Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cigar Review: H. Upmann No. 2 (2008 vintage)

My journey into the world all started with one cigar, the H Upmann No 2. Granted, before I ran into this specific cigar, I had several experiences with Habanos, but my Diesel Unholy Cocktail for breakfast, Dark Corojo for lunch, palate had yet to truly appreciate everything Cuba had to offer. I remember the first time I smoked an aged Upmann No 2, it was an old band, from 2004, that was gifted to me from a good friend. What ensued, was an NC apocalypse of sorts, and I proceeded to switch over to collecting Habanos, specifically the Upmann No 2. I found boxes or multiples from 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 and proceeded to age them all and note the specific changes that took place. The result was a personal education on the importance of aging Habanos, and seeing how much different they can change over long periods of time. While some brands do not need much aging to shine, I feel that Upmann really awakens after 6 years and turns into a true gem. So for this review, I chose one of the few singles I have left from my box of 2008. It has been quite some time since I have had one, probably two or more years really.

Dry Draw: cocoa, nougat, light spice

First Third: Mild is an understatement, as this Upmann No 2 began as a delicacy. The nose had nutmeg note, and the draw lightly bushed the tongue with the cocoa I detected on the dry draw. The texture was creamy, and the light burn of the retro was all nutmeg. I swear at times I felt like I was getting coriander on the finish, or other green spice, much like the finish of a white ale I enjoy. Light sugar arrived as I neared the second third, and the first third ended as it began, in a mild delicate fashion.

Second Third: I started to get cream soda notes, and the coriander became rather heavy on the nose. All this combined with light citrus notes, as well as the sugar, which created a complex flavor profile. I mean really, the Upmann 2 reminded me of an orange cream soda made with cane sugar and spices. I like to pair cigars with craft sodas, and rarely do I get a cigar that nails it as much as this did. Vanilla, orange peel, and coriander is just a flavor combo that only makes sense in a particular format, and all three hit my note pad for the majority of the middle third. The finish was long on the tongue, and the body had shifted to medium.

Final Third: The No 2 still remained mild to medium, and never grabbed a hold of the signature Upmann profile. The cocoa notes came back and the vanilla increased in body. A white pepper arrived on the retro, with a vegetal finish on the back of mouth. Out of nowhere, the body picked up to medium-full, and the pepper took off drastically. The coriander was still heavy on the mind, along with green pepper notes, and a heavy white pepper burn. The cocoa sat long on the finish as well, rounding out the body shift of the finale, and providing the finish touches of a fine cigar.

Final Thoughts: The Upmann No 2 is one of the best cigars of the Habanos profile, and to m once they are aged, can compete with the best Habanos I have ever experienced. Cigars like this make me question the prices of Regionals and Limited Editions. The dynamic changes in flavor over time are what sets this vitola apart. The first third you have a mild delicate cigar, while the middle is rather medium with tons of flavor, and finale straight up knocks you down with a drastic shift in strength. The one thing I found odd, was it never picked up the signature Upmann profile that I love, and I cannot remember if this year had it or not. Either way, experiencing Habanos with 5-6 years such as this, gives the smoker’s palate a true experience in dynamic changes and flavor profile. For what it is worth, I highly recommend 2008, ‘09, ‘11, and ‘13 years. I have yet to smoke a 2014, but recent production has been excellent for Upmann across the board, and those years specifically on the No 2 have been good in my experience.