Montecristo cigars, the most famous of the many famous Havana brands started only in 1935 as a new brand from Menendez, Garcia y Cia., then the owners of the H. Upmann brand. The name is reported to have been inspired by Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 novel Le Comte de Monte Cristo. With a strong marketing effort from Alfred Dunhill of London, Montecristo Cigars became the most popular of all Havana exports. There are no machine-made shapes in this range and the strength is generally medium. It has become the standard by which all other Havanas are now judged.

Last friday night, during Racheal’s Farewell Party, i indulged in a Montecristo No. 2 (Torpedos vitola, 156mm and a whopping 52 ring gauge). It was a remarkably wonderful cigar that did two things: it relaxed me (had a hard week at work) and, by the end of the cigar, i was nearly ready to fall to my knees in pleasure (literally). This cigar is not for the faint hearted – it WILL put you under if you’re not ready for it.

I purchased the Montecristo No. 2 from the reasonable humidor located in Planter Jim’s, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar. It cost me RM65. Although it felt a bit dry, it was within acceptable conditions for smoking.

Presented in a fine maduro wrapper, the Montes No. 2 had a particularly strong scent when still unlighted. It was quite pleasurable just to take a long sniff at the cigars, and a quick tongue-taste of the cut end of it revealed a fairly strong initial taste. From the outset, i knew that the nicotine levels in this one would be quite high, even for a cigar rated as Medium-Strong by most.

It lighted easily, and only took a few quick draws to get going. The initial third of the cigar was quite light, actually. Dark cocoa tastes intermingled with a burst of tobacco. Pleasurable, to say the least. The “hit” from the cigar came very quickly: by the time a third of its was through, a pleasant warm fuzzy feeling pervaded my body. Very slight lightheaded-ness followed through the second and final third of the cigar. As i’ve noticed with the Montes, the cigar tends to get substantially more full-bodied in its last 2 inches or so – bitter sweet dark cocoa is noticeably replaced by a heavy woody taste.

The build quality of this cigar strikes me as being very good and any problems with the draws i experienced, i’ll notch up to being a fault of the relatively poor humidor found at Planter Jim’s (a review to follow soon). But even then, i found the burn evenly generous, producing a dark grey ash flaked with lighter grey tones.

What struck me most about this cigar has to be its “hit” – taken after a meal, and accompanied by water and a cool latte, i didn’t really expect it to be so strong. It took 2 hours to finish in polite conversation, and by the end of it, i can tell you i was experiencing a substantial high. Caution is advised to beginners: don’t take this with an empty stomach, and don’t take it “dry” (without an accompanying drink).

My advise is this cigar would be best experienced in quiet surroundings, while enjoying a good show or game of football on TV. Because of the nature and intention, the Montes No. 2 is meant to relax and soothe. Trying to hold a heavy conversation with this cigar might cause some discomfort.

Scent: Heavy tobacco scent – quite pleasing to the senses.

Taste: Starts off with a sweet, pleasing dark cocoa taste. Moves on to a heavy woody experience that packs a remarkable aroma.

Verdict: A “serious” cigar with a major nicotine hit. Best taken after a superb, yet light meal with a sweet-ish drink to counter the bitter woody flavour that comes later in the cigar. A good end-of-a-hard-day’s-work cigar.