Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Maduro
Include a cigar in your “Big Game” routine
It's nearing the time for the NCAA Basketball tournament again, a.k.a. “March Madness.” If your team makes it into the tourney, congrats and good luck!
Throughout every season and into the tourney, these teams and we fans face a number of “Big Games.” One of the great basketball and cigar men of our time, Red Auerbach, would agree with me when I say a good cigar pairs well with a big game! Red was known to light a cigar, courtside, when he was assured another Boston Celtics victory. He usually lit a cigar eventually after every loss, too. Red realized that a cigar could enhance the “thrill of victory” or help to deal with the “agony of defeat.”
Until this past month, Jan. 8 to be exact, I did not fully appreciate just how smart Red was. I certainly knew and experienced a celebratory smoke after a big win, and I can attest that it puts the “icing on the cake” of a big win, in sports and in life. What I learned on Jan. 8, 2007, is the healing benefits of a cigar after a disappointing loss, too.
Two of my most memorable examples occurred over the last few months. The winning experience occurred in late November when I took my oldest son to Columbus, Ohio, to watch my alma mater, THE Ohio State Buckeyes, play “that team up North,” (as Woody Hayes referred to the University of Michigan Wolverines). My son had never experienced a live Ohio State -- Michigan game, let alone one so super-hyped. (Recall it was a #1 vs. #2 matchup, an historic and epic battle.) The game was great, with the Buckeyes holding on to win and earn a trip to the BCS national title game. I couldn’t have scripted the experience with my son any better! The whole weekend went our way, with one of the highlights including the smoking of celebratory cigars with a longtime good friend, while my son continued to take in the environment and the experience of witnessing a great and historic game. He was further pumped up by the fact that he now owned a couple of chunks of Ohio Stadium turf that he and hundreds of other fans harvested from the hallowed Ohio Stadium field.
Fast-forward 51 days. I am in Phoenix with my wife for the Big Game, the BCS National Championship bowl game. (Note: These 51 days represent the longest layoff between games that a team has had to endure in a college football single season. It proved to be too long, even for the #1 team in the nation, but that’s another topic). I had stocked a number of cigars for the trip: the morning pre-game smoke, the tailgating smoke, and of course the celebration smoke. As any self-respecting cigar smoker would do, I also packed a couple to share with old friends from Florida who we were meeting out there, Gator alumni to boot. I figured Steve could use a good smoke to ease the pain of a defeat at the hands of an unbeatable Buckeye team.
Needless to say and to the shock of many, the agony was all mine (and the thousands of other OSU fans present in Glendale and around the world). Chris Leak and his mates transformed my celebratory cigar into a conciliatory cigar, by man-handling the powerful Buckeyes. I sparked up the cigar as I sat waiting for our Florida friends on the bumper of the rental car in the parking lot, with throngs of Scarlet and Grey faithful quietly passing by. I reflected on our so-called “friends,” who actually stayed in the stadium to watch the final seconds tick down, the confetti fall and the popping flash bulbs reflect off that stupid trophy. The selfish but lucky bastards -- I was the one who was supposed to be rained on by confetti.
I just wanted to get to the hotel and bury my head in my pillow. My wife sat in the car silently; she too was dismayed at the loss, but probably knew to give me a little time and space. As I smoked through the first part of the cigar, I began to feel a little less cheated and a little less angry. By the end of that cigar, things were almost back in perspective. I give a fair amount of credit to the cigar allowing me the time to sit on that bumper and think rationally.
I concluded that I was pretty fortunate to have a college football game being one of the most agonizing events in my life in recent memory. I came to the realization I will likely not always be so lucky. Hell, I was in the middle of Arizona, partying all day and night, eating good, smoking good, spending quality time with my wife and our friends, etc., etc., and the Bucks had a storied season. By the tail end of that cigar, I even seemed prepared to be somewhat courteous and congratulatory to our Gator friends (who I still had to face). I was happy for them, as I knew it was a great moment for them. Most of all, I couldn’t help but realize that the memory of that earlier game with Michigan, that I was so lucky to have shared with my son, will be even stronger and sweeter through the years for both of us. The brown Ohio grass and dried mud, sitting in a box in the corner of his room, will someday turn to dust and be gone (maybe a lot sooner if my wife has her way). But the memory of that Ohio State -Michigan game, one of the greatest ever, will stay with us throughout our lives.
Let’s go Bucks! ...And, let’s get smokin’!
Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Maduro
Size: Churchill 6.0” X 45
$6 to $7.50 range
Hoyo de Monterrey is known for its rich and creamy taste. Handmade in the reputable Villazon factory of Honduras, Hoyos consist of a complex blend of Nicaraguan, Honduran and Cuban seed Dominican tobaccos.
- Wrapper: Connecticut – Maduro (dark)
- Filler: Cuban seed Dominican, Honduran, Nicaraguan Blend
A byproduct of recent winter business trip included the opportunity to smoke in the mild climate of San Jose, Calif. I packed my Ipod and a Hoyo Ex cigar, hoping that the weather.com forecast would turn out to be accurate -- and it was. It was the middle of the workweek, so I chose to go without an accompanying adult beverage, hoping that a Spyro Gyra jazz tune on the Ipod would make for an alternative pairing.
Look and feel
This cigar is gorgeous -- a dark maduro wrap and a flawlessly constructed gem, whose black and gold band further enhanced its attractiveness. This was a box-pressed cigar, which simply means it is pressed in a wooden mold to give it a squared shape vs. a more traditional round shape. The cut was excellent, made the night before I left on the trip. The cigar seemed perfectly humidified – if I do say so myself.
Aroma and Taste
The pre-lit aroma was of leather, though it may have been somewhat tainted by the fact that it sat in my leather travel case for quite some time before being released. I carefully toasted the foot of the cigar as is advised, and then stoked her up to full flame. The draw was tighter than I prefer, but the opening was fantastic – a rich, bold, black coffee flavor. Note: this is not a flavored cigar. While smoking the first third of it, I couldn’t help but notice the mild and clean finish it had. This was actually one feature that was very obvious. The cigar actually settled in and maintained a somewhat sweet coffee hint to a flavorable smoke.
The second third of the cigar began to produce a higher volume of smoke, probably helped by massaging the cigar’s body, attempting to loosen the tight draw. For the first time, I detected a slight spiciness in the finish. The burn was absolutely perfect -- upon knocking the ash, you could observe the glowing “cherry” protruding from the end of the cigar. This is the exact opposite of the much less desired “tunneling” effect, where the inside tobaccos of the cigar are burning and being smoked while the outside binder / wrapper is not. When the latter occurs, the proper balance and benefit of the tobacco blend is negated and the flavor may be negatively impacted. “Tunneling” also creates a challenge for keeping the cigar lit as a lack of oxygen inside will extinguish the cigar.
Going into the homestretch, the final third, the HdM Excalibur was hitting on all cylinders with amplified flavor, abundant smoke, etc. This was a cigar that held its flavor profile, burn and aroma right down to the nub.
RATING: 9.0 (on a scale of 1 to 10)
The HdM Excalibur is a smooth tasting, interestingly flavorful and diverse cigar. Most notable was the burn, a model of what an excellent smoke should be – this is a very good smoke for the dollar and would make for a good celebratory cigar.
Food for thought from a cigar industry giant
"If your wife doesn't like the aroma of your cigar, change your wife" – Zino Davidoff
DISCLAIMER: At the risk of sounding too much like a TV commercial, I do want to sincerely state: This feature is NOT intended to advocate the smoking of cigars any more or any less than you already do, nor do I intend to influence the non-smoker to begin smoking cigars. Make no mistake about it; CIGAR SMOKING MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH.