How To Choose The Right Montecristo Cigar
Choosing the right Montecristo cigar can often be a tricky prospect, much will be driven by personal taste and preference, but the occasion in which you’re smoking can also help narrow down your choice from the brand’s monolithic roster of offerings.
With that in mind, it poses the question: when should you select certain styles of vitola over others?
It’s an often spun tale that the chunkier a cigar is, the stronger it will be, however the thickness of a cigar will not change its strength, but it may affect its intensity or the concentration of flavour. Thinner cigars (such as the Montecristo Especial) burn hotter and faster than thicker ones, whereas chunkier cigars (e.g. the Montecristo Double Edmundo) deliver a cooler, bigger draw with more smoke production. The strength will however remain the same as generally the same blend of tobaccos will be employed, providing the same strength of smoke.
So, why then do so many wildly varying vitolas exist, and why do we create more all the time?
Generally speaking, the wrapper leaf on a cigar accounts for 60 to 80% of the flavour you perceive, which is why wrapper leaves in particular are so highly prized: the leaf itself brings so much flavour to the table but also has to be the most aesthetically pleasant. In a thinner cigar, for example the Montecristo Especial No. 2, you’re smoking a higher ratio of wrapper leaf compared to the binder and filler tobaccos underneath it. In a thicker cigar, you smoke less wrapper and more binder and filler by comparison, which in turn makes the wrapper leaf take a back seat and allow the nuances of the filler blend and the binder leaf to do the heavy lifting, as seen in the indomitable Montecristo Leyenda.
However for the purposes of helping select the right stick for you, we can break the various styles into two distinct camps:
With both of these types lending themselves better to different smoking scenarios:
Always a top-notch option for afternoon herfing and an excellent choice for an after-dinner smoke; a longer, slender stick will provide an elegant, more aromatic smoking experience for casual, relaxed occasions where a hefty ring gauge vitola would seem like a bull in a china shop. As luck would have it, Montecristo have been one of the brands slowest to fully embrace the modern penchant for heavy ring gauge stogies, and still maintain a healthy roster of lengthy, thin ring gauge offerings, such as:
One of very few of its kind currently still in production, the Montecristo Especial is a true delight of a stick known as a ‘Lancero,’ famed as the favourite vitola of Fidel Castro and the flagship stick of his formerly private reserve, Cohiba. Lancero vitolas are about as long and slender as it gets, measuring in at 7 1/2" (190.5mm) with a 38 ring gauge, the Especial is a thoroughly elegant stick resplendent with rich earthy tones and a light smattering of spice, which develops into sweeter notes reminiscent of vanilla pod.
Effectively a scaled-down version of the original Especial, the Especial No. 2 bears the same dimensions as another Cohiba vitola, the Coronas Especiales. Clocking in at a still very respectable 6” (152mm) x 38 ring gauge, the Montecristo Especiales No. 2 brings all the same elegant, nuanced flavours and notes as its bigger sibling but in a slightly more accessible format, making it a magnificent stick which can be enjoyed at practically any time of day!
Another form of vitola which grows rarer and more sought after by aficionados year-in, year-out is the Lonsdale. Regarded by many as the purest expression of cigar rolling prowess, Lonsdales are slightly chunkier and longer, clocking in at 6 ½” x 42 ring gauge, than comparable sticks (such as the aforementioned Especial No. 2). Holding the torch for a dwindling vitola style so beloved by so many is no easy feat, but one which the Montecristo No. 1 answers in tremendous style. A perfect stick for a long afternoon herf with some light beverages.
Growing steadily in popularity since the late 80’s/early 90’s, thick ring gauge sticks are now the mode for most cigar formats, with many viewing the Robusto size as the best starting point for easing yourself into enjoying the larger modern sizes. As a brand, Montecristo have been a little on the slow side adapting to the new way of things, but rest assured that their roster is still jam-packed with some incredible heavy ring gauge offerings, perfect for enjoying when your main objective is simply to enjoy a long evening’s herf with good drinks and great company!
First and foremost among Montecristo’s chunky outings is the seminal Montecristo No. 2, perhaps the most iconic of all Piramedes (torpedo) vitolas and a living legend in its own right, being produced since the brand’s foundation all the way back in 1935. In the decades since its first appearance, the No. 2 has drawn the adulation of such staunch cigar devotees as Arnold Swarzenegger, Michael Jordan and Robert Downey Jr.
Always reliable and always delicious, the No. 2 delivers a complex smoking experience which offers an elegant interplay of almond and orange peel notes that frame a leathery, woody core. Measuring in at 6 ⅛” (155.5mm) x 52 ring gauge, the No. 2 is one of the very first hefty sticks in regular production, and looks set to remain that way for many years to come!
Though Montecristo were slow to get onboard with the “Robusto Revolution,” once they entered the fray, they did it with style and panache! Introducing: the Montecristo Edmundo.
Taking its name from Edmundo Dantes, protagonist of Montecristo’s namesake novel (The Count of Monte Cristo), the Edmundo was introduced in early 2004 and at the time of release was the first new vitola to be added to the brand’s standard cigar range since 1971.
Immaculately presented, if sometimes a little on the rugged side, the Edmundo brings almost a full hour of smoking pleasure, clocking in at 5 ⅜” (136.5mm) x 52 ring gauge. A little more intense and spice-laden in its delivery of flavour than some previous entries on this list, but as with the Especial these flavours become sweeter and more inviting with time. For best enjoyment of the Edmundo, we’d recommend smoking slowly and steadily, basking in the rich, tantalising aromas it has to offer.
By far the heftiest stick currently produced by Montecristo, the Linea 1935 Leyenda had some pretty large shoes to fill in taking over from the stunning (and now sadly departed) Montecristo 80 Aniversario. Taking the form of a Maravillas No. 2, the Leyenda is a goliath of a cigar, weighing in at a considerable 6 ½“ (165mm) x 55 ring gauge, for a time tying it with the much-beloved Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchill as the largest ring gauge cigar produced by Cuba, a feat which has now been astonishingly surpassed by the Romeo y Julieta Linea de Oro Hidalgos.
Not only does the Leyenda bring a hefty ring gauge to the table, but also a bolder, more impactful blend of tobaccos than Montecristo’s standard blend, present in all three Linea 1935 outings.
A paragon of quality and excellence, the Leyenda is by far and away one of the most delicious ways to lose yourself for an hour and a half.
Ultimately there can be no real right or wrong answer as to which cigar to smoke and when as everybody’s smoking experience and preferences are purely subjective, but by following the loose guidance above we hope that you can maximise the enjoyment of your sticks by lighting them up in the right scenarios and in the right company!