AJ’s booth was noticeably larger than in years past. The vibe was similar, only the fortress had been fortified – higher walls and complete coverage from all sides… Sometimes these booths begin to resemble strategy games (hello Warcraft and Clash of Clans!)
Strangely, the focus seemed nearly split between newcomer (and partner) La Gran Llave and the AJ Fernandez brand – as LGL only has one product (distributed by AJ), whereas AJ has a very deep roster.
Word of AJ’s latest project began making its way around cigar news outlets a few months before the show. Interest peeked when respected personality Skip Martin (of RoMa Craft) intimated the new blend could be the cigar of the year.
The cigar takes on a similar, classic/old-world vibe as AJ’s recent releases over the past few years (New World, Enclave), showcasing a painted mural on the band and ornate box vista artwork. AJ has become well-known over the years for his high flavor to price ratio, blending many of today’s most popular value-priced cigars. Bellas Artes doesn’t completely buck the trend, but manages to creep into the medium ($10) range.
The cigar boasts a special, proprietary wrapper for AJ, using an ambitious hybrid of US Connecticut seed (50%), Corojo ’99 (25%), and Havana 2000 (25%) – the result has been dubbed “Rojita”. The blend is filled out by a diverse mixture of tobaccos from 3 countries. The cigars arrive in 4 semi-box-pressed sizes and are now shipping in boxes of 20.
- Wrapper: Rojita (proprietary hybrid)
- Binder: Havana ’92 (Quilalí, Nicaragua)
- Filler: Nicaragua (Estelí, Condega & Jalapa) | Honduras | Brazil
- Factory: Tabacalera Fernandez S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Release
- Packaging: 20-ct boxes
- Vitolas: 4 (semi-box-pressed)
- Price: $8.25 – $10.50
- Release: Now Shipping
- Short Churchill: 6 x 48 | $8.25
- Robusto Extra: 5½ x 52 | $8.75
- Toro: 6 x 54 | $9.50
- Gordo: 6½ x 58 | $10.50
Boxes of the new, limited edition Hoyo La Amistad were on display, although these will be distributed by General Cigar.
Last Call Maduro boxes were also on display, bringing a similar Nicaraguan blend as the original cigars, featuring a new Pennsylvania Broadleaf maduro wrapper. Both Last Call and Last Call Maduro will be available in the original 4½” × 48 “Geniales” rothschild size, as well as 4 additional vitolas, which begin shipping in September.
- Chiquitas: 3½ x 50
- Corticas: 4 x 52
- Geniales: 4½ × 48
- Pequeñas: 5 x 46
- Flaquitas: 6 x 46
AJ will be introducing an extension to the popular San Lotano series with the new San Lotano Edición Limitada. No official information was available, other than teasing hints as to a more deluxe, limited, and stronger experience for the brand.
AJ is also planning an extension to the New World series introduced in 2014. The cigars are dubbed “Free World” and feature four sizes in 20-ct boxes. Almost all information is undisclosed at the moment, but word is they will most likely use a “dark Habano” wrapper and a medium/full body profile.
- Robusto: 5½ x 50
- Toro: 6½ x 50 (box-pressed)
- Toro Grande: 6½ x 56
- Robusto Gordo: 6 x 58