Montecristo Petit Edmundo

It is a crisp winter’s day in the docks, and a rare appearance of the sun has drawn me out for a cigar. Although the orb is shining the day is not warm, and something short is called for lest my fingers go numb holding it: the order of the day is a well-aged Montecristo Petit Edmundo from 2008.

The fact that this cigar has reached a stage where it could be considered “well aged” comes as something of a shock to me; I still consider the Edmundo to be the controversial new kid on the block, and the petite version came out a few years after that did. Quite without noticing it, time appears to have passed me by.

Montecristo Petit Edmundo unlit

The cigar is bitter from first light, with a sour aftertaste. There is a bean element, dry espresso: it is the aroma of a bag of coffee beans more than it is the flavour of the brewed stuff.

It’s an odd sensation, approaching the age that your parents were when you first knew them: you begin to see their actions (which at the time seemed to be the inscrutable follies of the gods) in the light of your own ridiculous antics, and they begin to make a lot more sense.

The event that I think of as my first memory took place in the town of Goroka, deep in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. I am sure that it is a manufactured memory, implanted from years of hearing the tale told by my mother whenever she needed an example of my father’s gross brutality; there is no way that I would have been allowed to witness the events in question, and it’s debatable whether or not I was even born at the time. Nevertheless, thirty some years later I can envision it quite clearly.

The highlands of the Papua were a wild place in the 1980s (as they are today). Cannibalism had only been officially stamped out a decade or so earlier, and it was not uncommon for spear wielding men in war paint to flag down cars on the highway and demand a toll for passing through their area. The kina was the official currency, but real transactions – dowries, bribes, ransoms and whatnot – were all conducted in pigs. There were a lot of dogs about and, although they were domesticated in the sense that they hung around the houses and depended on humans for food, they did not have owners as we understand them in the west.

There was one dog in particular that my family thought of as ours, a blonde vaguely Labrador looking mongrel that my mother had christened Crumpet. Our house was on stilts in the Queenslander style, and underneath it was a great pile of junk, the discarded odds and ends of several previous occupants. I have a distinct memory of being taken down there to see Crumpet, who, heavily pregnant, had lain down on some old newspapers to begin her labours. I remember her panting, looking up at me with her eyes, not able or willing to lift her head.

I have an image, too, of after the birth; of a pile of nine pink, hairless puppies clambering over each other to suckle from their mother’s teat. The final image is of my father. As I recall it he and my mother had a heated debate before he finally declared that “there were enough mangy strays in the world,” and headed under the house. Crumpet raised her head weakly as he found an old hessian sack amongst the junk pile, her look turning to confusion as he scooped up her puppies one by one and placed them in it. She did not resist: she trusted him.

I watched from the veranda as he filled an old tin bucket with water and carried it out into the backyard. He dumped the hessian sack in it unceremoniously, and held it underwater for a minute or so, presumably until he felt the movement stop. For reasons unknown he emptied the corpses out onto the grass and left them in the sun to dry while he dug the hole: nine little pink balls, their wispy blonde fur bedraggled in the sunlight.

Of course, none of it is real. The family annals are vague on dates, but at most I would have been two years old at the time of the puppy incident; a slobbering infant, rather than the stoic figure I picture watching the massacre dispassionately from the back veranda, Napoleon in OshKosh B’gosh. Nevertheless, old brains play tricks, and that one is mine: a vivid recollection of dead dogs. As I recall Crumpet got over it well enough, but always gave my father a wide berth from then on.

Montecristo Petit Edmundo two thirds remaining

Halfway through the cigar the bitterness has subsided. It is still a little sour, but main note is a muddy sort of earthiness. There is also some straw involved. Years after the puppy incident, now living in China, my older sister tried to build a mud brick house in the back yard (no doubt inspired by the mud huts of the Papuan highlands). She only got one wall about two foot high before a big rain disolved the thing, but my sense memory remains, and this one is real. The flavour in this cigar is the smell of my sister’s mud bricks drying in the sun.

Montecristo Petit Edmundo an inch left

My phone rings: it’s a recruiter, and it takes me ten minutes or so to dislodge him. When I return to the cigar it has gone out. Once relit, it is very bitter, but with one of the most distinct black jelly-bean aniseed flavours I have ever had in a cigar.

The very end is bitter tar, underpinned by a deeply aromatic herb, star anise, perhaps. I smoke it till I can’t smoke no more. At all times the Montecristo Petit Edmundo was rough, brutish almost. Even at seven years old it could still use a decade or so more in the dark.

Nonetheless, a very decent effort from old Montecristo. Better than a No. 4.

Montecristo Petit Edmundo nub

Montecristo Petit Edmundo on the Cuban Cigar Website.

Montecristo Maravillas No. 1 Colección Habanos 2005 (redux)

Winter is coming, and it’s coming quickly. The air has a chill to it, and still, sunny days like today are getting rarer and rarer. I must make smoke while the sun shines, and so I’ve come to a local park for the final entry in my retrospective of the Colección Habanos, the Montecristo Maravillas No. 1, a rare revisit of a dusky beauty. The last time I smoked this cigar – around eighteen months ago – I deemed it phenomenal, the best Montecristo cigar that I had ever had the pleasure of smoking. Now, with the Colección at my back, I’m smoking it again to see how it compares to its immediate peers. Will it live up to the memory? Almost certainly not.

Montecristo Maravillas No. 1 Colección Habanos 2005 unlit

The Maravillas No. 1 resists the soft flame of my bic lighter* for a while, but eventually succumbs. The first puffs are fantastic, a wonderful rich coffee cream. The ash is pale, the aftertaste rawhide leather and roasted coffee beans. It is rich, yet balanced. I tend to think of elegant cigars as lightly flavoured, with a mild tobacco taste that reveals the subtleties of the leaf, but this cigar is full bodied, with a complex profile that is rich and dense, and oh so very elegant.

A brief peek behind the curtain: when these articles go to print they appear as a stream of consciousness, as if written sentence for sentence during the smoking of a cigar. In some cases I do indeed write the entire article with the cigar clenched between my teeth, but in others I write only a few sentences of tasting notes during the smoking, and put in the filler later. Sometimes, for the purpose of general interest, a slight fiction is necessary, the chief example of which occurred in my last review of the Montecristo Maravillas No. 1. I claimed, at the time, that I was pairing the cigar with a Hahn Millennium Ale: in fact, I had drunken the Hahn a few days earlier at a New Year’s Day function, but I still had the bottle, and I deemed it too rare and interesting a brew to not mention on The Harem. The beer I was actually drinking was the beer on which the Hahn was allegedly based (and which formed the springboard for the meat of that review), a Chimay Red. In an endeavour to recreate that sublime experience, I am pairing this cigar also with a Chimay Red. It’s about as good a beer as I can imagine having with a cigar: rich but mild, with a creamy, coffee sort of taste, none of the heavy hops of many boutique beers.

Montecristo Maravillas No. 1 Colección Habanos 2005 an inch or so gone

Around a third of the way burned and the cigar is now mild, the tobacco taste mellowed out, true coffee and cream, and a dash of powdered chocolate. I’m not sure how much of this is in my head, how much my seasoned cigar aficionado brain has learned to block out the taste of tobacco and focus only on the subtler flavours of a cigar, but to me the flavour here is indistinguishable from that of a cappuccino.

It may be good, but Chimay is an expensive beer. In Australia a single bottle of beer in a liquor store will set you back generally between $3 and $4. The two Chimay Reds I bought for this review were $7.50 each. Its brother, the Chimay Blue, is even more expensive. A few months ago I walked into a high end watering hole, glanced at the bottles on display behind the bar, and casually ordered a Chimay Blue, not looking at the price list or even thinking twice about it. “That’ll be eighteen thanks mate” said the bartender. I double checked against the menu, and he wasn’t joking or mistaken. Eighteen dollars for a beer! Cocktail prices!

Montecristo Maravillas No. 1 Colección Habanos 2005 two thirds smoked

In the final couple of inches the cigar develops a bite, a herbal, tang that isn’t tar and isn’t bitter, no longer cappuccino, but espresso, no longer light, sweet, chocolate powder but instead 95% cocoa, the proper stuff. The sun sets early. It’s winter. I smoke on, the sole occupant of the dark park, lit by the light from my laptop screen. Just as I take the final few puffs an old friend joins me. He had severe asthma as a child, was in and out of hospital for much of his early life, and as a result has a notoriously weak sense of smell, which makes his first words very notable: “Man, I could smell your cigar from a block away” he says. “Smells fantastic.”

What it comes down to is this: the Montecristo Maravillas No. 1 is not a transcendentally good cigar. It’s not going to change the way you think about cigars. It’s not as good as the Partagás 150 or the Partagás 155. I’ve never had one, but I doubt it’s as good as the 1492 humidor cigars. That said, it is at the very apex of non-transcendentally good cigars: it’s better than a Cohiba Gran Reserva, it’s better than every EL I’ve ever had, and it’s a head and shoulders above the rest of the Colección Habanos, and if anything the example I smoked today was better than the one I had last year. If you want to spend $100 on a cigar then this is the one you should buy.

Montecristo Maravillas No. 1 Colección Habanos 2005 nub

*Regular readers might recall my review of the Montecristo Millennium Jar Robusto, whose dreadful burn I lamented as having exhausted two lighters. That represented the end of my gas supply for my large collection of high quality jet lighters – over a year has passed, and it has yet to be replenished, with every dusky beauty since then set ablaze by either a matchstick or a bic lighter.

Montecristo Maravillas No. 1 Colección Habanos 2005 on the Cuban Cigar Website.

Montecristo Roundup

Presented below is a list with which I attempt to place every Montecristo cigar reviewed in this column into an extremely subjective ranked order, from best to worst.

Should another Montecristo cigar ever appear in these pages, I will update this list to include it.

It’s worth noting, I suppose, that while you should certainly take this list as absolute gospel (and conduct no purchase without first referring to it), the greater pleasure in cigar smoking is to be found in good company, in warm afternoons outdoors, and in the bottom of quality glassware (not to mention in the composing of self-indulgent prose). Your experience may vary is what I’m getting at. I’ll endeavour to revisit a few of these from time to time and report back if mine does.

  1. Montecristo Maravillas No.1 Colección Habanos 2005
  2. Edmundo Dantes El Conde 109 Edición Regional Mexico 2007 (possibly)
  3. Montecristo No. 2 Gran Reserva Cosecha 2005
  4. Montecristo Grand Edmundo Edición Limitada 2010
  5. Montecristo 520 Edición Limitada 2012
  6. Montecristo B Compay Centennial Humidor
  7. Edmundo Dantes El Conde 109 Edición Regional Mexico 2007
  8. Montecristo Sublimes Edición Limitada 2008
  9. Edmundo Dantes Conde 54 Edición Regional Mexico 2011
  10. Montecristo A Montecristo Humidor
  11. Montecristo Double Corona Edición Limitada 2001
  12. Montecristo No. 4 Reserva Cosecha 2002
  13. Montecristo Dunhill Selección No.1
  14. Montecristo Robusto Edición Limitada 2006
  15. Montecristo Robusto Reserva del Milenio
  16. Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo
  17. Montecristo No. 2 510 Aniversario Humidor
  18. Montecristo No. 4 Compay 95 Aniversario Humidor
  19. Montecristo No. 4
  20. Montecristo Salomones II Montecristo Humidor
  21. Montecristo Salomones II Compay 95 Aniversario Humidor
  22. Montecristo Robusto Edición Limitada 2000 (construction issue)
  23. Montecristo D Edición Limitada 2005
  24. Montecristo C Edición Limitada 2003
  25. Montecristo Open Regata

Montecristo Logo

Montecristo 520 Edición Limitada 2012

The Montecristo 520, Edición Limitada 2012: at the time of writing this is the most recently released special edition Montecristo; at the time of writing this is the last remaining true special edition Montecristo that this column has not reviewed. I’ve saved it till last for a reason: I’m preparing a ranking, a definitive ordered list of all the Montecristo cigars, and I wanted to save something till the end that might just cause a last minute upset. This cigar has a lot of competition to stare down: Edición Limitadas with a decade more age on them, the rarest of super exotics, and cigars made without compromise for just this kind of competition, and yet, if anything can upset the field I think it might just be the 520. Not many cigars have had the kind of rave reviews that the 520 has had.

Montecristo 520 Edición Limitada 2012 unlit

It’s a sunny winter’s afternoon, 13 degrees in the shade, and I’m out in my backyard. I’m joined via satellite by an old smoking buddy, one of my first journeyman companions in the world of Cuban cigars. He has washed up as a clerk in a cigar store in Canada, and today he will be smoking a Montecristo 520 alongside mine; a herf just like old times, despite one third of the earth’s circumference being between us.

I light the 520 with a match (I ran out of liquid butane about three months ago, and have gradually exhausted the chambers of all the jet lighters that are scattered about my house. It really is getting to crisis point), fairly unevenly. The early notes have a strong oak flavour, with a little dry spice.

Construction is adequate, if a little on the loose side; the burn evens up nicely after my very irregular light. It does, however, suffer from the 55 ring gauge mouth feel. Aficionados object to the rise of the 55 ring gauge for a lot of reasons: the fatter cigars deliver a much bigger punch, fuller flavoured with more nicotine, which means they trend less elegant, less delicately flavourful; the fat boys are also a break from the ancient traditions that make up the mystique of Cuban cigars; and their rise has been indomitable, with many new fat cigars released at the cost of many thin ones discontinued. It also seems like with fat cigars Cuba is chasing the one market in the world that doesn’t sell their product: the USA. For me though, the main objection I have to the 55 is the mouth feel. I don’t know what it is, the difference between a 55 and a 52 is so small that I can’t see why I’d notice it, and yet I do. Those three extra sixty-fourths of an inch are a bridge too far. They make my jaw ache.

Montecristo 520 Edición Limitada 2012 two thirds remaining

The old Mercedes 600 Grossers in the ‘60s had a three pronged star hood ornament that was twenty per cent larger than the one on the standard car, for no reason other than that the fastidious German engineers felt that the smaller size looked out of proportion atop that gargantuan grill. Typically a fat Cuban cigar will wear the same band as its more svelte brethren – it might be longer to accommodate the gauge, but the detail will be the same size. On this particular Montecristo cigar though, the crest itself is huge – I’d say about twenty per cent bigger. Perhaps they felt it was out of proportion atop this gargantuan ring gauge. It’s funny, because Cuban engineers are usually anything but fastidious.

Memories linked to smell and taste are the most powerful, and when a tang forms in the cigar one hits me like a truck. I was about eight years old, traveling with my parents. We had spent a few days staying with some friends in Singapore, and they’d given us a gift of a bag of lollies, presumably to keep my sister and I quiet on the flight. They were lemon sugar drop things, but coated in a white powder that gave the lolly an intensely sour taste for a few moments, before the sweet of the sugar relieved it. The powder was dusted on the sweets, and so a good deal of it collected in the bottom of the bag, such that when my father opened it, particles of the powder would become airborne, giving off a distinct, chemical lemon tang. That is the flavour I taste now in the Montecristo 520.

Montecristo 520 Edición Limitada 2012 one third remaining

On the other side of the world my colleague tastes chocolate. I am all around it, but not there. There is cocoa, sure, and coffee, and some other beans, but it lacks the sweetness needed for me to call this chocolate. There is a bitterness one might confuse for a very pure chocolate, but to me it’s coffee, the bitter end of a Turkish cup.

As I burn into the final third the flavour of cream is present. The cigar is so mellow that I can barely taste the tobacco. Tar pokes through from time to time for the penultimate inch (quite reasonable for the business end of a large cigar like this), but as the coal crosses into the final one the tar dissipates entirely. It is simply sweet and creamy, with a hint of spice.

The final notes are of a well-used leather wallet. I smoke it all the way to the end. People sometimes ask me what the secret is to smoking a cigar all the way. “How do you not burn your fingers?” they say. “You don’t” I tell them. “The secret is not to care.”

So here’s the straight dope: the Montecristo 520 is a great cigar. You can still buy boxes if you’re prepared to look around for ten minutes, and you definitely should.

I can say with every confidence that in 2013, with less than a year of age on it, this cigar is better than the 2000 Robusto EL with thirteen. It’s also better also than the C, the D, the 2006 Robusto, and even the 2001 Double Corona and the 2008 Sublimes (although, interestingly, of these the Sublimes comes the closest).

There is, however, one Montecristo EL that the 520 is not better than: it’s immediate predecessor, the 2010 Grand Edmundo.

Why, I wonder, in 2013 are the three most recent Montecristo Edición Limitadas the three best Montecristo Edición Limitadas? Have the older ones peaked, and are on their way out? Do ELs not age well? My major complaint about all the old ELs was of an overriding bitterness, which is not usually a symptom of a cigar that is past its prime (usually quite the opposite in fact). Perhaps it’s just that the new ELs have been made to peak as they’re sold, and will fall off dreadfully in the near future.

Or perhaps those Cuban tobacco engineers have become a little fastidious in the last few years. Perhaps their hard work has paid off, and the cigars are simply reflecting that. Perhaps the Montecristo 520 is progress.

Montecristo 520 Edición Limitada 2012 nub, ashes, and lots of matches

Montecristo 520 Edición Limitada 2012 on the Cuban Cigar Website

Montecristo No. 2 510 Aniversario Humidor

The 510 Aniversario Humidor commemorates the 510th anniversary of Christopher Columbus bringing tobacco back to the old world. I’m not sure why it was released in 2003, as Cuba seems to date this event pretty soundly at 1492 (the holy grail of exotic Habanos is the 1492 Humidor – more on that later). Perhaps it was an afterthought.

The 510 examples of this nice wooden humidor contain 100 cigars a piece, 20 each from five brands: Cohiba Espléndidos, Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.1s, Royals de Partagás, Romeo y Julieta Hermosos No.3 and Montecristo No. 2s, one of which will burn this afternoon. Of the five, three were existing sizes and two were unique to the humidor (the Partagás and the Romeo y Julieta). Trivia fact: in some of the humidors they messed up the bands, swapping the Partagás and the Romeo bands. There was an apology letter.

Montecristo No. 2 510 Aniversario Humidor unlit

Another trivia fact: there appears to be a typo on the band, which reads “De la llegada del Habano al viejo munddo”, the mistake being the double D in mundo. My Spanish isn’t the best (in fact, it’s the worst), and there’s every chance that munddo is an entirely distinct and valid word to the mundo I’m familiar with (it means ‘world,’ as in ‘El Rey Del Mundo’, ‘The King of the World’). Google Translate agrees with me though, and the fact that on the outside of the humidor proper it’s spelt with a single D is probably a point in my favour. I’ve tried looking for a clean scan of the band to see if it’s a common problem, but the only good image I can come up with is from my own encyclopaedia.

The cigar is constructed perfectly, nice wrapper, nice draw, although once alight does not begin especially well. Throughout the first inch a bitter sulphur flavour dominates the pallet, although the aftertaste is nice, a creamy mid-tobacco.

I have four or five go-to cocktails that I can shake up with a few moment’s notice, and of these the most complex is the Blood and Sand; equal parts cherry brandy, sweet vermouth, scotch whisky and fresh orange juice, the tarter the better. I had one of these last night, which unfortunately killed the last of my whisky without slaking my taste for it, so I’ve shaken it again this afternoon except with dark rum substituting the scotch. It’s not bad, although I like the scotch version better. I tend to use the best scotch I can find in this cocktail (which is to say I tend to shake it from someone else’s cocktail cabinet); a good peaty scotch, Laphroaig, Lagavulin et al, adds a delicious smoky aftertaste to the sour cherry mess that is the main flavour.

Montecristo No. 2 510 Aniversario Humidor two thirds remaining

I’m not sure if it’s just a factor of my changing tastes and ever increasing operating budget, but it seems to me that there’s been a rebirth of the bitter, complex cocktail in the last few years (I think it started with that Old Fashioned craze a few years back, itself started by fans of Mad Men wanting to look cool). When I were a lad cocktail bars were a lot fewer and father between than they are now, and upon entering one you would typically be presented with a book containing twenty or so different options, from which you would select a gooey mess of chocolate and cream called a “Toblerone” or something like that.

There was a girl I used to see around this time who had a taste for such concoctions, and our standard Saturday was to find a dimly lit lair where we could order expensive drinks and make out. I would generally order beer, or sometimes whisky (you must remember that this story takes place in an era before Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and cocktails were still widely seen as ‘for girls’), but on one occasion we entered a particularly dark basement bar called Bambu, where the waiter wasn’t satisfied with that. “C’mon” he exhorted, “Have a cocktail. I’ll make you anything you want – doesn’t have to be on the menu. What do you like?” “Well,” I said “can you make me a cocktail that’s tasty but still manly?” He said he knew just the thing, and returned with something that I think he called a Bollo. He described it as containing four Italian liqueurs, and presented me with a balloon filled almost to the brim with a pitch black liquid, a few pieces of orange rind barely visible somewhere in the depths. It emitted a heavy, bittersweet, musky complexity. It was wonderful. The first real cocktail I’d ever had.

Bambu fast became our regular haunt (it didn’t hurt that they had a curtained off section that was the most private make out space in any bar in the city), and each time he would produce the same drink, more or less unbidden, until six months later I returned and my bartender was gone. I asked his successor for a “Bollo, I think it has four Italian liqueurs” but he didn’t know what I was talking about. I then asked for something “tasty but manly” and got some sour lemon thing in a Hurricane glass that was neither.

Montecristo No. 2 510 Aniversario Humidor final third

I’m sorry to say it, but throughout this whole exercise this Monte 2 never really came alive. It was a decent enough cigar, don’t get me wrong, but not particularly complex and always very rough around the edges. If I had to reach for tasting notes I’d say there was a little coffee in the middle, and the bitterness of cocoa, although none of the sweet it needs to make chocolate. All things considered it is a Monte 2; no better or worse than a good quality standard production (and considerably worse than the standard production Monte 2 I previously enjoyed alongside the Gran Reserva). It’s better than a Monte 4 only because it is longer and a cooler shape.

That said, you’re not buying the 510 Humidor because it’s the cheapest way you can think of to get some Monte 2s. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from these last six months, it’s that the further a cigar deviates from regular production, the more effort the Cubans put into it. Pure speculation, but I’d guess that the Romeo and the Partagás are the picks of this litter. And let’s face it, this more so than almost anything else is a collector’s piece: these bad boys are not for smoking.

Montecristo No. 2 510 Aniversario Humidor nub and ashes

Montecristo No. 2 510 Aniversario Humidor on the Cuban Cigar Website

Montecristo No. 2 Gran Reserva Cosecha 2005

The theory behind the Grand Reserve series goes that once in a great while (a great while being every two years) an especially good tobacco harvest might produce a small amount of absolutely peerless leaf, leaf that will be aged for as long as it takes to perfect it and then rolled by the highest ranking torcedoras into cigars that are the best of the best; into cigars that are absolutely without compromise. The theory behind the Grand Reserve series goes that Habanos can charge six or seven times as much for them as they do their single banded analogues.

The cigar I consider today, the Montecristo No. 2 Gran Reserva Cosecha 2005, is the second release in the Gran Reserva series, following 2009’s Cohiba Siglo VI. The third instalment has been announced, but has yet to surface: the Partagás Lusitania. Of the three the only one I really get is the Lusitania: to me, if you’re going to roll the best of the best for a given brand, it should be that brand’s flagship, which for Partagás is the Lusitania. The Siglo VI makes some sense for Cohiba, I suppose – while my Cohiba flag carrier will always be the Lanceros (or maybe the Espléndidos at a stretch), but I understand that it might be the Siglo VI as far as Habanos SA is concerned. Montecristo is a hard brand to pick a flagship for; you’ve got the A, which is their most expensive and impressive cigar, but is too big for even aficionados to smoke with much pleasure; you’ve got the Especiales No. 1, which is a beautiful, elegant thing, but I don’t think sells very well; you’ve got the Edmundo, but it only came out about five years ago… what else, the No. 1?

At any rate, it’s anything but the 2.

Perhaps they have no choice what Gran Reserva they roll? Perhaps the blenders say “no, no, this peerless tobacco is only suitable for Montecristo No. 2s.” I hope so. I hope in a few years they say “no, no, this peerless tobacco is only suitable for a Fonseca Cosacos.”

Montecristo No. 2 Gran Reserva Cosecha 2005 unlit

I’m joined this evening by my colleague Tybalt, and have issued him with a cigar to smoke alongside my Gran Reserva: a Montecristo No. 2, box code DEB OCT06. 2006 was the first year of Habanos’ new ageing policies – all leaf is aged for at least one year before rolling (certain varieties are aged for two and three years, but let’s not complicate things) – so a box date of October 2006, therefore, means that most of this tobacco comes from the 2005 harvest – cosecha 2005, if you will. The point is that these cigars are the same cigar, made of the same tobacco, aged for the same period of time (albeit one aged in a warehouse pre-rolling and one aged in a box after it). If any test can reveal whether or not the Gran Reserva is worth the premium, this is it.

And, to its credit, the Gran Reserva opens wonderfully, with notes of cream, and very, very smooth tobacco. We’re smoking outside, but the evening is perfectly still: both cigars lit effortlessly: we used separate matches, but could easily have shared one, as neither of us burnt more than a third of the wood.

We’re drinking a Grosset Pinot Noir 2002, which Tybalt informs me is a Very Good Wine. I’m not much of a wine aficionado, but judging this purely by the look of the label I’d put it in the $10 – 15 range. Tybalt takes a sip and grimaces, saying that it needs to breathe. He’s right: the opening nose is vinegar mixed with high fruit compost.

Montecristo No. 2 Gran Reserva Cosecha 2005 two thirds

An inch or so in we swap cigars for a few puffs, and, my main observation being that the regulation Monte 2 has a much tighter draw, I suggest to Tybalt that he take a few hairs’ breadth from the pyramid tip to open it up a bit. Flavour wise, the cigars are honestly on par; if anything the regular 2 is the more flavourful, if heavier on the tobacco. Tybalt describes it as “more sulphurous,” but I’m loath to pin such a loaded adjective on it as it really is an excellent cigar. Cedar predominates both, with a splash of cream and mild kidney bean.

We swap war stories for a while, and then, washing down a hearty guffaw with a drizzle of pinot down the back of my throat, I suddenly have what alcoholics refer to as a “moment of clarity”; it suddenly occurs to me that everything is excellent. The wine has opened like a lily to the light, a delicate, pungent fruit bowl that pays good compliment to the smooth, refined tobacco of the Gran Reserva. It’s sweet; earth, leather, coffee… the whole bag.

I spend a long moment absorbed in my screen writing this bullshit, and when I come to Tybalt suggests that I try both cigars again. I try the regulation 2 first, and am amazed at how good it is; a smooth, perfect 2. Next I try the Gran Reserva, and am shocked: it’s very good, but of the two, it is by far the rougher. I hem and haw a moment… this is the Gran Reserva, the hot tip to top the full ladder of Montecristo cigars that I’ll publish in a few weeks… how can I admit that a humble standard issue No. 2 is its better? As soon as I stammeringly articulate the thought Tybalt’s smirk betrays him: he has switched the bands on me. It’s a good test, that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is more to the Grand Reserva than the psychological bump from the fancy band, but it will sow a seed of doubt in me the rest of the evening, especially once we get down to the business end and the bands come off… am I smoking the cigar I think I’m smoking?

Montecristo No. 2 Gran Reserva Cosecha 2005 last inch

In the last few centimetres the regular No. 2 shows a quite a bit of tar, then the Reserva shows some, and then the tar dissipates from both. Neither cigar has required a relight or touch up, and they both get smoked till we burn our fingers.

The main problem with the Gran Reserva was the Monte 2 I put it up against. I don’t know what happened here – maybe 2005 really was a great year for Montecristo No. 2 tobacco – because this one was one of the very best I’ve ever encountered. The Reserva was better, don’t get me wrong, and if what you want is an absolutely flawless Montecristo No. 2 every time, then the Grand Reserva version is exactly what you should buy. If you were to shop around though, if you were to buy well reviewed box codes, and stock up during the good seasons… well, there are some flawless regular Monte 2s out there that don’t have the Reserva band, and there’s a lot of room for trial and error in that price margin. Also, when all is said and done, this is just a perfect Monte 2. If you have a little coin to drop and are looking for something that’s better than an average Monte 2, why not try a Cohiba?

All that said, I really don’t want to disparage the Monte 2 Gran Reserva at all; it is a flawless cigar that delivers everything that can be delivered within the scope of its responsibilities. It’s not the best cigar in the Montecristo line-up, but it’s in the top few, and it’s a lot better than a Monte 4.

Montecristo No. 2 Gran Reserva Cosecha 2005 nub

Montecristo No. 2 Gran Reserva Cosecha 2005 on the Cuban Cigar Website

Montecristo Double Corona Edición Limitada 2001

It’s a slightly overcast Saturday, and, wandering down a local bike path that runs between the freeway sound wall and an urban drainage canal, I find myself in a pleasant little glade of pine trees, not so unlike the fens and spinneys of my youth. The central feature of the glade is a fallen tree – so perfect a seat that one suspects it was felled specifically for the purpose. Either way, it’s just the place to sit, to watch the cyclists, to enjoy a sly beer, and to smoke a Montecristo Double Corona, Edición Limitada 2001.

Montecristo Double Corona Edición Limitada 2001 unlit

It’s a lovely looking thing this double corona, with the classic dark EL wrapper. This came out in only the second year of the EL program, and the Cubans still hadn’t quite decided what they were doing yet: there were five cigars that year, and this isn’t even the big one! Unlike the previous year, there is a number on this band, although it’s not embossed. Like most aficionados I lament the changes the last decade has brought to the Cuban cigar industry; whenever there is a band change like the one Montecristo will undergo this year (they’re making the fleur-de-lys gold) my voice is among the many saying “no, don’t tamper with a classic, Cuba lives and dies on its heritage,” but I will concede that these faded, thin, non-embossed, badly printed bands do feel very insubstantial when compared to their modern equivalents. Of course, that’s entirely the charm, the idea that your luxury cigars are a product of a shambolic command economy, but I will concede that the packaging of modern Cubans is better, if less charming.

I slice the cap and light it. The double corona has a real Cuban draw, tight and cool, and presents a wonderful elegance from the start, with a strong note of cedar and the slightest hint of coffee. Its age is very evident in the mildness of the tobacco throughout the first inch or so.

Montecristo Double Corona Edición Limitada 2001 one quarter smoked

There was a period when I was a teenager and this drainage canal was equidistant from my house and the houses of three of my closest friends, and as it had the additional advantage of being dark and fairly private, we used to come down here from time to time to drink beers and get high. I have memories of cruising police officers occasionally shining their torches on us in the night, shouting across the water, demanding to know what we were doing and telling us to move along, although as the road only runs along one side, and that side was invariably not the side we were on, and the bridges are few and far between, their threats were largely impotent. I used to use the canal as a thoroughfare, too, when traveling home from my friend’s houses, and in that I encountered the same problem as the police: a lack of bridges. The width of the waterway at its narrowest point fluctuates between one and three meters across (dependent on how recently it has rained). When at its nadir the distance represented no challenge to a champion hurdler like me, and when at its zenith I knew not to test it, and would make the lengthy detour to the footbridge. It was when it was in about the middle, one and a half to two meters, that I got myself into trouble. The problem was not so much the distance – I was pretty good at gauging the length of my own leap – but that if the water was falling rather than rising it would have left a slippery sheen of invisible slime on the concrete of either bank, something I invariably failed to anticipate (remember I was usually undertaking this trek while at least mildly [and often heavily] inebriated). More than once I went to leap only to find my footing disappear from under me, and more than once I found myself waist deep in that foetid, slimy water. I’d have to hose myself off in the garden before going in the house. I ruined more than one pair of shoes.

Montecristo Double Corona Edición Limitada 2001 half smoked

After the halfway point the cigar shows some bitterness and a hint of the dark chocolate and coffee found in the C and D, although this cigar is much more refine and pleasant than either of those. The tobacco is thickening a little but is still very light. The ash is a lovely white, and, had I left it unmolested, I think it probably would have held for the entire length of the thing (although I value my pants too much to try).

My friends and I never used to come down as far as this glade, and I can’t imagine the rozzers doing it now, but nonetheless, discretion is the better part of valour and I’m keeping my beers concealed behind the log. They’re two beers from the Japanese Hitachino brewery, one a heavy and bitter espresso stout, the other a ginger infused ale. Neither is particularly good (or tastes particularly strongly of either ginger or espresso), but they both exhibit a similar sort of vaguely bitter, vaguely coffee, mild sort of taste that complements, or at least matches the Double Corona. A cyclist inspects me on my log with my beer and cigar and comments “very nice” as he zooms by.

As always, when six inches of tar have accumulated in the final one, the cigar becomes very bitter, real heavy 95% cocoa chocolate stuff; unpleasant, but in an enjoyable kind of way. The burn has been impeccable the entire length, requiring nary a touch up nor a relight.

The interesting thing to me about the Double Corona is how similar its flavour pallet is to the C and D, and how distinct those are from the Robustos and the later ELs. I’ve seen this cigar brought up as an example of how the early ELs are not aging well, but it’s not that; what it is evidence of is that the early ELs need a lot of age. The C and D are both mediocre at the moment, but I think with another few years they could be as good as this cigar, and with a few years to iron out its kinks, this cigar could be something amazing.

At present it’s better than a Monte 4, and a good deal of the rest of the field.

Montecristo Double Corona Edición Limitada 2001 unlit

Montecristo Double Corona Edición Limitada 2001 on the Cuban Cigar Website

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo

The Replica Antique Humidor series is an annual release of a few hundred humidors: one brand per year; fifty cigars in each box. The cigars are generally large, a trophy smoke, but nothing too spectacular: normally it’s a repeat of something that appeared a few years prior in an LE or commemorative humidor. The humidors themselves are always very beautiful, classically styled things, supposedly modelled on ancient humidors, although the provenance of these has never been explained to my satisfaction. Are they custom humidors from private collections? Old special releases? I’ve wandered around the Tobacco Museum in Havana, I don’t recall seeing an old humidor and thinking “that looks just like a replica antique!” I like to think that there’s a humidor sleuth, travelling the garage sales of the world, looking for a particularly choice old box to bring back and copy.

I often think that the market for these things is people who want to buy themselves a nice humidor rather than cigar collectors. As releases they’re not that significant, but the humidors are beautiful. I’ve had the pleasure of inspecting a few firsthand: exquisite marquetry. Set fire to those pesky double coronas and you’d have yourself a very nice desktop.

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo unlit

I set fire to the pesky double corona, and find the draw on the firm side but very acceptable. It opens mildly, dry paperbark tree over light tobacco, a hint of earth and dusty haylofts.

I’ve mixed myself a rough mojito; a few leaves of mint from the garden (placed in a palm and heartily slapped – releases the menthol), a spoonful of sugar, and a few chunks of old fridge-dried lemon (I didn’t have any limes or even fresh lemons), macerated together, then topped off with a free poured slug of rum and about twice as much soda. It’s surprisingly not bad. Not bad at all.

The rum in question is a cheap Cuban rum that appeared in Australian markets with the rum boom of the last few years, named for Santiago de Cuba, an industrial shithole on the opposite end of the island to Havana. When travelling in Cuba I tracked the price (and mainly subsisted on) Cuban ‘pizza,’* and found that it decreased linearly the further I got from the tourist towns. Nowhere was it cheaper than in Santiago de Cuba.

Santiago de Cuba was once the seat of the Bacardi Empire – there’s a Bacardi museum there, and a statue of their patriarch, and I think I saw the old family home. On the waterfront is the old Bacardi rum factory, atop the pinnacle of which is a giant bottle, visible from all over town. The factories have been nationalised, of course, and I had always assumed that they were making Havana Club in there; Havana Club, after all, seemed to be the national rum, and what else would they produce in their nationalised rum factories? I realise now that that assumption was incorrect. I realise now that they were producing Santiago de Cuba.

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo one third consumed, with Santiago rum

In the middle the cigar has thickened up into heavy tobacco, bit of tar. Bitter coffee is certainly present, and some note of vanilla.

It was Saint Valentine’s Day the day I first set foot in Santiago de Cuba – I was having dinner with a male friend, and I remember that we’d remarked on the date in passing (he’d mentioned trying to call his girlfriend back home later on when the time zones were right). Unlike Havana, Santiago doesn’t get a steady trade of tourists, and English speaking private restaurants are few and far between, and rather than seek one out we decided just to take the easy way out and dine at the main tourist hotel, a beautiful old place on top of the hill.

The waiter was overjoyed to see us, and ushered us into an intimate little dining room where he seated us at a lace covered corner table, a single rose between us. We ordered a bottle of red and two steaks, and while we waited the entertainment came over, two elderly Cuban men, one with a violin, who serenaded us with Spanish love songs. The wine that arrived was a good deal sweater than we’d anticipated, and a perfect pale rose pink, and was served in very dainty glasses, and the steak, when it came, had suffered the unfortunate Cuban treatment of being battered with cheese and ham. The other treatment the steaks had received was slightly less usual: they had been cut into love hearts. We ate quickly and quietly, and summoned the bill as soon as the last morsel had been swallowed, but the waiter wouldn’t bring it. Dessert, he told us, was on the house. One slice of cheesecake. Two spoons.

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo one third remaining

We quickly skulked away after dinner, down the hill and into the dimly lit streets, looking furtively for somewhere where we wouldn’t look quite so much like a homosexual couple on a special Valentines date. We followed the sound of music and voices to a dank little low ceiling club, where the kids were smoking unfiltered cigarettes and grinding against one another. It would do. “Dos mojito, por favour.”

The bartender was sceptical of my convertible pesos, but eventually we reached an accommodation and two mojitos arrived, served in old jam jars. They were rough mojitos, free poured, with old limes, undissolved sugar, flat soda and too much rum. They were surprisingly not bad. Not bad at all. A lot like my mojito today.

Maybe it’s the rum.

The double corona is a good cigar, but in the field of Montecristo super exotics there is little to distinguish it. The tobacco is obviously first class, and it presents a good Montecristo profile, but there’s not a lot to distinguish it in either direction. It’s better than a Monte 4, and the C, and D, and the others that I had problems with, but it’s not up there with the greats like the Maravillas No. 1 or the Edmundo Dantes.

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo nub and ashes

*Allegedly, Fidel Castro’s favourite foods are pizza, ice-cream and Coca-Cola, a facsimile of all of which is universally available on the island. The Coca-Cola equivalent is Tu Cola (English: Your Cola), and tastes kind of like Pepsi Max; the ice-cream is sort of watery soft serve (I only had one, it tasted like rose water); and the pizza is a thick, doughy slice of bread with melted cheese on top. Very occasionally you find it offered with ham or some other additional topping at a higher price. The standard procedure is to fold the slice in half and pour about a cup of scalding hot cheese oil from the fold before eating; you usually burn your mouth anyway, but it helps. Prices ranged from twenty five local pesos in Havana (one euro, approximately), to five pesos in Santiago de Cuba.

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo on the Cuban Cigar Website

Montecristo A Montecristo Humidor

Here’s a question: have we learnt anything from five centuries of European tobacco? Do the smokers of today, with the benefit of our computers, of our collective hive consciousness, of our advanced theories of knowledge; do we enjoy the combustion of fragrant leaf any more than did our long expired predecessors?

What was the last real development in cigar smoking? The rinsing technique? (more on that later). Is anyone out there working to develop our hobby? What giant’s shoulders will the smokers of tomorrow stand upon, when trying to discover the perfect path to nicotine nirvana? Is anybody working on this?

Well yes. I am. In this edition of A Harem of Dusky Beauties we are going to go on a journey of discovery. This is real science here people. Or real hokum, I suppose, depending on your perspective. Today we’re taking cigars tantric.

Montecristo A Montecristo Humidor unlit on a yoga mat

My subject is the Montecristo A from the aforementioned Montecristo Humidor (as long a cigar as Cuba rolls; if I can’t find enlightenment within its four or so hours, then no cigar contains it). The setting is a small, sealed room (a bathroom, if I’m honest). I have heated it to 40°C, and unrolled a simple yoga mat, and over the stereo I play a gentle melody of pan-pipes and forest sounds. At the head of the mat I place my ashtray, my sweat towel and several cartons of coconut water.

Before I light the cigar I bring my head down to the floor in the Child’s Pose and relax. I breath deep, in and out, slowing my heartbeat to the rhythm of the earth. I clear my mind of my day to day concerns and focus on my intention for the session.

In Sanskrit the literal meaning of yoga is to join or unite, and so I hope to unite yoga with the world of Cuban cigar aficionadoism. The Cuban cigar is the most natural product in the world: its tobacco is grown by peasant farmers without fertilisers or pesticides; it is harvested by the calloused hands of itinerant labourers; it is dried in ancient wooden barns, before being transported to Havana by horse-cart where it is rolled into a cigar using nothing more than the hard thigh of a dusky virgin. A Cuban cigar is a totally natural relaxant that promotes meditation, and stimulates the mind and body! What better match than cigars and yoga! Lord knows the average cigar aficionado could use some toning up.

Rising from my meditation I light the cigar and work the floor, opening up my arms and legs, hinging from the hips and bowing into a forward fold. My awareness of my body begins to grow, as I practice my ujjayi breathing, deep breaths from the diaphragm, regular to my movement. I come to all fours and raise my hips up into Downward Facing Dog, holding the pose, stretching out my back, my spine, before bringing it down through a vinyasa and into a sun salute. I inhale, very light tobacco, notes of cedar, a little cream, and then hold the breath as I go back through the stretch, letting the smoke cool in my mouth before exhaling through the nose. I go through the exercise for several more tokes before kicking the right leg high, my weight over my heart centre. I feel it beat with the rhythm of my breath; I feel it beat with the rhythm of the Montecristo A.

Montecristo A Montecristo Humidor a couple of inches gone, with coconut water

Forty five minutes in, and it’s so fucking hot in this room. When I’m upright sweat sticks in the hair on my legs; when inverted it runs down my arms and face, and I have to wipe it away before each new puff on the cigar. Sweat is good, sweat cleanses, but it’s no fun producing it. Taking a moment’s break in the lotus position I mop my forehead with the towel and take a drink from my coconut water. The cigar has thickened up, medium tobacco now, strong cedar and floral with a little honey. The coconut water is a perfect complement, just enough flavour to clear the pallet, but light enough that it dissipates instantly, leaving nothing to effect the flavour of the leaf.

I work the legs, lunges and warrior poses, always returning with the breath to the Down Dog and the inhalation. I move through the balance poses, keeping the cigar in my mouth or hand, an extension of my body, an insectoid feeler that aids in finding my centre and adds extra height to my Ardha Chandrasana, my Moon Salute. Nine inches is a lot of tar to filter out, and toward the end the cigar grows very bitter, but never loses its class; every puff has been wonderfully refined, absolutely top quality tobacco.

Montecristo A Montecristo Humidor final third

After three and a quarter hours I lay the nub down in the ash tray and return to the child’s pose, my forehead on the mat. The cigar is utterly spent, and so am I. I feel my heart slow, then stop. My body begins to melt, forming tendrils that ease their way through the soft foam of the mat and down into the floor, finding the cracks in the tiles, moving between the grains in the cement slab, and then down into the dry earth. They weave around pipes, around bones, around rubbish and the remnants of prior civilizations, making their way into the bedrock. I move under the vast bulk of the Himalayas, the Andes; under the cool weight of the oceans, past laval vents and whale drops; past tectonic rifts and continental shelf. After a time I feel a tug, and my tendrils entwine with those of another. She embraces me and pulls me up, up toward a small island in the Caribbean, up toward a sheltered valley named Vuelta Abajo. I burst from the earth, strong and green, a crown upon my head. I flex my broad leaves up, reaching, saluting the sun, my every limb extended to its limit, basking in the radiant glow. I drink in the sun’s energy and feel its power within myself, storing it as fragrant aroma and humming nicotine. A warm tropical breeze sweeps across the valley floor, and my leaves join in the murmur of the leaves of a million of my sisters as we gently sway singing the song of the fields.

I am happy. 

Montecristo A Montecristo Humidor nub and ashes, with rubbish

I awake with a start. A shiver runs down my spine. Hours have passed. The heater globe has gone out, and I lie in the dark on the cold, sweat-damp mat, my entire body stiff and aching. I stagger up and stare at my haggard face in the mirror, dark lines and crow’s feet, the speckled print of the yoga mat impressed upon my cheek. I reach out and touch the cold, dead glass. Is this all there is?

The Montecristo A from the Montecristo Humidor. Better than a Monte 4.

 

Montecristo A Montecristo Humidor on the Cuban Cigar Website.

Montecristo Salomones II Montecristo Humidor

I never understood 2004’s Montecristo Humidor. On the Cuban Cigar Website we list it as a ‘commemorative humidor,’ but what precisely is it commemorating? The official Habanos S.A. page for it gives no clues beyond a vague mention of “large cigars.” What it really reminds me of is a Partagás Mafia Special – a humidor commissioned by a store or regional distributor outside the auspices of Habanos S.A., into which regular production stock is then repackaged and sold at a premium – a sort of faux special release.  The Montecristo Humidor, however, is not that: the Montecristo Humidor is 100% official. Seven hundred were made; each one contains fifty Montecristo As (more on those later), and fifty of the cigar I am about to smoke, the Montecristo Salomones II.

Montecristo Salomones II Montecristo Humidor unlit

I tend to think of my review of the Compay 95 Salomones II a few weeks ago as a negative one because of what happened after: for the first time in decades I got sick. I finished the cigar at dusk and then ordered myself a pizza (I hadn’t really had anything to eat that day, and I was feeling woozy from the nicotine). I can’t remember what I did after that – I probably watched a movie or something – but whatever it was, it was a quiet night in. No substantial drinking. No staying up late. I was surprised, therefore, to wake up the next morning feeling extremely seedy. Compounding the problem was the fact that I was hosting a dinner party that night (the traditional Easter feast for the small religious cult of which I am a leading member) and at 10am two of my brethren were arriving to begin the preparations.

I held it together most of the day, but ultimately threw up in the evening as the scent of rich cooking began to climax. The pizza of the night before formed the main part of my expulsion, seemingly undigested despite more than 24 hours in my stomach. The illness lasted several days, the cause indeterminate. The pizza seemed fine (one of my brethren ate the leftovers and reported no issues), so perhaps it was the 40 year old chocolate liqueur (although I only had the smallest sip), or perhaps the blame lies in the three and a half hours spent with the Montecristo Salomones II.

Most likely it was some kind of stomach bug, but nonetheless, once you throw up with a taste fresh in your mouth you tend to be prejudiced against that thing for a while: consider all those girls who say “oh, I can’t drink tequila – I had a bad night on that stuff once” when you offer to buy them a shot for their twenty-something birthday. I feel like I am prejudiced against the Montecristo Salomones II.

It is a surprise, therefore, when the cigar begins wonderfully, with light tobacco over heavy cream, the flavour I most like to find in a Montecristo, and a certain honey sweetness. Delicious. One could ask for nothing more.

Montecristo Salomones II Montecristo Humidor, an inch gone, with Crystal Skull vodka

I’m accompanying this smoke with vodka and fresh squeezed orange juice in a 50/50 mix. The vodka is Crystal Head, a vodka that I desired for years based on the strong pitch of its owner, Dan Aykroyd, and that came to Australia a year or two ago, and a while after that I finally acquired. I was instantly disappointed. The bottle has mould lines, and generally doesn’t seem like the high quality carved artefact that Aykroyd portrays it as, and the vodka, well, is vodka. Perhaps there’s something about vodka I don’t get; I’m more than happy to be a wanker about rum, whisky, port, ever tequila, but vodka? To me there is a fine line of differentiation between absolutely undrinkable paint-thinner vodka, and ‘drinkable’ vodka, and on neither side of that line would I drink the stuff straight. With orange though? Refreshing.

Part way through a cedar flavour dominates, over a heavy herbal flavour, almost that of Chartreuse or other herbal liqueur. The cream has gone, and the tobacco has filled out a bit, though there’s no trace of tar, and the quality is obvious.

Around the halfway mark the doorbell rings, and I abandon the cigar for 40 minutes or so while I deal with a friend who is dropping off some video equipment. It’s 40 minutes too long: I had thought I’d only be a moment, and didn’t snip off the coal or blow the smoke out of it or make any preparations for letting the cigar extinguish, and when I relight it a dirty, ashen flavour dominates. It’s a pity, that a cigar like this would be tarnished by my neglect as it really was quite lovely up till now. Hopefully it will pass.

Montecristo Salomones II Montecristo Humidor, an inch left, with an honest lighter

What started out as a glorious sunny day has become overcast, and light rain begins to fall. That’s the problem with giant cigars like this (especially when you live in a city like Melbourne with highly erratic weather); you not only have to find a whole afternoon to devote to them, but you have to depend on the weather to hold for that entire time. I retreat to the porch, where the seats are much less comfortable and the table much more cramped, jamming myself in a bolt hole against the wall. The cigar has not recovered from its abandonment, and tastes only of ash and bitter tar. Somewhat unadvisedly I have switched to gin and tonic. I had no lemon, so I stuck a few slices of lime in there instead. Bitter quinine. Sour lime. Dirty ash. Five inches of tar, filtered down to the last inch. I’m cramped, uncomfortable and cold. There is nothing pleasant about this experience, and yet, how can I not persist? How can I let this cigar, a rare and wonderful dusky beauty, a cigar that was generously given to me, a cigar I am one of a very privileged few  to smoke; how can I turf this out into the rain and let it slowly dissolve in the cold and the wet?

I cannot, and I persist.

At the end it gets a little better mainly because I start to feel the nicotine more.

This started out so well, and would have been a great cigar if I hadn’t ruined it, so I feel it unfair to label it worse than a Monte 4… perhaps if it hadn’t been so long though?

A Harem of Dusky Beauties. Consistency.

Montecristo Salomones II Montecristo Humidor nub in a glass ashtray

 Montecristo Salomones II Montecristo Humidor on the Cuban Cigar Website