Montecristo Espada Guard   

Made at the Plasencia factory in Nicaragaua, the Montecristo Espada Guard is certainly a cigar with style and class. Available in beautiful 10 count boxes, the Montecristo Espada is part of the ever-growing Altadis USA portfolio. From the Altadis USA website: 

Constructed with 100% vintage Nicaraguan tobaccos specially aged by the Plasencia family and expertly blended by the world famous Grupo de Maestros, Espada by Montecristo offers a bold, spicy and deeply satisfying smoke. Espada, which means “sword” in Spanish, is the first Montecristo with all of its tobacco coming from Nicaragua – a country celebrated for its robust and mellow tobaccos. Espada by Montecristo is a cigar of pure taste and true elegance”.

Being named to Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 (number 20) in 2015, I found this cigar catching my eye while at my local Brick & Mortar store this past week. Let’s find out what this sword swinging stick is all about.

On to the review….

Montecristo Espada Guard Attributes

Size: Toro (Guard)

Length: 6 

Ring Gauge: 50

Wrapper: Habano Jalapa Vintage 2010

Binder: Habano Jalapa Vintage 2009

Filler: Habano Jalapa Vintage 2008; Ometepe 2008; Condega 2008

Country: Nicaragua (Plasencia)

Price: $16.20 USD each

Aesthetics [Construction/Shelf-Appeal/Pre-light]: The Montecristo Espada is almost completely covered with bands, three in total. I’m typically leery of bands covering most of a cigar’s body as you never know what is to be found upon removal (like a Christmas present), however, after removal of foot band and middle band, the cigar showed a nice milk chocolate colored wrapper with several veins throughout. The cigar’s cap was perfectly rounded, and no soft spots were found as I rolled the cigar through my fingers. The foot was jam packed and the pre-light smell was of rich tobacco with feeble woody notes. Cold draw was loose and showed very faint tastes of sweet wood.

Performance [Draw/Burn]: The draw of the cigar was perfect and easy throughout the entire smoking experience showing almost no resistance. The smallest of draws produced a lot of creamy white smoke, and I would classify the cigar as medium/full in body. Burn was wavy throughout the entire smoke and required several touch-ups and one re-light. Ash was a flakey mix of light and dark greys.  I did use a V-Cut for this cigar due to the perfectly rounded cap. The Montecristo Espada was a medium strength smoke.   

Flavor [Tastes/Aroma]: Throughout the smoking experience I mainly encountered heavy black walnut and dry wood characteristics with leather, faith vanilla, a meaty chewiness, and sweet cedar aromas finding their way to my senses.  Not overly complex in the flavors and easily detected tastes were evident throughout smoking the cigar.

Overall Impressions [Value/Experience/Pairing]: My final assessment of the cigar is best summarized as solid. The cigar isn’t amazing, but it’s also far from awful. It’s a market solid cigar that will no doubt be consistent for those finding the flavor profile to fit their wants and needs. The biggest hinderance for me is the price tag. At the higher end of the premium level ($16.00) I can easily find other Nicaraguan puros that will give me a more enjoyable smoking experience. Is this cigar bad? No. Would it be better if the price tag was dropped? Absolutely! In fact, if this cigar were a $10.00 to $12.00 cigar, I would probably smoke it on a regular basis.

For reference, I paired the Montecristo Espada with black coffee and water, therefore, no pairing report was noted. 

Cigar Score: 3 out of 5 boxes

Rating Chart Reference

Top 5 Cigars of 2022

Have you ever felt drawn to one form of tobacco over another?  Or, to put the question straight forward, do you ever find yourself having stretches where you gravitate more toward cigars, or more toward pipe smoking, or even periods of dry nasal snuff use?  Without a doubt, I do.  In fact, 2022, for the most part, has been a cigar smoking year for me.  Why?  I don’t know, however, as of the writing of this piece, I have smoked over 197 cigars since April 2022.  That roughly equates to approximately 5 cigars per week for 37 straight weeks.  Is that too many?  For some folks that may seem extreme, whereas for others, they may enjoy five cigars per day.  

Similar to the subjectivity associated with tasting tobacco, the quantity of tobacco products one enjoys should be their own preference.  With that being said, I do support the belief that moderation must be followed, not just with tobacco, but in all aspects of life.  Regardless, no matter your thoughts on quantity, the question we are addressing with this list is the quality of cigars.  Below, I have presented my Top 5 Cigars for 2022.  Although the list could have easily been extended to include 25 cigars, I feel that anything past five just becomes grouped into a larger pool of good quality smokes.  The five cigars presented below have consistently battled their way into the top spots, or in some cases, held the lead from the get-go to prove their worth, and I highly recommend readers of The Pipe Professor website make it a point to try each stick. 

Before moving on, I will admit that although I have very much enjoyed cigars for the better part of this year, I am now trending back to my pipes and tobaccos.  To be completely forthright, I have been enjoying dry nasal snuff more than any other time in my luxury tobacco journey.  With that being said, I will present my Top 5 Nasal Snuffs on Friday, December 23rd and Top 5 Pipe Tobaccos of 2022 on Friday, December 30th here at The Pipe Professor website.  Stay tuned for the next few Fridays!

Without further ado, here are my Top 5 Cigars for 2022. 

Cigar #5:  Padilla 88 Anniversario Robusto

Manufacturer: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez (Ernesto Padilla) 

LH: 5

RG: 52

Binder: Nicaragua

Filler: Nicaragua

Wrapper: Ecuador Havana

County of Origin: Nicaragua

Price: $12.35 ea., $117 Box of 10

Notes:  The Padilla 88 Anniversario Robusto was #21 on the 2021 Cigar Aficionado Top 25, which is where I learned of its existence. The following is from the Cigar Aficionado website, “this cigar was created to honor the 88th birthday of his father Heberto Padilla, a famed Cuban poet who was imprisoned in 1971 for criticizing the Cuban government, sparking what became known as “The Padilla Affair.” The smoke is gorgeous, made in Nicaragua by A.J. Fernandez, with a beautiful Ecuador Havana wrapper and a touch of Pelo d’Oro filler in the blend, a fickle seed varietal that’s tough to grow.” I found that it was not always easy to locate this cigar and just received a restock earlier in December.  Prior to that, I only had the two five packs that I purchased in early 2021 and have had to ration accordingly.  However, the Padilla 88 Anniversario Robusto is a wonderful cigar and worth the hunt.

Tasting Notes: Tasting notes include, earth, dark chocolate, honey, damp forest floor, and leather.  It is to be noted that this cigar does pack a punch in the nicotine department and is not for the faint of heart.  Seasoned cigar smokers should be fine, newbies be warned.   

Cigar #4:  Aladino Queens Perfecto

Manufacturer: Aladino (JRE Tobacco Company, Julio R. Eiroa)

LH: 5 ¼ 

RG: 46

Binder: Honduran

Filler: Honduran

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut 

County of Origin: Honduras

Price: $6.75 ea., $125.00 Box of 20

Notes:  From the 2guyscigars website, the “JRE Tobacco is a family centered company, founded by Julio R. Eiroa and his son Justo M. Eiroa, together they manage all aspects of the cigar growing and manufacturing for your enjoyment. This is a crop to shop operation as we like to call it. As the premier Corojo grower in the industry, Julio Eiroa, Master Cigar Blender and Tobacco grower, guarantees that all their brands will provide you the opportunity to enjoy an Authentic Corojo taste, the same as cigars from the 1960’s.” Making a debut in April of 2019, the Aladino Connecticut line includes four sizes, Churchill (7 x 52), Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (6 x 50), and the Queens (5 ¼ x 46).  To be completely honest, if I had to pick a line of cigars that would qualify as the “line” or “brand” of the year, it would be Aladino.  The Aladino Corojo Reserve #4 was a very close candidate to making this list, but the Queens was able to squeeze in the win at the end.  

Tasting Notes: The Aladino Queens is a very soft subtle smoke that offers notes of rich buttered toast, vanilla cream, mild earth, fresh dried grasses, and wheated graham cracker.  

Cigar #3:  Montecristo Edmundo Tubo

Manufacturer: Habanos S.A. 

LH: 5 3/8 

RG: 52

Binder: Cuba

Filler: Cuba

Wrapper: Cuba

County of Origin: Cuba

Price: $38.00 ea., $540 Box of 15 (5 Cartons of 3)

Notes:  According to the Cigar Aficionado website the Montecristo Edmundo, “was introduced in the spring of 2004, but it has only recently begun to come into its own. The cigar measures 5 3/8 inches long by 52 ring gauge and is produced primarily in the H. Upmann factory, which is in the neighborhood of Nuevo Vedado in Havana.” It is true that Cuban cigars carry an inconsistency not typically found in new world sticks, but the Montecristo Edmundo Tubo consistently fired on all cylinders this year and offered its own special smoking experience unlike any other cigars I smoked.    

Tasting Notes: The Montecristo Edmundo showed notes of salted cashews, leather, hay, assam tea, cedar, and sweet cocoa powder. Although there were times when the burn would be wavy on one of the sticks, the overall satisfaction I gained from the cigar was not just enjoyable, it was memorable, and I am glad I now have enough put back in my collection to rotate in these memories for the next few years.  

Cigar #2:  Bandolero Firecracker

Manufacturer: Select Tobaccos (Nelson Alfonso) 

LH: 3 ½ 

RG: 50

Binder: Ecuador

Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Undisclosed

Wrapper: Ecuador

County of Origin: Costa Rica

Price: $9.00 ea., $180.00 Box of 20

Notes:  From The Cigar Authority website, “In 2006, from the creative mind of David Garofalo, the Firecracker line was born. The first cigar on the market with a long piece of tobacco at the head was shaped like a ‘wick’ or ‘fuse’ to capture the name of the line; Firecracker. After a few years on the market, the limited release Firecrackers came to life as United Cigars collaborated with a new manufacturer every year to create a celebration cigar for the nation’s Independence Day.  This year in 2022, United Cigars tabbed Nelson Alfonso and Selected Tobacco to produce the limited edition cigar of which only 1,000 boxes of 20 have been made. The regular production Bandolero is available in three different series, but the Firecrackers pulls from two them to create this unique cigar. The blend for the Bandolero Firecracker is derived from the Clandestino line (Series C) that uses filler leaves from Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and undisclosed tobaccos. The filler is held together with an Ecuadorian binder and a dark Ecuadorian wrapper that is typically used on the Aventureros line (Series A).”  I will admit that I have purchased more boxes of Bandolero Firecrackers than any other brand or line this year.  The cigar is a pure superstar and I wish it would become a regular production stick. Nothing against any of the other cigars in the Bandolero portfolio, however, the Firecracker is a super flavorful, slow smoking stick that is the most consistent cigar I have ever smoked.

Tasting Notes: This little stick yielded big flavors with notes of earth, cedar, mild black pepper, raisins/figs, black coffee, and molasses.   

2022 Cigar of the Year:  Atabey Delirios

Manufacturer: Select Tobaccos (Nelson Alfonso) 

LH: 5 ¾

RG: 55

Binder: Undisclosed

Filler: Undisclosed

Wrapper: Undisclosed

County of Origin: Costa Rica

Price: $32.00 ea., $799.00 Box of 25

Notes:  From the 2guyscigars website, “the name Atabey has ties to the Taino Indians and the cigar culture. It all began with Cohiba which referred to the circle the tribe would gather in to pray. They would offer their prayers to the leader known as Behike who in turn would deliver those prayers to the Goddess Atabey. Atabey Cigars comes to us from Nelson Alfonso and is made in Costa Rica where the blend is only known by a select few.”  I honestly came across this cigar by accident when I was in Liquor Barn picking up some delicious wines and spirits.  Like any good cigar aficionado, I always take a gander at the humidor before heading to the checkout.  The Atabey line was on full display that day, and although carrying a hefty price tag, I decided to pick up three different sizes to give the line a try.  My palate is surely glad I did, my wallet, not so much.  Atabey cigars not only taste incredible, but they also perform/burn phenomenally, and are masterfully crafted with beautiful golden wrappers, offering the seasoned smoker a perfect smoking experience.    

Tasting Notes: The Atabey Delirios are buttered cream, sweet molasses, dried grains, bready yeast, and fresh yellow cake. Fantastic smoke that has truly elevated the bar for what a quality cigar should be. Without a doubt, the Atabey Delirios is The Pipe Professor’s 2022 Cigar of the Year.

That will do it for my 2022 Top 5 Cigars.  If you would like to watch the video presentation of these Top 5 cigars, please visit The Pipe Professor YouTube channel at: https://youtu.be/Ve5XwpQQNv0   

Stay tuned for the Top 5 Nasal Snuffs and Pipe Tobaccos in the upcoming weeks.  As always, thank you for visiting The Pipe Professor webpage and I hope you find you way back soon. 

Cheers!