News Uncategorized


The New Cigar Capital Of The World

Recently I have been thinking about this interesting juxtaposition: As citizens of the most prosperous nation to ever exist, the way we choose to spend our money effects the lives of real people all over the world. Even a niche subculture like ours, the premium cigar community in America, can have an enormous impact on the lives of people and families in much less prosperous places. American cigar smokers have recognized the quality and craftsmanship of premium Nicaraguan cigars, and as a result, an enormous boom in demand has created tens of thousands of jobs, allowing hardworking men and women to earn an honest living and support their families.

Amazing. But…

This boom in demand came on fast. So fast that even some of the biggest names in the industry, those who have benefited the most, have begun to question whether the current trajectory is sustainable. Is the obsession with Nicaraguan cigars spreading too quickly? Will quality begin to suffer as demand continues to skyrocket?

Thanks to the American market, and its trend toward richer, fuller bodied cigars, Nicaragua has, for the last five years running, exported more premium cigars to the United States than any nation, overtaking the D.R. who held the title for years prior. Over the last decade, the number of cigar factories in Esteli, the hub city of the cigar industry in Nicaragua, has doubled from 40 in 2010 to 80 in 2020, directly sustaining an estimated 45,000 jobs. Padron, Oliva, My Father, San Cristobal, Drew Estate, Rocky Patel and Perdomo are just a few of the companies with huge factories in Nicaragua, employing thousands of people. It is these farmers, rollers and factory workers that you are supporting when you buy premium Nicaraguan cigars. This is something I believe I can feel good about as I puff away on my Padron 3000 Maduro.

However, if you’re thinking that rate of growth seems alarmingly fast, perhaps even unsustainable, you would not be alone. AJ Fernandez himself, whose operation has an enormous footprint in Nicaragua, has been worrying about where this trend is taking us. While he clearly has benefited in the short term from the massive boom in demand for Nicaraguan tobacco, he also warns of a time when quality might begin to decline as manufacturers spread their resources as thin as they possibly can in a desperate effort to keep up with greater and greater demand.

Rocky Patel has expressed similar concerns, specifically with regard to the number of skilled rollers. When speaking about the challenges of operating his Nicaraguan factory, TAVICUSA, Rocky has said that the most difficult piece of the puzzle in 2022, with demand for Nicaraguan cigars at record levels, is finding and keeping skilled rollers. New companies are building new factories, and good rollers are being wooed from one company to the next. Consistency is something that cigar aficionados value in their favorite brands, but it may become more and more difficult to achieve consistency across time as the Nicaraguan cigar industry continues to stretch and grow.

I am of the opinion that it is our job, the American cigar smokers, to continue to support and smoke our favorite brands at our local shops, and to have faith that the manufacturers can all work together to keep quality tobacco growing in the fields, and consistent, delicious cigars rolling off of the factory floors without allowing greed or shortsightedness to bring the whole party to an end.

The United States now accounts for 95% of the tobacco exported from Nicaragua, according to the economic data archive Central America Data. This means that cigar smokers in America support the livelihood of tens of thousands of men and women in Nicaragua. Despite what your doctor might have said, there is at least this reason to feel good about, and take pride in, smoking premium cigars.

Cigar Reviews Uncategorized

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 

Cigar Reviews Uncategorized

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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