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.