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It’s been a pretty significant year for the H. Upmann brand, as in 2019 the brand celebrated its 175th anniversary, and as such got a number of celebratory cigars.

As a refresher, Hermann Upmann was a German banker who arrived in Cuba in 1843 on behalf of a German importer and exporter. He soon opened his own bank that focused on providing services to those in the tobacco industry, and then 1844 he bought a cigar factory and began producing cigars under his name. Beyond that, he is often credited with being the first to use labeled cigar boxes, both for his own brands and for those made by other cigar makers that he also sold.

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This summer, Altadis U.S.A. released two cigars at the 2019 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, the H. Upmann Hispaniola by Jose Mendez and this cigar, the H. Upmann 175 Anniversary, which was blended by Abdel “A.J.” Fernández in collaboration with Altadis’ Grupo de Maestros and rolled at his factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.

Fernández crafted a Nicaraguan puro featuring a wrapper that comes from three-year-aged medio tiempo leaves—some of the highest on a tobacco plant—and which underwent a unique fermentation process where they were sandwiched between broadleaf tobaccos. This process slowed down the process and gave the tobacco a unique taste and elasticity, according to the company.

 

It’s available in a single 7 x 50 Churchill vitola that is priced at $18 but comes offered in two packaging formats. The first is a more traditional 10-count box with 14,750 boxes made, the second is a limited edition 50-count humidor, of which 50 humidors were produced.

Additionally, Altadis U.S.A. released a new line called H. Upmann Herman’s Batch in November that was designed to be a nod to the cigars of Upmann’s day.

As for the Cuban-made H. Upmann, the releases have been a bit more subdued, as the company began shipping the H.Upmann Propios Edición Limitada, which was part of the 2018 series, a few months ago.

  • Cigar Reviewed: H. Upmann 175 Anniversary
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
  • Wrapper: Nicaragaua
  • Binder: Nicaragaua
  • Filler: Nicaragaua
  • Length: 7 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Churchill
  • MSRP: $18 (Boxes of 10, $180; Humidors of 50, $1,250)
  • Release Date: August 2019
  • Number of Cigars Released: 14,750 Boxes of 10 Cigars & 50 Humidors of 50 Cigars(150,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The H. Upmann 175 Anniversary is certainly a lot to take in from a visual perspective, a long and fairly thick cylinder of tobacco wrapped in a meaty brown leaf with a good amount of gold used on the primary band. It also features a foot band that covers the foot, a design not commonly seen and one that I’ve never quite embraced, other than it provides a bit more visual real estate, which in this case features both the A.J. Fernández and Grupo de Maestros names encircling a gold design. It is a beautifully rolled cigar with nearly invisible seams and no visual distractions. There are some veins but they are flat and unobtrusive, while a closer inspection reveals a good amount of toothy bumps on the wrapper. The foot of the cigar offers a very complex aroma, one of the more challenging ones to decipher in recent memory. My first impression is beef jerky and a related meatiness, but there’s both cedar and a sweetness that echoes the jerky note and gives the entire aroma depth. The cold draw has a bit of resistance and a subtle black pepper note as the first thing to stick out, but the sweet jerky note isn’t far behind, though it is a bit less meaty than in the aroma. There’s a bit of candied ginger lingering in the background as well.

The opening puffs of the first H. Upmann 175 Anniversary I light up are smooth and creamy, and while I’m not one to describe a flavor as elegant, there is some elegance to the introduction of the cigar. White pepper comes along not long after, making for a medium-minus profile on the tongue but a medium-plus retrohale as the pepper is more vibrant. The second sample opens a bit rougher, a contrast to the first and suggesting a much different road ahead, while the third finds some middle ground between the other two experiences. The cedar sweetness is quite good when it appears through the nose, giving a very pleasant fragrance that rises above the pepper and leaves its own distinct tingle in the nostrils. By the time the first clump of ash comes off at just about an inch in length, retrohales have picked up more wood while keeping the pepper, and there’s a side of me that’s hoping that they will combine for a solid campfire note. The flavor, meanwhile, is generally more subdued, showing only a bit of pepper in favor of creaminess and just a bit of oatmeal. The construction has been about as perfect as I could ask for, save for the occasional clump of ash that drops off without warning.

The flavor of the H. Upmann 175 Anniversary gets a bit more robust as the burn line crosses into the second third, adding touches of black pepper and earth which also add some tingle to the taste buds and palate, something that stands out in the second sample. The change in profile continues across the midway point, and there are times it oversteps, getting a bit less than enjoyable on the palate and a noticeable departure from the smoothness of the first third. There’s more wood in the smoke now, a fragrant and flavorful expression that seems ready to shine without the accompanying irritation. However, that can translate less than ideal to the palate, as one sample gets a dry, sharp woodiness that loses almost every good quality about the flavor. There also seems to be some nicotine strength emerging from the cigar, though I wonder how much I may be misjudging the persistent irritation that has been present in this section. The draw, burn and smoke production have all been quite good to this point. 

I find myself retrohaling a fair amount at the start of the final third, as the smoke is dense and focused at this point, almost giving the nostrils a closed fist punch as opposed to a widespread tingle. There’s more wood and earth coming back into the profile, accented by pepper and a bit of creaminess, which when all put together makes the profile a touch heavier on the palate. At its best, the H. Upmann 175 Anniversary lightens up on whatever was causing the irritation earlier, though it doesn’t completely shed the offending components, leaving a bit to materialize in sporadic spots. Needless to say, the cigar is at its best when not in one of those spots, offering a slightly peppery and earthy profile that successfully utilizes woods and creaminess for accent flavors. The draw and burn remain stellar, with smoking time wrapping up consistently at just over two hours and the cigar burning down to a fairly small nub.

Final Notes

  • Just like on the front of the cigar, there is text printed on the backside of the main band that says THIS IS MY SIGNATURE. There’s no name attached to it, and no signature, but presumably it is attributable to Abdel Fernández, who has frequently included his signature in a similar location on other cigars.

  • I sometimes wonder if the style of band with the covering for the foot isn’t designed in part to keep people from smelling it in humidors. Sort of like a sneeze guard at a salad bar.
  • The second sample was notably pesky with ash, dropping off without me tapping it and sending my pants straight into the laundry. The third wasn’t much better, either, so unless you like ash falling everywhere, I recommend being proactive with tapping it off.
  • There is some nicotine strength to be found in the H. Upmann 175 Anniversary, enough that I had a pinch of white sugar after one sample to try and counteract the effect.
  • In 2013, Habanos S.A. selected the H. Upmann marca to celebrate the 520th anniversary of Christoper Columbus’ discovery of the new world, with the H. Upmann 520 Aniversario.
  • When Brooks Whittington opened the box to photograph it, he said that multiple dividers were displaced and the cigars either out of place or upside down inside.
  • JR Cigar, which is owned by the same company as Altadis U.S.A, advertises on  halfwheel.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was two hours and 10 minutes on average.
  • Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Corona Cigar Co., Famous Smoke Shop, JR Cigar and STOGIES World Class Cigars carries the H. Upmann 175 Anniversary. JR Cigar and STOGIES also offer the cigar in humidor packaging format.
89 Overall Score

An anniversary as monumental as a 175th calls for a special cigar, and for the most part, the H. Upmann 175 Anniversary delivers. It is a medium-full smoke that offers layers of flavors onto the palate, and while it occasionally strays to a point that I would call out-of-balance, for the most part it keeps things in check. At its best spots, it blends earthiness, pepper and creaminess along with cedar and less descriptive woods into a symphony of flavors that provide a very enjoyable experience both on the palate and through the nose. The construction is nearly flawless as long as you keep the ash in the ashtray, but not once did I note anything besides that.A very enjoyable cigar from start to finish that pays tribute to one of the true superstar brands of the industry.

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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