It’s winter, it is cold and it snows, plus guess what… unlike some lucky bastards out there, you can’t smoke inside the comfort of your own home, so what do you do? You look for nice short smokes. There are plenty of machine-made cigarillos to choose from out there, but what I am interested in are handrolled cigars so that’s what I stick to. Unfortunately short smokes are not that popular today: trying to find a cigar that smokes in 20-30 minutes can be a challenge. And even if Habanos is trimming shorter and thinner cigars more and more away from its production, there still are nice smokes on their catalogue if you are looking for a quick cigar, and none more so than the Cohiba Panetela.
We probably all know the history of Cohiba: about its birth in 1966, the initial years as the private brand for Castro and his high ranking official and how it was used as gift for foreign diplomats. It was 1982 when it finally was released to the general public. As a brand this has certainly come a long way from being a limited and exclusive production and probably no other cigar today says Cuba like a Cohiba. Likewise the range has grown a lot with the Siglo line introduced in 1994 and the Maduro line in 2007, plus the various special releases. Still, at the very start of the story there were just three cigars: the Lancero, the corona Especiale and the Panetela.
Length: 4 1/2″
Ring gauge: 26
Price: Boxes of 25 from online sources can be found at anything from 130 to 190$. In the UK boxes go for 190-200£. Also available in 5-packs.
Wrapper: Cuba (Vuelta Abajo)
Binder: Cuba (Vuelta Abajo)
Filler: Cuba (Vuelta Abajo)
Smoking time: 30-35 Minutes
Cigars smoked: Two.
Appearance and pre-smoke
This is the thinnest hand made Cuban vitola and it is hard to overlook; when I pick my Panetela up, I wonder if this is just a slightly thinner cigarette disguising as a cigar. On the other hand you have to admire the ability required for rolling such a thin stick by hand; I certainly wouldn’t be able to. As appearance goes these look OK but not great: there are no major flaws and the triple cap is skillfully applied, but as with other small gauge cigars from Cuba, the wrapper is slightly wrinkly.
The wrapper smells is fantastic, rich with cedar, citrus and sweet spice. The draw is nice and free, although there isn’t much taste to it pre-light. I have heard complaints about plugged Cohiba Panetelas, but the ones I smoked had no issue whatsoever.
I am amazed by the large amount of chewy smoke these produce and with a nice free draw there’s plenty coming into my mouth. The ash is OK, but typically of very thin cigars, it isn’t very solid and falls off every half inch. The burn is good… if you don’t leave this Panetela unattended for more than a minute at most; if you do, the cigar tunnels and although the burn corrects itself it isn’t a pretty sight.
There’s not a great deal of evolution so not much sense to look at the three separate sections here. It starts with rich toasted tobacco but quite rapidly it goes into the classical Cohiba flavours of herbs/grass (very similar to a rich herbal tea for me) and roasted cocoa beans. As with the smoke the taste is bold and clear, impressively so. From about halfway there is spice coming up on the tip of my tongue and some faint sweetness. Towards the last inch or so it goes warm.
As with every Cohiba, the honest reply to the question above is that it depends on the price you are prepared to pay for a cigar. At between 5.50 and 8$, or 8£ in the UK, this is an awfully expensive short cigar and just a few bucks more will get you a Siglo I, especially if you buy boxes, so why pay that price? Having said that, quality and taste-wise it is a great cigar: I usually try to leave some time between the same cigars when I review them to remove any mood, tiredness etc. effects but once I smoked the first, I went to the second the next day without a moment’s hesitation. I just couldn’t resist.
The Cohiba Panetela scores an 89 which doesn’t do the cigar fully justice, but reflects the wrapper and the slight burn issues. But as with anything in life, scores and numbers tell only a part of the story, so remember to take them with a pinch of salt. So, would I buy these? … f I won the lottery or had a much better paying job certainly, but as it is I will maybe occasionally buy a five pack when I feel like a winter smoking treat.