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.
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.
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.
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.