (October 2000)
What a pleasant surprise to return from my Christmas vacation to find a package from C.GAR Ltd with three Partagas Lusitanias inside of it. I was surprised the reviews weren't being done blind (no labels on the cigars, like we always did at SMOKE) but I wasn't complaining!
Even though I was recovering from a bout with the flu, I decided to start with my reviews. First, I'll say that each of these cigars were stunning in appearance and construction. They were perfectly shaped, box-pressed, and were covered with a dark, oily wrapper that exhibited very few flaws. These are the types of cigar that I get pleasure from just looking at and feeling them (no, I'm not perverse!).
The first Lusitania I smoked, however, turned out to be a problematic smoke. It was plugged! One of the things I hate the most about being a cigar smoker is having to put up with cigars that don't smoke properly. This particular cigar was rolled so tight that I could hardly get a draw. I lit it up anyway, and managed to get it going, but it was hard work. After some plunging with my draw poker, it opened up a bit, but would quickly close back up. I huffed and puffed on this thing, but the tobacco in these cigars is too strong to enjoy smoking it this way. I tried to get something out of it, but my mouth became raw and irritated from the continued puffing, and I had to give up on it just past the halfway mark.
The flavor of this first cigar was difficult to measure given the draw problems. It mostly came off as hot and acrid -- definitely not what a Lusitania should be. The cigar burned relatively straight, but the ash flaked and created a bit of a mess. Overall, a disappointing experience.
(As an aside, I will point out that I recently stopped buying Churchills and Double Coronas for two reasons. One, is that I just don't have the time to really enjoy big cigars these days, and plus I've found that I can get as much enjoyment out of a smaller sized stogie (such as the Bolivar Corona Extra, Punch Punch, or Rafael Gonzales Lonsdale) and pay less money for it. The second reason is that I've found too many draw problems with larger sized Cuban cigars. I purchased a box of Partagas Lusitanias about a year ago and more than half the box were almost unsmokable. (No, they weren't fakes!) I've had similar experiences with Hoyo Double Coronas and Punch Double Coronas, so I decided not to spend the extra money for the big smokes any longer, and stick instead with the medium sizes, where I've found draw problems far less prevalent.)
I tried the second Lusitania a few days later and had better luck with the draw, but it was still tighter than I would like. This cigar was strong, strong, strong from the first puff. I was able to taste some tarry, earthy flavors that also came across a bit hot, which I attribute to the tight draw and the extra huffing that was required to get a mouthful of smoke. This cigar burned evenly and had a semi-solid ash that was much better behaved than the one on the first sample. While I was able to smoke this one down to an inch-and-a-half, it still required more effort than I would have liked. The flavors improved in the second half as the cigar heated up, and delivered some powerfully spicy and earthy notes to my senses. I even had to put this thing down a time or two to ease my spinning head. While better than the first sample, this cigar only hinted at the greatness this cigar is capable of.
I smoked the last cigar three days after that one, and was so happy to find that it drew just perfectly. "Now this is going to be an experience," I thought to myself, and I was right! Like sample #2, this cigar started strong and immediately began to pummel my palate with it's intensely layered flavors of wood, spice, and earth. It had a definite nose-burning bite to it which I attributed to youth, and it definitely hadn't quite reached the kind of flavor balance I have experienced with other Lusitanias. However, don't get me wrong, this smoke rocked my world. As I continued to puff, the complex flavors flourished, creating a cigar nirvana that is not often attainable. While this cigar was powerful, it finessed my palate with a myriad of great flavors, and the complexity kept my palate singing for the entire smoke, which I puffed down to the last tiny nub. While this cigar could have used a bit of additional aging, it showed its greatness in heaps and was a joy to smoke.
One final comment on the Partagas Lusitania: I've had a good number of these fine cigars over the years, and the one thing I always realize after smoking them is that they are extremely powerful. I usually like a good, strong cigar, but these always manage to sit me on my ass for awhile. This is not a cigar to give to a beginner to try, unless they eat nails for breakfast. This is a brash cigar that likes to overpower you. If you let it work its magic and go along for the ride, you are in for an incredible treat. Still, it's a cigar that will be best enjoyed by experienced smokers who like cigars with attitude, power, and tons of great flavor. I just wish that every Lusitania drew as well as the last sample I smoked.
Thank you C.GARS Ltd for this fantastic opportunity, and I hope you find my comments of interest.
Reviewed by Nathaniel Fandino ( October 2000)
A Flavorful Flagship As an avid cigar aficionado, special occasions have become even more meaningful with the inclusion of a cigar with close friends and relatives. In this particular case, we were celebrating the birth and baptism of my son, Sebastian Augusto (Sebi for short). What better occasion to smoke the Partagas Lusitanias I had received from C.GARS Ltd was the thought that went through my mind. After dinner of garden salad, Angus Roast Beef, paella and ratatouille, my friends and I were seated around the lanai enjoying the warm, tropical, night air. In the corner of the lanai, my favorite, teakwood, lounge chair beckoned. After distributing Cohiba Esplendidos and Romeo Y Julietas Churchill Tubos to the rest, I settled down with my Lusitanias.
Excellent specimens that they were, the garden lights showed off the oily sheen of their smooth, dark colorado wrappers, just a few shades from maduro and veined ever so slightly. Accented by an elegant red and gold cigar band, it felt like a sin to cut it. Satiny and supple to the touch, I made a cut using my double-guillotine cutter and tested the draw. Just the way I prefer it, not too loose with just the correct amount of restraint. Its leathery, earthy aroma, though unlit, whispered promises of more than an hour's reverie. I slowly and carefully toasted the edges and watched the thick swirls of smoke slowly curl upwards through the humid air. More leather and a hint of sweet cocoa foreshadowed its flavor. As I smoked the first third of the grand Lusitania, its smoke generously released subtle, bittersweet chocolate, leather and spice into the air, then onto my tongue. Medium bodied at the start with the merest hint of sweetness at the finish, its flavor lingered on the palate. A perfect draw and an even burn ensured consistency that would last until the end.
The burn stayed very even throughout the second third of the cigar, it's firm ash a musty, brownish gray consistent with the island on which the Lusitania was crafted. So even was the burn, that when the ash fell, the end was almost as straight as when I had first lit the foot. The ash itself, studded with fine tooth, was a testament to the wonderful oiliness of the cigars. Going into the last third, each and every perfect draw, yielded a luxurious mouthful of thick, rich, creamy smoke. Then the flavors exploded. As I closed my eyes, well rounded, extremely full, savory flavors filled my senses. Thereafter, it was all leather, earth and cedar, the combination providing an elegant, most seductive contrast. Gone was the hint of sweet chocolate that predominated the unlit bouquet and in its place was a leathery finish that seemed to last a lifetime. Unlike some of its other cousins in the Partagas line, the Lusitania retained its balance throughout, coming close to, but never becoming overpowering even as its flavors built up to a full crescendo during the last third.
Reviewed by Rick Pastor
Partagas Lusitania Becomes Alaskan Ash.....
The real danger in exposing yourself to the pleasures of smoking fine cigars is the potential for disappointment. Let me explain:
Cigars are like wine and other organic products made by hand. When they are wonderful, the memory sticks. But there are occasions when they disappoint. Several times over the years I've saved a special cigar for just the right occasion, only to fire it up and find it plugged or bitter. I imagine wine connoisseurs endure the same risks in order to find their perfect pleasure.
These were the thoughts going through my mind as I was packing my travel humidor for my upcoming trip to Alaska. I was looking at the Partagas Lustitania that had been sitting there waiting for its perfect time. It was a gift from my good friend, Bob, who got it in London from Smokeymoâ€”I had given Bob my best information on where to find cigars on his trip, and he was quite pleased with what he found there. I decided to bring the Lucy along just in case I had something worth celebrating. And since I was going with Bob, we could discuss the finer points of the leaf when the time came.
"That's the Volkswagen hole over there," our guide, Jerry waved his left hand as we hustled up the river, his Custom Weld jet boat fully up "on step" dodging submerged rocks and zigzagging along the skinny water. The level was dropping and the channel was just about gone. "It's called the Volkswagen hole because there's a rock in there as big as a Volkswagen. It's plated with aluminum, so many boats have hit it."
We're on the Deshka river, a freshwater stream that feeds into the Susitna River about 90 miles northwest of Anchorage. It's early June and the king salmon run is off to a slow start but it's supposed to be picking up. All along the way we're seeing swirls which means the fish are in the river and heading upstream. "Love to see those fish rolling," Jerry tells us, "it means they're finally here. We should do well."
It seems that all of southeast Alaska has been looking forward to the first big salmon run of the year. When we left the boat landing at 4:30 in the morning it looked like a fishing tournament was kicking off. About every kind of boat you could imagine was in the waterâ€”inflatables, john boats, standard aluminum fishing boats, and bigger boats with enclosed cabins. The one thing they had in common was the jet powerâ€”outboards and inboards with jet drives. Maybe one or two boats had a prop drive. There were a few airboats, tooâ€”mostly flat-bottomed craft with a Chevy 350 driving an airplane propeller; some with an enclosed cabin, some without. The only thing missing was anything made of fiberglass.
The Susitna is a large glacial runoff river with white, chalky concrete-mix water courtesy of the ground-up rocks the ice had been working on for the last couple of eons. The salmon come up from the ocean and find their way up to the freshwater streams that feed into the Susitna, sometimes resting at the transition point to flush their gills out and get ready for the final upstream spawning run. That explained why the mouth of the Deshka looked like a marinaâ€”boat upon boat upon boatâ€”maybe fifty, maybe a hundred of them, all anchored in neat lines to the point you could practically walk from shore to shore.
"Can you imagine how many nice fish are going to be lost in those anchor ropes?" Jerry just shook his head. They were going to catch fish all right, but what a mess. I was considering the idea that here we were in Alaska to get away from it all in the wilderness, and this is the last thing I expected to see.
We were passing a bunch of spots Jerry knew to be productive, but most of them had campers and boats already there. It wasn't even 5:00 in the morning, but spots were being claimed. It was all local terminology loosely attached to places along the river. There was the Passin' Hole, the Twilight Hole, the Glory Hole, the Volkswagen Hole. We found a spot at the Walkin' Hole, got the boat secured, and cracked the Thermos open and poured some coffee. The river opens for fishing at 6:00 and closes at 11:00 at night, so we had a good hour to kill.
"The reason all these people are here," Jerry explained, "is this is the first time ever that the state of Alaska announced in advance that you could use eggs for bait. Normally, they won't let you use eggs until they get a good idea of how the run is going, and they make the announcement on the fly, so people don't get to plan on it. We had such a good run last year that they announced well ahead of time that you could use eggs starting on Saturday. That's brought everybody and his brother out here."
After having beaten the water to death the day before with a tackle box full of artificials and not catching anything, my fishing buddy Bob and I were ready for a little help. It's tough to travel 3,000 miles on a "trip of a lifetime" and spend the first day skunked. But it happened, and we were about to switch over to salmon eggs, and it was a whole new day.
The rules were pretty straight forward: You could take one king salmon a day. Once you had your keeper fish, you couldn't fish any more for kings. Any fish 20" or under was a jack and you could take all of those you wanted. You could catch and release as long as you wanted as long as you didn't take a fish out of the water, and you didn't hurt a fish. If the fish bleeds, which is a real risk when you're fishing with eggs because they could swallow the hook, then it's your fish. As nonresidents, Bob and I had paid $30 for a 7-day fishing license and another $30 for a 7-day king salmon stamp. We were seriously hoping that we didn't catch a 21" fish that bled at 6:05 AM.
Coming up on 6:00 and the temperature was struggling to get to the mid fifties. We put on hip boots and rigged up the rods. We were using medium weight spinning rods rigged with 20 lb. mono tied to a snap swivel. An 8" snelled hook with a loop knot went on the snap along with a 1/16 oz bell sinker. Jerry had tied the snell so that you could push the line back through the eye of the hook to form a loop, and once you hooked the spawn, you simply pulled the loop over and snugged it down.
"Cast upstream, keep your rod tip high and feel the weight bouncing along the rocks. Keep the bait on the bottom as you swing the rod downstream. If you feel the hit, then set the hook hard." Jerry gave the final instructions and we headed up and downstream of the anchored boat.
There wasn't much to it. As directed, we cast upstream, and holding the rod tip at about 11:00 you could feel the weight as it bounced through the swift current over the rocky bottom. One pass, then another. And another. A good fifteen minutes passed. Jerry confessed later that it was the longest fifteen minutes he'd ever spent, after all the egg hype and the dismal day before. It ended with a splash in the middle of the river, and Bob's rod bent back in a U-shape under the weight of a charging king. There was no horsing this fish. Reel down, lift up. He made a little progress, but as the fish came closer to the shallows, it turned and ran back down the river. All Bob could do was listen to the drag and hang on to the rod. Ten minutes and about four strong runs later, Jerry had the twenty pounder in the net. Bob shook his right arm and grinned.
"Nice fish." Hooked neatly in the upper lip, Jerry twisted the hook loose and lowered the net. A brief pause, and the fish took off. Time to rebait and start fishing.
Across the river on the other bank, what appeared to be a father and two grown sons were fishing pretty much as we were. Right after Bob hooked up, the older man hooked into a good one and had to walk up and down the stream and around his anchored boat to finally gain some advantage as the fish ran and jumped and basically did what it wanted to. As he got control, he dragged the fish up on the bank and proceeded to kick it over and over again in the head as it flopped around. Finally it laid still.
I asked Jerry what he thought that was all about. "Some guys are here just for the meat. They get their fish and they're happy. That's what they came for.
It was not, however, what we came for. We came for the fishing, not the fish. As I felt a hesitation in the line as it bounced over the rocks, I set the hook lifting the rod sharply over my head. The line pulled back immediately as if I was snagged on the bottom, but then loosened and a big king jumped in the middle of the river. Frantically reeling the slack out of the line as the fish swam toward me, I felt the weight at the end of the line. It turned back into the current and down the stream. The drag was singing loudly and the rod bentâ€”the high musical pitch of the line tight against the guides joined the sound of the drag as the fish pulled and ran, and occasionally let me gain a little ground. I got him into the shallows, but as Jerry approached with the net, he turned and ran back again. Thirty, fifty, seventy yards out. Slowly got him back toward the bank and steered him to the net.
"Pretty close to twenty pounds on this one, too," Jerry said.
I was breathing hard and my shoulder was a bit stiff. How could I be tired after one fish? I held the net as Jerry checked the fish. It was no worse for wear and shot back into the river as soon as the net was lowered. Jerry hooked me up with fresh eggs, and I was back on the water.
Now that the fish were hitting, it was a similar story over and over. A fairly light strike, strong hookset, and then hang on. Occasionally one would throw the hook, and Bob and I each had at least one break off, but generally we were able to win the battle and bring the fish to the net.
"Well, Bud," Jerry said as he looked reached around the eighth king I'd brought in for the day, "I think you've got your fish." The fish was hooked in the lip cleanly just like the others, but just