Ave Maria Holy Grail | Cigar Review

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
Filler: Nicaraguan (Ligero, Viso), Honduran Viso
Size: 7.12 x 58 “Holy Grail-Salomon”
Body: Medium/Full
Price: $9.60


This is an AJ Fernandez blend produced at his Tabacalera Fernandez. And since I am a big fan of AJ, it is never too late to review one of his blends.

“This is a cigar you could easily pay $8 apiece for.”
– Nestor Plasencia

The quote, above, cracks me up as the single is $9.60. Good call, Nestor.

This stick has been around for a couple of years. I’ve tried them in the past and I learned the only way to enjoy them is to allow them plenty of humidor time. The one I am reviewing today has only two months on it.

The Salomon is only sold in boxes of 8. I’m sure you can get them cheaper on Cbid. I checked and with 4 days to go, a group of 15 singles are going for $2 each. So figure they will probably go up to around $4 each.

This is one good looking cigar. The Ecuadorian wrapper shimmers in the sunlight (which you won’t see if the sun doesn’t come out soon). It is the color of coffee with cream. Seams are very tight. Lots of very small veins. And perfectly shaped. The bulge at the bottom is executed nicely. The taper to the cap, all 7” of shaft, is symmetrical. And it looks like a triple cap but so well made it is impossible to verify. Because AJ makes so many sticks for others, his website strictly concentrates on the San Lotano blends and the Mayimbe.

I’m sure there are a gazillion other reviews of this cigar but I didn’t bother checking.
The cigar band is “Gurkha” flashy with lots of design going on in that little billboard.

I clip the cap and find aromas of subtle cocoa, spice, nuts, coffee, oak and leather. All those aromas, and flavors, are what you expect from a mostly Nicaraguan blend.

Time to light up. I remove the tiny nipple from the foot before torching it.

As I advised earlier, this is an old school blend needing a lot of humidor time.

I smoked one a couple days ago and was surprised to see it was ready. Before that? Hay and barnyard.

It starts of mild. Which is a tease because the stick I smoked prior to this one kicked my arse. I don’t particularly like Salomons. They have an unbalanced, unwieldy feel to them. It’s like having a barbell hanging from your mouth.

And looking at its shape, I won’t say the obvious.

A couple minutes in, some flavor arrives. Up til then it was wood and leather…not my favorite cigar flavors. A nice nuttiness appears along with a tiny dose of cocoa and coffee.

At half an inch in, creaminess appears enough to tease me for this long journey. Gotta be honest here, the last one I smoked, I didn’t have the staying power, or time, to finish it. It is a solid 2-1/2 hour smoke.

Drat. A wrapper crack appears just above the foot. I quickly grab my Kingpin glue and fix it. And since all my cigars have been performing excellently for a good month now, it is the cigar, not me..or my humidors.

This is not a cigar that wallops you in the palate right off the bat. It is certainly not one of AJ’s finest. But he did up the anty by adding two additional blends to the Ave Maria brand: Immaculata ($7-$9) and the Reconquista ($16). I’ve yet to try these two. I should. But the Immaculata is a mild bodied stick and not my style. The Reconquista better come with a blow job for $16.

Slowly I turn, inch by inch, step by step…and the cigar is beginning to take shape. Sweetness comes aboard with a combo of honey and caramel.

The sun comes out, a new photo is taken and the shiny aluminum billboard reflects the sun like a mirror. Drat!

The strength moves up to a weak medium body. Flavors begin to spread out.

Here they are, in order: Sweetness, creaminess, cocoa, café latte, nuts, wood, and leather. Pretty much the stereotypical Nicaraguan.

And we have touch down. At the 1-1/2” burned point, the flavor profile really opens up. Same flavors as listed earlier but now much tastier.

The strength is now a classic medium body.

The char line is perfect. The construction is back to normal as I have burned through that little crack in the wrapper. The cap is holding its own.

The caramel, sweetness, honey, creaminess, and cocoa make for a delicious grouping. The nuttiness adds a perfect salt and sweet mixture.

This stick can be had for a lot less than the retail price. Half or better. I would love to try the corona (4.4 x 45) or the robusto (5 x 52). I bet those are flavor bombs from the get go, especially the corona. And you probably won’t have to wait two months to smoke them.

Flavors are good but not flavor bomb good. I have no idea how I got these sticks. I didn’t buy them so some nice person sent them to me. I think it was Skip…long time buddy…who will smoke those horrible licorice flavored Avantis when he has no sticks in his humidor. So not the best palate in the world.

The size of this stick is causing me to be blasé about it. Big kahunas typically need 6 months of humidor time. Unless one of the brilliant blenders get their hands on it. And while I think of AJ as a brilliant blender, this is not one of his best efforts.

One of his best efforts is the new Man O’ War Ltd. Edition – Orange County Choppers. This is a fine, fine blend. Only 500 boxes made and go for $70 on CI. But can be had for half that on Cbid. I just got a 10 count box this week and I’m dying to dig in. You can read the review above by clicking on the cigar name. Everyone is commenting how they got the 10 count box for around $34. A killer deal for a brilliant AJ blend.

The second third begins and the cigar is good but not that good. Flavors go back to being subtle. Strength is barely medium bodied.


I’m closing in on the end of the pregnant belly of the beast.

I’m going to purchase the Reconquista…maybe just a couple. Cbid has them going for around $10 instead of $16. But they are big cigars too. 7 x 54 torpedo. And they come in individual coffins which really makes the price soar unnecessarily. What the fuck do I need a cedar box inside a cedar box for? It’s those kinds of gingerbread things that jack up the prices of cigars.

I’m going to finish this cigar if it kills you. Maybe a really dirty rock n roll story will make amends.

I am now at the halfway point, and as I predicted, the cigar finally blooms. The strength moves quickly to medium/full.

Here are the flavors: Sweetness, creaminess, cocoa, café latte, nuts, caramel, honey, plump golden raisin, wood and leather. Very potent now; nothing is subtle. I spent an hour to get here. That’s why a corona or a robusto is your better bet.

Nicotine begins to form. Shit. I still have 2-1/2” to go. And the nicotine is creeping up my spine.
The flavors go flat on me again. They are nice flavors and all are accounted for but there is no oomph. What a shame.

More cracks form on the wrapper about half an inch above the foot. Too screwed up to glue.
This cigar has been a big disappointment and I would never, never pay almost $10 for it.

Under normal circumstances, my boredom with this cigar would have me put it down by now.
But for you, dear readers, I shall trudge on.

The cracked wrapper is causing draw issues. I don’t like that. I have to suck really hard. (I know what your dirty little minds are thinking)

I have 1-1/2” to go and want to put it down. The strength moved back to medium bodied and the nicotine disappears.

The char line needs a major touch up. What else can go wrong?
I’m sorry, but that’s all folks.

The bottom line is that the Salomon is not a good size for this blend. I betcha a buck that the smaller sizes will do much better.

And now for something completely different:

I watched a show on Palladia last night. It was a documentary about the famous recording studio: Sound City, in L.A.
It was the launching ground for Fleetwood Mac and hundreds more. But like my studio in Long Beach, it was becoming archaic. I started the studio in 1980, I believe and by 1984, I walked away.

Analog was out. Digital and computers and Pro Tools were in.

My engineer, and partner, was brilliant when it came to splicing the 3” tape. This ain’t splicing your ¼” reel tape. This was creating something out of nothing without anyone ever noticing it had been done. The Beatles really started that revolution. (Pardon the pun).

It was the art of editing extraordinaire. I could run the board but I didn’t have 1/10 the talent Dave did in splicing.

Sound City went down around the time my studio did. Musician friends began to make fun of me because we weren’t digital.

But what these assholes didn’t realize was yeah they could record an album in their bedrooms, but they didn’t have the artistic talent to guide them like a superb engineer and a good producer.

The only fancy tools we had in out studio was a harmonizer and a pitch controller. Nowadays, if a note is sung or played out of key, a machine fixes it. My pitch controller was used to speed up or delay the background music laid down so the singer could find a better key to sing in. It did not fix a wrong note.

The age of Pro Tools disgusted me. It allowed people who had no business being in recording studio and making them pop stars all through the magic of Monsanto.

And now for something X rated:
One night, while working late by myself at the studio…a friend dropped by. Tim brought his gorgeous girlfriend and her girlfriend. They had never been inside a studio before.

Tim’s girlfriend, Marcie, made everyone drool and have fantasies. She was tall, slim, naturally blonde hair down to the crest of her ass, and a naturally beautiful face that needed no make-up. The epitome of the California Girl. Everyone wanted to fuck her.

Meanwhile, Tim looked like a fucking Martian. He was short, not good looking but the epitome of cool. A fellow musician.

Tim, as always, brought the finest herb on the planet and some toot. He passed the joint around and I took a small hit of coke. And told them I had to finish an overdub of my bass on a song I was paid to play on.
Tim wandered around the studio checking everything out. I was busy sitting and playing and working the board. I did take after take to get what I wanted.

I looked up and the girls were totally enamored with me. Something about that studio, and being the owner and producer, made me a chick magnet. Of course, back then I had a full head of luxurious hair, slim and very good looking. I got compared to McCartney all the time; which I did not get.

Marcie whispered in Tim’s ear when he returned and he giggled. Tim never giggled. The proposal was that I got to fuck Marcie and Tim got to fuck the girl friend…that he had a big crush on.

I put my bass down after hearing the proposal and grabbed Marcie’s hand. I took her to an office that had a big couch. Tim took the other girl to the main office which also had a big couch.

Marcie ripped my clothes off and we went at it. I had to think of baseball the entire time. She had a perfect body. 20 minutes later, we were done.

We come back out to the studio booth and there sat Tim and the girl. Apparently, the girl didn’t want to have sex with Tim so they sat there, not talking to each other, the entire time I was fucking Marcie.

My jaw dropped. Holy shit! I just fucked Marcie and Tim got nothing. I was so embarrassed. Tim was a great friend and I felt like I betrayed him.

Tim said it was time to go and off they went.

Tim continued to be a lifelong friend but we never spoke about that night again.

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