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
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!
A box of Montecristo A, in the early 1970s.
A box of Montecristo B produced in April 2000
Montecristo No. 4.