In my short history of cigar smoking, the Ramon Allones Club Allones LE 2015 takes the spot for the most smoked cigar. This is quite impressive given that they’re not only hard to come by, but I’ve spent most of my that time living in the United States where Cuban cigars are not common… yet. The Ramon Allones brand is one of Habanos’ (the Cuban cigar manufacturing behemoth) niche offerings, and a surprising candidate for a Limited Edition release.
To provide some context, Habanos’ releases 2-3 limited edition cigars annually, from different brands in their portfolio. The one constant between each release seems to be that the wrapper, which is the outermost layer of tobacco is two-year aged and the filler, which is what makes up the most of the cigar, is tobacco that has been aged and cured for much longer. These cigars are easy to identify thanks to an additional ‘Edición Limitada’ band.
So why do I think the Ramon Allones Club Allones (referred to from here on as the Club Allones) is a surprising candidate? Simply because the limited edition cigars tend to be highly sought after and command a price premium, and it logically makes sense for Habanos to pick a more mainstream label such as Cohiba or Montecristo for such an offering. Of course, Habanos did launch another limited edition cigar under the more popular H.Upmann label in larger quantities.
The Club Allones is a Grand Corona (47mm ring gauge x 135mm length) and in my experience has been well constructed with a wrapper that is rich in color, and not quite maduro but quite a bit darker than a natural wrapper. Like a piece of chocolate, if you will. A mild sheen hints at the tobacco oils that take on a larger role once the cigar is lit and warm.
My relationship with the Club Allones has been a mixed one, primarily because of the quality control, or lack thereof. A disturbing number of the cigars I have smoked or shared with friends have been plagued with uneven burn and a tendency for tunneling (when the insides of the cigar burn faster than the outside). This might just be symptomatic of the Cuban cigar industry as a whole, whose output in recent years has been extremely disappointing, but this is a whole other post on its own.
What the Club Allones does get right however, provided you inspect and pick your box/cigar with care, is the relaxed draw, sufficient volume of smoke and spicy, citrusy palate. Its not a cigar that immediately stands out as a winner, and in fact the first third can be a bit of a let down and misleading. In fact, the first third tends to be where most of the quality control problems surface. However, a little perseverance will yield dividends.
I strongly believe that palate is to a certain degree subjective and heavily influenced by dietary preferences and experience. In other words, if I’ve never tasted cinnamon before, how can I possibly pick up the hint of cinnamon in a cigar? Like wine, picking out tasting notes in a cigar is an exercise that requires time, practice and the benefit of having smoked many cigars. Otherwise, it just tastes like smoke (or sour grapes, as the case may be).
Given the above caveat, I find that from the second third, the Club Allones develops hints of spicy cardamon and pepper and lighter citrus notes that I haven’t quite been able to place. By this point, the oils in the tobacco have also warmed up and I believe affect the flavors in an interesting way. At the very least, you can visually see the cigar take on a rich sheen and a color that is reminiscent of a light-roast, oily coffee bean. The cigar continues to evolve, and by the final third, the citrus gives way to something more nutty and chocolate-like but with the clear influence of the spice.
The draw, as I mentioned, which has been consistent from stick to stick, is light and does not feel forced but there is sufficient smoke volume that you aren’t left huffing and puffing at the cap like the big bad wolf. And its this combination of interesting flavors and an easy draw that leads to another constant with this cigar. I don’t think I’ve smoked a stick of Club Allones yet that I have not nubbed. Nubbing, is when you smoke a cigar as long as you can, to the point where you cannot physically hold it anymore because its starting to burn your fingertips. This is one of my litmus tests for a good cigar. Provided you have decent smoking technique, if you’re able to and want to nub a cigar every time you smoke it, that’s a pretty good sign. The other litmus test, is how you feel about the taste of the cigar in your mouth a couple of hours after or the morning after, a test which the Club Allones again passes with flying colors.
While the Club Allones aren’t the best cigars I’ve smoked, they definitely are some of the best that are relatively easy to find. (Keeping in mind that the best ones I’ve smoked where either custom rolls or manufactured in 1998 and only found in private collections) And despite the quality control issues I highlighted, you’re probably going to have more luck with a box of these than a box of Montecristo Petit Edmundos or Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2. The quality control on the mainstream stuff is far far worse.
Your best shot at finding one, at a decent price, seems to be while transiting through one of the three ME3 gateways (Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai) where I’ve managed to procure a box or two every time I pass through. I highly recommend this cigar for anyone who’s looking for something different and not exorbitantly expensive. Best paired with a Paulaner Hefe-Weißbier Non-Alcoholic or if you happen to be at the Taj Savoy in Ooty, India, their signature Hot Tody.