Cigar Review: Last Call from AJF!

Cigar Review: Last Call from AJF!

I love it when my favorite blenders put out a low-ball product complimenting their otherwise-always high-ball line. The Illusion Rothchilds is one of those, and also Drew Estate’s Papa’s Fritas. Now we have this one from A. J. Fernandez called Last Call, rolled at Tabacalera Fernandez S.A.

For a long time now I like to vary the sweeter, darker, dry-chocolate variety of cigar flavors with something, well, more woody and less sweet. To my palate, A. J. F. usually fills that bill. I think of these as a “real cigar man’s cigar” but that’s just how it strikes me. I’m smoking a 4.75 x 48 petite robusto, one of my favorite vitolas. Let’s have a look.

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

I always wish they would say more about the blend…

Construction: The wrapper is a light to medium brown. The cigar has a folded over closed foot. I like those. Self-toasting when you light it up. Only takes a little flame. Nicely done wrap and cap. Smoked, the burn line stays pretty even throughout. Even I, an inveterate corrector, rarely have to touch it. Lots of smoke, light draw, just right for me. The stick is evenly packed, but not heavy. A. J. gets an A+ for construction.

Cold Aroma: A nice rich mix of barnyard and manure mixed with leather. Heady!

Light it up and get a bit of pepper which quickly settles into the background. Burnt wood, maybe cedar, comes to mind. About a quarter inch in the cigar comes into its own. There is a nice aroma of burning leaves on the retrohale. The burnt wood becomes sweeter. I get an occasional hint of light brown sugar, fresh hay, and leather. It reminds me a lot of the A. J. F. Puro Authentico (a more expensive cigar), but not as sharp, a little more toned down in the tobacco-woody notes.

In its second half Last Call gets a little sharper, the pepper and the cedar notes come back, sweetness retreats but never disappears. I don’t think the stick ever gets past a medium in strength. Most importantly, flavors stay in the mix down to the last half inch as befits a great cigar.

I don’t think this stick is as richly apportioned as either of the last two sticks (Crowned Heads le Careme and My Father La Opulencia) reviewed but it happens to also be $2, about 30%, less expensive! In some ways, I enjoy this sort of cigar flavor as much as the richer variety. This one gets my A+ full thumbs up, especially at its price!

There are a lot of reviews of this cigar. Here is HalfWheel’s and here is one from everyone’s favorite cigar kitten Delicia.

Cigar Review: My Father La Opulencia

Cigar Review: My Father La Opulencia

Another of my recent discoveries, this one from My Father. Delicious of course. Lets have a look shall we?

Wrapper: Mexican Rosado. Never had this before that I can recall.
Binder: Dual. Does that mean there are two complete binders? They are said to be Nicaraguan Criollo and Corojo
Filler: Nicaraguan

Construction: This is a box press stick, the “Petite” at 4.5″ x 48. Almost identical to the Le Bijou 1922 “Petite Robusto”, at 4.5″ x 50 which is not however a box press. The wrapper is dark brown, a little rough looking and toothy. Draw is perfect, and it puts out a satisfying creamy smoke. Burn line stays pretty good requiring only a lite correction now and then. I’ve smoked three from this box and they have all smoked well. Even these little sticks will go for an hour.

Cold aroma: mild manure and barnyard, tobacco

Flavor: There is a little pepper in the beginning but also caramalzed onion, leather, roasted pepper, and cedar. As the cigar smokes the pepper comes up slowly. In the second half the vegetables fade a bit and the chared wood and maybe coffee comes forward. Strength is medium all the way along. The cigar is distinctly sweeter and a little richer than the le Bijou, a little less sharp. Flavors stay with it down to the nub as befits a My Father cigar. Call this one a smoothed up le Bijou, a very satisfying smoke. Another hit, “A+” for this one over-all.

Cigar Review: Crowned Heads “le Careme”

Cigar Review: Crowned Heads “le Careme”

I stumbled on new (to me) and very good cigars at some reasonable prices. Some of these I’ve known but never bought as their prices are normally over my limit. But a deal is a deal and I couldn’t let them pass. These include the “T” which I have already reviewed here, and a couple of Punch sticks (the Elite and Bareknuckle) which are never very expensive but came to me at a very low price. Also the Surrogates “Cracker Crumbs” which I think is pretty good. Another discovery, AJ Fernandez’s “Last Call” (I love AJF’s blends), like the Surrogates, pretty darned good for $4.25/stick, and finally, the two best of all, My Father’s “La Opulencia”, and for this review, the Crowned Heads “le Careme” both costing about $6.25/stick after discount (all prices at the box level)! I will try to review them all at some point (and will place links here when I do) but the short and sweet of it is that they are all good cigars!

My source for all of these other than the Punch was the web site for Cigar and Pipes. They don’t give an address, but they are in the U.S. East Coast timezone. Any order over $80 is shipped free by USPS priority mail. I get these sticks (on the West Coast) 3 mail days after ordering! Get on their mailing list and look for their discounts.


I have smoked two vitolas of the “le Careme”, the 5.5″ x 42 box pressed corona (pictured) and also the box pressed robusto at 5″ x 48. The flavor profile is the same. The robusto (3 of them) came in a sampler. The folks at Cigar and Pipes will send a sampler (in my case other Crowned Heads cigars) for every two or three boxes you order. I didn’t ask for them. Great service, and a great store!

Wrapper: Connecticut broad leaf
Binder: Ecuador Sumatra
Filler: Nicaragua

Construction: The wrapper is slightly oily, toothy, and dark brown shading almost to black here and there along its length. The first stick I smoked was a very difficult draw, close to plugged, but I managed to free it up enough to smoke it. I’ve had 5 more since and they were all fine. Maybe a little tight for me, but only a little. I’m one of those smokers who prefers a loose draw, so for many of you these would be just right. The robusto has a somewhat looser draw.

Pack is firm and even all the way along the stick. For a smallish vitola, these are heavy in the hand, a densely packed cigar, explaining the tight draw. There are no veins in the wrapper, and the seams are well done. The stick produces a lot of creamy smoke all the way along. Smoke time about an hour and 10, a slow burning little cigar! Crowned Heads gets an “A” for construction here.

Cold aroma: Strong black tea, manure, barnyard. A very rich and rewarding cold aroma!

Light it up and you get some pepper along with a sweet flavor reminding me of Melba Toast and butter. As it smokes you get brown sugar, dried fruit, dry chocolate, cedar, and something that reminds me of salty ocean air. The burn line stayes pretty straight all the way along with a few minor corrections. In the second half there is a little more pepper and the stick adds something minty while all the other flavors and sweetness remain. The smoke begins at about a medium strength and gets a little fuller as it smokes.

Superb, the cigar keeps all of these flavors down to the last half inch, the mark of a great stick!

My score on these comes out to “A+”, a really good cigar and another winner for Crowned Heads!

Review: The T by Three Masters of the Cigar Blending Art

Review: The T by Three Masters of the Cigar Blending Art

Robert Caldwell, A. J. Fernandez, Matt Booth: Three well recognized names in our favorite industry. This is their second release together, this one produced at the Fernandez factory in Nicaragua. The cigar was to be named “The Truth” but Tatuaje seems to own that name. Really? You can own the word “Truth”?

I’ve been over a half dozen other reviews of this stick and the principals are not revealing much about the blend except that it is Nicaraguan puro.

Wrapper: Ecuador Habano (grown in Nicaragua)
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

There are five different vitolas, all box pressed. The one I’m smoking is the Lonsdale, 6.5″ x 44.

Cold Aroma: Black tea, manure, barnyard are the aromas I get, especially the tea. Some other reviews have been all over the place with this.

Pre-light construction: Dark brown wrapper, slightly toothy. No veins, almost invisible seams. Box pressed, firm, no soft or hard spots. Looks fabulous.
Draw: Just about a perfect medium here that stays consistent throughout the smoke.

I have seen this cigar reviewed everywhere and everyone loves it. Alas is too expensive for me usually $12/stick at the box level. So when Cigars & Pipes recently had a fire sale and I saw these for $8.50/stick (still a full $2 above my present budget cap) I had to grab a box. Might be the only box I ever have, but I am glad I went for it.

When you light this up you get a little pepper that rapidly dials back and stays in the background. I get sweet wood, nuts, coffee, and lots of leather in the flavors, even sometimes a hint of fruit in the retrohale! Smoke output is great, and the cigar wants to smoke slowly. What strikes me most though is the cigar’s smoothness. All the flavors come out as a marvelous sweet meld. I cannot think of its like in any other cigar except maybe the 1924 Anniversary Padron, a cigar I have not smoked now in a few years as their price just went too high. Back to the T, as the cigar smokes down it gets a little less sweet while pepper and barn yard flavors come forward. The burn line stays straight throughout. This is a very well constructed cigar!

Flavors here are so well blended that none of them come out and really strike you, instead shifting back and forth with every puff. And this is a kick ass cigar, very full strength, or perhaps it is just the length of the stick. I’ve been through four of them now. The first two made me dizzy. I tried to let one go at the 3″ mark and come back to it, but even after a few hours when I pick it up the pepper comes way up and the other flavors have disappeared. I have to smoke this stick very slowly. Total smoke time ends up being about 90 minutes!

The ash does not hold very long, dropping at about 1/2″ but that might have something to do with how slowly I am able to smoke it. This is truly a cigar to savor. The subtle flavors here seem to go best with a subtle rum. The 40% ABV Real McCoy pictured is perfect. I reviewed this rum’s stronger brother a while back before I tasted this version. Turns out they are exactly the same rum (I believe) with this one watered down to the 40% level while the more limited edition version stands at 47%.

Over all, a great stick from three great masters of the cigar blending art. Given today’s cigar prices these are worth their $12/stick sticker even if I can’t afford them. If you find them at any price substantially under that, don’t miss out!

Cigar Review: Room 101 Serie HN Papi Chulo

Cigar Review: Room 101 Serie HN Papi Chulo

Released in June 2013, this must be one of the Room 101 sticks prior to Matt Booth retiring from the business. I gather he is back now, but will not be re-releasing old blends. So this is one of those rare deals (the only kind I can afford these days). Famous Smoke dumping odds and ends for steeply discounted prices. This 50 count box came out to $3/stick including shipping! The cigar is a cousin of the Namakubi and Daruma also released in limited numbers with a Papi Chulo vitola. I think this is a less “dry chocolate” (Namakubi) and “vegetal wood” (Daruma) and more light brown sugar sweetness. In any case all three are delicious and I am happy to have this deal. Let’s get to the cigar.

Wrapper: Honduran Criollo 98
Binder: Brazillian Mata Fina
Filler: Honduran Criollo Ligero and Dominican Navarette

Vitola: 4″ x 42 “Papi Chulo”

Open the box and what hits you is strongly aromatic black tea along with barnyard, manure, and leather. Wrapper color is medium brown, the pack is even all the way around and medium. The stick is not as firmly packed and dense as the Namakubi. The wrapper has a few fine veins, but everything looks very well made. I did a straight cut, draw is superb for me (I like it on the light side) and stays that way throughout the smoke.

Burn line stays pretty straight. I made minor corrections on one of three sticks I’ve smoked so far. The other two required none. Smoke output is very good, and stays steady throughout the smoke. Smoke time for me about 50 minutes. These smoke a bit faster than the Namakubi or Daruma which are more densely packed.

Flavors: Light on pepper until the final inch when it comes up considerably. Much of it is a charred sweet woodiness or toast and nuttiness combined with leather, brown sugar, and warm baking spices. I didn’t notice a lot of transition. Various flavors came up and dialed back, but all stayed present until the very end when pepper dominated. This is one hell of a great cigar! Buy them if you see them! Another review linked HERE is from Halfwheel.

Strength: A solid medium all the way along

I’ve paired this smoke with coffee (great) and two rums, both having an effect on the cigar. A sweet rum brought out some coffee flavor, and the less sweet rum emphasized the brown sugar notes of the cigar.

Cigar Review: Warped Lirio Rojo Corona

Cigar Review: Warped Lirio Rojo Corona

This unbanded beauty is a puro in two ways… The wrapper, binder, and filler are all Nicaraguan, and they are also all Aganorsa tobacco. Lirio Rojo means “red lilly” and apparently only 2000 were made in 2015. How did I manage to get 3 5 packs in 2017 then? Not sure, but I believe there were other production runs in later years.

Binder/wrapper/filler: Nicaraguan Aganorsa
Size: All reviews say 5.5″ x 44 but I measure it out at 5.75″ x 46.
Rolled at the TABSA factory (Tabacos Valle de jalapa S.A.)
Cost: Usually around $10, I got them on a discount for $7.50 from rodrigocigars.com. If you are not on his mailing list, you should be. George comes up with discounts on good cigars every couple of months and will email you when he does.

Wrapper & Color: Medium brown, smooth, no veins, slightly grainy to the tongue.
Cold smell: very light barnyard, black tea
Cold draw: Draw itself is a medium, flavor reminiscent of black tea and wood.
Strength: Medium throughout

Construction: Smooth wrapper, no veins, evenly packed but not dense. Looks good. Draw is medium and stays medium throughout the stick. Does not plug behind the coal. Burns straight. Only minor corrections once or twice per stick. Have smoked 8 of these now and it took a few of them to learn how to smoke them. Smoked at my usual pace, the smoke gets a little thin and they tend to go out somewhere around the middle of the stick. I’ve learned to smoke these a little faster than I normally do, but they did not get hot as a result. Flavor stayed with the stick throughout and smoke output remained strong.

Now to the smoke.

First third: A little pepper, but only a little. The cigar starts out with cedar and other wood, tobacco. A little sweet mint on the retrohale, dry toast, black tea, grass, and maybe a little leather. Not at all a sweet stick, but no sourness either. I like the smoke, but is not nearly as sweet as I expected from a Warped cigar.

Second third: The toast becomes a little sweeter, like melba-toast. Grass and tea still present. The [barely-mint] remains, leather disappears. Pepper stays in the background. Not a sweet cigar, but I’m still enjoying the experience.

Last third: Not much transition here but some. Pepper comes forward a bit, but still not a lot of it. Sweetness drops off and the cedar and black tea comes up. Able to smoke it down to the nub. Flavors never get harsh. Smoke time 1 hour.

Over all I like this stick. I can’t say it was sweet but it is a good offering from Warped, something different. I have smoked these with various rums, but no pairing stands out. What does stand out is coffee! This is a great cigar for a coffee pairing.

Here are two other reviews for your reference. The Katman review is a bit mixed but ultimately he likes the cigar. I like Developing Palates reviews, they use two reviewers and print both reviews in parallel. All three of these reviewers, and especially the last two list many flavors, lots of pepper, and the team review basically raves about the stick. I liked it, but did not find it so rich and varied as the other reviews. They smoke well once you have the pace down right.

Hoyo La Amistad Silver

Hoyo La Amistad Silver

I reviewed the original Hoyo La Amistad (HLA) as a part of a 3 cigar review. In 2017 this new “Silver” version (HLAS) appeared so I decided to try it. The blend uses the same Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and this time binders and fillers, all Cuban seed, from the AJF farms in Esteli and Condega Nicaragua. If this is true, the HLAS blend leaves out the Ometepe and Jalapa leaf found in the HLA.

I bought the Robusto size in both cigars. As you can see from the pictures, they are a little different. At first glance the labels are pretty close, but if you look at the big picture above (the HLAS is on the left) you can see that there is a little less red, and more silver in the HLAS label. When the HLA came out in 2016 they cost between $6 and $8 per stick (single). At the moment, Cigar International is selling the HLA (box) for $3.75/stick while the HLAS (box) is $4.20, both very good prices for an AJF cigar.

The HLAS robusto has the same ring gage as the HLA (I measure it to 52). The HLA measures out to 4.75″ long while the HLAS is 5.25″. For the extra $0.45 you get a longer cigar! Like the HLA, construction on the HLAS is superb. Caps are nicely done, the wrapper is a beautiful medium brown, no veins, tight seams. The HLAS is a little more densely packed than the HLA. I have smoked a whole box of the HLA and a few of the HLAS. I have yet to have one crack, split, burn funky, or draw poorly. The draw on the HLAS is a little tighter than the HLA, but still comfortably easy. Smoke production on the HLAS is great too.

The cold smells are different. The HLA has almost no smell at all, very light (see description at link above), but the HLAS is richer, barnyard and fresh oat hay. Flavors in the smoke are not all that different. Some pepper here but not a lot, floral, nut, earth, and cedar like the HLA. There is a little more sweetness in the HLAS compared to the HLA, but all the flavors remain very light just as they did in the HLA. Flavors last a bit longer in the HLAS, down to the last inch or better. In the HLA they were gone at that point. Perhaps for this reason (and it’s a bigger cigar by a half inch) it seems stronger. The HLA ended as a medium, but the HLAS is more medium full.

For the extra $0.45 I like the HLAS better. The flavors are a little sweeter and bolder (very little but you can tell), the cigar is stronger, all in all a more enjoyable experience. Good paired with coffee and a variety of rums. I haven’t found any outstanding pairing here yet, but that will come…