The line Ediciónes Limitadas represented one of the very first ideas for special, limited-production cigars that Habanos S.A. introduced at the start of the 21st century. It all began in 2000, which was a difficult year for the Cuban cigar industry.
Following the drive to make more and more cigars to meet the demands of the 1990s boom, stocks of tobacco were low. Wrapper leaves for making large sizes were in particularly short supply, so much so that the industry was struggling to meet its targets. But there was one place in Cuba where large wrappers were plentiful, and that was in the warehouses that stored the leaves for domestic-production cigars.
These wrappers were different from those used on cigars classified as Habanos because they had been picked from the upper levels of shade-grown tobacco plants.
They were darker in colour and thicker too, which made them harder for the torcedores to work with. Over the years, it had been established that only wrappers from the middle section of tobacco plants were used on Habanos. Nevertheless, the lack of any alternative meant that serious consideration had to be given to using the domestic leaves if production was to be maintained.
I was told about the problem on a visit to Havana in June 2000. A debate was raging in the industry about whether the use of dark wrappers would undermine the precious global image of the Habano. Having been shown some samples, my only comment was that there were many enthusiasts in Britain who would willingly sacrifice their right arms for Habanos with dark, oily wrappers.
In short, I felt that the project had plenty of potential. Goodness knows whether my view carried any weight, but soon afterwards the project got the green light. Dark wrappers were to be used, provided that they were on cigars that could be clearly identified as separate from standard-production products.
I felt that the project had plenty of potential.
In London at the end of November 2000, we received the first shipment of four different vitolas – the Montecristo Robusto, the Romeo y Julieta Exhibición No. 2, the Partagás Pirámide and the Hoyo de Monterrey Particulares – all under the banner of Ediciónes Limitadas, or Limited Editions. Since then, usually three, but sometimes up to five Limited Editions have been released annually, with the exception of the year 2002, though the cigars banded in 2001 were not distributed until mid 2002. In total, until this year, there have been forty-eight Limited Editions.
The main characteristics of Limited Editions are:
- they are made only in Havana’s best-known brands;
- they are manufactured in one production period;
- the sizes are rare;
- they are dressed in darker coloured wrapper leaves; and
- they are made from extra-aged tobaccos.
For the first five years, Limited Editions were only found in five brands: Cohiba, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, Partagás and Hoyo de Monterrey. However, since 2005, H. Upmann, Trinidad, Cuaba, Bolívar, Ramón Allones and Punch have joined the elite group, bringing the total up to eleven brands.
The production run for each cigar takes place within a limited period, usually during the year for which it is designated. The exact quantity made for each release is not declared because the Cuban industry cannot tell how many cigars of each vitola it can make until after the bales of specially aged wrapper leaves are opened and graded for quality and colour. Limited Edition sizes are rare because they must not replicate any of the vitolas normally made by the brands in question.
Sometimes they are entirely new sizes, never produced before in Havana, such as the Sublime (61⁄2” | 164mm x 54 ring gauge), first made for Cohiba’s 2004 Limited Edition, or the Duke (51⁄2” | 140mm by 54 ring gauge), first made for Romeo’s 2009 release. They can also be vitolas that have not been made for many years, like the 2004 Partagás Serie D No. 1 (63⁄4” | 170mm by 50 ring gauge) and last year’s (2013) Punch Serie D’Oro No. 2 (5 1⁄2” | 140mm x 52 ring gauge), neither of which had been seen since the 1950s.
The darker wrappers picked from the upper levels of tobacco plants are younger, thicker and fuller of natural oils and sugar. Consequently, they demand longer periods of fermentation and ageing than normal wrappers: up to nine months for fermentation, as opposed to one month, and over a year for ageing, compared to six months. All Limited Edition wrappers are over two years old before they dress the cigars.
There is some variation in the colours. They can be Colorado (dark brown), Colorado Maduro (very dark brown, sometimes slightly mottled) or Maduro (nearly black). Contrary to popular belief they are not all Maduro (nearly black), but most are. Up until 2006, Limited Edition filler and binder leaves were fermented and aged in the same way as for the standard production of the brands. However, since 2007 onwards, all the fillers and binders have undergone an extra ageing process so that all the leaves are now a minimum of two years old before the cigars are made. Extra ageing delivers a more rounded, more mellow flavour to which the higher sugar content of the darker wrapper adds a hint of sweetness.
In total, until this year, there have been forty-eight Limited Editions.
The distinct taste of Limited Editions has not always proved popular. In the early days they had a somewhat medicinal flavour with a hint of eucalyptus, probably caused by the thickness of the wrappers. Particularly when the cigars were young, a similar taste could be identified across all brands and sizes. In 2000, for this very reason, I remember recommending that the Limited Editions be laid down for a few years before they were smoked. It worked, because now, fourteen years later, the Partagás Pirámide, for example, smokes very well and tastes only of good, aged Cuban tobacco.
To pick a few personal favourites, I would mention the 2003 Partagás Serie D No. 2, a powerhouse of a cigar, ideal for ageing; the 2004 Cohiba Sublime, which has become a costly collectors’ item; the 2009 Romeo y Julieta Duke, which introduced us to a 54 ring gauge in a shortish smoke; the 2010 Trinidad Short Robusto T, a diminutive vitola that conquered the hearts of French enthusiasts despite its comparatively high price; and the 2011 Cohiba 1966, a cigar that tasted as if the tobaccos had been aged for longer than the minimum of two years. At the time of writing, this year’s releases have yet to be shipped, but the cigar everyone is waiting for is the Cohiba Robusto Supremo, the first Cuban in living memory to boast a 58 ring gauge.
It could be said that necessity was the mother of invention when it came to the birth of Cuba’s Limited Editions. Nevertheless, Habanos S.A. can look back with pride on a programme that has produced some distinctly different, first-class cigars.
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Winter Edition 2014. Read more