Hoyo de Monterrey Escogido Cuban Cigars: The ‘Chosen’ Few
by Ken Gargett
Reviewing cigars is far more fraught with peril than one might expect. Personal preferences play a major role, of course, and if one should ever demean someone’s favorite then you can be certain you’ll hear about it.
The real issue is that most reviews are based on a single cigar or two. The problem is that these handmade items can vary considerably (in fairness not that often). How often do those who regularly enjoy a cigar share from a box with friends only to discover that they have had wildly differing experiences. It happens.
I do regular video reviews with an importer friend at www.friendsofhabanos.com. He picks and supplies the cigars; I pick and supply the drinks (seems fair). We are usually fairly aligned in thoughts, but not always.
Recently, we looked at a current Limited Edition release, the H. Upmann Propios from 2018 (2018 they might be, but in typical Cuban fashion it was late 2019 before they hit the shelves).
My importer friend had been raving about them, and when we sat down to review his was as he anticipated. Mine fell well short. In fairness, this sort of thing is very much the exception rather than the rule.
And so we come to another relatively recent release, the Hoyo de Monterrey Escogidos. My importer friend managed to get the only two boxes yet to arrive in Australia, and he arrived with them and a mutual friend. In other words, we were knocking off 15 percent of the entire Australian allocation before anyone else had a chance.
I knew almost nothing about these cigars before we smoked them, which I find is an excellent way to approach a review – no preconceptions at all. Neither of my fellow reviewers had tried them either.
The first impression is of a large but immaculately constructed cigar. Lovely sheen on reasonably dark, slightly leathery wrappers. They looked good. As usual, we tested the draw before lighting. The first of us to try offered that his was too tight; the next found his too loose. This left me with the Goldilocks cigar – absolutely perfect. And so went the day.
Even though this cigar has only just landed in Australia and quite a few other places, it was first released in Warsaw in September 2018.
They are only available as part of the La Casa del Habano series through the LCDH shops. These are an international network of official Habanos retail stores. Accordingly, the cigars receive the secondary band, which identifies it as a La Casa del Habano exclusive (these days, a second band is hardly news). There are almost 150 LCDH stores around the globe in 65 countries.
After that release in Poland, it seemed as though you’d have more chances finding a pink unicorn than a box of these, but one expects that this should change in the coming months as they filter through. We know that they have been made, so logic suggests that they must be somewhere.
When whichever official in charge of this release gets around to it, they should become available. It is all very Cuban and there is absolutely no point in doing anything but allowing it all to take its course.
Hoyo de Monterrey: what does Escogido mean?
Escogido means “selected,” and this refers to these cigars having been selected for this program (although one assumes that all cigars in the program were chosen, but no matter).
Some prefer to think of it as meaning “sorted,” referring to the careful selection of the cigars at the appropriate time. As mentioned, they come in attractively presented boxes of ten. Prices are not yet set in Australia, but in the UK look to pay around £320 per box.
The cigar is 7 1/8 inches (180 mm) in length (so half an inch short of a Partagás Lusitania) and with a ring gauge of 49 (same as a Lusi), so verging on Double Corona territory.
For comparison, they are the same size as the San Cristóbal El Morro. We are advised that the wrapper, filler, and binder for these cigars are all from plantations located in the San Juan y Martinez district in the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba’s Pinar del Rio. This is only appropriate as San Juan y Martinez is considered the spiritual home for Hoyo de Monterrey, with the early plantation owned by Don José Gener y Batat located there.
Young José emigrated to Cuba from his native Spain in 1831 at the tender age of 13. He worked on his uncle’s plantation in Vuelta Abajo, but by his early thirties had his own cigar factory in Havana and his own line of cigars, La Escepción.
In 1865, he had made enough from the factory to purchase one of the region’s best tobacco farms. He called the cigars from this plantation Hoyo de Monterrey; Hoyo has always been one of Cuba’s most popular lines.
Past LCDH releases have been (and please take the years with a large grain of Cuban salt) Bolívar Belicosos Finos (2004), Bolívar Hermosos No. 4 (2004), Bolívar Gold Medal (2004), San Cristóbal Muralla (2006), San Cristóbal Mercaderes (2006), San Cristóbal Oficios (2006), Partagás Culebras (2007), Partagás Salomones (2008), H. Upmann Noellas (2009), La Gloria Cubana Inmensos (2010), Ramón Allones Allones Superiores (2010), H. Upmann Royal Robusto (2011), Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe (2012), Bolívar Libertador (2013), Romeo y Julieta Cedros de Luxe (2014), La Gloria Cubana Pirámides (2015), La Gloria Cubana Robustos Extra (2015), Hoyo de Monterrey Elegantes (2016), and Trinidad La Trova (2017).
We are told that the Cohiba Novedosos have been released after the Escogidos, but you are doing better than I can manage if you’ve seen one.
Measuring up Hoyo de Monterrey Escogidos
But back to our review. One friend declares that his is much lighter than anticipated; the other moans that his is way too powerful.
My Goldilocks cigar continues – slightly over medium, though after about half the cigar it dropped back to medium. Perfectly balanced. I do think that mine will more accurately represent what these are and what they will become than my friends’. I think they were just unlucky.
Mine, on the other hand, was an absolute cracker. If one cigar can attain these heights, no reason others cannot.
It took no time at all before we were into chocolate, citrus, some florals, and gorgeous caramel notes. And then in came creamy coffee and a nutty nougat character.
My flavors were distinct and crisp, while my friends found theirs more muted and far less entrancing. For me, this cigar was complex, finely balanced, perfectly constructed, and took the best part of two hours to smoke.
Even though very young, I would still give this 94, verging on 95, and I expect even better things ahead. One of the best cigars I have seen this year. My colleagues may not have been quite so enamored, but both were keen to try another. Research never stops!
They may be very hard to find at the moment, but when they do hit the shelves they are definitely worth your interest. One of the “chosen” few, indeed.
For more information, please visit www.habanos.com/en/noticias/lanzamiento-global-de-hoyo-de-monterrey-escogidos-en-polonia.