What a difference a wrapper makes.
Before folks like Litto Gomez began amping up their blends by draping Cameroon wrappers over a headier mix of Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers and binders, Partagas was one of the finest non-Cuban cigars available. It even compared somewhat favorably to its Cuban cousin in appearance and general character, being medium-bodied and reasonably complex. The No. 10 in particular, in its decadent double corona format, sat proudly at the top of the line. Today, however, current production Partagas cigars tend to seem a bit bland when judged against cigars like La Flor Domincana's Cameroon Cabinet and Rocky Patel's superb Vintage 2003.
General Cigar have always been fastidious about wrapper quality, even creating special editions like Partagas Limited Reserve and Macanudo Vintage to showcase the best of the best. However, the best Partagas cigars I've ever come across aren't a special edition, but a regular production box from 2007 that had such exceptionally dark, oily and toothy wrappers that I literally plucked the box right off the shelf the second I saw it and practically ran to the cash register. My friend went equally nuts and snapped up the only other box in the store. We have never seen the like since.
I recently sat down to enjoy one of the handful I have left. Now very well aged, it smoked superbly. The draw and burn were near perfect, and the flavors and aromas were amped up considerably from ordinary examples. Sadly, most No. 10s sport pale, matte brown wrappers, and the poorest ones can have a funky, vegetal quality if smoked too quickly. Not here. Rich with tobacco flavors, there is also a dusty cocoa component, with a subtle sweetness that perfectly offsets the sharp cedar and long, delicately spicy finish. Here is a cigar to be savored. I've smoked some (but not many!) Cuban Partagas Luisitanias that would finish second place to this.
When I first began smoking Partagas No. 10s in the early 1990s, a box of 10 could be had for around $30. Believe it or not, that made them among the most expensive non-Cuban cigars available. As of today, that same box will run you about $80. Not bad, but that's nearly exactly the price of the aforementioned Rocky Patel Vintage 2003, which in my experience has been bolder, more complex but far from overwhelming, and more contemporary in its flavor profile that the Partagas blend, which was conceived long before the Cigar Boom.
However, if you happen to be scanning the shelves and run across a rare box of No. 10s like the one I did, it's well worth taking a chance on. When this cigar sports an exceptional wrapper, the results can be sensational.
7.5 x 49
W: African Cameroon
Production Date: 2007
A superb, vintage example of the classic Dominican Partagas No. 10 sporting an exceptionally dark and oily wrapper. Rich, complex and medium bodied. Worth seeking out similar current production.