When you work in the premium cigar industry, an anniversary is an occasion to be marked with revelry. This cigar world that we hold so dearly is a fickle beast, and maintaining your ability to not only stay relevant with the ever-evolving consumer palate, but consistently produce cigars of the highest quality—year in and year out—is an accomplishment worthy of celebration.
That leads me to the man behind today’s review: Manuel “Manolo” Quesada. You could say that tobacco is in his blood. The men in his family have sold tobacco from Havana, Cuba throughout the world, dating as far back as the 1880s. In 1960, Manolo’s parents and brother and sisters fled Cuba for Miami after his father’s tobacco company was seized by the Cuban government. In 1968, he was drafted by the US military, and obtained his citizenship while serving in Vietnam. It wasn’t until after coming back from the war and obtaining a master’s degree at the University of Florida that Manolo stepped back into the world of premium cigars with the founding of the MATASA factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic in 1974. Since then, Quesada has been the driving force behind countless brands and blends, propelling him to legendary status amongst his peers. It is only fitting that, in honor of his 75th birthday, he has blended a cigar to mark the occasion. This is his description:
“I have been very fortunate, and blessed, to have worked in the Tobacco world for 63 years and for 48 years in the Cigar manufacturing side of the industry. Surprised as I was, I have celebrated my 75th birthday on April 10th and, as I did on my 70th birthday, I have blended a Cigar to mark reaching this meaningful stage of my life. The Manolo Quesada 75th I blended to my palate and it’s a Cigar that has a pleasant intensity that allows to experience all the flavors and nuances the blend has to offer. Blended with Dominican and Nicaraguan Fillers and Binder, I have chosen a Corojo Wrapper grown in Ecuador. The Cigar will be a 6 3/4? x 48, one of my go-to sizes when smoking Cigars. I sincerely hope you will enjoy smoking my 75th celebratory Cigar knowing you will enjoy it as much as I do.”
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Manolo Quesada 75th Anniversary Breakdown
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Corojo
Filler: Dominican Republic | Nicaragua
Factory: Tabacos de Exportación (Dominican Republic)
Production: Limited Edition (12,000 cigars)
Vitola: 6¾” x 48 (Churchill)
Price: $15.00 (MSRP)
The Manolo Quesada 75th Anniversary has a rich and oily appearance that almost leaps out at you. The Corojo wrapper is milk chocolate in color and has an oil-stained appearance, where the veins of the leaf are noticeably darker than the rest of the wrapper, standing out by giving it a lumpy appearance. It reminds me of my old leather jacket that is well worn from years of usage. The seams are tight yet visible, and the wrapper at the foot of the cigar is slightly wrinkled and bunched, as though it wasn’t fully stretched during application. Moving to the band, I get a 1940s Hollywood vibe, with its glossy brown and metallic gold embossing. The inverted triangle is a nice touch as well, though I am not a fan of the die-cut shape; which causes the corners of the triangle to form wings, allowing them to catch on my fingers throughout the smoking experience. I realize that this doesn’t affect how the cigar smokes—I just find it annoying.
The 6¾” x 48 cigar is of average heft, yielding easily to pressure and raising a slight concern of the Churchill being under-filled. As I pass the Manolo Quesada 75th Anniversary under my nose, I am met with aromatic tanned leather with jasmine oolong tea that finishes with a slight black pepper note. The foot of the cigar gives a different experience, with aromas of apple cider vinegar, earth, and pepper zing. A quick snip with my guillotine and I am greeted with a near-perfect draw (9/10) and a tangy leather mixed with baking spice and more of that pepper on the finish. The pepper is light and not at all overwhelming.
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I find that I need a slightly-longer-than-expected toast of the foot with my torch lighter, as the tobacco seems almost unwilling to yield to the flame. Once lit, I take slow, deliberate puffs, expecting to taste char due to the extended lighting experience; instead, I find a bounty of flavor. Notes of rich baking chocolate and creamy cedar mix with a tangy leather. The smoke is dense and chewy, and the retrohale provides sweet cedar and a delicate black pepper. I am thoroughly impressed with this complex start, and excited to see how the cigar develops.
Moving past the first light, semi-sweet chocolate and smooth cedar are the primary flavors I’m getting on the draw. The retrohale provides an altered experience, with the addition of a nuanced fennel note as well as a nuanced and pleasant spice. I must note that I am not getting much of what I would consider a traditional Corojo flavor profile. By that, I mean the robust pepper and spice notes that normally are associated with a well-aged Corojo wrapper. Instead, the pepper is barely present, and baking spices are more of a tertiary component. The burn itself is even, though not razor sharp, and the ash falls in a flaky one-inch chunk. Flavor is medium/full, body is medium-plus, and strength is medium.
I’ve now just passed the halfway point of the Manolo Quesada 75th Anniversary, and the cigar has had a significant transition—it’s more negative than positive. I’ve had to relight the cigar as it just unexpectedly went out after burning flawlessly to the halfway mark. A noticeable hollowed area at the foot where I relight points to the reason for the stick going out so suddenly. Flavors have gotten distinctly drier. The smooth and creamy cedar has taken on a rough and basic woody note. The leather I picked up early on has mellowed to a light earthy profile with an orange zest mixed in. I’ve all but lost the sweetness and baking spices that I found so intriguing early on. The aromas now present aren’t playing well together, and I’m left with a muddled and slightly bitter impression. Flavor is still medium/full, body is decreased to medium, and strength is a medium as well.
As I approach the completion of the cigar, I long for the smoking experience that the first half of the stick provided. Complex and interesting flavors abounded—now the depth has gone. I’m left with a dry and bitter wood note that mixes with an odd sugar-free sweetness that reminds me of the initial flavor of most diet sodas (starting sweet on the palate and then quickly switching to a chemical-like, not-quite-sweet flavor). Retrohaling the cigar amplifies a bitter earthiness, and the pepper note is no longer present. The burn has stayed even, and I’ve had no problems keeping it lit since the relight at the halfway mark. Flavor has settled to a medium, body remains a medium, and strength has ticked up to medium-plus.
The closing puffs are damp and woody, with a lingering faux sweetness. I guess I would say that the cigar has balanced itself. For as great as the cigar started, the lackluster finish brings me back to center.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
This stick has left me a little confused and irritated. As much as I enjoyed the first half of the cigar and all of the complexity and flavor it brought, I was equally let down by the second half and how muddled and uninteresting the smoking experience became. I smoked two cigars for this review, and had an identical experience with each, including both sticks needing a relight at roughly the halfway mark. When you put the $15 price point on the cigar, I would have to say that while I would definitely smoke the cigar again, it’s not one I am going to actively seek out.
The Manolo Quesada 75th Anniversary is the second cigar blended in honor of Manolo’s birthday. The first being the Manuel Quesada 70th cigar released in 2017.
The Quesada family is known for rolling cigars for such popular brands as Nat Sherman (and now Ferio Tego), Daniel Marshall, and their own Fonseca (former), Casa Magna, and Quesada lines of cigars.
Manolo Quesada is one of the founding members of Pro-Cigar, an organization and cigar festival created to help promote Dominican-made cigars.
Manolo Quesada is considered by many as a pillar in the premium cigar industry, and was inducted into Cigar Aficionado’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
The Manolo Quesada 75th Anniversary currently ranks 2,025 out of 4,300 cigars on Dojoverse.com, having a “100% smokable” rating.
Only 1,200 boxes of 10 cigars were made—the cigars sampled came from box #800.
Smoke Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Pairing Recommendation: Coffee with cream | Dark ‘n’ Stormy | Black tea | Cola or Root beer (not diet)
Purchase Recommendation: If you can find them, pick up 3 or 4
Complex from first light to midpointThick, chewy smoke coats your mouthSlow burn
Both review cigars had to be relit at the halfway pointSecond half of the cigar is completely unlike the first halfComplexity fades as you smoke
Originally posted on December 8, 2022 @ 5:17 am