Rafael Gonzalez Coronas Extra
I just can’t hide the fact that I love Coronas Gorda cigars. It’s my favorite size, and it has always been. I don’t mind that the vitola has not been much in the spotlight lately, actually that’s also part of my affection for this size. Coronas Gorda are usually in good availability as cigar smokers’ center of attention moved to the big Double Coronas or Churchill sizes. Newly introduced Cuban cigar brands don’t even include the vitola anymore, or skip it for its slightly fatter cousin, the Toro. Gone are the glorious Gorda times when cigar manufacturers would name the vitola after its brand name, and not only once but twice: as in the Punch Punch of the Punch cigar brand. Need anymore evidence on how important this vitola used to be? Alas, some Coronas Gorda are still around, and among the few, the Rafael Gonzalez Coronas Extra is certainly worth a review.
The Rafael Gonzalez brand is best known for its Lonsdale vitola, which was made on request by Sir Hugh Cecil Lowther, the Fifth Earl of Lonsdale. It is an exquisite cigar, absolutely worth to carry its noble name. But in its shadow there is another cigar gem, the Coronas Extra. A true Gorda with its classic (5 5/8″ x 46 ring) dimensions.
The Rafael Gonzalez Coronas Extra does not differ so much from the Lonsdale blend. A mild-to-medium body with subtle flavors of earth combined with a tad of honey-like sweetness. However, in my book the Coronas Extra’s edge over the Lonsdale is in the fatter ring gauge. The Coronas Gorda is the cooler burning cigar and richer in smoke, which better helps to develop the brands subtle flavors. The Rafael Gonzalez Coronas Extra is one of the best examples to show how the size can influence a tobacco blend to offer its best potentials. The 46 ring gauge is just perfect for this cigar.
For many years the Coronas Extra was only distributed on the European market, mainly in the UK and Switzerland. The brand was never considered to be among the very few Cuban top brands, perhaps because of its rather mild body. Not until recently consumer demand in general did not overwhelm the manufacturer’s production limits, resulting in well constructed cigars. However, over the past few years the brand’s level of construction suffered a bit as the manufacturer obviously struggled to meet demand in the market, where the Rafael Gonzalez was “discovered” by many new cigar smokers as a brand offering a good price/performance ratio. Boxes of Rafael Gonzalez Coronas Extra made in 1998-99 often contained cigars rolled with a sub-par wrapper leaf resulting in burn problems, especially uneven burn which did not help the cigar to develop that cool burning quality for which I like it so much. Recently, however, this problem seems to have gone, and the ones I smoke from a box that was made in 2000 are back exactly meeting my expectations of a delicately flavored cigar of the vitola I like best.
In Japan the Rafael Gonzalez Coronas Extra’s availability is a little bit spotty, due to the fact that this cigar mostly reaches the market here via parallel-import routes. A good place to find the Coronas Extra is Kawarada Tobacco Shop in Sendai, where this cigar enjoys the shop owner’s personal fondness.