2018 CA Report: The Essential Cigar Advisor Guide to H. Upmann Cigars

2018 CA Report: The Essential Cigar Advisor Guide to H. Upmann Cigars

Cigar Advisor’s Essential H. Upmann Cigars Tasting & Buying Guide

By the Cigar Advisor Editors

The History of H. Upmann Cigars

Hailed as one of the iconic Cuban heritage cigar brands, H. Upmann was founded in 1844 by German banker, Hermann Upmann. Upmann had arrived in Cuba a year earlier to open a German import-export business; he also set up a banking business for tobacco dealers and cigar makers, and shortly after bought his own cigar factory. Hermann Upmann was also the first to package premium hand rolled cigars in Spanish cedar boxes. These were often given out to his banking clients as gifts and helped promote the brand.

By the end of the 19th century, H. Upmann cigars had achieved international acclaim. The factory moved into a bigger facility, but Hermann, who retired in 1890, had already turned the company over to his nephew, Heinrich. Heinrich passed away in 1914, and the H. Upmann factory changed hands again, this time to two other nephews, Hermann and Alberto.

hermann h upmann cigars

Hermann Upmann, creator of the H. Upmann cigars brand. (pic via wikipedia.com)

Loyal to their native Germany, during World War I, the Upmann company became a covert hub for German intelligence operations. With the bank becoming a virtual annex for German agents traveling to South America, business suffered, and a period of misfortune ensued.

In 1916 Hermann and Alberto were suspected of supporting revolts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic; the following year, Cuba declared war on Germany, forcing the Upmann Bank to close for over two years. Moreover, the company became the first to make the “U.S. Enemy Trading” list and its assets in the U.S. were seized. In 1922 scandal continued to haunt the Upmann brothers. Shady dealings in foreign currency trading and Mexican oil investments got Hermann and Alberto convicted of bank fraud and bankrupted the company.

Eventually, J. Frankau & Co, the licensing agent for H. Upmann in the U.K. bought the company and by the mid-1920s the brand was revived. Frankau & Co sold the brand to Menendez, Garcia y Cia in 1935, who continued to produce H. Upmann until 1960. That year the Castro regime nationalized the Cuban tobacco industry, so Menendez y Garcia moved production to the Canary Islands. From there they moved to the Dominican Republic where H. Upmann cigars are now produced by Altadis U.S.A. As for the Cuban H. Upmann cigars, they are now made in Havana by Habanos, S.A.

h upmann cigars box vintage

A vintage Cuban H. Upmann Cigars box, circa 1912. (pic via pinterest)

Due to the wider range of tobaccos available to the Dominican and Honduran-made H. Upmann cigars, today the company is able to offer a greater variety of blends, shapes, and sizes than their Cuban cousins. Moreover, working with top cigar makers like AJ Fernandez, among others, has kept the H. Upmann brand on the cutting edge.

For our Cigar Advisor Guide to H. Upmann Cigars, we’ve sampled each of the eight lines currently available at Famous Smoke Shop, and listed our reviews roughly in order of their introductions – starting with the legendary 1844 Reserve, and finishing with the new-to-you Legacy Nicaragua. As you go through this guide, we think you’ll find several H. Upmann cigars that appeal to your personal taste preference. Those tastes are, of course, subjective; but these quick reviews and notes should at least give you an idea of how each smoke performed for us, and whether any (or all) of these Upmann cigars sound like they might be a good fit for you. Try them for yourself, then let us know with a comment below…and if you’ve smoked them before, share your experiences as well.

H. Upmann 1844 Reserve Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Robusto (5″ x 50)
Strength:  Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan Broadleaf
Filler: Dominican Republic

h. upmann cigars guide h upmann 1844 reserve cigar review BIN

Construction: Solid, but not overly packed. Wrapper has a chestnut-brown shade with very fine veins and a thin amount of oil.
Draw: Perfect.
Pre-light flavor: Foot: Earth, mineral, pepper, hay. Cold draw: Toast, hay, peanuts, salt, slight hint of raisin.
Toasting & Light: Very easy.
Initial notes: Very flavorful off the bat. Notes of toast, cream, salt, nuts, cedar, and a spicy finish.
Base flavors: Cedar, cream, popcorn, spice, toast.
Retrohale: Red pepper spice on the front with loads of toast and citrus in tow.
Aroma: Spicy and woody.
Burn / Ash Quality: Burn line is very sharp; the tight, white ash holds nicely.
Balance of flavors: Medium in body, not overly strong – this cigar has a good body for a spine with a meaty bulk of flavor.

Summary: We start off by delving into the classics. The 1844 Reserve is said to be the epitome of old world Cuban-style, and I must admit it lived up to its 94-customer rating. After an easy toasting, this revered cigar brought an onslaught of creamy, toasty, and nutty notes that are unrelenting and delicious. One inch deep, a fine woody and nutty profile with a spicy aftertaste shines through huge rips of smoke.

H. Upmann cigars guide h upmann 1844 Reserve cigar review FL

The H. Upmann Reserve is a classic for a reason: creamy, toasty and easy for anybody to enjoy. Click for more.

With some progress the spice mellows out and the woody/nutty profile takes over in creamy bliss with a slightly toasted popcorn-like aftertaste. By the 2/3, cedar wood takes over as the dominating note with loads of creaminess, toast and more popcorn after taste that slowly transitions to a slight citrus tang. Closing things off, this H. Upmann finished with heavy cream notes, a slight spice, peanuts and cedar.

Final thoughts: A great cigar for smokers of all experience for any time of day. Pair with a cup of coffee or Amber Lager.

– Fred Lunt

 

H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Figurado (6 1/8″ x 52)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: African Cameroon
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Dominican Republic/Nicaragua/Peru

h. upmann cigars guide h upmann vintage cigar review BIN

Construction/Appearance: Firm and seamlessly rolled. Wrapper is protected by a cedar sleeve, and when removed reveals an appealing milk chocolate color and an oily patina.
Toasting and Light: Foot took well to flame, resulting in an even light with little effort.
Draw: Excellent.
Pre-light: Woody.
First few puffs: Cedar, light earth and some sweetness. An impressive volume of smoke, too.
Burn: Excellent. No issues.
Aroma: Woody and leathery.
Base Flavors (in order of appearance): Cedar, leather, sweet spice.
Balance: Excellent.

Summary: The smoke kicks-off medium-bodied with some sweet tobacco and leathery notes and pretty much sticks through the first third. During the second act the body deepens as sweet spice joins the cedar and leather, and the finish is sweeter, too. In the final act the sweet spice transitions to peppery, offering a bolder attribute that knocks on the full body door, yet remains just shy of it. With just under two inches to go, the smoke became a little too charry and that’s all she wrote. However. . .

H. Upmann cigars guide H Upmann Vintage Cameroon cigar review GK

Clad in a cedar sleeve, the Vintage Cameroon ends up loaded with rich, woody flavors – and a 95 rating by customers. A great introduction to Cameroon wrapper tobacco, too. Click for more.

This Belicoso turned out to be a lot of cigar, and I enjoyed it for its rich, woody and semi-sweet flavor. The cedar sleeve may also account for this cigar’s mostly cedary qualities. Plus, the Cameroon wrapper is first-rate, so for the new or veteran cigar smoker who wants to experience the virtues of prime Cameroon leaf, the H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon is about as authentic as you’ll find. Try it with a fine Port or a long-aged dark rum. Those pairings should help summon even more of this cigar’s complexities.

– Gary Korb

 

H. Upmann Sun Grown Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: Corona (5 ½” x 44)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Nicaragua/Honduras

h. upmann cigars guide h upmann sun grown cigar review BIN

Construction: Reddish-brown wrapper has tight seams, a few obvious leaf veins and a nice oily finish. Decently packed.
Draw: Good amount of resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Barnyard, sweet and floral.
Toasting & Light: Average light time.
First Few Puffs: Thick smoke is slightly creamy, with a salty and spicy start.
Base flavors: Wood, leather, pepper and berry.
Retrohale: A little damp, mineral-rich earth with a slight zing of pepper.
Aroma: Floral and sweet – very attention getting, and really good.
Burn & Ash Quality: Excellent; mostly even burn, tight line and near-white ash holds great.
Balance of flavors: The whole herd of flavors stay consistently mixed as body and strength intensify.

Summary: Couple things worth stopping to notice about the H. Upmann Sun Grown before we get into the meat of the smoking experience…the perfect coffee bean color (with a glint of red) on the Habano wrapper; the cold draw included a fresh taste that reminded me of a ripe, just-cut green pepper, the attention-getting aroma that caused Fred to turn his head and ask what I was smoking within 10 minutes of lighting it up. Details matter, beyond flavor.

h. upmann cigars guide h upmann sun grown cigar review JP

You like spice? The H. Upmann Sun Grown brings it, then cranks the intensity dial up for good measure. Click for more.

In 2011, these H. Upmann cigars got love from the Robb Report as “the cigar we would most like to smoke on the golf course.” I wouldn’t wait for that occasion to present itself, but rather jump into a box of these the next time you find a comfortable smoking seat. The Report’s tasting notes, however, underserves the Upmann’s nuances. Sun Grown opens with wood and a little leather, and leaves some pepper on the finish. After a bit, the smoke thickens up to be a little more chewy, a little more spicy and adds some berry tang. I usually smoke the larger sizes (Magnum and Churchill) – those have a nice spice, tangy sensations and more “rounded” body…this thinner size emphasizes the berry and spice, and allows some of the subtle flavors to poke thru that aren’t as evident in the larger formats: something like a roasted grain, and other exotic stuff going on. It’s a nice set of flavors that keeps you interested, and they all intensify together.

The draw stays cool, the Broadleaf adds some depth, and you can feel the spice stake out some territory on the front of your tongue – it doesn’t want to leave. Then this Upmann opens up the throttle a little bit more, and everything gets bigger and louder: more smoke, more flavor, more strength. Everything. It might even leave a lump in your throat. The Sun Grown is generous with the spicy and woody flavors, especially toward the end.

Bottom line is, Upmann has gone and made a cigar that gets up into fuller territory – a nice surprise if you didn’t think they had that in their skill set. Some cigars with this kind of intensity get bold and meaty, this one stays more cool and crisp throughout. Sit back and enjoy this one.

– John Pullo

 

 H. Upmann The Banker Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Annuity (6″ x 52 Toro)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
Binder: Nicaragua (Jalapa)
Filler: Nicaragua/Dominican Republic

h. upmann cigars guide h upmann the banker cigar review BIN

Construction: Gorgeous milk chocolate color, modest veins. Very firm, and very well packed.
Draw: Some resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Earth, powdered cocoa and sweet farm stable.
Toasting & Light: Needs some extra toasting time to get started.
First Few Puffs: Some spice, definite earth and a roasty, smoked flavor – almost like malt.
Base flavors: Earth, pepper, and leather, plus a toasty sweetness that’s very subtle.
Retrohale: Pepper with a hint of earth.
Aroma: Wood and slight pepper.
Burn & Ash Quality: Arrow-straight burn, super-fine carbon line at the base of a mottled grey ash.
Balance of flavors: Smooth and steady – not overly complex, pretty well-balanced.

Summary: As noted above, H. Upmann cigars have quite the legacy…a Cuban brand brought to prominence over 170 years ago, by a couple of German bankers who also happened to be cigar nuts. The Banker is a modern nod to the Upmann family’s financial roots, and – supposedly – revives the taste of their award-winning 1840’s-era blend that was reserved as gifts for their top-tier clientele. Nailing the same tasting notes as the original may be hard to do when you’re not using any Cuban tobacco; but it’s an interesting story (and the line has earned an 89 customer rating), so I’ll go with it.

The Banker goes easy at the opening bell: no wild swings in the flavor market and not overly complex, just three or four main notes trading positions from start to finish. A slight saltiness lends a subtle mouthwatering component; the smoke is a little on the thin side, but toasty-sweet. Pretty low-maintenance in the burn department, too.

h. upmann cigars guide h. upmann banker cigar review jp

The Banker is reputed to be a revival of the “original” H. Upmann blend, reserved as handouts for their best clients. Click for more.

Flavors get a little heavier on the taste buds by halfway, putting down a layer of rich coffee and your lips might tingle with some sweetness from the Habano wrapper. But the core earth and pepper flavors stay right on the money while the cocoa comes back toward the end, split with a dry and super-toasty sensation like dry-roasted peanuts.

In investment terms, the H. Upmann Banker is a slow, steady performer that’s as reliable as a savings bond: the flavors mature at a slow, fixed rate, and once the body develops, offers a guaranteed payout at the end. And for your cigar dollar, this Toro is a low-risk investment because it’s the Upmann Cigars name plastered on sweet, mostly-Nicaraguan leaf. If that’s your comfort zone, I rate this Banker as a “buy.”

– John

 

H. Upmann Yargüera Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: Toro (6″ x 54)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Yargüera 13 Tapado (shade grown, Honduras)
Binder: Criollo ’98
Filler: Sun-grown Yargüera 13 and Criollo’98

h. upmann cigars guide h upmann yarguera cigar review BIN

Construction: A tad on the loose side.
Draw: A little loose.
Pre-light flavor: Earthy sweetness.
First Few Puffs: Slightly peppery.
Base flavors: Cocoa, nutmeg and a touch of cinnamon and citrus.
Aroma: Slightly sweet.
Burn & Ash Quality: It did burn.
Balance of flavors: It has flavors.

Summary: If I was going to name this cigar, I’d call it the Yard-gar-a. Hey… I’m just being honest here. Guys, I think this is a cigar that lands at a good enough price where you can smoke a hand-rolled premium while cleaning out the garage, mowing the lawn or searing some dogs on the grill – which are times I love to smoke a cigar. When it first debuted, it was lauded with high praise but I didn’t find that the hype matched today’s smoking experience. Now, that’s not such a bad thing because at times you’re busy doing something and you’re not thinking too much about a cornucopia of Central American volcanic valley flavors – but you want a respectable name that burns pretty straightforward…Yargüera is worth picking up for situations such as these.

I found flavors that were a little sweet, and a little peppery. If those work for you, then I say give it a try. But my opinion is that if you approach this as more of a high-end yard gar, I think you’ll be happy that you picked up a 5-pack, given the price.

– Tommy Zman Zarzecki

 

H. Upmann Mogul Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: Robusto (5″ x 50)
Strength: Medium-Full
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Dominican Republic/Nicaragua/Peru

h. upmann cigars guide h upmann mogul cigar review BIN

Construction/Appearance: Well-packed. The wrapper has some nice tooth to it. The cigar is seamlessly rolled and finished with a well-applied triple seam cap.
Toasting and Light: Excellent.
Draw: A little on the tight side, but passable.
Pre-light: Sweet tobacco.
First few puffs: Sweet and creamy right off the bat.
Burn: Excellent.
Aroma: Sweet.
Base Flavors (in order of appearance): Caramel, oak, dark-chocolate, coffee bean.
Retrohale: Creamy and woody.
Balance: Perfect.

Summary: A creamy, and delectably sweet start with a medium body open the show with a cast of vanilla caramel, oak, and roasted coffee. Arriving at the midsection, the sweetness transitions to a more dark (bitter) chocolate as the wood and coffee notes carry on. The smoke is well-rounded overall and the body takes a turn toward full as the curtain falls on the second act. Now, here’s what I find fascinating about this cigar. . .

Although the primings and regions where the tobaccos were grown may differ (an educated guess on my part), the core tobaccos in this cigar are from the same countries as the Vintage Cameroon I reviewed above. Yet, the use of Connecticut Broadleaf makes these cigars completely different in flavor. That’s proof of how much the wrapper leaf affects the blend of a cigar.

H. Upmann cigars guide H Upmann Mogul cigar review GK

What a difference a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper makes: Mogul is a much sweeter smoke with deeper, more refined flavors. Click for more.

In the final act, some of the sweetness trails off. The coffee notes roll to a more espresso-like flavor and only a faint suggestion of oak and dark chocolate remain on the finish.

This cigar was more complex than I expected, which was also a pleasant surprise. It paired well with my iced coffee, but I think a bourbon or long-aged single malt would also do this cigar justice. The Mogul Robusto is also reasonably priced. That combined with its variety of flavors and medium-plus body make it a humidor-worthy choice for cigar smokers at every level.

– Gary

 

H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Toro (6” x 54)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: Corojo ’99
Filler: Criollo ’98 and Dominican Piloto Cubano

h. upmann cigars guide h upmann aj fernandez cigar review BIN

Construction: So well packed it feel like it’s bursting. The Sumatra wrapper is gorgeous with thin veins, semi-visible seams and a healthy sheen.
Draw: A little tight.
Pre-light flavor: Foot: Slightly musty, earthy and peppery. Cold draw: A smoky, salty sensation at the forefront with leather and peppery after-tastes.
Toasting & Light: It took some coaxing, but I got it going within a few minutes
Initial notes: Caramel, earth, pepper, hay, toast, and cream. A slight maltiness and a lot of pepper on the finish.
Base flavors: Caramel, cedar, leather, spice, cream.
Retrohale: Bourbon-like sweetness with a rush of spice and lemon.
Aroma: A woody aromatic quality.
Burn / Ash Quality: The burn line is slightly wavy, but the ash is solid and white, in neat stacks.
Balance of flavors: The body holds strong, but favors flavor and is nowhere near overpowering.

Summary: This chart-topping H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez was my pleasure to smoke. Despite a bad run on my first sample, I’ve since smoked at least five – and found each one more pleasurable than the last. After my initial notes, a caramel-like sweetness and creaminess take over with wood, leather and black pepper sitting on the palate.

h. upmann cigars guide h upmann aj fernandez cigar review FL

H. Upmann cigars are known to smoke with notes of cedar and earth – but once you add AJ Fernandez to the equation, it gets huge in the flavor department. Click for more.

By the second third that sweet and creamy caramel flavor remains with loads of peppery spice and wood backing things up plus very slight citrus tang on the aftertaste. Midway through the pepper fades to make way for more woody sweetness. Exceedingly complex, rich notes of cedar with leather, earth, and toast develop with a slight citrus spice on the finish.

I was astounded to find a Bourbon-like sweetness toward the end and a continuation of cedar, leather, and spices. AJ really knows how to go out with a bang – the final puffs of this cigar heavy, earthy, sweet, woody and spicy all at once.

Final Thoughts: From start to finish this cigar held a complex and richly flavorful woody and sweet profile with a dollop of spice. Pair with a stout or Scotch.

– Fred

 

H. Upmann Legacy Nicaragua Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: Robusto (5″ x 54)
Strength: Medium – Full
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

h. upmann cigars guide h upmann legacy nicaragua cigar review BIN

Construction: Extremely well-built.
Draw: Very smooth with a lot of smoke.
Pre-light flavor: Earthy.
First Few Puffs: Woody, coffee bean.
Base flavors: Cedar earth, coffee bean and spice.
Retrohale: Very woody.
Aroma: Strong sweet woody aroma.
Burn & Ash Quality: Excellent burn and solid ash.
Balance of flavors: Very well-balanced.

Summary: This cigar is so delicious, it’s stupid. (How’s that for an intelligent opening?) Turns out we’ve saved one of the best of the bunch for last…You know that powerful, luscious scent when you stick your face into a package of freshly ground coffee beans and take a really deep whiff? That’s the flavor that is constant throughout the smoke. This Nicaraguan blend is full-bodied, full-flavored and loaded with a lot of rich tasting goodness. There’s also some nice notes of cedar and a hit of cinnamon-type sweetness that makes this one so damned pleasant.

h. upmann cigars guide upmann legacy nicaragua cigar review tz

H. Upmann Legacy Nicaragua: “So delicious, it’s stupid.” Sounds like a ringing endorsement to us. Click for more.

The construction is excellent, as it’s packed with a lot of dense tobacco – it smokes great, and the ash is solid. For one reason or another, I didn’t expect this Legacy to be as good as it is, but I have been pleasantly surprised and walked right back into the store here at Famous and picked up a couple of 5-packs! If you like the sound of the flavor profile I have described, then I definitely recommend you give these H. Upmann cigars a try.

– Tommy Zman

Comments

comments