Best Cuban Cigar: Montecristo No. 2?

I finally tried, what many would consider, one of the best non-special edition Torpedo-shaped Cuban cigars on the market: the Montecristo No. 2. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of Torpedo-shaped cigars despite all the good reasons: easier to draw and more consistent draw, concentrated flavors, easier to grip in the mouth, and so forth, but everything is worth trying at least once, right?

Montecristo No. 2

Origin: Cuban
Format: Piramide (Torpedo/Pyramid)
Size: 6.1
Ring: 52
Box Date Code: June 2009
Wrapper: Cuban
Filler: Cuban
Binder: Cuban
Made: Handmade
Strength: Medium
Smoke Time: ~80 minutes
Price: ~$9 in a box of 25

Construction

As I’ve come to expect from Cuba’s largest exported cigar brand ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montecristo_%28cigar_brand%29)), the No. 2 is beautifully constructed although not the most attractive looking stick. The No. 2 feels heavy and solid in my hands, firm with no soft spots when squeezed and very well rolled as evidenced when inspecting the foot. The closes I have in size to the No. 2 are my Montecristo Edmundo which are about an inch shorter than the No. 2.

One interesting feature of this Pirámide vitola is that the foot is the thickest (ring gauge of 52) and tapers down slowly until it reaches the pointed head of the cigar which lends itself to the taste because the pyramid shape helps concentrate the flavors on a smaller part of your tongue.

A smooth and excellent draw, the No. 2 has very little veins throughout the cigar.

Of the few I’ve smoked so far, the burn is excellent requiring just the slight burn correction on one of the stick. The ash is mostly white with a few flakes and holds for about an inch before breaking off.

Flavor and Taste

I was initially hesitant on whether the No. 2 could live up to the hype; after all, many well-known celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Jack Nicholson, Michael Jordan, Michael Douglass, John Travolta, Demi Moore, Tom Selleck, Kinky Friedman, and James Woods count the No. 2 among their favorite smokes ((http://www.cigaraficionado.com/Cigar/CA_Profiles/People_Profile/0,2540,178,00.html)) and what celebrities like don’t always live up the hype. I’m so glad I broke down and tried them because the No. 2 is not only every bit as good as everyone says they are, they are mouth-watering good!

The Montecristo No. 2 starts out mild in the first third with hints of cedar and coffee and starts picking up strength in the second third with more pronounced flavors of coffee with some leather and chocolate with a touch of spiciness. By the last third, the cedar, leather, chocolate, coffee, and spicy flavors are at its peak until finish. I would definitely classify the No. 2 as a strong medium bodied cigar that is very smooth from beginning to end with complex flavors that leaves a very pleasant aftertaste that lingers for hours, as a great cigar should. The larger size will mean you need some time to fully enjoy the amazing flavors and is a great choice to enjoy when entertaining with friends. This is a cigar you do not want to rush or risk ruining the taste of this fine cigar.

Also, this is a personal preference, but I recommend not snipping off too much of the pointed cap. Snipping off too much may cause the cigar to unravel and you don’t get the same level of flavor concentration that comes from a Piramide shaped cigar.

According to the box code on my Montecristo No. 2 dress box, these sticks are from June 2009, not even a year old at the time of this writing and they already taste amazing. Given a few more years, these sticks will be divine, but I don’t see how I’ll be able to let them sit undisturbed for that long!

Value

For a cigar that taste this good at ~$10, this is a no-brainer box purchase. My buddy CigarInspector.com says it best: “Not overpriced, yet expensive – and worth every penny” ((http://www.cigarinspector.com/montecristo/montecristo-no-2)).

Conclusion

I have a buddy who really, really likes the Cohiba Esplendidos, willing to shell out $25 per stick, but after having the Montecristo No. 2, he’s hard-pressed on justifying the extra $15 for the Cohiba. Granted they are completely different cigars, but the Esplendidos and the No. 2 represent the best offerings of their respective brands so there is some room for comparison.

Prior to having the Montecristo No. 2, I thought the Edmundo was Montecristo’s best cigar as I couldn’t imagine how it could get any better, but the No. 2 changes all that,  fastly becoming my all-time favorite cigar, Cuban or not.

I can safely say that my humidor will never run out of the Montecristo No. 2.

Be sure to read these other great reviews on the Montecristo No. 2:

Montecristo No. 2 Gallery Pics

Cohiba Esplendido, Cuba’s Best Cigar?

The Cohiba Esplendidos often considered one of the finest Cuban cigars in the world as it is the perhaps the most counterfeited ((http://www.wsbt.com/news/consumer/17369179.html)) ((http://www.stogieguys.com/2008/05/05202008-stogie-review-cohiba-esplendido-cuban.html)). It’s not hard to see why: each cigar cost upwards of $30 USD, there is a huge profit margin to be made by counterfeiters and unless you regularly smoke the Esplendidos, it can be difficult to spot a fake. There are a number of great websites such as Havana Journal which has detailed photos and information on identifying fake or counterfeit Cohiba Esplendidos, but the old adage of “If it’s too good to be true…” should be a good starting point, although that’s not always the case. But this post isn’t about how to spot fakes, but what rather if the Cohiba Esplendido is as good as everyone says it is.

Cohiba Esplendidos

Origin: Cuban
Format: Churchill/Julieta No.2
Size: 6.9
Ring: 47
Wrapper: Cuban
Filler: Cuban
Binder: Cuban
Made: Handmade
Strength: Medium-Full
Smoke Time: ~80 minutes
Price: $30 per each, $18.60 in a box of 25

Construction

I have always found how unimpressive looking the Esplendidos are; other than for the famous Cohiba cigar band and the large size, there is nothing distinguishing or flashy. Compared to how beautifully constructed a Fuente Opus X is, the Esplendido looks like a Honda Accord next to a Ferrari. There are few minor veins on an otherwise smooth dark caramel wrapper.

The two Esplendidos I’ve had so far did not have any burn issues, but did need a few burn corrections. My buddy who also smoked one with me did experience some crazy burn issues that resulted in a very bad burn that was never correctable, although it did not affect the taste. The salt-and-pepper ash is unimpressive and barely held on for more than an inch, even when I was trying. The cigar remained lit and the draw was initially tight in the beginning, but clipping off more of the cap resulted in a looser draw.

Otherwise, no construction issues.

Flavor & Taste

For the first 1/3rd of the cigar, I found it to be ever so slightly bitter with a grass taste, but once we progressed into the 2nd and final third of the cigar it settled to more woody/cedar with some spicy tastes to it. The Cohiba Esplendidos starts off mild to medium and becomes be mostly medium body in the 2nd third and a bit stronger by the final third, but never really reaching full bodied taste. The final third is probably the best part of this cigar as the flavor is at its most intense yet the cigar remains buttery smooth.

Throughout the entire smoke, you can get decent clouds of white smoke on each draw. Many tend to describe cigar smoke as pungent and disgusting, but I’ve found the smoke produced by the Esplendidos to be pleasing, although I wouldn’t recommend prolonged (or any) exposure to second-hand smoke…

Value

Next to the Opus X, these are the most expensive cigars I’ve smoked. For nearly $30 a cigar, this will definitely be a special occasion treat. But in all honesty, I think the Cohiba Esplendidos are overpriced.

Conclusion

While many go ga-ga over the Esplendidos, I have to say, considering the price, I wasn’t impressed. There are a number of other cigars that I am quite happy with that can be “daily-smokes” without breaking the bank such as the Montecristo Edmundos or Bolivar Royal Coronas, but then again those aren’t Cohibas. There’s a certain prestige, justified or not, smoking Cohibas just as there is choosing a Rolex over a Timex, but to each his own.

Would I purchase the Esplendidos if I could? Probably not. The flavors and tastes just wasn’t there enough for me to justify the three times the cost over the Edmundos, which are one of my favorite go to cigars. YMMV.

Be sure to check-out these other excellent Cohiba Esplendidos reviews:

Cohiba Esplendidos Gallery Pics