When discussing the large multitude of countries and U.S. states where cigar brands have been founded, Montana is probably not high on most people’s list. However, Billings, Mont.-based Big Sky Cigar Co. has been aiming to change that perception since it was founded in 2019.

The company debuted three years ago with three different blends, each named after a different river in the state: The Bighorn, The Madison and The Yellowstone. Two new creations were added to Big Sky’s lineup in May 2021: a fourth river-themed 6 x 54 creation named Bitterroot and a 4 3/4 x 44 short salomon the company dubbed Mad Minnow.

 

One of those original blends in Big Sky’s River Series was a 6 1/4 x 52 toro named The Madison after the Madison River, which is a 183-mile tributary of the Missouri River that runs through both Montana and Wyoming. The cigar is made up of a habano wrapper covering a San Andrés binder from Mexico and filler tobaccos hailing from the four growing regions in Nicaragua: Condega, Esteli, Jalapa and Ometepe. As is the case with the rest of Big Sky’s creations, The Madison is rolled at the Tacasa S.A. factory in Estelí, Nicaragua and the cigars are sold in either five- or 20-count boxes that retail for $55 and $189.99 respectively.

Here is what I wrote in my original review of The Madison back in December 2020:

Having never heard of Big Sky until I photographed in them studio, I was interested to see what they would bring to the table. What I found in The Madison was a blend with a first third that was overwhelming in multiple ways: too much mesquite, too much pepper and far too much spice on the palate. However, the profile calmed down nicely—and truth be told, almost shockingly quickly—in the second and final thirds, giving flavors of leather, creamy hay, and light cantaloupe sweetness a bit more room to shine. Even at its best, The Madison is a bit rough around the edges, but I am interested to see if some time in the humidor will allow the overwhelming flavors in the first third and the more subdued notes in the final two thirds to meld into something much more enjoyable.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Big Sky The Madison
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tacasa S.A.
  • Wrapper: Undisclosed (Habano)
  • Binder: Mexico (San Andrés)
  • Filler: Nicaragua (Condega, Esteli, Jalapa & Ometepe)
  • Length: 6 1/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $11 (Five-Count Box, $55; 20-Count Box, $189.99)
  • Release Date: Oct. 2, 2020
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 1

Unlike the original samples, the wrapper covering this Big Sky The Madison is a dull cinnamon brown, which looks quite attractive when contrasted with the emerald green band. There is almost no oil visible and the cigar is extremely spongy when squeezed. Strong aromas of cedar and baker’s spices emanate from the wrapper, mixing with noticeably lighter notes of leather, manure and mint leaves. The foot brings very different aromas, including strong and sweet hay, earth, mocha coffee and generic nuts. After cutting the cap with a double guillotine cutter, the cold draw is full, with flavors of aged cedar, tea leaves, cocoa nibs, a vegetal note, slight mint and even a bit of varnish.

Immediately, the differences between the original samples and this aged sample are apparent. Although there is still some pepper present, there is not nearly as much as before; there is quite a bit more honey sweetness; and what was an overwhelming mesquite flavor has been replaced by a much more balanced combination of leather tack and gritty earth. Secondary flavors of creamy cedar, almonds, cocoa nibs, hay, cinnamon, earth and unsalted popcorn make themselves known at various times, the latter of which is relegated exclusively to the finish. Flavor easily hits a point very close to the medium mark, while both the body and strength end the first half firmly at a mild plus. The draw is excellent after a straight cut and there is plenty of smoke, but the burn does need a minor correction with my lighter right before the halfway point.

Other than becoming slightly more creamy overall, there is not a huge change in the profile of the Big Sky during the second half, as the leather tack and earth combination continues to easily top the profile. Additional notes of cedar, baker’s spices, cocoa powder, roasted espresso beans and hay flit in and out, while the amount of both white pepper and honey sweetness on the retrohale remains virtually identical compared to the first half. Around the start of the final third, the flavor reaches its strongest point—medium-plus—where it remains until the end of the cigar, while the body hits a point just under medium and the strength reaches solid medium by the time I put the nub down after one hour and 28 minutes of smoking time. Finally, both the draw and smoke production remain excellent until the end of the cigar, while the burn gives me no more issues.

88 Overall Score

In my original review more than a year ago, my biggest issue with Big Sky’s The Madison was the first third, which featured an almost overwhelming amount of mesquite, black pepper and spice on the palate. Thankfully, 15 months of age has done wonders for the profile, which now includes not only a more balanced first third but also new top flavors of leather tack and earth along with some honey sweetness on the retrohale and a distinct unsalted popcorn flavor that shows up on the finish. The improvements also extend to the construction, where this sample of The Madison also stood apart from the ones I smoked for the original review in one major way. Instead of being noticeably loose, the draw gave me an almost perfect amount of resistance, and there was only one minor touchup needed in the first half making the Big Sky's The Madison a much better cigar in the end.

Original Score (December 2020)
84
Redux Score (April 2022)
88

Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.