Unless you’ve been asleep at the wheel the past month or two, you know that SCHIP is right around the corner. This bill is placing a heavy tax on all cigars, and will result in higher prices starting 4/1. Some manufacturers are using this tax as a vehicle to introduce price increases that, in some cases, go above and beyond the level of the tax. In several cases, manufacturers have instituted multiple price increases on the same cigar, capitalizing even further. On top of this, some cigars are already quite expensive, and any new increases (whether it be additional costs or taxes) could possibly put them out of reach for the working man. In an effort to provide you with optimum value, I will be matching up two cigars each week. One expensive cigar and one lesser-expensive option, comparing them based on flavor, satisfaction, construction, and price.
Volume 1 - Montecristo White and La Cuna Bin No. 85 Habano.
To the average enthusiast, these two brands might seem light-years apart. Montecristo White is a fuller-flavored rendition of (what is considered to be) the biggest name in cigars. La Cuna is a lesser-known brand with a very low price point, especially when compared to the former. Montecristo is made in the Dominican, while La Cuna hails from Nicaragua. Apples to oranges, right? Well, not so much, according to my palate.
First, let’s look at the cigars....
Montecristo White – Hand-crafted in the Dominican Republic. Ecuadorian-grown, Connecticut wrapper. Dominican and Nicaraguan long-fillers. The cigar is chestnut brown, seamless in appearance, and solid from head to toe.
La Cuna Bin No. 85 Habano – Made by hand in Nicaragua. Nicaraguan-grown, Habano wrapper. Nicaraguan long-fillers. The cigar is slightly darker than the Montecristo, with an oily, reddish hue. Construction is solid.
Simple enough. Now, the experience....
Montecristo White – I selected the 5”x52 Rothchilde. The cigar is smooth and somewhat rich throughout. I notice a faint influence of cedar and cream. The creamy note is likely the result of the Ecuadorian wrapper. The bouquet is relatively straightforward, one dimensional if you will. The cigar is made well and balanced, but it’s not grabbing my attention the way I had hoped. There is no fiesty opening or full-flavored finale. Just a pleasant, medium-bodied cigar with no twists and turns and subtle flavors from A to Z. Remove the band and you have an enjoyable stick that’s lacking in the satisfaction department.
La Cuna Bin No. 85 Habano – I selected the 5”x50 Robusto. La Cuna begins with a peppery, almost harsh start with a faint touch of saltiness. I am guessing the pepper comes from the wrapper, since I notice it mostly on the front of my palate. The cigar starts out slow, but evolves into a medium-bodied array of unique flavors. I pick up toast, cedar, earth, and even a little bit of leather here and there. The peppery note mentioned earlier becomes an afterthoughout lingering on the palate each time I set the cigar down. The cigar shows complexity, which always wins me over, but maintains a balance comparable to that of the Montecristo. Remove the band and you have a complex, satisfying stick that might trick you into thinking you’re burning a major boutique brand.
Without considering price, I would give the Montecristo White an ‘87’ and the La Cuna an ‘88’. You may not agree, but I expect more out of a brand like Montecristo, and La Cuna exhibited flavor sensations that the Montecristo only hinted at.
As noted above, price is going to be a major factor in my comparison, as it should be. Montecristo White carries an MSRP of around $7 on the low-end, going above $11 for the Belicoso. On the other hand, the MSRP for La Cuna falls in the $5-$6 range. A significant difference, even after our discounted pricing on both brands.
Weighing all factors – flavor, satisfaction, construction, and price – I’d change my ratings to the following:
Montecristo White: 86
La Cuna Habano Bin No. 85: 90