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Maria Mancini Robusto Larga

maria-mancini-625p.jpg

The H2000 wrapper was a peculiar chapter in recent cigar history. In a nutshell, it was the New Coke of the tobacco world.

Nestor Plasencia was the first outside of Cuba to experiment with the Cuban seed-Connecticut Shade hybrid. His test crop, planted in Esteli in 1996 and harvested in 1997, looked to many like the leading edge of a wrapper revolution. It was hardy, resistant to disease, produced huge leaves and was easy for rollers to work with. Then there was the flavor — Cubanesque, spicy and earthy, but not so overbearing that it shouted down the fillers. A blender’s dream.

Of his experimental crop, Plasencia said, “It was the perfect leaf.”

Lew Rothmann of JR Cigars declared it “the next great wrapper.”

Manufacturers fell over themselves to get an H2000 smoke to market. First came Flamencos Las Palmas, Montecristo H2000 and La Flor de Maria Mancini. Close behind were Henry Clay, Cabanas, H. Upmann and surely a few others that escape memory.

There was only one problem. The H2000 wrapper was flame retardant.

Some, like the Flamenco and Cabanas, were almost impossible to keep lit. The binder and filler would burn normally, but the wrapper would smolder like wet cardboard. Others, like the H. Upmann, had no problems at all.

The masses took a taste, drained a lighter or two, and moved along. The bad buzz spread like blue mold. As quickly as they had arrived, H2000 wondersmokes started disappearing.

One of few survivors was Plasencia’s La Flor de Maria Mancini. This 6″ x 50 Robusto Larga has been in my stash since 2002 or 2003. The thick, veiny wrapper has a brick hue. It is generously packed and lightly box pressed.

The draw is firm at first but opens up quickly. While this toro couldn’t be mistaken for strong, it has a lot of flavor from the outset. It smacks of baking spices — cocoa and cinnamon — along with earth and a dash of pepper. The balance is excellent.

The burn will require your attention, however. The wobble is usually self-correcting, but preventative touch-ups are a good idea.

By the halfway mark, the flavor profile hasn’t changed much. The earth has picked up, as has the pepper. The subtler spices remain evident on the long finish. At this point, the MM is most comparable to a JdN Celebracion, or perhaps an Oliva Angel 100 at half-power.

The final third takes a turn for the worse. In an effort to maintain the burn, I hit it more frequently and pick up fleeting metallic notes. I also note traces of salt on the lips. It is predominantly earthy when I let it go with two inches remaining.

CONCLUSION: One of the originals of the “Class of H2000,” the Maria Mancini remains a solid smoke. It has good depth on a medium body and suits any time of day. Having been through a few boxes in various sizes, I can say the consistency is outstanding. It’s not without issues, most notably the burn and some off notes toward the end. But the flavor and value ($2.55 per stick at box quantities) make up for its shortcomings.

SCORE: 85

66 comments

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