This is essentially a Montecristo No. 1 that has been banded as a Dunhill Selection. In the late 1960’s the Dunhill company reached a deal with the Cubans to produce a few brands for them and them alone, namely Don Candido, Don Alfredo and Flor Del Punto, as well as a number of cigars from other marques that were sold as Dunhill Selección cigars with special bands and boxes, of which this is one. All of these were discontinued in 1982 with the introduction of the Dunhill brand, and the Dunhill brand itself was discontinued in 1991 after a spat between Dunhill and the Cubans, but that’s a story for another day.
Like many of my singles, this cigar was given to me a gift and I can’t speak for certain as to its age, however, given the discontinuation date, it must be at least 30 years old, and quite possibly older. The Dunhill exclusive brands have all gone on to become legendary cigars, much sought after at vintage cigar auctions, however not so much these selection cigars. I think you’d struggle to find someone with specific enough insider knowledge of the late 1970s Cuban cigar industry to say for certain one way or the other whether these cigars were the same blend as the regular production Monte 1s (and I lack the necessary 30 year old regular Monte to tell you myself), but my suspicion is that they are probably identical. The difference, if there is one, would come from superior quality control on Dunhill’s end.
I set this one on fire, and my first thought is that is has a lot of punch for a cigar this old. Strong, rich, toasted tobacco right through the nose. Draw is perfect. Wonderful. I’m pairing this cigar with Ron Zacapa XO, a fine old rum for a fine old cigar. Zacapa XO is a blended rum (which is to say, rum blended with quite a lot of sugar if you ask me), and their copy tells us that it is composed of rums aged six to twenty five years. To think, a quarter of a century ago this rum was sugarcane, this cigar was fairly fresh, and I was wearing short pants.
An inch or so in and the flavour has mellowed out into something like what you expect from a very old cigar, but the cigar is having trouble holding its burn; I’ve had to retouch it several times. There is a gentle gusty breeze on the loose, and although I have moved the cigar into the lee of the Zacapa, it is nonetheless having trouble holding its ash. The ash itself is a dark, mottled grey, not the pure white that one often finds in elderly cigars like this.
I remember my first Monte No. 1. I purchased it for my 19th birthday, and took it to a very nice cocktail bar with some friends. There were four of us, with two cigars between us, and being 19 year old boys with a lot more knowledge of James Bond than of life, we ordered martinis (quite possibly my first martini), which were listed on the menu for a then exorbitant price of $15. “We usually make them with Tanqueray” the waitress said, “but I can do them with Tanq 10 if you like… it’s a little smoother.” “Yes, yes, of course” we enthusiastically replied, having no idea what Tanqueray or Tanq 10 were, but wanting nothing but the best. The drinks came, and being nineteen and more accustomed to vodka raspberry than anything else (I don’t think I was even drinking beer at 19), we found them disgusting, and when the bill arrived at our table, which of course included the upsell price of $25 for the Tanq 10, we found ourselves disinclined to order another drink. The Monte No. 1, however, is not a short cigar, and so we soldiered on. We were laughing loudly, I’m sure, like the young hooligans we were, and one of my non-smoking compatriots was tearing up a box of candy cigarettes he had in his pocket and throwing the pieces into the candle, which was burning like a small bonfire. Eventually the glass candle holder cracked and melted wax leaked all over the table, and moments later we were thrown out. I clipped the end from my Monte (of which three or so inches remained) and put it in a tube to smoke at a later date.
Two months later that very same pyromaniac (he came from a good Christian family), got married. It was an afternoon reception, and so, at 7pm, filled to the brim with boyish glee and free champagne, my friend Andrew and I found ourselves out on the town and ready to celebrate. We headed, of course, to a strip club; the dirtiest, and more importantly, the cheapest strip club we could find, and I produced from my pocket the remains of my Montecristo No. 1 (aficionado hot tip, people: cigars should not be half smoked and then stored in a tube for two months). I can’t image how it tasted, but I loved it, and in we plunged, taking two seats, right up against the main stage. We were there for 45 minutes or so, and turned down all the girls who asked us if we wanted a private dance. Eventually one came up with a jug full of money and explained that they were having a lesbian show on the stage in 5 minutes, and requested that we contribute. Being a diplomat above all else, I gave her a token amount, $5, but Andrew, he waved her away. “No thank you”, he said. In increasingly forceful tones the girl explained that we were sitting right on the stage, and had been for some time, and that he really had to contribute some money or cede his seat. At this, Andrew defiantly withdrew a five cent coin from his pocket (the smallest unit of Australian currency) and tossed it contemptuously into the jug.
Suffice to say, we were thrown out shortly after. I don’t remember what happened to the cigar. I suppose I left it in the ashtray.
Two thirds in, this cigar is delightful, an aged, creamy elegance, with just a touch of spice. A little tar on the back palette is easily dissolved by the rum. I take it down till it burns my fingers, and it grows a little bitter, but not very, the age has taken away a lot of the tar. In the last few puffs something strange materialises… a tangy herb… cilantro, maybe? Perhaps the bite of a nasturtium? It’s interesting, but it lasts for only a moment. A wonderful, elegant cigar.
Better than a Monte 4.