AJ Fernandez Bellas Artes
Owner: AJ Fernandez
Bellas Artes, which is Spanish for beautiful arts or fine arts, is an interesting name for a cigar brand. Where did that name come from?
I’ve always admired the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana and it served as the inspiration for the original Bellas Artes, which we released in 2016.
The original Bellas Artes wrapper is in and of itself a work of art. I remember when you first released it and thinking it was the most beautiful wrapper in the market. What makes that wrapper so special?
That wrapper is absolutely special! We call that tobacco rojita because of its distinct reddish color. It’s a hybrid of three seeds, Connecticut 8212, Corojo 99, and Havana 2000.
So at what point did you decide to add a maduro to the Bellas Artes line and how did that come about?
I’m always tinkering. I’m always playing with blends and trying different tobaccos on existing blends that I love, especially when I have a wrapper that I like a lot. So one day I took a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper that was smoking incredibly and applied it to the Bellas Artes blend. It just blew me away. From there we tweaked the blend a little to suit the new wrapper and that’s how the Bellas Artes Maduro was born.
The Bellas Artes Maduro has garnered some high ratings and accolades from multiple publications. In fact, it landed in the No. 6 spot of our Top 25 Cigars of 2018. That’s high praise from this publication. Where do you go from here with that cigar?
First off, thank you for recognizing the Bellas Artes Maduro on your Top 25 list. We’re extremely proud of that accolade. Secondly, I would like to announce that we will be releasing a line extension for it in the form of a lancero 7 x 40. We’ll have only 3,000 10-count boxes that will be released at IPCPR and will likely sell out at IPCPR.
3,000 10-count boxes or 30,000 cigars is not a large production. Is that because lanceros are just not that popular of a size or is it more of a test run?
It’s a bit of both. Historically in our portfolio lanceros don’t sell as much as robustos and toros so we only produced 3,000 boxes but if it takes off and performs better than expected, it will remain as a regular production and we’ll re-assess the production numbers.
For perspective, can you share a comparison of the lancero production numbers versus a more popular size?
Sure, let’s use the toro as an example; we produce 10,000 20-count boxes of the toro annually so that’s 200,000 cigars in comparison to 30,000 for the lancero. Something else that’s worth noting is that we only have two people rolling the lancero at the factory. As you know the lancero is not an easy size to make; you can’t just take any roller and have him or her make a lancero.
Now that we’re discussing production numbers, your brands and the brands that you make for other companies have been on a steady growth path. How many cigars are you producing annually now and how has this growth impacted your plans for the future?
Between our two cigar factories, Estelí and Ocotal, we are producing 25 million cigars per year. As for our manufacturing capabilities, we are exactly where we want to be. We are in a position with the two factories where we are able to produce 25 million cigars without sacrificing any quality. Our tabaqueros are not rushed, our blends are not compromised, and we’re producing cigars of the highest quality for ourselves and the companies that trust us to make their cigars.