Origin : Cuba
Format : Piramide
Size : 156 x 20.64 mm
Ring : 52
Weight : 14.26 g
Price : ~$6.60 Cuban pesos
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With winter almost upon us here in Canada, cigar season is starting to come to a close, if not already. I still use milder days to get out there and enjoy a cigar but surely my daily routine that I have during the warmer months is at an end. The quantity of reviews may decrease over the next few months but I still have some reviewed cigars that should follow with fully written reviews for you that I hope will give you some suggestions for stocking up your humidors for next year’s smoking season. That’s what I do during these colder months.
For this review I chose to write about a cigar I am very familiar with, the H. Upmann No. 2. This cigar is one of my personal favorites in this vitola (for flavour) and putting aside all construction issues that I will discuss later, the flavour of this cigar is what keeps me coming back IF the price is right. This particular cigar that I smoked for this review was from a 2010 box purchased in Cuba. A box of 25 cost me I believe $160 Cuban Pesos or just over $6 Cuban Pesos per cigar in early 2010. They retail in Canada at some of the online duty free vendors for approximately $17.00 per cigar and if you are forced to pay full retail you can expect to pay over $24.00 per cigar (thanks in large part to the crazy Canadian tobacco taxes).
The beautiful brown wrapper had a nice oily sheen to it. The seams weren’t visible but the veins did give the cigar a rustic look. The samples I smoked looked like any other Cuban Piramide of this price range and, other than a few little water spots on some of the samples, I have no issue with the appearance of this cigar.
The nose was beautiful, somewhat muted for what was to come but did provide pleasant hints of cedar, cocoa and Cuban soil. The cigar felt firm with some softer spots near the center.
This is where this cigar unfortunately struggles. The consistency of this cigar’s construction leaves a lot to be desired. I will go 3 or 4 cigars without finding an issue but then go another 3 or 4 with a wide range of construction issues from very minor to extremely dissatisfying. Don’t get me wrong; it won’t fall apart, however, it seems that many samples (I am currently smoking samples from 2008 to 2010 and many have burn/construction issues but because I enjoy the flavor profile I smoke a lot of these cigars). They are my go to Piramide along with the Partagas Series P.
Since I have smoked a lot of them I have learned to be patient. I find many suffer from uneven burns and I’ve simply learned to slow down and let them correct. It all starts with the lighting process and these cigars can be finicky. Take your time when toasting the foot and smoke them with patience. These cigars don’t like to be rushed. However this is not an excuse for the less than perfect construction associated with these cigars. I have noted some hollow spots in the cigar indicating problems with the rollers. Unfortunately, 40% of the Upmann No. 2’s I smoke have some sort of burn issue associated with them and this is just too much.
There is a bright side though and one that will hopefully be promising. This past summer I received a couple of boxes from a friend who vacationed in Cuba. I did smoke roughly 5 from each box of 25 and the construction is significantly better. Hopefully they have taken note of the issues plaguing this cigar and we will start to see better samples leaving the Island. I did find that the 2012 samples are constructed better with outstanding burns but they are just too young to smoke yet. I’m hoping that the construction that plagued older samples will soon be a thing of the past. With cigar sales in Cuba down, there is no excuse for poorly constructed cigars. I have noted improvement with these so for fans of this cigar let’s keep our fingers crossed. Unfortunately for the purpose of this review my construction rating is based on the sample I smoked.
Flavor : (4.75)
The cigar starts with a nice spice and an immediate Cuban saltiness/aroma to it. The spice doesn’t last long and while it doesn’t go away completely, it is noticeably less about an inch into the cigar. The first third quickly settles into a rich cocoa flavour profile with a velvety finish with some muted pepper on the back end. There is a very pleasing balance between the saltiness on the lips and front end of the palate and the sweet peppery finish on the back end. It is what we normally associate with Cuban cigars. I do note more cocoa and sweetness to this cigar compared to other piramides on the market. It is certainly not as strong as the Partagas Series P but again, it is recommended that novice smokers eat something first because this cigar can creep up on you. The cigar is medium/full bodied.
The second third has a nice blend of a salty front end with just enough spice on the back end of the palate to make the smoke complex enough to hold your interest. There are aromas of wood cocoa, coffee and a thick sweet caramel-like texture to the smoke which remains very thick during the entire cigar experience. Some hints of leather, vanilla and some very mild citrus notes tend to emerge as I approach the halfway point of the cigar but they don’t remain long. Instead, the vanilla and citrus hints come in and out of the cigar but remain very muted. The bulk of the flavour is more akin to a semi-sweet chocolate with coffee and leather tones. The burn is even when you get a good sample but can waver significantly when you catch a bad one as I discussed earlier. This sample I reviewed suffered from an uneven burn that needed to be touched up a couple times by the halfway point. It needed another touch up as I approached the band.
For me, this cigar hits its sweet spot at the halfway point. I get a perfect balance of strength, sweetness and that classic Cuban salty “twang”. The flavour at this point is like a semi-sweet chocolate with hints of coffee and natural tobacco with some cedar undertones. The finish is long and there is just enough pepper on the back end of the palate to compliment the flavor but not overpower it. I don’t find this cigar to be an “earthy” cigar. I find the flavors and the complexity of the cigar are very balanced and satisfying. The peppery spice on the back end of the palate stays with the cigar almost throughout but does fluctuate in intensity with most of it near the beginning of the cigar and the final third.
What I really enjoy when smoking this cigar is the very thick smoke output and the velvety texture to it. I’ve used this term before when explaining such smoke output and it applies to this cigar as well; the smoke’s texture is like the foam on a perfectly made cappuccino. A nice caramel flavoured, velvety richness that compliments the pleasing flavors of this cigar perfectly.
Value : (4.25)
I purchased mine while visiting Cuba. A box of 25 currently retails for $165 in Cuba or $6.60 per single. While I don’t recall the exact price I paid, it was in that neighbourhood. On that basis alone, this cigar offers great value. You can’t go wrong for a Cuban Piramide for $6.60 a stick and this cigar is right in line with the Partagas series P and just a tad more than the Bolivar Belicosos Finos. The Montecristo No. 2 is about $1.25 more per cigar which is not unexpected given it remains one of the most popular Piramides out of Cuba.
For sheer flavor alone I would praise the value. However, given the construction issues, the Partagas and Montecristo will give you consistently better constructed cigars. It is for that reason that the rating is 4.25 and not the full 5.
If you are forced to buy them at full retail out of Cuba then expect to pay significantly more, especially in Canada and other heavily taxed nations. At that point, this is where the Upmann 2 falls behind the others in this category. If paying top dollar then you would probably be better served buying a cigar with more consistent construction like the aforementioned Partagas Series P or the Montecristo No. 2. Both fine cigars as well but with differing flavor profiles. However, if uneven burns don’t bother you that much you owe it to yourself to give the flavour profile of this cigar a try. If you are patient and can pick up some 2012’s and wait, then I would suggest going that route.
This cigar, for my palate at least, is one of the most flavourful in this vitola and I can put the burn issues aside while smoking them because the reward of exceptional flavor is worth it. As I said though, don’t rush it and let the burn come into its own. This cigar is not forgiving to a bad light so take your time when toasting the foot. You should get yourself a nice burn that will self-correct as you smoke it.
While on this subject I think it is fair to say that must of the uneven burns come before the first half of the cigar. I do note that from the halfway point onwards the cigar has very few burn issues. Older issues were plagued with some hollow spots that I noted were absent in the 2012 samples.
Overall Rating :
If you are looking for a cigar with a sweeter flavor profile, one that provides noticeable cocoa and coffee tones with hints of vanilla and the occasional hint of citrus balanced with just the right amount of saltiness and spice then this cigar is definitely for you. Keep in mind that cigar flavor profiles are a personal preference. Many prefer more earthy/woodsy cigars and in that case, this cigar might not be to your liking. Personally I enjoy variety. Having smoked my fair share of these, I still often find myself mumbling “yum” as I exhale the thick velvety smoke after a flavor rich draw. If you’ve never tried one then you definitely owe yourself to giving one a try.
Here’s a tip: these aren’t the most popular piramides out of Cuba so finding some older boxes should not be too difficult if you don’t want to wait for the newer ones to come into their own. However be mindful that the older ones seem to suffer from more of the aforementioned burn issues. Ask your supplier to send you a sampler of piramides so you can run your own comparisons. Keep in mind that whatever supplier you use, always see if they can check the box codes for you and have them ship you older ones so that you can get cracking on them right away. I personally like to buy older stock if available because it saves my own aging times. Or, you can do what I like to do as we approach the snowy months in Canada and that is, buy your stock for next year now. Then, whatever comes as a result of vacationing friends is simply a bonus.
Upmann is an often overlooked brand and it really shouldn’t be so finding stock of these should not be an issue. Their Royal Robusto is another of my personal favorites and has become quite popular for all the right reasons which might lead smokers to start going to other vitolas in the H. Upmann line. Don’t be afraid to ask your vendor to check box dates for you.
Overall you can’t go wrong with this cigar if the price is right. ‘Perfectionists’ will be disappointed by the construction issues. However these minor flaws never influence the well balanced flavour or the thick smoke output of this worthwhile cigar. Sometimes we have to simply stop paying too much attention to the cigars we smoke and just close our eyes and enjoy them.
I hope you have found this review helpful. Please don’t hesitate to leave your comments below.
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