Man O’ War Side Project Skull Crusher | Cigar Review

Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro
Binder: Mexican
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 5.75 x 56 “Figurado/Salomon/Perfecto”
Body: Full
Price: $6.67 at Cigars International or



This is not a new cigar but my anonymous friend actually researched me a bit to discover what I hadn’t yet reviewed on this blog. I get comments constantly from readers saying they found a review on Rocky’s Cigars blog that just has to be me but doesn’t say who wrote it.

Yep. That was me. I wrote over 100 reviews for them and after parting ways; in an non amicable fashion that only I can do…they not only kept all of my reviews but kept all my rock n roll stories. And on top of that, they took away the credit for who wrote the review. Now, that just ain’t very nice.

Anyway, I sometimes forget in my old age what I’ve reviewed for me and what I’ve reviewed for others.

In this case, I have reviewed a slew of Man O’ War products but none of the Side Projects. So my good buddy sent me all four: Skull Crusher, 52C, Little Devil, and Phalanx. All sticks range from $4-$6+ a pop.

How is the weather in your neck of the woods? The Midwest is being pounded by thunderstorms and buckets of rain…and guess what? NO sunshine. So once again I am mortified to apologize for the photos.

It’s a shame because the stick is quite nice with lots of oil oozing from a dark chocolate brown wrapper that has a wonderful mottled texture. The wrapper feels like satin. Seams are invisible. There are very few veins. As I have only two sticks, I am unable to count the caps as they are so expertly applied.

I’m an AJ Fernandez freak. This is one blender that can do no wrong in my eyes. He puts out great product and, for most of the time, keeps the price very affordable.

The stick is an oddball shape being a Figurado/ Salomon/Perfecto all at the same time. A little of each if you will. And it has a closed foot

I clip the cap and find aromas of succulent dark chocolate, spice, ginger, cedar, leather, and a touch of honey.
Time to light up.

But before I do, I got a phone call from Nelson Ruiz of MoyaRuiz Cigar Co….the makers of La Jugada Prieto and the La Jugada Habano.

Their new Nun Chuck comes out Friday. Nelson is sending me some aged sticks and wants me to be the only one to write pre-release review. These guys are real mensch’s. Nelson and Danny allowed me the honor of being the only pre-release review for the Habano as well.

Back to the Skull Crusher (which Nelson just did to me by surprise.)

The draw is a bit tight but as I puff away, it begins to open. The first flavors are dark cocoa and black pepper.
I’m not a big fan of the shape. The bulbous foot tends to create a terrible uneven burn requiring lots of touch ups. We shall see.

Ooh..a wonderful earthiness appears that is very expressive and dirty. The draw continues to get better.
A tartness arrives which comes from some kind of citrus. Tangy. Not Twangy.

Well, this cigar has made me a liar as I try to pull foot from mouth. The char line is perfect. Not fixes required.

Sweetness begins at the ½” mark. This cigar is going to take a long time to smoke. It is jam packed and big!
I prefer the water buffalo in the boa’s stomach to be near the foot instead of near the cap. It allows for character building early on so the flavor profile gets to the finish line quicker.

As I reach the 1” mark, flavors bloom. The black pepper becomes red pepper as my nose drips like “Yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye.”
“Goo Goo G’Joob”

While I have a couple minutes to kill I want to tell you a little story. You know who Geoff Pinkus is? That jerk who thinks he is funny, but isn’t, and has a cigar radio show out of Chicago? A few years ago, he invited me on the show and wanted to talk about boutique brands. I told him I would send him some sticks upfront so he would be familiar with them.

He set up a date a few weeks from the time we talked. And then I told my friends on FB about it. A well respected cigar insider contacted me and told me don’t do it. You know this guy and I cannot mention his name as I don’t want to involve him in this mess. But you know him.

He told me a story how this guy gets prospective guests for the show, they send him cigars and then he cancels them. And he has a nice stack of free cigars.

Hearing this, I recoiled. And then the guy had another important insider tell me the exact same thing.
So I told Pinkus I couldn’t make it. Meanwhile, he won’t leave me alone. “Where are my cigars? Where are my cigars?” I just ignored him. He wrote me a very nasty email.

And that was that. Except every now and again he’d find a way to be nasty and say something like “So you still telling those old tired stories of when you had your 15 minutes in the music business?” All because I sussed him out and didn’t give him free cigars.

A few days ago, I get an email from Pinkus. It says, “Hi Phillip Kohn.” And there was a link beneath it. I wrote back that I don’t open links when I don’t know what they are.
No response.

Now I have a top of the line anti-virus software program that I won’t mention on purpose. Over the years, I’ve tried them all and this is the best. It ferrets out threats like nobody’s business.

So I did a little tweaking and opened the link. Sure as shit, it was a virus. My software went bonkers flashing lights and ringing bells telling me it had quarantined it. It ran a scan and then I used System Mechanic to make sure there were no residual effects.

So this SOB, after several years, gets it into his pinhead that he is going to send me a virus for the fun of it. What a turd. Who holds a grudge that long? Fat Bastardo!

I’ve made it to the start of the second third. Here are the flavors I experienced during the first third: Cocoa, red pepper, sweetness, earthiness, wood, toastiness, nuts, cedar and leather. The strength started out at classic medium but is now medium/full. The char line has not required a single touch up. It’s a tad bit wavy but within the parameters of acceptability.

New flavors arrive as the second third begins: Creaminess, citrus, honey, and a salty pretzel element. Nice.
The second third finds the cigar becoming a flavor bomb. The strength has moved to full bodied and tries to hide some of the more subtle flavors. This is an ass kicker of a stick.

I am at the halfway mark and even with the strength as it is, the stick is so smooth.

The saltiness increases all of a sudden. A little too much of a good thing.

The last third begins and the salt has completely dissipated.

Here are the flavors once more: Cocoa, creaminess, sweetness, honey, spice, earthiness, citrus, nuts, cedar, toastiness, leather, and dates.

The last couple of inches is a flavor fest. Nicotine enters. Oy.

I wish you could see how oily the wrapper is in my photos but alas….

I noticed that there aren’t as many reviews out there for this stick. No idea why. The A Listers pretty much stayed away from it. If it isn’t something new and exciting then they don’t write about it. Rarely, do you see a pedestrian cigar written about no matter how good it is. Sort of snobby. Thank goodness for us little guys who know you want to hear about the good stuff that isn’t all limited editions.

I’ve been smoking the stick for 90 minutes. And I guess I will get another 20 minutes out of it.

Fast forward…the cigar is an excellent portrayal of what AJ can do at an affordable price for the consumer.

And of course, since this brand is strictly a CI Conglomerate brand, you can find it on Cbid for even lower prices than shown above. I took a peek and the best buy is getting a sampler of the whole Side Project line. You can get a 12 stick flight sampler for around $35-$45. That brings the prices down to a little over $3 a stick. Half of what CI sells them for.

The stick finishes out smooth as my tushy. Cool and not a bit of harshness. The nicotine doesn’t keep getting stronger which is a big relief. I will get to the other three Side Project blends in the next couple of weeks.

And now for something different:

The editors at Cigar Aficionado have a way of describing flavors like no one else. Here is a sample from the July/August issue:
1. The finish is minty and reedy
2. Full of bright floral and linen notes
3. The finish feels powdery on the palate
4. Pencil lead notes with a finish smacking of vermouth
5. A steely finish
6. The draw is open and lush
7. A piquant aftertaste
8. Toasted caramel
9. Espresso character buttressed by slight fruitiness and a touch of tar
10. A balanced cigar with considerable charm
11. Touches of cereal and nuts also emerge (Froot Loops?)
12. Oaky underpinnings
13. Hints of wet leather
14. Squarely pressed with a bumpy head (Like me?)
15. Charry finish that sticks to the palate

And now for something completely different:

Here is a story I’ve never told. Music in the background reminded me. “Take the Money and Run” by the Steve Miller Band.

I was living and working in Phoenix during the 1990’s. I got this horrible project to run that was residential. The biggest home in Arizona up in the hills north of Scottsdale. The guy that owned it had a famous boat manufacturer and sold it for a gazillion dollars. He was spending something in the neighborhood of $100 million. The road to the top of the hill where the main house was cost $20 million to build. It had a caretaker’s house at the bottom. It had a housekeeper’s house about halfway up. And his house was on top of this hill that he bought. I don’t know how many acres it was but the land cost him around $30 million.

His house was perfectly round. All the rooms on the exterior walls were pie cut shaped. With a huge circle for the living room, kitchen, etc. in the middle.

His garage was a circle and big enough that you could drive a car into it and come out it facing the right direction to leave the house. Must have been 150 feet in diameter.

I wish I could remember the guy’s name but I can’t.

I was in the Todd Hart Band at the time and for Christmas he bought me a beautiful leather jacket with the band’s logo on it.
Todd on guitar, the drummer, and me on the far right in the background playing my Dobro electric upright bass like a guitar:


I had a meeting with the owner, architect, construction manager, and the structural engineer one morning.
The owner saw my jacket and inquired.

He asked me if I knew Steve Miller? I laughed and said no.

He said that Steve was staying at his house in Paradise Valley…an old upscale part of Phoenix. Same place that Alice Cooper lives.

I should add that the owner of the company I worked for was there as well. He was my age. A real prick. Cheated on his wife openly with some buck toothed chick that worked in the office eventually leading to a divorce.

So the owner says that Miller is quite the guitar player. I nodded. He then took out his cell phone and made a call.

He hung up and asked if I wanted to stop by his house and meet Miller when business was done? Before I could answer, Brad the boss, said “YES!”

We meet Miller and he is a gracious as all get out. He actually had set up a little recording studio in one of the large rooms in the house. I was introduced and gave him my background for my 15 minutes (actually 10 years) in the music business.

Then he asked if I wanted to lay down some bass lines or just jam?

I told him that I didn’t have my gear with me. He laughed as he pointed to about 6 different basses in their stands. All were collector’s items and I picked the 1958 Fender Precision. It felt like I had owned it forever.

My boss was impressed with me for the first time. So a few people that I never was introduced to came into the room. One was a drummer.

I was freaking out. I didn’t know any of his songs. Miller graciously suggested we start with a blues changes improve. You know…1-4-5?

We played for an hour on one tune and took it everywhere. Miller and I and the drummer were having such a good time that time lost its value.

Miller invited me to stay all day and asked if I could lay down some bass lines on stuff he was working on.
And my prick boss said we had to get back to the office.

We all glad handed each other and Brad and I left in his new Corvette. I didn’t say a word to him the whole 45 minutes back to the office.

We get back and Brad goes on about what happened. But forgets to mention how Miller and I bonded and how much he liked my playing.

Of course, the truth came out during the day as I was pounded for more info. Brad liked to leave early in the day to go fuck his sweetie.

So all work stopped and I told the story of Miller and I playing together.
I got some serious street cred from that incident in the office.

I never saw Steve Miller again. But a week later, I met with the house owner and he told me how much Miller appreciated me being there because he had recorded the whole jam and it gave him some ideas for new compositions.
Oh well… Protection Status


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2 replies

  1. Far out!

  2. You never cease to amaze me! Your perception of taste in flavors is so accurate it’s incredible. What’s more amazing is that I can perceive them as well. For this is what I exactly experienced with this cigar. I had one the other night after 6 months in the humi. and man it was delicious! I have had them all in this line and my favorite is the Little Devil. Let that sucker rest for a few months and it’s caramel goodness. What I enjoy about A.J.’s blends is that they need so little time for you to enjoy them, but give them 3 to 6 months rest and they become incredible smokes. And again for the price they are hard to beat. The man uses high quality tobacco and you can really taste it! The man can’t make a bad cigar! Another thing that I enjoy about A.J.’s cigars is the consistency of manufacture, I have smoked countless of boxes of his cigars and NEVER have I had a defective cigar! Flawless construction, flavor, and draw. That my friend say’s a lot about his commitment to cigar making.