Montecristo Especial Number 1 Paired With Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky


The Montecristo brand is about as aristocratic as it gets with a rich history dating back to 1935 when it was established by the former owners of H. Upmann.  I personally believe that its rise to dominance came from the enormous marketing thrust of Alfred Dunhill of London and a medium profile that fits the palate of the masses but we cannot ignore that it's a great cigar when it comes to construction and flavors. 

The Especial No1 body is 7.5 x 38 which makes it a quintessential lancero, which is a vitola that can only be rolled by the most skilled cigar rollers (many master blenders will only allow 2 or 3 rollers to construct them). It's wrapped in a Colorado leaf thus the color scheme is smack dab in the middle of the cigar wrapper line up between a double claro at the light end and the Oscuro at the dark end.  The veins are minimal, the wrapper shows the perfect amount of gloss, the seams show very little separation, and the head has 3 layers.  A short pigtail protrudes from the head and the foot is free of any aesthetic irregularities.  Sniffing the foot and surface of the cigar you can easily pick up aged leather notes like and old well oiled catcher’s mitt. The firmness of the body is unyielding which makes me a bit fearful of the draw.  As usual the label is about as austere as it gets and to be honest this has always bothered me.  The only distinguishing characteristics are the wrapper, name, vitola, and a well concealed number (in this case a 1). Do us simpletons a favor and add a second band or something so that we can identify these cigars on sight.  

The first third started with a rigid draw that immediately reminded me of the firmness in the pre-light assessment. Even with a poor draw the flavors still shined through with notes of cedar and earth.  Further puffs revealed black tea and leather.  The draw significantly improved but not to the point of satisfaction. The second third introduced a mild gram cracker note with more of the same but enough to raise my expectation of the last third. The last third was great in terms of the draw improvement but the complexity fell short of the mark for this renowned cigar.

Nikka Coffey Malt

One of my best friends is from Scotland and I recently had him over for dinner with his lovely wife.  I smoked a salmon and afterwards we sat around the fire pit and smoked some cigars.  I then broke out the bottle of Nikka Coffey Malt.  I told him that I did not want to offend his homeland but Japan is a problem when it comes to Scotland’s dominance of the global whisky market.  He sipped it once and agreed.  Nikka is one of the best damn bottles of whisky you can buy under 60 to 70 bucks and the quality harkens back to its founder, Masataka Taketsuru, who left Japan in 1918 for Scotland and returned with the knowledge he had obtained as an apprentice at Longmorn distillery in Speyside and a Scottish wife.  The rest is history.

The Nikka Coffey Malt is uniquely made  because it uses a potstill that is almost exclusively used for grain whisky. Grain whisky is made from malted or unmalted barley in combination with other grains like wheat; however, malt whisky is made by barley malt which is itself fermented with yeast. Malt whisky is not as soft and mild as grain whisky in relative taste and smell.

Nosing the Coffey Malt you get a bouquet of notes like butterscotch, honey, orange marmalade, and oddly a little coconut cream pie.  This is absolutely awesome and jaw dropping. You will notice that wood notes are not at the forefront that is because this expression only uses recharred, refilled, and remade casks which downplay wood notes. The first sip is sharp with dose of raisin, toffee, and apricot.  The second is loaded with chocolate, ginger, and prunes but the body is not as viscous as I normally like.  The finish is medium with a latent heat wave.

Montecristo Especial No1 (1 to 10)

1). Aesthetic - great construction, lovely gloss (1.9)
2). Strength - straight medium, its mild to a fault (1.7)
3). Draw - rigid, hindered smoke quality(1.7)
4). Taste - cedar, earth, tea, leather (1.8)
5). Complexity - mild exchanges (1.7)

Total score = (8.8)

A cigar with great flavors but low complexity

Nikka Coffey Malt (1 to 10)

1). Color - golden amber (2.0)
2). Smell - coconut cream pie, butterscotch, honey (2.0)
3). Body - medium firmness (1.7)
4). Taste - raisin, chocolate, ginger, toffee (1.9)
5). The Finish - medium, offers a late heat effect then quickly dissipates (1.7)

Total = (9.3)

A classic Japanese malt

This is the second of the Lancero Series and I chose this cigar as the follow up to the LFD Double Ligero Oscuro because it's on the other side of the spectrum relative to body and flavor.  This is a cigar that is medium at best but the flavor is more subtle and sophisticated which is what you’d expect from a cigar that epitomizes opulence.  This is not a tough guy cigar as much as it is a connoisseur's cigar.  To match that profile I have selected a Japanese whisky that closes the gap between whiskey and whisky.  How?  This is a malt that introduces sweetness and intricate notes with medium firmness and superior craftsmanship. Its the best of Cuba and Japan paired to perfection. 


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