Cigar Review- Man O’ War

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan (Cuban Seed)
Filler: Nicaraguan (Cuban Seed)
Size: 5.5 x 50 “Robusto”
Body: Medium/Full
Price: $6.50


I noticed that I have reviewed my share of AJ Fernandez blends, but not the cigar that brought him into the spotlight: Man O’ War. I’ve done all the other MOW blends and different sizes; but never the original. So what the heck.

CI says it all in this quote:
“Man O’ War is carefully blended and hand-crafted by Abdel “AJ” Fernandez in Esteli, Nicaragua. Born in Cuba, AJ began working with tobacco at a very young age under the watchful eye of cigar legend Alejandro Robaina. Don Alejandro is widely regarded as the Godfather of premium tobacco, growing what has been considered the finest wrapper leaf in Cuba’s prized Pinar del Rio region for the past 40+ years. After years absorbing this knowledge, Abdel moved to Nicaragua 6 years ago and began building what is now emerging as one of the finest boutique makers in the country.

“Of all the cigars made in his factory – ITC 10th Anniversary, Padilla Habano, Rocky Patel Fusion – Abdel considers the Man O’ War his finest creation. Each expertly made cigar is a sight to behold.”

In, I found this interesting note:
“The leaf is taken from the upper middle portion of the plant, known as viso, which is where some of the richest, oiliest and most coveted tobacco can be found. These viso leaves are then put through a three-year fermentation process that is personally overseen by Fernandez himself…Abdel then personally proportions the tobacco, since this blend is one of his most closely guarded secrets.”

The construction is excellent with the exception of some very large tree on the wrapper. I have a few to pick from and the construction is the same. AJ wasn’t so concerned about beauty as much as he was flavor and character. The wrapper is thick and medium brown with a twinge of red. And it is very oily and feels sandy to the touch. Tooth. Think Bugs Bunny.

I clip the cap and find aromas of freshly baked croissants. A yeast/sweet aroma. The aroma of pepper is so strong it makes me sneeze…twice. There is some very, very dark cocoa present. Almost the aroma of melted dark cocoa. And there is espresso topping the cocoa. And then there is a nice undertone of wood and leather. The leather is bright and I can almost smell the leather soap.
Time to light up.

The first puffs are redolent of that strong leather and wood. Right on top of that, is my sneeze-worthy hot pepper. The draw goes beyond perfect and clouds my vision with smoke. I’ve only had this stick a couple of weeks and it is screaming laughter. The spiciness is so potent, my eyes water and my nose runs. What a wuss.

At the half inch mark, I get flavors of dark cocoa, espresso, creaminess, and earthiness. Again this proves my argument that a cigar need not cost over $8.00 to be a high premium. So many young blenders are putting other young blenders to shame with their reasonable pricing and fantastic blends. Cigar makers like AJ show that, even using proprietary blends, that a wonderful cigar can be produced and sold for under $10. There is no mythology, no fancy signatures, no nuttin’ honey.

Remember Eddie Ortega and his Wild Bunch themed one-blend-per-month brouhaha? Well, he got to number four out of twelve and then…not a word. And while I liked the Iron Mike, these were not $9+ cigars.

The first third is about flavor and intensity. It’s about flavors entering the arena and impressing the hell out you. Or, at least, me.

I’m still in the first third and a sweet caramel flavor component arrives. And then as the second third begins, nuttiness emerges. So far, this stick is pumping out flavors. If I list them, they are creaminess, cocoa, caramel, wood, leather, sweetness, espresso, nuttiness, sweet bread, earthiness, and BALANCE!

I read a couple of reviews and they seem to be sort of blah about this cigar. They keep harping on the oakiness in the flavor profile. Oak? The only flavors not showing are BBQ baby back ribs.

I have smoked, and reviewed, some really large MOW sticks. And none had the flavor of this robusto. This cigar passed flavor bomb status two days ago…I just had to look at it and it screamed flavor. OK. That’s exaggerating. But you get what I’m saying.

At the halfway point, the flavors become fixated. The red hot spiciness has all but disappeared. The list of flavors has morphed into a great big flavor like one of those giant multi-colored lollipops that you buy at the state fair. I refrain from licking the cherry on the end of the cigar. Although, I want to.

I am getting a vanilla bean element now. Again, it is part of the delicate balancing act. This cigar has such a long finish that I’m going to need steroids to keep up. I bet Lance Armstrong could smoke this cigar in half the time.
I should add that the char line has been close to perfect. No burn issues.

The last third begins and the cigar mellows out. The character of the cigar is exposed as a flavorful, balanced, perfectly blended cigar. This is the type of cigar I like to have in my wheel house.

The cocoa and creaminess end up on top of it all now. It tastes like a rich, thick chocolate milk shake. Because I am diabetic and before that, hypoglycemic, I haven’t had sugar since 1980. And no one makes a sugar free chocolate milk shake. Sure I can try and make one at home, but for that real ice cream parlor texture, you need one of those fancy machines that mixes the ingredients all together.

The body has been on the high side of medium since the end of the first third. Now the strength is increasing. My eyeballs are quavering.

I will try to nub this cigar but having smoked them plenty of times, I know that I will wuss out as the body becomes too much for me to type. The nicotine interrupts my thinking process and I end up typing shit like this: )*^#^(_)*$#@@!!#OP++_).
This is a great cigar. The whole line is great. Even the milder Virtue is a great cigar. Lots of flavor; medium, less nicotine.

I believe that AJ is one of the most underrated blenders on the planet. He doesn’t build a coterie of hangers on and does not create silly mythology about himself. What he does do is constantly produce solid, full of character and flavor, cigars. Kudos AJ.