Easily one of, if not the most exciting cigars this year comes courtesy of Cubanacan Cigars, formerly Mederos Cigars, with the unveiling of their newest project - HR. These seemingly ambiguous set of letters are in fact a set of initials, belonging to none other than Hirochi Robaina. While that name will no doubt ring a bell with many, I suspect that a fair percentage of cigar smokers in the United States may be unfamiliar with the Robaina name.
Authors Note: I have opted to write a relatively brief but comprehensive history of the Robaina family. If you are already familiar with the Robaina family, or simply have no interest, feel free to scroll past the introduction and straight to the specifications. Thanks!
The story of the Robaina family is really the story of three men, and it would be a disservice to the family's legacy to not acknowledge each of them at least briefly. The Robaina family has been a staple in Cuban tobacco since they began operations in 1845. While not the man who originally entered the family into the tobacco business, Maruto Robaina is the man responsible for planting the seeds for the family to rise to prominence in the tobacco industry in Cuba. Through continuous finesse and care, the Robaina’s became known for having incredibly high yields of tobacco suitable for wrapper leaf. At one point in the family’s legacy, they were seeing suitable yields of around 80%, while nearly every other farm was seeing yields of around 30%. Their tobacco has been used, at one point or another, in many of Havana’s most famous blends.
After years of honing his craft, Maturo became the father of a healthy baby boy named Alejandro in 1919. The young Robaina began to learn the family’s trade at the age of 10, and shortly thereafter began smoking cigars himself. Growing up in the Vuelta Abajo district in the Pinar del Rio Province, young Alejandro Robaina quickly found himself invigorated - absorbing as much knowledge in the cultivation of tobacco as he could. After being immersed in the world of tobacco for most of his life, Alejandro Robaina began to take on more and more responsibility within his family’s company, and eventually began preparing himself for the inevitable task of running the entire operation when his father’s health started to decline.
In 1950, Alejandro Robaina officially took over operations of the family’s business, following the passing of his father.
Just three years later, the now infamous Cuban Revolution began in July 1953. The armed revolt ravaged the country for 6 years before reaching a climax when Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement overthrew the government headed by Fulgencio Batista. Cuba quickly became a socialist state after Fidel Castro’s regime took power, before going on to adopt the tenets of Communism and changing the name of the state’s party to the Community Party in 1965.
In a Communist state, nearly everything becomes state-owned, or state-controlled. The Robaina family was, and still is, one of the few fully independent growers in Cuba. In an interview with Cigar Aficionado, Alejandro Robaina recalls a conversation he had with Cuba’s leader, with Fidel expressing his desire for Robaina to join a cooperative. Robaina was heavily opposed, stating “I told Fidel I did not like cooperatives or state farms and that the best way to grow tobacco was through family production. He wanted me to join a cooperative and I told him no. I would not do it and that I would remain working with my family.” Much to Castro’s credit, he realized that it was probably for the best to leave the nearly-perfected process in the hands of the family. Alejandro went on to elaborate “... this is something everybody tried to make Fidel understand. At the end he has understood to the point that a lot of the land is now in the hands of small farmers. Many of them do not have the experience, but some have turned out to be very good.”
In his time at the helm of the family’s farm,Cuchillas de Barbacoa, Alejandro Robaina became dubbed as “the godfather of Cuban tobacco”. In 1994, Alejandro was officially recognized by the Cuban Government as the country’s top grower.
Three years later, Habanos S.A., the state-owned company responsible for the promotion and distribution of Cuban cigars worldwide, honored Alejandro Robaina by releasing Vegas Robaina, making Alejandro the only contemporary Cuban to have a cigar bearing his name.
In the years following, Alejandro traveled the world to promote, discuss and educate consumers. He became considered by many to be the unofficial ambassador of all things Cuban tobacco and cigar related.
Alejandro passed away peacefully in his home in April 2010 at the age of 91, having been diagnosed with cancer the previous year. He was mourned by many across the world, and publications such as The New York Times and CNN published obituaries.
In the years preceding his death, Alejandro had taken his grandson, Hirochi Robaina, under his wing. Standing on the shoulders of giants, Hirochi was able to quickly absorb much of the vast knowledge that had been hard-won from his family’s combined 165 years in tobacco cultivation. Hirochi acknowledged this in an interview for Cigar Aficionado, stating “The truth is that it has been easier for me than for my grandfather. He acquired his experience from his father and grandfather and from his own work throughout his life. For me, I feel it has been a lot easier because he has passed on to me the essence of all those years of experience. I have not had to experience the hardship he went through in his life.”
All of this brings us to the present day, and the cigar at hand - HR.
The inception of the HR stems from an idea by Omar Gonzalez Aleman, the founder of Cubanacan Cigars. Aleman is a Cuban immigrant who moved to Costa Rica in 2004, before going on to form what is now Cubanacan Cigars, for which he serves as Master Blender. In his time in Cuba, Omar Gonzalez Aleman spent the majority of his time at La Corona Cigar Factory, which handles much of the rolling of brands such as Saint Luis Rey, Romeo y Julieta, Hoyo de Monterrey and others. Aleman developed a lifelong friendship with the elder Robaina before leaving Cuba.After Alejandro’s passing, Omar Gonzalez Aleman reached out to Hirochi Robaina with the idea of creating a cigar that not only honors Alejandro Robaina, but the family as whole. This took place in 2011, and the next three years were spent creating a blend with Hirochi that is primarily Nicaraguan but still retains the essence of a Robaina cigar.
That was the only challenge, however. Much of the time between inception and the final product was spent working out the logistics of releasing a cigar bearing the most prized name in Cuban tobacco. In the end, Hirochi and Cubanacan were able to broker a deal with the Cuban government to allow the use of the Robaina name in the US market, as well as for Hirochi to come to the United States to promote and educate consumers on the product. They then had to arrange things with the other side of the equation - the United States. Ultimately, they succeeded, with the US government issuing a visa for Hirochi to enter the country.The HR is designed to appeal to seasoned smokers, being full-bodied and full-flavored with an emphasis on complexity. For the blend, Aleman and Robaina opted to use Nicaraguan fillers from both Esteli and Jalapa, a Nicaraguan binder from Jalapa, and a maduro wrapper from Ecuador using Habano 2000 seed.
HR is offered in four sizes: Hermoso - 5 1/8 x 48; Belicoso - 5 1/2 x 52; Toro - 6 x 52; and Sublime - 6 1/2 x 54).
Additionally, Hirochi Robaina will be on hand for approximately 30 in-store events with select retailers across the United States.
- Cigar: HR "Hirochi Robaina"
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Manufacturer: Cubanacan Cigars
- Factory: Cubanacan Cigars Factory S.A.
- Size: 6 ½ x 54 Sublime
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano 2000 Maduro
- Binder: Nicaraguan, Jalapa
- Filler: Nicaraguan, Esteli and Jalapa
- MSRP: $18.00-$22.00
- Production: Ongoing (limited)
Appearance and Pre-Light Aroma
As evident from the pictures, the majority of the HRs smoked for this review were un-banded pre-release samples provided by Fear The Beard Cigars, local representatives for Cubanacan Cigars. All HRs smoked for this review were consistent top to bottom, both visually and in feel. Copious amounts of wrapper oil, relatively few veins, and soft bumps run from the foot to the cap. Those of you who subscribe to the idea that wrapper tooth translates to flavor are in for a treat; the HR has one of the toothiest wrappers I can recall seeing in recent time.
Having smoked several HR’s at this point, I am continually surprised by just how reserved the scents from the foot as well as the taste while dry-drawing are. Light floral notes, characterized by soft spice, woods and a grassy finish are most prominent, with a deeper citrus sweetness lurking in the midst as well. The sweet and woodsy flavors are a bit more prominent through the dry-draw, and a thick sweetness that is distinctly different from the other sweet citrus-y flavors creates a subtle sensation similar to a residue left on your palate.
The HR wastes zero time in getting down to business. With perfect poise from the first puff, the HR unveils a profile that is both incredibly sophisticated and well-sorted. I sit perplexed for the first few minutes, with only one thought becoming crystal clear: this cigar is different. The core arrangement of flavor is built upon floral nutmeg with a bit of a musky connotation. Layered in is a mixture of sweet chocolate and sugary citrus notes, along with a toasted cedar undertone. Enjoyably, the HR covers the full spectrum of the palate, making for an experience that is incredibly engaging. Thus far both flavor and body from the HR have been on the upper end of medium-full, with a bold presence and a texture that is on the chalkier side of creamy. The retrohale covers a broad spectrum of flavors, flowing through the nose with a floral cream note, wood, nuts, black pepper and minerals.
The second third sees a noticeable increase in strength, body and flavor, though I am still hesitant to call it full. The HR’s profile has seamlessly evolved as it transitioned through thirds; floral nutmeg is still center-stage, as is nutmeg, transitioning into a genuine spice through the finish. The sweeter flavors have largely been muted, although a tangy cedar remains a prominent facet of the profile. A presence of minerals toward the front of the palate and black pepper toward the back of the palate serve as new additions. The HR is substantially more visceral through the nose in the second third; black pepper and a sweet floral cream engage the senses potently, with a pinch of leather toward the tail end. The finish, while quite clean, is noticeably more rich and hearty than early on.
While not quite in the HR’s final third, a large set of transitions occur at a quick pace. Leather quickly becomes a core note, as well as toasted coffee flavor with the same slightly bitter characteristic that makes for a great brew. A smoky tobacco flavor arises, replacing the core flavor dimensions that up until now have colored every aspect of the profile. Dried citrus fruits, cedar, and a medium earthiness pervade through the finish. Strength remains medium-full, while flavor and body have some gained some real meat to them. The retrohale still contains the strongest presence of floral flavors, with the addition of heightened levels of black pepper and leather. Nearing the end, strength is picking up, and a spicy cedar reappears in the finish and through the nose. From puff to puff traces of floral cream from earlier bounce in and out, and finally, red pepper arrives in the 11th hour.
Burn and Construction
Excellent in both regards. The burn was phenomenal, I do truly mean phenomenal. Out of both samples smoked for this review, only one quick touch up was ever needed. Things were as simple as firing up and smoking away.
I found this cigar to be incredibly difficult to review, which in my opinion, in the right context, is one of the strongest compliments that can be given.
The harshest criticism one can give a cigar is to say that it tastes like just another cigar. It implies genericism; a lack of character - nothing to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack.
The HR does not suffer from this problem. It has strengths, it has weaknesses. It has quirks, it has finesse, it has nuance. Most importantly is what it does to you. It incites what the ancient Greeks referred to as entheos. It is a cigar that was created with passion, and its greatest feat is that it transfers that passion to you.
- Burn : 9/10
- Construction : 9/10
- Flavor : 10/10
- Complexity : 9/10
- Balance : 10/10
- Overall Enthusiasm : 10/10