La amistad—friendship, to those who don’t speak the romance language of Spanish. It is certainly an apt description for the relationship that A.J. Fernández has with the premium cigar industry right now. His finger prints are all over the place, including, very clearly, at General Cigar Company. In a project under the Hoyo de Monterrey brand, Hoyo by AJ Fernandez has released Gold, Silver and now Black lines under the series. Where previous releases between the two parties may have felt ephemeral, as if the two entities were testing the waters, La Amistad Black seems to cement the friendship between Fernández and General/Hoyo de Monterrey.
General Cigar Company, or perhaps more accurately, the cigar industry, certainly has given Fernández the freedom to be himself. But maybe more insightful is that Fernandez’s relationships have effectively allowed him to free himself. Countless projects and collaborations over recent years have truly spread the wings of one of the industry’s best. I recently spoke with Foundation Cigar’s own Nicholas Melillo (a frequent associate of Fernández), who exclaimed, “He [Fernández] just loves tobacco! He’ll buy tobacco that he isn’t even working with (yet), because he simply loves tobacco!”
La Amistad Black Rothschild Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadoran Sumatra Oscuro
- Binder: Mexican San Andrés
- Filler: Nicaraguan Habano
- Factory: Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 4½″ × 50 (Rothschild)
- Price: $7.29 (MSRP)
This cigar’s tobaccos are as varied as Fernández’s offerings from General. The dark wrapper hails from Ecuador and is of the Sumatran variety with an oscuro shade. The filler is quintessential Nicaraguan, sandwiched by a San Andréan leaf from Mexico in the binder. While the filler and binder are two of Fernández’s trademarks, the Ecuadorian Sumatra Oscuro leaf is a shinning outlier for the master blender.
The cigar is dark—almost black (too on-the-nose?)—and has a leathery texture to the touch. There are plenty of oils brimming from the leaf and it takes a close eye to notice any tooth or vein. It’s an attractive cigar, no doubt. There are two bands, the primary of which carries a wide breadth of imagery. “HOYO” is spelled out on a circular layout, with each letter encased in a segment of a silver cross. The color scheme features that of silver, black, and red. The secondary band, the signature, is red with A.J. Fernández’s name in silver.
This cigar offers little aroma prior to cut and light, though the foot gives a subtle hint of pepper. Upon cutting the cigar, I notice the cap coming off effortlessly and almost absent of debris.
Click images below for full resolution
I take the time to explore the pre-light draw—an amount of time that turned up little of note. Un-ripe grape, subtle pepper, and wood notes come through on the dry draw and actually translate to the toasted foot aroma as well. The wood is more pronounced and creates an initial rustic ambiance that reminds one of a campfire. I light my cigar with my S.T. Dupont miniJet for both samples smoked for review, and the draw is initially superb—a slight resistance with plenty of smoke. As I work my way into the cigar, it’s technically sound, but the flavor has me going back and forth in a confusing manner. At times, sour grape sweetness and oaky notes seem to dominate. Then I suddenly get kicked with deep, luscious espresso notes and a spicier hit of red pepper.
Just when I begin to think the cigar is complex, it seemingly digresses back to previous notes. The cigar is a roller coaster, with a war waged between a spiked coffee and a very, very young chardonnay. César Chávez once exclaimed, “The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It’s always about the people.” Well, there’s at least one instance when that is not the case. The semi-sweet, dry chardonnay grape flavor takes this round, but don’t worry, there’s more.
There’s one final turn into this experience. That draw, that beautiful, defining draw is gone. As I reach the final portion of the cigar, it’s as if someone, and not slowly, left the gate open, forcing a typhoon of espresso, dry grape, and oak-filled smoke onto my palate all at once, leaving an inordinately dry finish. Curiously, a very distinct walnut note seems to accent the cigar just before completion, as if to say, “Pardon me, I wasn’t through.”
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Probably, but it’s not one I would seek high and low for. If nothing else, curiosity would get the best of me. The aging experiment nerd in me has my wheels spinning a little.
- A worthy item of note is the ash. It’s solid, white, and free of almost any lines. It reminds me of how cigars look in illustrations. Just a perfect image.
- Flavor: Medium
- Strength: Medium-full
- Body: Medium-full
- Chardonnay grape
- Smoke Time: 45 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Milk stout | Sweeter bourbon | Latte | Lemon tart | English muffin with blackberry preserves
- Purchase Recommendation: Try one
- Keen espresso flavor
- Solid, long ash
- Awkward flavor combination
- Sharp flavor changes, yet seemingly one-dimensional
- Occasional, off-putting sour and dry notes