So I recently traveled back to Cuba on a mission to refill my humidor. It was sorely bare, having only a single Cohiba Esplendido(reviewed here) and a couple of Guantanamera Decimos(not even worthy of review) left over from a box of 10 that my father-in-law grabbed me from Cuba back in December…A sad state of affairs that had me smoking Guatemalan and Philippino cigars in 2017 and even in the throes of desperation, a few packs of American cigars(sigh)…
So once there I had my sights set on a box of Quintero Brevas, which I have always managed to come home with. I have always been a fan of the more rustic Cubans, and oddly enough I prefer a quality-made Tripa Corta(short filler) like Jose L. Piedra which sources their tobacco from the Vuelta Arriba region of Cuba, which is quite different in character from the world renowned Vuelta Abajo region of virtually every other brand in Cuba. Unfortunately I have not seen a single box of JLP’s in Cuba going on three years now so I was hoping for my second choice in Quintero y. Hno.
Quintero is the only Cuban cigar produced outside of Havana, with their factory having been located in Cienfeugos since the 1920’s. It is considered a multi-regional brand so it’s distribution is more limited than global brands like Cohiba, or Montecristo. Even still I never saw any Quintero at the duty-free, or the gift-shop in the resort, I was starting to feel a little doubtful of being able to grab a box on my budget if no Totalmente a Mano Tripa Corta was available. My wife was going into town and I gave her a list to see if she could dig anything up at the LCDH shop. Still no JLPs but fortunately the clerk was able to find a box of Quinteros in the back-room. Now I’ve had my suspicions for a while now about the shops holding back the good-stuff and selling the trash to tourists who don’t smoke(Guantanamera, Troya) or selling the high-end Cohibas to tourists with more money than brains.
So when I got back to Canada I first verified the authenticity on the Habanos S.A. website and then opened the box and was very pleasantly surprised with what I saw. First off the box was perfectly seasoned with a August 2015 date code, when usually the boxes I have purchased were at best a few months old. I’ve also noticed a definite improvement in the quality control standards over the last 6 years, previously Quinteros were of pretty rough construction, veiny, blotchy wrappers, with a couple of duds at least per box, this box however was full of beautiful cigars which could easily pass for any premium Cuban marca. The wrappers are a chocolate brown Maduro(usually reserved for limited editions) that Quintero sources from the Semi-Vuelta region, which does give a unique taste compared to other Vuelta Abajo puros.
A couple of weeks in the humidor was enough to settle them after the shock of going from 30 degrees and moist to sub-zero with indoor heat back in Canada. So that is a whole lot of back-story so without futher ado I will get to the tasting notes. Bear in mind however that tripa corta filler leaves are comprised of trimmings from other medium bodied long filler premium cigars like Romeo or Cohiba. No two are ever really the same because cigars are later sorted by wrapper colour when they are finished so a box didn’t necessarily come from the same bundle of filler leaves. It’s left to the wrapper and binder leaves to give it that signature Quintero taste.
The first third was an unusual mix of flavours that I cant say I’ve ever quite tasted before. It sounds much better to say it was a mix of sandalwood and leather than to say it tasted like shoes(brand new, not worn). The wood and leather were just hints to an overwhelming Cuban tobacco taste, smooth, cedar, nutty, floral. The second third was dominated by a buttery taste with notes of white pepper as it got into the second half. The bottom third was the spicy earthen tones of the medium-full body that I’ve come to enjoy from a Quintero. I didn’t smoke it down to the nub because I had already been outside for 45 mins while it was snowing(in mid April) and I just couldn’t feel my fingers anymore.
It’s official, the Quintero Breva is now my go-to smoke. Unbelievable value at $2 CAD per stick(even after the absurd 1.35 exchange rate). Last year I got desperate and bought a single at my local cigar shop and paid $14 for it. You simply wont find a better Cuban in this price range. Heck I am even considering vacationing in Cienfeugos next time I go just so I will be sure that there are no stock issues…