Manuel Quesada established MATASA (Manufactura de Tabacos, S.A.) in Santiago in 1974, at a time when the Dominican cigar industry catered mainly to domestic consumption. Around this time the Dominican Republic established tax-free export zones which attracted entrepreneurs like Quesada to a country not really known for producing cigars. Baseball players, yes, but not cigars.
MATASA is best known for producing the Fonseca brand (and all its offshoots) but Quesada’s family has been in the tobacco business for generations, going back to pre-revolutionary Cuba where they were primarily leaf growers and brokers. The companies founded by Quesada’s great great grandfather, Sobrinos de A. Gonzales, and his great uncle Constantino Gonzales, were the largest leaf brokerages in the world before the family was forced out of Cuba at gunpoint.
The Quesada family left for Miami, where Manuel Quesada Sr. was able to secure a loan– with no collateral– from a bank the family had done business with since 1907. They invested in warehouses and machinery and soon a fledgling leaf brokerage was started in the Dominican Republic, selling leaf to many of the same customers they had in Cuba. One of those customers was Juan Sosa, whose Miami factory was struggling with labor issues. Based on their previous business relationship, Sosa and Quesada joined forces in Santiago and in 1974 MATASA was born. During the same year, MATASA bought the Fonseca label from Antillian Cigar Co. in Miami.
The MATASA 30th Anniversary by Fonseca, created to celebrate the founding of the company, was introduced in 2005 in only two sizes: a 5 3/4 x 54 perfecto, and this 6 1/2 x 52 toro. The binder and filler were selected from bales of Honduran, Dominican, and Nicaraguan leaf aged over ten years. When this cigar was chosen as the Robb Reports’ “Best of the Best 2006” cigar, Quesada told Richard Carleton Hacker,
…we used the finest of old, noble leaf so that we would have the depth of some of the choicest aged Cuban-seed tobaccos, but without the hardened strength. What we got was a strong yet smooth cigar that reminds one of chocolate pudding.
The wrapper is a high priming Olor Dominicano grown by the Reyes family in the Cibao Valley. The limited number of cigars produced was determined mostly by the amount of wrapper produced. “We said we’d make cigars as the wrapper for the project came about,” Quesada told Smoke Magazine. “You’d like to have 100 percent yield from the wrapper crop, but you never do… If you get 60 percent of usable wrapper out of any given crop, you should go to church and thank God.”
In the end, only 30,000 cigars were produced.
The wrapper on this Anniversary Toro is rich and oily, though as it turns out it is also quite thin and delicate. The roll is solid and the head is finished with a triple cap. The prelight scent is of sweet tobacco and hay.
From the first puff the flavors that pour forth are dark and rich — coffee bean and cocoa, with chocolate making a lasting appearance after an inch or so. Beneath the overarching sweet bean flavor is a grassy or green wood flavor which makes the overall impression something like light-roasted coffee. Meanwhile, the aroma is complex, adding an incense-like quality to the smoke.
The body builds strength after the first half, about 45 minutes into this supersized toro. The flavors gradually veer away from cocoa and enter spicier country, with pepper on the tongue and baking spices on the nose. At one point I thought I detected cinnamon, but after an hour of chasing scents my palate might have been a little fatigued.
Part way into the last third I heard the dreaded crack of wrapper splitting; I looked down and my cigar had suddenly unraveled. Thankfully I was nearly finished with this ten dollar Anni, but I was still a little disappointed. (Sadly, this is the second one that has finished in this fashion for me. Other reports are more favorable, so maybe I just pulled from a bad box.) Otherwise the construction here is very good — a fine draw and a slow cool burn.
If you’re a Fonseca smoker, be aware that the MATASA 30th Anniversary is a much heavier cigar than your standard Fonseca, but don’t let that dissuade you — it’s not a giant killer either. This is a limited edition cigar, but it is still available and doesn’t appear to be selling out anytime soon. Part of that may be due to the price, which is in the 8 to 11 USD range. Not your everyday cigar, but a special treat for maduro lovers. Just be extra careful with that wrapper!