Industry veteran Michael Argenti has partnered with Angel Aguayo and by extension, Abdel J. Fernandez (of AJ Fernandez fame) to introduce a special project he’s had in the works for the better part of 10 years. Best known for his work with Berger & Argenti, Tabacalera Perdomo, and Cuban Imports (focusing on US market versions of brands like Por Larrañaga), Argenti announced his pet project earlier this year; with the brand’s official launch coming weeks later, in mid-March.
The brand’s first offering is a self-titled project, showcasing the new La Gran Llave name. Aside from the obvious benefits of the cigar’s origin at the esteemed Fernandez factory, the brand advertises its focus on using select, well-aged crops exclusively—all while retaining a manageable price point.
La Gran Llave Robusto Breakdown
- Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
- Binder: Ecuador Habano
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera Fernandez S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5″ × 54 Robusto
- Price: $8.00
La Gran Llave (pronounced “yä-vā”, if my high school Spanish serves me right) takes on a sophisticated look—the bands use a heavy, textured paper, with a high contrast of black, gold, and red. There is also a sub-band with the designation “Reserva No. E560FE”. And on the backside of the band, there is the skeleton key icon—this represents the cigar’s English translation “The Big Key”.
The cigar is short and stout, with a nearly symmetrical square-press shape. There are mostly light veins running down the wrapper, with the exception of one large and prominent vein that looks out of place. The seams are invisible though, leading to what appears to be a double cap. It feels about medium-firm on the bunch and looks to be an overall solid construction. The wrapper appears a bit lighter than your average San Andrés—I’d still call it maduro but not by much. All things considered, it has a presentation that far exceeds the $8 price point—if I’d have guessed, I’d peg it around the $12 region.
On the nose there are aromas of cinnamon, stone fruit, and a more distant manure note—it’s not a very aromatic cigar though. The pre-light draw feels about medium, with subtle wood/pencil shavings notes.
La Gran Llave starts out strong—big blasts of flavor on each puff. The profile is hearty, having a vegetable stew feel to it. The most salient notes are of bell peppers, white cracked pepper, and a tangy spice in the retrohale. The draw is about medium-firm—it has a good resistance to it but it could be a tick easier to be in the “perfect” range. But the smoke output is definitely above average, so I’m pleased.
Most of the hearty flavors described above begin to calm as the smoke progresses. These notes are still available through larger (hotter) puffs, but with a small draw you’ll find sweeter notes of cedar. There is also an interesting musky/leather essence around this point—think old leather baseball mitt…
The profile is very close to “full flavor”, with around medium strength and body. It’s a very balanced experience, with no single element dominating the profile. Flavors remain fairly hearty, especially with the larger puffs—this brings black pepper and a savory/sweet note of pork carnitas. Aged tobacco and cinnamon round out the smoke for a fairly complex experience at around the halfway point in the cigar.
In the second half, you won’t find too many surprises. The strength creeps up to about medium-plus and the flavors hit a highlight of dessert-like nougat—all before delving into the commonly found “dark” portion. This brings caramelized/burnt nuts, heavy syrup, and burnt bread.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
No question. This is a very flavorful cigar with a fair price—I’d personally buy 10 of these to have around when I need something to jumpstart the palate. But for the big San Andrés fan, this is easily a box purchase. Every puff provides a surprisingly good complexity and a high amount of flavor. I wouldn’t say it’s the most dynamic experience from start to finish, transitioning between each third, but the easily-enjoyable flavor on each puff is hard to deny.
- Full flavor
- Nice amount of complexity on each puff
- Excellent value
- Second half dips in flavor output
- Could use a little more flavor progression from start to finish
- A few minor touchups throughout