Antonio Genaro Martinez (1947 – 2002) arrived in New York in 1972 from Tamboril, Dominican Republic. Two years later, after working as cigar roller for a couple of local manufacturers, he began blending and rolling his very own, establishing Martinez Hand Rolled Cigars. Today – under the direction of his son, Jesus Martinez – the factory-shop-lounge is frequented by locals and customers from all over the world. Together they smoke, chat and delight in the artful activity of three rollers working side by side, producing an array of interesting and high-quality house blends cigars. Nowhere else in Manhattan could the cigar lover observe how ‘torcedores’ turn leaves into perfect cigars. As much as masses throughout the globe pay little attention to the step-by-step production of what they eat and use, there are those who appreciate seeing and knowing in more detail.
Not alone the daily shows in the art of cigar hand-rolling help this forty-year old establishment standout. The Dominican roots of the business, its Dominican rollers and the world-wide importance of Dominican tobacco and cigars could be misleading into thinking that the cigars are just Dominicans. However, the Martinez minds behind these cigars are more creative and demanding than that. Besides the leaves of their native land and Cuban seed, their blends include leaves from Nicaragua, Ecuador and Cameroon. My introduction to Martinez Cigars was the Toro shape of the New York City Blend, Número 4.
The first draw on number fours is strong on the palate, but first impressions are about beginnings and beginnings – for palate and mind – must always come to an end. Things tend to settle and so does this tasty cigar. I refer to the first draw as ‘impression’, meaning that such perception cannot legitimately be based on the cigar as a whole, but on witnessing that short chemical process that takes place when fire contacts tobacco leaves in the very first instance. And it is that particular bouquet of aromas created by this chemical process what evoked the impression of spiced dark cocoa, freshly roasted coffee, cappuccino and cinnamon on my nose.
Out of the burning a whole cigar, I find that smoke from the initial lighting of the foot to be the most poetic and enchanting experience for the nose. As opposed to the olfactory system absorbing through the palate, the olfactory experience based on what the nose perceives is very special. No coffee, no steak, no wine, no substance is as rich and powerful to the taste buds, as it is to the nose.
As I continue, the middle of the first third hints uncommonly to oregano and rosemary. From several regular customers I did hear that Martinez blending aims high and does not allow boredom. And so I smoke my first Cameroon leaf wrapped around a cigar. It has stains that resemble a paper covered by different densities of coffee drinks. It is slightly oily with very few veins.
The second third of the cigar begins with vegetable notes, reminding me momentarily also of a dark broth. But suddenly it is all about a wonderful and intense chocolate/coffee complexity overpowering the vegetable notes.
Needless to say, everything we eat before smoking a cigar, will affect our smoking experience. To allow as much taste clarity of the cigar as possible, I smoked six cigars on different days, each time accompanied by a bottle of Poland Spring water. Soon I shall smoke some more, but not before getting to know some of the other blends that Martinez Hand Rolled Cigars has to offer.
New York City Blend / No. 4 / Toro
5¼ x 50
Filler: Dominican and Nicaraguan
Production: New York, NY