Whether its the version from Habanos SA or the brand in Altadis U.S.A.’s portfolio, the Montecristo brand is one of the most iconic brands known to cigar enthusiasts. At 2015’s IPCPR Trade Show, Altadis celebrated its 80th anniversary for Montecristo and went all out with three major showcase releases (highlighted by the Montecristo 80th Anniversary No. 2). Going into the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show, Altadis didn’t slow down as it once again unveiled three more releases for Montecristo. Front and center was a new limited edition small batch Montecristo called the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1. The Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 is an ultra-premium offering. It is produced by select members of Altadis’ famed Grupo de Maestros team utilizing some of the best tobaccos Altadis has. Recently I’ve had an opportunity to smoke the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1. Overall I found this to be an enjoyable smoke.
The Grupo de Maestros is a team of some of Altadis’ most experienced cigar-makers. The Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 was blended by three members of the Grupo de Maestros team: Pedro Ventura, a Product Development Manager at Tabacalera de Garcia who has 18 years experience in premium cigars; Nestor Rodriguez, the Tobacco Operations Manager at Tabacalera de Garcia who has 36 years experience in the cigar industry; and Joel Alvarenga, the Operations Manager at the company’s Honduras-based Flor de Copán factory who has two decades experience. To make the cigar, the Grupo de Maestros brought an experienced pair in Javier Martin (Bonchero) and Luis Garcia (Master Roller).
As mentioned there were three releases by Altadis at the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show. These releases include:
- Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1
- Montecristo Politico Pepe Mendez
- Montecristo Classic Series Special No. 2 Jars
Without further ado, let’s break down the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 and see what this cigar brings to the table.
The Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 consists of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over Dominican and Honduran tobaccos. All of the tobaccos were selected by Ventura, Rodriguez, and Alvarenga. The cigar is produced at the Tabacalera de Garcia in the Dominican Republic.
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Filler: Dominican, Honduran
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic (Tabacalera de Garcia)
As mentioned, the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1, the cigar is available in one size – a 6 x 54 Toro. The cigars are packaged in 15 unique count boxes that open from the top and the side. Total production for the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 is 40,000 cigars.
The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper of the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 had a medium brown color with a slight colorado hue. This was a wrapper that had somewhat of an oily complexion. The surface of the wrapper was slightly bumpy. There were some visible veins and some visible wrapper seams.
The band is a variation of the standard brown Montecristo band. It features the signature fleur-de-lis in gold on a beige circular background surrounded by a brown ring. The text “MONTECRISTO” is in white font on the upper portion of the brown ring Below the circular are the Montecristo initials – also in white font. The sides to the upper portion of the band have a brown background with gold wavy-pinstripes.
The lower part of the band has the look of a pseudo-secondary band. This portion of the band has a beige background. The text “ARTESAN SERIES” is prominent in large gold font. To the left and right is the text “MONTECRISTO” in smaller gold font.
There is a footer band that is actually more like a cover on the footer itself. It is also beige in color. The text “ARTESAN SERIES” is prominent in large gold font. To the left and right is the text is a gold Montecristo logo. Covering the footer is the same brown, beige, and white Montecristo design as is seen on the upper portion of the primary band.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
As I typically do, I used a straight cut to remove the cap of the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1. Once the cap was clipped, I moved on to the pre-light draw. The dry draw delivered a mix of chocolate, earth, and light cedar. While the notes seemed simple on this pre-light draw, I still considered it to be an excellent one. At this point, I removed the footer cover of the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 and awaited what the smoking experience would have in store.
The Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 started out with notes of chocolate, earth, red pepper, and natural tobacco. The retro-hale produced an additional layer of red pepper that I did not consider to be overpowering. Early on the chocolate / earth tandem became the primary notes. These notes had a creamy texture to it creating a level of smoothness. Meanwhile the red pepper and natural tobacco settled into the background.
Heading into the second third of the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1, the natural tobacco notes took over as the primary note. From time to time, the chocolate notes still surfaced in the forefront. I found the earth and red pepper to be grounded in the background. During this stage, some of the creamy texture of this cigar diminished.
Flavor-wise, the last third of the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 wasn’t too far off the second third. The natural tobacco still remained primary. The red pepper notes were close secondary. When the cigar experience came to a close, the nub was cool in temperature, but slightly soft to the touch.
Burn and Draw
Overall the burn and draw performed quite well. My expectations for a burn and draw ultra-premium cigar are quite high, but the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 met them. The burn maintained a straight path. There was a slight amount of curvature on the burn line. Some touch-ups remedied the curvature, but the amount needed was not excessive. As for the ash, it had a salt and pepper color. This was also an ash that was skewed toward the firmer side. The burn rate and burn temperature were both ideal.
The draw performed quite well. There was a touch of resistance on it – which is something I really like. This helped make the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 an enjoyable smoke.
Strength and Body
While there has been a push to create stronger and fuller Montecristos by Altadis, for the most part I still find the Montecristo brand to be associated with mild to medium to medium smokes. This is pretty much where the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 falls. This is a cigar that started out mild to medium in strength for the first third. By the second third, the Artisan Series Batch 1 moved toward medium where it stayed for the remainder of the smoke.
Meanwhile I found the body of the Montecristo Artisan Series Batch 1 to be medium throughout the smoking experience. In terms of strength versus body, I found the body had a slight edge.
On one hand, I really liked the Montecristo Artisian Series Batch 1. On merit, it scores very nicely in terms of all of the attributes of the smoking experience. If there is one shortcoming it’s that I was expecting a little more from an $18.00 cigar. While price does not factor into the numerical score here, it did factor into this cigar being a box split versus a box purchase. Still this is a cigar I would recommend to a novice or experienced cigar enthusiast. As for myself, it’s also a cigar I would smoke again.
Key Flavors: Natural Tobacco, Chocolate, Earth, Red Pepper
Strength: Mild to Medium (1st Third), Medium (Remainder)
Finish: Very Good
Assessment: 3.5-Box Split
News: Montecristo Artisan Batch 1 Unveiled by Altadis USA at 2016 IPCPR
Brand Reference: Montecristo