Few names are more closely associated with cigars, their culture, and their heritage than both Partagas and Benji Menendez. Partagas is one of the oldest cigar manufactures in history that still produces cigars. Founded in 1845, Partagas has been in the game for well over 150 years; a feat few manufactures can boast.
Benji Menendez has nearly the same history, relatively speaking of course. Born into a life of tobacco, Benji was near destined to be in the cigar industry. His family has had its roots in the spotlight of the cigar industry for decades, and were some of the biggest players in Cuba prior to the embargo. While Benji certainly had a leg-up in the industry, he wouldn’t have had such a lengthy and prolific tenure in the cigar world by merely riding the fame of his family. Benji Menendez has carved his own path through the industry. After the Cuban embargo, Benji, his brother Felix, and his father Alonso left Cuba and migrated to Spain. There Benji and Felix laid the groundwork for what would eventually become Menendez Amerino, the most famous Brazilian cigar brand to date.
In the early 80s, Benji Menendez left Brazil and took a position with General Cigars, specifically with Partagas. Not long after, Benji rocketed his name back into prominence with the release of the Benjamin Menendez Partagas Master Series Majestuoso. This cigar is arguably his most famous work, and is a hallmark of its era.
Having covered the agricultural aspects of making cigars, Benji Menendez eventually transitioned a bit more to the business side, taking on the roll of Senior Vice President of Premium Cigars with General Cigars. This position saw Benji covering brand direction and oversight of Partagas, Cohiba, and Macanudo. To this day, one does not have to look far to see the touch of Benji Menendez in these brands.
After nearly 60 years in the industry, Benji Menendez opted to retire from the industry and enjoy his golden years on the enthusiast side. I’d venture to say that the man probably has his hands still in some aspects of the industry, but nothing of an official capacity. In 2012, Benji Menendez was inducted into Cigar Aficionado’s Hall of Fame, the ranks of which only contain 15 other people.
Enough history. Lets get smoking, shall we?
Cigar: Partagas Homage Benji 62
Wrapper: Honduran Olancho San Agustin
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Dominican, Honduran, and Mexican.
Appearance and Pre-light Aroma:
The packaging on the Partagas Benji Homage 62 is beautiful. The cigar comes wrapped in a delicately wrapped white paper, and is tied together with a beautifully ornate band. Peeling away the wrapping paper you are greeted by a warm milk chocolate wrapper, with a soft burgundy hue. The wrapper is coarse, oily, and lined with elevated veins. Tooth is speckled throughout the entire length of the cigar.
A prominent dose of earthy barnyard notes flow through the nostrils, with a muted sweetness, similar to that of a plum sauce. A decent bit of leather lays in the background, with a soft touch of oriental spices giving a tingle in the back of the nostrils. The dry draw is almost entirely dry plum sauce, with the sweetness noted earlier being present in a particularly muted fashion. There’s also a healthy amount of plain ol’ tobacco flavor, which is fine by me, not everything has to be ultra fancy for it to be enjoyed.
The first few puffs are quite bold. Flavor is certainly full, but the Partagas Homage Benji 62 seems to be in no hurry to overwhelm the smoker in terms of either strength or body. Most of the pre-light flavors and aromas have transferred into the first third. Rich, palate coating caramel plum sweetness blends together to create a flavor not terribly far from roasted marsh mellows. A conglomerate of thick woodsy flavors come to life in the finish, most notably that of wet maple. As the Partagas Homage Benji 62 enters the second third a noticeable evolution is taking place…
After a restructuring of its profile, the Benji has evolved its caramel plum sweetness into something a bit vibrant and tangy. Heavy black pepper and burnt toast has picked up, which in conjunction with the newly found tangy sweetness has created something in the way of ‘sweet-and-sour sauce’ effect. The aforementioned oriental spice has come to fruition, in the form of cayenne/red pepper, tangy orange sweetness, and floral woods notes giving it its oriental feel. Balance and complexity is superb, although the retrohale has a bit more firepower than one might expect.
The Partagas Homage Benji 62 is at full tilt in the final third, and has transitioned thoroughly into the full category. While the Benji 62 was never quite luscious enough to be creamy, the body has dried up substantially. The sugary aspects of the sweetness have mostly vanished, but there is still a noticeable pop of tang in the finish. Some dried nuttiness has surfaced, and a full spectrum of woodiness has emerged. The wood notes have become a bit sharp, at least for my taste, and have taken on a charred characteristic. The Partagas Homage Benji 62 has held its balance gracefully, but for the sake of honesty I will freely admit that it has lost a noticeably bit in the way of complexity. The most consistent characteristic has been that of black pepper, which has remained faithful to the cigar from start to finish.
Burn and Construction:
The packaging of the Partagas Homage Benji 62 is outstanding. Between the artfully crafted box and the tissue wrapping of the individual cigars, the packaging comes together as something that definitely stands out. The cigar is double-banded, as the same band is found both on the tissue paper and the actual cigar; a clever detail that I can’t recall seeing before.
The actual construction however, does leave a bit to be desired. While the structural integrity is fairly solid (due to it’s Connecticut Broadleaf binder, one might imagine), the roll lines are far from seamless. It largely passes the pinch test, but there are some parts that feel a bit softer than one might expect.
Additionally, the Partagas Homage Benji 62 required a bit more babysitting than would have been preferred. Smoking at an average pace saw the Benji 62 going out quite quickly. The burn line was spotty throughout; and while it did manage to self-correct most of the time, a fair number of touch ups were required. Credit where it’s due; the ash held on spectacularly though. This cigar will definitely require you to give it a fair amount of TLC for it to truly be enjoyed.
In writing the conclusion of the Partagas Homage Benji 62, I find myself incredibly conflicted. As reviewer, you begin to see trends that typically characterize both good and bad cigars; and a cigar with such distinctly pronounced strengths and weaknesses as the Benji 62 is not one of them.
Three Benji 62’s were smoked for this review, and each was a different experience than the other. Some had rough patches with bitterness in the flavor, while others were free from this issue. The first third is hands down best display of what Partagas Homage Benji 62 brings to the table – the balance is at its best, and the profile at its most complex. The caramel maple roasted marsh mellow sweetness truly stands out as a pleasure to be smoked, but unfortunately it goes AWOL as you enter the second third.
The second third had plenty of flavor and complexity, despite the absence of the aforementioned caramel maple flavors, but as the final third of the Benji 62 is smoked into the cigar begins to lose direction. There is definitely flavor present in the final third, but ultimately it tastes like a cigar – and just a cigar, nothing colorful or particularly inspiring. I found myself ultimately losing interest each time I reached this point in the cigar, and finishing it became a formality for the sake of the review.
To longtime fans of the brand, I would recommend smoking a few. It’s interesting enough most of the way through to merit smoking. Also, worth noting – several individuals with palates I know and respect think this cigar is extraordinary and are swiping up boxes left and right. Maybe its just not my thing? Such is the nature of subjectivity. Either way, I’d gladly smoke another (and likely will once it has some age), to pay homage to Mr. Benjamin Menendez, if nothing else.
3 out of 5