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Baccarat – The Game

  • Strength: 1 /  5
  • Size: 6 x 52
  • Origin: Honduras
  • Price (local): $4.50
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Shade

Now, a Baccarat is not something I’d ever smoke. But that is not because it’s a bad cigar. It’s important to identify that the Baccarat is not a traditional cigar: it has what is referred to as a sweet tip. Not overbearingly sweet like a Fat Bottom Betty, but there is some sugar you can taste. It’s also made with a very mild tobacco, so you get next to no harshness from the Honduran tobacco blend these are made with. I don’t have much time today, but if you are looking for a “starter” cigar as a newbie, this is 100% the place to start. It makes an excellent gift for someone looking to get into the hobby, and if you want something very unaggressive and harmless, then this is the cigar for you. It’s the most mild blend on the market, and it tastes sweet, so it’s good for after a heavy meal or after a few drinks. You will love this cigar if you have minimal experience smoking and don’t want to go straight for something that is just pure tobacco. Try this if you’re looking to get into the hobby, or buying some cigars for a night out and have a few non-smokers in tow. You’ll be glad you did.

Happy smoking! CB

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Alec Bradley Project 40 Maduro

  • Strength: 4 /  5
  • Size: 5 x 52
  • Origin: Nicaragua
  • Price (local): $7.50
  • Wrapper: San Andres
  • Flavor Text:

Project 40 goes dark

Project 40 has probably impacted your life, without you even realizing it. Basically, Project 40 is based on the concept that 50% percent of your happiness comes from genetics, 10% is based on circumstance, and the remaining 40% all depends on your outlook and mindset. The goal being to find how a product can have a positive impact on your mind and body, and improve your happiness and comfort overall. We all know that cigars are a relaxing activity that brings people together and helps create a sense of comfort and mental well-being, so it was only natural that Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley would apply this concept to cigars. What is even more natural is that eventually Alan would expand the line to include a darker Maduro version. 

Enter Project 40 Maduro. For this version, a delicious Mexican San Andrés wrapper encases the same Brazilian Habano binder and Nicaraguan filler blend of the original Project 40 taking the flavor profile up a notch with smooth, peppery notes and a natural sweetness that Maduro cigars are known for. Dressed in a maroon and gold color scheme, this addition distinguishes itself from its predecessor in looks. Sure to be a hit like the 93-rated Project 40, the Maduro extension is going to go fast. Go on, take a walk on the dark side and enhance your 40%, grab a box today. 

I have always pretty heavily endorsed the AB Project 40 to friends and family who were looking for a really nice budget smoke that won’t blow your head off, and once I got a look at the AB Project 40 Maduro, I figured that it could potentially be a candidate for everyday smoke based on it’s cheap price, it’s medium to full body, and the price point it is often sold at. Overall, I’d say this cigar is solid, but not spectacular, and it’s about what you’d expect for only spending anywhere between 6-8 dollars on a cigar.

It’s pretty rare to pay an average of 7 dollars for a Maduro cigar; if that’s what you’re spending, then you’re probably getting a very small smoke, perhaps something like a small Perfecto or Corona, max. This cigar has some sixe to it for the prize, and as usual from AB, it’s got signature branding and construction. The draw was passable, not too tight or too loose, but a little bit more smoke would have been nice. The San Andres wrapper was dark and toothy, and it added a distinguishable peppery bite to this smoke. Already boasting a stronger Nicaraguan blend of tobacco than the usual Project 40, the Maduro version brings together a lot of elements traditionally found in a “strong” cigar to put a fresh, new spin on an old favorite.

The most excellent thing about this cigar is the wrapper. As most Maduro wrappers go, this one has a distinct sweetness to it that most Maduro smokers will identify and love. As for the tobacco, it was pretty non-descript actually. I had to go searching for the flavor of it, and mostly what I found was just pepper. Nothing really else to it, just the pepper you’d expect to taste in a strong cigar. The Maduro wrapper is always redeeming, and for 7 dollars, you really get a good bargain for a cigar like this, but at the end of the day, I didn’t really appreciate the blend much. It’s just a cigar with some punch due to the pepper. That’s really all. Nothing impressive, but not bad. I put it in my ‘Just a Smoke’ category and maybe pick up another when I’m looking to rip through something really fast.

Happy smoking! CB 

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AJ Fernandez Last Call Habano

  • Strength: 4 / 5
  • Vitola: Geniales 4 x 52
  • Origin: Nicaragua
  • Price (local): $6.55
  • Wrapper: Ecuador Habano

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t herf here

If you ever get the chance to tour a cigar factory, do it in a heartbeat. If you get the chance to tour A.J. Fernandez’s world class operation in Esteli, Nicaragua, I’d recommend going even if it means you have to skip your mother-in-law’s 60th birthday party. What does that have to do with the Last Call? Quite simply, this cigar was handed out at the end of the night, normally in the 4th quarter of whatever game was on at the time, to guests staying at A.J.’s Casa Blanca house during their tour of his facilities.

Since its inception as A.J.’s preferred nightcap, they had been getting requests to sell this cigar, and finally it was released to the public. Handmade in Esteli, this Nicaraguan puro might be short, but you’d be crazy to think it doesn’t pack a punch. Booming forward with a core of roasted nut flavors, spice, and a unique creamy, woodsy note. 

AJ Fernandez Last Call has received an impressive 93-point rating from Cigar Aficionado, noting: “A short, stout cigar with an uncut foot. It’s a toasty, nutty smoke fortified with chewy, earthy notes and a savory, leathery finish.”

This cigar packs a ton of flavor into a small (4 x 52) package, and while it features a lot of thin sizes, my favorite over the years has come to be the Corticas (short robusto.) The Last Call comes in both a Habano and a Maduro wrapper, and it features a signature blend of AJ Fernandez Nicaraguan tobacco that has an extremely toasty and nutty flavor to it. The Maduro Last Call has a natural sweetness to it and, combined with a bit of these flavors and some pepper to each draw, it offers it’s own unique experience for those that like a bit more punch to their cigars. My favorite is the Habano; the warm, leathery and toasty warm wrapper generates a great tasting pull and an aromatic smoke that hangs in the air long after the exhale. Both are wonderful choices, and both are great selections for an every day smoke. 

A Last Call won’t last long; it’ll smoke in about 25-30 minutes, but boy, what an excellent half hour it is. The Last Call is a fantastic smoke for those winter days where you don’t want to burn one outside all day long, but still want an experience with a cigar that is worth every penny. For the price, you went get a better inch for inch cigar than a Last Call. Everything that AJ touches is gold, but especially these Last Calls, and they are the perfect addition to any smoke break, walk of the dog, or whatever else you break for. Grab one if you see them and see which one you like better. Great smoke.

Happy smoking! CB 

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AJ Fernandez Last Call Maduro

  • Strength: 4 /  5
  • Vitola: Geniales 4 x 52
  • Origin: Nicaragua
  • Price (local): $6.50
  • Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf

It’s Last Call… er, again? 

Much like the film ‘biz, we’re an industry obsessed with sequels. Unlike summer blockbusters, though, cigar manufacturers have a great track record of improving upon their original releases, crafting fitting tributes and mouthwatering line extensions that oftentimes outshine the first blend. Today, we welcome the Last Call Maduro by A.J. Fernandez to CI, and I’ve gotta say, this follow-up might just be the true masterpiece of the duo. 

Originally crafted as A.J.’s personal final cigar of the night, Last Call was released nationally just a few years back, and it went gangbusters. Today, we’re staring down the same blend, just donned in a Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro wrapper that’s silky-smooth in all the right ways. Lighting this one up, you’ll be greeted with a Molotov cocktail of dark chocolate, espresso, black pepper spice, and a thick, molasses-like sweetness in the background. 

I also reviewed one of my favorite Habano cigars of all time, the Last Call by AJ Fernandez. The Last Call comes in these two wrappers, and while the Maduro isn’t quite on the same level for me personally as the Habano, the Maduro has a lot of it’s own unique characteristics that make it an incredible choice for Maduro lovers and those who like a nice, quick smoke break as they please.

The Last Call Habano and the Last Call Maduro are largely the same, and they both feature masterpiece Nicaraguan blends from the Master of Tobacco, AJ Fernandez. Obviously to most, the difference is going to be in the wrapper on these. While a Habano wrapper gives a lot of spiciness and kick with each draw, the Maduro wrapper offers a somewhat natural sweetness, as is common among all Maduro wrappers, with some more distinguished silkiness and smoothness that the Habano just doesn’t possess. 

This cigar gives you exactly what you’d expect from a dark and inviting smoke like this one: lots of dark, dessert flavors with a bit of a kick to them. Cocoa and dark Brazilian coffee come to the forefront of this smoke, with pepper scattered throughout to stimulate your senses and some sweetness on the back end. Some might identify the back-end sweetness as it’s own flavor, but I just attribute that note to the wrapper. It’s got a very nice, milder sweetness to it that you won’t catch unless you look for it, but like most Maduro cigars, it’s a wonderful example of everything a Maduro cigar can offer with the proper blend and the attention it deserves.

Both Last Calls are amazing, quick smokes. They are a must-try for most smokers who smoke above the level of mild. I highly recommend them in any size, and I’d suggest them above all other mini-smokes if you like 20 minute cigars. Go get them.

Happy smoking! CB

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