Trinidad Robusto Extra
- Monday, 01 April 2013
Having been inducted into the cigar smoking fraternity at the tender age of 16, years of watching cigars come and go has taught me a few things.
Firstly, like everything else in life, good things pass, whether you want them to or not – sizes and brands of cigars die out.
Secondly, there’s nothing like enjoying a well presented and delicious Cuban cigar while Peter buries his head in a Fallow, gralloching away for the butcher. I know what I would rather be smelling, and it isn’t the burst intestines of that Buck!
Flippancy aside, deer stalking presents some great moments to enjoy some great cigars. For those who are already au fait with cigars this will seem like old news, but cigars are really something to be savoured and enjoyed – no use trying to puff on one pre-stalk, as you’ll just drag away like it’s a cigarette and spoil the experience. Pick the moment that your stalking chum needs to bury his head in the belly of a beast, lean back against an old oak tree, and watch the time slip by in the countryside. Magic!
Before I get any more complaints from Peter for being bone-idle, I should point out that it would be customary to address Cohiba as my first Cigar review. Cohiba has long been seen as cigar royalty, enjoying a long and illustrious history of which is intertwined famously with Fidel Castro and his personal bodyguard. Cohiba are the ‘go-to’ for most discerning consumers.
However, as we are on the brink of an important size (or ‘vitola’) passing away into the history books, and I’ve always had a really soft spot for it. Recently, Habanos SA announced the discontinuation of several of the Trinidad cigar range, including the Robusto Extra.
When Cohiba went public and became a cigar for the open markets, Castro commissioned a new brand for his exclusive use as diplomatic gifts. Founded in 1969, it took nearly thirty years before mere mortals could acquire the sticks, with the single sized Fundador being reserved for diplomatic gifts. The range was supplemented in 2004 by a number of new sized, including the Reyes, the Coloniales, the Robusto Extra and later some regional editions and special releases such as the Ingenio and the Robusto T.
While a number of these vitolas survive, and the brand is staying afloat for the time being, the curtain call has been sounded on the Robusto Extra. So why did the Robusto Extra fail to survive when the others did?
Clearly consumerism kicks in here. The Robusto Extra has never been a cheap cigar (at circa £22 GBP at the time of writing), it’s clearly in the price bracket of the larger standard production Cohibas. Therefore, most upper-end cigar smokers shrugged, admitted the little pigtail cap on the top of the stick was a cute novelty, and went back to their Sigilo VIs. Even when that was done, what next? Partagas D4 for me, please. No Trinidad in sight.
I don’t think the Robusto was overshadowed by the Cohiba Sigilo VI because of quality; I think it was overshadowed because if you were in that price bracket, why not have a Cohiba?
The construction of the Robusto Extra is superb, and exactly what you would expect from the El Laguito factory (after all, they also make Cohiba!), with the pigtail cap a nice touch. Most boxes tend to be a little darker on the wrapper leaves and the result of specialist selection of leaves from the Vuelta Abajo region, in Cuba. The Robusto Extra enjoys a ring gauge of 50mm and a length of 155mm, making it the same ring gauge as the Cohiba Robusto (remember when that was king?) but a shade smaller than the Sigilo VI. Length is also a little shorter.
A considerable chink in the armour of the brand is the fascination with boxing the sticks in bundles of 24, instead of the customary 25. Sorry, I just can’t defend this one.
I would consider the Robusto Extra a good after dinner cigar. While the smaller sizes in the range lend themselves to after-lunch and daytime smoking, the Robusto Extra remains a big smoke and the length of runway is required to really savour the flavours coming through. Fresh cream and cracked peppers dominate throughout, delivering from a backdrop of earth, soil and peat. The smoke is dense but not overpowering; if you enjoy big, powerful cigars like a Partagas Lusitania then you’ll notice it’s not as strong, but more likely than not to stick with it anyway.
While smoking, the ambient room smells were of mixed spices, with overtones of pepper and an unmistakeably Cuban twinge. The pepper sensations were noted throughout the length of the smoke, and were indeed consistent. Variance was noted travelling between a flavour akin to that of milk, and its weakest, up to cream towards the middle and end. At its most fragrant overtones of liquorice and autumn bonfires came forth. The actual body of smoke in the mouth was clean, crisp and unmistakeably Cuban; ash was tight, well constructed and mid grey. Overall, the cigar is of excellent construction and I’ve rarely noticed draw issues over the years I’ve been smoking them. The cigar leaves a great lingering taste in the mouth for about 15 minutes after the final puff, in much the same way spicy Indian food stays with you for a while. Biscuit and peat linger, reminding me somewhat of Islay whisky.
I tend not to pair cigars with drinks too readily, as I find it feels like I’m smoking, well, smoke, and drinking, umm, alcohol – they lose their individuality somewhat. That said, if you challenged me, I do find the Robusto Extra goes well with a nice bottle of Pol Roger if socialising or a good year and soft vintage port like Warre, which allows it enough room to display its flavours. Interestingly despite the lingering taste of peat and whisky at the end, I find pairing the two does not do enough to offset and showcase the flavours, but others may find the ‘apples + apples’ effect pleasing.
Now these are no longer in production, the race is on to pick them up before they vanish forever. They are regarded as aging well, and indeed many in stores now will already have a few years of shelf age on them so they should be smoking well today. While not cheap, I really cannot see these being resurrected in the future like the Bolivar Gold Medals as the price structure really doesn’t work. Of course we cannot ignore price, nor the competitive market and least of all survival of the fittest, but I’d urge aficionados to try one of these before they exit stage left forever. I had the honour of being at the Trinidad Launch event nearly a decade ago when they were paraded in with much fanfare, and it feels somewhat respectful to be one of their pall-bearers now it’s the end of the road. Enjoy them while you can!