Cigar Buying Guides

2018 CA REPORT: The Essential Cigar Advisor Guide To Hoyo De Monterrey Cigars

Cigar Advisor’s Hoyo de Monterrey Cigars Tasting Guide

The Hoyo de Monterrey Back Story

If you want to know why the name José Gener appears on the band of every Hoyo de Monterrey cigar, that’s because he was the Cuban tobacco grower who created the brand. You could say Gener was the “A.J. Fernandez” of his day, since he was so highly respected among his fellow growers in the Vuelta Abajo. In 1865 he earned enough money to buy his own farm. Two decades later he opened his cigar factory, and debuted his first cigar brand, La Escepción. Hoyo de Monterey, or “hole of Monterrey,” followed, and was named for the concave-shaped terrain of the Vuelta Abajo. Hoyo de Monterrey cigars became bestsellers with cigars smokers in Great Britain, turning Gener’s factory into one of the largest producers of Cuban cigars in the country.

Gener died in 1900 leaving the company to his daughter Lutgarda. She kept the business going until 1930 when she sold it to cigar makers, Fernandez, Palicio y Cía who were known for making Belinda and Punch cigars.

Although Hoyo de Monterrey cigars continue to be made in Cuba, during the early 1960s the brand was licensed by Frank Llaneza, owner of the Villazon factory in Honduras and founder of HATSA – Honduras-American Tobacco S.A. Llaneza was already making post-Revolution Punch cigars, among others, in his Danlí factory. HATSA also had a factory in Corfradia, Honduras where the post-embargo Hoyo de Monterrey cigars were created under the blending mastery of Estelo Padrón (Orlando Padrón’s brother). Padrón’s goal was to mirror the flavor of the Cuban Hoyo de Monterreys. The brand officially debuted in 1969 and became an instant hit among U.S. cigar smokers. Hoyo de Monterrey became the “standard” for Honduran cigars and many years later, in 1996, Villazon was acquired by General Cigar Company.

In 1992, Hoyo de Monterrey introduced the Excalibur cigars line, and here’s why: According to a 23-year-old interview with Dan Blumenthal, then-chairman of Villazon & Co., the company was limited on using the Hoyo name globally. “Because we can’t use Hoyo de Monterrey, we developed a brand called Excalibur, which we sell in Germany and England. Here in the United States, Excalibur is a line extension for Hoyo de Monterrey,” said Mr. Blumenthal.

Excalibur cigars were marketed to cigar smokers looking for something as flavorful as the Hoyo core line, but with a little less strength. And it came just in time for the Cigar Boom. Well-constructed and medium in body, Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur became a Boom cigar favorite, and even made the “Top 25 Cigars” list in 2007.

Today, both Hoyo de Monterrey cigars and Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur remain at the height of popularity among old and new cigar smokers alike.

For this Advisor Guide, we’ve reviewed each of the Hoyo and Excalibur lines currently available at Famous Smoke Shop, nine in all. Our notes start with the Hoyo de Monterrey core line blends; after that, it’s Excalibur, then we finish with the Hoyo La Amistad by AJ Fernandez selections, including the Hoyo La Amistad Black that debuted in Summer 2018. As we always say, reviews are subjective – but these quick overviews should give you a general idea of how each Hoyo performed, and whether it’s your kind of cigar. Try for yourself and let us know what you think with a comment below, or your experiences as well.

Hoyo de Monterrey Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: Sabrosos (5″ x 40 Petite Corona)
Strength: Mellow
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf Filler: Honduras, Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

Construction: Well packed, very solid cigar. The wrapper has a golden, almost Shade grown hue with nice thin veins.
Draw: Easy.
Pre-light flavor: Herbal notes, hay, cedar.
Toasting & Light: Perfect.
Initial notes: Lightly woody and spicy with a creamy mouth feel.
Base flavors: Cream, herbal, honey, cedar, spice.
Retrohale: White pepper, toast, cedar.
Aroma: Sweetly woody.
Burn / Ash Quality: Sharp burn-line and a snowy white/slightly flakey ash.
Balance of flavors: Favors very warm, mellow notes.

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The classic: this Hoyo is full of warm, mellow notes that go great with coffee or Scotch – you choose.

Summary: If you’re looking for the quintessential mellow, Honduran cigar, you don’t need to look hard to find the Hoyo de Monterrey Natural has everything you need. While complexity isn’t this cigar’s strong suit, you will find that this classic cigar has consistency and reliability on its side. This Hoyo never disappoints as a friendly cigar with creamy herbal notes, cedar, a light spice and a honey sweetness. Both samples for this review were spot on but the real test has been the lifetime of Hoyo’s I’ve smoked prior, each one being as good as the last.

Final Thoughts: A consistent, mellow cigar perfect for any occasion. Pair with a single malt Scotch or creamy coffee.

– Fred Lunt

Hoyo de Monterrey Maduro Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: Sabrosos (5″ x 40 Petite Corona)
Strength: Mellow
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Honduras, Nicaragua & Dominican Republic

Construction: Firmly packed and weighty for a little cigar. The Maduro wrapper is a deep chestnut color with a finely toothy and oily shine.
Draw: Perfect.
Pre-light flavor: Light notes of woods, toast, must, and hay.
Toasting & Light: Easy enough.
Initial notes: Light notes of cedar wood, white pepper, toast, earth, and light chalkiness.
Base flavors: Cedar wood, toast, warm spices, coffee and cream.
Retrohale: Roasted coffee, red pepper spice, cedar, and earth and a small hint of chocolate.
Aroma: Lightly woody, spicy, and sweet.
Burn / Ash Quality: The burn-line is sharp and straight, ash is a solid white and nicely stacked.
Balance of flavors: Medium in body but nicely flavorful. Flavor range was straightforward and skewed toward warm, exuberant flavors.

Summary: A classic in the purest sense, Hoyo de Monterrey Maduro was a smooth ride that succeeded all of my expectations. The Sabrosos is the perfect size for a mid-morning or post lunch smoke, maybe even a nice quick smoke on the golf course.

After an easy lighting the initial notes are lightly reminiscent of cedar wood, white pepper, earth, and a light chalkiness that hold constant through the first third. Over time the intensity picks up to about medium level as deeper notes of cream, cedar, toast, and a nutmeg spice develop.

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An easy going Maduro you can enjoy on your lunch hour, and still have time – and money – for a sandwich.

While a honeyed sweetness is present, it’s largely overshadowed by nice rips of cedar, spice, and cream. By the last third the profile holds a warm toasted note that picks up in intensity while warm spices and earth and coffee with cream nicely complement this Honduran classic.

A nice straightforward cigar, it made our Best Cigars Under $5 list – and one I’d recommend to anyone who’s new to maduro cigars. Par for the golf course or a post-meal quick smoke. Pair with a cappuccino or herbal tea.

– Fred Lunt

Hoyo de Tradicion Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: Toro (6″ x 52, soft box-press)
Strength: Mellow-Medium
Wrapper: Honduran Jamastran Viso Rosado
Binder: Connecticut Habano
Filler: Honduran San Agustin, Dominican Piloto Cubano, Nicaraguan Ometepe

Construction/Appearance: Well-packed and box-pressed with rounded corners and an expertly-applied cap. Wrapper is smooth and silky with a light reddish patina. Veins and seams are barely visible.
Toasting and Light: Foot takes to flame easily.
Draw: Excellent. Smoke is thick and creamy.
Pre-light: Leathery.
First few puffs: Toasty, woody, sweet and well-rounded.
Burn: Excellent. No issues. Ash is relatively firm.
Aroma: Herbal.
Base Flavors: Leather, cedar, nutmeg, sweet spice.
Retrohale: Light pepper.
Balance: Excellent.

Summary: Full disclosure here. This cigar, and the Hoyo Tradición Epicure have been favorites of mine for years, and it’s never disappointed. The look and feel of this soft box-pressed cigar in the hand is really nice. The retro Cuban graphics on the band give the cigar an authentic Cuban appearance, too. Nowhere on the band does it say “Habana,” as you would find on a genuine Cuban cigar. But it doesn’t say “Honduras” either, so, you might provoke a little cigar envy from your fellow BOTLs, which can be fun.

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One of Gary’s “desert island cigars,” the Hoyo de Tradicion is heavy with traditionally Honduran flavors.

The medium-bodied smoke is thick, creamy, and consistently issues flavors of cedar, leather, cashew, nutmeg and other sweet spices from start to finish. The retrohale reveals a little pepper, which also appears on the finish in the final stages.

As with any cigar, it’s not for everybody, but the flavors just happen to do it for me. For the new cigar smoker, the Hoyo de Tradición Toro makes a tasty introduction to the entire line, while more experienced smokers will find it a satisfying, everyday treat.

– Gary Korb

Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: No. 2 (6 3/4″ x 48 Corona)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Connecticut Shade
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Dominican Republic, Honduras & Nicaragua

Construction: Truly excellent.
Draw: Smooth.
Pre-light flavor: Woody.
First Few Puffs: Creamy and slightly sweet.
Base flavors: Wood/oak, cocoa, citrus.
Aroma: Toasty.
Burn & Ash Quality: Solid ash.
Balance of flavors: A nice semi-complex balance.

Summary: This cigar has been around for a long time, and it has been a long time since I smoked one. Whenever I do this, I always ask myself, “Why the hell did I stop?” Sometimes with all the new offerings by so many manufacturers, I get caught up in the latest and greatest, but a cigar like this one reminds me that I should seriously return to my cigar smoking roots.

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Rich, creamy, and maybe even better than you remember: the Hoyo Excalibur is a toasty and enjoyable burn.

The natural Excalibur is one hell of a tasty cigar – rich and creamy – and even with its mellow wrapper grown in the state of Connecticut, the diverse inner blend delivers a really nice bump up in flavor. While it’s not overly complex, there’s some really good stuff going on with notes of cocoa, citrus and oak (which I don’t get a lot in cigars, but it definitely reminded me of the scent of an oak barrel on the back of my palate).

The construction couldn’t be better as the ash was firm and held on for a good while until I tapped it to the ground. Guys, this is a wonderful medium bodied smoke and I’m not kidding, I just walked into the retail store at Famous and bought a box. I can only suggest that you might want to try that for yourself.

– Tommy Zman

Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Maduro Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: No. 1 (7 1/4” x 54)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf, Nicaragua
Filler: Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua

Construction: The wrapper is chocolate brown, oily, and smooth. The veins are thoroughly pressed, and the cap is seated well for only having a single turn.
Draw: A bit tight. My sample needed to be pinched a few times to loosen it up.
Pre-light flavor: Slightly spicy and earthy.
Toasting & Light: Sweet notes with a nutty aroma of charred wood.
Base flavors: Leather, earth, chocolate, sweetness, and a woody finish.
Retrohale: Floral notes with pepper and spices.
Aroma: Nutty and sweet.
Burn & Ash Quality: Very thin burn line. No touch ups needed, and the ash held quite well.
Balance of flavors: Excellent.

Summary: Handcrafted in the Villazon Factory under the careful eye of Estelo Padron, Hoyo de Monterrey has been sewn into the fabric of the cigar industry since the 1800s. For Hoyo de Monterrey, the intention of Excalibur was to create a cigar that was a benchmark for Honduran craftsmanship. Let’s see how this Excalibur Maduro sample takes to a flame.

The prologue of the cold draw offered a spicy earthiness that felt a bit tight. I rolled and pinched it a few times down the length of the cigar to loosen things up, but I never got quite enough for my preference. As a spoiler-ish aside, this was the only drawback of my entire experience.

hoyo de monterrey cigars guide excalibur cigars hdm excalibur maduro cigar review by Jared Gulick
The Excalibur Maduro leans light on strength, but heavy on flavor: “generous amounts of chocolate, sweetness and leather, with woody notes that lingered on the finish.”

The smoke from the toasting was nutty, sweet, and had the distinct aroma of charred wood. As I lit the cigar, I immediately was greeted with generous amounts of chocolate, sweetness, and leather, with woody notes that lingered on the finish. While strength was nowhere near the heavy side, the pepper and spice found on the retrohale seemed to gain strength as time progressed. The flavors were all delicious and palpable, and you could almost add strength from the nose at your own pace – along with a decadent floral note that followed it in tow.

It’s worth mentioning that I typically don’t enjoy longer cigars. I tend to go for shorter smokes and smaller ring gauges. Usually Coronas, Robustos, and the occasional Toro, but this is a long cigar that I’d smoke again. With its medium-bodied profile, the amount of flavor offered here is atypical – I would expect tastiness of this caliber from a fuller-bodied smoke. If you thought that 1066 Excalibur Dark Knight was a bit too strong, you’ll be more than pleased as this cigar offers a strikingly similar experience with less bite. If you want a Hoyo that’s heavy on flavor without being too heady or potent, you may want to add the humidor-worthy Excalibur Maduro to your list of must-haves.

– Jared Gulick

Excalibur 1066 Cameroon Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: Lancelot (7 1/4″ x 54 Double Corona)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: African Cameroon
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua & Honduras

Construction/Appearance: Seamlessly rolled, attractive, and solidly-built with an equally solid feel. Wrapper silky, delicate, and even in color throughout.
Toasting and Light: Foot took to flame quickly and evenly.
Draw: Very good.
Pre-light: Sweet tobacco, cashews
First few puffs: Smooth, mellow, and creamy with some sweet notes of cedar, cashews, and a subtle, cinnamon-like spice.
Burn: Excellent. No issues. Even all the way with a firm grey ash.
Aroma: Lightly spicy and floral.
Base Flavors: Cedar, light spice, cashew, sweet cream.
Retrohale: Light pepper.
Balance: Perfect.

Summary: Sweet cream and floral elements in the early stages gave this extra-long cigar a bit of a Cuban slant. The smoke is rich, medium-bodied, and consists mostly of cedar, light spicy notes, sweet cream, and cashews. All of the flavors are consistent through the midsection, while retrohaling offers a peppery change-up from the base flavors.

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This Excalibur is a huge Double Corona that lasts like a 6×60 – Gary says the flavors in the early stages “gave this cigar a bit of a Cuban slant.”

In the final leg, the cigar changes direction. The smoke develops more body, pepper, and spice that tasted like a mix of cinnamon & ginger. A tart, citrusy note also entered the mix in this section, but once I get down to the last couple of inches, some bitterness invaded, and that’s all she wrote.

I can see why this cigar is popular on the golf course and at poker games. It smoked evenly for over 2½ hours and it hit the high notes on all criteria. Considering it didn’t cry foul until the very last inches, that’s pretty impressive. Suitable for every level of cigar smoking experience, I suggest it be smoked when you have plenty of time to kick back and appreciate its finer qualities.

– Gary Korb

Excalibur 1066 Dark Knight Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Honduras
Size: Dark Knight (5 3/4″ x 54 Robusto)
Strength: Medium-Full
Wrapper: Connecticut “Havano Grueso” Broadleaf
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Dominican Republic, Honduras & Nicaragua

Construction: A beautifully oily, toothy broadleaf. Solidly built, packed firm under a wrapper with excellent dark coloring.
Draw: Moderate resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Cedar smell with big-time earth, leather and nut.
Toasting & Light: Broadleaf takes some time to light…
First Few Puffs: Big and full up front – dark coffee, leather and some bite.
Base flavors: Nut, leather, dark chocolate, coffee.
Retrohale: Smooth retrohale with wood and sweetness.
Aroma: Woody and slightly sweet.
Burn & Ash Quality: Nice burn with the occasional wave; solid white ash that hangs on.
Balance of flavors: Leans on the base flavors with a few subtle, but nice surprises; not overly complex.

Summary: A little history is necessary when discussing the Excalibur Dark Knight… Our pal Cigar Coop noted that Excalibur “was positioned as being a smoother blending of the Hoyo de Monterrey line.” This particular cigar, the Dark Knight, was introduced as the Excalibur 1066’s Maduro entry; it wears a Connecticut Havano Grueso (meaning thick, coarse or heavy) wrapper, which sums up what you want in a good n’ hearty Connecticut Broadleaf. And at some point, the Dark Knight was reblended – and now features one of the more diverse recipes in the Hoyo lineup.

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A 3-nation blend, under a unique Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper that’s related to Partagas Black – but this is much more mellow.

First thing you’ll notice is the super-thick smoke; and from the get-go, it’s full-flavored for sure: a cool burn with a dark baking chocolate sensation that builds and gets slightly sweeter over time; sensations of wood and coffee bean arrive by the truckload in each draw. While a bit of spice hits on the tip and sides of the tongue, there’s not much pepper to speak of. One of those nice surprises I mentioned is a caramel sweetness that shows up now and again, giving cred to Broadleaf’s naturally sweet reputation.

Excalibur Dark Knight is a smooth, old school Maduro…it burns slow – and the slower you go, the better it tastes. It’s billed as medium bodied but does amp up towards the end – which is something Maduro first-timers will want to watch out for.

– John Pullo

Hoyo La Amistad by AJ Fernandez Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Toro (6″ x 50)
Strength: Medium-Full
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: Caramel-brown Habano, with slight tooth, pronounced veins and a slight velvety sheen. Well packed, no soft spots.
Draw: Moderate resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Wrapper smells of earth and hay; taste includes earth, grass and tea, and is slightly sweet.
First Few Puffs: Earth, hay and wood. Berry sweetness rushes in right after.
Base flavors: Berry, wood, pepper, coffee, toast and earth.
Retrohale: Eyewatering. First, it’s pepper and coffee; later it’s pepper and vanilla.
Aroma: Smells naturally sweet.
Burn & Ash Quality: Mostly even burn, leaving behind a stacked, grey ash.
Balance of flavors: Intensity of flavors outpaces the strength of this cigar – nicely complex, too.

Summary: Hoyo La Amistad is billed as a pretty powerful smoke; the Nicaraguan binder is grown in Esteli (noted for strength), the fillers are from each of Nicaragua’s 4 growing regions (Esteli, Condega, Jalapa, Ometepe). The prelight is mellow, but it just feels like there’s some spice in there getting frisky and waiting for its chance to shine.

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AJ Fernandez is known for his spicy, peppery smokes; this one delivers, but you have to be patient before it pays off.

The sweet start surprises me; maybe medium strength, with a strong berry quality, along with coffee and very mellow wood. Not the barnburner I was expecting, unless it’s going to sneak up on me and pounce.

And here it comes…a wave of heat crosses the tongue, and body pops to full. The initial flavors have given up their forward position, replaced by toast, with dry earth, wood and pepper. The Hoyo La Amistad finishes strong with toast, pepper, wood and dark chocolate. And a punch in the chest.

Translated to “the friendship” in honor of AJ’s partnership with Hoyo de Monterrey to make this cigar, this is a savory smoke – a spirited crowd of flavors that will serve you best after a (filling) meal. If you’re a “go big or go home” kind of cigar guy, this is your cigar.

– John Pullo

Hoyo La Amistad Silver Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Robusto (5″ x 50)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Ecuador Habano
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: Perfect construction.
Draw: Very smooth with lots of smoke.
Pre-light flavor: Earthy.
First Few Puffs: Earthy,slightly peppery and sweet.
Base flavors: Earth, cedar, citrus, spice.
Retrohale: Damn, yeah!!
Aroma: Sweet, woody.
Burn & Ash Quality: Excellent burn and solid ash.
Balance of flavors: Lots of stuff going on but well balanced.

Summary: The question is not WHAT cigars AJ Fernandez is making, it’s more like what he’s NOT making. Hey, the guy is amazing at his craft, so no complaints from this pudgy Polack. This newer offering from Hoyo packs one hell of a lot of full-bodied flavor, featuring a complexity that has you noticing some wonderful tastes that enter in during your smoke. There’s a sweetness that comes from both the cedar and tangy little citrus component followed by a nice wave of spiciness. In my opinion, its profile is very different than a lot of other Hoyos you may have smoked in the past. And, it doesn’t really have that upfront pepperiness that AJ’s cigars are known for.

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AJ does it again: the Hoyo La Amistad Silver smokes full, rich and complex.

Construction wise, it is just perfect, (like all AJ’s) and the draw is all consuming with a whole lot of rich smoke that fills your mouth.

It’s amazing to me how Señor Fernandez just keeps coming out with different tasting blends that so many people are enjoying, and the Hoyo La Amistad Silver is one you really should give a try if you enjoy this kind of rich and complex type of profile.

– Tommy Zman

Hoyo La Amistad Black Cigar Review

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: Toro (6 1/2″ x 52)
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Oscuro Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: Mexican San Andres
Filler: Nicaraguan Habano

Construction: Extremely well-constructed, solid and weighty for a super-sized Toro. The wrapper is nearly black, very toothy, and slightly oily.
Draw: Perfect.
Pre-light flavor: Foot: Dark chocolate, coffee, earth, dark cherries. Cold Draw: Earth, oak, pepper, sweet fruit.
Toasting & Light: Very easy.
Initial notes: Black pepper, earth, woods, a mouthwatering sensation, and brown sugar sweetness with a tang on the after taste.
Base flavors: Black pepper, brown sugar, earth, chocolate, citrus, oak, and toast.
Retrohale: A surge of white pepper followed by an oaky sweetness with coffee, earth citrus, toast and a nice spice.
Aroma: Earth, oak, and spices.
Burn / Ash Quality: The burn-line is razor sharp and even, the ash is snowy white and builds up in solid clumps.
Balance of flavors: It’s a very heavy cigar but I think the flavors balance out nicely and lean toward rich creamy and dark flavors like earth, chocolate and oak.

Summary: Hoyo may be a Honduran classic but AJ Fernandez has certainly done more than his share to bring the brand into the full-bodied scene of Nicaragua. Big, beefy, and bold, La Amistad Black hit me just right with big rips of creamy smoke à la an earthy, full-bodied profile.

After a mouthwatering combination of earth, black pepper, wood, brown sugar sweetness and a slight tang, this cigar was a winner from the get-go. By the second third I detected a multitude of flavors such as toasted bread, a sugary/dark cherry flavor, citrus, and a lingering tang on the finish.

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Hoyo La Amistad Black: Honduras meets Nicaragua with a wide array of dark, heavy flavors in huge rips of smoke.

While this is a beefy cigar it’s not overpowering in the slightest. The tang dissipates as the finish becomes noticeably creamier. Eventually a smoky wood flavor takes the forefront with some earth and zest notes in the background with a slight coffee note.

Midway through a dark chocolate and coffee sweetness is the main note, while woods and a nice citrus tang on the finish followed.

By the end, a savory sweetness overwhelmed the palate with chocolate, nuts, coffee, and leather.

A big cigar, this is going to be for your full-bodied enthusiasts. Pair with a dark stout or a heavy bourbon ale.

– Fred Lunt