The Banker from H. Upmann is latest release from the fabled brand. H. Upmann was originally started by two brothers – Carl and Herman Upmann; two wealthy bankers in the early 1800s. The story goes that in the 1840s the duo traveled to Cuba to try their hand at blending a cigar that was both unique and worthy of be given as gifts to their favored clients. They eventually achieved their goal, and The Banker was kept under lock and key in the private vault belonging to the brothers, only to emerge for select clientele.
Fast forward to present day; Altadis U.S.A. has sought to pay homage to the brothers by attempting to create a cigar as close to the original as possible. Have they done it? Well, that will forever remain a mystery as we have no way of comparing it to the original. Nevertheless, today we’ll be seeing what this modern iteration is all about.
- Cigar: H. Upmann The Banker Annuity
- Size: 6×52 Toro
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Nicaraguan Jalapa
- Filler: Nicaraguan, Dominican
- Price Range: $7.00-$8.50 MSRP
- Production: Ongoing
- Cigars Smoked for Review: 3
Appearance and Pre-Light Aroma:
The H. Upmann The Banker comes out of the box wrapped ornately, featuring a bold green band with golden bronze highlights in the traditional location, as well as a matching band at the foot. Tying the imagery together is a thicker than usual strip of tissue paper with the H. Upmann logo across it, utilizing the same golden bronze color as found on both of the bands. Pealing off the outer wrapping reveals a second band underneath the primary one, a detail that strikes me as nifty but largely unnecessary. The Banker is a rather bold and dignified looking cigar. Its Ecuadorian Habano wrapper is noticeably thick and oily, covered in tooth from top to bottom. The wrapper is a rich, heavy shade of brown that contrasts nicely against the bold green and golden bronze highlights of the band.
If one were pressed to summarize the aroma of The Banker in a word the overwhelming descriptor that springs to mind is ‘earthy’. Indisputably so. The thick sent of rich soil elicits imagery of standing in a freshly plowed field on an agricultural plantation. Notes of dark coffee grounds and leathery chocolate are closely interwoven with its core earthy aroma. Contrasting the heavier notes is a light and vibrant sweetness, a combination of apricot and raisins. The dry draw sees a reversal of roles between the contrasting flavors picked up through the nose; the sweetness pervades on the tongue over the earthier flavors.
The Banker starts off with an array of different flavors. Much like a school reunion, there are plenty of familiar faces, and several that are not so easily recognized. Starting off with an exceedingly earthy flavor all around; dark soil reigns bold and dominant across the palate, with a creamy grass flavor smoothing out any sort of harshness. There is a muted floral-ish sweetness in the mix as well, but it is difficult to articulate as of yet.
Several puffs further and the profile continues to develop. Black pepper is relatively consistent, as is leather, although its delivery seems to vary from cigar to cigar, and even puff to puff. Roughly 60% of the time it comes across in a smooth, even, linear Dominican/Cuban-esque fashion, while the remainder of the time it has more of the typical Nicaraguan ‘blast’ effect. Fortunately, neither instance comes across particularly potent through the nose, making the retrohale a pleasurable mix of oat, nuts, and softer warm pepper notes. There is an increasingly distinct flavor of toast that situates itself in the middle of the whole profile. It’s a welcome and tasty addition, although I wouldn’t describe it as buttery, which is atypical as butter is often found whenever toast is, at least in my experience. Ya’know, exceptions to the rule and all that jazz.
Mmm, toast, and lots of it. The Banker has settled into a comfortable medium across all fronts; spicy nutmeg and black pepper having eased their presence. Late to the party, the oddly absent buttery flavor has begun to emerge. The body shines as one of the better features in the second third, coming across as dense, creamy, and buttery in texture. The profile retains a good amount of leather, which is most noticeable through the nose. Overall, the character of the cigar is still predominantly earthy; cedar and minerals have emerged, and there is an all-around woodiness to The Banker.
Strength picks up back up in the final third, although the spicy nutmeg hasn’t returned with quite the vigor as it had in the first third. In broad terms, The Banker is rich, full-bodied, and smooth. Credit has to be given to the toast flavors in The Banker, it leaves the palate salivating for more. The profile hasn’t changed a whole lot since the second third, aside from a rise in strength and body, and balance has remained consistent throughout nearly the entirety of the cigar. The cigar has shifted a bit from being creamy into being a bit more meaty in texture, and more emphasis has been put on cedar and minerals flavors. Near the nub there’s a tasty peanut flavor that has a bit of an oiliness to it. Most importantly, nothing in the way of bitterness, even to the last puff.
Burn and Construction:
The burn was interesting on this one, no doubt about it. H. Upmann’s The Banker has a real penchant for canoeing long enough to be of annoyance, only to correct itself in the eleventh hour as you reach for your lighter. Admittedly, I have (and often enjoy) anthropomorphic tendencies, and as such I felt as if the The Banker was often going out of its way to taunt me. Nevertheless, I will let it slide this time, and forgo taking it too personally. The binder and filler leaves stay lit and burn nicely despite the feud between the wrapper and myself.
Construction, on the other hand, left little to be desired. Its symmetry is near perfect, its roll lines near indistinguishable, and a feeling of craftsmanship all-around. No complaints in this regard.
I will admit to being as strong a skeptic as any in regard to this cigar, as I haven’t been blown away by anything from H. Upmann recently (though their Cameroon is quite nice.) However, I genuinely enjoy each and every H. Upmann The Banker I have smoked. Above all, the minds behind the blending of The Banker did one thing right: they didn’t overreach themselves. They did not try to make the most complex or extravagant cigar on the market, but rather they opted to release a rich, flavorful, and nicely balanced medium + cigar. I’m not sure I’d call it humility, as doing so, at least in this case, might carry unwarranted connotations of condescension. That would be missing point; rather I wish to emphasize my respect for not trying to be the modern day 100 Anos in terms of complexity, instead focusing on making a damn good cigar, plain and simple. There has been far too many cigars, particularly in recent years, that have shot for the stars only to collapse miserably under their own weight.
Hats off to the gentlemen at H. Upmann and Altadis U.S.A.. This is a great day to day cigar with a great set of core flavors that it does exceedingly well. Its balance is excellent, and it has enough diversity in its profile to keep things interesting from start to finish. How it compares to original I can not say, but it is a good, good cigar.
Yeah…damn. Not bad gentlemen, not bad at all.