Origin : Cuba
Format : Cremas
Size : 5 1/2″ x 40 ring gauge (140mm x 15.87mm)
Strength : Light to Medium
Price : ~ € 4,50 / $ 5.40 each
H. Upmann cigars are classified by Habanos S.A. as light to medium strength and as a global brand in their portfolio.
The brand was first introduced in 1844.
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The Herman Upmann Majestic is a modest-priced long, fully hand-rolled Cuban cigar, with a mild, pleasing tho sometimes fading flavour palette, but too often a very tight, laborious draw.
At the Habanos shop, it’s a tempting purchase, given that amongst long Cuban cigars (5 1/2″ – 140mm or more), the Upmann Majestic is not only from a famous Cuban global brand, but usually the lowest-price hand-rolled long Cuban stick for sale, in a wider-than-panetela thickness. Looking very substantial, the ‘light-to-medium’ strength Majestic suggests a long, pleasant afternoon smoke, but the frequency of very tight draws with this 40-ring-gauge cigar, diminishes its value for money.
Given the low price point for a hand-rolled long-filler Cuban, it’s not surprising the Upmann Majestics can be a bit rough and varied in appearance. The one here has a darker wrapper than usual, which I selected in the hope – true as it turns out – there might be some additional sweet flavour in it.
A severely tight draw, was true in this case as with some other Majestics I’ve had. This is a problem generally with slender-gauge Cubans, frustrating for a panetela-type guy like myself. With narrow Cubans, I think there tends to be some over-packing as the cigar is reinforced in the band area, where your fingers would grasp it. This often needs to be loosened up.
What saved the smoke with this Majestic, was my trusty cigar-piercing tool, an item which I heartily recommend to all Cuban stogie aficionados. The single blade on mine is 7cm (2 3/4″) long, and has saved many a ‘plugged’ cigar from the dustbin. Not all cigar merchants have these, but mine was less than €20 at a Habanos shop.
Pre-draw after punching had the appealing Upmann wood with creaminess, and a bit of sweetness too. But after lighting, my battle with the draw began, extending through nearly all of the first third of the cigar, the stick needing several pokes and twists of my cigar tool.
When I could coax some smoke, there was some nice but mild cedar, some cream, bitter but pleasing fruit rind, a bit of spice. I overheated the cigar at moments with all my puffing work. At the end of the first third I finally won the battle with the tight draw, and then could proceed to a normal cigar enjoyment.
The other aspect of these Majestics that is negative, is some flavour fade. Upmanns sometimes keep more aroma than flavour, and that was true here. Flavour in general is a bit mild, but sometimes goes missing in action.
But as the draw eased, the middle third showed some good flavour richness at points. Adding to the woodiness and bit of cream, were some hints of coffee and even a bit of caramel, perhaps from the unusually dark wrapper here. Along with flavour bursts there were moments when flavour was barely there … and then new mild bursts appeared, more cedar and now with some citrus along with the bitter fruit rind.
The final section had more rewards, as if to repay me for all my hard work in the first third. There were more spice notes, some roasted nut sensations that at moments was decently strong. After some final bursts there, flavour went missing again approaching the nub, signalling time to say farewell.
Burn was a bit uneven but not too bad, slowed of course by the tight draw. Ash on this one was a bit odd and zebra-like, black and white and grey, holding fairly well and leaving a nice point after drop-off.
Given the draw issues that recur with the Majestics, I’m inclined to suggest alternatives to it, despite its low price for a hand-rolled long Cuban. For a battle-free session with a 40-ring-gauge Cuban, I would suggest going big in price, as with a curly-cap Trinidad Reyes (40 x 110mm), or a Cohiba Siglo I (40 x 102mm). Or alternatively, for an even lower price than the Majestic, the short-filler but hand-finished (traditional cigar cap) medium-strength Quintero offerings in 40 ring gauge, the Londres or Nacionales, usually easy to puff if less subtle in flavour. Another good short-filler value to consider here, is the Por Larrañaga Panetela (37 x 127), in the same ‘light-to-medium’ strength category as H. Upmann.
For a better introduction to Cuban Herman Upmann cigars and their satisfying, creamy flavour palette, with less likelihood of draw problems, the 42-ring-gauge Petit Corona Mareva (129mm) or Corona Major (132mm) are good choices, and also the short 44-ring-gauge Upmann Half Corona (90mm), all ones I would suggest before the Majestic.
Upmann cigars are quite storied, being one of the very oldest still-produced Cuban cigar marques, dating back to the 1840s, when banker Herman Upmann, seeking his fortune in Cuba, tried to start a shipping business, and selected cigars which he sent to Europe with his name on the box … Herr Upmann found that what people requested from him, was not shipping services, but ‘more of those great Upmann cigars’.
Noted Upmann smokers include US President John F Kennedy, who in 1962 notoriously delayed signing off on the USA’s Cuban cigar embargo, so his aide Pierre Salinger could raid all the local shops and buy up over 1000 Upmann cigars for JFK’s personal stash.