Cigar Aficionado

Second Chance

When I smoke a great cigar, and give it an extremely high rating, I almost always have a seed of doubt that my impressions were formed by something other than just the cigar. The setting. The company. The time of day. What I had for lunch, or dinner. The beverage I was drinking along with the cigar. When it is one of our Connoisseur’s Corner offerings, it’s often doubly worrisome because we do not smoke them blind and my objectivity just can’t be the same as smoking a cigar with the band removed.

On a trip to Mexico last week, however, I had a second chance to smoke the Edmundo Dantes Conde 109, the Mexican regional offering from Habanos S.A. that was released in 2007. A good Mexican friend of mine, finding out I was in the country, sent me a DHL package with a few great cigars, including a 109. In the May/June issue of Cigar Aficionado, with Pierce Brosnan, I gave it one of the highest ratings I have ever given a cigar: 99 points.

After the package arrived, I had two days to find tine to smoke the cigars. I started one evening with a Cohiba Lancero that unfortunately had a tight draw, and moved on to a Hoyo de Monterrey. I saved the 109 for my last night in the country.

We were staying at a wonderful boutique hotel, the Casa del Atrio, run by Pepe and Antonio, in Querétaro, a booming city of 1.5 million people about two hours north of Mexico City. We had a big lunch overlooking a lake north of the city with some friends and came back to the hotel in the early evening. We packed, and then my wife and I picked up some freshly made quesadillas (basically melted cheese in a lightly fried tortilla) and brought them back to eat in the hotel’s outdoor patio. As we sat there with a full moon rising, and one of the bell towers of Templo St. Agustín illuminated by its interior lights, I lit up the 109.

From the very first puff, I knew that I had been right the first time. The cigar was simply magnificent. Different setting. Different time of day. Different beverage (a local craft beer called Hercules). Still a great cigar. The nuances of leather and sweet spices, with a perfect balance and smoothness, kept me puffing beyond when I probably should have, since we had an early morning flight home.

I had a sense of vindication. And, I have to stop thinking about whether or not I’ll ever get another chance to smoke another. The cigars were one-offs, made that year only for the Mexican market, and now long gone from the shelves. But I know I’ve had the chance to smoke one of the best cigars made in recent years.

"Gordon: It's outstanding that you shared "The Experience " of a 99 rating with your readers. Truly a great explanation of a personal experience which is really unrelated to the tasting for CF magazine. I think we all can relate to your joy - and reasoning for saving the 109 for the last day you were there. I personally feel that some of the finest cigars on the planet come from the fields in Mexico. It's just nice to read your review - knowing all of us have had those very special moments which we will savor forever. We also cherish the inner feeling that sometime, somewhere & someday, all the elements of enjoyment will fit together again just like a difficult puzzle - - - and with one flick of the lighter - - we return to that same enjoyment that was so special, and meaningful to us. Regards Steve" —May 3, 2014 21:15 PM
"Gordon, I had the opportunity to smoke this cigar in 2009 at La Casa Del Habano in Cancun. At that time I had told everyone that this was truly an exceptional cigar. Enjoyed in thoroughly while sipping Havana club 7 anos. I could only imagine how well this wonderful cigar is now with even more age on it. I try but cant find them now. Glad to hear you enjoyed it and I will live vicariously through you." —April 29, 2014 13:52 PM
"Gordon its funny you write this and I read it as well in the Connoisseurs Corner in the latest CA. I smoked another Conde 109 as I've got a few left about 3 weeks ago at the Grand Havana Room here in NY and I was marveling to my friend on how well this cigar has aged. I think I annoyed him as after every other puff I was touted it's virtues and how it evolved over time. I wish I had my hands on more but it was a nice to hear you felt the same way. " —April 18, 2014 21:54 PM