Aganorsa Leaf Signature Selection represents the culmination of more than two years of restructuring from the Fernández family and their Aganorsa Leaf (formerly Casa Fernandez) brand. The first signs of such change came in 2016, where the company introduced the Guardian of the Farm and Aganorsa Leaf TABSA cigars. Both lines featured dramatically different designs for the company, whose cigars typically showcased very traditional appearances.
With Guardian of the Farm, the cigar was a collaboration between Warped Cigars and Casa Fernandez, featuring a modernized look much more on par with Warped’s lineup than Casa Fernandez’s. And with Aganorsa Leaf TABSA, the cigars highlighted both the Fernández family’s own tobacco-growing conglomerate, Agricola Ganadera Norteña S.A. (AGANORSA), as well as their Estelí-based factory, Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA). This cigar’s band and logo design also offered a much cleaner style for Aganorsa Leaf, and would later be transitioned to be used as the overall look for the entire company.
In November of 2017, it was announced that Terence Reilly, formerly of Quesada Cigars, would join the Casa Fernandez sales team, hired with the title of Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Terence was known for his work with Quesada, popularizing the old-fashioned brand with today’s modern consumer, and it was expected that he’d help to usher in an updated feel for Casa Fernandez as well. This began with the announcement that Casa Fernandez would change its name to Aganorsa Leaf, updating the brand’s logo, website, and streamlining some of the cigars offered.
Then, in June, the company announced the Aganorsa Leaf Signature Selection, a showpiece cigar that became the first new brand under the company’s new direction.
Signature Selection Robusto Breakdown
- Wrapper: Rosado Claro Corojo ’99 (Jalapa)
- Binder: Corojo ’99 (Nicaragua)
- Filler: Nicaragua (Criollo ’98 | Corojo ’99 | Medio Tiempo)
- Factory: TABSA (Nicaragua)
- Production: Seasonal (500 boxes/size)
- Vitola: 5″ x 52 (Robusto)
- Price: $9.74 (MSRP)
Aganorsa Leaf Signature Selection is blended by Max Fernández, son of company owner Eduardo Antonio Fernández Pujals. The project is designed to reflect the upper tier of the updated Aganorsa Leaf portfolio, showcasing a puro blend grown exclusively on the Fernández family’s Nicaraguan farms. The cigar uses a select Rosado Claro Corojo ’99 wrapper, which was grown in Jalapa. Adding to the intrigue, the blend makes use of a small amount (half a leaf) of medio tiempo tobacco in the filler. Medio tiempo, harvested from the top of the tobacco plant (above ligero), is a rare priming that is found on a small percentage of crops; for Aganorsa, only 50 to 80 bales of tobacco out of the annual harvest of 14,000 bales are medio tiempo (around half a percent).
While the cigars are not limited edition, they will only be produced in small batches annually. For 2018, four sizes have been rolled, each consisting of 500 boxes of 20 cigars per size (apart from the 25-count boxes of the Corona Gorda format), with prices ranging from $9 to $12.
Cigars smoked for review use the pre-release banding. This is essentially the same look, only being of a lower-grade paper and using a matte finish. And while I must admit that the glossy look of the final product—shown off at IPCPR 2018—is more polished and eye-catching, the bands look surprisingly good in their pre-release form as well.
It’s a very clean appearance that manages to feel both modern and retro at the same time, with the scripted font having a vintage baseball feel, while the clean lines and textures feel very Apple-esque and modern. There is also a similarly designed sub-band that showcases the signature of Max Fernández, with the cigar’s name overlaid in gold ink. There is also a pin-striped gold foil foot band that runs from the foot to the sub-band, covering the bulk of the cigar. Overall, it’s a really nice look for the company (probably their best ever), highlighting the brand’s respect for tradition and rejuvenated outlook moving forward.
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The cigar itself is a simple robusto (differing from the ornate styles of the Belicoso and Corona Gorda formats), displaying tight seams and a Cuban-style triple cap. The wrapper has a classic Habano shade (on the tan side), with a few off-colored streaks from head to toe. With a squeeze, there is a solid feel, like papier-mâché, alluding to a dense filler bunch.
The robusto’s wrapper was fairly aromatic, with notes of leather, musk, tang, and cedar. On the foot, I found additional notes of hazelnut spice and cedar. The pre-light draw is slightly firm, but is nothing to worry about; this shows subtle flavors of tang, leather, and basement must.
A generic cracked peppercorn sensation races across the tongue within the cigar’s first few puffs; this isn’t a nostril-stinging spice, but more so a dull sensation on the taste buds. Within the first half-inch there are hints towards sweetness, as well as a long-lasting spice (reminiscent of a habanero pepper) in the throat on the finish. But it isn’t all spice (not to be confused with allspice, of which there is a light dose in the retrohale) for the Signature Selection, as softer qualities of milk and graham crackers begin to emerge between the half-inch and one-inch marks. As an added bonus, the sensation of the cut, raw tobacco against the tongue is superb—giving a tart and tangy sensation that adds complexity to every puff. In this portion, I’d describe the overall experience as being a great balance between spice and sweetness.
Like the pre-light draw, the smoking draw is ever so slightly tight (around 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10). This certainly isn’t a deal breaker, but the smoke output does seem to be affected, bringing medium-light bursts of smoke on each puff. As with most cigars using Aganorsa leaf, the Signature Selection is medium on nearly all fronts, being medium-light in strength, medium-plus in flavor, and dead medium in body. Construction-wise, the cigar performs like a champ; the ash stacks in solid, two-inch segments, and the burn line is straight, with only the slightest waver.
As the smoke runs across the palate, the taste buds are triggered in roughly this order: salt, acidity, sweetness. The sweet and mouthwatering qualities of the smoke (most likely due to the use of Jalapa-grown tobaccos in the blend) make for some fantastic flavor combinations, ranging from salted butter, to sourdough, to buttermilk—which causes a mouth-puckering reaction in a pleasing, sour-candy sort of way. Additional flavors in the cigar’s midsection include wheat, grain-heavy Scotch, butterscotch, and a long vanilla finish.
There is little in the way of change between the second and final third. The cigar is medium in strength and body, with a medium-full flavor output. And while the overall profile is very similar (perhaps darker), there are additional notes of malt and what I perceive to be Waffle Crisp Cereal—which is essentially wheat, corn, oats, and maple syrup, all baked into the crispy goodness of my ’90s childhood.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Absolutely. This cigar provides loads of (primarily milk and grain-based) flavor at a surprisingly attainable price point. While the limited nature of the project will certainly make this a hard one to smoke regularly, I’d be quick to throw this in my monthly rotation if my humidor rations permitted.
- Aganorsa Leaf Signature Selection was shipped to retail on September 12th, roughly two months after first debuting at IPCPR 2018.
- Arsenio Ramos, a cigar legend and master blender / tobacco specialist, passed away only three days after Signature Selection was released in September—he was 83 years old. Arsenio spent roughly 45 years working with Cuban tobaccos in Pinar del Río, later transitioning to work with the Fernández family for another 18 years. He is often credited for giving the unique profile that AGANORSA tobaccos have become known.
- While other brands made at the TABSA factory have begun to incorporate medio tiempo into their top tier cigars over the years, this is the first (advertised) time the Aganorsa Leaf (or Casa Fernandez) brand has created such a blend.
- With most blends that use medio tiempo, I usually find that the cigar becomes too dark and influenced by the tobacco; typically requiring two-plus years of age to round the blend out. This was not the case with Signature Selection Robusto, being sweet, smooth and buttery—more in line with the Cohiba Behike BHK (recognized as the cigar to popularize medio tiempo) than with most other medio tiempo cigars I’ve smoked.
- Flavor: Medium-Plus
- Strength: Medium
- Body: Medium
- Graham crackers
- Salted butter
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Medium-roast coffee, Wheatwine ale, Scotch whisky, Chocolate chip cookies
- Purchase Recommendation: Box purchase
- Solid construction
- No unwanted flavors from start to finish
- Generous price point
- Slightly firm draw / low smoke output
- While the flavor profile is satisfying, the consistent sweetness can become monotonous