Origin : Cuba
Format : Palmitas – slender long panetela
Size : 6″ x 32 ring gauge (152mm x 12.70mm)
Ring : 32
Box Year : 2013
Price : $13+
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A charming anachronism in today’s thicker cigar world, the Médaille d’Or No 4 from La Gloria Cubana, is an attractive slender stick offering some unique sweet taste notes amidst its tight draw, this 2013 aged-in-Cuba ‘añejados’ edition offering a particularly rich final third of flavour.
This cigar – ‘Cuban Glory Gold Medal No 4’ in English – is one of the last of a disappearing breed, the premium hand-made long slender panetela. One might categorise panetelas into two groups, the more substantial ones in 34 to 39 ring gauges, and the now-rarer ones like this here, the 33-ring-gauge-or-less ‘slenderellas’ (as a now-discontinued Rafael González stick was named).
It is first of all a lovely cigar, with a fine wrapper pleasing to the eye and touch, as befits the higher price. The extra ‘aged habano’ gold band helps balance out the appearance of this longer stick too, given it is the full 6-inch classic ‘panetela extra’.
Pre-draw presents some pleasing caramel and spice notes. After lighting, one is immediately pleased with the distinctive and sweet La Gloria Cubana flavour palette, here starting with a sense of coffee and nuts, shortly to be complemented by some honey and light spice. Flavours are a bit subtle, it’s good not to be drinking anything too heavy along with the cigar.
Draw with these skinny sticks is always a bit tight, tho I have never had a Gloria Cubana that was truly plugged. With these, I do tend to use a cigar-piercing tool to ease the draw, so as to more easily take in the very pleasant flavours here. One does need to be attentive and ‘work’ these thin hand-made sticks a bit to keep them lit & to keep the smoke flowing as freely as one would like.
What’s very special in smoking this kind of slender panetela, is a curious sense that one can taste the inner structure, even how the tobacco leaves are ‘folded’ inside the wrapper. The wrapper is much more prominent with so much less filler volume, so the flavour balance strikes one bit differently when you are used to thicker sticks.
The middle third of this Médaille d’Or No 4, started with a bit of a cedar dominance at first, then the sweetness came back, with some delicious satisfying caramel hints. Working a bit to puff more, one can create some harshness. but it doesn’t seem the fault of the cigar itself.
The ash on this skinny stick doesn’t hold well, and tends to fall off in shorter chunks, sometimes after only a half-inch or so.
A few years of aging in this 2013 edition, has blended the flavours here well, and brought out the sweet notes a bit more. The aging benefits appear particularly strongly in the final third, where the flavours became much stronger and richer. There is cedar & sweet caramel & honey & light spice, and also some nice wood-fire aroma with nuttiness.
After those wonderful ‘glorious’ moments befitting the cigar, its thin frame caught up with it, and it became quite hard to keep the stick lit. Finally I had to give up approaching the nub, not because of harshness or bitterness but just because it was too much match-work.
The best comparison for a rival to this cigar, is the also-slender but shorter Cohiba Exquisitos, a hair under 5 inches (126mm) x 33 ring gauge. In general I would tilt toward the Exquisitos, for its easier draw and a richer, less delicate flavour, tho it doesn’t have the unique and pleasing sweet notes of the Gloria Cubana. In this aged 2013 version, however, the final third of the Médaille d’Or No 4 did rival the flavour richness of the Cohiba for some minutes.
However, I rather understand why these super-slender cigars are fading away. Tho partial to slender cigars myself, I don’t see a reason for cigars less than 34 ring gauge in fully hand-rolled sticks; anything thinner, and hand-rolled cigars are just a bit too ‘light’, and it often takes more work to enjoy them.
By contrast, the 30 to 33 ring gauges seem more well-suited to short-filler cigars, such as the quality Dutch machine-made stogies that use a Brazil-Cuban-Indonesian tobacco mix. In machine production, the slender format seems to give a better balance, whilst the machine process tends to guarantee an open, easy draw, whilst thicker machine cigars can be rougher or duller.
It’s curious to note how much less tobacco you burn with a thinner cigar; ring gauge is far more important than length for tobacco volume. If you use your high school math and calculate – and subtract a bit for the final inch and a half nub you might not smoke – you can see that a 6-inch (152mm), 32-ring-gauge cigar like this, burns about the same amount of tobacco as a Reyes vitola, 40 ring gauge and only 4 1/3 (110mm) inches long.
La Gloria Cubana is another one of a group of the lesser-known 27 Habanos brands, which only have 1 or 2 or 3 cigars left in production, which raises another interesting issue. According to legend, it was Zino Davidoff himself who persuaded Fidel Castro not to scrap the old traditional Cuban cigar brand names. That was certainly fine for marques such as Montecristo and Hoyo de Monterrey, but for the ‘marginal’ brands this is now a problem in a world where shops focus on the few ‘big brands’ and often don’t stock a La Gloria Cubana or Sancho Panza or Quai d’Orsay from Cuba.
We are thus in danger of losing some of the special flavour palettes amongst Cuban cigars. It might be time for Habanos s.a. to consolidate its ‘endangered species’ cigars into one or two new ‘Vintage Cuban’ brands. I’d like to see La Gloria Cubana re-do these sweet tobaccos in a slightly different format, maybe something like 36 ring gauge and 5 1/4″ (133mm).
As a final fun note on the world of panetelas, here a short two-minutes-plus video clip of 4 wonderful vintage television cigar commercials, classics from North America where Edie Adams sang the ‘Hey Big Spender!’ tune. Note in the first two clips which show 5 sophisticated gentlemen smoking stogies, the vitola format selected for them is, like the Gloria Cubana Médaille d’Or here, a 6-inch panetela. And the other two clips (click here) seem to be where I’d see other Cigar Inspector readers –