Review: Bolívar 681 (ER Bulgaria 2011)
On November 11, 2011, Habanos S.A. officially released the Bolívar 681, the first Edición Regional for the country of Bulgaria, at a formal dinner held at the Kaliman Caribe restaurant.
Bolivar 681, a mild-to-strong taste habano that was around between the 1960s and 1990s within the Partagas portfolio, was picked by Habanos S.A. to be the first Regional Edition ever rolled out for Bulgaria.
This exceptional habano, that had been previously recreated in 2006 as an original replica of the Partagas Ancient Humidor, featuring 200 boxes distributed around the world, was presented by Habanos S.A. and Kaliman Caribe GmbH, exclusive distributor in Bulgaria.
The habano within this Regional Edition for Bulgaria was handpicked through a referendum among over a thousand habano smokers, held between March and April 2010.
Among the half dozen brands, ten different ways and lots of names for the new cigar in the ballots, people chose the one that best captures the spirit, culture, history and image of the Bulgarian connoisseur, his or her face before the world community.
“681” (vitola Sobresaliente, ring gauge 53 x 153mm long), was the name suggested by a habano aficionado.
The official launch of this singular gem –held on Nov. 17, 2011 in Sofia- was attended by over 40 representatives of all major mass media. Function attendees were entertained by Bulgaria’s Olympic-gold-medal-winning gymnastics team, together with celebrated crooner Desi Slava and members of the Pambos Dancing Center.
The unveiling of this habano included a unique 3D mapping, interactive animation and screenings whereby guests witnessed the birth of the BOLIVAR 681 cigar, followed its passage across the continents and its born-again stance before more than 350 habano lovers.
The Bolivar 681 was ritually introduced with the accompaniment of the La Guardia Orchestra.
In his keynote remarks, Habanos S.A.’s Vice President for Entrepreneurial Development, Javier Terres, said the BOLIVAR 681 is a very peculiar cigar designed for smokers of all stripes, yet most for those who can actually puff on a genuine habano.
Attendees had the opportunity to scribble down their views in a special guestbook called “Creation of History”, an event that has definitely gone down in the records of Bulgaria’s modern cigar history.
As it’s been customary, Kalima Caribe handed out the Habano Awards that recognize the most faithful habano buffs in Bulgaria.
During the gala dinner, the commemorative BOLIVAR 681 silver coin was specially minted to authenticate the Regional Edition.
For those unfamiliar with the ER program, Patrick described it:
In 2005, Habanos S.A. introduced a new series of limited production releases that would eventually become to be known as Edición Regional (Regional Edition). The program took regular Habanos S.A. brands and gave their regional distributors special sizes that aren’t part of respective brands regular production line-up. In some cases, like the Bolivar Gold Medals, Habanos S.A. gave specific distributors sizes that had been discontinued, but most are sizes that have never been available prior. There’s one major exception to the rule and that would be perhaps the most famous ER, the Edmundo Dantés El Conde 109, which is an ER available for Mexico that is related to the Montecristo brand, but is largely its own brand.
The first Edición Regionals didn’t feature the red and silver secondary bands that read “Exclusivo (Region Name)” that have become synonymous with the ER releases.
The boxes the Bolívar 681 come in look like this:
But enough of that, lets get down to business, shall we?
Cigar Reviewed: Bolívar 681 Edición Regional Bulgaria (2011)
Country of Origin: Cuba
Factory: Francisco Pérez German
Size: 6 Inches
Ring Gauge: 53
Vitola: Double Robusto
Est. Price: $25.00 (Boxes of 10, $250.00)
Date Released: June 2012
Number of Cigars Released: 2,500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (25,000 Total Cigars)
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2
The cigar seems expertly rolled with a perfect triple cap that is totally flat on the top. The wrapper is a slightly mottled cinnamon brown color, devoid of oil, but quite smooth to the touch and with bumps up and down its length. It is a bit spongy when squeezed, but not enough to think it will cause problems,and the aroma off the wrapper is strong barnyard, leather, sweet chocolate and hay.
The Bolívar 681 starts out the first third with a strong bitter note up front that quickly subsides, allowing flavors of espresso, hay and oak. There is a slight sweet chocolate note underneath that seems to be begging to break through, but it is not up to the task in the first third. On the retrohale there is a tiny bit of pepper, but none noticeable in the mouth or on the lips. The draw is a bit loose for my tastes, albeit still completely smokable and the burn is a bit wavy, but not a major issue. Smoke production is quite a bit above average and the strength starts out at less than medium, but does seem to be getting slowly stronger.
Coming into the second third of the Bolívar Edición Regional, there is still a persistent, but slight bitterness that is underneath the other notes. The flavors remain pretty much the same: wood, hay, coffee and some slight sweet chocolate. While the flavors are not bad per se, they seem extremely unbalanced, with the wood note overriding everything for a short time, then giving way to a strong hay note at about the halfway point. The pepper from the first third has almost totally disappeared and the draw is still just a tad loose for my tastes. The burn has evened up nicely, but the overall strength is going nowhere fast.
The final third of the Bolívar 681is just does not change much in profile, flavors, construction or strength. In fact, pretty much the only difference at all compared to the second third is an annoying harshness that shows up near the end of the cigar that really overwhelms any other flavors that could possibly be discerned. Just not a good ending on this cigar at all.
- As mentioned above, the Bolívar 681 is the first Edición Regional released for Bulgaria.
- Interestingly, this is one of the few Edición Regional I have seen to have its own specific website dedicated to it.
- There is also a video showing the festivities during the launch.
- 53 is a very odd ring gauge for a cigar, and in fact, the 681 is the first Bolívar Edición Regional to have that ring gauge.
- Having said the above, the exact same vitola was used in 2006 in the replica of the Partagás Ancient Humidor.
- I know that Cuba can produce a decent, even amazing Edición Regional, as the La Escepción Selectos Finos, the Por Larrañaga Magnifico and the Edmundo Dantes Conde 54 can attest to. Honestly, after smoking who knows how many different releases from quite a few countries, they are all over the map. Some few are amazing, some few are amazingly bad, and most are just in that middle ground of It was ok, but not worth even close to the amount of time or the amount of money it took to find them.
- In case you couldn’t notice from the stand-up shot, there was a lot of glue. For all the problems people complain about the way Cuban cigars are made, glue issues don’t seem to be that common.
- The smoke production is astounding on this cigar, dense and white. Not quite Ligaesque levels, but somewhat surprising nevertheless.
- The bitterness that was present was persistent, but after the initial five puffs or so, it was not overwhelming enough to negatively impact the profile. The harshness in the final third is another story entirely.
- Both samples seemed to burn very quickly until about the halfway point, then both seemed to slow down to a crawl.
- The draw was slightly loose on both samples, and the burn was wavy for most of the cigar-not great, but not horrible either.
- The final smoking time for both samples averaged right at one hour and 45 minutes.
The Bottom Line: Bolívar has long been one of my favorite Cuban marcas, so I was really hoping for good things with this Edición Regional. Alas, that was just not to be. This is the epitome of the blandness that Cuba can offer: bitter at times, harsh at points, almost totally unbalanced flavors that don’t work well with each other. Does it has some good notes to it? At times. Will it get better with 10 years on them? Perhaps. I can tell you one thing for sure: at this point in time, you are wasting your money smoking them.
Final Score: 75