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

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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

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 nine 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 H. Upmann Connecticut by the Grupo de Maestros. 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 on our social channels…and if you’ve smoked them before, share your experiences as well.

H. Upmann 1844 Special Edition Barbier

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: Tabacalera de Garcia, Dominican Republic
Size: 6 ⅛” x 52 Belicoso
Strength: Mellow
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut and Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: Indonesia
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Broadleaf (undisclosed origin)

Construction: Attractive, firmly rolled Barber Pole style cigar with a gradually tapered head.
Draw: Open with a tug of resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Coffee and earth.
Toasting & Light: A little pepper, cream, and earth.
Base flavors: Earth, pepper, leather, cedar.
Retrohale: N/A.
Aroma: Rich tobacco.
Burn & Ash Quality: The burn was stellar for a cigar with 2 wrappers and held a solid, grey ash.

Review excerpt from #NowSmoking

A medium-bodied barber pole cigar that’s not going to bowl you over with strength, there’s plenty in H. Upmann Barbier to keep those who trend towards full-bodied powerhouses interested. Enthusiasts who like rich, mellow, and interesting blends, look no further.

The blend of mellow Connecticut and hearty Sumatra wrappers brings flavor components together that aren’t normally experienced side-by side. Not only that, but everything works in a perfect ensemble—balance, complexity, rich flavors, and construction (a hard feat with 2 wrappers due to their different combustion rates). Try the H. Upmann Barbier for an unapologetically vivid and memorable smoke. -Paul

H. Upmann Banker Daytrader

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: Tabacalera de Garcia, Dominican Republic
Size: 4 ½” x 54
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua

Construction: Firmly rolled, practically vein free and silky Sumatra wrapper.
Draw: Airy.
Pre-light flavor: Tart, leathery, salty.
Toasting & Light: Hint of chocolate.
Base flavors: Leather, earth, nuts.
Retrohale: N/A.
Aroma: Dense and ambient.
Burn & Ash Quality: Even burn with a solid, speckled ash.

Review excerpt from My Weekend Cigar

The first thing that comes to my mind for this H. Upmann Banker Daytrader Robusto is someone smoking it on their patio lounger with a good whiskey and The Wall Street Journal. I can also see it as a good golf cigar and a pleasant pick for other familiar cigar smoking locales. Well-made and consistent throughout, this Daytrader was a solid smoke, not to mention that it also comes from one of the industry’s top blending teams, the Grupo de Maestros . You might even be able to tell that they worked with some very well-groomed tobaccos for Daytrader. I think there’s something to be said for rolling it to a 54 ring, too.

Based on my two Robustos, the Daytrader’s medium body, smoothness, and earthy flavor profile make it approachable to a wide audience. It’s also nice to compare the H. Upmanns by the Grupo de Maestros to the H. Upmann by A.J. Fernandez cigars. -Gary

H. Upmann Nicaragua AJ Fernandez Heritage Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: 5”x52
Strength: Medium-plus
Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina (triple fermented)
Binder & Filler: Nicaraguan (select estate grown)

Construction: Seamlessly rolled, toothy appearance and feel. No soft spots or veins and the triple seam cap is well-applied.
Toasting and Light: Effortless.
Draw: Perfect.
Pre Light: Light raisins.
First Few Puffs: Cinnamon and mineral, soon joined by sweetness.
Burn: Textbook. The ash was an almost solid, chalky white color and very firm.
Aroma: Barnyard, off the wrapper. Once lit it was borderline sharp/sweet.
Base flavors: Nougat, cinnamon, leather, hazelnut, mineral notes.
Retrohale: Peppery spice.
Balance: Ideal.

Summary: Sometimes two heads really are better than one. Look no further than the recent string of stunning premium cigars crafted by master blenders Rafael Nodal and AJ Fernandez. And you can add the H Upmann Nicaragua AJ Fernandez Heritage to that ever-expanding list.

The first thing that might surprise you is how this cigar begins—not with the usual AJ blast of pepper, but on a rather pleasing mix of light cinnamon and savory notes. The smoke is smooth as silk as sweetness balanced with a whisper of saltiness joins in. As the cigar progresses the main flavors stay in play but are joined by hints of nuts and leather while the burn line remains straight and true. Lastly, the blend starts and stays pretty much medium in terms of strength and body making it accessible to cigar enthusiasts of any experience.

As I was enjoying the H Upmann Nicaragua AJ Fernandez Heritage, I kept thinking that I didn’t want the cigar to end. This turned out to be a good thing because as I took more time between pulls, I noticed the flavors gaining depth and becoming even more pleasant. To that end, this is a blend that really shines when you slow down and savor it. I enjoyed practically every aspect of this blend from first light to last ash and think it’ll get even better with some rest in the humidor.

Not only does the H Upmann Nicaragua AJ Fernandez Heritage exceed all expectations, but it’s also priced to smoke as well.

– Paul Lukens

H. Upmann 1844 Classic Cigar Review

Factory: Honduras
Size: 5” x 52
Strength: Medium-plus
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut Shade
Binder: Honduran
Filler: Honduran

Construction/Appearance: The Ecuador shade wrapper had a light blonde color and a silky texture. Finished with a triple seam cap. Clean appearance with only a few obvious veins. No soft spots.
Toasting and Light: Ideal
Draw: Excellent.
Pre-light: Leather, sweetness.
First few puffs: Cream, leather, spice.
Burn: No touchups required.
Aroma: Sweet hay, herbal, spice.
Base Flavors: Nuts, cream, leather, spice, sweetness on verge of sugar.
Balance: Good—no one flavor dominates.

Summary: H Upmann 1844 Classic will take a lot of people by surprise. Since Rafael Nodal and the Grupo de Maestros set out to revitalize the brand, H Upmann has been making waves with their innovative and forward-thinking blends. This is all another way of saying that this isn’t your grandfather’s H Upmann and certainly doesn’t embody the old-school blending style behind old-fashioned Connecticut wrapped cigars.

Beginning with notes of cream, like most Connecticut Shade wrapped blends, the 1844 Classic shifts into a higher gear once pepper and spice enter the arena. That’s not to say this is a spicy or even peppery cigar, but it’s not a standard bearer, mellow Connecticut blend—it’s feistier and more medium bodied in strength and character.

From the midway point to the nub, the strength and body stand still, while some underlying notes of leather and almonds make appearances. This blend seems to be purposely crafted to capture the attention and palates of a new generation of cigar smokers at every experience level. Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself and see how the Upmann 1844 Classic sets a new standard for the legacy brand.

– Paul Lukens

H. Upmann 1844 Anejo Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: 6 x 54
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
Binder: Pennsylvania Broadleaf
Filler: Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Pilotico

Construction/Appearance: Wrapper had an oily sheen with a few visible veins. Tightly packed with no soft spots. Expertly applied triple cap.
Toasting and Light: No issues
Draw: Touch of resistance.
Pre-light: Citrus and earth.
First few puffs: Cocoa, pepper, earth, citrus.
Burn: Straight.
Aroma: Sweet, woody.
Base Flavors: Nuts, leather, sweet-spicy notes.
Balance: Excellent.

Summary: With each of the top-grade tobaccos in this blend aged at least five years, calling it Anejo—Spanish for “matured”—was a no-brainer. In guiding and reshaping the legacy brand, Rafael Nodal has often called on the expertise of the Grupo de Maestros and occasionally other blenders to help shape the new lines. With 1844 Anejo, the Grupo de Maestros worked with a first-time blender, named Ernesto Kranwinkel, with input from Nodal to arrive at the Cuban-esque final product. From initial appearances the cigar is meticulously crafted with no soft spots, a perfect triple cap, and an almost oily sheen on the wrapper.

Anejo begins with a shot of pepper across the bow before calming down with elements of roasted nuts, leather, coffee, cedar, and a baking spice sweetness (almost like molasses). Throughout the blend, these basic flavors stay the same, often times fluctuating in intensity while remaining balanced and layered. 1844 Anejo is the rare blend that delivers a full host of flavor without kneecapping you with strength, making this a great choice when you’re seeking a medium bodied, full flavored, and naturally sweet cigar with a little spice.

– Paul Lukens

H. Upmann 1844 Reserve Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: Belicoso (6 ⅛″ x 52)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan Broadleaf
Filler: Dominican Republic

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

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

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

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 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

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