18 Dec 2007
When it comes to premium cigars from the forbidden island, Hoyo de Monterrey generally takes a backseat to more familiar brands like Cohiba and Montecristo. My recent sit-downs with a few Epicure No. 2s, however, suggest Hoyo shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.
José Gener established Hoyo in 1865 in Vuelta Abajo, a fertile region of Cuba nestled in the southern part of the Órganos Mountains. In 2001 Cigar Aficionado called this place the “land of the world’s best cigar leaves.”
Take a good look at an Epicure No. 2 and it’s easy to see why. This is a clean and elegant stick that measures four and 7/8 inches with a 50 ring gauge. It sports a beautiful, seamless, yellow-tinted wrapper that’s almost flawless and a nostalgic red, white, and gold band.
Pre-light I found notes of cinnamon, cocoa, and fruit off the freshly cut head. I was surprised and a bit concerned to discover the cigar has an inconsistent feel – soft and spongy in some places, rock hard in others.
But that concern faded as I torched the foot to reveal a dry, sandy aroma of cedar. This flavor is particularly pleasing because it’s balanced by an acidic taste, which adds saliva to the palate (bite into a lemon and you’ll see what I mean).
After an inch or so, the flavor mellows into more complexity with notes of jasmine, rose, and coffee. I am particularly struck by the thick, voluminous smoke given off by each tiny puff, the even burn that doesn’t require much attention, and the solid ash that holds firm for two or more inches. These characteristics hold true until the final inch, when the taste comes full circle by fading into spicy cedar.
Like many Cubans, the price of the Epicure No. 2 varies considerably in the U.S. from as low as $8 to as high as $17. Either way I doubt you’ll be disappointed. For a mild- to medium-bodied taste that stands up to Cohiba and Montecristo, I give the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 four and ½ out of five stogies.
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photo credit: Stogie Guys