Montecristo Artisan Series L.E. Batch 2 | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Thank you, thank you…

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Indonesian
Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan, Colombian
Size: 6 x 50
Strength: Medium
Price: $18.00 Everywhere…Except at Holt’s Sale: $6.00

Photo courtesy of Montecristo:

Today we take a look at the Montecristo Artisan Series L.E. Batch 2.
I bought a box of 15 five months ago.
Not a single review of Batch 2. Several were written about Batch 1. I suspect the price put everyone off. I’ve also noticed that this is Old School blending and I went through a few of these cigars before they finally kicked in. A shame that no one was patient enough to see Holts dumping them at $6.00 per stick. This is a good cigar.

BACKGROUND:
The Artisan Series Batch 2 is the follow up to Batch 1. It was blended by Javier Elmudesi, Candido Rosario, and Elmer Suarez. This group was chosen to tackle the Batch 2 and had nothing to do with Batch 1.

It is a highly limited release with only 40,000 cigars released in 2017. One year on the market and they’re still heeeere. I’m pretty sure the $18 price tag put off a lot of smokers. Add to that…not a single review of this cigar did not bode well for smokers to believe in this blend for the high MSRP.

The cigars are being sold everywhere online for the high retail price which isn’t helping them move off their shelves. Now Holt’s is putting their shoulder into their efforts by selling them, at the time I bought mine, for $45 for a box of 15 or $3 each. The price has gone up twice since then. First at $60 and now at $90 for a box. Still, at $6 a pop, they are much more accessible. And if you want to give the cigar a swirl around the dance floor, I’d act quickly before Holt’s catches on that I’m sending readers their way and they jack up the price again.

DESCRIPTION:
This is a very rustic looking stick. Some huge veins create a moon scape on the surface. It’s lumpy and bumpy with several soft spots from stem to stern. The café latte hue of the wrapper is oily with a slight touch of tooth.

The cigar band is color coordinated with the color of the cigar. Earth tones. The footer band has an actual bottom to it that covers the foot of the cigar. The triple cap is flawless.

Since we’ve had nice, low humidity weather lately, I allowed this cigar to dry box for 24 hours. Unfortunately, I left it where the cat could get at it and it’s disappeared. Luckily, I have another stick to take its place. I hope the cat got the spins from the nicotine. I can’t find my Zippo.

AROMAS AND COLD DRAW POINTS:
From the shaft, I can smell strong floral notes, milk chocolate, creaminess, baking spices, cedar, malts, espresso, vanilla toffee, and assorted low hanging fruits.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell intense black pepper, milk chocolate, espresso, malts, floral notes, cream, various baking spices, vanilla, barnyard, and cedar.

The cold draw presents flavors of barnyard, cream, milk chocolate, baking spices, malts, vanilla, black pepper and cinnamon.

FIRST THIRD:
There is a plug near the cap and I whip out my PerfecDraw cigar poker tool and make short shrift of the issue.
The smoke output is voluminous as white clouds fill the room.

We start with a big bang. Flavors of chocolate, coffee, cream, malts, sugar cane, caramel, vanilla, black pepper, cedar, and a touch of herbs descend upon my palate.
Strength is barely medium.

The balance is well-rounded with a nice addition of early complexity and a royal flush of transitions that hit the dance floor like John Travolta in a gay bar.

You charge $18 for a cigar and it better hit you like a sledge hammer from the start. So far, so good.
The mainstay of flavors surrounds the creaminess, pepper, malts, chocolate, and salted caramel. It is in the dessert arena.

New flavors of chocolate covered raisins, black walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg laced rice pudding, and dried hops smash through the front door like drunken meter maids looking for a good time.

The finish becomes a thing of beauty like finding out your wife inherited some serious dough…and she still likes you. Now you can finally get that Daisy Red Ryder Model 1938 BB Gun.

The early impressions of this blend are one of a mellow yellow blend.
Most of you aren’t old enough to remember the Donovan song, “Mellow Yellow” in which we dumb ass kids assumed it meant that you could get high smoking dried banana peel. As young desperate Hippies, we all tried it only to be seriously disappointed despite the allure of common sense. So, we’d go to our Yuban coffee can and sift the seeds once again looking for leftovers to smoke.

Despite the stick feeling light in the loafers here and there, the draw is a slow roll of flavors and texture.
I wish that there was a little more oomph to this blend.

SECOND THIRD:
Smoke time is 35 minutes.

A big crack forms near the foot. Bad cigar…no Liva Snaps for you.
Back in the 1970’s, my girlfriend suggested I do a gay snuff film. I wasn’t sure. While I was thinking about it, she left me. Women…you can’t live with them, you can’t snuff them.

Strength kicks up some dust as it finally hits a strong medium balance.
This is a whole different type of Montecristo. The mixture of all those country’s leaves gives it an international flare that makes it hard to dissect. It’s a mish mosh of all sorts of influences giving the blend a wide spectrum of influences and flavors. The complexity is in full bore mode. The balance is finding itself. Transitions are good. Finish is full of sweet concoctions.

Sweet Spot 1.0 develops. The Montecristo Artisan Series L.E. Batch 2 is coming into its own. Definitely an Old School blend needing plenty of humidor aging. While I’ve had them for 5 months, I believe a few more months will bring out even better results. Probably one of the reasons the cigar is still on the market…patience goes beyond the regular requirements for a Monte.

Would I pay $18 for this cigar? Hell no. But it does find itself in good company around the $10 mark.

At $6, for however long it lasts at Holt’s, this is a no brainer.

Damn. The first third was a tease. Now it’s getting down and boogying.
Speaking of John Travolta…never met him. But we did borrow his old Trans Am during the making of the Butch “Eddie Munster” Patrick video of “Whatever Happened to Eddie?” We used it when Butch leaves Hollywood High School. He jumps in and fish tails the hell out of there. Naturally, a stunt driver was used as car icon George Barris insisted. Travolta was having his care souped up by Barris.

Here we go: Creaminess, chocolate, café latte, crème caramel, nuts, malts, black pepper, vanilla, cedar, summer fruit, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little bit of lemon zest.

I’m betting with a few more months humi time, the first third will be killer and won’t make me wait til the second third before it really impresses.

A shame for Montecristo that this blend laid an egg upon release. This is where I add that cigar manufacturers should inform their customers the optimum period of required humidor time to really enjoy the blender’s intent. But they won’t do that for fear they will sell less cigars.

Naturally, the price tag puts off everyone. Holt’s must be making a push to dump the rest of their stock by selling the sticks for 1/3 the price.

The spiciness picks up. It needed this. Mellow cigars are OK. But in the time of Nicaraguan blends being the rage, most smokers prefer something with a little kick to it. Not much kick to the Montecristo Artisan Series L.E. Batch 2. Yet remains a delicious blend.

LAST THIRD:
Smoke time is a leisurely one hour 20 minutes.

And now the blend changes tack. It hits medium/full in the blink of an eye. I get my wish.

The complexity is unusual as everything I expect is dashed to the rocks below as the blend is in constant flux surprising me with every inch smoked.

I believe the folks at Montecristo might just take themselves a little to seriously. Sure, a limited edition blend that has been given lots of attention by the blenders and who put their hearts and minds into its development doesn’t mean you charge an arm and a leg for it. Too many yes men on the Monte team.

I’m a suspicious mother fucker. Anytime I see a manufacturer come out with a ridiculously priced cigar, all I think of is greed. Limited edition cigars seem to give the manufacturer a license to overcharge. Such a stupid philosophy. Put out your $18 cigar for half the price and watch them fly off the shelves instead of stores asking to return their leftover stock sitting on the shelves for a year; being ignored.

This is a fine cigar. And I’m telling you that not jumping on the deal at Holt’s is silly. I’m not shilling for Holt’s as like most online stores, they hate me. But it is where the action is for the Montecristo Artisan Series L.E. Batch 2.

Smooth as my tush. In addition to the aging this cigar received at the manufacturing end, the year this cigar has been sitting in Holt’s warehouse…and the 5 months of naked humi time has really shaved off the sharp edges of this blend.

At this point, it is easy to see what Montecristo was attempting with this blend. A complex arena for all those different leaves to mind meld with each other providing a super tasting cigar.

Sweet spots develop like dust devils. Popping up unexpectedly bringing joy and peace to the world.
This was a good deal. Remember…patience. Don’t waste your $18 cigar by smoking it too soon. Throw it in your humidor and forget about it. You will be rewarded.

RATING: 91

And now for something completely different:

Hall of Fame drummer, Hal Blaine, was not only a mentor during my recording studio ownership days, but more like my favorite uncle. He was going through his third divorce and forced to live on his yacht docked in Marina Del Rey, CA.

He liked to throw lunches and brunches for a few folks. He was lonely even though he knew every musician in L.A.

And his soirees were always catered. I met some real giants of the music industry this way. Everyone knew Hal and everyone hired him to play drums. This man has a list of gold records a mile high.

On this day, he planned the luncheon around me. He invited my heroes from the days of the L.A. Wrecking Crew’s most prolific era. Bassist, Carol Kaye (I took bass lessons from her in 1969). Keyboard player, Larry Knechtel (who went on to be a permanent player in the group “Bread.” But I never held that against him). And bassist, Joe Osborn.


Notice that Joe is playing a Lakland 4 string bass. I never learned to play a 5 string. I remember the painful lesson I learned when I went from a short scale bass (Gibson EB-O) to a long scale bass (Fender Precision). I have small hands and learning how to play a completely new bass in the middle of touring and recording was downright stupid. I was 25. What did I know?

So, adding a 5 or 6 string bass to my collection made no sense. I did just fine with a 4 string. By the way, the 5th string is the deepest string above the E string. It is a B string allowing you to play certain deeper notes that a 4 string won’t allow. I spent 20 years playing an electric upright…and I had all the deep notes I could hope for. It wasn’t unusual for a bar manager to ask me to turn down. Once, I shook the bar so hard that the sprayed-on ceiling was flaking and pieces were floating into peoples’ drinks.

I would sit for hours, as a teen, listening to my records and reading the album covers. I would be mesmerized by Simon and Garfunkel, Beach Boys, Mamas & Papas, and dozens more records that this group of the best L.A. musicians played on. It was a known fact that Hal played on a few Beatles songs but I could never pry which ones out of him.

If you look at Ringo’s early set of drums and it is an exact copy of Hal’s early drums. Ringo wasn’t so dumb.

As the 5 of us sat on the deck of Hals’ yacht, munching away and drinking Bloody Marys, more people came to join the small party.
It turned out that Neil Diamond was a very good friend of Hal’s. And there he was, towering above me. (I would meet Diamond one more time.) Hal introduced me as, “This is Phil Kohn. One of the best bassists I’ve ever played with.”

I was stunned. Yeah, I was a good player but the accolade seemed undeserved; yet very kind. Diamond’s eyes widened and shook my hand vigorously. And then Hal told him he should consider me for his next album. I was shitting my pants. Diamond, who took Hal seriously, nodded.

Of course, as I learned later, that was just a polite acknowledgement. Sort of like telling someone to leave their name and phone number in the ashtray and they will get back to you. No Diamond gig for this bass player.

Hal got me all kinds of session gigs in Hollywood. I knew how to sight read music back then. I’ve since forgotten how since playing in blues bands doesn’t require it. How can you fuck up 1-4-5?
Hal and me at my recording studio:

All the sessions Hal got me were big corporate TV commercial sound tracks. It was very simple and of course, the tune was never longer than a couple minutes. It allowed the engineers to use any part of it for a 10, 30, or 60 second commercial. It paid well. Although, I got scale. Hal made a fortune as he was always asked for by name. Hal insisted that I played bass. The powers that be listened to Hal. What a pal!

I was beginning to make a name for myself in that world when the Eddie Munster project collapsed under my feet.

We didn’t have cell phones back in 1983, just pagers and an answering service. I continued to get some calls but I was broke and driving from my home in Long Beach to Hollywood sometimes was a problem because of gas.
Your check for playing a session didn’t come right away. On average it took 1-3 months. It had to go through the Musician’s Union first where they took their blood money; and then they cut you a check. And sent it to you when they felt like it; or so it seemed.

Hal’s circle of friends was mostly Jewish musicians. But on this day, of the 6 of us, there was only Hal, me and Diamond who were members of the Tribe.

Hal is old school Jewish. Not Orthodox, but he liked to go to temple and always celebrated the holidays. This particular lunch took place around Purim. So, he had the famous Jewish deli in West L.A., Canter’s, cater it with a potpourri of Jewish delicacies. Including the Purim cookie called Hamantaschen. I was in hog heaven (Pardon the un-kosher pun).

We sat in the sunny and warm California sun with a nice breeze coming off the bay. I was having the time of my life. Everyone told stories about their musical careers. I always loved to listen to other musician’s stories. Especially, the ones that could drop names like it was nothing. So, I heard stories about Brian Wilson, Sinatra, Elvis, etc.

As the sun set, everyone said they had to be going. It was a delightful 4 or 5 hours. I was on Cloud 9. Diamond never called me for a gig even though I gave him my card. He was just being polite. But a recommendation from the most famous session drummer in the business had to give him pause.

I would have loved to make music my career but the ups and downs and rejections came so often it was impossible to stay financially afloat. In order to flourish, one had to become totally committed and be ruthless as all get out. I discovered through my short decade of musical big time experiences that I didn’t like the person I was becoming to get shit done. Too much corruption had to be dealt with and I just didn’t have it in me.

The bottom line was that I didn’t have the stamina to be part of Hal’s clique and run my recording studio which was just about a 24/7 ordeal.
In retrospect, I should have dumped the studio. It caused nothing but aggravation and did nothing to further my musical career.

But when the studio went belly up due to my embezzling partner, my aspirations were crushed. I took on the management of a local band. I was cut in as a 5th member. Even so, I only made around $400-$500 a week.
The band left for its home port in South Lake Tahoe. It was a fun adventure and allowed me to decompress. This lasted from April,1984- October,1984.

I met Charlotte there and when I tired of the band, I made a beeline home to Long Beach with Charlotte in tow.

We got a studio apartment and I went to work for my dad as a project manager in his structural steel fab shop. Charlotte and I got married in February,1985. Two months later, she got pregnant and my hopes of ever going back into the music biz came to an abrupt end. Still, I had been a musician for nearly my whole life and that doesn’t get erased. Playing out in good bands on the weekend was almost as pleasing without the worry of where the next paycheck was coming from.

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Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS

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6 replies

  1. I’m overjoyed to see you back in business, sir.

  2. Welcome back Phil! As good as ever.
    Like a Phoenix he rises from the ashtray!

  3. “I’m a suspicious mother fucker.” This statement stands alone in English prose in its self-aware transparency.

    Kudos.

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