So it is too with cigars, which to us, are a three season product here in the northeast, at least when it comes to the outdoors. Snow and bitingly cold winds are a friend to no cigar we’ve ever smoked. But spring, summer and fall…now you’re talking. Yet the delicate aromas of subtle smokes tend to get lost in the outdoors, and that’s something important to consider when choosing your cigar for the evening. Poolside, a little too much chlorine can make for a scent that’s evocative but tough to overcome. Wet leaves and musky fall decay can also be a challenge.
And that brings us to the Cohiba Robusto, a classic cigar if ever there was one. This is a power smoke in the 1980s sense of the power tie. A strong, stubby pitbull of a smoke that provided a bracingly memorable 40-minute respite to stockbrokers, bankers, real estate tycoons and brash entrepreneurs all the way up to the cigar boom of the 1990s. It was as much a cigar to smoke as it was to be seen holding. It said as much about you as your wristwatch or cufflinks. If you were a douchebag back then, it only reinforced that image. A guy in a Cerruti suit with massive lapels waving a Cohiba announced to all the world, “I have money to burn.” That image is probably why t-shirts emblazoned with the text “Die Yuppie Scum” were all the rage with good, blue-collar folks at the time.
Fast forward to 2016. Cuban cigars have ramped way down in terms of in-your-face strength, especially compared to non-Cubans. Today’s Cohiba Behike is probably today with the core Cohiba line was for the Patrick Batemans of the world. Even that is a far cry from ligero-heavy smokes packed with Nicaraguan tobaccos and redolent with leather and cedar notes.
The legend loomed large, perhaps clouding our perceptions somewhat. The Robusto is not our preferred format because we make ample time to smoke. We don’t shoehorn in 40-minute breaks between M&A meetings and hostile takeovers. That’s perhaps why we gravitate toward 90-minute Esplendidos or Siglos VI, or even Lanceros where the wrapper really gets the chance to strut its stuff. We tend to leave the Robustos for others. Today, in a smoker-unfriendly world that borders on openly hostile, we think they’re best for the stroll back to the hotel from an expense account steak dinner.
What happens then when you clear your schedule and light one up on the deck on a summer evening, pre-dinner? Not as much as you’d expect, given their storied history, and the setting is partly to blame. These are very subtle, refined cigars best smoked indoors in a calm, quiet setting in the most contemplative of settings. Because, lest we forget, they cost big bucks. They’re young—box date 2015—and a little green too.
This is no longer an after dinner cigar, unless that dinner consisted of a green goddess salad followed by citrus-tinged scallops washed down with San Pellegrino and chased with a few spoonfuls of sorbet. Lovely? Yes. Compelling? In its own way, yes. The well-behaved pitbull is now a hypoallergenic lap dog: warm, comforting, friendly, familiar, well trained and reliable. Darn it. Bless it.
Luckily, we live in the present here at Cigar Habitat. The Cohiba Robusto of yesteryear is no more. Life goes on. Appreciate it for what it is—a sophisticated, well matured smoke that’s best left to quiet mornings before breakfast, Sunday afternoons with a good book or winding down BEFORE dinner. It’s no longer a hair-raising zip around the block in your uncle’s 427 Cobra. It’s a blissful sundown cruise in a vintage Jag XJS V12, where you delight in the impossible (and necessarily fleeting) mechanical perfection of power delivered minus all vulgarity.
In the end, perhaps smoking it at the wrong occasion gave us the strongest possible appreciation of its best self.
Sweet, pleasant, subtle. A little green. Construction a little lumpy with sloppy caps. But floral, bouyant and fresh balanced by wood, salt and caramel. Not the power smoke it once was.