Montecristo is a name synonymous with cigars themselves, a storied brand with deep roots in both Cuba and the Dominican Republic. With a brand this historic, the term “cutting edge” doesn’t always come to mind, but every so often a classic name can create something new that captures both the brand’s history and the current state of the market.
Enter the Montecristo Nicaragua Series, a Nicaraguan puro crafted at A.J. Fernández’s now-ubiquitous factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. This is the first time Montecristo has released a core-line blend in collaboration with a third party. Under parent company Altadis USA’s control, Montecristo has partnered with Fernández in the past for the Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez, while the Espada by Montecristo was a collaboration between Montecristo and the Plasencias—yet neither were considered core-line Montecristo cigars.
The pairing of A.J. Fernández—who’s cigars frequently seem to make their way into the various year-end lists—and Montecristo—who’s cigars have won many accolades in their own right—make for an attractive pairing.
Montecristo Nicaragua Series Toro Breakdown
- Wrapper: Nicaragua
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 6″ × 54 (Toro)
- Price: $12.25 (MSRP)
The information on the blend is somewhat sparse; the only details revealed are that it is intended to be more full-bodied than other cigars within the Montecristo core lineup and that all three components of the blend hail from Nicaragua. Of note, A.J. Fernández has also been involved in multiple other legacy-style projects with parent company Altadis USA, including recent releases such as H. Upmann AJ Fernandez, Gispert Intenso, and Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez, among others.
Montecristo Nicaragua Series debuted in the summer of 2018 in four sizes:
- Robusto: 5″ x 54 | $11.75 (MSRP) | 20-ct box
- Toro: 6″ x 54 | $12.25 (MSRP) | 20-ct box
- No. 2: 6⅛” x 52 | $12.70 (MSRP) | 20-ct box
- Churchill: 7″ x 56 | $13.70 (MSRP) | 20-ct box
The band is old school but definitely pops with the Nicaragua-labeled sub-band. It has a matte feel to it, looking a bit more premium than Altadis’ usual affair. The wrapper is impeccable—nice and uniform with very few fine veins around its perimeter. It looks like it is one solid chunk of tobacco and has a slight caramel hue, feeling velvety to the touch. The cigar is firm from head to toe, with no soft spots detected.
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The aroma before cutting smells very musky and papery in a way. The foot has a natural tobacco smell and a bit of ammonia. On the pre-light draw, I get tree bark, leather, and light notes of dark fruit. There is a light resistance as I toast the cigar, but as soon as the Montecristo Nicaragua is lighted, the smoke output is dense and rich.
The flavor is a little bitter on the first few puffs and I am greeted with a good amount of strength and body immediately. After the cigar has introduced itself, we start to settle in and I get black pepper, which is joined by this unique element of charcoal sweetness that tastes like the crust of a brick-oven pizza when it gets slightly burnt. I can already tell that this is one of those eye-opening cigars that is so well-constructed that it can get someone hooked. I have always had a theory that all it takes is one good cigar to get someone hooked, and this cigar has that kind of pop—combining a seemingly stellar construction with a dense smoke output and a near-perfect draw that could keep someone coming back.
The Monte Nicaragua just feels good in my hand; the strength and body are both medium-plus and possibly overpowering the flavor a bit. I haven’t felt this way very often but I think that this cigar is almost hurt in a way by reviewing it (fret not, explanation to follow). If I was just playing poker or golfing and smoking this cigar, I would think it was nearly perfect. I think by digging in and providing my undivided attention to the flavor, I have found things out about this smoke that I never would have noticed smoking normally. Factors such as a lack of evolution, a slightly underwhelming finish, or a signature “it factor” element contribute to this hypothesis.
On the retrohale I get black pepper and jalapeño—a spicy cigar that has a lil’ bit of funk to it. The second third starts with an herbal flavor and there is this spicy mustard zip that appears and reminds me of Dijon or horseradish. The Montecristo Nicaragua has had some progression into full-strength territory. The body is medium-plus still and I would say the flavor is on the lighter side. There are some notes of hay and cabinet spices, with some black licorice on the finish. If I didn’t know A.J. Fernández was involved in this project before smoking, I could probably guess by this point.
The Montecristo Nicaragua Series is doing a good job of representing bold Nicaraguan tobaccos. If you are going to do a Nicaragua series, this is the way to do it. I am probably smoking this cigar a little too fast but it is just tough to put down! The flavor is starting to become slightly harder to find, but if you do some digging, you are rewarded with a slight sweetness—something along the lines of caramel corn, balancing out the pepper and charcoal flavor that have been prevalent throughout the smoke. Construction is nearly perfect and I am not ashamed to admit that the strength has kicked my teeth in a bit.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I would gladly smoke this cigar again; it’s a good value for its high level of construction, with a surprising amount of strength helping to keep things interesting. This is a cigar where the old saying holds true: you need to eat your Wheaties before smoking. I think it would pair well with some espresso after dinner, or perhaps a pour of barrel-proof bourbon.
It’s a surprisingly smooth cigar for something that is this sneaky-strong.
- A thought crossed my mind in the later portions of the cigar (contrary to popular opinion, I am occasionally capable of organic thought!); when does a cigar move to “the next third?” In cigars, and the cigar review game especially, we get hung up on “thirds,” and at this point I knew I was in the second third of the smoking experience. Now, I didn’t get out a tape measure and mark exactly when each third began, but in a way, the cigar let me know it was the next phase… Not to get too philosophical—even though I am in Colorado, I can assure you I have only been smoking tobacco for this review… but I feel there is something to the idea of allowing the cigar to guide the user. Some cigars may smoke in halves, others in thirds—it doesn’t have to be so cut and dry.
- Flavor: Medium
- Strength: Medium-full
- Body: Medium-full
- Black pepper
- Charcoal sweetness
- Spicy mustard
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Barrel-proof bourbon, Espresso, Pizza, Imperial stout
- Purchase Recommendation: 10-pack
- Great construction
- Eye-opening smoke output (seriously, it'll get in your eyes)
- Great Nicaraguan character
- The cigar caters towards strength changes more than nuanced flavor
- Not a ton of flavor development throughout