Spectre by AJ Fernandez | Cigar Review

Wrapper: Maduro
Binder: Undisclosed
Filler: Undisclosed
Size: 5 x 50 “Robusto”
Body: Full
Price: $4.50 by the box
My final summary was that I liked these cigars a lot so I bought a box. Here they are:
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1-14-2013: Addendum- I am smoking this cigar 4 days after the review and it is much mellower in all its flavor components.. I still like it. So if you want the experience I had, I suggest you smoke the cigar within hours of receiving it. It is very potent once the cello is removed.

1-21-2014: Addendum #2Please read some of the last comments on this review. It has been brought to my attention that the smoky flavor comes from Latakia pipe tobacco. Several sources have confirmed this. Pipesandcigars.com have a thread going on this very subject. So thank you to my readers that are so much smarter than me. LOL.

There was absolutely no information on this cigar at the time of my review.

Here is a description from Russ at Pipesandcigars.com:
“Spectre is a cigar that pushes the envelope. In making this dark and oily masterpiece, AJ Fernandez has broken the mold by bringing a tobacco into the mix that you’ve probably never seen in a cigar before- Latakia.

“The jet-black leaf from Cyprus is the result of hanging Turkish tobaccos in a barn and saturating the leaf with wood smoke. It’s a full-bodied tobacco with a uniquely smoky aroma and flavor. Widely used in pipe tobacco, Latakia is a newcomer to cigars, but with the masterful hand of AJ involved, the result is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

“Cigar guys will be intrigued by the added dimension that Latakia brings to the table, adding an almost barbecue note to the blend. Pipe enthusiasts who are already familiar with the fragrant black leaf will be amazed at how expertly it’s balanced against the rich and robust mixture of cigar tobaccos. This will be a phenomenal change of pace for the pipe or cigar smoker who wants something wildly different.”
latakia

From the CI web site:
“Arby’s nailed it: different is good. And this new handmade from AJ Fernandez makes just plain different seem normal. I’ll be honest, it’s kind of crazy. Sensory-overload crazy. An oily pitch-black maduro wrapper and a ‘secret’ blend of tobaccos combine to deliver a profile that’s smoky, spicy, bold, rich, and brimming with notes of cocoa, pine, leather, black pepper, honey, and oak. I can’t promise you’ll like it, but I do promise it’s unlike any cigar you’ve had before. For some fellas out there, that’s the ticket.”

Now that we all know what the secret ingredient is, Latakia pipe tobacco, why didn’t CI just tell us? Did they think that dumb cigar smokers wouldn’t have eventually figured it out? They should have been upfront with this information and given us our proper due.

The following part of the review was written before I knew about the Latakia.

I am a known AJ fan. And I am really looking forward to this stick.

It is a near black wrapper with a bit of oil and very toothy. Seams are good and there are plenty of veins and the stick has a rustic look. It looks like a single cap.

I clip the cap and find aromas of fire cured meat. So strong that it feels like I’m in a BBQ joint. I cannot smell anything else except spice.
Time to light up.

The first puffs are very meaty. A strong leather element follows. And then wood. The draw is excellent. Smoke blinds me as I type….$%^UJR$&&*oops…
3

So I will either love it or hate it? Let’s find out together.

Wham. Spicy hot red pepper. The fire cured meat aroma translated to flavor. There is a very odd flavor. It is a very strong oakiness. But burned to a crisp. The char line is great.

Some sweetness appears. The body hits medium full in the first inch.

It’s raining and my photos will suck. Sorry. So far, the CI description is on the money. I am getting a sweet wild honey flavor. The smokiness continues in force.

It is pine. Well for chrissakes. This is a first. A real oddball flavor profile. Not Pine Sol strong, but subtle.

The pine grows strong by the middle of the first third supplanting the burned oak.

This is quite weird. LOL. So AJ does do acid. Whaddya know. The artwork on the band is dark and psychedelic with a tobacco plant lit by the setting sun. Or is it a marijuana bush?

The cigar is 5” long and the giant cigar band is 2-1/4” long.
4

Cocoa arrives making it taste like a chocolate covered baby back. The flavor and aroma are perfumey. Not herbal…perfumey.

I think a little Robitussin is thrown in for good luck.

The pepper continues on an upward trajectory.The leather gets stronger.

I’ve never tasted a cigar like this in my over four decades as a cigar smoker..not even an Acid comes close. It is the most unique stick. Period.

Some creaminess shows itself as the first third burns away.

None of the fire cured flavor is dissipating in the slightest.
5

The strength is now medium/full. It is chewy with a very long finish. I can’t comment on the balance as I don’t know how to evaluate it.

Cocoa gets stronger. The pine flavor is strong as well.

A rich earthiness appears and sort of pushes the other flavors out of the way. The honey balances everything.

I love it. Nothing wrong with a little out of the box thinking, or in this case; blending. Kudos AJ for getting this stick distributed. I’m sure 99% of the online stores were scared to death. And hence the low price of only $4.50-$6.00 a stick. There are only three sizes:
5 x 50, 6 x 52, and 6 x 60.

Now there is some herbal quality and clove elements. I am nearing the halfway point totally mesmerized by this cigar.

I have no idea what aging will do to this stick. No idea whatsoever.

Straw. Wheat. And the hits keep on comin’.
6

The char line is damn near perfect. A little loose tobacco at the cap but not a big deal.

The creaminess and cocoa keep trying to make their move but there are so many bizarre flavors emitting from this stick, they are dumbfounded and sit in the corner sucking their thumbs.

The halfway point sees the cigar smooth out nicely. Flavors are well rounded. Nothing has a sharp edge on it any longer. This cigar could easily slash and thrash your palate.

At this point, the flavor profile is more user friendly. It is edgy but creamy. The smokiness only lets go a bit. And the pine moves to the background.

I can most definitively say that the secret leaf stats are this: Tel Aviv, Barstow, Uzbekistan, and Kentucky. You can take that to the bank.

While the beginning of the cigar is breathtaking and shatters your expectations, the last third behaves in a mode that we are more accustomed to. The creaminess is ahead of the pack now. It is very spicy as well.
The strength moves to full bodied. I have 2” to go and I haven’t lost interest.

It is absolutely pouring outside and is dark. I am running through the house trying to find decent places to take photos. If I use a flash, it will only reflect against the cigar band.

I guess this foreboding weather is a perfect accompaniment to the cigar.

Here are the flavors in descending order: Creaminess, pine, smokiness, cocoa, Robitussin, sweet honey, and earthiness.

For a few moments, I got a salty pretzel flavor but it only lasted a minute or two.

No nicotine yet. I am surprised.

The honey moves to third place behind creaminess and smokiness. Cocoa comes in fourth. And pine, fifth.
The cigar finishes without change. A small amount of nicotine shows itself but nothing like you would expect from a full bodied cigar.
7

This was quite the experience. At these prices, there is no excuse not to try them. I plan to get a box. And let them rest a few months.

Well, there you have it. The strangest cigar on the planet.
P.S.
I think my shitty photos suit the dark and stormy night and the dark and bizarre cigar.
s1a

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8 replies

  1. Bill,
    I think CI wasn’t kidding with their PR pitch. Absolutely the strangest tasting cigar I’ve ever had. But I enjoyed the uniqueness of it and will buy more.

  2. Thanks Patrick. I’m sure with some real aging, the cigar flavor profile will really blossom…which means flavors of Brillo pads, caviar, potato chips, liver & onions, and a little bit of fried grasshopper.
    Kat

  3. I am an AJ fan as well, but this stick did not do it for me, at all. For the first time in ever, I could not finish it, as the smell got to me. No clue what AJ is doing lately. Core, MOW Armada, San Lotano Oval are great smokes, but the stuff he is coming out with lately does not wow me, and has me perplexed. Look at Fallen Angel…I already see it discounted to sell remaining inventory, and I was not crazy about that smoke either. how about Spectre…another ‘mysterious blend’ stick…More and more, I think he is trying to be like Drew Estate, but is not pulling it off. Anyway, great review…you write cigar reviews well, but I won’t be ordering any more of these. For an fyi… I am a BOLD cigar smoker, and really only prefer Nicaraguan sticks.

    • I applaud AJ for stretching. I liked Fallen Angel a lot. And Spectre just blew me away.
      I am not a rut cigar smoker. I like it when blenders get adventurous. The cigar doesn’t need to succeed. But it creates a path in which the blender learns from not only his successes, but his mistakes. It’s how you grow.
      I can’t stand the blenders who crank out the same old stuff over and over. It’s like a band with their “sound” and they don’t vary from it.
      But then I am not the best forecaster.
      Here is an anecdote that proves that. Back in the early 80’s, U2 broke into America. There was an industry only appearance at the Whisky a Go Go. I listened to them and everything sounded the same.
      I told my radio DJ buddy, “These guys ain’t going nowhere.” LOL
      Thank you for your kind words about my writing.
      Stick with me.
      BTW- I prefer cigars that are Nic blends but they tend to all have the same flavor profile. Cocoa, coffee, creaminess, spice, dried fruit, cedar, leather, and earthiness. But a nice change up is always a nice surprise.

  4. Those of us who smoke Balkan blends in our pipes can easily recognize the component tobaccos in this cigar. The immediately identifiable is Cyprian latakia. There are several pipe tobacco blends that incorporate cigar leaf. Their taste profiles are quite similar to the Spectre.

  5. As I’m sure you know by now, That’s LATAKIA you were smoking! (at least in part) Latakia is usually grown in Cyprus or Syria, each way of finishing the tobacco is different so Latakia is usually separated into those two categories, Syrian and Cyprian.
    Latakia is essentially smoke-cured turkish tobacco, which would give you the spice you experienced, as well as the perfume-y and smoke-heavy scents. This tobacco has long been used as a condimental tobacco for pipe smokers. You may want to look at these blend reviews to get an idea: Dunhill’s Night Cap, G.L. Pease’s Odyssey and Gaslight blends, McClelland’s Three Oaks Syrian and Frog Morton series, as well as Drew Estate’s recent pipe tobacco line including a good Latakia (or ‘English’) blend called Meat Pie. Usually Latakia blends are called either English, Full English, Scottish, Oriental Blends, or straight-up Latakia Bombs. Usually this has to do with the varying amounts of Latakia to other oriental (or Turkish) tobaccos, usually with Virginia and/or Burley tobacco as a base for the blend. Hope this makes some sort of sense, can’t wait to get my hands on this stick!

  6. As long as I’m giving out senseless screed, i guess I should also note that Latakia ages somewhat quickly. I have tried some oriental mixtures that were about 15 years old that married perfectly in the tin, completely anaerobically, as tobacco ages best. But at the same time, if exposed to lots of oxygen, some of that smokey flavor is going to dissipate and mellow, as I’m sure, the spice will, in time. My experience with aging Latakia anaerobically was so good that, I would recommend sealing some of these sticks at a fairly low humidity and waiting for that 3-5-or 10 year date. I have a feeling it will be quite rewarding.