At the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show, Altadis U.S.A. introduced a new line under its Montecristo brand known as the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez. The cigar is positioned as a collaboration between Altadis U.S.A’s Grupo de Maestros team and Dominican tobacco company José Mendez & Co. Jose Mendez & Co was founded by Cuban exile José “Pepe” Mendez. Mendez came from a tobacco family in Cuba. At the time of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Mendez would flee Cuba, taking some tobacco seeds with him known as Pilotico. Mendez settled in the Dominican Republic where he started growing the Pilotico seed in the Cibao region. Pilotico is a low yield tobacco that is susceptible to mold and as a result, the tobacco fell out of use. Several years ago, Pepe’s grandson Siegfried Mendez, the Tobacco Director at José Mendez & Co started regrowing the Pilotico seed in the Navarette region in the Dominican Republic and thus Pilotico tobacco has been reintroduced. Over the years, José Mendez & Co has supplied tobacco to Altadis U.S.A., and now the Pilotico tobacco has been made available to Altadis U.S.A. The Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez is a project that not only uses the Pilotico tobacco, but it pays homage to Pepe Mendez. Today we take a closer look at Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez in the Toro size. Overall, I found this to be an excellent addition to Altadis U.S.A.’s Montecristo brand.
The Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez is actually the second release by Altadis U.S.A. to use Pilotico tobacco. In 2015, the Montecristo brand celebrated its 80th anniversary. At that time Altadis released a limited edition commemorative cigar known as the Montecristo 80th Anniversary. That release would be the first Altadis U.S.A.’s first to incorporate the Pilotico tobacco into its blend.
The Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez was one of three Montecristo releases at the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show. In addition to the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez, the company unveiled the new Montecristo Artisan Series with the Montecristo Artisan Batch 1. Altadis also unveiled a jar release of the Montecristo Classic Series.
Without further ado, let’s break down the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro and see what this cigar brings to the table.
As mentioned the Pilotico tobacco is incorporated into the filler of the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez. This is combined with some Nicaraguan tobacco in the filler. The cigar also features an Ecuadorian Sumatra and a Dominican binder.
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Filler: Dominican Pilotico, Nicaraguan
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic (Tabacalera de Garcia)
The Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez is available in three sizes. Each size is packaged in 20 count boxes.
Robusto: 5 x 50
Toro: 6 1/4 x 52
No. 2: 6 x 50
The Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper of the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro has a medium brown color. Depending on how the light shines on the wrapper, it will often give off a colorado red tint. The wrapper itself is smooth. It had a light coating of oil on it with only some thin visible veins. The wrapper seams were well hidden.
There are two names on the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez. The primary band is a variation of the standard Montecristo band. At the center of the band is a gold fleur-de-lis sitting on a neutral colored circle. A brown outer circle surrounds the band with the text “MONTECRISTO” in red/gold font on the upper half with two gold initials below it. To the left and right is a brown stripe with the text “PILOTICO” and “PEPE MENDEZ” in gold font to the left and right, respectively. The band also a red and gold colored trim.
The secondary band features a red, brown, beige, and gold color scheme. On the center of the band is a brown pencil sketch of Pepe Mendez on a neutral colored background. Above the sketch is the text PEPE MENDEZ in small dark font. The portrait is surrounded by a brown ring with beige adornments. The text MONTECRISTO is in a red/gold font on the upper portion of the ring. The lower portion of the ring has the text “PILOTICO” in beige font. To the left and right side of the sketch is a gold fleur-de-lis sitting on a red background.
Packaging-wise, the cigars are packaged in boxes resembling a trunk. This pays homage to how Mendez’s travel out of Cuba.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
As usual, I chose a straight cut to remove the cap of the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro. I then commenced the pre-light draw. The dry draw delivered a mix of classic wood, cedar, and natural tobacco sweetness. Overall I considered this to be a satisfactory pre-light draw. At this point, I was ready to light up and enjoy the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro.
The Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro started out with notes of natural tobacco, classic wood, cedar, and white pepper. The natural tobacco notes moved into the forefront early on. There was a slight sugar cane quality to this natural tobacco sweetness. The wood, cedar, and spice notes settled into the background. Meanwhile, the retro-hale produced an additional layer of red and white pepper.
During the first third, there were also times I picked up a “twang” – which I would describe as a convergence of natural tobacco, citrus, and pepper qualities. The intensity of the “twang” seemed to vary.
As the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro burned through the second third, I found a big shift in the flavor profile. During this stage, notes of cream and earth emerged – and took hold as the primary flavors. The natural tobacco and “twang” receded into the background joining the cedar and pepper notes. Toward the latter part of the second third, the pepper and cedar began to increase.
The last third of the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro saw the cigar do another change-up and deliver notes of classic wood and cedar alongside the earth notes in the forefront. The cream notes had now diminished into the background. While the “twang” was now gone, I still picked up some natural tobacco sweetness in the background. This is the way the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro came to a close. The resulting nub was cool in temperature, but soft to the touch.
Burn and Draw
From a burn perspective, the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro did have a tendency to meander a few times. While this was remedied with some touch-ups, I found I had to apply more touch-ups to this cigar than I prefer. As for the burn line, it was slightly jagged. The ash had a salt and pepper complexion. This was not the tightest ash, but it wasn’t very loose either.
The draw to the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro was not too tight, nor was it too loose. This made the cigar a low maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
From both a strength and body perspective, I found the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro to start out a solid medium. Throughout the first half, I didn’t find much variance in either attribute. During the second half, I did notice a slight spike in both the nicotine level and depth of the flavors, however I still found the strength and body to remain in the medium range.
In terms of strength versus body, I found both attributes balanced each other nicely – with neither attribute overshadowing the other.
While the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro had excellent flavor, there was one thing that really surprised me – and that was the complexity and change-ups this cigar delivered. If you like a cigar that undergoes a lot of flavor transitions, then this is a cigar for you. What I found most impressive is that the transitions seemed to work well with the flavors delivered. One footnote I have for this assessment is that this is a cigar that seemed to respond nicely with age. The cigar I smoked this time had been aged about eight months. The flavors were much richer and the complexity was much higher now compared to eight months ago.
While it’s one of the higher priced Montecristos, it’s a very good one. This a cigar that I would recommend to either a novice or experienced cigar enthusiast. As for myself, this is a cigar I would pick up again – and it’s worthy of splurging for a box split.
Key Flavors: Natural Tobacco, Earth, Wood, Cedar, White Pepper, “Twang” Notes
Burn: Very Good
Assessment: 3.5-Box Split
News: Montecristo Politico Pepe Mendez Debuts at 2016 IPCPR Trade Show
Source: Purchased, Altadis U.S.A.
Brand Reference: Montecristo
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop