Wrapper: Ecuadorian Oscuro
Size: 5 x 52 Robusto
Humidor time: 2 months
Number of cigars smoked prior to review: 1
Today we take a look at Witchdoktor by AJ Fernandez for JR Cigars.
Thanks to Aaron Hamamoto for the sticks.
From the JR Cigars web site:
“Witchdoktor Cigars are crafted by cigar legend AJ Fernandez at his famous factory in Estelí Nicaragua exclusively for JR Cigar. These smokes proudly display the outstanding artisanship found on every Fernandez creation. Made exclusively for JR Cigar, Witchdoktor comes box-pressed, and fashioned with a well-aged core of Nicaraguan long-fillers snuggled beneath a smooth and oily Ecuador Oscuro wrapper. Upon lighting, you will experience savory medium to full-bodied notes of licorice, espresso, dark chocolate, leather, and various spices. For the ultimate in smoking satisfaction, these superb maduro’s also burn incredibly slow, and fill the room with a sweet warm tobacco aroma.”
SIZES AND PRICING:
Gordo 6 x 58 $6.00
Robusto 5 x 52 $5.00
Toro 6 x 50 $5.50
The Witchdoktor by AJ Fernandez is a very nice looking cigar. A crisp box press with sharp corners.
A lovely oily, chocolate/hickory/pecan colored, toothy wrapper. The cigar is solid; almost hard as a rock actually…with no soft spots and should smoke nicely.
The triple cap tapers via a curve which is applied impeccably. Seams are tight and locked into place. Veins permeate the stick but allow it to show off a mottled or brindle look.
The cigar band is silly looking. Looks like it should be applied to a bubble gum cigar.
AROMAS AND COLD DRAW NOTES:
From the shaft, I smell chocolate, coffee, melon liqueur, spice, lots of creaminess, malts, cedar, plump black raisins, a touch of anise, and strong caramel.
From the clipped cap and the foot, I smell eye watering/nose running red pepper, dark cocoa, espresso, Oreos, black licorice, dried fruit, caramel, cedar, malts, and that green melon.
The cold draw presents flavors of salty pretzel, melon, chocolate, spice, coffee, caramel, creaminess, and licorice.
I always, always…have burn issues with box pressed cigars. I’m starting to feel persecuted on this matter. Fingers crossed for the Witchdoktor.
Right out of the gate, this very firm cigar draws like a dream. ¼” in and the burn goes awry. Figures.
Flavors that spill forth: Red pepper, malt, graham cracker, chocolate, coffee, creaminess, caramel, licorice, and baking spices.
Flavors mimic the aromas.
Strength hits a high medium body quickly.
Salty roasted nuts appear. The chocolate is very dark and bittersweet. Back in the day, that is what Hershey called dark chocolate: Bittersweet chocolate. And then one day long ago, a marketing specialist decided that bittersweet is too off putting and it was changed to the word “dark.”
There is a marked difference between the start of this catalog cigar and say…a good boutique blend…or any good aged cigar…The flavor profile may be varied but it doesn’t come on the same way as a $12 stick.
The expensive blend weaves magic for the sake of the palate. Transitions are so important. An inexpensive blend takes another track…flavors are all on one plane. Like sticking a tongue depressor in your mouth and all the flavors sit on top of it instead of disseminating through your mouth and palate. It’s a weird distinction I am having trouble describing.
Some more burn issues pop up. What is it about a box press that rarely allows it to burn evenly? Any cigar physicists out there that can explain it to me?
There isn’t much action going on. The Witchdoktor by AJ Fernandez has gone a bit bland.
I smoked my first Witchdoktor a few days ago, amongst a sea of other cigars during the day, and if I remember correctly it so impressed me that I decided to review it. Now that I am in the middle of that process, this stick isn’t as tasty.
Smoke time is 23 minutes.
And heeeere’s Johnny! Flavors blossom. Now it tastes like the cigar from the other day. The first third had no flair. A 180° turnaround. More humidor time needed?
Flavors are now exemplary.
Strength scoots right past medium/full and hits a potent full body.
Even though the Witchdoktor by AJ Fernandez has come out of its shell, it is not big on complexity or transitions.
It does have the qualities of a good knock around cigar.
Flavors make a quantum leap. The creaminess, chocolate, raisins, caramel, creaminess, coffee and dried fruit are screaming laughter. Very tasty and approaching some complexity.
Transitions begin to open up.
I believe this is an Old School AJ blend. Not ready when you are. I believe a few months are necessary. Therefore, this review is more about its potential; and not so much about the needed humidor time end product.
Still, AJ has left his fingerprints all over this blend. The thing about AJ is that he has his hands in so many things that his original fingerprint has spread out unevenly. Everyone goes to this guy just like they go to Pepin Garcia. Instead of putting out an excellent blend each and every time, you find AJ dabbling in house blends and inexpensive catalog brands. He’s been watered down.
The Witchdoktor by AJ Fernandez ain’t bad. The 10 count boxes are from $50-$60 and JR is having a special that gives you another 10 assorted cigars for free with a box purchase. Of course, don’t expect to see a Tat or an Opus X in that free assortment…more unknown house blends.
The halfway point.
Smoke time is 35 minutes.
Each puff brings the blend closer to real palatability. There is a little MOW, La Herencia, Diesel, and Fallen Angel in the Witchdoktor by AJ Fernandez.
One of the more distinctive issues with inexpensive AJ blends is that they don’t last. If you haven’t smoked your AJ stick within a year, it’s all gone…especially if you store your cigars without their cellos like I do. Keeping the cello on will elongate this process.
My theory is that using leaf that was too dry and sponge-like; absorbs and absorbs until it goes too far and then it won’t accept any more moisture. Hence, they grew but didn’t age well; even if stored properly. Plus AJ could have been pickier with the leaves used.
Just spit ballin’ here.
AJ has a bunch of inexpensive cigars $6 or under: New World, Enclave, New World Connie, Hoyo La Amistad, Last Call, etc. His real forte is selling tobacco from his farms to other manufacturers. Or blending sticks for others. This is where he usually shines. You go to the AJ web site and he only displays 8 blends. In some cases those blends are broken down further into wrapper types. But that’s it. 8 blends! He doesn’t fuck around with house blends on the site.
The Witchdoktor by AJ Fernandez finally tastes like it did a couple days ago. Complex, transitions abound, and a nice long finish.
It took half the cigar to get here, but get here we did.
It has to be an issue of humidor time.
The burn line is a real mess. If I take my eyes off it for a few minutes, a run forms. Clearly, top rollers were not used. I try to stay away from box pressed sticks for this very reason.
All flavors previously listed are in play. Nothing new except for the nice blossoming effect.
Each AJ blend is different in its requirement of humidor time. Some can be smoked 3 weeks in. Others take months. He vacillates between Old School and New Breed.
I gotta admit that while the Witchdoktor by AJ Fernandez is muy strong now, it is doing it very smoothly and deliberately. A nice progression of distinct flavors. The complexity backs off so that each flavor can be heard from instead of them morphing into each other like a better blended cigar would.
At $5, I can’t think of another similar price point cigar that towers over the Witchdoktor. You get what you pay for. Although, that’s not necessarily true when you start buying ridiculously expensive cigars. There are more disappointments with $14 cigars than $5 sticks.
Smoke time is 50 minutes. The well-packed cigar is a slow roll.
I’ve now hit the sweet spot of the Witchdoktor by AJ Fernandez. This makes me realize that with more humi time, this blend will start off not with a whimper…but more like an excellent AJ blend.
The Witchdoktor is now palate pleasing in all respects.
Flavors ooze caramel, red pepper, chocolate, creaminess, coffee, dried fruit, licorice, and malts.
The day I smoked my first one found this blend somewhere in 5th place in order of cigars smoked that day. And it cut through my crispy palate. It impressed me. (If I have them, I chain smoke all day. I’m retired.)
A shame the Witchdoktor by AJ Fernandez can’t be bought via auction like on Cbid. The JR auction site doesn’t carry them on auction either. So $5 is the going rate at JR Cigars. And can only be bought in boxes of 10. No 5 packs or singles. So in order to try this blend, you’re all in.
The Witchdoktor, at this point, is wonderful. Complex now. Lots of transitions. Some nice character. Very AJ.
The goal for buyers is to be patient. The cigar deserves to be smoked with the last third flavors starting from the very first puff…which extended humidor time should accomplish.
Patience. Something I know nothing about.
Aaron sent me another JR house blend called Thunderdome. Reminds me of Mel Gibson. In Robusto size, it is only a $3 stick. This blend is from Jose “Jochy” Blanco. Blanco grows most of the tobacco for the Boutique Blends brand and is manufactured at Tabacalera Palma in the DR.
The Witchdoktor by AJ Fernandez isn’t half bad. Just make a mental note that when you buy them, put them in your humidor and forget about them for at least 3 months.
Thanks to Aaron for the sticks.
And now for something completely different:
I just wrote about the first time I took acid. 1973.
The first time I tried cannabis was 1966. What a cluster fuck.
Not enough lockers for all the kids in my high school so we shared. My locker partner was a “hard guy” but sat behind me in a couple of classes and was a good dude…despite being part of a car club that beat up punks like me.
I asked him in class if he could buy me a lid?
A couple days later he told me the stuff was in a lunch bag in our locker. I picked it up at end of school and took it home.
Had to go to some foo-foo shop that sold worldly crap and I found a small Indian hookah.
My friend, John Turner and I, had the house to ourselves on a school day afternoon.
We shove the weed, sticks and seeds, all into the bowl. We lit up and waited.
Neither of us got high. We tried several more times. Nada.
I took the stuff home and placed it on top of my dresser.
A few weeks later, my dad had to go to some construction conference in San Francisco for a couple of days. He asked if I wanted to play hooky and go with him?
Hell yeah. It was smack dab in the middle of Peace, Love & Understanding up there.
The first morning, he gave me the keys to the rental car and said have fun.
I immediately headed to Haight Ashbury.
I wandered there all day. Hippies were fucking everywhere. They stared at me and some chick asked if I was a narc? Tons of people asking for spare change. Sad, really.
I didn’t get. I was an outsider.
I looked like your typical 1966 middle class white kid with short hair.
Still didn’t get it.
I bought some posters of Jimi that go crazy with a black light on them. One of Morrison and one of Janis.
And then I saw the holy grail.
A cigarette roller and some rolling papers.
We get home and that night I roll my first joint. No problems…like second nature.
I smoked the whole thing.
I had a favorite album by the “Great Society.” It was the band that some of the Jefferson Airplane members were in before they became JA.
They did some of what would become classic hits on the real deal album.
I lay on my bed just listening and, before I knew it, I was rocking back and forth. My knees swaying to the jungle rhythm.
The album was over. I sat up.
Whoa. A new dimension. My universe had moved to another plane. A door had opened.
And I was overcome with hunger. I went downstairs.
Just below my room was the den where my mom and dad were watching TV.
As I came down the stairs, my mother asked: “Phil…What’s that smell?”
“It’s incense, mom.”
I was dependent on the roller for months before I could actually roll a joint.
I was an idiot.
I left the hookah, and a whole ounce of weed, just sitting on my dresser for anyone to see.
One day my dad was upstairs visiting. He looked at my dresser and said, “Phil. What’s that?”
“You smoking a pipe now?” And he winked and left.
My father was Jewish conservative. Not an easy guy.
No one in my dad’s family was musical according to stories I was told. On my mother’s side, only my cousin Fred Selden became a successful musician. So my dad didn’t really get my love for playing.
But it was he that bought me my Gibson 5 string banjo when I was 14. They weren’t cheap. I took lessons from John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
My friend, Skip, got a guitar and we jammed together but quickly went from folk to rock.
Before I knew what was happening, I was playing riffs and bass lines on my banjo.
Skip bullied me into buying a bass. I saved my dough and bought a 1964 Hofner Beatle bass from a pawn shop in downtown Long Beach. But no amp. $80.00. Can you imagine what it would be worth today? Oy.
After months of practicing my father saw I was serious and he bought my first bass rig.
AND…he let my rock band rehearse, in broad daylight, in our back yard. Drove some of the neighbors mad…others liked it. We had a good singer.
My dad never once told us to turn down and actually told us to ignore the neighbors.
Then one day, the cops showed up and told us to shut the fuck up. If they had to come out again, they would confiscate our equipment. So we shut ‘er down for the day.
We waited a week and rehearsed all weekend at my house. No cops ever came again.
We learned 4 sets and we immediately started playing out. Rehearsals were put on hold.
I was 15 for my first paying gig. My mom had to drive me to the gig. 16 couldn’t come fast enough.
3 days after getting my driver’s license, I hit a 2 year old girl in a friend’s neighborhood with my mom’s giant Pontiac Bonneville with the train cow catcher front.
She ran out between two cars. Thank God I was going slow.
The whole neighborhood came out as sirens wailed and I sat on the curb with my head in my hands.
Unless you’ve hit a person or a deer, you have no idea what it feels like to hit skin and bones.
Never told anyone this…the first thing I thought a nano second after I ran her over?
“Oh my God. My parents are going to take my driver’s license away!”
Yep. That was my first thought.
The cops didn’t even ticket me. I sat there for hours as they measured this and measured that. I did nothing wrong.
John and I visited the kid in the hospital. She was bandaged like the Mummy.
I left my teddy bear present and the nurse asked if I’d like to let the parents know who stopped by?
Tell ‘em it was Parnelli Jones,” said John.
A year later, I saw the same little girl running around in the middle of the street. What kind of fucking parents??
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS