Review: Montecristo Espada
Problem: Having so many different brands and blends of cigars and deciding what to smoke next. Ugh.
Surely, I’m not the only guy who suffers this malady. Someone might say “what are you pairing it with?” or “what strength and flavors are you craving?” or even “how ‘bout that guy in the corner of your humidor you keep ignoring for some stupid reason.” This could go on ad nauseam. One thing I’ve learned is that I prefer variety. I have my go-tos, my flavor bombs, my mediums and my boom sticks for those moments when another human pushes me to the margins of my sanity and you know, lighting them on fire isn’t legal.
If I bought a box of every cigar I fell in love with, the house I’m building for my in-laws would house my cigars instead (sorry Mom & Dad). Going for the popular and critically acclaimed (by smoker and reviewers alike) is a given, but discovering new, underground and even unheralded smokes is something all true aficionados should be engaged in. I love finding these sticks with brands and names no one has ever heard of, you know, like the “El Banjo Pendejo” [not a real cigar]. You give ‘em a shot and see what happens.
Anyway, you can see where this can quickly get out of hand. So, while I had numerous newly released, unheralded and popular sticks to choose from, I chose the guy in the corner I kept ignoring. Montecristo cigars (non-Cuban) are some of the first real cigars I ever smoked back in the 90s and they became one of my favorites because they were mild to medium and, at the time, didn’t make me want to shave my tongue afterward. I’ve always kept a few “yellows”, Classics and White Series on hand, but one day my wife gifted me with an Espada, a fat, gorgeous looking Churchill.
I tucked her in the humi thinking I’d save it for a special occasion. Well, fate is cruel as other sticks arrived that made better celebration fodder and alas, the poor Espada became forgotten. Every time I opened the humi, there she was, glaring at me. Teasing me. Taunting me. No! Don’t pick that nasty ass El Banjo Pendejo…After about a year, the patient Espada finally had her day. Salud!
Montecristo, like Cohiba, H Upmann and Hoyo De Monterey, exemplify the classic Cuban cigar. Considered relatively new compared to its competitors, the Cuban Montecristo brand was created in 1936 by Alonso Menéndez after he purchased the old Particulares factory which also made the popular Particulares and Byron brands. In searching for a name for his new brand, Menéndez was inspired by the torcedores’ love of the novel by Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo, often read by the lector on the rolling floor.
The name stuck and since then the Montecristo brand accounts for over one quarter of Habanos SA’s sales and revenue globally. Montecristo is considered the most popular Cuban cigar brand (the #2 the most popular vitola) on the planet by volume. Menéndez would later flee Cuba after the revolution and move his factory, after a stop and flop in the Canary Islands, to the Dominican Republic in the mid 1970s. Now owned by the US conglomerate, Altadis, Montecristo continues to dominate to a new, loyal fan base with unique, multi-national blends often in consult with blending maestros like the Plasencia family and AJ Fernandez.
Grupo De Maestros ©Altadis USA
Did you know: The Espada is the first Montecristo Nicaraguan Puro
- Profile: Medium-Full
- Vitola: Quillon [Churchill Grande]
- Length / Ring Gauge: 7.0″/ 56
- Purchased: Gift
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Nicaragua – Habano Jalapa Vintage 2010
- Binder: Nicaragua – Habano Jalapa Vintage 2009
- Filler: Nicaragua – Habano Jalapa Seco Vintage 2008, Habano Jalapa Viso Ometepe Vintage 2008 and Habano Condega Ligero Vintage 2008 fillers
- Cutter: Colibri V-cut
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird
- Price Range: $11.80 – $13.80
The word Espada is Spanish for ‘sword’ and the vitola, Quillon, is a reference to the cross-piece perpendicular to the hilt of the sword. The cigar is unique in many ways. First, it was co-blended by 8 masters, with over 100 years’ experience combined, who are collectively referred to as the Grupo De Maestros. Next, this cigar represents the first all-Nicaraguan puro to be produced by Montecristo. Lastly, this cigar is produced using not only tobacco from the Plasencia farm but is produced in their factory as well.
The cigar is critically acclaimed by Cigar Aficionado, but their scores have been, well, all over the place. From 2014 through 2016, the Quillon received scores of 90, 91 and 92 respectively and grabbed the #20 Cigar of the Year honors in 2015. Yet last year it received a score of 88. Could there be factory consistency issues or reviewer dementia? Perhaps.
This all-Habano tobacco lovely comes in 4 vitolas and is packaged in boxes of 10. The firmness of this big cigar is surprisingly uniform. The cap work on my Quillon looks a bit haphazard for a vintage premium cigar. The labeling is attractive if not a little over the top. I can’t help but feel that you’re paying for that. The oily vintage Habano wrapper is a gorgeous whiskey bronze and is slightly veiny and toothy. The aromas are a wonderful chocolate and salted caramel. The scent of raisins and chocolate from the foot is subtle for a big cigar. Again, more raisins and chocolate on the cold draw, which by the way is excellent.
The initial puffs on this wide body were, in a word, religious. Bathed in a nutty essence, the nougat, leather, black pepper and cream are rich, deep and plentiful. The toasty finish is awesome. There’s a tang of cedar on the inhale with notes of baking spice on the retro. I literally wrote, “OMG” in my notes. So, OMG!
Well-aged tobacco is so smooth and those used in the cigar are spot on. This cigar has no rough edges. The voluminous billows of smoke have a floral aroma which adds to the smoking experience. The inhale gets toasty as she burns. Combustion is not perfect, but no touch ups were required. She is a slow burner.
This old girl transitions into a toasty profile with hints of leather continuing. The cedar that was lingering gets stronger and is noticeable on the finish. Along with some maple essence and dark chocolate notes in the background there is a wonderful graham cracker flurry on the retro. Prior to the final transition she is definitely getting more woody with baked bread in the finish. Combustion has become more consistent and even.
She finally transitions into more of a full body with medium-full strength. The palette is dominated by roasted coffee bean and wood. There is some delightful hints of caramel now, but it seems a bit unbalanced and less complex. As you get down passed the. 2″ mark, she does get a tad harsh and decides to bite back with an uptick in spice. Combustion is now flawless.
For a big cigar, this old gal has got some game to her. This is one tasty and thoroughly enjoyable smoke. The highs are definitely the rich and smooth character along with the wonderful complex flavor profile. There’s no question after you’ve made your way through 5 inches of Nicaraguan goodness, the cigar loses its character a bit and becomes harsh. To be clear: harsh, not to be confused with strength. That was a bit disappointing.
To all of a sudden go from a shiatsu massage for your taste buds, to “well, gotta run” is a bit of a let down. I was really hoping they would pull off something really special with a 7″ flavor bomb. She’s a slow burner so be prepared to make your appointment for 2 hours. This baby is worth every penny and then some. Personally, I would not rate this a “go-to” due to its sheer girth, but certainly a 5 pack to keep cozy in your humi for any time you consider special. Don’t ignore her! – In Fumo Pax!