Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Smoking Lounge Review: Hoyo De Monterrey Épicure No. 2

(Click on the picture above to read the insert.)
Size: 4 7/8"(124 mm)
Weight: 11.66 grams
Originated: SEP 06
Vitola: Robusto
Country of Origin: Cuba

Info: In 1831, Don José Gener y Batet emigrated to Cuba from Spain at the age of thirteen, where he worked on his uncle's plantation in Vuelta Abajo. Twenty years later, he would open his own cigar factory in Havana and begin producing his own cigar line, La Escepción. In 1865, after using his factory's profits to acquire one of the best tobacco farms in Vuelta Abajo, he registered a cigar line named for it: Hoyo de Monterrey.

Literally translating from Spanish to English as "the hole of Monterrey" in reference to the concave terrain favored by growers of premium tobacco, the brand became incredibly popular, especially in the British market, and José Gener's factory subsequently became one of the largest factories in Cuba. In 1900, Gener died in Spain and his daughter Lutgarda Gener took over the business and it would stay in the family for another thirty years.

In 1931, the Gener family sold their cigar brands in order to focus more on their sugar cane properties. The firm of Fernández, Palicio y Cía bought the Hoyo de Monterrey and La Escepción brands and added them to their impressive lineup, which already included Punch and Belinda. Around this time in the 1940s, the Le Hoyo series (along with the Chateaux series which would later be used to create the Davidoff cigar line) was created for Swiss distributor A Dürr Co.. After the death of partner Ramón Fernández, Fernando Palicio became sole proprietor of the business and by 1958 his cigar lines accounted for 13% of all Havana cigar exports.

After the embargo was set against Cuba by the United States, Fernando Palicio fled Cuba for Florida, where he subsequently sold his cigar lines to the Villazon family, which has continued to make Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey, and Belinda cigars from Honduran tobacco for the American market.

Cuba subsequently nationalized the tobacco industry and Hoyo de Monterrey continued production and is still a popular, globally-marketed Cuban cigar line. Among connoisseurs, the Épicure No. 2, Double Coronas, and Le Hoyo series are particularly prized.

Being a globally-marketed brand, Hoyo de Monterrey has been chosen for Habanos' annual Edición Limitada releases since 2000. Of interesting note is the Particular, which had some production problems during the first Edición Limitada lineup in 2000 with few of the cigars getting out to vendors. This prompted Habanos to release it again the next year, the only Edición Limitada cigar so far to have had this happen. In 2004, a new size was added to the Hoyo de Monterrey line, the Petit Robusto, which also wore a slightly-redesigned Hoyo de Monterrey cigar band.

Hoyo de Monterrey also produces two machine-made cigarillos: the Mini and the Midi.

Before we get to the meat of this review, it has to be said up front. I LOVE THIS CIGAR. It is definitely my favorite habano cigar, and could very possibly be my favorite cigar of all time. I have reviewed this cigar twice before. The first time was for a cigar forum that has since crashed and it has been lost for all eternity. The second time was for a bourbon forum as a pairing and isn't the ideal treatment of the cigar on its own merits. I reprinted it in the early days of this blog, and you can read it at your own risk. This is my take at rectifying the fact I haven't done a decent review of this cigar. So, if you are looking for a unbiased and fair review, then you may not want to look here. If you want a peak into just how much enjoyment you can have if you can acquire a few of these for your very own, then please by all means, read on.

Appearance: These are beautiful looking cigars, and I really do not think I am exaggerating when I say this. I mean, I have had several of these before (Split a cabinet of these with Mikey back in '04, back before they came with bands. I have also had several before, and since) and none have looked quite like these. Not only was the specimen I picked at random for today's tasting packed firm and even, the wrapper was without prominent veins or obvious flaws. And oh what a wrapper this cigar had! I sure hope the photos I have taken properly capture how tasty the wrapper looks. This cigar had a great oily sheen to it, and is decidedly rosy in hue. If I did not know anything about this cigar but its looks, I would be excited to smoke it, so you can bet you know how anxious to get on with it.Pre-Light: Running this cigar under my nose revealed that wonderful aroma that only a cigar lover can appreciate. The enticing "horse stall" earthiness that only a habano will have. Clipping the expertly applied triple cap was a snap, and the cut was clean and flush. Pre Light draw was easy and revealed more of that lush earthiness and along with a hint of tobacco tanginess.
Burn/Draw: Quite simply, a dream. The draw was free and easy, and this cigar produced more than enough blue grey, fragrant smoke (see picture above). The burn was up to the task as well. This was a bit surprising, because if I was pressed to find a complaint about the Epi #2, it would be that on occasion the burn on these cigars can get a little goofy. That was not the case on this cigar. The burn was pretty straight the whole way down the length of the stick, and the few times it did wander off course, it self corrected within a minute or two. There wasn't much a cone formed the one time I had to knock ash (see below) but that really didnt seem to affect the burn at all, so meh. The ash was firm, and held well, and a nice contrasting mottle of bright white and rather dark black.Flavors: Upon first lighting, the initial puffs brought forth a strong and sweet burst of tangy tobacco flavors. Soon afterward, the patented rich, damp earthy undertone settled in, where it remained for the length of the cigar. The smoke over the first half of the cigar was rich and creamy and round in the mouth, with a touch of a sweet note, maybe cinnamon, and a vegetal note that I had noticed in the past. I find it a quite intriguing and positive thing, but I could see if some don't. About the halfway point it started to gather some momentum and spicyness. Notes of pepper and woody cedar made there way forward over the ever present earthiness, and built to a mostly peppery finish. This cigar is not a powerhouse, I would say it it firmly medium bodied and medium in strength. This in no way means that it lacks in flavor.

Like I said in the opening, you can tell easily what my recommendation regarding this cigar would be. In the case of this specific cigar, you can easily tell that it is a young cigar, with the tangy and vegetal tastes I noticed. What else you would notice, is that all the hallmarks of a good cigar are here, and that with some aging, it may achieve the balance of boldness of flavor and refinement of taste that some truly great cigars have. To that end, I am going to try my hardest to limit myself to one cigar a month from this box, so we can see how this cigar develops over time. This will probably not be the last you hear of this box of Epicure No. 2s. Until then, my recommendation is obviously:

If you can find some of these cigars from 2006, GET THEM!
(oh, the humanity!)



Jeebus said...

beautiful stogie and a great review Tom... ;)

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