AJ Fernandez is everywhere in the cigar world. He seems to be doing it all, and all at the same time. But as much as his name seems to be attached to roughly 1/4 of the cigars on the market today—whether personally blended by AJ Fernandez, produced at one of his associated factories, or simply borrowing tobaccos from his Nicaraguan farms—the AJ Fernandez Cigar Company itself has a smaller footprint in the cigar industry than you might otherwise expect. Still, it may seem surprising that the newly launched Enclave Broadleaf is AJF Cigar Co.’s first official Connecticut Broadleaf cigar. Yes, AJ has blended cigars for other brands using Connecticut Broadleaf (and AJ’s own Last Call Maduro uses broadleaf seed, only grown in Nicaragua), but here we see the company’s first official usage of the popular leaf in the AJF portfolio.
The genesis of the original Enclave line (which by most standards is a bargain amongst premium cigar pricing) revolved around the idea of brotherhood and community created through cigars. The sharing of time and experience, the camaraderie, the sense of belonging to something… this is the soul of Enclave. So, with Enclave Broadleaf, we can widen the circle of community and welcome our maduro-loving brothers and sisters into the fold, albeit at a slightly higher price point. The cigar made it’s debut at the 2017 IPCPR show, two years after the original Enclave release.
According to the company, Fernandez was inspired to create Enclave Broadleaf after the Enclave Churchill vitola was awarded the #20 spot on Cigar Aficionado’s top 25 list in 2016. “A.J. was smoking the original Enclave after receiving [placement on] the Top 25 last year, and wondered what it would taste like with Connecticut broadleaf, which surprisingly he seldom uses, and he absolutely loved the taste,” commented Frank Santos (AJ Fernandez Cigars marketing director) in an interview with Cigar Aficionado.
Enclave Broadleaf Robusto Breakdown
- Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Nicaraguan (Pueblo Nuevo | Estelí | Jalapa)
- Factory: Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5″ × 52 Robusto
- Price: $8.50 (MSRP)
This is, obviously, not the same cigar as the “OG” Enclave. Not only does the Broadleaf feature a departure from the original’s Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, there is a new binder and filler bunch as well. In addition to the Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, we see a Nicaraguan binder in place of the original Cameroon. Also new is a filler blend from Pueblo Nuevo, Jalapa, and Estelí, whereas the original contained fillers that were listed as “AJ Fernandez Nicaraguan and AJ Fernandez Piloto Cubano.” So this is a reworked blend all around and not just a new wrapper on the previous offering. There’s also a bump in price, as the Enclave Broadleaf Robusto goes for $8.50 (MSRP), or $1.35 more per cigar.
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The cigars feature a very attractive maduro wrapper that is free of defects and completely uniform both in terms of color and texture. A light tooth gives the impression of both velvet and fine grit sandpaper. The richly colored, espresso bean-hued wrapper has a secret sparkle to it that reveals itself under sunlight—reminds me of what you have on your clothes after a night at the gentleman’s club… There are a couple of noticeable veins and the seams are barely noticeable—some occasional bumps and lumps, but overall this is about as nice looking as any broadleaf cigar you’re likely to come across. What really strikes me, though, is the usage of red and gold on the label, which I so often associate with habanos. To see those colors used on a deep dark broadleaf-wrapped cigar creates an interesting contrast. Also, the colors don’t match between the main band and the secondary AJ band. I’m not sure if that’s intentional, but it looks like something that was overlooked to me. This may not matter to most, but after a few years as a graphic designer, you just can’t not see these things. The combination of labels is so large it practically covers half the cigar. I like the look of the original much better, with it’s die-cut shape, geometric patterns, and turquoise colors resemblant of southwestern art.
The foot of the cigar shows a bunching of tobaccos of uniform shade. The cap is ugly, with one tiny “yarmulke” cap on the top, the second cap extending down nearly half an inch underneath. The cigars are uniformly packed, without soft or hard spots, and all samples appear consistent with each other.
The body of the cigar wants you to know right off that this is a broadleaf wrapper. It’s got sweetness, coffee, and chocolate aromas that are underscored by wet autumn leaves, with a hint of dog blanket. Yet somehow that is a winning combination. From the foot I smell chocolate Teddy Grahams, spicy peppers, creaminess, and dried fruits. The cold draw is chocolate malted milk, wet earth, and tobacco sweetness. I’m ready for this.
Initial puffs are really not what I was expecting, as it starts out with a sweet, fruity tartness that reminds me of dried apricots. Then, late in the finish, a slow creeping piquant Thai chile warmth. The chocolate milk from the cold draw is present, but I’m having a hard time discerning much else at this point. Nearing an inch into the cigar and my mouth is suddenly coated with creaminess (not just flavor, but a mouthfeel as well). The profile remains pleasingly bright overall as I near the end of the first third. I’m going to peg the strength at medium/full and still moving forward. Construction is good. A solid inch of ash drops off unannounced as I set the cigar down. The burn line is straight and draw is good, just 2% too open to be considered perfect.
The second third doesn’t see much change, with an uptick in the strength department, hovering right under full strength. Flavor and body both are at a lesser degree, perhaps due to the ever so slightly open draw. The dominant notes are still the bright fruitiness, chocolate, and the earthiness now transformed to light-roasted, ground coffee. There are no noticeable changes heading into the final third.
I’m really quite surprised at how this isn’t a standard earth/wood/leather/chocolate broadleaf flavor profile. Before smoking these, I joked with a friend that my review would read, “It’s like taking one of my favorite cigars (the regular Enclave), wrapping it in musty wet leaves from the gutter, putting it under the saddle of a camel, and marching across the desert.” Instead, it has this bright, fruity characteristic that leads mellow, creamy chocolate, some cedar, and bright light roasted coffee. It’s surprising and enjoyable, yet not very complex. The tanginess increases as we get to the final inch, and I’m reminded of chewy SweeTARTS candy. The spiciness returns in the form of mild white peppercorn, which makes me aware that it hadn’t really been around for a while. It’s not really adding much. Construction and burn remain very good. The cigar is no longer tangy so much as it has become sour at this point, like Lemonhead candy. It’s not unpleasant, so much as unexpected… almost jarring.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I’m as big of an AJ Fernandez fan as anyone, and I enjoy a tasty broadleaf-wrapped cigar, but these cigars didn’t really fit my expectations of those two categories. It was an interesting cigar—great construction, flavorful (at times), but I wanted more. Who knows, maybe after six months of humidor time these might take on a different tone and warrant a box purchase, but as of now I’ll stick with the regular Enclave.
- Flavor: Medium
- Strength: Medium-Plus
- Body: Medium
- Sour Fruit
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Sweet Tea, Chocolate Porter, Vanilla Latte
- Purchase Recommendation: 2 (a couple singles to try)
- 1st Connecticut Broadleaf blend by AJF Cigar Co.
- A decent value
- Not complex
- Tangy/sour note gets boring
- No standout flavor