Head west from Havana, through the province of Artemisa along the Autopista Este-Oeste, and in about two hours you will find yourself in the province of Pinar del Río. Not only is it one of the most unique, scenic and downright gorgeous areas of the country, but it is also home to the island’s famed tobacco farms in its Vuelta Abajo region.
My first visit to Finca Montesino came back in January 2013, an unexpected stop set up by my friend and tour guide for my first visit to the most famous tobacco growing regions in the world. Upon arrival at the property, I was greeted by Aulojeo Montesino, the strapping farmer whose family name graces the property and who has features that would rival the most envied male American celebrities.
The farm is expansive with rolling hills packed with tobacco plants that he proudly says will go primarily be used as wrappers on Cohiba cigars. As such, the walls of the house’s front room where visitors are invited in for a cigar, coffee and a glass of Guayabita del Pinar, is filled with photos of Cohiba cigars as well as a few articles about the farm and maps of the region. In addition to the hospitality offered by his wife and son, who also works the fields and is as handsome as his father, there is the option to pick up some cigars as souvenirs of your visit.
As is the case with the Robaina farm, the Montesino family is able to reserve some of the tobacco they are contracted to sell to Empresa Cubana del Tabaco, the Cuban cigar company who produces all premium cigars in the country and is also known as Cubatabaco. On my first visit I picked up a sampling of the sizes, while on my most recent visit in January 2014 I went exclusively with the petit corona vitola.
Cigar Reviewed: Finca Montesino Petit Corona
Country of Origin: Cuba
Size: 5 Inches
Ring Gauge: 40
Vitola: Petit Corona
MSRP: $2.00 (Bundles of 25, $50.00)
Release Date: n/a
Number of Cigars Released: n/a
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
With no band or box, there is nothing in the way of packaging to offer a first impression of this cigar, other than knowing its origins and the memories that come along with that. The cigar is a light earthy brown, almost the shade of brown you might find on store-bought peanuts or of the lighter leather you would find on work boots. It is dry and has a bit of texture but is largely smooth to the touch, with an appearance that will be familiar to those who have smoked their share of Cubans before. Construction wise, it is evenly rolled with uniform amounts of give along its length and the cap is applied well with no suggestion these were made by an amateur roller. There are notes of dry tobacco and soil on the pre-light aroma along with a bit of faint barn wood. The cold draw is just a bit tight with a distinct note of graham cracker but otherwise a fairly neutral profile.
The Montesino Farmie is just a touch sour right out of the gate; definitely distinctive and a palate grabber, it’s not quite the fulfillment of the idea of the Cuban farmie being this wonderful little encapsulation of heaven that it might be made out to be. Fortunately it smooths out fairly quickly and what is uncovered is a good bit of dry soil, a faint touch of white pepper and some dry wood that is the most lingering of the three on the tongue. The first bit of ash drops off at the one inch mark and the draw opens up just a touch with a touch of sweetness, more of the dry wood note and just a touch of light pepper that doesn’t do much to boost the strength of the cigar past medium at best. Retrohales in the first third are generally mellow with a touch of pepper and wood notes. The thin and wispy smoke feels fuller in the mouth than it appears to the eyes, quickly dissipating into the ambient air and producing almost nothing while at rest.
There is a bit of a break from the flavor heading into the second third, as the Finca Montesino becomes downright mild and non-descript for several puffs. The cigar has performed very well with no burn issues or challenges with the draw; the looseness of the ash is the only thing that could be mentioned but given its small ring gauge is almost to be expected. Flavor comes back around as the second half begins, this time a touch creamier with a more aromatic wood note in the nose and a reduction in pepper. The burn rate also seems to pick up a bit here, with the lull of the flavors seeming to expedite the progression to the final inch or so.
The Montesino continues its mild-plus flavor profile into the final third, with some dry, unsalted pretzel notes coming out with the continued backing notes of dry earth and wood. Pepper remains largely absent though the wood does an admirable job filling in for it in terms of palate tingle. Retrohales continue to be easy and offer just a touch of pepper and chalk that offer the most engaging sensory experience to this point. The burn also remains spot on with no need for touchups or corrections, and the temperature staying as cool as one can hope. With the mild flavors staying very palatable all the way to the end, each of the three cigars smoked turned into finger burners as I tried to get every puff I could out of the cigars.
- I’m ballparking the price a bit as I don’t recall exactly how much I spent and how many were in the bundle. Needless to say, it’s a bargain.
- There are generally four or five sizes available at the farm, from this little petit corona all the way up to the 6 9/10 x 47 Espléndidos.
- While the year of age has certainly made a difference, I’m inclined to say the bigger ring gauges are a bit preferable to the smaller ones in this small sample size I’ve had.
- As has become my standard practice with Cuban cigars, I went with a soft flame lighter as opposed to my standard triple flame torch. I find the high temperature from the torch is too much for most Cuban cigars.
- There is a non-Cuban brand of cigars called Montesino, made in the Dominican Republic by Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia.
- Tony Hyman’s incredibly underappreciated CigarHistory.info site doesn’t have a listing for a Cuban brand by the name Montesino.
- If you get the chance, be sure to try some Guayabinta del Pinar. It’s a very sweet liquor made with sugar cane and a flavor the comes from guayabita, which translates as little guava. It might be too sweet for some, but I really enjoy it and consider it one of the regional specialties of Pinar del Rio.
- Both Brooks Whittington and I have reviewed farmies from Robaina, I reviewed La Bestia, while Brooks reviewed El Padrino.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was about one hour on average.
There's no doubt that the legend of Cuban farmies is pretty, well, legendary: cigars fresh from the farms that grow tobacco for the forbidden island certainly have the potential to get high scores before even being lit up. Yet a touch of harshness and sourness out of the gate doesn't offer the best first impression, with a fairly quick shedding of that note to reveal some good if mild flavors that dissipate before coming back strong in the final third for a very enjoyable finish. Should you have the chance to visit Finca Montesino, by all means pick up a sampling of all the sizes they have available, for there is simply no more unique way to taste the flavors of Cuba--just be sure to keep your expectations in check.