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

Bolivar Royal Corona Cigar Review

Bolivar is a Cuban cigar company named after Venezuelan warrior Simon Bolivar and the cigars are rumored to be the strongest flavored Cubans ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bol%C3%ADvar_%28cigar_brand%29)).Today we review the Bolivar Royal Corona, the Robusto vitola that packs a lot of complex flavors.

I have a feeling I’m not going to be disappointed.

Bolivar Royal Corona

Origin: Cuban
Format: Robusto
Size: 4.8
Ring: 50
Wrapper: Cuban
Filler: Cuban
Binder: Cuban
Made: Handmade
Strength: Medium-Full
Smoke Time: ~45 minutes
Price: $7.16 in a box of 25

Construction

The Bolivar Royal Corona is a very well rolled Cuban cigar with minimal veins throughout the wrapper leaf. It has a nice rustic-brown color that is very similar to one of my other favorite Robusto cigars, the Ramon Allones Specially Selected (RASS), I have noticed that the Royal Coronas are consistently better rolled than the RASS with less construction issues. And like the RASS, the Bolivar Royal Corona has a slight box press.

Everyone of Bolivars that I’ve squeezed have no soft spots with a slight spongy feel. The triple-cap is nicely applied, but still not as nicely done as the ones on the Montecristo Edmundo, but obviously an issue that has little to do with taste or flavor and more with aesthetics. Looking at the foot of the cigar, it seems to be rolled tightly and packed with plenty of tobacco.

The Bolivar Royal Corona burns evenly requiring very few adjustments to correct any slight uneven burning. The ash holds firm for an inch to inch-and-half before breaking off. The draw is great, easy to pull with just the right enough of resistance.

Flavor & Taste

The Royal Corona is a full-body cigar with lots of powerful taste, but not overly kick-you-in-the-ass strong. Pre-light flavors are spicy, peppers, and mildly earthy.

Once lit, the predominant taste is pepper with roasted almonds and coffee. Occasionally I’ll enjoy the Royal Corona with a Grande Starbucks Chai tea and they compliment each other well.

I like how it’s almost buttery smooth like the Montecristo Edmundos and leaves a pleasant aftertaste. The flavors come out best, never getting harsh, at the last-third mark where you can’t resist nubbing it to where it burns your fingers.

Value

At $7.16 a cigar when purchased in a box of 25 is certainly not a bad value. With solid construction, great taste, and a 45-minute smoke time, you can’t go wrong with a box of these in the humidor.

Conclusion

Between the RASS and the Royal Corona, those are my go-to stick when looking for a daily smoke. With strong, complex flavors that never leaves you bored, it’s a great cigar for those days you’re looking for something different. A box purchase of these are a no brainer. This cigar is definitely on my recommended cigar list.

As always, be sure to checkout these other great reviews of the Bolivar Royal Corona:

Bolivar Royal Corona Gallery Pictures

Montecristo Petit Edmundo vs Montecristo Edmundo

Every Montecristo Edmundo cigar I’ve smoked have been exquisite, but I don’t always have the 90-minutes to enjoy them fully. I was super excited to see that Montecristo offers an 1-inch shorter version, aptly named the Petit Edmundo, that retains all the great flavors in a shorter vitola.

I was planning to review the Petit Edmundo without many comparisons to its larger brother, the Edmundo, but there are more similarities than differences of the two vitolas. So this review will be different that other cigar reviews in that it is more of a comparison between the two Edmundos.

20091229-Montecristo-Petit-Edmundo-Bui4Ever-004

Montecristo Petit Edmundo

Origin: Cuba
Format: Petit Robusto
Size: 4.3
Ring: 52
Wrapper: Cuban
Filler: Cuban
Binder: Cuban
Made: Handmade
Strength: Medium/Full
Smoke Time: ~45 minutes
Price: $7.56, box of 25

Construction

The Petit Edmundos has a nice oily-sheen milk chocolate-brown wrapper with many fine veins very similar to the Edmundos. I noticed with the Petit Edmundo, the triple cap seems to be hastily applied on more than a few sticks, surprising since the Montecristo Edmundo has some of the best looking triple caps I’ve seen of the Cuban cigars I’ve tried.

20091229-Montecristo-Petit-Edmundo-Bui4Ever-011The Petit Edmundos I’ve tried so far, all of them have exhibited consistent smooth draws; not too tight and not too loose giving you nice bellows of smoke. The Petit Edmundo is solidly built with no hint of soft spots when squeezed. The burn is decent, solid and slow with salt-and-pepper colored ash that holds on for an inch or more easily. The occasional minor burn corrections are needed to keep the Petit Edmundo burning evenly.

I was surprised to find that the Petit Edmundo has a larger ring guage (52mm) than the Edmundo (50mm) despite advertising suggesting otherwise. I can’t imagine this is a typo as many other online cigar review sites have listed the Edmundo and Petit Edmundo as having 52mm ring gauges. The Edmundos I own are not counterfeits, so it’s a bit perplexing. So as an FYI, the Montecristo Petit Edmundo has a 52mm ring gauge and the Montecristo Edmundo has a 50mm ring gauge. [2010-01-22 UPDATE: So this is quite interesting, I just received a box of 25 of the Montecristo Edmundo and it has a ring size of 52mm. It seems like the Montecristo Edmundo tubos have a slightly smaller ring gauge for whatever reason.]

When purchased in a box, the Montecristo cedar dress box is absolutely beautifully constructed with perfect hinges and a similar decorative lock type latch found on the Cohiba dress boxes, minus the shiny veneer finish on the Cohiba.

The Montecristo cigar band has also changed. The 2007 band on my Edmundos are plain, faded milk chocolate-brown and cheap looking where the 2009 cigar band is darker brown with raised lettering and accents. The new bands look better and less counterfeit looking. According to this website, the Montecristo band was changed sometime in 2007.

Flavors & Taste

20091230-Montecristo-Petit-Edmundo-Bui4Ever-013According to the box code, the Petit Edmundos I have are dated as May 2009, unusually young Cubans, and despite better judgment, I couldn’t resist trying one as soon I received my box. While I can taste the same flavors as the Edmundo, there is a bit of bitterness which I attribute to the youngness factor. The Edmundos I have are more than twice the age and the flavors and taste on those are finally settling in real nice. That’s unfortunate as I don’t think I can let the Petit Edmundo sit undisturbed for a year or more without enjoying some. They don’t taste bad, but when you know how good they can be with age, it’s hard to fully enjoy. I’ll try and let them sit in my humidor for a month and see if the taste settles any better.

Otherwise, pre-light taste has hints of almond, chocolate, and pepper. The flavors of the Petit Edmundo is identical to the Edmundo. Flavors remain consistent throughout to the nub. The Petit Edmundo is classified as medium-full bodied as with the Edmundo. There are also a number of people who seem to prefer the Petit over the full-size Edmundo.

Value

A box of 25 sets you back $189 USD where the Edmundo is slightly more at $220 USD. Despite being slightly shorter than a typical Robusto, the larger ring gauge should make it burn about the same speed.

Conclusion

I’m a big Robusto fan and the size of the Petit Edmundo is about right for my on-the-go life where the Edmundo is better suited for when time is not a concern. In short, the Montecristo Petit Edmundo has the famous Montecristo taste and you can’t go wrong with having a box or even a few sticks of these in your humidors. Despite designed to be a quicker smoke, I would definitely suggest that you take the time to savior each and every draw and the wonderful taste of this cigar.

Check out these other great reviews on the Petit Edmundo:

Montecristo Petit Edmundo Gallery Pictures

Montecristo Edmuno Cigar Review

Next to Cohiba, Montecristo is perhaps one of the most recognizable Cuban cigar brand in the world. Their flagship cigar, the Montecristo No. 2, considered one of the finest full-bodies torpedo cigars made by many cigar aficionados, rated as a 94 by Cigar Aficionado (Feb 2008 edition).

I, not being a fan of torpedo shaped cigars or full-bodied Cubans (yet), opted for the Montecristo Edmundo. Montecristo also makes a shorter version, the Petit Edmundo, which is also very highly rated for those who are shorter on time or prefer a smaller vitola. I have not  tried the Petit Edmunodo yet, but from what I hear, it hits the sweet spot sooner. Definitely on my to try next list.

20091210-Montecristo-Edmundo-Cuban-Cigar-008

Montecristo Edmundo

Origin: Cuba
Format: Robusto
Size: 5.3
Ring: 50
Wrapper: Cuban
Filler: Cuban
Binder: Cuban
Made: Handmade
Smoke Time: ~90 minutes
Price: $8.80, box of 25

Construction

20091210-Montecristo-Edmundo-Cuban-Cigar-002Beautifully constructed, this Robusto vitola named after Edmundo Dantes, the hero in Alexandro Dumas’ famous novel, “The Count of Montecristo”, a favorite reading for the torcedores of the Montecristo brand.

This is a large puro measuring 5.3 inches with a 50 ring. There is hardly any veins in the wrapper with no soft spots when gently squeezed. There is plenty of tobacco packed into this beast. The wrapper has a nice naturally, oily sheen and smells great. (2010-01-25 UPDATE: I found something quite interesting. Apparently the Montecristo Edmundos that come in the tubos are 50mm ring gauges where the Edmundos from a box of 25 are 52mm. Not entirely sure why the tubed version would be noticeably smaller.)

The cigar band is a very simple design, perhaps the smallest and least decorative of its other Cuban brothers. The band design is so boring and uninspiring (Montecristo name on top and Habana at the bottom with a Fleur in the middle) you could think the cigar was a counterfeit if not for the beautiful construction, the perfect triple cap, and the robust flavors.

I received the Montecristo Edmundo 3-pack that comes in a very nice package, complete the Country’s seals of authenticity. The Edmundo in the 3-packs come in a very attractive yellow metal tubo with the ornate Montecristo logo, the cigar name, and a bar-code on each. Inside, lays an Edmundo wrapped in a thin piece of cedar to help lock in the flavor. What’s great about the metal tubos is that they prevent the cigar from getting damaged when traveling with a stick. Normally I carry cigars i plan on consuming in a Cigar Caddy, but with the tubos I can travel light and not worry my cigar being destroyed in my pocket or bag. Even with the tubos, you’ll still need to place them in a humidor to keep them until you’re ready to enjoy them.

[showads]

My friends and I have not had any burn issues with the Montecristo Edmundo. Once started, it keeps a very precise burn until the end, no corrections needed. The salt-and-pepper ash produced is solid an holds for an inch-and-half easily. Because of the size and how well it’s packed, it’s easy to get large billows of nice white smoke.

Flavor and Taste

20091210-Montecristo-Edmundo-Cuban-Cigar-006The Montecristo Edmundo has a wonderful medium-to-full-bodied taste that remains unchanged except near the end. The flavors are buttery, with pepper, vanilla, chocolate with a hint of coffee beans throughout, but pickup more in pepper once you hit the last 1/3rd.

This is a cigar that you need adequate time to enjoy. Try rushing it and the strong flavors will kick your ass like gulping down hard Scotch, shot after shot. To truly appreciate this masterpiece, you need to take sips and let the taste flow around in your mouth before letting it out. I’ve tried to smoke these down to the nub a few times, but the flavors get too strong for me near the end, so generally I know when it’s time to put it down, it’s time to put it down. Also because this is more of a medium-to-full body cigar, make sure you have a hearty meal before enjoying one, or you will get sick.

The 5-pack of 3-packs (15 cigars) I have has a date code 2007 of making them 2 years-old (3 years, if you consider that the leaves are aged a year before being used) and from what I’ve read, can only get better with age.

Value

Purchased in a box of 25, the Montecristo Edmundo works out to $8.80 per stick. Purchased individually, the cost becomes a bit more on the pricey side of ~$13. Even at $13 a cigar, I definitely think it’s worth the value unlike the $36 Opus X Churchill I had.

For those who can legally acquire these beauties, they come as a single tubo, a 3-pack of tubos, a 5-pack of 3-packs (15 Edmundos), and a clamshell box of 25.

Conclusion

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This has become one of my favorite cigars, so far. If you want to experience Cuban cigars at its finest, I would certainly recommend the Edmundo for its beautiful construction and yummy flavors. For $8.80 a cigar, you’ll be hard pressed to find even a Cohiba that taste as good for the same price.

Be sure to read other reviews:

Montecristo Edmuno Gallery