Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cigar Review: Partagás 8-9-8 (Varnished 8-9-8)


At one time, for a little over 20 years, a lover of Habanos could have the option of choosing between two 8-9-8s. While both somewhat similar in vitola offering, one is a little longer than the other, the big difference was in the blends of the two. I personally never had the opportunity to chose between my 8-9-8s, it was before my time, but I know smokers who have and have heard many debates among them on which one was better. When I first got into smoking Habanos, I heard these individuals going back and forth about Varnished and Unvarnished 8-9-8s, and of course this led me to ask the question, "what are you talking about when you say Varnished and Unvarnished?" Well, at first I thought the only difference was that the two were a different size, but then I was informed that the blends were very different and appealing to certain smokers.

You see, the Unvarnished 8-9-8 was the Habano that was discontinued and was a shorter offering of what is offered today. From what I have been told, it smoked on the milder side of things and was not in line with the current production Partagás. The Varnished version however was longer and more fuller in body and strength, more in line with the Partagás brand today. The cigars earn the name 8--9-8 because of the packaging, and you have the bottom and top row consisting of eight Habanos while the middle row has nine. The Varnished 8-9-8 measures 170 mm (6.7") and comes with a 43 ring gauge. It is classified as a Dalias or larger Lonsdale. It is composed of all Vuelta Abajo tobacco and production is coming out of El Rey del Mundo. The Dalias has a lovely wrapper that has a solid Colorado coloing and spots very few veins overall. The veins are minimal as well, and it is a fairly smooth cigar with only a fine bit of grit present. There are no oils present and it is rolled well from head to foot. The aroma at the foot is that of earth, cocoa, coffee beans and spices, and the wrapper is showing some similar notes with a nice bit of leather present as well. Overall, this is a lovely cigar as they typically are.

The 8-9-8 begins by showing some nice Asian spice notes and it has a soft pepper and solid cinnamon quality present. I am getting some solid earth qualities present with that, and it has a soft stone fruit quality with that. There is a finish of cocoa and coffee beans present as well, and this is a nice smoke and a good example of the brand. The construction is solid overall and it is showing a fairly even burn line with a nice charcoal ash on the end. The draw is at a perfect level for me and it has a little bit of resistance but still giving off a nice bit of concentrated smoke. It is a cool draw overall though and a great size. I would classify the strength as being medium overall and the body is at a medium level as well. It is truly a smooth smoke that is medium overall and flavor focused. With the size, you get a lot of the wrapper flavors but I am also getting some flavors from the filler as well.

The second third of the cigar shows transitioning and I am finding that it is delivering a flavor profile that is showing a lot of cocoa and rich earth qualities. There is a soft cherry quality present as well and it is accompanied by some tobacco and spices on the finish. It is very filling and smooth, and this is a terrific third to the cigar. This is easily the sweet spot and I hope it continues into the final third. The construction is perfect in this third and it is showing an even burn line with a nice charcoal ash on the end. The ash is holding on firmly and it is giving off a nice bit of smoke on the cool and flavorful draw. I would classify the Habano as being medium in body and strength and it is a smooth smoking experience that I could have in the afternoon or evening with no problems. Overall, I am loving this 8-9-8, and this is a really good one.

The final third shows a lot of the qualities that were present in the second third and it is focused on the rich earth and cocoa notes. There is a touch of stone fruit qualities present as well and it has a tobacco and Asian spice finish. I am getting some pepper qualities as well, and they are paired with some oak and wood notes. Overall, it is a fairly complex flavor profile and it is a profile that I love in the brand. I find that it is a profile that is great in the afternoon and evening, and is great for those smokers who are looking for a little more in their Habano. The construction is dead on in the final third and while the draw is a little snug, it is producing a nice bit of smoke and showing an even burn line. The ash has that nice charcoal coloring and it is holding on firmly. It is cool to the end and has a strength and body level right at that medium to medium-full level.

I love the 8-9-8 and it is a Habano that I don't have enough of in my humidor. I think that stems from the actual size and that it is not a common everyday smoke for me. It is more of a weekend smoke and because of that there are not a lot of them in my humidor. I typically find myself only getting ten count boxes, which is silly, and I should really just get a full box one of these days. The only perk about me buying a ten count box is that I can make the lame joke that I am smoking a 3-4-3. The flavors are terrific and recent production has been awesome as well. The draws have been solid and because of no problems there, I have been able to enjoy the entire box. I don't think it is a vitola offering that suits everyone, but if you really love Lonsdales and like a Habano with a ring gauge in the low 40's then this is perfect for you. With age, they really get great so right now I am giving it a young rating of 88-90 with an aged rating of 92-94.

Young Rating: 88-90
With Age Rating: 92-94