Tallying the votes for our Best of the Best selections was just a formality. Although we were unaware of its identity, we already knew which cigar was the favorite from among the eight recent releases (introduced since spring 2005) that were included in our blind test.
Before conducting our trial, we replaced each cigar’s band with a plain, numbered band so that our 10 panel members, a group of veteran smokers employed by or affiliated with Robb Report’s parent company, CurtCo Robb Media, could not tell which brands they were smoking. When testing a number of cigars, you usually puff only the first inch of each cigar, which gives you a good indication of its quality without overloading your palate. However, the entry that we later would learn was the Matasa 30th Anniversary by Fonseca was the one cigar all of our panel members continued smoking long after they had sampled its flavor. It therefore was not a surprise to learn that five panelists had chosen the 30th Anniversary as the best of the field, and the other five had included it among their top three selections.
In 1974, when Matasa (an acronym for Manufactura de Tabacos, S.A.) opened its factory in Santiago de los Caballeros, it became the first cigar manufacturer to establish an operation in one of the Dominican Republic’s tax-free export zones. To mark the anniversary of this occasion, Matasa president Manuel Quesada created the limited edition of his flagship Fonseca cigar and then released it last year. The Fonseca brand was founded in 1891 in Cuba, and Matasa has been making the cigars in the Dominican Republic since the mid-1980s.
Matasa produces the 30th Anniversary in only two shapes, a 53⁄4 x 54 perfecto and a 61⁄2 x 52 toro. For the wrapper, Quesada selected the highest primings—the topmost leaves, with the greatest concentration of flavor—of the Dominican Republic’s native tobacco, Olor Dominicano. He chose the binder and filler from bales of Honduran, Dominican, and Nicaraguan leaf that had been aging since 1995. Quesada’s daughter Raquel and Matasa production manager Lourdes Veloz de Rodriguez smoothed the rough edges of this powerhouse cigar by adding to the filler a hint of mild seco (from the center of the plant) and an earthy Nicaraguan Cuban-seed ligero. “We used the finest of old, noble leaf so that we would have the depth of some of the choicest aged Cuban-seed tobaccos, but without the hardened strength,” says Quesada. “What we got was a strong yet smooth cigar that reminds me of chocolate pudding.”
And who can stop at just one spoonful of chocolate pudding?