Ramon Allones Specially Selected

L1050027

Time for some sweet Communist leaf tonight.

I first heard about the RASS a few months ago after coming across a forum discussion about which Cuban cigars are best for ageing. One of the participants said the RASS was his all-time favourite and recommended no less than 5 years of ageing before he would open them. Hang on, who is Ramon Allones and FIVE bloody years!? I thought. Who in their right mind could wait that long?  Turns out he’s been buying annually for a very long time…

L1050031

I decided I better find out more and, after some research, dropped into the Melbourne LCDH and picked up singles of some of the more popular Cubans to sample, including:

  • RASS
  • Bolivar petite corona
  • Partagas Serie D #4

Background

L1050042

From Habanos:

Ramón Allones is one of the big names in the history of Habanos. Founded in 1837, it is also one of the oldest brands still in production.

A Galician by birth Ramón Allones was the first cigar manufacturer to pack his Habanos in boxes decorated with labels and stamped with his brand’s emblem. He was the pioneer of the packaging tradition that we know today.

All the sizes are filled with a blend of filler and binder tobaccos from the Vuelta Abajo zone, characterised by their intense and complex taste.

A bit more from Wikipedia:

The brand was created in Cuba by brothers Ramón and Antonio Allones … in 1845 and is supposedly the first cigar brand to have utilized colorful lithographs for box art, the first brand to utilize bands on cigars, and the first to package cigars in the “8-9-8” style (though there are several rival claimants as to who first made box art and bands).

The brand went through numerous ownership changes before it was finally bought by the Cifuentes family and production was moved to the famous Partagás Factory, where Ramón Allones cigars are still made to this day.

On September 15, 1960, the revolutionary Cuban government nationalized all Cuban cigar manufacturing and production, including seizure of the Partagas factory where Ramon Allones cigars were manufactured. The Ramon Allones brand was selected for continued production and continues to be manufactured in Havana.

Cuban-made Ramon Allones cigars use are medium-full to full strength in body, and the blend shares some of the characteristics of Partagás as far as overall body, vitolas, and packaging. It has always been produced in smaller quantities than Partagás.

Since 2001, when Altadis bought a controlling share of Habanos SA, the Ramón Allones marque has seen the majority of its manufactured sizes discontinued, including the much-beloved Coronas and even the 8-9-8 size it helped pioneer. Of the sizes available now, the Specially Selected, Gigantes, and Small Club Coronas are still incredibly popular among aficionados.

Since 2005, Ramón Allones has been a popular choice with many importers for the Edición Regional series of local market special sizes. The Belicoso vitola released for the UK market may have been a prototype for the regional edition program, as it appeared first, being imported only to the UK, and without any additional bands or special packaging.

There are only 3 current production lines:

  • Small Club Corona (4.3 x 42)
  • Specially Selected (4.9 x 50)
  • Gigantes (7.6 x 49)

Vital Stats

L1050036

  • Release : Specially Selected
  • Vitola : Robusto (4.9 x 50)
  • Wrapper : Cuba
  • Binder : Cuba
  • Filler : Cuba
  • Strength : Medium-full
  • Release date : 1980
  • MSRP : USD$8
  • Pairing : None.  Last meal 4 hrs prior. One banana as a palate cleanser.
  • Number of cigars smoked for review : 1

Prelight

L1050028

Goodness me, look at the density of this thing.

Appearance : This is a beautiful little robusto to look at, and hold. Looks a bit rough and rustic overall — tan brown wrapper complemented by a lovely classic red, brown & gold band. The band features a golden shield on a red background, encircled by the words Ramon Allones Habana, and finished off with gold trimmings.

Construction : Although there’s a fair amount of spongyness on a press, the body looks and feels very well-filled all the way down to the foot.  There’s a couple of prominent veins (corresponding to lumps and bumps around them) but the veins are thin and wispy and shouldn’t cause any burn issues. The wrapper is…well…not the prettiest I’ve seen, and aside from those veiny sections, feels smooth and silky to the touch.

Aroma & draw : The body smells of a mix of honey sweetness, barnyard and leather. The cold draw brings similar sweetness, hay and leather. I opt for a V-cut, and almost stuff it up as the head of the cigar is fairly loose. Draw seems to be fairly loose too.

Time to get lit.

First third

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6:18pm

  • Opens with cedar, leather, hay, grass. Flavours are fairly mild.
  • A muted and easygoing start. This might be a bit young.
  • A bit of white pepper on the retro, 4/10 strength.
  • Medium body, mild finish, mild strength.
  • Hint of honey, toast, cream starting to show.

L1050046

7 mins

  • The finish or aftertaste is definately grass and cedar in character.
  • Honey sweetness is much more pronounced in the retrohale.
  • Seems to be a nutty undertone coming in…almonds?
  • White coffee
  • Hints of tea leaves, baking spices…nutmeg or cinnamon?
  • All of these flavours are really well balanced at the moment. Although the cedar, grass and hay are clear, nothing is really dominating and everything is sitting there smoothly balanced. Great start!

L1050047

17 mins

  • The taste is becoming more velvety. Mild, and very evenly balanced, flavour profile.
  • Ash looks white and solid, but doesn’t hold more than 2cm.
  • Tea leaves are becoming more prominent in this part as we approach the end of the first third.
  • Balance is:
    • 80% cedar, grass, hay, leather, honey
    • 20% nuts, tea leaves, white coffee, hint of white pepper.
  • Mild body, medium finish, medium strength.
  • Really enjoyable so far.

Second third

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29 mins

  • Starting to get more creamy butter & toast coming through.
  • Tea leaves consolidate their presence, but not overpowering.
  • Honey cream and leather notes come out in first puffs, grass and cedar more in second puffs.
  • Strength is subtly but noticeable stepping up.
  • A very light layer of fruitness is beginning to show its hand….cherry? Berries?  This is definately not citrus or stone fruit in nature. More like if you bit into an unripe strawberry.

L1050049

48 mins

  • The richness of this cigar is getting deeper as we pass the midway point.
  • It’s clearly transitioning now. Milk chocolate, smoky caramel and berries more prominent in this part.
  • Ash still doesn’t hold longer than 1.5cm, dropped it a few times on myself now.
  • Balance is:
    • 33% cedar, grass, hay, leather, honey
    • 33% nuts, tea leaves, white coffee, white pepper
    • 33% chocolate, caramel, berries
  • Medium body, medium-full finish, medium-full strength.
  • Fantastic smoke, really loving it. I think this is the peak portion of the cigar.

Final third

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1 hr 1 min

  • Smoky wood dominant as we begin the final leg.
  • Strength is now full blown. I need to slow down.
  • Final third feels a bit green now, hay and grass back up and not really in a good way. Hints of pencil lead.
  • The looseness of the head is an issue, I’m drawing too much air, I have to take shorter puffs to keep the cherry cool but now the cherry’s having a hard time staying alive.
  • Gonna pull the pin as the flavours are not heading in a direction that I like. I think the final third is the area that will most likely improve with age.

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End 1 hr 11 mins

  • Probably still another 10-20mins left in this.

Verdict

Wow, what a gem this is, and I can only imagine how this might perform with another 3-5 years of age. I got this as a single at the Melbourne LCDH so presume its young with no more than a year on it.

The first third opened gently with cedar, hay, grass and leather…mild flavours with a touch of white pepper. Soon after, hints of sweet honey, toast, cream, nuts, tea leaves, baking spices started to follow through. And the great thing was…all of these different flavours came together and evenly balanced each other out in a tasty way, without one or two flavour domineering over the others.

The second third saw a increase in the depth of the aromas, with an additional butter toast coming in. Halfway through, a layer of berry fruits started to sneek in, whilst I was kept busy with little changes — tea leaves stronger in one section, flipping over to ceder for a bit, then cream and leather, so on etc and all the while the richness and complexity was slowing climbing. Before you realise it, the transition is already here, with milk chocolate, caramel and clear berry fruit flavours blending in and saying “we’ve been all along, haven’t you noticed?” To me this was definately the peak part of the cigar.

The final third I wasn’t so flash hot on, as the peak portion passed and we returned back down to a more dominant green grass and hay. The loose packing of the head was causing an issue with nub draw as well and by this point, the cigar’s reached full strength and I was beginning to struggle so I ended it early maybe 20 mins early.

I think the final third is probably going to benefit the most from ageing, because its hard to see how the first and second thirds can improve, they were that good (I mean for a mild, robusto sized, non-maduro type of cigar). The defining feature was how evenly balanced all the flavours were in the first third, and then the cigar takes it to the next level in the second. Brilliant.

Would I buy it again? Shit yeah. I’m gonna start getting a new box annually to open only after 5 years each.

Would I buy a box? See above.

Would I smoke it every day? If I could afford it, yes.

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