Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano 2000
Binder: Nicaraguan Criollo ’98
Filler: Nicaraguan (Criollo ’98) and Dominican (Piloto Cubano)
Size: 6 x 55 Toro
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $11.00 MSRP ($10.00 online)

 

Today we take a look at the Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez.
My good friend Miguel C. slipped me a couple.

 

BACKGROUND:
From Cigar Aficionado:

“First the Plasencias got their chance to blend Montecristo, now Altadis U.S.A. is giving cigarmaker A.J. Fernandez a shot—and he’s making it strong. A collaboration between Fernandez and Altadis, the upcoming Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez represents the newest expression of the non-Cuban Montecristo brand. According to Altadis, the new Monte is blended for the “adult consumer demographic with a taste for stronger, bolder smoking experiences.”

“Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez is made in Nicaragua at the Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua factory. Covered in a dark, Ecuadoran Habano wrapper, the cigar consists of a Nicaraguan Criollo ’98 binder and a filler blend of Nicaraguan (Criollo ’98) and Dominican (Piloto Cubano) tobacco.

“The suggested retail price for the cigars will be between $10.50 to $11.25, and are offered in four box-pressed sizes: Corona, measuring 5 inches by 44 ring gauge; Robusto, at 4 1/4 by 54; Toro, 6 by 55; and Belicoso, 6 1/8 by 54. All come in 20-count boxes.

“Although Montecristo is one of the most iconic brand names in the premium cigar business, Altadis has been quite open to new interpretations of the storied cigar over the last few years. In 2014, Altadis gave the Plasencias creative freedom with the Espada by Montecristo, a Nicaraguan Monte made at Plasencia Cigars S.A. The next year, the Plasencias created the Espada by Montecristo Estoque.

“The Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez, however, isn’t the first time that Fernandez has blended a Monte. Astute smokers will recall the Montecristo Crafted by AJ Fernandez, which was released last year primarily for Santa Clara Inc., the retail and catalog arm of Altadis U.S.A. This new iteration will have wider retail reach, as it’s intended for brick-and-mortar tobacconists.

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

“Full distribution of the Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez to all trade channels will begin in July at the IPCPR trade show.”

SIZES AND PRICING:
Corona 5 x 44 $10.50
Belicoso 6.125 x 54 $11.25
Robusto 4.25 x 54 $10.80
Toro 6 x 55 $11.00

DESCRIPTION:
Nice looking stick. Especially the expertly applied triple cap. Seams are tight. Veins are plentiful. Feels like I have a plug about 1” from the cap. My PerfecDraw cigar poker will make quick business of this sloppiness. BTW-  I am the only reviewer that has been allowed to provide a 15% off promo code for Perfec Cigar Solutions products: Katman)

The wrapper is a nicely mottled hickory, chocolate, and espresso colored welcome. The box press is out of whack as most box pressed sticks get unless you buy them by the box. And lastly, a small amount of tooth on the wrapper.

AROMAS AND COLD DRAW POINTS:
From the shaft, I can smell deep dark cocoa, caramel, cream, malts, red pepper, big fat floral notes, honey, charred meat, barnyard, cedar, and cashew butter.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell…what he said above…just more intense. The red hot pepper causes a trifecta of quick sneezes.

The cold draw presents flavors of big malts, chocolate, red pepper, espresso, raisins, cumin, black licorice, cream, nuts, caramel, cedar, and a lovely smokiness.

FIRST THIRD:

Well, clearly, I am back in AJ world. Yes I’m a fanboy. Few master blenders show the consistency that my boy shows the world.

I had real trouble with the Habano Especial by Lucky Cigar I reviewed a few days ago. I really couldn’t tell if the cigar was grossly under filled or if Wisconsin’s heat and humidity did its evil deed. The Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez has been in the same humidor as the Habano Especial and no soft spots or sense of it being under filled.

I’m going to soon review the Lucky Cigar Maduro and we shall see.

The Monte shows off from the get go. Big flavors of red pepper, creaminess, sweet caramel, café latte, milk chocolate, cedar, dried fruit, and a large swath of my malts.

This is, as usual, a very good sign that the blend kicks off the search for the holy grail with a big bang. No lollygagging around waiting for some magical point to be announced later.

This is a big honker of a cigar. Technically, it’s a Gordo not a Toro. The difference being 5/64” or 3/32”. I pulled out my construction calculator to figure out this advanced mathematical equation.

I am happy to report that the bane of my cigar smoking existence of never once having a trouble free burn to a box pressed cigar may see the jinx broken with the Monte. It’s doing just fine.

Strength is a nice medium.

Only ¾” in, the panoply of flavors begin to seek out some complexity. Transitions are not impressive. And the finish is short. But…I believe AJ will pull his fat from the fire and impress the shit out of me.

As I always say, for $11 it better fucking impress me. Funny. We used to bitch and complain about $8 cigars being too much. Now, $11 is nothing special or out of the ordinary.

Right this instant, the Monte reminds me of AJ’s Ave Maria Divinia. An expensive (though no longer) AJ blend that stands out as a cigar that needs extended humidor time compared to other AJ blends. But once you’ve attained the magic bean moment, the Divinia is absolutely delicious.

Transitions fan out. The complexity plants a stake and American flag on the surface of my palate. The finish is still oddly short but we are on a long journey as this perfectly constructed heavy cigar is going to take a solid 2 hours or more to smoke. So…no hurry as long as I’m entertained along the way.

Ever get your penis caught in the silverware drawer? Just wondering. I did in high school. The culprit was a perfect storm of wearing boxers, blurry eyed sleepiness, and a bowl of cereal. Dogs can still hear the remnants of that little girl scream 50 years later.

I’m an inch in and it’s been almost 20 minutes. Shit hits the fan. The thing I like about most AJ blends is the common thread that runs among them. I’m not really that good at blind taste testing. I don’t think I could recognize a dozen cigars if I had to. But AJ blends? Almost always. Same theory as charting rock bands. Keep it the same with only slight tricking out at crucial moments.

Did I forget to mention the flavors of leather, wood, and earth? My bad.

The Monte moves away from the Divinia and finds itself in the territory of New World, San Lotano Oval Habano, and the La Gran Llave Reserve.

The first third has been a joy to smoke. I suspect the rest of the blend will impress even more.

SECOND THIRD:
Smoke time is 40 minutes.

Transitions are now actively bitch slapping me. The complexity is stunning. And finally a long tasty finish.

The malt and chocolate is right out of malt shoppe from the 1950’s. A reader emailed me to list the maltiest cigars I’ve smoked. Naturally that’s impossible as I can’t remember to use a condom before Charlotte and I make hot monkey love. Er..wait. She is 67 this October. I don’t think she can get pregnant. Never mind.

Strength finds a very smooth medium/full condition.

The Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez is a solid no nonsense blend. It takes no prisoners. It is slippery like an eel. (Sushi sounds good). If you spend $11 on a cigar, this is what you want it to taste like.

I’d love to know what level rollers were used by Montecristo. I don’t think they were fucking around. No touch ups required. A solid stick with no construction issues except for that early plug remedied by my PerfecDraw cigar poker.

Fuck me. Not close to being halfway through and this blend is making my chest hair grow back.

Lawdy, lawdy, lawdy Miss Clawdy…you need to buy lots of these sticks. I wish I knew a place you can get them cheap but, alas, I see no discounts anywhere.

Therefore, the Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez becomes a no moocher allowed cigar.

I’ve been good and refrained from my too often used phrase of “flavor bomb.” But this baby deserves that title. I nailed the entire product line assaulting my palate early on and it hasn’t changed…just intensified beautifully.

Smooth is a very subjective word. I use that word too often as well. The Monte is the epitome of that description. This is a very strong cigar yet it goes down like the finest whiskey…or tequila. No sharp edges or bumps.

I slap my “Joe Bonamassa Live at the Greek Theater” blu ray on. That’s how good a mood I’m in from not having a single serious criticism for this blend.

This may just be the maltiest blend I’ve smoked. In addition, flavors of chocolate, caramel, creaminess, red pepper, dried fruit, roasted nuts, cedar, and toasted buttered French bread make this cigar a winner.

Did I ever tell you how at the age of 12, I stuck a big firecracker into a pile of human excrement underneath the bridge over the L.A. river bed and got covered in it? I can still hear my mother screaming at me.

The halfway point arrives at a little over one hour.

Get ready for it. Apparently, Cigar Aficionado has not reviewed this cigar yet. No matter. I don’t use them as a template. But you can expect a nice high score for this cigar.

Ever notice that if you smoke a cigar too quickly, flavors dissipate greatly? The true sign of a brilliant blend is that no matter how you smoke it, it always surprises you with new flavors from each puff regardless of how often you puff. The Monte does just that.

I’ve got some cool news but I cannot divulge it all til the papers are signed. A well-known movie/TV/radio person in the industry wants me to be a regular guest on his nationally syndicated radio show. The deal was offered this last Thursday so the details aren’t locked in yet. More on that as I know more.

I have a suggestion to make your enjoyment of this blend even better. Let it rest in your humidor for at least 2 months. Naked.

Strength is so full that my merkin slipped off and on to the floor. Sammy runs.

Nicotine kicks in. Oy Gevalt.

I’m a Man O’ War fan but the Monte kicks its ass. AJ has lent his name to several big manufacturers. I’ve reviewed the H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez (91), Hoyo La Amistad by AJ Fernandez (93), and the Montecristo Crafted By A.J. Fernandez (95). All received high ratings from me. But do I dare say that the Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez may be the best of the lot?

LAST THIRD:
Smoke time is one hour 35 minutes.

I don’t know what comes after full strength but the Monte has achieved it. My head is spinning. I feel a kinship to Linda Blair.

Despite the nicotine assault, the Monte retains its signature impression of being a super smooth blend.

Flavor bomb 2.0. This cigar just gets better and better. No lulls.

Do not smoke this cigar on an empty stomach. You will die.

There is nothing left to say. If you haven’t tried the Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez, do it.

I was shocked when I just read Halfwheel’s review. This blend received a lowly 82 stating that no flavors were apparent. All I can say to that is I feel that the cigar was not given its due with proper humidor time. This is not your typical AJ blend that can be smoked in a month or less.

RATING: 95

And now for something completely different:
1974

I was at George Martin’s (The Beatles’ producer) recording studio, AIR Studios, in London participating in the mixing of the 1974 “Curved Air Live” album. For those of you who know, and for those that don’t….half the fun of recording an album is just hanging in the control booth watching and listening to the exciting mix of the music. It beats staying home and watching TV. You never know who you will run in to. Plus, they feed you.

 

Since it was a live album, the recording was finished. Now it was just watching the producer and engineer mix it. At age 24, I didn’t have any producing experience yet; so this was pretty much Alice looking through the Looking Glass. I asked a lot of questions which annoyed the producer who was a real schmuck.

I kept telling him that he was mixing the bass line old school. In the background. He hadn’t caught up with the times, especially from the likes of the jazz fusion bands breaking through in America. I played well and I wanted to be able to hear it pounding away. He kept telling me to be patient which was his way of saying, “Get away from me boy, you’re bothering me.”

I sealed my fate with the band, and not in a good way, when during a playback with management and the band present, the managing director of BTM Records announced to the group “I guess we know who the star of this album is.”

I cringed. The leader, Darryl Way, had a look of disgust on his face at that declaration. I kept my mouth shut.

After the album had been released, I ran into our producer at some club. The first thing he said to me was: “You were right. I should have had the bass more upfront.”
I thought: “You rat bastard fuck face cock sucker.” I certainly appreciated his smug comment during mixing that “Bassists always want to hear more bass. Sit down and let me do my job.” Ass wipe.

I am proud to say that while the others in the band had to come in, and spend hours, to overdub their mistakes, I had one single dub. One note. Just one note had to be fixed on a live recording. The others gave me the stink eye because I sat back and watched them struggle with placing new notes on an already recorded song. Timing had to be perfect. Sort of like lip syncing.

I was the new member. And I played some very complicated bass lines. So my near perfection caused some temporary jealousy. I had only been with the band two weeks before we took off on the road. And the live album was recorded over two gigs in the first week of the tour. I feared I’d become self-conscious and play a ton of clams. But the music took me away on a magic carpet ride and I lived in the moment…playing my ass off. I literally led the band during a couple songs where there were very long improv segments in the middle of the tunes.

Air Studio had two studios in the same location. Next to each other. While we were using Studio B, Pete Townshend was using Studio A to mix the movie soundtrack to the movie, “Tommy.”

One late night, Sonja and I were sitting on the floor with our backs against one of the plush sofas. We had just smoked a doob and were conversing about life. The sofa was in the farthest location from the door. And the room was huge. George Martin spared no dough in making this booth a plush living room.

I noticed the door opening, about 20 feet away, and looked up. The studio was dimly lit. For mood, I guess. Helps with the artistry.

In walks a man who I can’t quite make out. As he looks our way, he heads toward us. The closer he came, the more my jaw dropped. It was Pete Townshend coming over for a visit with Sonja. Curved Air was a legendary band in Europe from the late 60’s to the late 70’s. And Pete and Sonja were good friends.
Pete was thin. Very thin. I later found out that this was the period in his life where he did a lot of heroin.

He sat down next to Sonja making it a Sonja sandwich. They hugged and exchanged kisses. I was close to shitting myself. I didn’t blink or take a breath. Fucking Pete Townshend was sitting two feet from me.

Now if you want to be taken seriously in any business, you must act natural at meeting anyone of note or your presence is ignored, so I did my best to be cool. Be a peer, not a fan.

A minute or two in, Sonja nodded in my direction and introduced me to Pete. We shook hands. I was literally shaking. I muttered something unintelligible. Clicks and whistles.

We sat there for a couple of hours, rolling and lighting one joint after another. I normally did not chain smoke joints. But in the presence of greatness, one did not say “Sorry. I’ve had enough.”
Before long, all three of us were laughing like idiots and Pete told Sonja that he thought I was an all-right chap.

Pete got to listen to my playing on the play back in the studio and when he felt it was time to leave, he stood above me, shook my hand, and asked if I wanted to jam tomorrow night?

Of course, I said yes and told him I would make sure our drummer, Stewart Copeland, was there.

I barely slept or ate in the next 24 hours in anticipation. Back then, long distance calls to America were really expensive. But I didn’t care and called every friend I could think of to tell them what was about to happen.

The night came and we played for countless hours. Time had no meaning except when we stopped to light one up. We were in their little side studio of Studio A (8 x 10) and I was touching distance to Keith Moon’s drums, John Entwistle’s basses, and a mic stand belonging to Roger Daltrey with a schmata/scarf wrapped around the shaft. But the band hadn’t even come into the studio that day. They were fabulously rich and didn’t need to hang out in the studio for fun.

We didn’t play one Who song. We just jammed. And because I was into the jazz fusion scene which really hadn’t made it the English shores quite yet, I had the responsibility of providing pounding Stanley Clarke-like riffs for us to woodshed on.

At one point, he teased us with the offer to produce our next album, which never happened. My only regret was that while tape was running the whole time, I never asked for a copy.

I was in the mode of: “I will always be in the music biz and this was only the start.”
The strange musings of a naïve 24 year old.

Now I’m just a washed up minor rock star, but boy, do I cherish those memories!

 

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Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS

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4 replies

  1. Can’t decide which is better, the cigar or the story! Great one man!

  2. Can’t wait for the Juan Lopez by AJ, the Saint Luis Rey by AJ, the Cohiba by AJ, the Trinidad by AJ and all the rest coming soon….

    Jokes aside, it is easy to see why Altadis and General are coming to him. He makes excellent tasting, and beautifully constructed cigars that tend to be on the stronger/fuller side. He deserves his success.

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