Reviewed by Mark Dickenson (May 2001)
As a general rule, cigars with larger ring gauges tend to be fuller flavoured (there is normally more ligero and less volado in the blend), smoke more smoothly and slowly, and heat less fast than those with small ring gauges. They also tend to be better made than the smaller ones (which are the sizes recently qualified apprentices start on). Cigars with small ring gauges have little or no ligero in the blend. Large ring gauge cigars are almost always the preferred choice âif there is no hurry- of connoisseurs or experienced cigar smokers
-'The Cigar Companion: The Connoisseur's Guide, 3rd Edition', Anwer Bati, Simon Chase'The Cigar Companion: The Connoisseur's Guide, 3rd Edition', Anwer Bati, Simon Chase
As a Hermoso #4 the Vegas Robaina Famosos join the distinguished company of the H.Upmann Connoisseurs #1, Rey del Mundo Choix Supreme, Romeo Exhibition #4, and Saint Luis Rey Regios, some of my favourite smokes. Under the marque of Vegas Robaina, the Unicos are particularly recommended; in December of last year, C.GARS Ltd provided me with one that remains to this day the best single smoking experience of my life. Would this Hermoso live up to the promise of its predecessors in this vitola, and the excellence of it's stable?
It was pleasing to discover that all three of the samples for the Famosos had a loose band. You might be like myself and want to be rid of this distraction as soon as possible so that there is nothing between oneself and the smoke. The second step in preparing the cigar for smoking gave pleasant surprises also. Two of the cigars had the type of rounded cap that Jamaica's Macanudo have been advertising recently (see issue 5 of 'Cigar Style'). It makes for an easy and clean cut with more margins for error than the square shouldered brother does, as featured in the third sample. Thus two were cut with the usual guillotine and the last with a punch. All three Famosos were crowned with a generous sized cap sitting atop the cigar like and umbrella. This was most welcome so that even a clumsy deep cut into the cap would not threaten the wrapper security.
These cigars were gently box-pressed but not severely so, as can sometimes seem a crude attack on their natural shape. The Famosos provided a mostly unassuming pre-light scent, none at all for one of the samples and only a delicate fragrance from its siblings. All bore silky lustrous wrappers, one with an especially appealing oily sheen to the cap end. One has no hesitation in declaring the wrapper construction on all of these samples as an easy 9/10. However, it would have been nice to see a little more colour; my untrained eye puts the shade at somewhere between a Colorado and Colorado claro.
Each sample I found to be mostly kind on the nose, with no ammonia related harshness at all. My first smoking of a Famoso reminded at first of the classic tobacco flavour of a Punch, but then lifted with a sophisticated aspect that I would not normally attribute to that brand. Then I began to understand why, the flavour rushed towards the alcoholic complexity of a Saint Luis Rey, albeit rather more accessible. Unusually for myself, this smoke was more enjoyable on the palate than in the nose. My feeling was that I may not have helped the full enjoyment of the cigar by smoking in the morning because it was rather full in flavour, more suited to the evening. When this cigar was re-lit after the halfway point, it was in brutal form and I could not continue with it, which was disappointing.
The second of the sample Famosos, this time taken in the afternoon, was a rather different experience in the balance and type of flavours to the first. Shot through with hints of spice and followed by the always-pleasing floral sweetness of honey, one is perhaps reminded of the tart fruit flavour of a good red wine. Yet overall, the initial impression of a milder blend than the first was true throughout. This smoke continued to be soft rounded and mellow, indeed reminiscent of the Choix Supreme - at it's best! When re-lit, this sample developed a woody note that took on our own Joe Gellman's ingenious description, amber. Lovely, lovely amber!
The third cigar of the sample began like a puzzle waiting to be worked out. A complex and intriguing balance of familiar and tantalizingly obscure flavours led me to wonder where it was going to go. Indeed, the first indications were resoundingly positive creating the impression of a quality smoke, something one would be pleased to offer a dinner guest. The flavours of the cigar developed a creamy bent, mild but pleasing that grew to a more earthy robust style to the finish. Whilst the main body, and finish of the smoke did not quite exceed my early expectations, it remained pleasant throughout.
The ash is always of interest to the Havana fan. On a personal level, I am always delighted to see a dazzling white display of ash clashing with a maduro wrapper, yet one is often surprised to see a bleak dark gray product that has produced a most remarkable smoke. When I think about the great and poor smokes I have had and the ash associated with each I become increasingly of the opinion that ash indicates very little of significance. For example, the last cigar in this sample produced a powdery ash that crumbled rather than broke off. This is often taken to be a sign of a poor internal structure, but there was no question of that here at all. I was aware of absolutely no faults in the Torcedor's craftsmanship whatsoever, enjoying a perfect draw throughout. Particularly when I left the cigar to burn by itself for a moment, I returned to a cool smoke that was the perfect medium for the flavour. The second sample drew a little too easy to get a great volume of smoke, which was fine because I like to puff gently at a cigar and enjoy the aroma at my leisure.
My overall feeling about the Vegas Robaina Famosos is that the vitola has great promise. Famosos can comfortably hold a junior place among the Hermoso#4 family. A fan of the vitola like myself would be well advised to check back in on this vitola from time to time. Amongst the samples provided by C.GARS Ltd, all were perfectly matured and ready for smoking, yet one wonders if a seat in the humidor for a further couple of months might give a further touch of refinement to an enjoyable and solidly crafted cigar. If that little extra time did work a final polish on them they would be something for all lovers of Cuban to enthusiastically seek out and jealously appropriate for their own supplies.