Sitting in front of the grille of a beautiful vintage Maserati is an incredible cigar from Montecristo Cuba, the 2012 Limited Edition, Montecristo 520. This cigar was created to commemorate the anniversary of 520 years since tobacco from Cuba was first taken to Europe with Christopher Columbus.
This is a Maravillas No. 3, factory name, which is blended with the classic Montecristo profile in mind. Medium to full bodied, would be the most accurate way of describing this cigar’s strength but the individual flavors present themselves with very vivid characteristics. The chocolate notes you’ll taste are sweet and pronounced as are the flavors of leather, cedar and strong coffee. This is a surprisingly sweet but still bold cigar.
Dark wrappers, great construction and a wonderful blend could very well see these cigars age to become classic Cubans. The 520 comes in a 10 count dress box and I have to say that I really quite agree with their marketing strategy in reducing the number of cigars per box, smaller price and more of a variety of cigars you bring back home when on holidays in the Caribbean.
Anyone who loves a good Cuban cigar will know that Size DOESN’T Matter and in the case of the H Upmann Half Corona, we see a prime example of small being very Mighty. This cigar that measures in at 3 1/2 inches long and a 44 ring gauge will initially leave you wondering WHY H Upmann decided to release something so short. They aren’t alone. A big movement is to now cater to those who love Cuban cigars but also who don’t have a lot of time on their hands to smoke. I, for one, love a bigger stick because I feel that I am not hampered with all of the time restraints most other smokers have to finish a cigar. Making time to relax is important to me and I don’t, and NEVER will, consider this to be time wasted.
2011 was when Cuba released this short cigar, it was initially met with extreme excitement. For the first few months we were able to see these cigars in B&M’s, we really didn’t see them much. They were sold out as soon as they were delivered and then the waiting continued. I believe that quality cigars made from the best leaves that Cuba has to offer, at a price that many considered to be very very affordable, was simply too good to be true.
What I found, upon first tasting these Half Coronas, was the flavors were better than I had anticipated. Anyone who has a passion for the H Upmann Magnum 46 will be surprised and satisfied with the half corona. This is the little brother of a Magnum 46 with it’s notes of leather, creamy coffee and caramel. How can you go wrong? I’ve smoked many of these great little stogies and from time to time you can expect a bit of tightness in the draw so be patient when buying them and pick one that has no lumps or bumps.
What really blew me away was the marketing strategy Cuba did next after realizing they had a winner on their hands. In 2012 they came out with a beautiful tin that held 5 of these cigars and charged a dollar or so more for the same smoking experience. I felt that the packaging was really attractive, handy when going out at night and something you’d want to collect but how many of these boxes do I REALLY need? Don’t care, I just Love these cigars!
When picking up a box of 5 Puritos from Montecristo, you won’t be spending a lot of money but the real value begins when you light your first. Be prepared for a bit of a surprise when you take your first puff, these aren’t simple or dull by any stretch of the imagination. I’m always shocked when I smoke them and the thing that gets me is the taste, smooth as silk and quite creamy for something with such a small ring gauge. I’m always amazed that this is such a consistent cigar and the quality is what it is. How is it possible that such a light cigar can develop into a bit of a spicy journey with woody notes and a distinct coffee taste with so few tobacco leaves compared to the bigger ring gauge cousins from Cuba? The complexity in Cuban tobacco is world renown for a reason. Their soil is superior, their growing season is long and the centuries of experience can provide us with legendary smoking experiences.
Take everything you like about the Hoyo Epicure No 2, try to remember what that is and then light Hoyo De Monterey’s Corona Gorda, the Epicure No 1. If the cigar has spent a few years in the humidor before you’ve clipped the foot, then you’ll be in for the time of your life. This cigar was from ’07 and I’m not sure I was prepared for what and how much it had to offer. It is 5.8 inches long and with a ring gauge of 46 which is thinner and longer than the Robusto so I considered, at first, that the two cigars would be very similar. Now in some ways they were but I believe that the beauty you want from the No 2 is right here but with a few subtle differences. If the Robusto is to be considered a medium strength cigar from Hoyo then classifying this as a light to medium would be fairly accurate, but I’d lean a little closer to the medium setting in my brain when smoking this very sophisticated vitola. A complex cigar right away after lighting, you’ll be dazzled with grassy herb notes and a high end woody finish that lasts for a wonderful length of time on the palate. Into the second third I started to detect more bean notes come into the forefront with sweet chocolate and very very subtle hits of vanilla. Throw in the occasional slight glimpse of toasted coconut and you may want to sit down for a moment and try to guess as to how they do it . How can fermented leaves, blended from different parts of a tobacco plant give us this? I’m guessing that reaching for a drink would be the thing to do at that point because you’ll need to settle down and keep from jumping up and pacing in circles, which is what I ended up doing. Second third in, I had a single malt in hand and then went for a quiet walk to look over the campsite we were staying at for two nights at the far end of Maligne Lake, just outside of Jasper, Alberta in one of Canada’s finest National Parks. A few cigars were packed away for this guided fishing and camping excursion and I enjoyed every one of them but the Epicure No 1 set the standard that sadly was never met with my subsequent cigars. Did I enjoy every one? Yes, lets get that straight right away, but the Hoyo was the Belle of the Ball.
In the cigar picture’s background I’ve tried to reveal the mountains at the end of our 13 mile troll, once you arrive you’ll be able to walk to the edge of the lake and incredible mountains wrap around the water, giving you breath taking views from all angles as you look out from the dock at the Coronet Creek Campground .
These campsites are managed very carefully by Parks Canada and limited numbers of campers are allowed each year so if you are very lucky, you may get a reservation here. The first thing you need to do is go visit “Online Sport and Tackle” in Jasper, get set up with a couple of guides who will give you the adventure of a lifetime. All fishing equipment, and guiding to the best spots on this sizeable lake will be taken care of by Jasper’s most experienced fishing guides and believe me, our guides George and Pete were at the top of their game. These two also made sure all food was supplied and prepared with great skill, we ate like royalty from morning till night during which we heard immense tales of monster fish caught and close encounters with local wildlife.
I was guided by George Tremel who knows this water very very well. Insist that these two great guides show you around one of the most beautiful lakes on our planet.
In closing, and I have to add that I’m smoking a Montecristo No 2 as I type this, Ha…
Before Christmas (2011) my friend Tom and I picked up a few of these cigars from a box from ’07. A few days went by and then we lit them up in his back yard in rainy cold weather. It wasn’t an environment where you’d get a fair assessment of what this coronas had to offer so I thought I’d let the second one I had sit in the humidor until I could smoke it in a warmer room and see what it really had to offer. This morning seemed to be the right time after breakfast so I poured a coffee, got my camera out, snapped a few pics and reached for the torch. The construction of this 5 1/2 inch, 42 ring gauge cigar was perfect, slightly spongy, no lumps and perfect draw. Initially it was a strong cigar but I thought that it was only the regular Cuban first half inch so I gave it a bit of time to settle down. It DID settle down but the strength of this cigar told me that maybe this isn’t an early in the day cigar. Even after almost 5 years of age this is a cigar that has more power than a lot of cigars from this brand. The SLR Double Coronas is a Prominente that is complex, mild to start and a wonderful rollercoaster ride of flavors. Not so with the coronas. Strong espresso with hints of dark dark chocolate and cedar are the notes you’ll get throughout from this coronas and I found that the flavors pretty much stayed the same throughout the hour and change of smoking time of the cigar. I tend to gravitate towards sweeter tasting Cubans and probably won’t smoke more of these that have this much age. I’m thinking that another 5 to 10 more years in the humidor would be what I’d like to see before I try another. Am I glad I smoked this cigar this morning? Of course ! Next time I reach for this Coronas will probably be after a big meal later on in the day.
It wasn’t a Montecristo, Cohiba or any other Cuban cigar that I just put out and I won’t say exactly what I was smoking here because this is the ugliest cigar but I’ve ever seen but it tasted great and even though the wrapper was cracked and the cigar was coming apart as I neared the end, I couldn’t put it down…OK, I have to come clean and since I’m only going to say good things about this cigar I might as well let you know that it was a Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne Churchill cigar…
I was given this cigar in mid September and didn’t quite realize how dry this cigar was until I placed it into one of my humidors, forgot about it for a few weeks and then saw that it had absorbed a bunch of moisture and pretty much expanded it’s way out of it’s wrapper… Well not quite, but the wrapper was cracked all over and became a rather unattractive prospect… But…. I remember smoking one of these before and remembered how great it tasted and last night decided to light it up, regardless of the condition it was in…. This occurred quite late at night and I smoked the rest of this fine Churchill with coffee this morning…I really got a charge out of how the cigar butt looked and need to take a quick pic… I guess the best way to describe this mild to medium cigar would be to say that it is quite woody with notes of cedar evolving as the cigar burns… Quite a nicely balanced cigar that tends to evolve from first, to second third with ever changing flavors that slightly strengthen … The Perdomo is a very interesting Churchill and I’ll be looking for them whenever I travel to the U.S.A.
One place where I enjoyed many a Montecristo in the sun was in Tiberias, a beautiful city on the sea of Galilee… The picture above reveals small sea shells that I picked up on the shore of the sea, I couldn’t believe how small and perfect they were… I believe it was about 6 or 7 years ago when I went there, the Canadian military still had many troops stationed in the Golan and that was the reason why I went… We participated in a Christmas show for the troops, which is the best time to go out into the world and find troops that are far from home… Anyone who doesn’t know anyone in the armed forces should get to know these men and women who defend our countries and put their lives on the line on a daily basis… These are people just like you and me, they have families, parents and loved ones but for the regular civilian, they are only a uniform and I really believe that most people do NOT know the face of the military… I could go on for hours describing the Golan, it’s beauty and history but I believe you almost have to go there yourself to see how magnificent it really is…
One of my all time favorite cigars is the Romeo y Julieta Churchill…I’ve smoked many and other than the rare occasion where there may be a slightly tough draw, these stately cigars never fail to please in the taste department…Last night I lit a Wide Churchill that I had been holding on to for about a year and I enjoyed almost an hour and a half of very enjoyable smoking…This cigar has a ring gauge of 55 and 5 1/4 inches in length with the factory name “Montesco”…Originally I wanted to taste the same Romeo profile in the Wide Churchill, which was introduced by Habanos in 2010 but was met with a different approach in it’s blend which was woody and revealed notes of dark coffee…One year later, after some time to mellow out in the humidor and we are now enjoying a smoother, somewhat more elegant cigar that still has all of the coffee notes but also with more of a balance between the coffees, cedar and white pepper…More of the recognizable Romeo y Julieta profile now appears… I must also add that the cigar’s construction was marvelous in that the draw was perfect but also the appearance showed only subtle binder veins and a wonderful flawless wrapper… I’m, once again, reminded as to how a young cigar can evolve and improve with patience and a proper humidor…
Something that I’ve been reading about that has me a bit concerned is the decision by our governing parties to remove the opulent bands and traditionally artistic packaging from Cuban cigars… This isn’t going to be happening overnight but even the thought that the removal of the picture of Romeo and Juliet or the gold medal awards that are proudly displayed on Cuban H. Upmann cigar boxes, has me concerned… From what I understand, the bands will be a simple green and the boxes will be very plain, which takes away all of the tradition and great imagery that we’ve associated with Cuban cigars since we were born… I believe this will start in Australia, possibly even as soon as next year and then I believe that Canada will follow suit… Our governments believe that by glorifying the packaging on cigar boxes, newer smokers will probably be enticed to start smoking cigars… Hmmmmmm, really?? I’m a firm believer that its the aroma and flavor of fine Cubans that will attract a new smoker, hardly the sight of a cigar box that will attract someone to begin the passion of cigar smoking.
I know that I always try to get a good cigar in any of the pictures that I upload on this site but yesterday’s day fishing in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia was a wonderful day out with many fish on the line and I couldn’t resist showing this off… This is a Coho Salmon, maybe 8 or 9 pounds and fought like a champion… Americans call this a Silver but whatever the name, they taste great…The limit is four hatchery Cohos per person, there were three of us and we took home eleven… A fabulous day …I actually smoked a small flavored cigar as we cleaned these fish on the side of the river… It wasn’t a Cuban but I thought that we were going to be hit with a lot of rain and decided to leave all of my Cubans at home… Not interested in wasting a cigar in the wind and the rain but as luck would have it, we had a nice stretch of good weather and I would have made out fine… Speaking of smoking, I’ll be smoking one of the Cohos I brought home, I have friends who love smoked salmon… Tight lines!