Connoisseur’s Corner, A 99-Point Hoyo de Monterrey Corona
There are two reasons why pre-Castro Cuban cigars sell for such high prices at auction. They get rarer by the day (the world supply gets smaller every time one is fired up) and in many cases they have aged into phenomenal smokes. Take, for example, this Hoyo de Monterrey Corona from the mid-1950s. It’s not very large, a mere 5 1/2 inches long with a slim ring gauge of 42, but the 60-year-old cigar was brimming with flavor, just a touch of earth balanced by a vibrant mixture of sweet baking spices. It scored a near-perfect 99 points. A much larger (and far younger) Hoyo, the Royal Hunt No. 10, was close behind, with a score of 98 points. Note that we also have a rating here for a rare Dominican cigar, the Partagas 150, released in 1995 by General Cigar Co.
This beautiful, elegant cigar isn’t very large, but it smokes like near perfection. The flavor is smooth and rewarding, with plenty of nutmeg and earth on the palate, culminating in a spicy finish. This has nearly everything that’s great about a cigar. —Marvin R. Shanken
The wrapper on this cigar—a version of a Hoyo Double Corona, made for Irish/British retailer J.J. Fox—is marvelous to behold, and the aroma before lighting is alluring. It has a honeyed wood flavor early on, and then, after about an inch, really intensifies with crushed coffee bean, molasses, earth and a wisp of leather. The finish is sweet, with a backbone of minerality. Plenty of life left in this classic smoke. —David Savona
This vintage harkens back to the glory days of the iconic Cuban Churchill. The cigar reflects the excellence of prior harvests, and is packed with classic Romeo y Julieta flavors—espresso, leather notes on the palate, and a sweet earthy finish with cocoa overtones. The draw and burn were flawless, and the wrapper was a perfect reddish-brown colorado color. Still young, with a very long life ahead. —Gordon Mott
Twenty years has rendered this cigar both sweet and savory. There’s plenty of leathery character and rock salt notes, joined by an intermittent breadiness that segues into the sweet core of almonds, honey and cherry cordial. The sweetness fades a bit for a mineral finish, and while the draw was slightly firm the burn remained perfect. —Gregory Mottola
This dark, roughish smoke has a fine draw and is earthy, but the flavor is a touch dry. There are some sweet baking spices to counteract the earth, but the cigar is a little on the lighter side. These cigars come packed in a wooden cabinet in two separate bundles of 25, both wrapped in foil. —Marvin R. Shanken
Time has certainly mellowed this slim, Dominican-made, Cameroon-wrapped lonsdale into a mild smoke, but there are still plenty of soft, subtle flavors—both floral and nutty—that finesse the palate. At its most intense moments, the cigar offers notes of nutmeg and black pepper. Its draw and burn are exemplary. —Gregory Mottola