Partagás Lusitania Cigars: Reliably Top Notch
by Ken Gargett
One of the more interesting, and unresolvable, debates in the cigar world is between aficionados of regular production cigars and those who adore the special releases: Limited Editions, Regional Releases, Gran Reserva, Humidor Collections, and numerous others.
Of course, there is no reason not to enjoy them all, but cigar lovers do tend to come down heavily one way or the other. And they are rarely shy in defending their preferences.
Theoretically, special releases should be something a bit above and beyond and often they are, not least in price.
Regular production cigars can be frustrating. Quality can vary, some favorites are inexplicably occasionally discontinued, and supply can be a little spotty. These days, one is lucky to see a release of H. Upmann Sir Winston more than once every couple of years.
I recently looked at the wonderful Trinidad La Trova and how, at the moment, they are about as common as unicorns. And when was the last time we saw a release of the fabulous Saint Luis Rey Double Coronas?
Partagás Lusitania: regular production, regularly available
One regular production cigar that is usually regularly available and reliably top notch is the Partagás Lusitania. Interestingly, despite being such a large cigar needing specific-sized leaves, which can be difficult to access in poor years, this does not seem to have impeded stocks of Lusitanias.
One caveat, however. If you are not prepared to devote two to two and a half hours to the cigar, read no further. This is a cigar – a double corona – to enjoy over time, to settle back with a good book and a great drink, or possibly enjoy while watching a footy game or a classic movie: The Godfather, a top Islay single-malt whisky, and a Lusi.
Not sure life gets much better enjoying one while Arsenal thumps Man U or, for those with very long memories, watching the Redskins roll on to a Superbowl win.
For the technically minded, the Lusitania is one of the largest Cuban cigars – not quite up with the Montecristo Monte As or Sancho Panza Sanchos, though the latter are in the tragically and inexplicably discontinued basket – but considerable. They boast a ring gauge of 49 mm and length of 194 mm. Interestingly, prior to 1976 they measured 50 x 184 mm.
This cigar is believed to have been named after the famous British ocean-going liner sunk by a German torpedo during World War I, which lost more than 1,000 lives, though some dispute this theory. There is no record of when Lusitanias were first produced, so it is unlikely we will ever know.
Partagás Lusitania: size matters, so does checking
I mentioned the change in size in 1976 above. It is also accepted that the style of these cigars was modified considerably in 1995, going from a very powerful to a much milder cigar.
Those familiar with pre-1995 Lusitanias have compared them to some of the early Limited Edition cigars under the Partagás label.
As I suggested, the Lusi is usually one of the more reliable cigars in terms of quality. That said, it is not a cigar I’d look to source if touring Cuba. Rather, deal with your preferred cigar retailer (www.friendsofhabanos.com is always worth checking – full disclosure, it is run by a good friend), one who will check every box before it is sent.
On a recent trip to Havana, I decided I wanted to source a good box of Lusis. Even with the assistance of a good friend from the industry, it was nearly impossible. I’d guess we opened around three dozen boxes of 25 from various accredited stores (don’t waste your time buying from the street, no matter what story they spin) before I finally found one, inexplicably also with good age, that met the criteria – it actually turned out to contain some of the finest Lusis (indeed, finest cigars) I’ve ever tried, but numerous other boxes fell far short of that. Some competed with garden compost.
There are some cigars that seem to be at their best in Cuba, for those traveling there, but others that are either never seen there (all sent to offshore markets) or that are little more than a dumping ground for the lesser quality production. Always check your boxes before buying.
Still, I’d guess that you’ve a very good chance of a tiptop box – they come in cabinets of 50, boxes of 25, and presentation boxes of 10 since 2007 – if you go with a respected retailer. Pricing for boxes of 25 is approximately $400-$450, and up to $500 for aged boxes.
Partagás Lusitania: so, what can you expect other than a couple of hours of pleasure?
The flavors are indeed in the milder, subtler spectrum. My most recent, from a box from May 2014, opened with lovely creamy coffee notes.
The wrapper was quite a light tan, the sort of thing one would expect from a Colorado-style wrapper, but some will be quite dark. There was also a hint of russet.
The flavors moved to a slightly spicier, even peppery, profile with an underlying milk chocolate and caramel note. Sometimes some nuts, roasted toasty characters, and oatmeal.
For a cigar this size, it’s always worth keeping a close eye on the burn as it can easily go a little off kilter if one is not careful. In their first few years, these cigars can appear to be a little too young. So if you have the opportunity to age them for any time, they will benefit from it.
The Partagás Lusitania: one of the finest cigars, regular production or special release, anyone could ever wish to enjoy.