If you asked me what General Cigar Co. has been doing with its version of the Hoyo de Monterrey brand lately, I’d say it’s been focusing on its Hoyo Series. Those cigars have seemed to try to get away from the brand’s Cuban roots, dropping half the name and using much more modern packaging.
That’s why it was surprising to see the company’s latest offering for the brand: Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Selección.
The name borrows the Cuban brand’s use of the word Epicure for cigars like the Epicure No.1, No.2, Epicure Especial and Epicure de Luxe; and the packaging selected by General is close enough that at first glance you might think Habanos S.A. has introduced another version of that used for the Cuban version.
Those familiar with the Cuban version should pretty quickly realize that this isn’t from the island. The box is a bit too modern—and says “HONDURAS” up top—while the wrappers on the cigars are certainly darker than just about any Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey I’ve smoked.
It goes without saying that General’s version is not Cuban; rather, it’s made entirely of Honduran tobacco. Ot note, the company says the new line is the first to use a proprietary Cuban-seed wrapper.
“Epicure Selección speaks to the legacy of Hoyo de Monterrey which is one of the first brands to have been made in Honduras, and one of the first to feature bold blends made with native Cuban seeds cultivated in Central America,” said Ed Lahmann, senior brand manager for Hoyo de Monterrey, in a press release.
It’s offered in three sizes, priced between $8.49-$8.99.
- Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Selección No.1 (5 5/8 x 46) — $8.79 (Box of 20, $175.80)
- Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Selección No.2 (4 7/8 x 50) — $8.49 (Box of 20, $169.80)
- Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Selección Toro Especiale (6 x 50) — $8.99 (Box of 20, $179.80)
- Cigar Reviewed: Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Selección No.2
- Country of Origin: Honduras
- Factory: STG Danlí
- Wrapper: Honduras
- Binder: Honduras
- Filler: Honduras
- Length: 4 7/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: $8.49 (Box of 20, $169.80)
- Release Date: April 22, 2020
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
As with the Cuban version of Hoyo de Monterrey, I’m a big fan of the band and it’s quite well done here. I imagine that just about any color of wrapper would look great paired with the band, but the dark-hued Honduran tobacco does a particularly great job. The cigar is well-rolled with great seams and no noticeable bumps. Aroma from the wrapper has an interesting mixture of mustard, Japanese mayonnaise and some earthiness; altogether around medium-full. The foot is full with wheat, Worcestershire sauce, some mustard, tea and a touch of maple syrup. There’s some funk and I can’t tell if it’s coming from the mustard or if it’s something else given just how much is going on. The cold draw has a very sharp flavor that reminds me of a red wine marinade, a bit of barnyard, some sour fruitiness and a bit of a metallic flavor.
Given all of the interesting flavors I found on the cold draws, I am a bit surprised when the cigar starts out with a muted mixture of earthiness, whiskey flavors and wet leaves. I suppose in one sense, this starts in a somewhat Cuban manner, as I find many Cuban cigars to have a ton of interesting flavors emanating from them before being lit only to be followed by a pedestrian start. The Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Selección No.2 eventually settles into a more interesting mixture of dry Corn Flakes, a very sharp white pepper and a tea-like flavor. Oddly, if I smoke the cigar faster, the cigar gets a bit sweeter and the sharpness reduces itself, which is rather counterintuitive. Retrohales have peppermint and a more vibrant Corn Flakes-like flavor. The finish has lots of walnuts—reminding me of the first time I tried walnut bitters on their own—some toastiness and margarine-like creaminess. While increased puff rates might decrease the sharpness upfront, when I do smoke faster, the Hoyo de Monterrey has a lot more white pepper on the finish. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. Construction is fantastic on all three cigars.
The second third brings about an increase in the grainy characteristics compared to the first third. Given that the overall profile shifts quite a bit, I’m not sure I’d call that specific sensation a progression as much as it’s a similar flavor as to what I was getting in the first third. In addition, the Hoyo de Monterrey adds a raspberry sweetness, a grilled tomato flavor, and some creaminess. Retrohales are very similar to the first third, just a tad bit muted in comparison. The finish is now my favorite part of the Epicure Selección No.2, a crisp freshly-baked potato chip before sunflower seeds and grainy texture take over. At times it can seem like it’s creamy because it produces a similar mouth feel to creaminess, but I don’t think there’s any actual creaminess on the finish. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is now medium. Construction remains flawless.
Continuing the trend of “things that don’t normally happen in most cigars,” I think the profile tastes best right around the one-inch mark. There’s a vibrant earthy flavor, some nuttiness and lavender. All traces of sharpness are removed and the cigar provides me with an incredibly smooth profile. Retroahles have a waffle cone flavor, some meatiness and a dry peanut flavor. The finish is now a mixture of wet leaves, some hamburger-like greasiness and a bit of toasty earth. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium. All three cigars burn down well past the one-inch mark with zero construction issues.
- I’ve always loved the Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey bands, certainly my favorite band amongst the regular production offerings from Habanos S.A. I think this is a very good take on that style of band with some intricate parts. The cutting out of the crown is done really well and while it’s hard to tell, there is a subtle pattern within the red. From a distance you’d know it, but up close you can see some embossing.
- The Hoyo de Monterrey brand is probably my go-to Cuban brand when it comes to blindly picking up a single cigar to smoke. It’s not that I find Hoyo de Monterrey to be the best or even my favorite flavor profile, but I just don’t have that many issues with the Hoyos that I pick up. It’s a good, solid cigar 95 percent of the time, which is not something I could say about a Montecristo No.2.
- At 4 7/8 x 50, this is the classic Cuban dimensions for a robusto even if most non-Cuban manufacturers use the 5 x 50 standard.
- I bet this would be a great cigar to smoke after a couple of cigars earlier in the day. It seems like the flavors it has are pretty prominent and would probably cut through whatever lingering flavors from other cigars are left on your palate.
- There aren’t many times when I expect a cigar to perform a certain way, but if you had told me 15 minutes in that I’d be wanting to smoke this cigar past the one-inch mark I would have been very surprised. The first third is sharp and a bit disjointed, a stark contrast to the final third of this cigar.
- There are very few cigars that we review that can manage to make it through all three samples without a single deduction for construction, this is one of those rarities. I almost feel like it deserves bonus points, but that’s not how we do things here.
- General Cigar Co. advertises on halfwheel.
- General Cigar Co. sent some samples of another size but the cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was a lengthy one hour and 45 minutes, but I imagine this cigar could be smoked in half that time without it getting hot at all. As always, my default is to smoke the cigar as slow as possible without it going out as I find that gives it the best chance for flavors to come through. In this instance, I increased my pace a bit as I found the flavors were a bit better with a slightly quicker puff rate than my default approach.
- Site sponsors Famous Smoke Shop and JR Cigar carry the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Selección No.2.
The number next to the score will not indicate how much I enjoyed smoking the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Selección. From its flawless construction to the straight forward flavor profile, this is a cigar that’s very easy to smoke. It’s not the most complex profile and the sharpness in the first half wasn’t great, but the flavor progression makes sense and the end result is a rare occurrence: a cigar that I’ll gladly smoke well past the one-inch nub mark. As with most products from General, it’s likely going to get lost in a rather expansive portfolio that the company keeps adding to, but put all the cigars General makes on a table and ask me to pick one, this would be in the top 10 percent of choices, even if other cigars would score higher. Similar to my thoughts on the Cuban version of the brand, this just seems like a safe bet in terms of providing a good experience as opposed to taking your chances on trying to find the best experience.