May 22, 2011

Cigar Review: Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 (Cuban)

Hoyo de Monterrey
When you think of Cuban Robustos the Epicure No. 2 is definitely not at the top of the heap, but I believe it should be in the Top 5 at least. With more and more people looking for fuller bodied cigars the Epicure No. 2 does not in any way fall into that category, but let us think about a more important factor, flavor. Very mild in body the Epicure No. 2 delivers a great amount of flavors while remaining a very easy smoke for all. The cigar definitely takes the back seat to the infamous Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona, but who has time to smoke a double corona on a daily basis? I have enjoyed the Epicure No. 2 on several occasions and find it to be one of the few Cuban robustos to never disappoint. I prefer something with more strength often but consistently this cigar always delivers. Cohiba, Partagas and Bolivar can all be great but when they are off they are off!

The Epicure No. 2 is your standard robusto measuring 4 7/8" with a 50 ring gauge and consists of tobacco from the finest growing regions in Cuba. The brand is one of the oldest in Cuba and among the most popular worldwide. The line originated back in 1865 when Don José Gener y Batet had immigrated from Spain to Cuba 34 year prior, and started his own factory. The name Hoyo de Monterrey can be translated as "the hole of Monterrey," and makes reference to the terrain that most tobacco growers prefer; valleys. The Epicure No. 2 is considers one of the most popular vitolas in the Hoyo line, but as I said before, in terms of robustos it is overlooked.

The Epicure No. 2 is a very unique cigar and has one of the most beautiful wrappers of all Cubans in my opinion. The wrapper has a wonderful reddish hue to it and  is practically seamless. If you compare Cuban wrappers they are all fairly similar in color, depending on whether the wrapper is dark or softer in color but the Epicure No. 2 always has a beautiful reddish brown wrapper that is similar in color to cinnamon. The bands on top of the cigar are elegant and beautiful and shows the regal qualities to the cigar. The aroma is of cinnamon, cocoa and grass leaving a sweet spicy taste to it. It is a firm cigar, and has a distinct triple cap that is hard to miss. After cutting the head the cigar offers a flavorful and perfect draw, and I light it up.
Hoyo
The first third of the cigar begins very soft showing lots of creamy notes with hints of cedar and cinnamon but nothing to overpowering. There is a nice hay characteristic to the cigar, and I am also picking up some nutty, toast, honey and floral notes as well. The flavors are stellar, and the only non Cuban that could compare with this cigar, and be mild is the Epernay line by Dion Giolito of Illusione Cigars; in particular, the vitola La Taureau. The cigar is burning wonderfully, leaving a razor sharp burn line and also producing a solid gray firm ash. The strength of the cigar is easily mild, and out of a one to ten scale, I would say it is a 3.

The strongest part of the cigar, and yet still mild, is the second third the cigar which shows more spices to it. There are signs of coffee present along with allspice notes in this third and it has an herbal taste to it as well. I am still getting some toast, nutty and honey flavors in this third, and it is very enjoyable and complex. The draw at this point has been perfect and has given off a wonderful amount of smoke. The burn line is still razor sharp, and I am still holding on to the ash from when I lit up the cigar. The strength in this third is close to medium, but it is still below medium in body.

The final third becomes softer showing lots of herbal notes of jasmine and rosemary with a finish of rose petals. There is a slight hint of coffee on the finish but overall very floral and herbal. There are those soft Asian Spices present in this third, with hints of cedar and nuts, but overall it is a very smooth finish. It is truly an elegant cigar, and while lighter than most of the other robustos in the Habanos portfolio, I think it is possibly the most complex. The cigar remains cool all the way to the nub and I gently place it down on the ashtray to show it the respect it deserves. Smoking mild in the last third it had a great burn line, and produced a nice amount of smoke perfect for rings.

As I finish this smoke before dinner I can't be in a better place. The cigar goes great with any beverage but a chilled white is my preference. Sitting under our pergola enjoying the beautiful late spring evening makes this cigar even better than smoking it elsewhere. I would give this cigar a 96 and think of it as a great anytime smoke. I would not buy a box of these, and I will explain that later, but it is definitely a cigar to have at least a handful of in your humidor. When buying boxes I tend to look for a cigar that is more in my range of smoke, such as a Ramon Allones, Bolivar or Partagas, and this is not there even though amazing. If you love a mild cigar first thing in the morning, then I would grab this cigar, but if you are like me and still like to begin a day with a Bolivar, then this is a cigar you enjoy from time to time. It sounds silly but as much as I love Pinot Noirs I will buy more bottles of a Shiraz, Malbec and Zinfandel.  If you are a mild cigar fan then this is the best choice. I am skimming over mild cigars on the market, Cuban and non, and believe this to be at the top of the list.
Epicure No. 2