The concept of our Monday redux reviews is largely to see how a cigar’s flavor changes over time. It’s something that isn’t as talked about as it is in the wine world, but if you are reading halfwheel, you almost certainly know that sometimes cigars will taste better after some time in the humidor, sometimes they will taste worse, but very few times will they stay the same.
While the redux reviews largely center around flavor—and usually what happens after more than a year of time in the humidor—there are times in which I find a redux review to be useful for evaluating other factors that impact a cigar’s performance.
Nowhere has there been a more obvious opportunity to explore that theory this year than with a review of a Dominican Montecristo I did in May. The cigar in question is the Montecristo Cincuenta JR 50th, a cigar that Altadis U.S.A. sent to its sister company, JR Cigar, as part of the retailer’s 50th anniversary.
The Montecristo Cincuenta was launched in 2019 to celebrate another 50th anniversary, the half-century mark of Tabacalera de García, the massive factory in the Dominican Republic that produces most of the non-Cuban Montecristos. For the 2021 release, the company rolled the Cincuenta blend in a unique 6 x 50 belicoso size that is oftentimes referred to as a trompeta.
When I smoked the cigars in May, I found a box of cigars that was over humidified and cigars that were a struggle to smoke. Here’s what I wrote at that time:
At a certain point—and I think it was reached here—it doesn’t matter what the cigar is, if it has too much moisture it’s going to have a pretty standard set of issues: harsh flavors, burn issues, and more importantly, a completely different profile than what the cigar would taste like if it was at a proper moisture level. Midway through the second sample, I went into Basecamp—our project management software—and added a note to redux review the Montecristo Cincuenta JR 50th in six months. For whatever reason, the box we got, or more specifically the cigars inside of that box have way too much humidity. While dry boxing helped a little bit, the cigars were still quite spongy. My plan is to let this box sit out for a week or two to continue the dry boxing and once the moisture levels have been reduced noticeably, I’ll put the box back in a humidor and wait to give the cigar another chance.
As I mentioned in May, my plan was to revisit this cigar six months later to see if more time in the humidor allowed the cigars to dry out to a point where I could better assess the flavor.
- Cigar Reviewed: Montecristo Cincuenta JR 50th
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera de García
- Wrapper: Ecuador (Sumatra)
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Dominican Republic
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Trompeta
- MSRP: $35 (Box of 10, $350)
- Release Date: April 5, 2021
- Number of Cigars Released: 500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 1
I am quickly reminded of the weird, flimsier cellophane that is used for this release. And while I don’t think I made much mention of it when I initially reviewed the cigar, I also notice that there’s some clashing between the two different shades of gold used on the different bands. The paragraphs above this sentence get written after I’ve smoked the cigar, so I don’t remember if there were any issues with the firmness of this cigar when I reviewed it a few months, but this cigar is quite hard. There’s not much give throughout the body of the cigar, but the spot below the band is of particular concern as there’s a noticeable hard spot. From the wrapper, I find aromas of leather, acidity, cedar and some generic woods. The foot has a mixture of hard pretzels, licorice, cedar, minerals and something that reminds me of the seasoning packets from cheap, chicken-flavored ramen noodles. Cold draws are decidedly different: cedar, a Butterfinger-like sweet peanut butter flavor, some more of the ramen seasoning, white pepper and lemon.
The Montecristo Cincuenta JR 50th begins with damp woods, an olor-like herbal flavor, creaminess, pretzels and some white pepper. It’s a crisp mixture that is very balanced and solidly medium-full. Unlike a lot of cigars where there’s a major transition, an inch later it’s tough to tell much of a difference. Cedar leads the profile, though some of the other flavors have changed. The umami-rich ramen packet-like sensation is now more of a mustard flavor, the pretzel flavor tastes more like sourdough bread, and the citrus is less tart, now closer to oranges than lemon. White pepper rounds out the main flavors, though it’s pretty restrained. The finish has cedar and sourdough bread while white pepper sticks around the sides of my mouth and black pepper is on my tongue. Retrohales have cedar, some sugar, herbal flavors and something that reminds me of burning plastic. Flavor is medium-full, while body and strength are both medium. A touch-up is needed right before the second third, something that is needed to help address the smoke production and not the burn, which is a bit ugly but fine.
While there aren’t more or really even different flavors, the profile changes quite a bit as the second third gets going. It’s more concentrated with the woody and cedar flavors drowning out most of the other sensations. Right around the halfway mark, I find some nuttiness emerging from underneath and it gets progressively stronger with each puff until it overtakes the woody flavors. Retrohales have nuttiness over herbal flavors and creaminess. Like most of the rest of the profile, I wish I could find more flavors, but everything is quite compact, making it easy for the strongest flavor to overwhelm the others. It finishes with more nuttiness though they now taste burnt, some sweetness that reminds me of a caramel latte after it has sat out for a while, and a touch of pepper on the throat. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. I touch up the cigar another time, once again to help the smoke production. The nuttiness continues to be the leading flavor of Montecristo Cincuenta JR 50th in the final third, though there’s some bread flavors that remind me of a basic chicken parmesan breading, spices and leather. The finish is drier with the bread flavors tasting more like crackers, along with walnuts and creaminess joining the fray. Retrohales provide a muted strawberry flavor, herbal sensations, nuttiness, black pepper and some mild soapy flavors. Intensity-wise, it finishes medium-plus in flavor, medium-full in body and medium-plus in strength.
I am guessing my predictions of how cigars will age over time probably come true less than half the time, but this is one that might have been a bit too easy to get wrong. Looking back at my review in May, the issue was pretty obvious: these cigars had too much humidity for much to go well. Now, the Montecristo Cincuenta JR 50th tastes more like a cigar, more like a Dominican Montecristo, and more like a cigar I’d like to smoke again. There’s no way around it: the cigar is a lot better than where it was, but it’s not all great. The score will suffer because of the touch-ups in each third, a minor thing that most of you probably won’t care too much about, but the flavor still has some work to do. While the flavors hit all parts of my palate, the profile is oftentimes too compact to pick up a lot of secondary notes. For the first half of the cigar, woody flavors made it difficult to pick up nuances, and the second half saw the nuttiness only make it even more challenging. Unfortunately, predicting the remedy to this issue is a lot more difficult to make than the over-humidified cigars, but maybe another few months will let the cigar settle down a bit to bring it to a place where the cigar's performance is more in line with its price.