Exclusive. It’s a word that has popped up and an incredible rate throughout the cigar industry in the past decade, with cigar manufacturers creating exclusive products for individual stores, distributors, regions, and pretty much any division or segment you can conjure.

It’s also not a phenomenon limited to what are often called new world cigar makers; Cuba’s Habanos S.A. has its own series of exclusive cigars, most notably regional editions but also a series of cigars for the flagship stores that carry Habanos S.A. products: La Casa del Habano.

The first La Casa del Habano was opened in Cancun, Mexico in 1990, and since then the number of franchises has grown to include stores around the world, with a recent search turning up some 88 locations.

In 2004, a trio of Bolívar cigars—the Belicosos Finos, Hermosos No. 4, and Gold Medal—were released as exclusive cigars made for La Casa del Habano franchises, and since that time the list has added 11 more cigars, with the program getting a formal introduction in 2011.

The Hoyo de Monterrey marca was selected to be the brand featured in 2012, with the Epicure de Luxe the first of two releases in the marca for the program; the other coming in 2016 with the Hoyo de Monterrey Elegantes, which also happened to be a rare figurado for the marca.

The full list of La Casa del Habanos exclusive releases is as follows:

  • Bolívar Belicosos Finos (2004)
  • Bolívar Hermosos No.4 (2004)
  • Bolívar Gold Medal (2004)
  • H. Upmann Noellas (2009)
  • La Gloria Cubana Inmensos (2010)
  • Ramón Allones Allones Superiores (2010)
  • H. Upmann Royal Robusto (2011)
  • Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe (2012)
  • Bolívar Libertador (2013)
  • Romeo y Julieta Cedros de Luxe (2014)
  • La Gloria Cubana Pirámides (2015)
  • La Gloria Cubana Robustos Extra (2015)
  • Hoyo de Monterrey Elegantes (2016)
  • Trinidad La Trova (2017)

The cigars’ exclusivity are distinguished by a secondary band in the colors of La Casa del Habano, with the store’s name featured around the iconic logo in the center.

Hoyo de Monterrey is one of the oldest and most historic in Habanos S.A.’s portfolio, with its roots tracing back the 1860s and Josê Gener, who started the brand in the town of San Juan y Martinez in Pínar del Río, which is known for sitting in the heart of the Vuelta Abajo region, where the country’s prized tobacco is grown. Today it is classified as a global brand and holds significant market share, with 12 vitolas part of its regular production.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe
  • Country of Origin: Cuba
  • Factory: n/a
  • Wrapper: Cuba
  • Binder: Cuba
  • Filler: Cuba
  • Length: 4 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Petit Robusto
  • Est. Price: $11.86 (Boxes of 10, $118.65)
  • Release Date: 2012
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The short and stout Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe wears a tanned, matte caramel colored wrapper, with a striking contrast in the shade to be found between on either side of the first seam, and unfortunately a few green spots. While rolled fairly well, it’s firm with just a bit of sponginess, and the cap on the first sample has something that looks like two small blade cuts, though I’m not certain that’s what they are. The foot is light and more fragrant than I anticipate from a Hoyo, showing a bit of cereal grain and blueberry with some lighter berry accents mixed in as well at its brightest, with popcorn, grains, cedar and dried tobacco mixed in across the three samples. The cold draw requires a bit more of a tug than I’d like on the first and third samples as it’s firm but not obstructed. It’s notably void of any big flavors, showing more of the cereal note but with just a bit of sweetness and hardly any pepper.

Mark me down as surprised by how full and peppery this Hoyo de Monterrey starts; for a line that gets billed as “delicate yet aromatic” and “lighter to the taste but with great elegance and complexity,” the Epicure de Luxe comes out confidently with big wood notes and no lack of pepper, particularly in the retrohale. There’s also no shortage of smoke on each puff, with a lingering trail wafting off the cigar while at rest. One sample shows a touch of sourness at the start, an interesting mix of chalk, creaminess, and white pepper that doesn’t sit well but thankfully is mild and fleeting. The cigar quickly develops into a flavor and aroma that is remarkably similar to a tobacco sorting room or cigar aging room, with big, dry wood notes and the crispness of dry tobacco that you’ll understand if you’ve been to a factory. What is lacking is any of the other signs of youth, notably ammonia or overt harshness. The ash breaks off without warning, an unfortunate ending to an otherwise tidy clump, while the burn line and combustion have both been very good.

There’s no let up in the strength at the start of the second third, as while it’s not as heavy of a flavor as many other cigars, it’s certainly fuller than I would expect from this blend, and not exclusively in a young tobacco sense. This Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe, which comes with a box code of January 2017, shows the vibrance and lack of complexity that comes with youth, but more in the sense that the flavors haven’t had a chance to come together yet, let alone mellow themselves out. That also applies to the pepper component of the cigar, which starts to build back up at the midpoint through the end of this section and gets to work on the tongue, nose, and eyes with pretty focused intent. It’s not heavy but it is potent, still full of youthful vibrance. Thankfully any overt rough spots are few and far between though they are occasionally found, where the profile gets a touch metallic and sharp, failing to do an adequate job coating the palate and instead needling the back of the throat. Draw, combustion, and smoke production are all outstanding.

The final third of the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe begins with the addition of just a bit of creaminess, filling in the few cracks rather than overtaking the profile. Pepper and thick wood are still prominent and driving the cigar’s flavor, though a bit of graham cracker makes a brief appearance with just about an inch left, sweetening up the smoke but quickly nudged out by a bit of heat. This final inch provides arguably the most interesting part of the cigar, as the sweetness has given the cigar its first appreciable pivot as well as a very enjoyable dabble into complexity, though the heat makes it hard to get it to come back as the pepper gets bright and almost electric on the palate. Out of the nearly 90 minutes I spend with this cigar, it feels like at least 15 of them in the final inch, slowing my smoking rate down as far as I can to minimize the heat of the cigar.

Final Notes

  • For comparison sake, while finishing up this review I lit up the Hoyo de Monterrey Elegantes, the 2016 La Casa del Habano release which came with a box date of December 2016. I found the blend’s profile to be fairly similar in terms of how bright the flavors were, though the Epicure de Luxe seemed a bit brighter and produced significantly more smoke.
  • The Bolívar Belicosos Finos and Hermosos No.4 from 2004 were part of a limited edition humidor set, with just 200 humidors made, containing 50 of each vitola.
  • Similarly, the La Gloria Cubana releases in 2015 were part of a humidor release.
  • Habanos S.A. also offers an exclusive for Habanos Specialist retailers, stores that are top-tier retailers but don’t carry the La Casa del Habano name. Those release are the San Cristóbal Torreon (2012), H. Upmann Connossieur A (2013), Partagás Maduro No. 1 (2015), Punch Punch 48 (2016), and H. Upmann Connossieur B (2017).
  • For even more retailer exclusives, Habanos offers another series for duty free and travel retailers.
  • The bands on Cuban cigars continue to be some of the most difficult to remove cleanly, and those on the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe are no exception.
  • The ash on the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe was incredibly uncooperative, falling off without warning and ending up everywhere but the ashtray.
  • The word epicure is used quite a bit throughout the Hoyo de Monterrey portfolio.
  • As a commenter brought up when the cigar was announced, the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe (4 1/2 x 52) is quite similar in size to other regular production sizes, notably the Epicure No.2 (4 9/10 x 50) and Petit Robustos (4 x 50). As we see throughout the cigar industry, there can often be a number of sizes in the same brand, which might lead you to wonder why the seeming overlap was created.
  • My favorite size in the Hoyo de Monterrey marca remains the Double Coronas, a 7 3/5 x 49 that I wish I had more time to smoke.
  • The factory name of this cigar is Magicos, which translates as magical, and is a size shared with the Cohiba Magicos, part of the brand’s maduro line, as well as seven regional releases.
  • These sell for approximately 100 Euros, with the estimated price calculated using XE.com on the evening of Oct. 11, 2017.
  • The box code for these cigars is TOS ENE 17.
  • For those wondering why the box lid doesn’t match with the box, the box was open in the store and they didn’t have the corresponding lid.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel at Cigar World in Düsseldorf, Germany.
  • Final smoking time was one hours and 15 minutes on average.
89 Overall Score

Here’s the rub of a cigar like the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe: for as much as I enjoy it right now, I can’t see myself smoking many more of them because I know the flavors are too bright, too young, and frankly not what I imagine this cigar was meant to be. I’m impressed that given its relative youth there is little to no harshness, and given the wrapper issues that Cuba has had, the cigar is pretty decent looking. I’m not a fan of forecasting how a cigar will evolve and perform in the future, but there’s enough in this batch of the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe to make me optimistic that once that tobacco has had some more time to mellow out, this could turn into quite a good cigar that is much more in line with what the Hoyo de Monterrey marca is known.

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Patrick Lagreid

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.