Benji Menendez is one of those living legends of the cigar business, a cigar maker who is still blending tobaccos and passing on the tradition years after most mere mortals would be enjoying their retirement. Menendez has an entire lifetime of experience to draw on. In fact, when you see the M & G insignia on a Montecristo cigar band, that M stands for Menendez.
As an heir to Cuba’s largest cigar factory, H. Upmann, and the Menendez y Garcia tobacco concern, young Benjamin had a lot to look forward to as he grew up in an upper-class Havana neighborhood. Despite his privileged position as the son of the company’s majority owner, he still had to learn the industry from the bottom up, starting with packing cigars, and then working his way through the departments to a management position.
In 1960 the factory was seized and from there the Menendez story takes an all too familiar turn. A new start in America was about to begin, starting in Miami and soon moving to the Canary Islands, where Mendendez created the blockbuster Montecruz brand. Many years later he became the head of premium cigar operations for General Cigar. Fifteen years after that, during the cigar boom of the late 90’s, Menendez joined the Spanish giant Tabacalera, which eventually merged with SEITA to form Altadis. Now he is back again with General, where the powers that be have in all their wisdom tasked him with the creation of this limited edition Partagas.
Only 5000 boxes of the Partagas Master Series were made, and in only one size, a 6 x 46 Grand Corona dubbed Majestuoso. Like the Montecruz of the 60’s, this one has an attractive Cameroon wrapper. The rest of the blend is more unusual: a Habano binder grown in Connecticut, filler from the Dominican Republic (piloto cubano) and two different regions in Nicaragua (Esteli ligero and Ometepe.) On paper this sounds like a thunderous cigar. In practice it’s actually quite smooth, but very expressive at the same time.
The roll is rock solid, but it draws with even and easy tension. The wrapper is dark with fine veins and appears slightly toothy. The head is rounded with a cap that is so well integrated the seams are difficult to detect. It burns evenly and builds a solid, firm, and neat long ash.
Overall excellent — near perfect — construction.
The Partagas Master Series Majestuoso is a medium to full bodied cigar with lots of flavor. Taken slowly it’s smooth and easy to smoke, but it can develop a bite if rushed.
From the first pull it’s evident that this blend is heavier than the standard (Non-Cuban) Partagas line. The flavor is a complex of cedar, spice, leather and coffee in varying combination as the stick burns through the first third. There is a touch of black pepper which will return again in the last section.
An acidic edge cuts through the chocolate and cinnamon in the middle third, leaving a tea-like tang on the tongue. The body of the cigar is light enough not to overpower this subtle touch, but heavy enough to coat the palate with an array of flavors. The aroma is rich with cedar and coffee, while leather spiked with pepper lingers on the finish.
The strength of the cigar comes through at the finale, hitting me in the gut but not knocking me over. The aroma becomes piney and the aftertaste grows a little bit salty. Some char appears near the band.
Benji Menendez’s Master Series blend is an accomplishment worthy of a man who has dedicated his entire life to the art of the cigar. It’s flavorful, complex, smooth, and balanced. It’s expressive without being aggressive. It’s just a really fine cigar on all fronts.
It’s also priced within reason, especially for a limited edition release of such high quality. Ten American greenbacks is about all this one will set you back. But get them while they’re still around, because they won’t be for long.