Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo du Gourmet (Cuba)

Palma (170mm x 33 gauge)

The Hoyo ‘du’ series of cigars is an uncommon one. There are six: du Daupin (152mm x 38); du Depute (110mm x 38); du Maire (100mm x 30); du Prince (130mm x 40); du Roi (142mm x 42), and the subject of this review, du Gourmet. All handmade and in strange sizes, they are begging to be tried by the adventurous smoker. I chanced upon the existence of these online whilst looking for a review of something else; the du Gourmet  seemed to have the most heavily polarizing reviews. Why? This vitola – effectively a panatela that has been stretched in length by about 50% – is a challenge to roll and smoke. Poor construction will completely ruin the draw, especially given its thin gauge. If you smoke them too slowly, they will go out, requiring frequent relighting and emphasizing charcoal bitterness. Smoked too fast, they will also tend to get too hot, and once again, bitter. Basically, you are drawing the same amount of air through the stick as with a larger gauge cigar – a robusto will have three times the surface area over which to spread the incoming oxygen, resulting in much cooler smoke.

An order was placed and a compact box showed up about a week later, bearing a September 2009 stamp. I didn’t quite know what to expect – they were panatelas, and the box was so big I thought they might have made a nice mistake and sent me a cabinet – no such luck. 25 in a neat bundle. I of course had to smoke one as soon as time permitted.

Construction 8.5/10:

Tightly rolled, rustic looking, and generally twig-like; however, the caps were all expertly applied – amazing considering their diminutive size. (Imagine applying a triple cap to a cigarette and you get the idea of the challenge). All of the sticks felt even, with no bunching or hard spots. The wrappers are an attractive milk-chocolate color, with some moderate veining and a couple of water spots on a stick or two. The cigars exude a strong barnyard/ hay smell, and have a salty wrapper like the best Cubans. All in all, a well constructed stick – especially given the opposite extremes of length and girth the roller had to contend with. A man cannot be accused of compensating for something while smoking one of these.

The appearance was borne out by burn performance too – the cigar offered a perfect draw with plenty of smoke, forming a tight, medium-gray ash which held for about an inch before dropping. Considering its gauge, an impressive performance – I don’t know of any robustos that can consistently hold half their length in ash. Alas, this particular stick required several touch ups; one side decided to be stubborn and required minor correction. I suspect it’s difficult to get even heat across the small foot of the cigar, and any differences will be accentuated by spirited puffing.

Burn time was a surprisingly long 1h40min.

Flavor 8.5/10:

Initially, I thought of dividing this review into thirds – but with a stick this long, it really didn’t make any sense. Instead, I’ll describe what I tasted as it happened.

  1. First puffs hit the palate with something savory, and slightly spicy; this subsequently evolves to quite strong aniseed flavors with a finish of mushrooms. So far, so good – it’s living up to it’s Gourmet aspirations.
  2. After about a centimeter, a roasted taste comes into play, accompanied by sweet nuts and something slightly medicinal – akin to the smell of band aids, but not unpleasant.
  3. After about an inch, a touch up was made which brought in a minor hint of kerosene on relighting – reminiscent of a classical Partagas D4. Another puff and the kerosene is gone, settling down to a savory meat taste – is it lamb? Is it veal?
  4. Our first hits of vanilla arrive, accompanied by red wine and herbs.
  5. The savory, meaty taste returns, but vanilla remains on the palate on the finish; there are also notes of hay and leather, reminiscent of the Partagas Shorts. One wonders if there is some shared tobacco between them.
  6. It’s almost as though the du Gourmet is now playing in reverse; the salty, roasted taste has returned, and the finish is dominated by red wine. I’m not actually sure I’m accurately identifying flavors any more because my taste buds have been assaulted.
  7. The strength has been steadily increasing, and I can really feel the nicotine kicking in; this is despite smoking it slowly in an attempt at keeping the smoke cool.
  8. Down to the final inch. I nub it, but perhaps this was a mistake in hindsight, because it’s very, very strong now. Not unpleasant or bitter, just powerful. The final portion is dominated by hay, leather and vanilla, with a slight hint of nuts.

Conclusion 8.5/10:

It’s difficult to fault this cigar – it was well rolled, had a great draw, ample smoke and a complex, changing taste that always made me wonder what was going to come next. It isn’t the smoothest smoke I’ve had, or the most flavorful, but impresses with its complexity and involvement. It requires some patience and practice to keep lit and at the optimum temperature, but rewards with a unique and very enjoyable experience. Definitely recommended for the more experienced smoker, if you can find them.

Sadly, Habanos has discontinued many similarly-sized vitolas in favor of larger gauge sticks that are both easier to make and enjoy higher popularity in today’s numbers-obsessed world. Another one of my favorites are the Montecristo Joyitas, which pack surprisingly good flavor into something so small. These, together with the Por Larranaga Montecarlo – a 159mm x 33 delicioso, will be the subject of future reviews as I investigate the interesting world of panatelas further.

Apologies for not having any smoke-in-progress photos, I was distracted by the cigar. MT