I’ll come right out and say this at the start—I feel like the non-Cuban Cohiba is a cigar that shouldn’t be. To be sure, you’ll find plenty of American-distributed versions of the old, famed Cuban brands that exist. But nearly all of these brands are generally given a pass in the minds of cigar hobbyists. This is because it is understood that, when the original Cuban brands became government property following the Cuban Revolution, Cuban cigar makers fled the country, re-creating new versions of the cigar brands they’d previously helmed. These were once largely independent entities, although they are now the property of either General Cigar Co. or Altadis USA (the latter actually owns a 50-percent share in Habanos S.A.—the current-day distribution arm of Cuba’s state-owned tobacco company).
I don’t necessarily believe that every single parallel Cuban and non-Cuban brand were started with those who defected and took the brand names of cigars with them; it’s fairly well-known that some were named solely to take advantage of brand recognition using legal trademark loopholes that existed due to the embargo on Cuban products. The General Cigar Company’s Cohiba is certainly one of those, but it’s their placement in the cigar marketplace that kind of irks me. Consider that the Cuban-made Cohiba was (arguably) the first cult cigar (created specifically for Castro and oftentimes given away as diplomatic gifts). The brand name Cohiba is probably more recognizable than any other in the world—sometimes thought of as the holy grail of cigars. So (here comes the cigar snob in me), when you have a giant cigar company that mass produces millions upon millions of cigars, and decides to slap the most recognizable, sought-after cigar brand name in existence on what seems to be just another cigar they crank out by the millions, charging a super premium price… personally, it feels like they are trying to take advantage, not only of a loophole that allows them to use the name, but of an otherwise unknowing consumer who might imagine they are purchasing something special.
On the other hand… Cohiba is also unique in that the brand was brought into the limelight by a communist dictator (as opposed to the confiscation that took place on nearly every other Cuban brand of the time). In this respect, the trademark dispute suddenly becomes tolerable; it can almost be looked at as a slap in the face to government-sponsored theft—delivering a message of freedom trumping fascism. This is what keeps me up at night… but I digress.
All this being said, non-Cuban Cohibas look nothing like their Cuban-made counterparts, becoming well-known as Red Dot Cohibas due to their altered band design. The original Red Dot cigars were long the sole offering from the Dominican-made brand, but in recent years, the name has expanded to include a wide range of smoking experiences. The latest such example is the Cohiba Connecticut, showcasing the most mild profile from Cohiba to date.
Cohiba Connecticut Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
- Binder: Mexican San Andrés
- Filler: Brazilian Mata Fina | Dominican Piloto Cubano & Olor | Nicaraguan (Jalapa)
- Factory: General Cigar Dominicana (Dominican Republic)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5½″ × 50 (Robusto)
- Price: $19.99 (MSRP)
Cohiba Connecticut marks the first time a Cohiba has ever had a Connecticut Shade wrapper. Well, not technically grown under shade, as happens here in the United States’ Connecticut River Valley, but grown under the constant cloud cover found in the Los Rios province of Ecuador. This leaf is said to have been intentionally developed to produce an aesthetically pleasing, near-veinless appearance on the finished product.
Cohiba Connecticut falls in line with the ultra-premium classification the brand has accumulated throughout the majority of its releases, being shipped in four sizes with prices ranging from $20 to $23:
- Robusto: 5½″ × 50 | $19.99 | 20-ct boxes
- Crystal Robusto: 5″ x 50 | $20.99 | 10-ct boxes
- Toro: 6¼” x 52 | $21.99 | 20-ct boxes
- Gigante: 6″ x 60 | $22.99 | 20-ct boxes
Clocking in slightly over a typical robusto’s length gives this cigar a slightly svelte appearance. As a fan of slimmer ring gauges, this illusion of slenderness appeals to me. The wrapper is—like most Ecuadorian Connies—a touch on the brown side and a bit darker than a Connecticut grown in the U.S. Think coffee with cream added to it, as opposed to milk with a splash of coffee added. This thing is bordering on Colorado or Rosado. Without a band I would never guess this to be a Connecticut Shade-wrapped cigar. It’s not even particularly even, with some dark mottling, veins, and a pale section (even this is darker than normal) that follows the seam up the length of the cigar. The foot of the cigar is pretty spongey, but it’s solid elsewhere.
The band is nicer than the other Cohiba bands, but it is still just a rectangular piece of white paper. There’s very little embossing (just a hint of it on the brand name), no die-cut shape, no extravagant artwork or design. There are some holographic gold stripes, but otherwise it’s fairly plain. The white and gold scheme kind of brings to mind Davidoff imagery, which (considering the price) this cigar is clearly aiming for.
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The foot smells of fresh jalapeño, cream, malt, and loads of tobacco; like you’ve just cracked a fresh box of Camels. The wide open cold draw gives me a strong hit of Fruit Stripe gum and more of that Camel-filter generic tobacco flavor, but I struggle to find anything else. The draw seems to be a little too open (after using my trusty punch cutter), but it could improve once lit.
I’m not really sure what to make of this in the early going. There’s a sensation of spiciness that is sort of along the modern breed of Connie, but the flavors are pretty mellow. It’s hard to pick up the sweet, creamy, fruity flavor that I want to enjoy, since the sensation of spiciness is so prevalent. Fortunately it isn’t too long before there is a bit more cohesion, where a gooey nougat flavor seems to pull everything together. An inch in and there’s an interesting zesty, zingy zip that kind of recalls an orange-mango juice—sweet and tangy. The burn and draw are flawless. Flavor hasn’t quite reached medium, body is just there, and strength, well, it’s more than mild but… it’s essentially mild.
Nearing the middle portion of the cigar, I do need a touchup as a seam appears to be loosening, but it is a slightly windy day, so who knows. The draw is still good and the complexity and flavor of this cigar is increasing; I’m feeling a little nicotine strength as well. Loads of raspberry creme brûlée, sweet nougat, freshly fried unfrosted cake doughnuts, cappuccino, and malted milk make up the cigar’s flavor concoction. A second touchup is required as the robusto nears the big, gaudy band. As the second third nears its end at just shy of an hour, the flavor has seen the biggest jump.
Concerning the Cohiba Connecticut’s body: there was a decent amount in the early goings, mostly due to the sensation of spiciness, which didn’t make it seem too exciting. However, at this point in the cigar, the body is brought on by chewy nougat and malt flavor and a creamy berry sweetness that coats the palate. There is a sign now of this cigar moving into tangy territory (think English breakfast tea with milk and lemon). The malt flavor holds on, keeping the profile together, but honestly the tanginess has overstepped its role and is distracting. After a significant transition away from the cigar’s former sweetness, I’m really missing the doughnut flavor, the coffee note, and the chewy nougat. It’s still enjoyable, but seems to be crashing back to earth, considering the great heights it had reached around the midpoint. I feel like I’m trying to will these flavors back to their former glory as I reach the end. The cigar finishes with strength being the biggest gainer, rounding out the overall profile with everything being near medium-plus, with a pungent, tangy finish that really fell off… hard.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Probably, I would. The middle of this cigar was spectacular, but it took a while to get there, and declined big time near the end. I don’t think I’d have been so bothered, as it wasn’t bad in the end, but it was when compared to that middle third. I love the new-school style of Connecticut cigars, and at this cigar’s height, it was perhaps the best I’ve had; although the overall experience couldn’t hang on.
- I, for one, remember the Connecticuts from back in the day as being primarily grassy and creamy, with mild being the key descriptor. So what, then, makes a new-breed Connecticut cigar? Is is simply made by the new players? Is it stronger in terms of strength? Is it spicier? Is it the inclusion of the so-hot-right-now Nicaraguan tobacco? For me, it’s combining the wrapper of old, with the blending of the new. How do you combine spicier, powerful fillers, without losing the easy-going creaminess and smoothness inherent in the wrapper? That’s the key. You don’t just want spicy pepper burn with cream, but something that is coherent, something that gives a reason for the season, if you will. It’s about the bigger picture, to me, and not just creating a stronger or spicier cigar that is wrapped in a shade grown wrapper. Properly utilized, a Connecticut wrapper can really enhance a bold blend, by way of adding complexity as it lessens intensity.
- Flavor: Medium-plus
- Strength: Medium
- Body: Medium
- Raspberries and cream
- Malted milk
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Sunny morning and coffee | Hot toddy
- Purchase Recommendation: Try one
- Middle third is the finest new-school Connie in recent memory
- Lots of good flavors and complexity
- Good for a first smoke of the day (or for those who want a change of pace from big, bold cigars)
- Priced as a luxury cigar… why?
- Falls off in the latter third