When it comes to the retail side of the Cuban cigar industry, Enrique Mons could be considered the most well-known person in the business.
Mons oversaw quality control for Cubatabaco in the 1970s and 1980s before turning to the retail side of the business. He has been the director of the La Casa del Habano Quinta Avenida, the La Casa del Habano at the Hotel Nacional, and most recently at Club Habana, formerly known as the Havana Biltmore Yacht & Country Club, a building with more than 80 years of history. His name is practically synonomous with the La Casa del Habano brand, and in an segment of the cigar industry that hasn’t adopted the philosophy that companies need public faces, it could be argued that Mons is the face of La Casa del Habano. Essentially, in the same way that Alejandro Robaina was, and in many ways still is, the face of the Cuban cigar industry, Mons could be seen as the face of Cuban cigar retailing.
The story behind the Monsdale is that Mons loves the Montecristo No.1, a 6 1/2 x 42 lonsdale, but that he wanted to tweak it a bit and make it a touch longer and fatter. The resulting cigar is said to contain tobacco that has been aged for an additional three years. There doesn’t seem to be a firm date as to when the Monsdale first debuted, as I have come across references to them going back to 2001.
Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to meet Mr. Mons during my visit to Havana, as he has since retired from daily work at the La Casa del Habano Club Habana, but is known to make regular appearances at the store. The cigars that bear his name live on however, rolled dutifully by Jorge Lopez at a table just past the cash register and adjacent to the well-appointed humidor that is an absolute treasure trove of aged cigars.
Cigar Reviewed: MonsdaleCountry of Origin: CubaFactory: n/aWrapper: CubaBinder: CubaFiller: CubaSize: 6 3/4 InchesRing Gauge: 43Vitola: DaliasMSRP: $5.00Release Date: n/aNumber of Cigars Released: n/aNumber of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The pigtail cap certainly stands out, though it is equally matched in craftsmanship by the covered foot, which is trimmed about as precisely as can be so as to not appear sloppy or bulky. The wrapper is a slightly lighter than medium brown, somewhere between claro and colorado claro, with a velvety smooth texture and some small, unobtrusive veins. A few of the cigars I saw had some small green spots on the wrapper, and indeed a few that I came home with had some as well, usually right along the vein lines. There’s a good bit of give in the Monsdale when squeezed, stopping short of being worthy of the term underfilled. The pre-light aroma is very mild and offers notes of plain popcorn, graham cracker and cardboard. The cold draw on the first cigar was a bit too firm and caused a bit of concern, while the second was much more dialed in and the third was just a touch on the firm side. The plain popcorn note is here as well, along with a bit of hay, a remnant taste of espresso and just the slightest bit of sweetness.
Once the cigar is lit there’s no issue with air flow, as evidenced by a good amount of light gray smoke and a steady and even burn rate. Flavors don’t jump out in the first few puffs, but rather a dry and almost lumberyard wood note start to frame the cigar’s output as touches of espresso start to emerge. An early retrohale helps to wake up the palate and get the flavors to stand out, as that note of plain, if slightly burnt, popcorn is back along with just a touch of pepper and a solid base of tobacco flavor. While there isn’t a lot of strength out of the gate, it does seem to pick up slightly with each puff. By the time the first bit of ash drops off about half an inch in, air is flowing smoothly with just a bit of resistance and the flavor seems to be building nicely, staying rooted in the place it started but also providing space for a bit of pepper, more of the espresso notes and a touch of bitter chocolate. The ash continues to be disappointingly weak, regularly dropping off before it can reach the one inch mark.
A retrohale taken as the Monsdale heads into its second third reinforces that there is a bit more pepper in the equation, as it offers much more of a tingle in the nose than it did earlier. A charred popcorn note emerges when the Monsdale is puffed on with too much vigor or frequency, and will quickly remind you to slow down and give the cigar a chance to show the coffee bean notes that have entered the equation. The aroma of the smoke has also turned noticeably pleasing; slightly sweet, a bit chalky and also rich with tobacco notes. The strength of the ash continues to be a bit problematic; minor in the big picture of the cigar but enough that you should just tap off the ash rather than wait for it to unceremoniously fall somewhere it likely isn’t welcome.
Assuming you will have the chance to smoke a Monsdale, your impression of it by the time the final third starts will greatly depend on how much attention you’ve been giving it. There aren’t drastic flavor changes, other than the coming and going of the charred popcorn note and some soft jabs from the chocolate and espresso notes. The risk of considering the Monsdale to be a bit boring is a reality, especially if your palate favors—or needs—the big and bold notes found in other cigars. The retrohale has levelled off in terms of strength since it took a step up earlier and offers a pleasing sprinkling of white pepper. Strength continues to be medium at best and the cigar doesn’t offer much of a kick beyond the robust tobacco notes on the tongue. The final puffs come across as much more peppery, especially as the smoke hits the eyes, delivering an irritation not previously found in this cigar. If that doesn’t present too much of a problem, the cigar can be smoked down as far as your palate desires.
85 Overall Score
- With the pigtail on the cap included in the measurement, the Monsdale is closer to seven inches.
- After finishing my cigar and coffee, I strolled around Club Habana with a local who was well versed in the building’s history. It is an amazing building and view that harkens back to a bygone era.
- While it requires a bit of a drive to get out to Club Habana from most of the hotels and casa particulares in Havana, I’d highly recommend it. Between the humidor, the custom rolled cigars, the lounge and the surrounding property, Club Habana makes for a fantastic way to spend a few hours.
- There is also said to be a Mons Piramide and a Mons Robusto, though they weren’t on my radar when I was looking for these.
- You can read an October 2013 interview with Jorge Lopez, the man who rolls the Monsdale, here.
- In 2012, there was a special release of Monsdales to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the La Casa del Habano Club Habana. You can see pictures of them here.
- I’m not sure what the commonality was, but I found the majority of the cigars I had on my most recent trip to be good but less than spectacular. Maybe it was the crops of tobacco that are being used, but they all seemed a bit flat on the flavor side.
- For price reference, a Cuban Convertible Peso, or CUC as it’s commonly known, trades at 1–to-1 with the US dollar, though the exchange fee will generally cost you 13–15%.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 45 minutes on average.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- The only place to find these is at the La Casa del Habano Club Habana in western Havana.
My list of must-find cigars on my recent trip to Cuba was fairly short and included this one, which certainly puts a burden on it to live up to expectations. I'm not sure whether the tobacco they are using to make the current Monsdale just isn't singing as I have heard that it does from other years, but it came across flatter and with less transitions than I had hoped for and read about from other's experiences with it. It's still a great cigar both to smoke and have in the humidor, and the experience of getting it was second to none for the reasons mentioned above. If you have the chance to try a genuine Monsdale, I think you'll certainly enjoy the opportunity.