Montecristo Churchill Añejados Limited Edition Cuban Cigars: Serious Complexity, but Mixed Results
by Ken Gargett
Three or four years ago, we looked at one of the Habanos Añejados releases from Havana, the H. Upmann Robustos Añejados. While the result tended to be inconclusive, the upshot was that while the concept of the Añejados program might have been a good idea, it was probably surplus to requirements and largely a failure in its execution.
So when the weekly cigar video that I do with one of my great friends for www.fohcigars.com came up, it was with some horror that I realized we were scheduled to look at another of this range. I had thought the range was a bad idea long forgotten, and clearly this was simply karma for me having been a bad person in a previous life.
The cigar was the Montecristo Churchill Añejados, which in fairness was one of the range that I had not seen previously, but it would be fair to say that both inspiration and excitement at the idea of spending a couple of hours smoking the thing were sadly lacking. Still, we serve at the pleasure…
One criticism of Cuban cigars in recent years has been how the prices have skyrocketed, making Grand Cru Burgundies look shy in comparison. Well, a criticism of the Añejados program back when it commenced was that the cigars released under its auspices were already too expensive, so imagine where they are now. That said, this is a series that hardly flew off the shelves, so the prices I found suggested that they had not moved much. Could this mean bargains?
Havana has been very active in expanding its range (at the same time, discontinuing many much loved standard cigars to the chagrin of many long term cigar lovers), bringing in a number of new options in recent years. The Limited Edition program has surely been the most prominent and successful, with some stunning cigars released under it over the last couple of decades. A few misses as well (I’m looking at you, Monte C).
The Regional Release program has also been largely a hit. Others include various Commemorative Humidors, the Book Series, the Gran Reserva program, and so on. Criticism relating to these new programs has largely revolved around the increased prices for these cigars, the scarcity of many of them and the fear that Havana is cannibalizing its own top tobacco, once destined for the regular standard cigars, for these peacocks, meaning that those who enjoy the basic cigars have been edged out of the market.
In some cases, these new releases have been worth it. Other times, less so. As many of these special releases sell out quickly, Havana can point to the overall success of their approach, even if that has alienated some.
Then we come to the Habanos Añejados series. No one is out there trumpeting this as a huge success, though the idea is a fine one. Basically, aged Habanos cigars. What is not to like? Of course, some cigars benefit more from aging than others, but one has to assume that the rollers and the team at Habanos know what they are doing and that we would see some special cigars with age. It followed a program of aging cigars that Habanos implemented in 2011 in Cuba for their local stores.
Now the world has seen the results. Here, the cigars were to be aged after they were rolled, so cigar lovers would have access to great aged cigars. In the Limited Edition series, the tobacco is aged before rolling. Great to have the opportunity to compare. As they say in the classics, woohoo!
And so, in 2014, with a little fanfare, the series kicked off. The plan was one or two cigars a year, which had been aged for between five and eight years after rolling and before release. The cigars would have an extra band (these days, extra bands are all a bit ho-hum) to identify them as part of the program.
The first two were the Romeo & Julieta Pirámides Añejados and the Montecristo Churchill Añejados. Things then got very Cuban as these two 2014 releases did not see the light of day until 2015. This happens regularly. Next, we had the Hoyo de Monterrey Hermosos No. 4 Añejados and the Partagás Corona Gorda Añejados.
In 2016, the H. Upmann Robustos Añejados. I say 2016, but they did not appear until the end of the 2017 year. That has been pretty much it. Presumably, the end of the late but unlamented Añejados program.
The response from cigar lovers was mixed. Curiously, surprisingly mixed. I have searched high and low across the internet for reviews of these cigars to see in what regard these releases were held. Some loved them, others were blah, and some downright hated them. I’m not sure I can recall any other program with such wide-ranging responses.
As mentioned in the previous look at the program, the Romeo & Julieta Piramides were considered to be fair; the Partagás Corona Gorda Añejados the pick of the series, while the H. Upmann Robustos Añejados impressed very few. I had not seen the Montecristo Churchill Añejados until today, but it was loved by some, not hated by others.
Anything I have said so far encouraging anyone to throw their hard-earned at any of these? I thought not.
In my searching I found that there are retailers around the globe with some of these cigars still available, while the internet cigar auction site Bond Roberts is always a good bet. But be warned, they are still attracting relatively high prices. So, perhaps a touch premature with thoughts of bargains then.
So it was with somewhat of a heavy heart that I approached the Montecristo Churchill Añejados today (7 inches, 178mm, with a 47 ring gauge). The Churchill vitola is the first time that size has been made under the Montecristo label. There was a noticeable box press to the cigar.
Expectations could have hardly been lower (I would have given better odds on me finding a Sauvignon Blanc that I liked). Sometimes, you should just keep your mouth shut and see how it pans out.
What a stunning cigar. Now, of course, things could never be that simple. My fellow video smoker had a completely opposite experience. His was, indeed underwhelming, at least until the last third. My final score was 95/96; his was 88/89. Elsewhere, I have seen ratings ranging between 83 and 96, and lots in between, so variation is the name of the game.
The cigar felt good in the hand, firm and well-constructed. The draw was also firm but fine. From the start, that Montecristo chocolate was evident. That has been one of the strongest criticisms of the Añejados range, that the cigars do not exhibit much of their Marca’s DNA. No such issues here. Cedar and coffee, cocoa powder, a hint of vanilla and rich chocolatey notes. Delicious. The construction proved immaculate.
Mine started a little over medium but by the finger-burning nub, had developed into a real powerhouse with serious complexity and a lovely evolution over the journey. What was especially surprising was that it still seemed so young. Had I not known that this was rolled some 15 years previously, I would never have guessed anything like that. Not only that, I still think it has at least 15 years more ahead of it.
In fairness, my friend did not enjoy the same experience, although his kicked in for the last third. Prior to that, under medium weight and not exhibiting the same flavors at all. The two came from the same box, a common concern for Cuban cigars. So, beware, these are not a slam dunk. If you get one like mine, money well spent. If not…
The perils of buying a handmade product.