Fonseca is an under appreciated brand in my opinion. You don’t find too many people talking about it and there are plenty who haven’t even heard of it. I have found it to be a sort of hidden gem. Milder than most Cuban cigars it is still full of refined, complex flavors and they are a joy to smoke. The hallmark of the Fonseca is the white tissue paper wrapper that graces every stick in the marca, and the bold portrait of Francisco E. Fonseca that adorns each box.
If I am not mistaken, the La Casa Del Habanos exclusive releases were started in 2004 and this is the 6th one of the series. There were originally 5,000 unnumbered boxes produced but I am sure they rolled another batch of these as they are quite popular. I am a big fan of the Ramon Allones marca and of the grand corona vitola. It was only right for me to do a review of this cigar.
Back in November I attended the famous Partagas festival in Havana, Cuba along with the Toronto contingent. This was my first time going and I must say I am now hooked. After a few days of hunting in every cigar store in town, I was invited by the good people at the Montreal branch of the Casa Del Habanos to a pre-launch tasting of this year’s Edicion Regional Canada, the Vegas Robaina Aniversario XV Exclusivo Canada. Vegas Robaina is not a marca I particularly appreciate but I am more than ready to have my mind changed.
In 2010, Cohiba officially unveiled perhaps one of its more exclusive cigars ever. The cigar received extensive reviews at the time of release ranging from over-priced to the best cigar the reviewer had ever tasted. I understand that whenever a cigar is priced in the highest end of the price range for a particular product, there will often be resentment associated with that. However, the fact they are priced in the “exclusive” end is perhaps why they are consistently sold out even two years after their release. Although we can still call this cigar new to the scene, it really isn’t all that new to the aficionado anymore because anyone with a passion for Cuban cigars knows very well about the story behind these cigars and their desire among smokers and collectors alike. One of the best cigars to come out of Cuba in a long time is also one of the most, if not THE most expensive to come off the Island and as a result, people will have varying opinions, often wrongly, because of that price tag.
What makes the Behike so special is that unlike many other Cubans, this cigar, for all intent and purpose really needs no aging in large part due to the fact that the cigar is essentially constructed with aged tobacco. For example, the filler is made up of tobacco known as medio tiempo which is a sun-grown leaf that grows at the top of tobacco plants. Not all tobacco plants produce this leaf though but it is known to be full-bodied and loaded with coffee-like flavors with a very creamy texture to the smoke. Essentially, this leaf has elements of tobacco leaf that has already been aged and, even with young medio tiempo, one can detect the same creamy, earthy and coffee-like flavors of a well-aged cigar. The BHK comes in 52, 54 and 56 which corresponds to their respective ring gauges and, once stabilized for humidity, can be smoked “out of the box”.
I’ve been lucky enough to obtain 2 boxes both from Cuba and at Cuban pricing. The first one, bearing a box date of October 2011, was brought back for me in early December of 2011 from a vacationing friend. At 180 Cuban Pesos per cigar, the 10-count box worked out to 18.00 Cuban Pesos per stick. With an exchange rate to the Canadian dollar being almost equal, we can fairly say that these cigars were roughly $18.00 each. The second box was purchased for me in June of 2012 and they carried a box date of May 2012. Again, I placed the order through a vacationing friend and that second box cost me 183.00 Cuban Convertible Pesos or roughly $185.00 Canadian dollars for a 10 count box ($18.50 each cigar).
These cigars sell out fast wherever they are, indicating that the price is not keeping people from indulging in the pleasure. I’ll comment some more about this later. First, however, let’s talk about these cigars of which I have 1 box left, having smoked the last one out of my first box just a few weeks ago.
I got this cigar in a trade on r/cigars and, to be honest, wasn't expecting much out of it. Not my favorite brand, not my favorite format (although Montecristo Especial No. 1, a slightly thicker panatela, is a fine smoke!). These cigars used to be machine-made back in the days, but now proudly bear the hand-made tag. Besides, they are rather cheap... Let's see how the Por Larranaga Montecarlo fared?
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).
With only 5,000 boxes made, harvested from the best tobacco of the 2003 crop, the Gran Reserva signifies the best possible product from Cuba. Here's more about this special smoke: Habanos Press release. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to smoke a cigar of this magnitude, even at nearly a dollar per millimeter of tobacco.
As I take it out of my trunk humidor, I can't help but notice how unassuming it is. The wrapper looks like any other Habano, light brown and thin with very little visible veins - just a little more red in color. I expected it to be heftier than it is: most Cohibas are packed very tightly, but not this one. Upon clipping it, I notice the pre-light draw is very easy - different from most Sig VI's.