If one looks at the most active brands in the Altadis U.S.A. portfolio, it’s the H. Upmann brand that stands out. The brand was founded in 1844 by Hermann Upmann and in 2019, the brand commemorated its 175th anniversary. Since a 175th anniversary doesn’t come around all that often, the H. Upmann name became one of the more active ones as there have been several releases over the past couple of years. The flagship release would be the cigar bearing the 175th Anniversary name, the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary Cigar. To produce the cigar, Altadis USA would turn to AJ Fernandez, who as many knows has been doing many projects for them out of Nicaragua. This is a bit ironic because the H. Upmann brand has primarily been a Caribbean brand and has only in the past few years seen activity in Central America. Today we take a closer look at the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary Cigar.
The H. Upmann has its origins back in Cuba where founder Hermann Upmann opened his first cigar factory in 1844 (thus the name of the cigar here). Upmann was a German banker who in 1844 went to Havana, Cuba and invested in a cigar factory – which became the H. Upmann brand. The company went bankrupt in 1922 and the name (and production) was eventually acquired by Menendez y Garcia Co. – the company that made Montecristo. The Cuban Revolution led to the nationalization of Cuban cigar companies – including H. Upmann. As a result of this, Menendez and Garcia would move the brand to the Canary Islands, then to the Dominican Republic. The brand would eventually come under the ownership of Altadis. This is why there is a Cuban H. Upmann and a non-Cuban H. Upmann brand.
Without further ado, let’s break down the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary Cigar and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
In addition to the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary Cigar being made in Nicaragua, the cigar itself uses 100% Nicaraguan tobaccos. The cigar is highlighted by a high priming Medio Tiempo wrapper (a priming that grows above the ligero leaves on a very small percentage of plants).
Altadis USA has said the Medio Tiempo wrapper was fermented in between layers of broadleaf tobacco. The humidity was only applied to the broadleaf tobacco which resulted in a slower rate of fermentation. Medio Tiempo is used to impart boldness, and this method is said to maximize the characteristics of the Medio Tiempo. As for the Broadleaf, Altadis USA says it was discarded following completion of the fermentation.
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A
The H. Upmann 175th Anniversary comes in one size – a 7 x 50 Churchill. It was packaged in two ways: 10-count boxes and a limited edition 50-count humidor. The cigar is a limited edition cigar, but there was a significant production made.
A total of 14,750 ten-count boxes were made:
There were 50 of the 50-count humidors made (each retailing at $1,250.00 per unit)
The Nicaraguan Medio Tiempo wrapper of the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary had a smooth elegance to it. The wrapper itself had a coat of oil on it. While there were some thin visible veins, and some thin noticeable wrapper seams, this was a wrapper with a smooth complexion.
There are two bands on the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary. The upper portion of the primary band was brown in color with plenty of gold foil embellishments. The center of the band had a circular gold foil field with a H. Upmann half-sunburst logo on it. Surrounding the logo is the text H. UPMANN 175 ANNIVERSARY in gold font. Surrounding the field are gold embellishments. There is also a pseudo-secondary band just below the upper portion. On the center of that lower section is a signature. Above that signature portion is the text “THIS IS MY SIGNATURE” in gold font. To the left of the signature is the text “MASTERFULLY CRAFTED BY AJ FERNANDEZ IN NICARAGUA” while to the right is the text “PRIVATE BATCH ALL RIGHTS TO THE LEGAL HOLDER.”
The secondary band is a footer band that is actually more like a cover on the footer itself. that is brown in color with white trim on the upper portion. There is a shield on the band with the text “FOUNDED IN 1844” to the left of it and “HONORED IN 1819” to the right of it – all in gold font. 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 a full sunburst logo with the text “AJ FERNANDEZ GRUPO DE MAESTROS” surrounding it in white font.
After using a straight cut to remove the cap of the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary, it was on to the pre-light draw experience. The cold draw delivered mostly chocolate notes with some leather mixed in. While this was a simple and straightforward pre-light draw, this was still an excellent one. At this point, it was time to remove the cover of the footer, light up the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary and move on to the smoking phase.
The H. Upmann 175th Anniversary started out with an assortment of flavors including cocoa, natural tobacco, earth, fruit, and black and white pepper. Early on the cocoa notes settled into the forefront with the other flavors taking a secondary role in the background. The retro-hale produced some wood and as well as an additional layer of black pepper.
As the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary approached the midway point, the natural tobacco joined the cocoa notes in the forefront. As the cigar moved past the midway point, there was an increase in the pepper notes – which were now mostly in the black pepper varietal. There were still some earth and fruit notes present in the background.
Just before the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary reached the final third, the natural tobacco notes took over as the primary note. The pepper notes were now close secondary notes. The cocoa, earth, and fruit notes rounded out the flavor profile. This is the way the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
While the burn of the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary maintained a relatively straight burn path and straight burn line, there were some touch-ups that were required along the way to help facilitate this. The resulting ash was light gray in color. This was an ash that was on the firm side. The burn rate and burn temperature of the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary were both ideal.
The draw to the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary had a touch of resistance. If you have read many of my assessments, you will know this is something that I consider to be a positive. At the same time, the was a low maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
Both the strength and body of the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary started out in the medium range. There was a slight increase in the intensity levels of both attributes along the way. By the final third, the strength and body of the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary moved into medium to full territory.
Along the way, the strength and body balanced each other nicely with neither attribute overshadowing the other.
When one looks at the flavors of the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary, they may not look very unique, but in this case, when you sum up the parts you get something very different – namely the way the flavors both complement and fuse together is what makes this cigar unique. It’s certainly something very different from Altadis and the H. Upmann brand and I’d venture to say its something that is unique for AJ Fernandez. The flavors themselves were enjoyable – especially in the first half of the smoking experience. This is a cigar I’d steer to an experienced cigar enthusiast, but not one I’d discourage a novice from trying. This is a cigar I would smoke again. At $18.00, it’s a pricey cigar, but it’s one I’d still recommend purchasing.
Key Flavors: Cocoa, Natural Tobacco, Pepper, Earth, Fruit
Burn: Very Good
Strength: Medium (1st 2/3), Medium to Full (Remainder)
Body: Medium (1st 2/3), Medium to Full (Remainder)
Finish: Very Good
Value: Buy One
News: H. Upmann 175th Anniversary to Debut at 2019 IPCPR
Source: Altadis USA
Brand Reference: H. Upmann
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop, except where noted