H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra Seed
Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo ’99
Filler: Nicaraguan, Dominican
Size: 5 x 52 Robusto
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $7.25

Today we take a look at the H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez.
Thanks to my bud Aaron H. for a few sticks to review. He had this to say about the cigar: “I read your Ritmo review. It’s unfortunate it wasn’t as good as we had hoped. Hopefully the H. Upmann won’t disappoint you as much. Actually, what I mean to say is I hope it kicks your ass like it did to me! I swear it was like Chuck Norris left me bruised and bleeding after finishing this cigar!”
Oy vey. Anyone know how to say Kaddish?

BACKGROUND:
From Cigar Aficionado (Received a rating of 90):
“There’s a new interpretation of the storied H. Upmann brand, and it’s coming out of Nicaragua. Made by A.J. Fernandez at the Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua factory, H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez is shipping to select retailers at the end of this month, with a full-scale launch following in May.
“The new H. Upmann is enrobed in an Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper with a Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

“H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez will be offered in three sizes: Churchill, at 7 inches by 54 ring gauge; Toro, 6 by 54; and Robusto, 5 by 52. The cigars ship in 20-count boxes and range in retail price from $7.25 to $7.75.

“This isn’t the first heritage brand to be reimagined by Fernandez. The cigarmaker has also made versions of Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta for Santa Clara Inc., the catalog and internet sales division of Tabacalera USA. H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez, however, will be distributed directly by Altadis U.S.A.

“This is not exclusive to Santa Clara. This is a national launch by Altadis U.S.A.,” Yasemin Ozoncul, marketing director for Altadis U.S.A., told Cigar Aficionado.

“Both Santa Clara and Altadis U.S.A. are distribution companies under the umbrella of Tabacalera USA, which itself is an arm of Imperial Brands PLC.

“According to the company, H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez will ship to approximately 30 key retail tobacconists nationwide (plus Montecristo Lounges and Casa de Montecristo stores) on May 8. Afterward, it will launch to all accounts on May 22.”

DESCRIPTION:
I have two of these cigars and have not tried one prior to this review.
The cigar is unevenly packed. One stick is very hard with some serious plugs. The other has the typical plug near the cap. So out will come my PerfecDraw Cigar Poker in order to come to the rescue.
The milk chocolate colored wrapper is full of veins. It’s lumpy and bumpy and a bit rustic in appearance. Seams are hidden by all the veins. Triple cap on one cigar is haphazard and the other is damn perfect.

AROMAS AND COLD DRAW POINTS:
From the shaft, I can smell milk chocolate, cream, red pepper, sweet baking spices, fresh berries, vanilla, cedar, and a heavy footprint of malt.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell red pepper, milk chocolate, sweet cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, cedar, vanilla, black cherries, charred oak, and honey.

The cold draw presents flavors of a bevy of malts, milk chocolate, vanilla, red pepper, milk and honey, nuts, baking spices, cedar, and smoky oak.

FIRST THIRD:
The draw is spot on now. Flavors rush to my palate: Coffee, milk chocolate, creaminess, nuts, malt, cedar, and fruit.
This is a good start.

Strength kicks it off by hitting a powerful medium immediately. Aaron might have predicted my reaction accurately. We shall see.
Only ½” in and flavors spread out. Transitions begin. Complexity becomes apparent. Plus a nice long finish.

I’m an unabashed AJ fanboy. Of course, there are blends I don’t care that much for but generally speaking he is one of the most consistent master blenders of our time. It cracks me up that so many other brands are now presenting new blends with the added note: “By AJ Fernandez.” I guess cigar companies aren’t as stupid as they look.

I’m not much of an H. Upmann fan. Blends with simple offerings that don’t fill my loquacious moods.
Based on Aaron’s assessment, I expected the H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez to be kicking my arse by now…but it ain’t. It is very smooth which is the antithesis of my expectations.
Flavors are a working unit. But to be perfectly honest, as I approach the second third, the best I can do is say this blend is “nice.” Not exactly overwhelming praise.

SECOND THIRD:
Smoke time is 35 minutes.

The creamy malts and the nuttiness along with black cherries and rich coffee element is driving the bus. An improvement over the first third.
Strength is medium/full.

We are on an upward trajectory now. There was a slight lull before the second third began which is plainly speaking reeking of inconsistency.

The H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez seems to be on more solid ground now. It’s gone from pleasantly enjoyable to Woo Hoo in a matter of minutes.

Fuck me. The flavors are going Bozo crazy. So delectable and enticing. Luscious and rich. Chock full of subtleties and nuance. The complexity has really found its home.
This is by no means a kitchen sink blend. I’m only receiving a few flavor elements at a time but they are journeyman flavors.
The construction has been great once the plugs sought out intervention. The char line is doing well not requiring touch ups.

By the halfway point, the blend is all AJ. It’s not hard to identify AJ blends. He has a golden thread running through all of his work. A similarity of experiences. And I do believe the H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez has touches of Man O War, Divinia, New World, and San Lotano Habano.

Unless the H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez plans a sneak attack, I don’t sense I’m going to live through the Chuck Norris ass beating that Aaron had. Famous last words.

This is, by far, the best H Upmann I’ve smoked…thanks to AJ. And you certainly cannot beat the price of three sizes running $7.25-$7.75 each. This is a box worthy blend. Before I waste all of my Social Security on rent and bills next month, I may venture into the dangerous world of a wife defying box purchase.

If you are a patient soul, you know the Ave Maria Divinia is a great cigar with a shit load of humidor time. I’m talking about months and months. The creaminess from the H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez is very reminiscent of the Divinia’s pure homemade whipped cream.

I’m now thinking that Aaron might have smoked the H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez when it was still a little green. Because I’m getting nothing but a smooth and even keeled blend.

For only $7, I’m really surprised at how well made this cigar has turned out to be. An excellent char line. Not a single draw issue since I reamed it.

Once again, I’m proven right that you don’t need to spend $15 a stick to get something delicious. The price monkeys on your back goading you to be the first on your block to have some ridiculously expensive cigar that is the best thing since white bread; according to the manufacturer and the PR that consumes the enterprise, is all bullshit. I’ve reviewed some very price accessible cigars lately that put to shame the high premiums that want your money.

I just reviewed the 1936 Elegante by Zabala Cigars. That baby blew my socks off. The H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez is blowing one sock off. It’s a great everyday cigar. It fails to disappoint as most AJ blends in the world of catalog cigars find themselves in the same category. Always dependable. AJ is a dependable mother fucker.

Here is what kills me. AJ is only 38 years old! And he has been cranking out great blends for years. Just imagine what he will be pumping out 20 years from now?

LAST THIRD:
Smoke time is one hour 10 minutes.

This blend is a carnival of rotating flavors. Complexity is on the money. The strength of medium/full remains intact without a hint of nicotine. And because it is so smooth, the strength of the cigar is not an issue.

Naturally, I jinxed it for as I wrote the last sentence, nicotine rears its ugly head.

The strength surges to a powerful full on pedal to the metal. Holy shit. Aaron was right. Not that I ever doubted him. I was lulled into a false sense of my own importance by the easy going first two thirds.

Flavors: Creaminess, red pepper, malts, nuts, baking spices, black cherries, vanilla bean, coffee, smoky oak, cedar, honey, nuts (almond, cashew, and hazelnut), and a touch of lemon citrus.
Nice.

I don my Kevlar yarmulke to prevent extensive brain damage as I sit here bobbing and weaving from the nicotine waiting for the moment I face plant into the keyboard on my laptop.

Did you know I write strictly stream of consciousness? I do not prepare notes ahead of time. I simply smoke and write at the same time. A real experience. I don’t go back and edit…except for spelling. This should explain everything.

By the box of 20, the price drops to $6.50 a stick. This is the deal of the week.
If you’re an AJ fan like me, you are going to love this blend.
It is the last inch that brings Aaron’s warning to fruition. My arse has been officially kicked.
Final smoke time is one hour 25 minutes.

RATING: 91

And now for something completely different:


L-R: ME, ZELMO MUTZ, TIM KRENZIEN, & SKIP HOWLETT (CIRCA 1973)

My best friend Skip and I met up in Florence, Italy with our squeezes. Skip was supposed to stop in Amsterdam and pick up our musical gear. But upon meeting him in Florence, he told me it wasn’t there!
When we both landed in Amsterdam, separately, we left our gear in the left luggage area til we met up in Italy. Skip was to grab our gear and bring it with him to Florence.

Holy shit! I had my gear custom made for the trip. 18″ speaker encased in 24 ply Swedish wood. And an amp of whose manufacture I can’t remember.

We grabbed our Eurail Passes, left the women, and jumped the train to Amsterdam. Skip wanted to bring some hashish along in his ruck sack but I told him no. We’d be going through several countries and there are lots of police jumping on and off the train looking for drugs….especially from Hippie looking guys like us.

We found a compartment full of people and they made room for us. That evening, as we passed through Germany, the Gestapo crashed into our compartment with automatic weapons and sneers…and a desire to send me to Buchenwald. The leader immediately pointed at Skip and yelled, “HASHISH! HASHISH!!”

We all stood up and Skip shook his head no. The leader used his FMC to point at the rack above our heads used for storage, and specifically at Skip’s ruck sack. Skip grabbed it and brought it down. The leader screamed in German for him to open it. (I took 2 years of high school German and my parents spoke Yiddish when I was young).

Skip carried a high school 3 ring binder with one of those zippered pouches for carrying pencils and erasers. It was milky opaque but you could see everything in it….and in it, was a nice big, hash pipe… with hash in it….not even wrapped in foil or anything to conceal it.

We are all standing in the compartment like the Marx Bros “A Night at the Opera.” Couldn’t move. But began flapping my arms thinking we are going to German prison.

The SS leader points at Skip’s binder gesturing to open things. My arms are flapping hard enough that if there was an air current, I could attain lift off. Right in front of my eyes, with the Gestapo leader watching intently, Skip grabs the hash out of the floppy container and puts it in his back pocket. With the cop staring right at what he was doing!

I’m ready to pass out. All I could think of was the move, “Midnight Express.” And how I would be some Turk’s bitch.

And then with a “whoosh”, the German Polizei left the compartment. No one was rushed to jail.
We all stood there staring at Skip in horror. What just happened? He removed hidden hashish, not 12″ from the SS leader, and he didn’t see it.
HE DIDN’T SEE IT!!

Skip reaches around to his back pocket and brings out the pipe with a shit eatin’ grin on his face.
I snatched the pipe away, opened the moving train’s window, and tossed it. Skip screeched in horror. “Are you fucking insane?” I asked him.
Everyone sat down with a huge sigh.
I glared at Skip the rest of the trip.


LOWER LEVEL AT THE PARADISO CLUB IN AMSTERDAM

We change trains and it’s packed to the gills. Not a single place to sit. We stand in the corridor for hours before Skip ventures towards the area between the trains and plops himself down on the moving platform where there is a thunderous noise. Conductors would walk past him and said nothing knowing it was illegal to sit between train cars.

The train stopped again and we had to transfer. We found a car with no one in it and grabbed a seat. Just before the train left, a conductor asks us if we know we are on a train heading for East Berlin? (The wall was still up back then).

We ran to the right train and, again, had to stand in the corridor. The train brought us into Amsterdam about 18 hours after we departed. No sleep. No food. Hardly any money.

We headed to the train storage area and, there, in the middle of the room, was our fucking equipment. Just as pristine as we left it. I looked at Skip like the next movement from me was to strangle him.

He then began flapping his wings and puffing out un-intelligible sounds. I was so pissed. We snagged some food before we headed back to Florence an hour later. We figure that someone who worked in the storage facility “borrowed” our shit and had some fun. But managed to get it back in time for this trip.

Skip said he wanted to go to the Paradiso Club to buy more hash. I all but karate chop him in the neck.
The trip back to Florence was uneventful other than the fact that Skip developed a bad cold and sat the entire journey between cars with snot hanging from his sagging head to the floor. I, on the other hand, stood for about 16 hours.
Thank goodness we were young.
It’s funny now….sort of.

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Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS

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3 replies

  1. Hah! It got you good, didn’t it? A great review for a great cigar!

  2. Dear Mr. Katman,
    Your reviews are Fun with a capital fucking F.
    Thanks!

    • Fank you very much.
      “If I gave you everything that I owned and asked for nothing in return
      Would you do the same for me as I would for you?
      Or take me for a ride, and strip me of everything including my pride
      But spirit is something that no one destroys
      And the sound that I’m hearing is only the sound
      The low spark of high-heeled boys.”

      Fhil

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