Perfect Pairings - Dictador 12 Year Rum & Hoyo La Amistad by AJ Fernandez

 
 

Every year, the entire cigar industry gathers for the IPCPR Trade Show and Convention. As a magazine, we’ve been present at the show for the last 10 years, handing out magazines as well as reviewing all of the new products being released. When I say “new products,” that usually means cigars upon cigars upon cigars — but this year the show had a little twist. A most welcome twist!

As we were setting up our booth the day before the show opened, we noticed the booth for a company called Dictador (dictador.com) setting up nearby. The branding for the company was unlike that of most cigar companies; it looked like a giant Hugo Boss or Calvin Klein advertisement. Well produced black and white images with high-fashion styling, male and female models smoking cigars and drinking spirits. Not sure what to make of this company, we paid them a visit toward the end of the first day of the show.

We had just run through the new product presentation at General Cigar, where we had a chance to smoke the new Hoyo La Amistad by AJ Fernandez (hoyocigars.com) and instantly fell in love with the smoke. It had the characteristic AJ Fernandez pepper and earth, a touch of sweetness, and a very smooth and creamy texture. We were halfway through the cigar when we arrived at the Dictador booth. Instead of talking about their line of cigars, the first thing they did was pour a taste of their Dictador 12-year-old rum. It was a spectacular and serendipitous pairing! We eventually moved on from the rum and were able to sample their line of cigars as well, but the seeds for this pairing had already been planted.

The pairing

You’ve heard this one before, but your best chance for success in a pairing is to match the levels of intensity first, then deal with the complementary flavors second. That’s the beauty of this pairing, the Hoyo’s pepper zing is met toe to toe by the rum’s caramel and honey sweetness. The best way to pair these two is to fire up the cigar first. The intensity of the pepper, earth, and cedar in the cigar builds as it goes, starting smooth and medium-bodied, then quickly ramps up after the first half inch. As the pepper noticeably intensifies and lingers on in the finish, that’s when the rum can really make its mark. The caramel, honey, and alcohol in the rum cut through the cigar’s core of pepper and earth beautifully.

Perfect Pairings - Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot & Archetype Strange Passage

 
 

We love funky product names, especially when there are cool stories behind them. But all of that means nothing if the funky-named product isn’t any good.

Lagunitas has been brewing exceptional beer with exceptionally strange names in Northern California since 1993. It all comes from the mind of founder and owner Tony Magee, who came up with not only the odd names (like A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale, Lagunitas Sucks, 12th of Never Ale, and Wilco Tango Foxtrot) and their corresponding bottle artwork, but more importantly all of the recipes. The brewery has experienced tremendous growth and its beer is now available in 35 states. The Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot, one of the brewery’s most popular seasonal releases, was originally introduced back in 2009 and has been the source of some Internet “controversy” regarding the name. The band Wilco and their followers apparently claim the beer was named after them and their controversial 2001 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The brewery denies those claims.

Ventura Cigar Company, also based in California, has had its fair share of peculiar brand names for cigars. You have the Psyko, Project 805, Pura Sangre, Slaughterhouse, and one of their new brands, Archetype. Now, Archetype itself is not super strange, but the sub-brand names, which were inspired by Joseph Campbell’s famous book, Hero of a Thousand Faces, will certainly make you stop and think. The book, which is a study of the archetypal hero in world mythology, has seeped into popular culture by influencing the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Bob Dylan, and George Lucas (among others). You can now add the folks over at Ventura Cigar Company to that group! The Archetype brand features Dreamstate, Sage Advice, Strange Passage, Initiation, and Axis Mundi. The first three lines are made by Davidoff, Dreamstate and Sage Advice are made in Davidoff’s DR facilities, and Strange Passage is produced in their Honduras factory. Initiation and Axis Mundi are manufactured by Drew Estate in Nicaragua.

The pairing

The Archetype Strange Passage is a beautifully constructed, soft-pressed cigar with a velvety smooth wrapper. The cigar starts smooth and elegant with plenty of pepper, oak, coffee, and a touch of earth. The beer’s heavy and rich malty sweetness play perfectly with the cigar’s oaky pepper characteristic. Afterward, the malt from the beer and the intensified coffee notes in the cigar take turns being dominant.

10 Cigar Smoking Faux Pas

When we ran this in the July/August 2009 issue, it became an instant classic. The response was so strong that we felt compelled to respond to the demand by printing it again in September/October 2012. For the third time, here are our illustrated cigar faux pas; we’re still inviting you to let us know which ones we missed by tweeting at @cigarsnobmag with the hashtag #CIGARFAUXPAS. We’ll pick our favorites for illustration and share them in an upcoming issue.

 
 

Brand Breakdown: Villiger San'Doro

Villiger's newest premium release is San'Doro. We got the lowdown on the new brand in this interview with René Castañeda, President of Villiger North America.

 
 

Where does this cigar's name come from and what does it mean?
It comes from the Latin indorum sana sancta, which translates to “the holy healing plant of the Indians.” This is the name that Columbus gave to tobacco and what he put in his records in Latin. They called it san’doro for short.

Tell me a bit about the product. What was the impetus for adding this to the portfolio? Does it fill some void or meet a specific need for Villiger?
The main thing is that we want to make sure Villiger is perceived as a premium cigar maker. People worldwide know Villiger as being the premium manufacturer of machine-made cigars. So we’re trying to come with great cigars from great factories in order to get that perception — for people to also see us that way in the premium segment with great blends and great cigars.

The Villiger San’Doro, we think, is a super premium cigar, but we tried to keep it at a nice price point between $8 and $10.

It comes with three different wrappers. We have the San’Doro Claro, San’Doro Colorado, and San’Doro Maduro. The Maduro is the strongest one. It’s medium- to full-bodied and it’s made in Brazil. We do have a premium cigar factory in Brazil, in Bahia, and it’s called Charutos. So of the three cigars, this is the only one that we make in our own factory and it has a mata fina wrapper with mata norte binder and filler. Because of the mata fina, it’s a very sweet, smooth cigar. You get the aroma of dried fruit with a touch of spice. It’s 100 percent Brazilian tobacco. For Mr. Villiger, after Cuban tobacco, Brazilian is the one he likes and enjoys the most.

The other two are the Colorado and the Claro. They’re both made by Oliva Cigars in Nicaragua. The Colorado has an Ecuador Habano colorado wrapper with Nicaraguan binder and filler. It’s more of a medium-bodied cigar — very smooth, but with rich, intense flavors of espresso and dark chocolate. We’re not talking about strength, but heavy flavor.

The Claro is on the mild to medium side. Also made by Oliva, it has an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper and Nicaraguan filler and binder. This one is more of a mellow, easy-going cigar with woody notes and a bit of spice. It’s a cigar you can have in the morning with your coffee.

You mentioned that part of the goal here is to affect the perception so people see Villiger as a producer of premium handmade cigars. It's not the first time Villiger has been in that space. Tell me about how the thinking is different with this product than it has been with the comany's other premium releases.
This time, we’re trying to support the credibility of our products by the partners we’re working with. That’s the reason we chose, with this brand, to go with a great cigar maker like Oliva. In a way, we are giving more credibility to our premium cigars by working with the right partners. We want their expertise and knowledge to help us put the best products out there at the best price possible.

What do the production numbers look like? How many of these are being made and how widely available will they be?
The product is already available in Europe. The production we have is about 60,000 cigars on each one of the three variations for this year. For the rest of the year, we’re going to have about 25,000 of those 60,000 cigars for each blend available in the U.S., with the rest being distributed in Europe.

It’s not like we’re going to be everywhere. We’re going to work with the best stores that have been supporting our products. We want people to try our cigars and take small steps to change the perception of Villiger premium cigars.

How do Europeans perceive the Villiger brand?
It’s very strong there. As you know, Villiger is the fifth-largest cigar company in the world. We also have distribution in some countries that get Habanos products. So the doors are open to Villiger cigars in any premium cigar shop in Europe. We don’t have to work on that credibility; the credibility is already there. We’re well established in the two segments of the market: as a machine-made cigar and as a premium cigar maker.

Most of the production of premium cigars that we have today is sold in Europe and our partners now are people like Oliva, Joya de Nicaragua, and now we’re working on new projects with La Aurora.

From the U.S. market, what has been the reaction of people you've had try these cigars so far?
Actually, people are very surprised — in a positive way — about the product. The fact that two of the blends are made by great people like Oliva makes our life easier when we need to get people to give the cigars a real chance. They’re not just telling me out of courtesy, “René, you’re a nice guy. This is a good cigar.” It’s because we have a great cigar maker behind the brand and people are impressed that we’re working with this caliber of factory to make great cigars.

It's hard to miss when you're working with Oliva.
Absolutely. That has been a key element in order for us to knock on doors and ask people to smoke and appreciate our products.

Will distribution be concentrated in any particular parts of the United States?
We’re focusing mainly in three areas, and then we’ll work step by step to expand to other areas. We’re talking about Florida, the Northeast — meaning New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania — and California. Those are our main three target markets for the brand right now. From there. We’ll go and open the product to more regions later on in the year. But in the next three months, people will see the product mainly in those three areas.

You're relatively new at Villiger. What's your focus there now that you have had time to get acclimated?
The main challenge has been how to present a cohesive message about Villiger and the products to the U.S. market. Unfortunately, there was no identity for the products in this market. People might have heard about Villiger. If they had, they might have thought it was just a european company making some machine made cigars. They don’t know the company was established in 1888, that it’s one of the oldest players in the market, that we have distribution of Habanos, that we’re one of the few companies that buys tobacco from Cuba for some of the selections in Europe for machine-made cigars. There is a long history as a cigar maker at Villiger, and that’s the main challenge — making sure people know this is a serious cigar maker committed to the U.S. market.

The vitals

San'Doro Claro

 
 

Manufacture: Tabacalera Oliva (Nicaragua)
Wrapper country: Ecuador Connecticut
Binder country: Nicaragua
Filler country: Nicaragua
Price: $8.00 - $9.00
Available in three vitolas:

  • Robusto  (5" x 50)
  • Toro (6" x 50)
  • Churchill (7" x 50)
 
 

San'Doro Colorado

 
 

Manufacture: Tabacalera Oliva (Nicaragua)
Wrapper country: Ecuador
Binder country: Nicaragua
Filler country: Nicaragua
MSRP: $8.00 - $9.00
Available in three vitolas:

  • Robusto (5" x 50)
  • Toro (6" x 50)
  • Churhcill (7" x 50)
 
 

San'Doro Maduro

 
 

Manufacture: Charutos Tobajara Ltda. (Brazil)
Wrapper country: Brazil
Binder country: Brazil
Filler country: Brazil
MSRP: $8.50
Available in one vitola: Toro (6" x 50)

 
 

Cusano Dominican Connecticut makes its way to U.S. stores in April

A box of Cusano Dominican Connecticut Robustos; this and three other vitolas will arrive at U.S. tobacconists in April 2016. (Image: Oettinger Davidoff AG)

A box of Cusano Dominican Connecticut Robustos; this and three other vitolas will arrive at U.S. tobacconists in April 2016. (Image: Oettinger Davidoff AG)

Oettinger Davidoff announced the release of Cusano Dominican Connecticut today, calling the release a response to demand for products that bring both quality and value. The blend includes Dominican fillers and an Ecuador Connecticut binder and wrapper.

“This line is designed for aficionados seeking the daily pleasure of a great-tasting cigar at excellent value, to enjoy calmly at their leisure or share with friends,” read a press release issued by Davidoff.

The cigar will be available in four vitolas: Toro (6 x 50), Robusto (5 x 50), Churchill (7 x 48), and Gordo (6 x 60). Retail prices range from $4.49 to $5.99 per cigar. Cusano Dominican Connecticut will be available in Europe this month and arrives at U.S. tobacconists in April, at which time Cusano Dominican Maduro will also debut.

Here's the announcement schedule for Top 25 Cigars of 2015

 

Mark your calendars. Cigar Snob will be unveiling its list of the Top 25 Cigars of the 2015 on January 4, 5 and 6.

The list will be released in three parts over three days:

  • January 4: cigars 16-25
  • January 5: cigars 6-15
  • January 6: cigars 1-5

The top five cigars will be announced in a countdown, at one-hour intervals, starting Jan. 6 at 10 a.m., with Cigar Snob’s 2015 Cigar of the Year announcement coming at 2 p.m. that day.
You can keep up with our Top 25 announcements by checking in with us at cigarsnobmag.com or by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.

 

 

Gibraltar

 

Country:  Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Dominican Republic
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic
Price:  $5.25 - $6.90

Available in 4 Sizes:

Corona (5 3/4 X43) [pictured]
Robusto (5 X 50)
Perfecto  (Perfecto)  
Magnum 60 (6 X 60)

Q&A

Robert Caldwell
President Caldwell Cigars

Gibraltar is part of your Seleccion Junior Varsity; these are your lower cost lines, correct?

The idea with JV is that it’s an everyday smoke. Regardless of what we might think of our Caldwell collections, some guys can’t afford it or they don’t want to spend the money. You know, you have all types of smokers. So we didn’t want to alienate anybody and we didn’t want to lose the business so we decided to have a line that was a more cost conscious line. These are cigars that the factory makes and they distribute actually in the Dominican Republic. So they have these three cigars that are made and distributed there and then we basically changed the blend a little bit to make them more amicable to the American market. They come in 10 count boxes so it’s easier to move by the box.

From a quality standpoint, is the level of quality comparable to say a bundled cigar?

No, much higher quality. What we do to save cost is they don’t have the stringent quality control measures applied to them that we have for Caldwell. You’ll notice when you open a box of them, you might have like a disparity in color. Caldwell usually is really in line but the JVs don’t go through a sorting process anything like the Caldwell stuff. So you’ll have one with a more reddish brown next to one with a lighter brown but guys who are smoking a $5 cigar don’t care and it just adds cost. So we take out some of those measures.

Caldwell Collection uses all Grade A tobacco. These use Grade B, which is probably the majority of what is used in a general market cigar. The other thing too with these cigars is that the cost of the tobacco is a bit less and the scarcity is not there. So these tobaccos, they’re just grown in huge quantities on these, where the Caldwell stuff is not. And also the age and things like that that are components with the Caldwell aren’t applied to JV. You don’t have wrappers that are four years old, or two years old, you know, the process is much easier to g et these cigars made.

What about aging? How long does a Caldwell cigar sit in the aging room before being shipped as compared to a JV cigar?

They vary. The Eastern Standard rests about 45 days before it can ship. Long Live the King needs almost 90 days. All the JV stuff usually ships around 40 days. The reason is that all the tobaccos we use in the JV lines play a little bit better.

The branding on these cigars is decidedly Spanish, not Cuban but Spanish. What’s the story with that?

A lot of brands come out and they do like a classic Cuban concept so we came out and we did a classic Spanish concept. The two ports of entry for tobacco in Spain were Gibraltar and Murcia and the first cigar factory was in Sevilla. So we named the brands Gibraltar, Murcias, and Sevillana.

It is interesting that your concept goes to Spain as opposed to Cuba.

Yeah, I had the Caldwell Collection idea lined up and then I was in Spain in November. I go to Spain every year. So I was down in Sevilla and I found out about this history. And I thought that classic Spanish is kind of a fun play on it. When I’m in a store guys ask all the time, ‘What is Gibraltar?’ I’m like ‘Oh it’s a British territory at the southern tip of Spain.’ And then you get to explain that history we just talked about. So it’s something that makes people ask another question.

Speaking of stores, which of your lines are available in s tores and which ar e available online?

Caldwell Collection is only available in brick and mortar stores and that’s due to the production levels. I just don’t think we’ll ever be able to make enough of that to sell beyond B&M. The JV lines however are sold in B&M and online/catalogs.

 

Long Live The King

 

Country:  Dominican Republic
Wrapper:  Dominican Republic
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic, Nicaraguan & Peru
Price:  $9.00 - $12.00

Available in 4 Sizes:

The Heater (5 3/4 X46) [pictured]
My Style is Jalapeno (7 1/4 X 40)
Petit Double Wide Short Churchill (6 X 52)
Marquis (6X60)  

Q&A

Robert Caldwell
President Caldwell Cigars

 

So if the idea of The King is Dead is to set you up to smoke Long Live the King, then I assume LLTK is going to be stronger, right? How strong are we talking?

I’d say it’s on the full side, the lower end of the full side. That’s our full-bodied cigar and for some guys, you know, it wasn’t strong enough. But we didn’t want something that would kick you in the face or lay you out. What we wanted was a cigar that was full of flavor and really complex.

So where do you get inspiration for the blends?

When I went to Leo [Reyes, a tobacco grower in the Dominican Republic], what I asked him for was old tobacco, rare tobacco, tobaccos other people ain’t using. So the first step was smoking pachuches like right off the bale and then finding things that I thought were very unique and then putting them together. So we put the blending car ds on the box that describes exactly what’s in it, but that was the first step. Then blending from there, so literally my whole idea was to use shit that other people don’t use. So by using very aged tobacco, when you smoke the cigar you know the tobacco is old as fuck. It’s reminiscent of brands that you know age the shit out of their tobacco, which to me gives you a very unique flavor profile.

Now there are other tobaccos that we haven’t yet incorporated that are beautiful tobaccos. Like Carbonel, it’s a Dominican grown Habano. You could be at a party full of cigar smoke and you light a cigar with just a little bit of Carbonel in it and the whole room would go (sniff sniff) ‘what’s that?’ It cuts through everything.

You mentioned that the first step in the blending process was to smoke pachuches but most cigar smokers have no idea what you’re talking about.

Yeah a pachuche is a cigar that’s basically made from single origin tobacco. It’s a fucking leaf with another leaf wrapped around it, almost like a cheroot, but it will allow you to taste a single origin tobacco on its own to understand what that tob acco is like.

And literally my first blending trip with Leo, or my first trip down to the DR, was going to Leo’s factory and smoking 20 pachuches, taking the 15 tobaccos that I liked, bringing them to the factory and playing with them. And I mean dude, I’m a fucking 31-year-old white kid from Coral Gables. I’m not a cigar blender. But I have a good palate and along the way I guess I learned what I was doing to a certain extent, like what tobaccos work well with other tobaccos, and then you know, part of it is just luck of the draw. But like all the Caldwell shit I blended all those cigars.

But let’s be clear here when you say you blended those cigars. Obviously the actual blender at the factory has to have a lot of input in there because sometimes you want something, but it wouldn’t work. You may have fallen in love with a beautiful wrapper tobacco but when you try to get it to work in a blend, you need real expertise to pull it of f.

Yeah, and that’s exactly the process. I’ll say ‘I want this tobacco, this tobacco, this tobacco’ and you put them together and they taste great. But they’re missing this or they need that or something like that, and that’s where the Venturas (owners of the factory that manufactures Caldwell Cigars) come in and they’re like we should put this tobacco in because it’ll support this tobacco or take this tobacco out because it’s taking away from this tobacco. So I guess the gross blending process is something that was exclusively mine and the refinement of the cigar to make a finished product was much more William Ventura. You know, some of the tobaccos that I wanted to use, he would recommend modifying this percentage, or using seco here instead of something else. I’ve learned a lot working with the Venturas in this process.

 

The King is Dead

 

Country:  Dominican Republic
Wrapper:  Dominican Republic
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic
Price:  $7.00 - $12.00

Available in 4 Sizes:

Broken Sword (5 X 40)
Premier (5 X 50)
The Last Payday (6X52)  [pictured]
Supreme (7 X 52)

Q&A

Robert Caldwell
President Caldwell Cigars

A lot of things have been said about where the names for The King is Dead and Long Live the King come from but we’d like to hear from you what the names actually mean. Or at least what you’re going to tell us the names mean…

Well, the original idea I had was that sometimes you smoke a cigar and it’s better because of the cigar you smoked right before it, if that makes any sense. You smoke this cigar then when you smoke the second cigar, your palate is in a way that it smokes better and it tastes better. So the original concept that I had was to make two cigars that were very complementary. One is meant to be smoked first, and the next one you smoke right after. So The King Is Dead followed by Long Live the King was the concept; we wanted to have something that was so damn good that you would want to jump to the next one right afterwards.
But, there are some hidden messages in there too…

Like the king ’s throne cut in half ?

Yeah, it’s funny, some people have been able to put it together but we’ll leave it at that .

So what about the actual cigar?

It’s a badass cigar. It’s a sweet cigar. It tastes like milk chocolate. It’s a really good cigar and we’re having our most success with sizes you wouldn’t think. Like our top seller is in the torpedo which is not common. I like it a lot. None of the cigars have like a clean finish, you know? They all have a long finish. They all linger on your palate.

You’re using this “Negrito” tobacco in this blend but not many people know anything about it. Can you give a lit tle background on it?

The history that I was given on Negrito is that it was very popular in the DR back in the ‘50s. However, there are some issues with the leaf; when I first smoked it, it didn’t burn well. I remember smoking pure Negrito back when I was at Wynwood and it was a great cigar but you literally had to have a lighter to it the whole time you were smoking. Like literally torch it to smoke it, but the flavor was very good. And then when you blended it, it didn’t blend. It tasted sour and it just didn’t work. But for some reason I couldn’t get the Negrito tobacco out of my head. 

So when we started making cigars for the Caldwell Collection, the first thing I HAD to do was work with Negrito and at this point the crop had rested long enough and the tobacco was more malleable and we could put it with other tobaccos and it blended better. So The King Is Dead turned out to be Dominican puro utilizing Negrito as the wrapper and also it’s got Negrito as par t of the filler component .

The story of Negrito is the same as like an authentic corojo. It has gotten hybridized to hell and it’s not a true leaf anymore, but Leo Reyes still grows the true Negrito. And it’s an interesting leaf because it’s got to me a flavor component that you just can’t find. It’s got like a milk chocolate and you have like dark chocolate, and a little bit of sour, some sweet, some richness, coffee notes. Collectively it will give you like a dark chocolate kind of flavor, but Negrito, it smokes very different. It’s just a very, very special tobacco. It even looks different; it’s kind of a grayish. You’ve seen the cigars up close, I’m sure, but it’s kind of a weird color. It’s like a grayish brown. It’s not really a brown brown.

It seems like you went to great lengths to find tobacco that tasted different than any other in the marketplace.

Yeah, guys smoke The King is Dead all the time and they’re like ‘I’ve never tasted this before’ and that was the goal. In the whole collection, that was kind of the goal. We don’t want you to smoke our stuff and say ‘Oh this taste like a Pepin’ or ‘This tastes like a Davidoff.’ We want it to be mor e unique.

 

Eastern Standard

 

Country:  Dominican Republic
Wrapper:  Ecuador
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic & Nicaraguan
Price:  $9.00 - $11.00

Available in 3 Sizes:

Euro Express (5 1/2 X44)
Cream Crush (7 X 48)
Corretto (5X50)  [pictured]

Q&A

Robert Caldwell
President Caldwell Cigars

What’s the idea behind the ridiculous story on the packaging?

So the story on our packaging is just to demystify the industry and a lot of the bullshit that’s out there. I have respect for the brands that have the history, however, a lot of companies that are coming out or have just come out are paying homage to a history that they don’t have. So it’s kind of just to cut right through the bullshit.

Who is the dude on the branding?

So the artist who created him is called Evoca1. He does all of our packaging on the Caldwell stuff. I give him names and he creates concepts. So I gave him Eastern Standard and then he gave me like you know, a 65-year-old Russian Oligarch gangster-looking guy.

How did you and Evoca1 begin working together?

Back when I was at Wynwood he walked into the factory and asked if he could paint a [cigar rolling] table. He painted the rabbit table. Then I gave him a wall outside and he did a mural. Now he’s flown all over the world to paint murals in huge cities, major campaigns and he was announced as I think the no. 2 street artist in the world this year.

Now about the cigar itself, what’s your favorite thing about the blend on the Eastern Standard?

To me the most relevant thing has got be the wrapper. This cigar is not a puro, it’s a multi country blend, but the whole concept with Eastern Standard was to pro-vide something that was Connecticutish, but not too Connecticut. So it’s gonna give you like a Connecticut flavor, but it’s got a lot of balls and a lot of body to it, and a lot of depth.

What kind of smoker were you targeting when you created this blend?

The goal of Eastern Standard was something like; I’m not a mild guy, I’m a medium guy, but I like creamy, I like smooth, so you smoke Eastern and it’s gonna be rich, nutty.

Say you’re at an event and a consumer who’s never had Eastern Standard asks you about it. How do you explain it?

The conversation revolves around the fact that it’s mild to medium, so it’s gonna be smooth and creamy. But it’s really, really rich because something that I find is amiss on a lot of Connecticuts is that they’re really rich in terms of cream or smoothness, but they don’t have depth. And Eastern Standard is a deep cigar, like when you smoke it, it’s like a [smacks his lips], it does that to your palate. It’s a great beginner’s cigar, but it is a very complex cigar and it’s got a really deep, rich profile to it.

You occasionally add new sizes to the line. What’s your idea when choosing what sizes you’re going to offer in a particular brand?

My goal with that brand, counter to popular belief, I want to have like nine facings because if it’s gonna be a true connoisseur cigar, if I went to a line of cigars and I liked it but it didn’t have a corona or a lancero, I would not smoke it regardless of how much I liked it...or I might just be an occasional smoker. I smoke four lanceros a day because that’s my size, so I have to consider there are consumers out there who work like I do. I think if you’re building a long-term brand concept that’s luxurious, you need to have enough facings to meet the demand.

 

 

Avo Heritage

 

Country:  Dominican Republic
Wrapper:  Ecuador
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic
Price:  $7.50 - $9.50

Available in 4 Sizes:

Toro (6 X50)  [pictured]
Short Robusto (4 1/2 X 52)
Short Torpedo (4X56)
Special Toro (6X60)

Q&A

Scott Kolesaire
AVO Brand Manager

We talked about the changes that were made to the brand as part of this refresh. We talked about a new tagline, new swag for events, and about how you trimmed the fat from the brand, but we’ve seen that the boxes have changed significantly. What’s behind that change?

The brand has been around for almost 30 years and it was time to update it. We switched from 25-count boxes to 20-count boxes. We moved away from the old cabinet style box to the 10-on-top-of-10 hinged box. By doing this, we allow the cigar to be the hero and it doesn’t get lost inside of a cabinet box after you remove the first row. The wider box also allows us more space to give the consumer some tasting notes about the cigar and what level of intensity he or she can expect from this cigar.

Additionally, we price protected the brand. Price pro-tecting means that every retailer, whether brick and mortar or online and catalog, will work within the same price structure. You won’t see huge discrepancies or variances in price from one retailer to the next. But we also decreased the price in almost every format, making it so that consumers who were buying it discounted won’t see a big increase in price and consumers that were not will get a great decrease.

We have a pretty good idea of how consumers feel about price decreases, but what has been the reaction from the retailers?

Everyone has loved the change. It’s still too early to tell, but so far it has been extremely well-received. There is an incredible amount of people out there who are loyal AVO smokers and these folks are obviously ecstatic about the changes. We’re getting excellent feedback and the stores have been scheduling an enormous amount of events. We’re just getting underway and we’ve got about 120 events booked all over the country. That takes us through the trade show. The reception to the changes we’ve made and the event experiences that we’ve incorporated have been a dream come true for most AVO fans, consumers and retailers alike.

You know Avo has always been a very generous man. He’s always been about sharing and I think that these changes to the brand accentuate that. Like the photo booth we now bring to every event. It allows event participants to take a photo. Then it applies a black and white filter, puts the orange border around it to resemble our current ad campaign and then the person can share the pic on social media or through email. They can share the moment and that’s what it’s all about.

So this brings us to the AVO Heritage. Why did this brand that is known for producing mostly mild and creamy cigars launch this flavorful and strong cigar?

Well, just like the rest of the industry, Avo’s palate changed. He wanted to smoke something with a little more kick to it. He also wanted to pay tribute to the men and women who work in the tobacco industry in the Dominican Republic, where his cigars are manu-factured. So he assembled the young generation of blenders at the factory and had them work with the master blenders. Together they blended the AVO Heri-tage and it is by far the fullest bodied and most intense cigar in the AVO portfolio.

The cigar is covered with this rich and flavorful wrapper. You almost want to chew on it. Can you tell us about this wrapper and the other components of the blend?

Yeah, that wrapper is something else. It is a special sungrown wrapper from Ecuador that is dark, very rich and oily and slightly toothy. It’s specially grown for this blend and it gives the Heritage its unmistakable character. The binder and filler are Dominican, but we use higher priming tobaccos to get that intensity and strength. But, like everything Henke Kelner blends, it is extremely refined. It isn’t an overpowering cigar that knocks you down.

 

Avo Domaine

 

Country:  Dominican Republic
Wrapper:  Ecuador
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic
Price:  $10.00 - $11.50

Available in 4 Sizes:

20 (4 5/8 X50)
10 (5X50)
50 (5 15/16 X 54) [pictured]
70
 (6X54)

Q&A

Scott Kolesaire
AVO Brand Manager

Avo is a man of incredible musical talent. He’s charming and cultured. He’s a great many things, but a farmer he is not. How then did he come to grow the special tobacco that is in the AVO Domaine?

After Avo had been traveling through the Dominican for a while, he found this small area that he wanted to use to plant tobacco. It was just Avo the artist looking at a piece of land thinking, “This would be nice.” But it wasn’t in a typical tobacco growing region or area, so all the farmers told him not to use that plot and tried to persuade him to buy in another area. He said, “No I think we’ll try this.” So he did, and he had the farmers plant tobacco there. So no, he’s not a farmer, he’s a musician. They planted it and after the first year the tobacco was just OK. The second year, it got better. By the third year the tobacco coming out of this area was spectacular. Because of the soil in the area and the way that the sun hit the tobacco early in the morning, the tobacco that came out of there was just rich and complex and had a lot of flavor. It gave off this kind of cocoa, almost nutty type of flavor. So Henke [Kelner] told Avo, “We must do something special with this tobacco.” And that’s how the Domaine 10 was born.

Why did he name it Domaine 10? And for that matter, why are all the vitolas in the Domaine line named numerically?

The Domaine launched on the AVO brand’s 10th an-niversary. So it was named the AVO Domaine 10 and it came in only one size. Then, a year later, we came out with the Domaine 20 and 30 and then followed the 40 and 50, then the 60. Since then we’ve discontinued the 30, 40, and the 60 and we just introduced the 70, which is a 6 x 54 Toro. Unfortunately, although it drives me nuts, I can’t just restart the numbering and put them back in sequence! (chuckling)

My favorite of the AVO Domaine sizes is definitely the Domaine 50, but it’s not a common perfecto shape. What’s the story behind that shape?

Avo loves the perfecto shape. This specialty size is manufactured to the specifications found in an antique Dutch cigar mold from 1823 - a find at an antique show in Paris.  Normally, when you’re going to roll a specialty size like that, you take one of your best rollers from another size and train them on how to roll this format. But Avo  — again with his artistic mind — said, “Why would we take someone away from something they’re fantastic at? Let’s take somebody from zero and make this dif-ficult shape become second nature to him. Something that feels right to him without being swayed by anything else.” So the next roller up that they felt was talented enough and could be trained for this size went right on to roll the Domaine 50. It took a little while (it is one of the most difficult sizes to roll), but he nailed it. When you look at the cap on this type of perfecto, it’s a little shorter and flatter and also the perfecto tip on the end isn’t as long. It’s a little more concentrated and gets a little thicker. It’s kind of between a perfecto and a di-adema. So that was his way of doing it and ever since then, every new roller we bring in to roll the 50 gets trained on this format. 

So the newest size is the Domaine 70, a 6 x 54 toro. It’s interesting that the brand has only now gotten to the point where you’ve launched a toro. How do you think it’ll do?

The best seller in the Domaine line is the 50 and, although it’s still too early to tell, it is looking like the 70 and the 50 will be neck and neck as our best sellers (followed by the robusto). The 70 having that format and the filler tobacco that is used in this line, you get a lot of flavor and a lot of complexity from it. And since the Domaine never had a 54 (ring gauge) it just stands out.

From an intensity standpoint, where does the Do-maine sit inside of the AVO portfolio?

You’ve got Classic on one end, which is the mildest, creamiest blend and the Heritage on the other end as the most full-bodied. Domaine is a perfect medium to full intensity but very balanced on the palate.

 

Avo XO

 

Country:  Dominican Republic
Wrapper:  Ecuador
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic
Price:  $9.00 - $11.00

Available in 5 Sizes:

Preludio (6X40)
Notturno (5X42)
Maestoso (7X48)
Intermezzo (5X50) [pictured]
Legato
(6X54)

Q&A

Scott Kolesaire
AVO Brand Manager

The AVO brand recently underwent a refresh. We noticed the packaging has been updated and the labels have undergone a few tweaks. But what about the blends?

No. We wouldn’t dare touch the blends. These core blends allow this brand to continue to grow in an over-crowded industry. They are as consistent as blends could possibly be. We did trim some lines and sizes, but the four remaining blends are intact. Of course, our popular limited releases will continue, but with some exciting innovations.

The refresh wasn’t only in the packaging. We’ve also noticed that you’ve started to use the “Savor Every Note” tagline. 

For years, the brand’s tagline was “Cigars in Perfect Harmony.” With the recent refresh of the brand, it was just natural to transition to “Savor Every Note.” Every word relates to AVO Cigars. Savor means to embrace and enjoy completely. Every ... It’s more than the cigar; it’s the whole experience. Note ... Music notes, tasting notes, story notes. It is perfect. There are, of course, components you need to savor every note. When you have a very special moment, something that you re-member and cherish, you can usually recall whom you were with, what music was playing, where you were, and naturally what you were smoking. And savoring that moment is what AVO is all about. It’s about being in the moment and taking your time to let it all sink in.

When you launched the refresh, we got an AVO record player at Cigar Snob HQ, and we’ve seen it in several cigar stores since. Will consumers be able to get their hands on one of those?|

As a brand, we are trying to bring people together and make these personal connections. One of the ways we are doing this is by creating these custom record players that you can play vinyl on. It also has a jack for an iPod or smartphone. The idea is to give these away at AVO events as a raffle prize. But the beautiful thing is the unit sits at stores a few weeks before the event and the owner of the store usually hooks it up. What we’re seeing is that customers are starting to bring in their old vinyls and playing them on it. That’s exactly what we had hoped would happen. They’re discussing what old albums they have and remember-ing moments from those days and they’re connecting with the brand and what it stands for. And then on the night of the event, someone gets to take it home.

We did that with the unit that we received. We were jamming to old Springsteen and Clapton al-bums for days. Everyone who visits the office has something to say about our AVO record player.

That’s what I’m talking about! We feel that, in today’s technological world, where you have thousands upon thousands of tracks on your phone, you rush and skip through most of these great albums. But when you play a record, it’s just like selecting your cigar. For example, you get home from work, walk up to your humidor and you have all different types of cigars. The relaxation starts when you get to the humidor and you look through and think about what you’re going to smoke. You select it, get your cutter, clip it, spark a match, rotate the cigar in the flame – this is allowing you to relax before you even get to embark on the journey of the cigar. Playing a record on vinyl is just like that. It’s about building the anticipation. You go through a process of selecting, then the turntable starts spinning, you pick up the needle and carefully place it on the first track. And just let it play.

And so how does the XO fit into the portfolio?

Well, when AVO XO was released, it was meant to be the highest mark of quality. Avo used the XO designation from the Cognac world meaning “extra old,” which of course relates to great quality. Nowadays it sits just above the Classic in flavor intensity and strength, but it’s superbly balanced and beyond smooth.

 

Avo Classic

 

Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder:  Dominican Republic
Filler:  Dominican Republic
Price:  $ 8.00 - $ 10.00

Available in 8 sizes:

Robusto (5X50)
No.2 (6X50) [pictured]
No.3 (7.5 X 50)
No.5 (6 7/8 X46)  
No.6 (6X60)
660 (6X60)
No.9 (4.75 X 48)
Piramides (7X54)

Q&A

Scott Kolesaire
AVO Brand Manager

Whenever you hear that someone is a composer, you can’t help but ask, “Did he write something that I might have heard?” In the case of Avo and his musical career, everyone knows the song he wrote. Tell us a little about it.

As the story goes, Avo composed a melody for his song called Broken Guitar. This melody was eventually taken and developed into the music used for Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night and the rest is history. 

What role did cigars play in Avo’s career before he started his own brand?

Cigars have always been a part of Avo, even at his shows. He would often walk around the crowd mid-session and offer the guests a cigar. He felt that a good cigar went beautifully with his jazz and put the audience in the right state of mind to enjoy the show. It sort of slowed down time. So he would basically buy them and just give them out. And then he’d always enjoy a cigar after his shows.

So how did he go from occasionally giving away cigars and smoking them after his shows to contracting a factory in the Dominican Republic to make a brand for him?

Well, at that point it was the mid 80s and Avo was living in Puerto Rico and performing at his piano bar nightly. He was giving out cigars to his audience and his daughter Karin suggested that he sell them instead of giving them away. Avo liked this idea very much. 
So he flew to the Dominican Republic and met with Henke Kelner. Now, keep in mind that Henke’s opera-tion was very small at this point, so it was not very impressive, but the two hit it off and Henke gave Avo some samples of what he could make for him. When Avo lit that first cigar, he thought it was incredible and knew he must do something with it. So he took more samples back to Puerto Rico and passed them out. His friends, his audience, everybody loved them. This was still a big step because although it is much more common today, back then it wasn’t common for a person outside of the cigar business to start a brand, but he knew he had something good so he went for it. And that’s a brief history of how Avo gets into the cigar business.

So is the first blend that Avo launched basically what we are smoking when we fire up an AVO Classic today?

Yes, except it wasn’t called AVO Classic back then. It was just called AVO, but yes it is the same blend as what we smoke today. It’s a mild and creamy smoke, but it’s well balanced on the palate. 

Was there a particular event that was the cata-lyst for the name change from the AVO to the AVO Classic? 

Well once we released the AVO XO everyone referred to the original as the AVO Classic and eventually we made it official. But really it refers to the fact that it’s the first line. It’s a very classic style of cigar, but it also refers to music so it works well.

Most people immediately think of Henke Kelner as the master blender for Davidoff, and rightly so. But it is fascinating to me that it was Avo who “discovered” Henke and then turned Davidoff on to him. How did that come about?

Yes! Avo was the first to officially work with Henke. They had a special bond and started growing together. It wasn’t until a few years later that Zino Davidoff moved his cigar production from Cuba to the Dominican Republic, under Henke Kelner.

 

JFR XT

 

Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaragua
(also available in Mexican San Andres)

Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Price: $6.92  - $8.98

Available in 3 sizes:
654  - 6" X 54 (Toro)
660 - 6" X60 (Gordo) [pictured]
770 - 
7" X 70 (Gordo)

Q&A

Paul Palmer
President

The JFR XT is the newest extension of the original JFR, but I think our readers could use a little history lesson on the origins of JFR. Would you mind giving us a quick rundown of how it came to be?

Sure. JFR stands for Just For Retail. It was created about six maybe seven years ago in California when that state had a high OTP (Other Tobacco Products) tax. When we got together with our distributors and customers and asked them how we can help grow their business, in unison they said give us something just for retail and JFR was born. Now it is a contracted brand so the customers who have it sign a document that stipulates the price, no transshipping, no Internet, no catalog, and so on and so forth so it is a true brick and mortar product. That remains today as it did when it was originally created; we police it and do everything in our power to keep it of f the Internet .

But somehow it still makes its way to certain websites. How does that happen?

These websites are not approved merchants so they get JFR from somewhere, I don’t know where, but they get it. And they not only do it with JFR but they do it with many of the other big brands. Right now that’s an irritant and I’m aware that it’s going on but I don’t know how to stop it.

Where does JFR rank in terms of sales volume versus your other products and where is the brand headed?

If we’re looking at volume, it’s number one. We have JFR in about 2000 stores. It’s one of those products that is offered in San Andrés Maduro, it’s offered in Corojo, and a couple of years ago we came up with the 770 (7 x 70). Most recently we’re coming out with the Lunatic, which will also come under the JFR brand and it will be an 8 x 80 belicoso. You know when we created the 770, we did so to sort of show off our manufacturing capabilities and with the Lunatic we’re making it an 8 x 80 for $8.80 retail. So for the guys who like big ring gauge cigars we want to give them something that will give the JFR brand some noise or energy. Internally we wanted to do something fun and different. We also wanted to do an 8 x 80 but do it right and doing it right is a belicoso because that way it w on’t seem like you’re smoking a tree trunk.

You sort of hijacked this Breakdown to talk about this 880 project but I still want to discuss the XT. What is the JFR XT all about?

The XT stands for extra for the added strength. We were asked to create a new generation JFR in a regular box count. Keep in mind that the regular sizes of JFR are typically in a 50 count cabinet, the 770 is in a 30 count, but now the XT is in a 24 count box. And unlike the regular JFR which is unbanded, the XT is banded and also has a foot band on it. It’s available in two cover leafs, Corojo and San Andres. So like a lot of the things we do, we listen to our customers and they said they wanted a box-pressed cigar with a bigger ring gauge. So at the 2014 IPCPR we created the JFR XT in a 6 x 54, 6 x 60, and 7 x 70. All box-pressed with a pigtail and an un finished foot in a bo x of 24.

So how has it been received in the market?

It’s a natural migration for our existing JFR accounts. It’s a more refined smoke, it’s a little bit stronger on the palate and oh by the way you have a box-pressed 770 with a pigtail and an un finished foot.

After all of these brand extensions and fun sizes, you still have to sell cigars so at the end of the day what do you envision for the JFR brand in 2015?

Our goal is always to make the best cigar that we can using the highest grade tobacco and as long as we continue that JFR will grow even beyond what we are currently doing.

 

Casa Fernandez Miami Arsenio Serie Oro

 

Country: USA/Miami
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Price: $9.68  - $9.94

Available in 3 sizes:
Robusto  - 5 1/2" X 54 (Robusto),
Toro - 
6 1/2" X 52 (Toro)
Coloso - 6" X60 (Toro) [pictured]

Q&A

Paul Palmer
President

Arsenio Ramos, whom this particular brand is named after, is an integral part of Aganorsa’s tobacco dream team. How did this veteran of the Cuban tobacco industry end up working for a Nicaraguan tobacco growing operation?

In the process of creating Aganorsa, what Eduardo Fernández (founder and owner of Aganorsa) did was go to Cuba and find the most knowledgeable and best tobacco people available. Arsenio had been working for CubaTabaco (Cuba’s state-run tobacco company) for about 45 years and he met Eduardo and they hit it off and he’s now been with us for about 15 years. What he brings to the table is an in-depth knowledge of all the complexity of tobacco. For example, in the previous breakdown we talked about regions, primings, seed varieties, lots, all of that minutiae; he’s very good at that. He’s also the head of our “blending round table.”

So how does your blending process work when a cigar company wants you to make a brand for them?

Because we have a cigar factory in Miami as well asin Estelí, we can blend in either location. If a private brand customer comes to us — now we don’t do that many, we pick and choose because my philosophy is that we have to have synergy from the aspect of making us better. That can be blending, that can be packaging, that can be whatever… Now as for the process, 10 years ago you would sit at a table that was ten feet long with all kinds of tobacco. So you could blend for three hours until you’d almost reach nicotine poisoning and then you’d walk away and do it again that afternoon or the next day. Today because we have the  intelligence on our tobacco, our farms, all the things that we’ve discussed ... A customer usually comes to us to get out of a problem. He may have a vision of something new and hasn’t been able to achieve it or he may have a problem cigar that he wants us to fix. So we smoke that cigar, we listen to the customer, and we basically use his palate to get where he wants to go. So our blending has changed but it has changed for the better because of all of the intelligence that we’ve accumulated about our tobacco. It’s the data that we collect that really drives all of our tobacco.

Now when you talk about data and intelligence, you get the idea that there is a data warehouse sitting in a server behind one of the tobacco barns in a field in Estelí but that is obviously not the case. We are instead talking about the data and intelligence that is stored in the minds and notebooks of a handful of your most trusted tobacco men, are we not?

Yes but there are reams of data as far as a particular lot, a particular priming, a particular seed variety, a particular farm, a particular region — all that is documented. But it is a work in progress from the standpoint that every year we re-validate the farms, the lots, the harvest, and everything else. We need to make sure that we’re on point with what we think that tobacco is so that when we stand in front of the customer or when we’re maintaining a private brand that we’re making, it’s always the same. So that the cigar the smoker enjoyed a year ago, a month ago, or that he’s smoking right now has got to be the same. So we may change lots or we may change primings (referring to the process of tweaking a blend for consistency’s sake) but it is our responsibility as blenders to ensure that it is always the same for the smoker.

So in addition to yields and quantities and things of that nature, you also store information about flavor, strength, aroma, etc.?

Yes we do. When you blend you have to know the attributes of that leaf you are using. So when a customer says he wants a little bit of spice or whatever, you need to understand how your tobacco behaves from harvest to harvest. So when you present a solution to get to the final blend, you have to be able to use that component that gets to where the customer wants to go.

 

Casa Fernandez Miami Aniversario 2014

 

Country: USA/Miami
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Price: $12.50

Available in 1 size
Ares - 6 1/4" X52 (Toro) [pictured]

Q&A

Paul Palmer
President

In 2013 you released an Aniversario and then in 2014 you released another Aniversario. Both of them had a white label and silver lettering, so some consumers have had a hard time differentiating the two. Some probably didn’t know they were picking up a different cigar. Can you clarify the reasoning behind this and the difference between the two?

Yes, we’ve had two Aniversarios as we call it. The reason is simply demand, requests by customers for us to create an ultra-premium cigar. They said, “Give me the best of what you can make.” So the first one was the Casa Fern.ndez Aniversario 35 (a 6 x 54 released in 2013) and the second was the Casa Fernandez Aniversario Serie 2014 (a 6 . x 52 released in 2014). The blends are different. We amped up the strength and flavor on the Aniversario Serie 2014 and it has had phenomenal reviews (check out the Top 25 section on p. 53 to 62). You know, being blenders and growers and also having a cigar company, the Aniversarios really make sense. They are our flagship; sold in a box of 10 but affordable. They both have a retail price point of $12.50 and for that product we are exactly where we want to be.

My understanding is that you made a limited number of boxes. Will consumers still be able to find the Aniversario Serie 2014 that we are featuring in this breakdown as time goes by?

It’s funny you ask that because just this morning we were going over the numbers for both the CF Aniversario 35 and the CF Aniversario Serie 2014. We made 2,000 boxes of each but you know, the market leader in Aniversarios maintains those years and those blends into the future so we’re talking about doing that because stores are coming back to us and asking if they can have more boxes of the 35 and the 2014 and we don’t have them. So we’re talking about making the 35 and the 2014 part of our regular lineup so people will be able to g et them well into the future.

To my recollection, Casa Fernández’s greatest hits are always box-pressed. Are you guys just fans of the format or are you simply good at making it? Or perhaps both?

Again that comes from feedback from our customers. Ever since we acquired Tropical Tobacco in 2002 we’ve always had an advisory board. It’s made up of 10 of the customers who we hold in high esteem, who are incredible businessmen and oh by the way, are great customers of Casa Fern.ndez. They give us suggestions and we also bounce off ideas with them and the feedback is always box-pressed. Why? Because at the store, the consumer likes a box-pressed cigar and the perception is that a box-pressed cigar is harder to make. And we’ve refined the process of box-pressing cigars; it’s part of our production and we do it very well.

Is box-pressing in fact more difficult or is it just a perception?

Well, it’s a longer process, it’s a detailed process, but it’s something that we have down. It is more difficult in every aspect; in the draw, in the look, in the presentation, in the blend, everything about it is more difficult. But once you’ve refined the process, then it just becomes second nature.

It’s painfully obvious when a cigar company does not have the process down. The wrapper wrinkles on the top. Sometimes it looks like an accordion on the sides. Without giving away any trade secret, how do you guys manage to prevent that?

That’s really just expertise in cigar making. There are a lot of reasons why that would happen but generally speaking, that’s a result of cigar making. You just have to know how to do it. Now we don’t do a square cigar. We do what is called a Cuban box-press or a semi box-press. We prefer that over a square cigar. But it is difficult and the guys who are getting the wrinkled cigars just don’t have the process down.

 

 

 

 

Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf Maduro

 

Country: USA/Miami
Wrapper: Mexico (also available in Nicaraguan Corojo)
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Price: $8.00  - $9.00

Available in 4 sizes:
El Supremo  - 6" X 58 (Gordo),
Illustre - 
5" X 48 (Robusto)
lire - 6 1/2" X50 (Toro) [pictured]
Robusto Extra - 5" X 54 (Robusto)

Q&A

Paul Palmer
President

Cigar geeks have known the Aganorsa name to be synonymous with excellent tobacco, but most casual cigar smokers have no clue what Aganorsa stands for. Could you explain what it means and why it is on the label of this cigar?

We registered the brand Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf because it made sense and because Aganorsa is the name of our parent company. It’s also the identifier for the leaf that we grow. Aganorsa itself is an acronym for an agriculture conglomerate (Agricola Ganadera Nortena S.A.). We registered that brand about five years ago. The first offering for it was three sizes in a box-pressed Corojo (referring to the wrapper leaf), and two years ago we created the CF Aganorsa Leaf Maduro which is covered with a Mexican San Andres wrapper and is currently available in four sizes.

So before you launched the brand, the Aganorsa name was only visible to those who travelled to Estelí, Nicaragua and upon entering the town looked to the left and saw the company’s sign. How much has that awareness increased in recent years?

Well, the Aganorsa name has gained in popularity; there’s no question. It’s gained for several reasons; the name is being discussed in feature articles in magazines, by bloggers, and everything else. But customers are becoming more aware of Aganorsa because it just has a very unique flavor. 

What tobacco varieties does Aganorsa grow and which is the one that imparts that signature sweetness?

Primarily we farm Corojo ’99 Cuban seed, Corojo 2006, and Criollo but the Corojo ’99 Cuban seed is the one that is fresh and sweet on the palate.

Speaking of farming, what does the Aganorsa tobacco farming operation look like? What regions do you grow in and what does each region bring to the table?

We only farm in Nicaragua; in Jalapa Valley, Condega Valley, and Esteli. We have about seven farms in Jalapa, which is where we grow most of our cover leaf. Jalapa is most like Pinar del Rio (Cuba); it’s known for flavor and aroma. In Condega Valley we have about two farms and we grow most of our Criollo there and it’s a little bit different as far as blending attributes. It’s spicier, it’s sweeter, it’s kind of refined. And then you have Esteli; we have about two farms there. Esteli is known for power, its black volcanic soil. It’s the combination of the three regions and the combination of all the farms and the lots within the farms that give you the complexity in the cigar.

While the original Casa Fernández Aganorsa Leaf had a Corojo wrapper, the one being featured in this breakdown has a Mexican Maduro wrapper.
How did you arrive at this wrapper for this blend?

In the old days we used to use Criollo for our Maduro cigars. It would go through about four iterations of fermentation until we got it dark and that’s what we’d use for Maduro. Unfortunately there isn’t enough Criollo to maintain our demand for Maduro because the U.S. market has a high demand for it. So that being said, we found that the San Andres Morron (a wrapper tobacco grown in Mexico) really pairs well with our tobacco. We’ve used Broadleaf but very sparingly and not in our own brands (referring to the brands that they manufacture for other cigar companies). But the San Andres works really well in our blends and we’ve received a lot of great feedback and a lot of great ratings on that particular cover leaf.

 

Perfect Pairing - The Glenlivet Nàdurra/My Father Connecticut

 
Photography by Andy Astencio

Photography by Andy Astencio

Not only is The Glenlivet the best selling single malt cotch in the U.S., but other blended whiskies — such as Chivas Regal and Royal Salute — use The Glenlivet’s output in their blends. So unless you haven’t tried Scotch at all, you’ve probably had whisky from the T he G lenlivet Distillery.
But you’ve not likely had anything like The Glenlivet Nàdurra. The word “nàdurra” is Gaelic for natural, as in all natural, as in nothing added and nothing removed after distilling. The topic of additives
and chill-filtration in whisky is a hot button topic in today’s all natural, traditional method, and organic-crazed consumer market. The Nàdurra is all about traditional methods proclaiming “Non Chill-Filtered” proudly and prominently on the
bottle. Chill-filtering is a modern process employed for cosmetic purposes, basically to prevent a whisky from becoming cloudy when ice or water is added. Sounds harmless enough, right? Well, it depends whom you ask. If you ask me, I want the whisky the way George and his son J. G. Smith wanted us to enjoy Glenlivet’s fines t distillate.

THE PAIRING

Unlike the overwhelming majority of whiskies, which are filtered and diluted before bottling (including single malt Scotches), Nàdurra is bottled at cask strength. This is something to be mindful of because it has a significantly higher alcohol content. 
There’s a perk, though: the distiller isn’t diluting it for you, so that you can do it yourself
however you please. So don’t feel like less of a man when you add water to this dram; that’s the idea. And, for God’s sake, don’t act a fool when it clouds up on you, that’s a good sign! Once you’ve gotten the whisky to where you want it, get the
My Father Connecticut fired up. The cigar’s earthy and peppery core gives you the backbone you need to stand up to the Nàdurra while the wrapper’s creamy vanilla characteristic marries beautifully with the apple, cinnamon, and oaky vanilla notes
coming from the whisky. Take your time to enjoy this pairing. I think you’re going to love it .

 

Perfect Pairings – Buchanan’s Master & San Lotano – The Bull

 
photography by Andy Astencio

photography by Andy Astencio

Mexico’s long-standing obsession with Buchanan’s Blended Scotch Whisky is as fascinating as it is inexplicable. Let’s be clear, Mexicans are certifiably crazy about the stuff. Aside from the everyman who drinks Buchanan’s because, well, because everybody in Mexico drinks Buchanan’s. Popular corridos bands invite participants onto the stage during shows and pour straight Buchanan’s (or as they pronounce it, Bukanans) down the guests’ throats. To help you picture this, imagine if you were at a Kings of Leon concert with 80,000 of your closest friends and Caleb Followill started inviting people on stage and pouring straight whisky down their gullets while sing ing Supersoaker.

We did our own informal survey of Buchanan’s loving Mexican males living in the U.S., which is basically every male between the ag es of 21 and death. W e just wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery. In the process of surveying, we were gifted several bottles of Buchanan’s 12, gifted a set of Buchanan’s branded rocks glasses, gifted other bottles of Scotch that no self-respecting Mexican will ever consume, and given no concrete reason for their devotion. The question we posed was a simple one: “Why do Mexicans love Buchanan’s?” Here were some of the answers: 

“it’s jus t a damn good Scotch bro”

“I wouldn’t trade Buchanan’s 18 for any single malt Scotch on the planet”

“I can drink as much as I want and I won’t have a hangover tomorrow”

“it leaves me with no alcohol breath”

In the end we gave up trying to figure it out. Instead we bought a couple of bottles of Buchanan’s Master, took‘em back to the office, and took them down corrido-style!

THE PAIRING

A good Scotch is one of those spirits that easily pairs with almost any cigar so the issue for this pairing was finding a cigar that enhanced the whiskey. San Lotano

– The Bull was just that. The beautiful thing about this pairing is that the cigar has a rich oakiness that gets along famously with the Scotch’s barrel-aged flavor. But in addition it has loads of pepper, earth, nuts, and aged tobacco sweetness that take this pairing to the next level.

Unlike other pairings where we suggest you drink one before the other or wait for something to warm up, you can pretty much go to town with this one.

Buchanan's Master – Blended Scotch Whiskey
Distilled by Buchanan Distillery
(750 ml. ABV 40%)
Aged 15 Years
MSRP: approx. $40

paired with
San Lotano – The Bull
by A.J. Fernandez
Toro (6" x 54)

Strength: MEDIUM-FULL
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Origin: Nicaragua