Last night, while looking in my humidor for a cigar to smoke before dinner, I came across an old favorite that had been resting patiently for this moment. The box of Aging Room M356 Prestos almost reached out to me and said “I am ready, here I am.” This was my second box purchased in October 2011, intentionally put away for aging. At that time, I was very impressed by its spicy intensity, and quickly smoked through my first box. The flavor profile of the M356 was unlike anything I had smoked before. It was the first time I had experienced a Dominican puro with a peppery profile. Now fast forward to October 2021, and my old friend was ready for our ten-year reunion.
Like any reunion, the first thing we notice is how our friends have physically changed. And my initial thought after not having seen these M356s for a decade was “Wow, these things look old.” But not in a bad way. It was almost as if they had gained wisdom over the years. They seemed to have a story to tell.
The wrapper on these cigars looked more mottled than I remembered. The veins in the cover leaf were more pronounced, much like the lines on the face of a village elder. But its beautiful oily sheen had a richness that seemed to show an inner youthfulness. Like people, cigars tend to shrink as they get old, and the band on these cigars had indeed become loose as a result. The construction still looked impeccable; just as it was a decade ago. In the hand, the feel had a supple firmness, with an elastic quality to the wrapper. This could only have come from years of aging in an ideal environment. I couldn’t wait to light it up.
This M356 took to the flame with eagerness, and the first puff delivered a mouthful of rich flavor that coated my tongue. Flavors of cashews and caramel overwhelmed my palate, and I became immediately aware that this was going to be a welcome reunion.
As I continued to smoke, I was struck by how the M356 was hitting all the right notes. The draw had just enough resistance to evenly burn the wrapper, filler, and binder in perfect synchronicity. From beginning to end, no touchups were needed, and I was in awe of its perfect burn line and ash cylinder.
Getting good flavor balance is the trademark of a great cigar. Like a great movie, all its components need to come together in a way that delivers beyond the sum of its parts. As I smoked this aged M356 I was impressed by how well all its elements were working in harmony. I became profoundly aware that I was having a rare experience, and I was savoring every moment. Its smoothness and aroma were divine.
Looking back at my initial review of the Aging Room M356, I could see how ten years had dramatically changed its flavor profile. Gone was the effervescence of the young tobaccos, as well as its white pepper spice. Age has tamed its youthful playfulness, and it has become more settled and comfortable within itself. Less restless, this cigar now delivers the comfort of a nice easy chair in front of an old favorite TV episode. Notes of cream, nougat, and nuts build as the cigar progresses, all the while delivering a milder smoking experience than I had remembered.
From start to finish, smoking this ten-year-old M356 was a peak cigar-smoking experience. It was like seeing a boyhood friend whose once sharp edges had now rounded over time. This mature M356 indeed had a story to tell, and it was one of self-acceptance and peacefulness. It no longer needed to be a showoff and could now present its more tranquil side. I am certainly glad I ran into this old friend again and could see the wisdom that time had bestowed upon it.