Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez

A.J. Fernandez, Esteli, Nicaragua

Nica Libre Torpedo

The Nica Libre brand is a brand created by A.J. Fernandez for Cigars International as a cheap alternative for the Padron anniversary series and they called it the Padron Killer. It’s pretty clear that they did everything to make it look like a Padron, box pressed, the San Andres maduro wrapper in the same shades as Padron and even the ring resembles the Padron band a little, but then with a $3 price tag on the 6×52 torpedo *note: i’m smoking an aged one, with the old ring*


I guess I bought this cigar about 7 years ago, when I still ordered cigars from overseas and when I was looking for a good quality steal. I went online and bought several boxes of cheap cigars on Cigars International, cigars of which I heard good stories and this was one of them. And with A.J. Fernandez behind this cigar I just had to buy it since I loved almost all the cigar that I had smoked with his signature on it.


As I said, the cigar has the same shape as a Padron, the dark, leather like wrapper looks great and the factory hid the vein at the back of the cigar. The ring has different brown and beige colors and it is almost a copy of the Padron anniversary bands, C.I. did everything to make this cigar resemble a Padron, a little more creativity would have been nice. The construction feels great and the cigar has a well finished head. The aroma is quite mild and I smell some wood and dark chocolate.


I cut the cigar with a xikar butterfly cutter. The cold draw is perfect, I taste dry and spicy tobacco. After lighting I taste coffee, soil and green spicy herbs. Soon after I taste dried fruits. After an inch I also taste some pepper. Halfway I taste carrots, pepper and dried fruit, with pepper as a predominant flavor. The final third starts with a spicy wood, carrots and pepper.


The draw is a little loose from perfect but the smoke is thick and there is a lot of it. The ash is close to white. The burn is great but the ash isn’t very firm. The cigar is medium bodied and medium plus flavored. The smoke time is short though, only an hour.

Would I buy this cigar again? It’s not a Padron killer but it’s a very good 3 dollar cigar.

Score: 91
number91

 

Advertisements
Categories: 91, Nica Libre, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Diesel Unholy Cocktail

Before I got my job in the cigar industry, a job I’m no longer working in, I used to participate in ordering cigars from the USA even though that is legally not allowed in The Netherlands. It is allowed to bring in 50 cigars in person, but internet orders are prohibited. Yet I did it because of the huge difference in availability of cigars and the prices back then with a low dollar and a strong euro. And one of the cigars I bought often because I loved them for flavor and price was the Diesel Unholy Cocktail, made by A.J. Fernandez for Meier & Dutch, a wholesaler connected to cigarsinternational.com. But as soon as I landed my job I had to stop of course and hated that I could not buy these great cigars again.


After two years of nagging I finally got my employer so far that he said “ok, see if you can get in touch with them” and so happened, after a few mails and me accidentally running into my contact when I was visiting Esteli, Nicaragua, we agreed that we would distribute their cigars in The Netherlands. I made a selection from their exclusive cigars and of course I included the Diesel Unholy Cocktail and they were an instant hit in The Netherlands too, becoming a big part of our turnover. I just realized that I only have a few of these 5×56 belicosos left so I should do a review.


The cigar comes wrapped in cellophane and once I take the cigar out of that protective layer I see a dark  and rustic wrapper, very toothy and it feels a bit like sandpaper but the look fit the name and the flavor profile. The cigar only has a small foot ring, brown with a darker brown medieval font written Diesel and a smaller written diesel in a beige color. Simple but again, it fits the cigar. The construction feels great and the belicoso has a sharp head. The aroma is quite strong, I smell manure, a little ammonia and hay.


Since it’s a belicoso I have to cut the cigar and I do so with my Xikar cutter. The cold draw is perfect. I taste a spicy, peppery raisin flavor. Once I light the cigar I taste cocoa powder, dry cedar and coffee beans. Soon I taste pepper, a faint cocoa powder and a strong earthy flavor. After little over half an inch I also taste some nuts. After a third the main flavor is earthy with spices, peanuts, a little lemon and pepper. Every few puffs I taste some cocoa powder too. Halfway the cigar has a dark chocolate sweetness and bitterness with nutmeg, wood and pepper. The pepper is getting stronger just like the wood.


The draw is fantastic just as the smoke, which is thick and full. The ash is white, dense and firm. The burn is straight as an arrow. The cigar is so full flavored and bold that it tastes like it’s a very full bodied cigar but truth is, it’s medium full. There is a lot of evolution. The smoke time is an hour and twenty five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Hell yeah!

Score: 95
number95

Categories: 95, Diesel, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rocky Patel Summer 2008 Lancero

About a decade ago Rocky Patel decided to launch a limited release every season of the year, and the Summer 2008 series came with a lancero, that’s the only lancero made for the seasonal collections, which were discontinued in 2009, except for a one time return in 2012. I must have gotten this cigar in a trade or a bomb of some kind, but I couldn’t tell you with or from whom if my life depended on it.


The Summer 2008 collection was rolled at the old factory of A.J. Fernandez as Rocky didn’t have a Nicaraguan operation back then, and A.J. didn’t have the huge factory that he runs nowadays. The other offerings, next to this 7×38 lancero, were a robusto, toro and toro grande.. The cigar is made with Nicaraguan filler, a binder from Cameroon and a Sumatra wrapper grown in Ecuador.


A nice, latte colored, toothy wrapper with a sandpaper touch and an unique ring make this cigar stand out. The ring looks like a piece of diamond plate with a golden strip with red outlines and a red round RP logo. The secondary ring is golden with black lettering and a red outline. The construction feels good, no soft spots and the pig tail is a nice detail. I smell a mild yet dark barnyard aroma, almost like a freshly ploughed piece of farmland with natural fertilizer.


After I cut the cigar I taste pepper and some blackberry with the perfect cold draw. After lighting I taste the blackberry with cedar. There is also some sweetness and the mix is perfect. On the background I taste some pepper. Halfway the cigar gets spicier and stronger.


The draw is flawless. The smoke is thick, full and good in volume. The light gray ash with dark smears. It’s reasonably firm. The burn is good, pretty straight. The cigar is medium bodied and medium full flavored. The evolution isn’t spectacular but the flavor is very nice. The smoke time is an hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? I wish

Score: 92
number92

Categories: 92, Nicaraguan cigars, Rocky Patel, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez | Tags: , , , , ,

San Lotano The Bull Robusto

I’ve always been a fan of A.J. Fernandez, from the day he emerged as master blender and manufacturer for a lot of the Maier & Dutch private labels, sold only through cigarsinternational and affiliated sites. I mean the Diesel Unholy Cocktail is one of my favorite cigars, I love most of the Man O Wars, Ave Maria’s etcetera and I’ve liked almost everything he made for himself too like the San Lotano lines, Last Call, New World and Enclave. But for some reason the San Lotano didn’t do much in The Netherlands. I guess that’s because we started with the weirdly shaped Oval line and that vitola didn’t went well with the Dutch public and tainted the San Lotano name for a lot of consumers.


San Lotano is an old Cuban brand that was owned by A.J. Fernandez grandfather but after the revolution th brand disappeared. Abdel brought it back with the San Lotano Oval, and later the round Maduro, Habano and Connecticut lines and a few years later this new The Bull, which is box pressed since that’s the best format for this specific blend according to Fernandez.  The cigar is made in Esteli with Nicaraguan filler and Binder and an Ecuadorean habano wrapper and comes in boxes of 10. I smoked the 5×54 robusto.


The cigar comes cedar wrapped and in cellophane. The cedar wrapping has the image of a bulls head printed on the wood. Once I remove that I see a dark and square pressed cigar, it looks like a mars bar, with one vein, which is also flattened. I see some mineral sparkles on the wrapper too and the cigar looks mighty tasty. And I immediately smell a quite strong aroma that is a mixture of a smoldering bonfire, cow dung and fresh pepper. The ring is of a thick paper, a black square with golden outlines, golden letters San Lotano and at the bottom a yellow and red banner with ‘by A.J. Fernandez’. Simple yet effective.


I punched the cigar and the cold draw is perfect, a little citrusy with some bitterness. I lit the cigar with my trusted vintage Ronson and taste espresso with some oak and a little sugar. A few puffs later I taste sweet and toasted oak flakes and some citrus. After an inch I taste black coffee, very dark chocolate and citrus. Halfway the cigar becomes less bitter, the bitterness was nice though, and a little more peppery. No more coffee but still oak with the bitterness of dark chocolate, a little sweetness, some pepper and citrus.


The white ash has some black smears and is firm. The smoke is thick and plentiful, just how I like it. The draw is flawless. The burn is good but not completely straight. This cigar is medium to full bodied, full flavored yet there isn’t a lot of evolution. The smoke time is little over and hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? I stick to other AJ Fernandez cigars.

Score: 87

number87

 

 

Categories: 87, Nicaraguan cigars, San Lotano, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez | Tags: , , , , ,

Manowar Virtue Torpedo

I had this Manowar Virtue in my humidor for some time now but always left it alone because of the Ecuadorean Connecticut Shade wrapper, a type of wrapper I used to hate. Yes, you read it right, used to hate because since a few months I find myself enjoying the Connecticut shade wrapper more than I ever did, much to my own surprise so tonight I decided to finally grab this Manowar Virtue.


I do have some experience with the Manowar brand, made by A.J. Fernandez in Esteli, Nicaragua in a state of the art, huge & modern factory of which I had the pleasure to visit once. I smoked the regular Manowar, the Ruination and some of the side projects but as said before, never this Virtue which is supposed to be the smoothest of them all due to the wrapper.


I still don’t like the look of Connecticut Shade, it’s pale and looks like a cigar turned sick.  The construction of this 6 1/2×52 torpedo looks and feels good though although the cap isn’t placed completely straight. The ring is beautiful, the mask that’s on all Manowar cigars but this time in silver and white with dark blue letters Virtue. The aroma is quite strong and reminds me of a barnyard and a hay stack.


I cut the cigar with my butterfly cutter and get a fabulous cold draw. I taste some mint with dry tobacco and pepper on my lips. After lighting the cigar with my soft flame I taste the classic mustiness from Connecticut Shade but with some sweetness and a bite. The sweetness is pure cane sugar and I also taste autumn leaves but with some harshness in the back of my throat. The harshness disappears soon and I taste nutmeg instead. After a third I taste some dry hay with white pepper and still a little sweetness, but no longer that strong cane sugar anymore but more like a mild stevia sweetness. Halfway I taste mild spicy and sweet wood and peanut shells, which is pretty nice. The sweetness turns sugary again and grows in strength


The draw is perfect, smooth and open. The smoke is medium thick and medium in volume. The salt and pepper colored ash looks flaky but is still quite firm. The burn is quite straight. LThe cigar is smooth indeed, mild to medium bodied and medium flavored. The smoke time is an hour and twenty five minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? No, it’s not a bad cigar though and it is a confirmation that Connecticut Shade is growing on me but not enough to justify buying more.

Score: 89

number89

 

 

Categories: 89, Manowar, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez | Tags: , , , , ,

A.J. Fernandez Last Call

If you were invited to wacht a NFL game at the home of A.J. Fernandez you got offered a small robusto, 4 1/2×48, with a closed foot called the Last Call, which refers to the sport games it was made for. Usually the guests would get it in the final quarter of the game. The cigars are made with Nicaraguan filler and binder and the tobacco is grown by Fernandez himself while the wrapper is an Ecuadorian Rosado Habano and the foot is closed.


I would love to write a story on how I was watching a game at Abdel’s house and got this cigar but no. I have been to Esteli twice, I have been to the factory and I have met Abdel on several occasions but we are not so close that he invites me over to watch a game of a sport that I don’t care about, don’t know the rules about and wouldn’t be able to name 5 teams if my life depended on it. I’m European, I watch football where the ball is actually round and played with the feet instead of the hands, and without 1980’s shoulder pats. And even then, I only watch games of my favorite team Ajax Amsterdam and not any other games.


The silky wrapper has a but of a dull appearance but I also see some minerals. During transport the wrapper got a little bit banged up but thats my fault so that won’t be factored in with the score. The wrapper is very smooth. The construction feels good with a beautiful triple cap. the wing is simple, round beige with red outlines and red letters Last Call. The font reminds me of baseball for some reason. The ring also says ‘premium aged tobacco by a.j. fernandez’. The cigar has a mild manure aroma.


I cut the cigar with a guillotine cutter and I expected a little tight draw because of the closed foot but it was surprisingly easy. I taste some pepper. I lit the cigar with a soft flame, my trusted vintage Ronson. I taste honey, coffee, leather and pepper direct after lighting the cigar. After a centimeter I taste a caramel sweetness with autumn leafs and a nice spice mix. After a third I taste a slowly growing pepper too. Halfway I taste a nice mix of spices with just the right amount of pepper. After two thirds I taste nuts with a little cumin.


The draw is great, but the smoke is thin and low in volume. The light colored as is dense and firm. The burn is slow and pretty straight. This cigar is medium bodied and medium flavored, well balanced and with a nice evolution. The smoke time is five minutes short of an hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes this is a nice medium bodied cigar and with a better smoke it would have scored a point higher.

Score: 90
number90

 

Categories: 90, Last Call, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez | Tags: , , ,

Ave Maria Argentum

Before I started to work for a Dutch cigar importer & distributer, I used to order online from the USA and one of the cigars that I ordered a lot was the Diesel Unholy Cocktail. When I started to work for that importer & distributer I felt like I couldn’t do that anymore since it was not a legal thing to do as its considered tax evading, you are only allowed to import tobacco if you have a license with the exemption of 50 cigars that you carry across the border in person and because all my accounts were cigar shops that feel the pain of this import. But I did miss my Diesel Unholy Cocktails. So I kept asking my employer if there was a way to import these but everytime he would reply “these are made for the wholesaler that is part of Cigars International so they probably won’t sell to us anyway”. Well, after three years of nagging he finally decided to mail Meier & Dutch and much to his surprise and my happiness they were open to the idea. On top of that I ran into the responsible person a few weeks later at Tabacalera Oliva in Esteli, Nicaragua and that sealed the deal.


We started with the Diesel, Manowar and a few other cigars and slowly expanded our business with Meier & Dutch but right before the Cigaragua shop was opened I got fired as my employer had his doubts if I would be a good shopmanager. He’s wrong, but as an employee you don’t always get a chance to prove that. Too bad, because a lot of new items came in just to be sold in that shop and nowhere else in The Netherlands. Amongst those cigars is this Ave Maria Argentum, just like the Diesel Unholy Cocktail and the Manowar made by A.J. Fernandez in Esteli, Nicaragua. I have been to the factory and its very impressive, huge, clean and I could roam free without a chaperone, something that didn’t happen anywhere else. I met Abdel too a few times, now that his English improved we can actually hold a conversation, something that was impossible before because of my lack of Spanish.


What I notice first is the shape and the color, It’s almost a flying pic but there is just a tiny difference in shape. The cigar is a 5×58 perfecto. The color is striking because its almost black, I have never seen a wrapper this dark and you can see that the sun did its work as the surface of the toothy wrapper looks like leather. Well, thats as far as you can see the wrapper because the ring is huge, and to add to that they added a second ring too. The second ring is black with big silver lining and the word Argentum written in font that makes me think of medievel times and knights. The real ring has the same black & silver theme going on with a knight, the english crest and a banner with silver letters ave maria. On the back the ring has a red cross. I like the look of the ring. The cigar feels rock hard I just hope it doesn’t have a tight draw and the strong aroma reminds me of a hay stack in a field surrounded by some cows and an angry bull.


I couldn’t punch the cigar so I had to cut it with my flat cut. The cold draw is great with some pepper on my lips. I lit the cigar carefully, expecting a tight start but from that the start the draw is good and I taste coffee with chocolate. Once the burn gets to the thicker part the flavors open and I taste cedar, pepper, cinnamon and a hint of cacao. I also taste a little sweetness, icing sugar like sweetness. The sweetness is getting a little stronger, just like the cedar. After a third I taste a nice spice mix with sugar and pepper, this is the sweetness I expect from a Maduro wrapper like this. Halfway the base flavor becomes nutty with pepper and a little bit of sweetness. Slowly but surely the cigar gets stronger and so does the pepper, the nuts change to wood.


The draw is wonderful. The ash is light colored, dense and firm. The burn had to be corrected once but that always happens to me when lighting a cigar with a foot like that. The smoke is medium in thickness and volume. The cigar starts out medium bodied but evolved to full bodied and full flavored. The smoke time is an hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? This is a great cigar!

Score: 94
94

Categories: 94, Ave Maria, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez | Tags: , , , ,

La Preferida 452

Didier Houvenaghel is a Belgian agricultural engineer who’s passion is tobacco and he wrote what is probably the best book about cigars ever: The cigar: from soil to soul. I have seen the book, read parts from it but I have yet to find a copy for myself but the book is out of print and its not available on Amazon, Ebay or any other sites that I know. Maybe I should ask Didier when I see him either in Singapore where both his and my wife live or at the Intertabac trade show.


Didier also started his own cigar brands, La Ley and Nicarao but last year he expanded with a new line, La Preferida. All his cigars are made by A.J. Fernandez and Didier handed me this cigar in person. The cigar comes in two sizes, 4×52 or 5×52 an its made with Honduran and Nicaraguan filler, a Mexican binder and an Ecuadorian Habano Colorado wrapper. I smoked the 4×52 for this review.


The dark chocolate colored wrapper looks smooth, not big veins, a nice even color, a very clean wrapper. The ring is very classic, just a 1920’s era lady on the baby blue ring and a yellow banner with the La Preferida name. The cigar feels well constructed and looks good.  A medium dark aroma finishes the cigar, I think of dark chocolate with some pepper.


I used a butterfly cutter to decap the cigar. The cold draw is perfect, I get a spicy tangy flavor on my lips. After lighting I taste a strong, pleasant espresso with a subtle sweetness. There is also a hint of cocoa. After a third it’s a spicy coffee and cedar combination with a little chocolate. After a third I taste wood with cocoa, a little sweetness, spice and pepper. Halfway the cigar gets sweeter, with some vanilla over spices and dry cedar. There are subtle changes in flavor, the final third has something floral, with still some pepper.


The draw is flawless, the smoke is thick, white and voluminous. The ash is white, dense and firm. I’m positive awed by the balance in the strong flavor. The burn is great. This cigar is full bodied and full flavored. The smoke time is long, an hour and fifty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes, over and over again. I loved it so much that I grabbed my Nub tool.

Score: 95
number95

Categories: 7-20-4, 95, La Preferida, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez | Tags: , , , ,

Mayimbe Robusto

Every time I am in the United States I visit cigar shops to buy single sticks of cigars I can’t get back home and that are to my interest, either because I know and like the manufacturer, I know and like the brand, I read good stuff about the cigar or it looks cool to me. Now early 2014 I spend a week in Esteli, Nicaragua and then spend a week in Florida, a few days in Miami and a few days in Orlando. And of course in both cities I visited some shops and in one of those shops I found a cigar that I really wanted to try but because of the limited production never expected to see: A.J. Fernandez’s Mayimbe Limited Edition 2013. Only 2500 boxes of 10 were made in 4 sizes so finding them months after their release was just luck I guess.


I’m a fan of a lot of cigars that are being made by A.J., not only his own brands but also cigars he makes for Meyer & Dutch (I love the Diesel, Man O’War Skull Crusher, Ave Maria) and the Nicoya brand. So when I read about the Mayimbe I was curious to try it even thought the 56 ring is a little above my preferred thickness. Now this cigar isn’t limited just to be a limited, it’s limited because of the tobacco. The Pennsylvania broadleaf wrapper isn’t limited, the Nicaraguan binder from A.J. Fernandez farms isn’t limited, the Honduran filler isn’t limited but the Nicaraguan filler is, its a leaf called Privado and it’s been grown by A.J. Fernandez on a small farm and he’s been working on it for years. So no marketing “limited edition” as so many companies do, inspired by Habanos (who nowadays manufacure more limited releases than regular production between the regional editions, limited editions, reserva and anejados) but a true limited edition because they are out of tobacco. And that’s what a limited should be, limited because of a limited amount of tobacco.


The Pennsylvania broadleaf wrapper is darn, like a piece or dark chocolate, with a few veins and a nice triple cap. The construction feels good and the head of the cigar is beautifully rounded. The aroma is full and its like standing on the attic in a hay shed on a rainy afternoon. There are two rings on the cigar, one on the foot which is about a centimeter high, pitch black with the A.J. Fernandez logo in red letters and gold lining in a white circle with gold lining. The main ring is big with a curved top. The bottom part is black, the top part is brown and I don’t like the color brown on cigar bands unless its the exact same color as the wrapper which this isn’t. There is golden lining and swirls and in big black letters Mayimbe. A.J. Fernandez is written in smaller black letters. On the back there is the Mayimbe logo and the words “Esteli, Nicaragua” in golden letters. Now the band isn’t ugly but the brown color is, almost any other color would have been a better fit. I punched the cigar because of the thickness. The pre draw is good and I taste raw tobacco with little bit of a thinner aftertaste.


I lit the cigar with my soft flame and I taste a strong coffee flavor with a little caramel sweetness which are both quickly replaced by oak. A centimeter in I also taste some lemon in the aftertaste. After a third the cigar changes to a mix of spices like nutmeg and cinnamon with a mild peppery aftertaste, like ground white pepper. Halfway the flavor turns to cedar with nutmeg and that white pepper aftertaste. It’s all well balanced. After two thirds the oak is back. At the end I taste nuts with a little more pepper.


The smoke is huge! Thick and abundant, I love it. The ash is light colored but a bit frayed. It’s also firm. The draw is fantastic. The burn is pretty straight but I had to correct once. The cigar is medium bodied and medium to full flavored. The cigar is nub tool good. The smoke time is two hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? That is not possible. I would love to smoke this blend in a 48 ring.


Score: 91

91

 

Categories: 91, Mayimbe, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez | Tags: , , ,

A. J. Fernandez New World Puro Especial Robusto

Four years ago, in 2014, A.J. Fernandez and his father, who previously spend 17 years at tobacco mogul Plasencia, created the New World line. A few new additions came with a Connecticut shade version, a few single store vitolas, and last year Abdel and his father Ismael created the New World Puro Especial, a Nicaraguan puro with tobacco’s from several tobacco fields owned and cultivated by Fernandez in and around Esteli.


All tobacco is aged between three to five years before being used and picked specifically for this blend. In an interview Fernandez told a little about the blend, saying he picked tobacco from the San Diego fields for the minerals, from the La Soledad farm for the flavor, from the La Providencia farm for the aroma and he picked a Criollo 98 wrapper from the San Jose farm. A.J. gave me this cigar personally when I met him again at the Intertabac trade show last september.


When I take the cigar out of the cellophane I feel a leathery, which, wrapper. The color is quite dark, like 75% chocolate with a mild oily shine. I also see some veins but that fits with the dark color and make the cigar look intimidating in a good way. The ring is detailed, a white ring with red and gold outlines, a new world painting and a secondary ring in red and gold with the AJ Fernandez name. The cigar has a medium aroma of charred wood and manure. The head of the cigar is well rounded and the cigar feels evenly packed.


I decided to break out the old punch. The cold draw is good, I taste mild spicy tobacco. After lighting I taste coffee, quite spicy. After a quarter of an inch I taste chocolate milk after taking a zip of water. Without drinking water it’s more coffee with cocoa powder, quite dry. After an inch I taste a floral flavor with a tiny bit of chocolate. After a third the cigar has a unique flavor of vegetables and flowers. Halfway the flavor changes to floral leather with a little bit of black pepper. The pepper is slowly getting stronger with a lot of leather and still some of the floral flavor.


The draw is great and the light gray ash is dense and firm. The smoke is medium in thickness and volume. The burn is pretty straight. This is a medium bodied, medium flavored cigar. The smoke time is an hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? I would like a few more.

Score: 91

number91

Categories: 91, New World, Nicaraguan cigars, Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez

Blog at WordPress.com.