Mon­te­cris­to or the Fas­ci­na­tion for the Ex­clu­si­ve

AS­TU­RIANS ALON­SO ME­NÉN­DEZ AND JO­SÉ GAR­CÍA HIT THE BULL'S EYE WHEN THEY FOUN­DED A LE­GEND  YEARS AGO THAT THEY CA­LLED MON­TE­CRIS­TO, THEIR NEW HA­BANO BRAND

Habanos - - Summary - BY / CA­MI­LO EIRANOVA

It's been a long whi­le sin­ce I've been trying to wri­te so­met­hing about the pa­ra­do­xes that ap­pear everyw­he­re. But whe­ne­ver I was about to start, I put it down. Un­til now that, to my sur­pri­se, just anot­her idea co­mes to mind. Right now, I'm trying to do so­met­hing dif­fe­rent about Ha­ba­nos, S.A.'s Mon­te­cris­to brand, which turns 85 this 2020, and sud­denly I no­ti­ce two facts that seem to defy lo­gic. I stop at the first of them: I ha­ve ne­ver been in­vol­ved in a plot of mar­ked by mul­ti­ple be­tra­yals, li­ke the one fa­ced by Ed­mun­do Dan­tés, and alt­hough en­du­ring a couple of trea­so­nous mo­ments on a cer­tain oc­ca­sion is vir­tually inevi­ta­ble, it has ne­ver cros­sed my mind to turn re­ven­ge against tho­se who ha­ve be­tra­yed me in­to the mea­ning of my life.

Ho­we­ver, I must ad­mit that I ha­ve al­ways been fas­ci­na­ted by The Count of Mon­te­cris­to, that no­vel pen­ned by French aut­hor Ale­xan­der Du­mas -I just read that it was not only by him, but al­so by Au­gus­te

Ma­quet, who­se na­me is not men­tio­ned as one of the aut­hors sin­ce the for­mer paid a lar­ge sum of mo­ney to keep his na­me off the book- to which I must re­turn ti­me and again, and which has so much to do with the emer­gen­ce of the brand that is ce­le­bra­ting its an­ni­ver­sary.

Of cour­se, no one knows for su­re how I would ha­ve reac­ted if I had been in Ed­mun­do Dan­tés' shoes, but I don't think it is the pas­sion for re­ven­ge what has cast the spell that this story of Du­mas -and Ma­quet- has ge­ne­ra­ted in qui­te a num­ber of peo­ple, among them the ci­gar ro­llers that in 1935, at the H. Up­mann fac­tory, lis­te­ned ecs­ta­ti­cally to the to­bac­co reader as they wor­ked the mi­ra­cle of tur­ning a de­li­ca­te to­bac­co leaf in­to a Ha­bano, and pro­bably in many mo­re of the­se wor­kers, be­fo­re and af­ter, in so many ot­her to­bac­co fac­to­ries.

And if we pay heed, per­haps we will be able to hear th­rough ti­me the echos of their cha­ve­tas (jackk­ni­ves) when they hit una­ni­mously the woo­den planks on their work ta­bles -as their fe­llow Cu­bans did in Tam­pa and Key West when they lis­te­ned to Mar­ti's spee­ches- to re­ward the suc­cess of ha­ving been in­te­gra­ted in­to the club of de­vo­tees of this clas­sic pie­ce of uni­ver­sal li­te­ra­tu­re.

How could you not be ins­pi­red by such a sce­ne to ma­ke a to­bac­co brand fa­mous forever? This does not ma­ke a dent on the me­rits of As­tu­rians Alon­so Me­nén­dez and Jo­sé Gar­cía, who per­haps had the cer­tainty of crea­ting a le­gend 85 years ago, a brand they ca­lled Mon­te­cris­to and that was pre­ce­ded by the na­me of the fac­tory that saw the the first vi­to­las num­be­red from 1 to 5 see the light of day. It oc­curs to me that they had the not-far-fet­ched-at-all pur­po­se of cas­hing in on the pres­ti­ge that the H. Up­mann fac­tory al­ready had.

But just a year la­ter, "H.Up­mann Mon­te­cris­to" was re­na­med as just Mon­te­cris­to, as we know it to­day, which over­ca­me the stum­bling block that pre­ven­ted the in­tro­duc­tion of the new brand in Bri­tain, in the hands of in­fluen­tial En­glish com­pany Stan­ley Phi­llips, and being the dis­tri­bu­tion rights of the H.Up­mann brand across the country in the hands of anot­her com­pany.

Ex­perts say that Mon­te­cris­to's way -uni­ver­sally re­cog­ni­zed for its bright ye­llow la­bel, cros­sed by six swords that form a trian­gle with red spa­ces and Flor de Lis stan­ding out n the midd­le­to­wards uni­ver­sa­lity and im­mor­ta­lity was greatly mar­ked by the per­se­ve­ran­ce of using only lea­ves of ex­cep­tio­nal qua­lity for its un­mat­ched ci­gar blends. So did its foun­ders, and so it is to­day: its Ha­ba­nos are ma­de ex­clu­si­vely with fi­ller, bin­der and wrap­per lea­ves se­lec­ted from the best Vuel­ta Aba­jo to­bac­co plan­ta­tions, and it goes wit­hout sa­ying that this is the land that pro­du­ces the best to­bac­co in the world.

Of cour­se, we must not over­look the initial mo­men­tum that Phi­llips him­self ga­ve to the brand's entry in­to Great Bri­tain and the Uni­ted Sta­tes, which pan­ned out to be de­ci­si­ve for it to be con­si­de­red a pre­mium ci­gar in the first half of the 1950s.

THE ROAD OF MON­TE­CRIS­TO WAS PA­VED WITH THE PRESERVERA­NT USE OF A BLEND MA­DE UP OF EX­CEP­TIO­NAL TO­BAC­CO LEA­VES

You may won­der if I for­got to tell you about the se­cond pa­ra­dox I men­tio­ned ear­lier in my wri­ting. Well, he­re you ha­ve it: I'm the only one in my fa­mily who pre­fer the Mon­te­cris­to brand, which is in­cre­di­ble if we con­si­der how dif­fi­cult it is to find many ex­pert smo­kers who do not choo­se one of the most ap­pre­cia­ted and for su­re most fa­mous Ha­ba­nos brands.

The­re is a pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion to that. For years, my fa­mily has lea­ned to­ward strong-tas­ting blends. And it's not that they fail to re­cog­ni­ze the ex­ce­llen­ce of the Li­nea Clá­si­ca -the Mon­te­cris­to No. 4 vi­to­la is pen­ci­led in by Cu­ban som­me­liers and by qui­te a few ex­perts from ot­her parts of the world as the best pre­mium ci­gar of all ti­me. No won­der then that it is the most sought-af­ter of all -and from the Ed­mun­do Li­ne, with its Ed­mun­do (2004) and Pe­tit Ed­mun­do (2006) vi­to­las, both of mild-tos­trong tas­te; or of the mild-tas­ting Open Li­ne vi­to­las that ca­me in­to being back in 2009 (Ea­gle, Re­ga­ta, Mas­ter and Ju­nior). That would be unt­hin­ka­ble. And again, no won­der Mon­te­cris­to is con­si­de­red a su­bli­me bench­mark ci­gar.

But it is no less true that alt­hough Mon­te­cris­to has al­ways tried to plea­se the tas­tes of the most de­man­ding smo­kers, and with that pur­po­se it has been con­ti­nually ex­pan­ding its vi­to­la stock -don't for­get Mon­te­cris­to Spe­cial No. 1 and Spe­cial No. 2, and the Jo­yi­tas of 1969, let alo­ne the Mon­te­cris­to A, re­ci­pient of a World Guin­ness Re­cord as the most ex­pen­si­ve Ha­bano of all ti­me; no the Mon­te­cris­to B in 1971. Not un­til 2018, the 1935 Li­ne was laun­ched, fea­tu­ring strong tas­te and no pre­vious re­cords in the brand's re­gu­lar port­fo­lio.

Alt­hough lo­yalty to a brand does not chan­ge over­night, I am con­vin­ced that so­me­day, not too far away, I will see many of my re­la­ti­ves re­vel in so­me of the th­ree vi­to­las of this Li­ne -Mal­tés, Du­mas and Le­yen­da. Af­ter all, the ex­clu­si­ve al­ways ends up fin­ding its pla­ce in the tas­te of an ex­pert Ha­bano smo­ker, and Mon­te­cris­to has pro­ven it, wit­hout lea­ving a sin­gle tra­ce of a doubt, over the past 85 years.

Now, to that his­tory of suc­ces­ses and sa­tis­fac­tions we must add Mon­te­cris­to He­re­de­ros, which is pre­sen­ted wit­hin the fra­me­work of the 22nd Ha­bano Fes­ti­val for the ex­clu­si­ve sa­le at Ha­ba­nos Spe­cia­lists and the La Ca­sa del Ha­bano fran­chi­se net­work, which will al­so be ce­le­bra­ting its 30th an­ni­ver­sary. Con­grats!

PHO­TOS / EX­CE­LEN­CIAS ARCHIVE

A box of Mon­te­cris­to A, in the early 1970s.

A box of Mon­te­cris­to B pro­du­ced in April 2000

Mon­te­cris­to No. 4.

Mon­te­cris­to Open.

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