Montecristo Crafted By A.J. Fernandez | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Ecuadoran Sumatra
Binder: Mexican San Andrés
Filler: Nicaraguan, Honduran
Size: 5 x 52 Robusto (Box Pressed)
Strength: Full
Price: $9.00

Today we take a look at the Montecristo Crafted By A.J. Fernandez.

Photo courtesy of Cigar Aficionado:

BACKGROUND:
From Cigar Aficionado (November 18, 2016):

“Smokers will soon be able to smoke a Montecristo cigar as imagined and interpreted by cigar maker A.J. Fernandez. In a collaboration with cigar distributor Santa Clara Inc., Montecristo Crafted By A.J. Fernandez is the newest version of the heritage Montecristo brand.

“Altadis U.S.A. owns the U.S. trademark for Montecristo. Both Santa Clara and Altadis U.S.A. are run by Tabacalera U.S.A., which is an arm of Imperial Brands PLC.

“Made in Nicaragua at the A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua factory in Estelí, Fernandez worked with Altadis’ Grupo de Maestros to develop this new Montecristo, which consists of Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper, Mexican San Andrés binder and filler from Nicaragua and Honduras.

“Montecristo Crafted By A.J. Fernandez will come in five sizes: Churchill at 7 inches by 50 ring gauge; Figurado, at 4 by 52; Gordo at 6 by 58; Robusto, 5 by 52; and Toro, 6 by 50. The Montes, which are all box-pressed, are set to retail from $9.95 to $12.50 (MSRP) and come in 10-count boxes.

“Although offered through Santa Clara, the cigars will also be available in brick-and-mortar shops like the Casa de Montecristo retail stores across the country. Other retail shops can purchase the cigars through Santa Clara’s wholesale division.

“This would be the second time that Altadis has collaborated with a third-party producer to make a Montecristo. In 2014, Nestor Plasencia worked with Altadis to create the Espada by Montecristo line. Other recent collaborative releases include the Henry Clay Tattoo (with Tatuaje Cigars) and the Romeo by Romeo y Julieta Aging Room (with Boutique Blends).

“This would also be the second time that A.J. Fernandez has the opportunity to interpret a heritage brand. The Hoyo La Amistad is his version of the storied Hoyo de Monterrey brand, which is owned by General Cigar for sale in the U.S.”

DESCRIPTION:
I got my photos out of the way so I could peel back the billboard presentation and see the whole cigar in all its nudity.
It’s a beautifully box pressed figure. Oily with a small touch of tooth. Seams are invisible. Not that many veins. The triple cap is flawless.
And the wrapper has that lovely chocolate/espresso color tone.

AROMAS AND COLD DRAW POINTS:
From the shaft, I can smell creamy milk chocolate, spice, slight floral and fruity notes, espresso, cedar, salted nuts, and caramel.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell very dark cocoa, black and red pepper, espresso, cedar, caramel, nougat, cinnamon graham crackers, and nutmeg.

The cold draw presents flavors of red pepper, chocolate, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, coffee, cedar, and roasted nuts.

FIRST THIRD:
I just spent 5 days in bed with the flu. So if I report only the taste of matzoh balls and chicken schmaltz, please forgive me.

I’ve made no secret that I am an AJ fanboy. I haven’t had a chance to smoke this blend prior to this review. My expectations are the same as the first time I got laid (age 36)…it will go too quickly but boy it will be a lot of fun!

First puffs are fruity sweet with some malt varieties, red pepper, dark cocoa, salted caramel, cedar, and espresso.
Strength hits a potent medium immediately.

A nice surprise with an influence of root beer enters stage left. Actually more like sarsaparilla soda…which is a nice blend of molasses, ginger root, sarsaparilla root, licorice root, citric, and vanilla bean.
This brings a nice zesty lemon component to the table.

This seems to coax some delicious creaminess to the forefront.
If you read me with any regularity, you’ve seen me whine and piss and moan how I never can get a box pressed stick to burn normally. The Montecristo Crafted By A.J. Fernandez has broken that curse. A perfect char line. Good ol’ AJ.

Complexity kicks in. Transitions begin to run amok like security guards for United Airlines. A long finish develops.
Strength moves to medium/full.
This is a very smooth blend. It bathes in its own unique distinction.

While $9 is not an inexpensive cigar if you are used to purchasing $3 catalog cigars…based on the quality I am enjoying, the whirlpool of shitty cigar industry greed could have priced this cigar at what is now considered normal: $12.00…or more.

I am tired of hearing manufacturers cry the blues over the cost of tobacco, blah, blah, blah. I did a cost analysis between 2012-2017. The cost of living index has been near Zero! Yet the cost of a good Nica cigar was $7.50 on average in 2012. Now it’s $12.00. That’s an increase of almost 63%. I don’t buy all the bullshit about PR costs and packaging and other crap that cigar industry folks use as an excuse for taking advantage of their customer base.

SECOND THIRD:
Smoke time is 35 minutes.
Strength reaches full on and damn the torpedoes.

And then I hit the golden shower of big time flavors. A perfect pearl necklace of creaminess, coffee, chocolate, sarsaparilla, red pepper, candied lemon rind, cedar, roasted nuts, cedar, and tamarind sauce.

AJ has not let me down. If this keeps up, I will rob one of my neighbors at gun point so I can purchase a box. (Just kidding. I would rob a stranger; not a neighbor).
The balance of this blend is spot on. The smooth demeanor is outstanding. Not a hair out of place. Its merkin is slapped on perfectly.

Some reviews seem to be lost in infinity as I try to glean something good to say. The Montecristo Crafted By A.J. Fernandez is whizzing by like a taxi that won’t stop for you.

Holy shit. We are climbing Everest without oxygen. Each step of the experience continues to get better with each puff. As Moe said, “Spread out!” That’s what the flavor profile is doing. Like the final scene of the film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the optics are mind boggling.
The char line continues to be dead nuts not requiring a single fix.

At the halfway point, I get a charred meaty element along with some toasted rye slathered with butter.
Smoke time has been a very quick 50 minutes.

The Montecristo Crafted By A.J. Fernandez is a dichotomy. While the strength of the blend is super potent, I believe it would be the perfect stick for newbies wanting to get away from medium body blends. This is one of the smoothest full strength blends I’ve smoked.
And here comes the jinx: No nicotine.

Not a single flavor has dissipated. Complexity, finish, and transitions are full speed ahead. Yeah, I could smoke this cigar all day long…an all-day sucker…like me in the music industry (Story to follow).
Construction is impeccable. I’ve not had a single issue. I have had some real construction issues lately with some review cigars. Especially the MoyaRuiz blends. This just proves, in my mind, that my humidor is doing its job. It is the crap cigars that aren’t doing theirs.

Didn’t need my PerfecDraw poker to clear the nasal passages of the cigar nor have I needed to use my PerfecRepair cigar glue.
Montecristo could have charged double digits for this AJ blend. And folks would pay it. Nice to see greed get put aside by a big company.

The cigar was solidly built. No soft or hard spots. Tobacco distributed evenly. And continues on that route making this fun experience a breeze.

There are some subtle nuanced flavors lurking in the shadows that I can’t quite nail. Sort of like laying down the rhythm section as the bedrock of a song and then layering the melodic parts with great care.
I got them…the caramel has returned, a touch of honey, dried fruit, and black tea.
The spiciness has been quite restrained throughout. Not overwhelming other flavors. Very nice.

LAST THIRD:
Smoke time is one hour 10 minutes.
Smooth, baby, smooth.

This is where the Montecristo Crafted By A.J. Fernandez finds its super sweet spot. Flavors are bold and impressive.
Still…no nicotine. (I will pay for that remark).
Creaminess, chocolate, espresso, sarsaparilla, and spice move to the head of the line. The other flavors are the backup singers in perfect harmony.

Time to pay up…nicotine has entered creating a black hole in my puny brain.

Newbies….never mind. Why? Because you don’t want to put this cigar down in the last third.

I could rave forever about what a gorgeous blend this is. AJ never lets me down.

I was so into the cigar, that I never took a sip of libation. I allowed a full cup of coffee to go cold. I never opened my bottle of water. Therefore, we can determine that if lost in the Gobi desert, finding a Montecristo Crafted By A.J. Fernandez will cure your thirst.
Thankfully, this is a regular production cigar and I predict a mainstay in your humidor.
Final smoke time is one hour 35 minutes.

RATING: 95

And now for something completely different:
One of my many experiences with drugs and corruption in the music industry.
Long ago and far away…Early 1980’s.

Rick was an ex-con. And he was my friend. He did some serious time in Quentin for boosting cars. But by the time I met him, he had been a free man for 10 years. To be honest, I really don’t know what Rick was in for…I took him at his word and left it alone.

I met him at a friend’s party. We started talking music and hit it off. A very clever and funny guy.
Rick was a gentle giant. But he could turn on an imposing and menacing appearance if he needed to project a scarier than shit demeanor. I saw that happen a couple times and I’m pretty sure no one fucked with him in prison.

Rick was loyal to a fault. Whenever the rigors of running a recording studio seven days a week got to me, I’d take a mental health break and visit him for a couple of hours. When I arrived he always shooed away the coke whores so we would be uninterrupted.

We’d sit on his patio, in the sun, smoke cigars and drink his homemade lemonade. I could leave and be able to return to my studio and deal with all the bullshit in a calmer, more relaxed, frame of mind.
Rick was the kind of guy who made it clear there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you. But if you cheated him, or crossed him, God help you.

I was in the middle of my Butch “Eddie Munster” Patrick project and running my recording studio at the same time. There weren’t enough hours in the day and this had me pulling my hair out. Rick always provided sound advice and became my consigliere. I was surrounded at the studio by “yes” men. I had no one that would openly speak their mind because of their fear of being fired by me.

Corruption in the music industry, in the 1980’s, had not changed an iota since the scandals of the 1950’s. Payola was in force and no one fucked with that concept. Bribery was an everyday affair. Blackmail came in a close second.

Record companies cheated their artists. Clubs cheated their artists. Entertainment lawyers cheated their clients. Getting a record played on the radio definitive actions: Juice, payola, drugs, and crooked DJ’s.

In 1983, I had just completed the production of the Butch Patrick single, “Whatever Happened to Eddie?”
After the recording project had a pretty bow tied around it and all the ancillary PR material was complete, I ventured into unknown territory…the music video. Mind you, this was the era of the very start of MTV.

This my first try at writing, producing, and directing a rock music video and the end result was better than expected. It was a real bitch but we pulled it off. I had a great team to help me flesh out my vision of a silly novelty song.

I’m rather proud of what was accomplished. The song is only 2 minutes long but the video has 33 scenes. An edit every 3.6 seconds. We beat the “Bourne” series of films that was the dawn of the lightning fast edit, by three decades.

As a side note, you can’t find the video on YouTube. I own the copyright and if it becomes public property then I lose the right to charge Hollywood production companies and TV shows a hefty fee for a temporary license. You can hear the song on YouTube but anyone that tries to post the video incurs the wrath of Kohn. And the videos are taken down within 24 hours. For several years, I sold the entire package of Eddie Munster items on Ebay. But I have kept a lot of 45’s, signed promo photos, T shirts, and copies of the videos in mint condition all these years.

Since my copyright is good for life +65 years, I can pass it down to my daughter, Katie. That way, if Butch climbs a tall clock tower with a scoped rifle, she can make a fortune selling licensing rights to the video.

My copyright was for the video only. Universal Studios owns the right to the music…as we used the Munster theme and added lyrics about Butch. Negotiating those rights was a horror movie and took more time than expected. They don’t call Universal Studios “The Black Tower” for no reason.

Over the years, I’ve gotten frantic phone calls and messages from friends who said they heard the song played on the radio and I should get my royalties. I don’t own the “The Munsters” theme. Universal does. I can only go after someone that played the video without my permission. Butch would go on TV talk shows or those washed up child actor documentaries and he lied and told them he owned the rights to the video. It put me in the perfect position to go after the production company after the fact. It gave me a great bargaining advantage as they had already shown the video.

We were signed by a shiny new record label that had been started by big shots from some prestigious record companies…all backed by the mob. The owner, Rocky Davis was an ex-con…and basically a front man for the organization. His wife Shirley was his partner (In name only). The name of the record company was taken from their names: Rocky and Shirley = Rocshire.

I don’t know the full extent of the mob ties but my guess is that Rocshire blew their wad signing dozens of acts. They grew too quickly; too soon. And got into serious money trouble. So Shirley, who worked for Hughes Aircraft, embezzled $15 million and funneled it to an unknown group of people to keep them happy.
Of course, at the time, I had no idea of these shenanigans.

Rocshire Records sent Butch and me all over the country doing TV and radio and public appearances. I didn’t want to go but Butch had substance abuse issues and needed a full time baby sitter…Me. The record label insisted I go with him.

The band, “Eddie & the Monsters” was strictly Milli Vanilli. Butch can’t sing. One of the Monsters did the vocals on both songs on the 45. Butch was also credited with playing bass. Give you one guess who really did the bass playing. The only other Monster that actually played on the record was drummer Reek Havok (Google him). I used session players for both songs.

Rocshire instructed me on the art of corruption and bribery. I always had to have some coke and cash ready to distribute to the radio DJ’s and program directors as we toured the country. Rick was my connection. He took a cut of the project to be one of my financial partners. He had no shortage of dough or coke.

If you saw the movie, “Blow” with Johnny Depp…all that shit was true. Coke hit L.A. in the early 80’s like a blinding blizzard. Everyone was doing it. It was chic. And then it spread to the rest of the country.

The whole time I played in a rock band in England during the 1970’s, I never saw coke once. It was always hash or pot.

Rick got the biggest kick that I always turned down his offers to do a snoot full when I visited. I came to get away and relax…not get all amped up. Plus, I just didn’t like the way it made my nose and face feel numb. And it made me paranoid. The stuff accentuated the manic behavior that had become my lifestyle as a result of too much on my professional plate.

One day, Rick took me up to his bedroom’s walk-in closet that had a huge lock on the door. Inside, he had a 4 drawer chest. On it rested his paraphernalia and digital scale.

So this one particular day, he wanted to show off how he processed his coke. He was able to take the plain looking white powder and give it an opalescent appearance that customers equated with perfection and purity.

I sat next to him as he showed me the steps required. He had this huge mirror with about 3 ounces of cocaine on it. Right in the middle of explaining the steps, he elbowed the mirror and 3 ounces of coke exploded into the air. It became a snow storm.

Some of the chest’s drawers were open and the white powder coated the clothes inside. The carpet and our shoes were covered by it.

I remember hyperventilating. I don’t remember what the drug cost back then but that much coke had to have been worth a lot of dough.

Rick never lost a beat as he continued to explain his process. I finally choked out the words, “Rick. Your coke is everywhere!!”

In a calming voice, he told me not to worry. He told me that he had a special hand vacuum that would pick up 95% of it. I really hoped so because Rick was a big man and I didn’t want to be there if he went postal due to his klutziness.

Meanwhile, all I could think was that this would be the exact moment that a SWAT team would enter and find the both of us covered in white powder and I’d end up being some guy named Swifty’s bitch in prison for the next 20 years.

I had a real piece of shit press agent named John Collins…a Brit. I went through a bunch of PR agents before I settled on this one shark of a fuck. And he was involved with the mob activities and a talent scout for Rocshire. I had no idea at the time.

After “Whatever Happened to Eddie?” was released, I got a call from John and he told me to immediately bring him $3000. He had the program director from the big radio station KROQ in his office who agreed to put our Eddie Munster record in heavy rotation…for a price.

I called Rick and told him to bring some money. We were about to negotiate. Of course what I didn’t know at the time was that it was all bullshit. John just needed the dough for himself and the radio guy was a scam.

We got there and did the transaction. It felt slimy. We were promised to see the record played 3-4 times per day depending on the reaction from their listening audience.

The program director must have been all coked up because he was like a human jack-in-the-box…never stopped moving, speed talking, and jumping around. Rick and I looked at each other and read each other’s minds…program director, my ass.

Weeks passed, and of course, not once did we hear the song on KROQ.
Rick was furious. I mean he was enraged.

Rick showed up unexpectedly at my studio and said we had to go talk to my press agent. Now!

I made the call and we left immediately for Hollywood. I knew what was going to transpire. Rick felt betrayed. This was something Rick didn’t tolerate. I knew Rick was going to scare the shit out of this asshole and hopefully get the money back. Rick yelled all the way…a good 45 minute drive. I kept quiet and smiled. This fucker in Hollywood had no idea I was about to introduce him to King Kong.

Rick and I walked past the receptionist and we barged into the press agent’s office.

“We want our money back now!!” Rick put both his huge hands on the shoulders of this guy keeping him from getting out of his chair. I saw a fire storm in Rick’s eyes.

The press agent made a bunch of lousy excuses, told us to chill, told us to be patient, and just dug the hole deeper and deeper. He still didn’t get that I brought the Grim Reaper with me to his office.
Rick removed his hands from the agent and pulled back his jacket and showed the guy a huge stainless steel .357 magnum revolver in his shoulder holster. I didn’t see that coming.

I couldn’t stand the arrogance of this British wanker.

But then things got out of control quickly. Rick’s inner demons rushed to the forefront.
Rick pulled the revolver out and slammed the 6” barrel into the side of John’s head causing him to fall backwards in his chair. He slammed into the floor like he was hit by a train.
Rick then went around the desk and hit him once more…this time with his giant fist.

“Get our money!! NOW!!”

John cried uncontrollably. I didn’t blame him. But I was beginning to seriously worry about what we had just gotten ourselves into. But this guy was so dirty and tied so tightly to Rocshire Records…and the mob, that he couldn’t do shit. What would he say to the police, if called? “These guys wanted their illegal payola money back because I lied and scammed them.” His mob bosses and Rocshire would be pissed off.

The press agent thought Rick was going to kill him. I sort of wondered the same thing.
While crying, John kept asking Rick not to hurt him anymore. Rick screamed at him saying it was the last time he would ask for his money.

The press agent reached into his desk and grabbed a cash box and handed all the cash to Rick. It was way more than $3000. Rick counted out what he was owed and threw the rest of the cash into the face of the prick…who had crawled underneath his desk for safety. I couldn’t help it…I started laughing. Then Rick started laughing. The PR agent was still crying.

Rick left his with these words: “You ever try to cheat us again and I’m going to bury you in the desert…Alive!”

Obviously, we never had another problem with this guy. He was too afraid to call the police.

Of course, Rocshire Records got the last word in later on when they were taken down by the FBI. We sold 181,000 units in a couple months and I got 25 cents per single right up front.

I had a production deal. So I provided all finished material to the record company: Mastered tapes, finished 45 single sleeve, promo photos, T-shirts, and the music video. So they only had to press it, distribute it, and promote it.

I got $900 for two weeks of sale in the first quarter. My second quarter earnings should have been close to $50K. But alas, the FBI swooped in and shut everything down. That brouhaha over the $3K seemed like chump change at that point. I never got paid my royalties.

I was interrogated by the FBI twice. I told the truth and they never contacted me again. Clearly, I was just some stupid musician patsy for Rocshire.

I lost touch with Rick over the years. He called me in the late 80’s and asked if he could borrow $500. I told him of course. We met and had a great time reminiscing.

But Rick was now making a living gambling in the legal poker palaces in Gardena. His wife had left him. And he no longer did drugs. Plus the market had changed drastically from those early days in the early 80’s. Demand was low.
I have no idea where he is now. Hopefully, it’s not prison…or worse.

A week after my last FBI interview, Butch showed up drunk at my house in Long Beach. It was barely noon and he was sloshed.

He wagged our contract in my face demanding I pay him the basic minimum of $10K guaranteed to him in my management deal with him.

I had just lost $50K. I was behind on my mortgage and car payments. My recording studio partner, Dave Glenn, was embezzling studio income while I was on the fucking road with Butch. I was broke.
And now this shit heel has-been was demanding I pay him $10,000.
Everything went black after that. I have no idea how I responded. But it was the last time I ever saw Butch.

A few weeks later, Butch had a meeting with NBC. He was pitching my project to them about a new Munsters show. They loved it. He forgot to mention that except for appearing in the video and posing for promo photos, he had nothing to do with the project besides promoting it.

They called him back a week later and said the project was a go. But Butch would not be included in the project. He was out.
They did a few episodes but they were so bad they scrapped them.

I got a phone call from Butch telling me how he got scammed. He wanted my help to negotiate. He did all this shit behind my back and now because they fucked him, I was now his best friend once again.
I hung up on him.

While the Eddie and the Monsters project was scrapped, they decided to do a new Munsters show with all new characters. It was in syndication for a couple years before it was cancelled. It was a desecration of the original show.

So now you know whose fault it is that NBC foisted a new and terrible version of The Munsters on an unsuspecting public.
My bad.

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Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS

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5 replies

  1. It’s such a shame you’ve had a boring life. Love the time warp travel!

    • All I have now is the Time Warp. That was my youth and I took advantage of every wild and crazy opportunity that came my way…musically, that is. I’m glad, that as hard as it was at times, I followed my dreams of music. All my music friends gave up. I wanted more. And I got it; the good, the bad…and the ugly.
      Now? Shit. I’ve become the crazy old Howard Hughes of Milwaukee.

  2. If you love these, you’ll REALLY love the AJ RyJ. I think it’s the best of his classic-brand-crafted-by blends.

  3. I too, am a fan of every AJ blend I have tried. I will definitely have to research a bit and see if there are any deals out there. Thanks again for all you do….
    … Time for a smoke… Enjoy !

  4. I’m an A.J. fan myself. I know in my case, the price tags on so many of these new sticks are driving me straight into Habanos S.A.’s arms. A Cuban cigar used to be a real luxury for me, but now they’re often competitive or outright more affordable than a lot of the trendy new releases. And so many of the $12+ cigars are a disappointment. I’ve discovered very few legitimately great cigars like Sobremesa lately. It’s already fairly easy for Americans to cop Cubans, and when the embargo finally goes away, a lot of these cigar makers are going to be in a world of hurt.

    It also makes me really appreciate the folks who are putting out great smokes at working man (or woman) prices. I wish there were more people taking their cues from the AJs and Curivaris of the world.

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