Whether blending shop-exclusive brands for the industry’s biggest online retailers or fine tuning his own growing lineup, AJ Fernandez has become known as a master of bang-for-your-buck smokes. The “Joe 6-pack” smoker will quickly identify with classics such as Diesel, Man O’ War, and San Lotano, as the cigars feature easily enjoyable profiles and prices that are tough to ignore. It’s because of this that AJ blends are often the cornerstone of hobbyist’s first humidors.
And while you’ll still occasionally find new AJ shop-exclusive blends, his main efforts are now directed to the AJ Fernandez brand—including recent successful launches such as New World and Enclave. For 2016, AJ’s first offering is dubbed Last Call, a new “value smoke” that has been geared for shorter smoking sessions.
The cigars are the first in a new series dubbed “Portfolio Series”, featuring more experimental-oriented releases; including unique tobaccos and previously unreleased blends that AJ has been working on over the past decade. Last Call will be sold exclusively to brick & mortar retailers, although, AJ Fernandez representatives have indicated that not all cigars in the series will be released this way. And, while there are no plans to expand Last Call into more sizes, there could very well be a maduro variant on the horizon.
Last Call Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuador Habano Rosado
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 4½″ × 48 “Geniales” rothschild
- Price: $5.00 (MSRP)
Square, stained-wood boxes slide open to reveal 25 rothschild-sized cigars, which are labeled “Geniales”. It’s a simple presentation with gold highlights—your standard cabinet selection. The bands veer from the ornate styling of recent AJ cigars, opting for a very simplistic approach—having an off-white/red color scheme and “Last Call” printed in Brush Script across the front. It’s a very bare-bones look, reminding me of a cigar you’d smoke at a dive bar (that’s not an insult).
The size feels great—you don’t find many rothschild vitolas in humidors, especially blends custom-tailored for the size—so it’s nice to have a premium blend made for a shorter smoke.The construction is pretty solid, having a few lumpy spots and scattered veins throughout. The wrapper takes on a medium roast coffee hue, being around Colorado Claro, with just a hint of redness. The wrapper also extends, covering the foot—which is always a nice touch.
The pre-light draw is surprisingly effortless (considering the covered foot), giving plenty of cedar-filled notes.
Puffing while lighting shows the raw notes of the wrapper leaf, giving sharp and spicy qualities. But with a proper toast and light you’ll find a much more balanced profile, offering notes of sweet coffee, caramel, and zesty spice in the retrohale. As the pre-draw indicated, the smoking draw is perfect, giving just a little resistance. Although, the smoke output isn’t quite as nice—producing light and airy clouds of smoke—and occasionally needing a double puff to keep things moving.
It’s medium-bodied with a nice balance of creaminess on the tongue and spices in the retrohale. The primary profile is caramel, cedar, and coffee, although there are building notes of mountainous pine in the background. Construction-wise, it has a wavy burn line that manages to stay in control, producing a solid, chalk-white ash. Around the midpoint, the strength amps up a bit, but never reaches “full” territory. The atmosphere is pleasant and tasty—very “medium”, with semi-sweet character and nice balance—not super complex, but certainly not boring.
Rounding out the experience, the smoke texture becomes a bit more dry. There are lots of organic qualities, with pine, cedar, and florals leading the way; anise and menthol begin to develop in the retrohale. These flavors intensify and eventually merge into harsh territories, like the smell of burning brush, as well as charry attributes.
Would I smoke this cigar again?
I would. I love the size and the flavors are very pleasant and balanced, with just the right amount of sweetness. I think AJ was right on when marketing this for a morning coffee pairing/late night, night cap smoke. And while the company advertises it as a 30 minute smoke, you can easily get 45 – 60 minutes—it’s a pretty slow burner. The price is easily justifiable on Last Call, and actually feels much more premium than the $5 tag suggests. Grab a box-split or even a full box (if the profile suits you) and throw these next to your Illusione *R* Rothchildes.
- Perfect draw
- Great balance
- Superb value
- Decent smoke output
- Low complexity/progression
- Flavors harshen in final 3rd