Montecristo No. 2
Vitola: Pirámides (52 RG x 6 1/8”)
Average Price: 29.00 CAD
Pairing: Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2011
I really enjoy pairing my cigars with beverages. In the evenings, it’s usually Scotch whisky. If I’m having a creamy morning cigar, it will likely be a delicious coffee. And if I’m not in the mood for either of those, I’ll likely grab a craft beer or soda.
There are two ways to approach a pairing; choose a similar profile to amplify the notes and flavors or choose a contrasting profile that will hopefully produce an experience that is more than the sum of the parts.
Contrasting flavors can combine to transform notes into something entirely different, much like mixing colors to produce a brand new one.
Visual / Pre-light Draw
Montecristo’s heralded No. 2 needs no introduction. It is, by many accounts, the most popular Cuban cigar in the world and its mild to medium body is sure to please any cigar lover, regardless of their experience. The brand is named after Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, which was read aloud to the rollers in the factory to entertain and pass the time.
The wrapper is medium brown and a few shades lighter than the simple but elegant band that adorns it. The construction is sound and at the stored humidity of 63% it exhibits all the qualities I look for in a cigar, slightly springy without any audible cracking, no voids or excessive hardness, and no cuts, cracks, or holes. I used a straight cut and proceeded to draw some air through the unlit cigar, receiving hints of earth and light pepper while assessing the tightness and flow-through. Everything was acceptable, now on to the fun part.
After toasting the foot and lighting this beautiful cigar notes of oak and leather joined the dry earth and light pepper forming a simple, yet enjoyable, introduction to this timeless smoke. The mild body and lack of complexity in this third left my palate searching for the subtle nuances of other flavors, but none would be found.
Second / Final Third
The burn is nearly perfect, and the ash clings to the end of the cigar showing no signs of letting go. A medium body starts to form, and a creamy hazelnut note rounds off the oak, earth, leather, and light pepper introduced in the opening. Some of the flavors have intensified but very few new notes have emerged. A sweetness shines through and an ever so light citrus tint is observed.
As this cigar session comes to an end, it becomes clear that this blend was not designed for complexity or to deliver a full-bodied experience. Initially, while sitting with my notebook, I was disappointed, but after some further consideration I grew to look at this cohesive blend with reverence and awe. It is an excellent display of a very enjoyable and deliberate flavor profile that delivers an accessible experience for aficionados and casual smokers alike. Paired with a coffee in the morning or a dram at night, the versatility of the Monte No. 2 is admirable.
My preferred pairing for almost any cigar is a fine single malt scotch, specifically from Islay. The word Islay may invoke thoughts of peat and band-aids, but I can assure you, there is a massive variance in flavors offered by the small island. I chose to pair the mighty No. 2 with Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2011. The intention with this pairing was flavor enhancement as both cigar and whisky have somewhat similar profiles.
Islay Barley 2011 is an unpeated expression bottled at 50% abv and aged for 6 years in ex-bourbon American oak casks and ex-wine European oak casks. This whisky hits my palate in all the right places and has quickly become one of my favorite lower-cost unpeated bottles. It has a bit more edge than The Classic Laddie but the core profile is still recognizable. Fruit notes such as apricot, apple, and pear give way to the sweet oak used in maturation while being rounded off with a subtle salt note as well as light caramel and a hint of creme brûlée. A touch of citrus lingers on the side of the tongue and makes the mouth water as the golden liquid vacates the mouth and warms the throat. The creamy hazelnut and oak of the cigar is enhanced with every sip of my dram and, similarly, the whisky is brightened with every draw of the cigar. This was truly an exceptional pairing and one that I will be enjoying for many years to come.