Connoisseur’s Corner: A 98-Point Montecristo No. 4
In 1959, a box of diminutive Montecristo No. 4 cigars left Havana, bound for the short journey to the United States. When the cigars were rolled at the factory owned by Alonso Menendez and Pepe Garcia, they were one of many, with little to set them apart. But one year later, the factory was nationalized by Fidel Castro, and in 1961 President John F. Kennedy signed an embargo banning the cigars and other Cuban goods from U.S. soil. Today, that box of cigars has aged into masterful smokes, petit coronas with a sweet, spicy character that scored 98 points in this special tasting. The little Monty was one of two smokes to achieve "classic" status on our 100-point scale, joining a much larger and far younger Punch Churchill presented in a tube.
Montecristo No. 4 (1959)
A pale brown wrapper covers this little cigar, which was rolled by the Menendez y Garcia family in Cuba and has been aging in a humidor for 58 years. It’s elegant and quite mild, with an earthy quality to the smoke as well as a prominent note of cinnamon. Delicious.
—Marvin R. Shanken
Punch Churchill (2002)
This beautiful cigar, preserved in a tube, has a superb draw and burn. It begins with notes of cocoa powder and pencil shavings, then develops some leather and Middle Eastern spices, and grows bolder and more opulent as it burns. Notes of dark chocolate emerge on the finish, which is long and luxurious. A wonderful smoke that is far from its peak.
Hoyo de Monterrey Churchill (2008)
This lovely cigar is no longer made, which is a shame, for it’s pleasant and easygoing. The first taste is of slivered almonds, vanilla and plenty of cedar, with a touch of cinnamon. It’s a delicate, elegant smoke, with a fine draw and dead-even burn. It grows slightly more intense in the second half, but it’s not a strong cigar, mild to medium in body. An ideal breakfast smoke.
La Gloria Cubana Torpedo No. 1 (1993)
The yellowed cellophane of this cigar speaks to its age. These were made in Miami by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo just after the world discovered his brand in the pages of this magazine. Plenty of oils seep through the supple wrapper, and there’s still lots of life to this smoke. It starts with sharp, woody notes that segue into black pepper before settling into a sweet, nutty smoke redolent of almond paste and marzipan.
Ramon Allones Selection de Luxe No. 2 (circa 1950)
A small figurado with a dark-brown wrapper. The draw has some resistance, and the taste is tart, showing its considerable age. But it’s still alive, with plenty of flavor left to enjoy, especially given its age of more than 60 years.
—Marvin R. Shanken
Punch Punch (2006)
This box-pressed corona gorda comes from the brief period when the gold details on Cuban Punch bands were printed with flat dyes rather than metallic finishes. There’s some slight resistance to the draw, but it’s open enough to let through a satisfying amount of toasty, chewy smoke with sweet and nutty elements and a flowery finish.