Wrapper: African Cameroon
Binder: Connecticut (Havana Seed)
Filler: Dominican (Piloto Cubana), Nicaraguan Ometepe (Ligero)
Size: 6 x 54 “LX-Toro”
Today we take a look at the Partagas Benji Menendez Master Series.
It first showed its head way back in 2009. This is the fourth version of the homage to Benji Menendez who is General Cigar’s senior vice president. This blend hit the ground at the 2013 IPCPR trade show.
In 2009, the cigar made it to Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 list.
The releases have been limited to only 5000 boxes. The box contains 18 cigars.
And the LX is Roman numerals for 60. Or the amount that this poor shlub has been in the cigar business. 60 years. Can you imagine dealing with cigar reps for 60 years?
The story goes that Menendez’s father, Alonso, was active in the Cuban cigar industry and created the Montecristo #2 and the Monte Cruz line. The family moved to Brazil, where they had their own factory; and then finally to America and General Cigar.
The cigar comes in 5 sizes:
6 x 46 Majestuoso
7 x 49 Prominentes
6 x 54 LX
5 x 50 Robusto
It is not hard to find the first two sizes still around but the LX and robusto are harder to find.
The Partagas Benji Menendez Master Series is a hearty and stout looking giant Toro. Normally this size is out of my comfort zone but here goes nuttin’ honey.
The wrapper is a medium chocolate/caramel looking thing that is totally mottled. Seams are visible but tight. Loads of veins. Solid for the most part but with some soft spots near the foot. It appears that my patron, Brian Gulley has had this stick for a while as it is a little beaten up from being moved around in the humidor. Some wrapper is loose near the bottom and a small crack as well. The cap is a flawless triple cap dome.
I clip the cap and find aromas of cinnamon, sweetness, cherries, caramel, spice, black licorice, coffee, and chocolate.
Time to light up.
The first puffs are redolent with a superb earthy tobacco flavor. And then comes a wallop of red pepper. A generic sweetness joins up. Maybe sugar cane. (I went to the market a few months ago and bought a sugar cane stump and chewed on it. It was yucky but now, at least, I know what it tastes like).
The profile is full of wood notes. And cinnamon. The hot spicy kind. Like those wooden toothpicks we bought as kids in those little wax paper bags for a nickel. (Man, I really dated myself just then.)
The cherries make their entrance. I sip my Diet Coke and the cherry flavored Egg Cream washes over my palate. Yum. (When you get to be an old man, you start seeking out things that remind you of your youth. Can’t be helped. In the DNA of homesapien).
Half an inch in, the flavors of wood, chocolate, cream, cherries, caramel and sugar cane are zooming along like George Jetson. The creaminess takes on different forms. The first is heavy whipping cream. The second is marshmallow. The third is like cream soda. In fact, I do taste a minor ginger element that I taste in cream sodas.
Black licorice makes a subtle entrance.
A lot is going on at the start. It means one of two things: First, the cigar will be a real flavor experience, or Two; it will start off with a band and then fizzle out.
The char line is nice. And I will probably just burn away the wrapper issues.
I’m pretty sure that Brian G. gave this baby some loving care because each puff brings on new subtlety and nuance. The cigar is sitting in an ashtray about 18” away from me and I can hear the snap, crackle and pop of the wrapper cracking.
I’m getting all my new cigars literally frozen from the mailman or UPS. Really. They are damn near Popsicles. That just has to fuck them up. The smart thing to do is put them away and don’t think about them for several months to allow them to acclimate. But the subzero cold of -25° every day is a hard thing to come back from.
This is a very slow smoke. The Partagas Benji Menendez Master Series takes no prisoners and forces you to be patient and savor what it has to offer. I predict this to be a 90-120 minute smoke.
I wish I had the 6 x 46 to review. I’m sure it is punchier with much more oomph than this redwood log. But it was this size that got the nod from Cigar Aficionado.
The spiciness is gone. And the flavors have flattened out. They’re nice but don’t kick start my Moped.
This will be one more in a long line of reviews in which the cigar doesn’t show promise until the last third. And in this case, that is about an hour away. I’ve discovered that my new favorite size is the 5.5 x 46. It just seems to have the right balance and intensity.
The TV cable classic rock station is playing one of my least favorite groups: Supertramp. I have a story about them.
The second third begins after 30 minutes.
The flavor profile is typical of a big cigar. Pleasant but not powerful.
There is no complexity. The balance is so so. And the finish isn’t bad.
Little cracks keep forming. Too small to glue. Fingers crossed.
I reach the halfway point.
Not much is going on. I betcha a buck that the 6 x 46 is a totally different animal. I was afraid of this when I tussled with whether or not to review it. I just have no luck with big cigars. Plus, I’m not a big Partagas fan. I like the 160. Who doesn’t?
I’m not expecting miracles in the last third. I’m pretty sure this is all the Partagas Benji Menendez Master Series has for me.
It’s strange that the Cuban Partagas is uber popular. Not so much the Central American version.
I’ve got over an hour and fifteen minutes invested. And I see at least another 30 minutes to finish it. I really hope that that last part brings some life to this blend.
The red pepper returns. That’s a good sign.
The last third begins.
The char line needs a major tune up.
Things begin to turn around for the Partagas Benji Menendez Master Series.
My daughter, Katie, got me an Amazon gift card for my birthday. Last night, I bought a Gould and Goodrich Yaqui holster for my Glock 30. I have a CCW license in Wisconsin. I always carry when I go out by my current holster is a snap holster and it’s big and bulky…like me. So I wanted something small and unobtrusive. Pretty cool, huh?
The Partagas Benji Menendez Master Series is now screaming laughter.
I’ve hit pay dirt. The sweet spot.
The flavors return in spades: Chocolate, coffee, creaminess, caramel, licorice, wood, ginger, cherries, and leather. Now we’re talking.
But still, no complexity. The balance is good with a nice long finish. This is so typical of a big cigar. It makes you wait til the last third for redemption. Now I’m not talking about every big cigar; just most of them.
Tomorrow, I’m going to review another cigar that Brian G. sent me: Viaje Leaded. Looking forward to this. Big Farkas fan here.
The price point. Almost $11.00 is too much. It belongs in the $7.00-$8.00 range. And that’s only because I’m assuming the smaller ring gauge cigars are more user friendly.
The Partagas Benji Menendez Master Series is still available in a lot of online stores.
But you are more likely to find them in your local B & M.
The burn line is impeccable. I’ve burned through all the wrapper issues. And I’ve only had to clip the cap once.
Without trying the 6 x 46 or the 7 x 49, I cannot in good conscious recommend this cigar. Exciting flavors come just too late. Especially in a 2 hour cigar. Which is just about what it took for me.
The strength has maintained an even medium body throughout the cigar experience.
If you purchase the Partagas Benji Menendez Master Series, don’t get this size.
And now for something completely different:
I had been home from England for just a few months. Before the band reformed once again as Curved Air, we were Stark Naked. There is a real argument over who came up with that name so I won’t go into it.
The lead singer we auditioned was another America. Looked like Dwayne Allman. Long flowing blonde hair with the big moustache.
He played in a Southern rock band called Flatrock. This was a poor kid who grew up in the life of carnivals. He put together his own act when old enough and it was pretty spectacular.
He spewed fire from his mouth. During the encore of Stark Naked, Butch Hatcher, would light tow metal rods with rags tied to the ends. He then squirted lighter fluid in his mouth.
Just before doing this while the band was playing, his own assistant shmeared Vaseline on his moustache and chin.
And then he was off. He would stick the skewers down his throat like a sword swallower and then spew a 5 foot long blast of fire from his mouth. It was amazing and even the band was enthralled. The crowd went nuts.
We were in rehearsals when Darryl, the band’s leader, told us we would have to take a 2 month break because of the commitment to Decca Records to finish another record. My heart sank. I would have to wait two months?
And then Darryl said, “And Kohn…you are going to be the bassist.”
Just like that.
The reunion tour took Europe by storm. The band hadn’t played with the original band members for several years and this was a big deal. Only I was the new guy.
I was elated. I got a raise. And I got to travel all over England and Europe.
When we returned, Darryl and Sonja had secret meetings. Why plug along with Stark Naked making bupkis for bread…when we could go out as Curved Air once again. Darryl convinced the keys player and the drummer to bail.
Now Darryl had his new band backing Sonja. And this time the bill was PR’d as “three” original members. I had swiftly made the ranks of an original band member.
That meant Butch had to go. It was a brutal experience firing him. The band was all cowards and I ended up doing it.
Butch and I remained friends while the other band members just ignored him and behaved like they had never met him.
So I’m back in America. And I get this call from this English woman who is a band manager. She was shacking up with Butch for about a year. She arranged getting Butch a record deal. And Butch wanted me to have a copy so she called me to come pick it up.
At the time, she was managing Supertramp.
She gave me directions to the mansion they rented for rehearsal before starting their American tour in L.A. At the time, 1976, they were huge.
So I arrive and everyone is out at the pool. Introductions are made and lo and behold the Supertramp guys are super impressed to meet me. The bass player in Curved Air. I had no idea they were fans.
All of the band members were very down to earth and friendly. There were some head roadies there and some Hollywood types and we spent the afternoon at the pool drinking our little hearts away and eating catered food.
The English chick gave me Butch’s album which I have to this day.
The band converted the living room into its rehearsal space. For some reason, it had a really low ceiling. Maybe a bit over 7’ tall.
The bass player showed me his bass by handing it to me. I began to strap it on when it happened.
I rammed the head into the ceiling. I put a big dent in the ceiling and I cracked the neck of the bass.
I was mortified. The bass was worth a lot of dough. I don’t remember what it was. Too long ago for this old man’s memory.
But I swear that the bassist held back his tears.
I apologized and offered to pay for it but they were gracious and told me accidents happen. They also said they had complained to management about this low ceiling. They too were afraid something like this would happen.
I was too flustered to say much.
I quickly said my good byes and left with Butch’s album in hand. Drove back to Long Beach.
Never did get a Christmas card from Supertramp. Damn Butch.
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS