Hoyo La Amistad by AJ Fernandez | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Ecuadoran Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan (Estelí, Ometepe, Condega, & Jalapa)
Size: 5 x 54 “Robusto”
Body: Medium/Full
Price: $7.59 ($4.50-$5.00 at most online stores)
Humidor Time: 3 Weeks
Number Smoked: 0

1a

2a

hoyo-by-aj-2-1600

Today we take a look at the Hoyo La Amistad. A collaboration between AJ Fernandez and Hoyo de Monterrey.
Thanks to buddy, Jeremy S. for the sample.

BACKGROUND:
Debuted at the 2016 IPCPR trade show.
Factory: Tabacalera Fernandez S.A.
Limited production.

From Cigar Aficionado:
“General Cigar has collaborated with cigar maker and tobacco grower A.J. Fernandez to help create the Hoyo La Amistad—perhaps the most full-bodied Hoyo de Monterrey to ever hit the market.

“The limited-edition cigars were made at Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua and feature a hearty blend consisting of a dark, Ecuadoran Habano wrapper and a bold combination of Nicaraguan tobaccos from Estelí, Condega and Jalapa. It’s a modern interpretation of Hoyo de Monterrey through the eyes and palate of Fernandez, and a project that he was thrilled to undertake.

“I grew up very near to the Hoyo de Monterrey farm [in Cuba] and I have always had a love for the brand,” said Fernandez, a Cuban expatriate who now makes his cigars in Nicaragua. “When it came time to develop this blend, I put my heart and soul into it. To me, this project represents how far my family and I have come since Cuba.”

General expects the Hoyo La Amistad cigars to be available by the beginning of September and will release them in four sizes: Rothschild, 4 1/2 inches by 50 ring gauge; Robusto, 5 by 54; Toro, 6 by 50; and Gigante, 6 by 60. They have suggested retail prices ranging from $6.49 to $7.99.

“A.J. Fernandez embodies the same ethos as the Hoyo brand,” said Alan Willner, vice president of marketing for General Cigar. “His passion for the craft of cigar making is what led us to collaborate with him on La Amistad.”
“La Amistad translates to “friendship” in Spanish.”

SIZES AND PRICING:
4.5 x 50 $6.49 Rothschild
5 x 54 $7.59 Robusto
6 x 50 $7.79 Toro
6 x 60 $7.99 Gigante

DESCRIPTION:
A very stout stick. Solid as a rock. There is nothing under filled in this cigar. Packed to the gills.
The wrapper is an oily cinnamon/muddy brown. Can’t find any seams. Lots of veins. And very smooth.
The cap is gorgeous. A seamlessly formed triple cap.

AROMAS AND COLD DRAW NOTES:
From the shaft, I can smell honey, caramel, chocolate, espresso, spice, fruit, cream, cedar, brown sugar, and graham cracker.
From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell strong red pepper…here come the triple sneezes…almonds, (I clogged my sinuses with the sneezing), floral notes, sweetness, cedar, and berries.
The cold draw presents flavors of brown sugar, espresso, strong cocoa, spice, fruit, sweetness, bread, cedar, very earthy notes, and malts.

FIRST THIRD:
As this is the only stick I have and that I’ve never smoked one prior to this review, it is a roll of the dice if it is ready or not. But then it’s AJ. Odds are that the several weeks I’ve had it have caused an alignment with the universe and the omnipotent Cosmic Muffin so I am not afraid…I am not afraid…I am not afraid…you get the rest.

Yikes! A right cross to the chin of powerful red pepper in place with the first few puffs.
Immediately, a smooth, decadent creaminess occurs. Followed by milk chocolate, mocha java, nuts, fruity sweetness, cedar, and warm bread.
Damn. Now this is how a friggin cigar should start. Blistering flavors, one on top of another, laying siege to your palate and puny brain.

3a

Leave it to AJ to come up with a tasty blend for pennies on the dollar compared to the other greedmeisters out there.

I just checked a few online stores and these cigars are all backordered. Clearly, a popular blend. Add to that the reduced price everyone is selling them for at $5 a stick and you’ve got a gold rush.
There is a nice solid ash hanging tough. A nice slow smoke that allows one to savor each puff without it burning like a cheap cigarette.

Strength is a solid medium body.
Flavors begin the trek to complexity and frugal transitions at this point. The different malts begin to take their place at the start of the line. Then, a number of sweets nudge their way into the melee. Like cherries, black berries, and brown sugar. The creaminess takes on the life of an ice cream cake. Pistachios and chocolate…the perfect combo.

SECOND THIRD:
Smoke time is 30 minutes.
I hate to preach (I really don’t) but this blend is an example of how an excellent cigar need not be in the double digit price range. No one is selling this cigar for $10. The fact that Hoyo and AJ are allowing huge discounts to the public means they want folks to smoke this cigar. But what I don’t understand it the limited production tag. No info on how limited. So my advice is to snag some at first chance.
The only store I found them at, in dwindling quantities, is Atlantic Cigar. At a reasonable price.

4a

The Hoyo La Amistad is delicious, plain and simple. I’m having trouble believing these sticks can be had for $5.
Halfway point is on me. So complex….loads of transitions. Making my head spin like Linda Blair. Hold the guacamole.

The band, Rush, is on the cable TV classic rock channel. Never could stand them because of Geddy Lee’s voice. A terrific bassist but he sounds like a girl who got her finger slammed in the car door.
But I do admire him for being proud he’s a Jew and not trying to hide it.

The Hoyo La Amistad takes off like a rocket for the second time. It reaches a potent medium/full status. Flavors are well-rounded and spectacular. It pushes all my buttons for what I look for in a cigar blend. But then I am partial to AJ.
I keep checking back to Atlantic Cigar and the 5 packs are disappearing like they are on fire. Move quickly unless you find another place to pick them up. If you do, please comment so readers get a heads up.

5a

Here they are: Malts, creaminess, nuts, fruit, cherries, brown sugar, cocoa, espresso, spice, cedar, nutmeg, and freshly baked bread.

With each puff, as I lighten the load of the remaining stick, the blend becomes more complex and just friggin astounding.
I didn’t check other reviews so I don’t know what anyone else thinks of this blend. But anything short of a rave review is doubtful.

While the Hoyo La Amistad is blowing the screen doors off the submarine, the strength doesn’t bring nicotine to the captain’s chair.
Look up smooth in the dictionary and you’ll see a photo of the Hoyo La Amistad. Wearing a dirndl and an accordion.

At the early age of 10, I was forced at gunpoint by my parents to take accordion lessons. Lost all my friends because of that. What a horrifying instrument to play. Ever see the bumper sticker: “Use an Accordion…Go to Jail.”
When I was a teen, I traded the thing for an ounce of pot. The bellows were rotted by then anyway.

LAST THIRD:
Smoke time is 55 minutes.
I’m bummed that I only have one stick and I had to use it for this review. So I beat you to the punch and bought a 5 pack of Toros at Atlantic Cigar for $28. It was their last one. Sorry.
Cigars by the box are even cheaper than the 5 pack price by a lot.
This is crazy.

I’ve found that most AJ blends are ready to go after 3 weeks of humidor time. They get better in the next few months. But they lose their zest if you allow them to sleep too long. These are, generally, not blends you want to rest for a year or two. Attack while they are in their prime.

With 1-1/2” to go, not the slightest hint of harshness or nicotine.

I want to slather my body with the flavors and then stand out in the rain. Did I mention that I have been diagnosed as a psychotic schizophrenic with sociopathic tendencies? Shit! I could run for president!

Pat Benatar is playing. Back in the day, every guy creamed their jeans over this little dish.
Remember the band, Heart? After I came back from England in the late 70’s, I was riding with my dad in his car and the song, “Barracuda” came on. He screeched, “That’s your band!!”
“No dad, it isn’t.
“Sure it is.”
Apparently my word was not good enough.

I’m savoring the shit out of the last inch or so of the Hoyo La Amistad.
A bit of nicotine arrives but it is so mild that it is more akin to taking a puff from a doob. No blindness follows.
Get this cigar before they are all gone. I truly hope they resurrect this cigar after they are gone. It would be a shame if the limited production doesn’t put an end to this great blend.

Final smoke time is one hour 15 minutes.

RATING: 93

And now for something completely different:
1975

We made a bet. Whoever could piss off Darryl Way the most, within the constraints of one 2 hour concert, would be showered with lots of hashish. Darryl was the Napoleonic tyrant of English bands…right behind Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. Over the ten years in pro music, he was by far the most arrogant S.O.B. I had ever met. I’ve heard from friends that he is now a broken down wreck. Too bad, so sad.

The usual Three Musketeers were Stewart, Sonja, and me. We spent an afternoon playing cards at Stew’s flat in St. John’s Wood. Joining us was our favorite full time roadie by the name of Beric Wickens. Now if that isn’t a name right out of Dickens, I don’t know what is.

We drank lots of English ale, smoked hash, and laughed a lot. What kind of prank could we do to Darryl Way that would piss him off but avoid the blame being aimed at us?

And then Sonja won the hand and said quietly, forcing us to lean in; “Why not put acid in his beer. He always insists on closed beers and drinks. He never did drugs and was deathly afraid of them because someone once slipped him acid a long time ago at a party. So we grab a beer, carefully open it without crimping it, drop a tab of acid in it and then close it carefully. And we make sure it is the first available beer for him. We will have to work that out. Whatcha’ think?”
We erupted in laughter. “Huzzah! Huzzah!”

Now, which gig should it be? We had a new tour coming up in a few weeks. We would first do England, then the Continent. Hitting Holland, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Austria.
We decided to play it on the cuff. The tour was to last two months.

It turned out to be Germany. Stew tried to do the mechanics of the bottle operation first and botched it. I didn’t even want to try so Sonja did it and it worked. We decided to make sure there were no beer bottles in the dressing room. I would enter the room with several unopened bottles of beer and hand Darryl the designated beer. I would tell him I had to buy bottles from the bar.

We hadn’t let anyone in on our secret. So Stew and Sonja and I sat in the dressing room watching Darryl drink. We got impatient. But we waited for him to finish. Our only hope was that he didn’t throw up before going on stage; which was a ritual before every gig because of his nerves. The dummy would always eat a big dinner, get queasy, and then puke 10 minutes before hitting the stage.

We were still a good hour before going on and hoped the beer and the acid made it home before his ritual vomiting.

Twenty minutes before stage time, Darryl would always begin to practice his viola. He was always called a violinist in the press, but he really played a viola; which is a bigger and deeper sounding violin. Plus it was made of clear Lucite, had flashing lights inside, and was electric. So he could put on quite a show with that carnival act viola.

curvedair-2

We walked on to the stage to thunderous applause and I could hear Darryl moaning in the darkness. I looked over to Stew and Sonja and they nodded.

I have to hand it to Darryl. He somehow got through the two and a half hours without running off stage screaming like a banshee. He had figured out that he had been slipped some acid but thought it was the bar’s fault, not mine. He didn’t think anyone was smart enough to pull a stunt like we did.

Darryl’s playing that night was hysterical. But funniest of all was that he always insisted on being the one to count us in to a song with the “1-2-3-4” And while high on acid, he couldn’t remember the numbers. So I started us in, ignoring Darryl. The three of us tried very hard to keep from laughing. Like kids in school or church. We were spewing spittle all over ourselves to keep from just letting out a big belly laugh. Any laugh at all would signal Darryl that we knew what happened.
Although, he would probably never remember it.

Darryl was a classically trained musician. He loved the composer, Vivaldi…who lived during the 17th-18th century and died in 1741. Vivaldi liked to use the perfect circle of fifths, a lot, in his music. That is where you play the root note, and then play its fifth. Then you play the fifth of that note, and so on. It takes 12 chromatic notes to complete the circle. And it is very easy to get lost if you don’t really pay attention. Being stoned was not an option…ever. That was reserved for after the last song of the night and just before the encore(s).

The diagram below shows it simply. Start with the C note at the 12:00 position and move clockwise to see its perfect fifth. Those are the chromatic notes in a major chord. The interior notes are a circle of fifths in the minor key. Both are written in treble clef. For bassists, it will be written in bass clef. Get it? Got it. Good.

circle_of_fifths_deluxe_4-svg

The diagram below shows both circle of fifths on the left and circle of fourths (blues) on the right in the Dorian Mode. And shows the musical staffs in both treble and bass clefs. Dorian mode is represented by the natural diatonic scale D–D (containing a minor 3rd and minor 7th). Get it? Got it. Good.

circle-5ths-bass-clef

Most blues tunes are based totally on the 1-4-5 chordal changes. The root (1), then the 4th, then the root (1), then the 5th, the 4th, and back to the root (1). That’s all you need to play basic blues songs.

So the band’s theme song was “Vivaldi.” A song dedicated to the composer totally based on that circle of fifths. But instead of repeating the same root over again, after the 12 chords were completed, we went up half a step…go to the sharp (#) on the root note. In other words, the circle starts on the C chord, the next time it comes around, it starts on C# and all the following chords change by half a step, and so on and so on. If you got lost, you were fucked. I’m fucking lost just writing about it.

When I first started playing with the band, I had a couple space outs where I lost my place. Darryl got really angry at me those two times I screwed up. He had no patience whatsoever. He had played that song for years. I had two weeks rehearsal for 2-1/2 hour concerts with all very complex song structures. I also was very nervous as I had never played in front of 20,000 people before. That can shake you up. Really.

The audience never got the joke. Darryl was frying. Darryl was on another plane of reality. Not of this planet.

Darryl kept screwing up the circle and we tried to follow him so as not to make him look bad…and because we didn’t want him to yell at us. Mick, the guitarist, was completely perplexed by what was happening.

Back in the dressing room, after the gig, Darryl was really peaking on the acid. He wanted to be angry but Stew, Sonja, and I talked him down, so to speak. We kept him calm and clucked our tongues at how someone in the bar could have done this to him.

We went back to the hotel. Darryl was the only one of the band who got his own room. The rest of us had to double up. (Ever smell 1970’s British musicians on the road? Yuck. I got made fun of because I took a shower every day. They took showers on Saturdays. No shit. Sonja had G-Strings that could stand up in the corner of the room. Guess whose pussy never got eaten? But she was a masterful giver of head. Truly inspiring.)

I was also made fun of in the dressing room when they saw I wore boxers while changing into my stage gear. Only 85 year old men wore those. Europeans wore underwear smaller than Speedos. So Sonja spoke to my girlfriend and told her she better get me some hip and happening shorts. And she did. And I wore them on the road. And the laughing stopped.

Where was I?

So we three musketeers spent the night with him making sure he did nothing foolish. He finally fell asleep around 6am. We were exhausted. It was a hard fought battle for that practical joke and it wore us out too.

We were late leaving the hotel because of Darryl. The road manager was furious.
The rest of the tour, Darryl bought his own beer at pubs or liquor stores before the concert and never let them out of his sight.
It was a glorious night. And I don’t think he ever figured out who did this to him.

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10 replies

  1. JR cigars has boxes all under $95 all sizes in stock I just ordered the Rothschilds for $77

  2. Great review just order some do you have the ajf last call if you want some email me I live very close to you and would be happy to bring you a 5 pack I find them to be a great little 45 min smoke I would love to here your take on them because I don’t have the sweet ass palate you have but they are tasty

  3. I just smoke my first on right off the truck and you nailed it what a fantastic cigar and the price is perfect I will bring a fiver for you on Saturday

  4. Katman,

    Like you, AJ Fernandez is probably one of my favorite blenders, although sometimes its hard to tell all of the cigars that are in his portfolio. Could you put out a list of all the AJ Fernandez cigars you recommend?

    Thanks!

    Chris

  5. Just scored 5 of these from a Facebook auction, and now I’m excited to try one!

    As far as the music story, as an inspiring musician, I’m not sure who’s nuttier: Darryl for insisting on that crazy song structure (work the circle of fifths, then change keys and go again? ? Yikes!), or you guys for dosing him! As a non-user, I would be mighty pissed if someone did that to me.

    Love your reviews, Katman.

    • Luckily you didn’t know Darryl. In all my years playing music, he was the most arrogant, self centered sonovabitch I ever met who had no mercy on anyone around him. Even the music press hated him. Really.
      And you should remember that this occurred over 40 years ago. We were young and dumb.