H.Upmann Half Corona

(Size: 3 1/2″ x 44  —  Time: 40mins)

The H.Upmann Half Corona is a cigar I have been smoking fairly regularly over the last couple of years. It was a much anticipated new vitola from Habanos SA in 2011 – arguably developed as a response to the increasingly stringent smoking laws in many countries around the world.  These have led to a need for flavourful, quality, cigars which could be enjoyed in a short timeframe, thereby avoiding frostbite. It has been well marketed, and I particularly like the stylish tins of five which are occasionally available.  Unfortunately the availability of the tins is largely dependent upon whether the Cubans have been able to get their hands on any metal… I do appear to have set up a suitable opportunity to reflect on the geo-politics of the region, but that’s probably best saved for another day.

H Upmann Half Corona

I should say upfront that I am a fan of this cigar, and have refined my tasting notes (from 2012) based on my experience smoking a couple of boxes of these during the intervening period.  My notes had gone somewhat AWOL over the last six months or so…  However, now that they are found, you can look forward to my usual flurry of activity over Christmas as I catch up with many unpublished reviews.

Appearance /15

The H.Upmann Half Corona looks like a good little package from the off. A nice chocolatey wrapper encases the filler, showing only a few knobbly bits and very few, small veins. They are nicely firm to the touch, with just a little give, and a gorgeous, neatly packed foot.  13

Smoking Characteristics /25

H Upmann Half Corona 2

The pre-light draw was very good – a touch firm, but still a pretty effortless draw.  The cigar lit quickly and evenly without needing any early attention. The burn wasn’t razor sharp, and there were a couple of touch ups needed to keep it level as the cigar progressed, but there was nothing which anyone would be bothered by (I’m just a bit prissy when it comes to an even burn). The ash was fairly dark and quite flaky – it held reasonably well, but I’d be lying if I said it inspired confidence… Smoke production was good throughout – with good density and a pleasant aroma.  22

Flavour /25

The pre-light draw has a touch of grass on it, but immediately with lighting this gives was to a lovely dry cedar-wood profile.  Early flavours maintain the slight tang of cedar, with a touch of pepperiness coming to the party.  What I would consider to be the true character of the H.Upmann Half Corona soon starts to develop, with a rounder, creamier profile coming to the fore.  Creaminess with hints of fennel soon gives way to something far more appealing…  Honey comes forward to mix with the cream for a delicious period around the one-third mark.  The honey soon gives way to a slight grassiness, which together with the rich cream is redolent of asparagus with hollandaise sauce!  Never a bad thing.  As the cigar builds towards the end the greener flavours give way to a touch more pepper.  The cream remains, but more subdued, and a lovely maltiness evolves.  22

Overall Impression /35

The notes I took whilst reviewing this H.Upmann Half Corona are a very good reflection on what I have found the vast majority to smoke like.  These are lovely little sticks which are surprisingly consistent from one cigar to the next for a smaller vitola.  The construction is generally good, and the flavours are pleasant and relatively complex for such a short smoke.  It is a smoke which pleases both the experienced and novice palates – I have introduced a number of curious friends to cigars with this cigar, and unanimously they have liked it as much as I have.  It’s always going to be difficult for a such a short smoke to provide enough to push it past the 90 mark, but this is one cigar which should be in everyone’s humidor.  33

Grand total… 90/100

PS. If you’re reading this near when I published it, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – I hope both bring you many fine cigars and good times.

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Montecristo No5

(Size: 4″ x 40  —  Time: 30mins)

I’ll admit that this review from the archives has some legs on it. It was written pretty much a whole year ago. I hope you enjoy it though.

On our way up to the Lake District for a family holiday we had a stop over in Lancashire for my sister to do some diving. With little else to do, I ordered a coffee and sat down with a Monte No5. Now, Montecristo’s not at the top of my list of favourite brands, especially not after a horrific encounter with a Monte Open Regata, but the No5 was almost certain to be a different kettle of fish…

Appearance /15

The Monte No5 had a light wrapper, which was very neatly put together. There were very few veins, and those that were present were quite small. The cap was very well applied and looked very tidy. However, there were a few, very small cracks in the wrapper – possibly related to the lack of a sheen that most of my recent cigars have had. But for this last point, it would have been a perfect score. Either way, a very nice looking stick. 13

Smoking Characteristics /25

Pre-light there were hints at a nutty (perhaps slightly woody), chocolately smell – which seems to be quite a commonplace aroma. Lighting this stick was quite straightforward (as one would hope so with such little to light…) The burn was very good – it was quite even throughout and was generally very consistent. As a result, the ash was very solid… You can see from the photo (above) that the ash wasn’t the most attractive, being dark and flaky, but it always instilled a confidence that it wouldn’t suddenly drop in one’s lap. The draw was fairly decent – it was slightly firm, but still quite comfortable. Unfortunately though, the No5 had one minor downfall – the aroma of the smoke was not fantastic, it was quite powerful, but there was little aroma. Overall, however, for such a small stick, this was excellently put together, and as a result it displayed some excellent characteristics. 22

Flavour /25

An odd cigar, the No5. It’s a small stick, so hits you with its variations in quick succession. Straight off there was a distinct woodiness, tempered very early with some fresh toastiness. The wood gave way to some more vegetal notes, which soon took on a very slightly harsh bitterness, giving cocoa and espresso impressions. As these died away towards the end, the woodiness came back to the fore, this time having lost the toasty edge, to be replaced with a slightly more ‘slap you round the face with a haddock’ straightforwardness. Despite the bish-bash-bosh end, there were never the very harsh, acrid notes you get when the cigar is overly hot – so yet another testament to this cigar’s construction. Overall, pretty good for such a small stick. 21

Overall Impression /35

This is no bad cigar… within twenty-five minutes you can enjoy a cigar and a coffee or a coke, yet you will still have been taken on a bit of a journey. The complexity of a robusto, or even some petit coronas is not there, but you do have some distinct changes to give you something to think about. Having said all of this, there was just something about this stick which didn’t quite click with me… it didn’t quite meld together as I might have hoped, and it was a little rough around the edges – which is a shame, as it is a delightfully constructed cigar. Something that I will definintely be giving another shot – but I shall be trying some others as competition in the quick smoke category. 29

Grand total… 85/100

Cohiba SIGLO I

(Size: 4″ x 40 — Time: 30mins)

I’m afraid that there aren’t any pics of the SIGLO I cigar itself. However, I hope that the photograph of the delightful tube that it came in will suffice.

SIGLO I Tubo

I smoked this ciga last autumn after a really shocking day of being messed around by various companies and workmen. It was fair to say that I needed something to relax with. By the evening everything was sorted and I headed to the hotel next door to enjoy a cigar. I grabbed a pint of Caffrey’s and lit up the SIGLO I on the hotel’s smoking terrace. (Believe me, it is not as good as the word ‘terrace’ might imply…)

This little stick gave me an exact half-hour of enjoyment after a rough day.

Appearance /15

Well. what can you say about the SIGLO I? The tube it is nestled in is simply gorgeous! What an excellent first impression. Then, as you remove it from its cosy cedar lining, you witness the full beauty of tobacco. The wrapper for this cigar was a well applied sheeny, dark brown leaf and nice cap. However, there were a few small veins, which just prevent this cigar claiming a perfect score. 14

Smoking Characteristics /25

The aromas given off by this cigar before lighting were hard to pin-point. But they were pleasant – perhaps reminiscent of a lightly roasted coffee bean? The cigar lit first time and quickly got into its stride. There was only one, slight, period when it went off-kilter slightly, but otherwise it burnt well and evenly. The draw was almost perfect, providing just the right amount of resistance. This cigar produced voluminous smoke, remarkable for a tres petit corona. Overall, the construction and quality of this cigar was pretty good, with just a few minor isses around the half-way point. A well constructed cigar. 23

Flavour /25

This is a small stick. If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… Small sticks aren’t renowned for their complexity. This SIGLO I seems to be a pleasant exception. On lighting it gave me a nice welcome with those distinctly Cohiba flavours – a wonderfully rich and creamy flavour, which had a lovely texture on the tongue. This developed into something which made me think of a rich, cocoa butter, possibly with hints at smooth spices. These soft spices continued as the cocoa butter resemblance gave way to the slightly spiced leatheriness. However, the slight spiciness disappeared and the leather faded to a slightly woody taste, it went a little bit bland for a few minutes in this middle section . Through this middle section a slight butteriness returns, but it is still a little uninteresting. I likened this particular butter intervention to I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter rather than some delicious Jersey butter. This butter gives way quite quickly to something which makes me think of a lightly infused chili oil – like you’d get at a pizzeria in Italy. For a few puffs this took on a slightly sweet character. The stick finishes with a smooth peppery flourish, without going harsh at any point. Overall, a nice little cigar with different phases through the smoke. Unfortunately let down a tad by a slightly uninteresting few minutes in the middle. 22

Overall Impression /35

Whilst not having the drifting variation of complexities that a robusto or lonsdale could provide, this tiny little cigar was still able to produce a solid three stage smoke. Consider it Macbeth, to a robusto’s Hamlet (if you’re not into your Shakespear just compare the length of the plays next time you’re in Waterstones… ). This is a brilliantly constructed cigar which is well presented and provides some nice flavours. Definitely one to stock up on (if you’ve got the cash). Definitely better than the Monte 5, but the San Cristobal El Principe is a challenger which is almost as nice but quite a bit cheaper. I’ll definitely be buying again! 30

Grand total… 89/100