The past couple of years, the H. Upmann brand has been one of the busier ones in the Altadis U.S.A. portfolio. 2019 marked a very significant milestone as the brand celebrated its 175th anniversary. While the H. Upmann 175th Anniversary limited release was one of the more significant ones, there have been several other regular production and limited releases around the H. Upmann brand during the past couple of years. One of those releases was the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez. It’s one of the more innovative blends to come out of Altadis U.S.A. as it brings a unique combination of two Dominican tobaccos in the filler: Pilotico and Andullo. Today we take a closer look at the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez in the Toro size.
The Pilotico tobacco in the blend comes from Jose Mendez & Co, a company founded by Cuban exile José “Pepe” Méndez. Méndez 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. Eventually, 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 Méndez & Co., started regrowing the Pilotico seed in the Navarette region in the Dominican Republic and thus Pilotico tobacco has been reintroduced. This Pilotico tobacco has been made available to Altadis U.S.A. It was first used in the Montecristo 80th Anniversary, the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez, and most recently the H. Upmann Connecticut Grupo de Maestros.
Andullo tobacco undergoes a very different curing process than traditional cigar tobacco leaves. This involves putting tobacco leaves in palm seed pods known as yagua. The pods are then wrapped in rope, causing the Andullo tobacco to compress into a thick bar almost looking like a roll of salami. Once it has hardened, it typically is shaved off. This technique has been used in the Dominican tobacco industry. Most recently Tabacalera SLU (Altadis’ sister company in Spain) has included Andullo tobacco with the VegaFina Fortaleza 2 Andullo.
Finally Hispaniola is the name of the island that the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti. Without further ado, let’s break down the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez Toro and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
The Dominican Pilotico and Dominican Andullo tobaccos used in the H. Upmann Hispaniola by Jose Méndez are incorporated into a filler along with Nicaraguan tobaccos. The blend also uses Dominican Olor tobacco for the binder and is finished with an Ecuadorian Habano. Production is also handled in the Dominican Republic.
Wrapper; Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Dominican Olor
Filler: Dominican Pilotico, Dominican Andullo, Nicaraguan
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: Tabacalera de Garcia
The H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez is available in three sizes. Each is presented in 20-count boxes
Robusto: 5 x 50
Toro: 6 x 50
Belicoso: 6 1/8 x 52
The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper of the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez had a medium brown color with a slight rosado tint to it. There was a light coating of oil on the surface of the wrapper. The surface of the wrapper also had some visible veins and visible wrapper seams.
There are two bands on the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez. The primary version has a red background with gold font. The center of the band has the signature sunburst logo of the H. Upmann brand. Above the sunburst is the text “H. UPMANN” arranged in a curved fashion. Just below it is the text “1844” (the year the brand was founded) and “HISPANIOLA.” The remainder of the band has gold and red adornments.
The secondary band rests just below the primary band. It is a yellow-colored band with gold and red trim. The center of the band is the text “JOSÉ MÉNDEZ” in gold font. To the left and right is the text “H. UPMANN” in red font.
Prior to lighting up the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez Toro, a straight cut was used to remove the cap. From that point, it was on to the pre-light draw. The cold draw consisted of notes of sweet natural tobacco, smoky notes, and earth. This was one of the more unique pre-light draws I have had – and it was one of the more satisfying ones. At this point, it was time to light up the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez Toro and see what the smoking experience would deliver.
The start of the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez Toro picked up right where the pre-light draw left off with more notes of sweet natural tobacco, smoky notes, and earth. There were also notes of white pepper and cream present. As the H. Upmann Hispaniola Toro moved through the first third, the smoky notes and earth moved to the forefront. There was a subtle sweetness present layered on top of the forefront. Meanwhile, there was also an additional layer of smoky notes and white pepper on the retro-hale.
As the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez Toro moved through the second third, the smoky notes increased in intensity. There was also an increase in the white pepper. Concurrently the natural tobacco and cream notes diminished in intensity. By the end of the second third, the smoky notes were in control as the primary notes. There were notes of sweet earth and white pepper rounding out the flavor profile. By this point the cream and natural tobacco notes had dissipated.
By the final third, the smoky notes remained primary. The pepper notes were the closest of the secondary notes with the sweet earth notes still present. This is the way the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez Toro came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
The burn path and burn line of the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez Toro remained relatively straight, but there were frequent touch-ups along the way to keep it on track. While the touch-ups did the trick, there were more touch-ups required than I prefer. The resulting ash was skewed toward the firmer side. This was a silvery-gray ash with some darker spots mixed in. As for the burn rate and burn temperature, both were ideal.
The draw to the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez Toro had a touch of resistance to it – which is something I consider to be a positive. Concurrently, this was a low maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
The H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez Toro is a cigar that started out on the lower end of medium for both strength and body. There was a nominal increase in both the strength and body along the way, but in the end the H. Upmann Hispaniola Toro remained in the medium range from start to finish.
In terms of strength versus body, both attributes balanced each other nicely with neither attribute overshadowing the other.
Earlier this year, we assessed the VegaFina Fortaleza 2 Andullo and I commented how the Andullo tobacco did not overpower that blend – resulting in a more nuanced profile. A similar thing can be said for the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez Toro. I’ll infer the Andullo tobacco created the smokiness I got on the tongue and retro-hale. The difference from the VegaFina Fortaleza 2 Andullo is that the H. Upmann Hispaniola is a completely different flavor profile. This profile is a straight-forward but satisfying one.
Of the many H. Upmann releases surrounding the 175th anniversary year, the H. Upmann Hispaniola by José Méndez Toro has fallen under the radar the most. It’s a shame because this is an excellent and unique cigar. It’s cigar I would recommend to any cigar enthusiast wanting something different. As for myself, this is a cigar I would smoke again – and I’d buy multiples to keep in the humidor.
Key Flavors: Smoky Notes, Sweet Earth, Natural Tobacco, White Pepper, Cream
Burn: Very Good
Draw: Very Good
Finish: Very Good
Value: Buy Multiples
News: Altadis U.S.A. to Release H. Upmann Herman’s Batch
Brand Reference: H. Upmann
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop