Thursday, June 5, 2014

What Embargo?: Episode Nueve Recap: Regional Editions

Edmundo Dantes
In 2005 Habanos S.A. came up with the idea of creating releases for specific regions across the globe. These were available to any country/region on demand, and it gave the distributors of those areas an opportunity to be creative. This was the distributors opportunity to take a brand that they possibly loved or knew their retailers loved and create a unique vitola in that brand. It also gave Habanos S.A. the opportunity to see how brands are doing in markets. Since then the program has done well overall, they still have it running, but with that success has come some skepticism. It has most come from Habanos lovers and critics, and there are some valid points to their distaste in the program. I for one am not the biggest fan of the program, and often find that the releases are not worth the time and money involved in acquiring a particular smoke. Today we are going to break down the releases for 2014, look at some facts of regional editions over the years and talk about some sticks that have stuck out to us and what actually looks appealing to us.

This year Habanos has announced that they will have 15 Edición Regionals, and it is a year filled with interesting vitolas and great brands. Before we look at them, let's take a look at the guidelines Habanos has in place for the program.
  1. Habanos does not allow the ten brands in the Global and Niche categories to be regional editions. That means there will be no Cohiba, Montecristo, Trindad, etc. regional editions.
  2.  The cigars released as regional editions are only allowed to be regional editions for a period of one to two years. After that time, Habanos has the right to add the cigar into regular production for the brand in which it was. (To this date, no regional edition has ever become regular production) Along with that, regional editions are only brought back for a second year if the distributor requests it. (To date, the one brand and vitola that has had a repeat for a country has been Ramon Allones with the Sublimes. In 2008 the Habanos was named Phoenicio, while in 2012 Eshmoun, but both were Sublime measuring 164 mm with a 54 ring gauge. This does not qualify as a second year though)
  3. The release for a parcitcular region or country must be initiated by the distributor, and they come up with the brand and vitola they would like to use. There is a minimum run of 25,000 cigars and starting in 2012 a distributor could only get one regional edition release. 

Now, your 2014 Regional Editions.
  1. Bolívar - Bosphorus Edición Regional Turquía (4.3" with a 52 ring gauge petit robusto)
  2. Vegas Robaina - Short Robaina Edición Regional Andora (4.3" with a 42 ring gauge petit corona)
  3. Sancho Panza - Eslavo Edición Regional Serbia (7.2" with a 50 ring gauge double robusto)
  4. Saint Luis Rey - Inca Edición Regional Peru (4" with a 50 ring gauge petit robusto)
  5. Ramón Allones - Short Perfectos Edición Regional Italia (5.0" with a 50 ring gauge petit pyramid)
  6. Ramón Allones - 898 Edición Regional Alemania (6.7" with a 43 ring gauge Lonsdale)
  7. Ramón Allones - Perfectos Edición Regional Suiza (5.4" with a 48 ring gauge perfecto)
  8. Ramón Allones - Caprichos Edición Regional España (4.5" with a 52 ring gauge petit robusto)
  9. Ramón Allones - Sur Edición Regional Líbano (5.5" with 52 ring robusto extra)
  10. Por Larrañaga - Sobresalientes Edición Regional Gran Bretaña (6" with a 53 ring gauge robusto extra)
  11. La Gloria Cubana - Paraiso Edición Regional Caribe (5.3" with a 52 ring gauge robusto extra)
  12. La Flor de Cano - Siboney Edición Regional Canada (4.6" with a 42 ring gauge petit corona)
  13. Juan López - Don Juan Edición Regional Benelux (5.3" with a 50 ring gauge robusto extra)
  14. Juan López - Chiado 1864 Edición Regional Portugal (4" with a 50 ring gauge petit robusto)
  15. Diplomáticos - Bushido Edición Regional Asia Pacifico (7.2" with a 50 ring gauge double robusto)
Looking at the list of the releases for 2014 it is easy to say that the focus is on petit robustos, robustos, robusto extras and petit coronas this year, and there are some petit pyramids being offered as well. Taking the average of the releases, we are looking at an average ring gauge of 49 and an average length of around 5.2". To me it shows that most of the world is looking for releases in the standard robusto offering. There is a lot of stuff going to Europe this year, and Ramon Allones is the biggest brand. If you ask me, the three winners are the...
  1.  Vegas Robaina - Short Robaina Edición Regional Andora
  2.  Ramón Allones - 898 Edición Regional Alemania
  3.  Por Larrañaga - Sobresalientes Edición Regional Gran Bretaña
Those three releases are being released for big markets or are offerings that will be in high demand. Vegas Robaina does not have a small ring gauge, so a lot of aficionados are going to be interested in seeing the brand in that small format. Por Larrañaga has been a hit as a regional edition, and with it being released in such a large size, especially when the regular production cigars are in the 40's, this is going to be a winner. Finally we come to Ramón Allones. Everyone loved the 898, and I know some older smokers that talk about the demand for the last run of these before being discontinued in 2002. Guys are going to pick up  boxes of these to hold on to, that is for sure. In fact, I would be interested to see if Germany brings it back next year. 

A couple offerings that I am curios about though are the...
  1. Sancho Panza - Eslavo Edición Regional Serbia
  2. Diplomáticos - Bushido Edición Regional Asia Pacifico
  3. La Flor de Cano - Siboney Edición Regional Canada
The Sancho Panza and Diplomáticos are bing released in the successful 109 size and this is a wonderful presentation smoke. They are going to be pricey, for that I am sure, but I have a feeling that Habanos is going to make something great for these two smokes. Along with that, I am interested to see how the long filler petit corona for La Flor de Cano does. I am going to be up in Canada towards the end of the year, so I am hoping to score some of these to review. 

Now, looking back at the regional editions over the years, there have been a couple that have really stuck out in my mind. These are special cigars that are truly amazing and cigars I will always remember or treasure. 
  1. Bolívar - Simones Edición Regional Canadá: This 2007 regional edition was fantastic and a terrific corona extras that I wish made it into regular production. It is fairly close in size to the Royal Coronas, but that small difference in the ring gauge really made it unique.
  2. Por Larrañaga - Robustos de Larranaga Edición Regional Asia Pacifico: Also release in 2007, this robusto was light and flavorful and a perfect summer cigar. I was only able to get about five of them and they were gone very quickly. I wish I had aged them longer, but they were so good I smoked them all!
  3. Ramón Allones - Celestiales Finos Edición Regional Asia Pacifico: This smoke was a beast and a true tribute to the brand. I loved the vitola offering the flavors being generated. Released in 2009, this guy took about three years before it could really be smoked and not kill you. Awesome!
  4. Montecristo - Edmundo Dantes El Conde 109 Edición Regional Mexico: Probably the great cigar ever made, this was a breathtaking cigar that will not be forgotten. I still remember the experience I had while smoking this beauty and I will not forget it!

Now comes the graphs. These graphs are going to show the trends of Habanos over the years and what brands are predominately making it as regional editions, what is the trend in the ring gauges and length and what are the numbers of regional editions being made each year. 

Looking at this graph you can clearly see the brands that are more often than not being made as regional editions. Ramon Allones is a brand that has been on the rise the past couple years and they are beginning to catch up with the Bolivar brand that was a big hit four or so years ago. You can tell that smokers are looking for regional editions that are in brands that are known for being medium to full strength/bodied brands. Personally, I am happy with this chart. 

This chart shows the fluctuation of regional editions since 2005. 2007, 2011 and 2014 have an asterisk because these are years following a smoke by Habanos being ranked as the Cigar of the Year by Cigar Aficionado. It was not necessarily a regional edition that won, but a Habanos in general that got the award. As you can see, following the 2006, 2010 and 2013 year, regional editions went up in 2007, 2011 and 2014. Does that have anything to do with a cigar of theirs being ranked #1? Possibly, but most likely it is not impacted that much. I do find it interesting that there was a major drop in 2012 from 2011, but it is on the rise again. Will we have 20 regional editions next year? We'll see!

Looking at these two charts you can see that Habanos had some interesting demands over the years in terms of length and ring gauges. I did not take all the years, that is further work, but I took some big years for the program. You can see that with ring gauges that the ring gauge demand did increase pretty dramatically in a couple years, but over the time it has fallen down a little bit and it is remaining in the area of 49 to 51. In terms of length, it went up quickly in 2007, but since then it has been on the decline for the most part. Looking at this chart, I can see that smokers are looking for shorter cigars, but they want that bigger ring gauge. I would say that we can expect more robusto, corona extra and belicoso style smokes.  

Well, I hope you all enjoyed the recap. It is an interesting program that is a great concept and sometimes produces some great cigars. Unfortunately, I think they have had some major duds with their successes, and with high prices on the smokes it is hard to justify buying them over regular production smokes. I do want to see the program do well, but I think modifications will need to be made. I do want to see a stick do well for them and I think the greatest success they have had was with the Edmundo Dantes. That being said, I am glad I have been able to smoke the greatest regional edition of all times.