Nicaraguan Series by AJ Fernandez | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 5 x 52 Robusto
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $5.33

Today we take a look at the Nicaraguan Series by AJ Fernandez.
A lot of you may not have heard about this blend. I didn’t until my friend, Kellie KH, sent me 3 sticks. I smoked one and it tasted pretty good as it had months of humi time.

Then by accident, I found a review of A Fernandez Signature Series I did on March 17, 2014. No cigar band and it had the same wrapper issues. But this old cigar had a completely different blend. You can read the review…and get a second rock n roll story on top of it.

I have my fingers crossed that the damn cigar holds up. I’ve gone to unrealistic measures to keep the cigar in a low humidity atmosphere hoping to not let the subarctic air of Milwaukee cause trouble.
And here is the best part…Not one review online. Not one. This might be for two reasons: Everyone hates it. And the second reason…Uh…I forget. Fuck.

BACKGROUND:
From JR Cigars:
“Nicaraguan Series by AJ Fernandez cigars display this famous master blender’s love of Nicaraguan tobaccos by procuring only the highest-quality leaves from the most fertile growing regions in the country. Flawlessly rolled in four popular size formats in his legendary factory in Estelí Nicaragua, AJ once again delivers a medium-bodied masterpiece of luxury and distinction. After toasting and lighting, prepare yourself for a highly complex smoke teeming with lush notes of pepper, coffee, spice, and a rich earthy sweetness throughout. The talented team at AJ Fernandez has not only provided a blend, strength, and flavor profile that will appeal to newcomers and seasoned enthusiasts alike, the price of these amazing smokes are pleasingly affordable.”

I see other online stores that carry this blend; but only a few. The cost of the cigars must be price controlled as every web site charges the exact same amount of shekels…right down to the penny.

SIZES AND PRICING:
Churchill 7 x 48 $6.00
Robusto 5 x 52 $5.33
Short Robusto 4.5 x 52 $5.00
Toro 6 x 52 $5.67

DESCRIPTION:
This is a nice looking stick. The wrapper is the color of milk chocolate with lots of tooth. Seams are perfectly hidden. Very few veins with a beautifully applied triple cap. Tobacco appears to be evenly distributed but I can feel a hard spot just above the massive double cigar bands. Which is curious as most inexpensive blends don’t have fancy foo foo gingerbread double cigar bands. And in the case of the Robusto, the bands nearly cover half the cigar.

AROMAS AND COLD DRAW POINTS:
From the shaft, I can smell the usual suspects from a Nic puro: Chocolate, spice, cinnamon, malt, almonds, raisins, big notes of caramel, heavy cream, and espresso.

From the clipped cap and foot, I can smell strong red pepper, cinnamon, chocolate, coffee, raisins, nuts, caramel, and black tea.

The cold draw presents flavors of malts, creaminess, mild cocoa, a little coffee, cinnamon, dried fruit, barnyard, and caramel.

FIRST THIRD:
The AJ blend takes off from the start. Lots of red pepper, cinnamon, very creamy, big chocolate notes, malts, caramel, and a wonderful sweetness.
See. Even a $5 cigar can be as good as a $14 cigar as long as the blender knows what he is doing.

This AJ blend has that common thread running through it. You smoke enough of Fernandez’s blends and you begin to recognize his style.

The draw is spot on. No need to pull out my PerfecDraw cigar poker. I’m good.

Strength hits a potent medium right away.
There seems to be a lot of AJ’s other great blends made into a composite in this cigar. I will list which of his cigars this blend reminds me of later.

Flavors flatten out a bit. Some bitterness appears. Drat. Hope this is momentary.
Then it does a reverse and flavors return. Bitterness disappears. What just happened?
The burn is excellent. No char line issues.
But there is almost zero complexity. Transitions are faint. But the finish lingers leaving a nice aftertaste. The stick becomes very chewy.
Notes of berries appear. Like blackberries or boysenberries.
A soft spot appears at the bottom of the double cigar bands. After only 20 minutes, the cigar is ready to start its second third.

SECOND THIRD:
Lots of creamy goodness while the red pepper morphs into black pepper. One thing I have been trained to expect from AJ blends is the heavy black pepper. And here it is.

The complexity begins to kick in. A nice well-rounded flavor profile now. Transitions are more pronounced and the finish is exceedingly long. Nice.

This is a great knock around cigar. Especially if you can score them on auction and pay half price like Kellie did. The very inexpensive AJ blends don’t taste like this birdie…making this a great deal.

No wrapper issues. The other stick I smoked had already begun its descent into madness with wrapper problems by this point. This stick is behaving beautifully. I wonder if moving it to a lower humidity humidor made the difference?

Lots of goodies going on now…The spiciness is for pepper junkies only; like me. It’s so strong, it is making my nose run and my eyes water. That’s love.

I forgot to put music on when I started. I’m sitting here with the Today show on. What a schmuck. Explains why my review has been so bland. Music excites the savage breast…or something like that. First tune up is by Santana. You can never go wrong with Carlos.

Shit…the Nicaraguan Series by AJ Fernandez is turning out to be a stunner.

Damn. 1 minute of Santana and then The Police. I’m just a bitter old man. I could have been Sting if I could only sing well and be really different and good looking and knew the right people. Easy peasey.

I went to the party in Hollywood for their celebration of “Zenyatta Mondata” going platinum. Hundreds of people there and Stew was so coked out of his mind that he couldn’t talk. His eyes looked like dinner plates. I did have a nice short conversation with Sting and an even nicer one with Andy. Andy and I actually kept in touch for a couple years. That’s another story.

I hit the halfway point at 35 minutes.

The Nicaraguan Series by AJ Fernandez makes its move. It goes from a nice kick around stick to something better…It’s pulling out all the stops and the flavor profile transcends to a new dimension of sophistication. It is approaching killer.

Back in the 80’s, I got a lot of bass session work from a recording studio owner in Beverly Hills. He was also in high demand at other studios as an engineer.
I remember the first time I worked for him. I was laying down bass lines on a song that was already recorded minus the bass. I thought I was doing well and he leaned into the mic in the control booth and said, “Phil. Good. You’re approaching average.”
WTF?
I was pissed off. What the hell was he talking about? I was on top of my game back then…playing my heart out and I was approaching average?
Turns out, after he explained what he meant, that average…to him, was perfect. He saw perfection in being average or in lay terms…you are playing exactly what the song needs. I thought that was a really twisted way of telling a musician he’s playing well but he was putting dough into my pocket. So I ignored his stupid assessment from that point forward.

The ash on the AJ stick has been a solid immovable force from the start. A good sign of decent construction…and as I just wrote those words, the large ash falls right into my lap. Ouch.

The Nicaraguan Series by AJ Fernandez reminds me of his MOW blends, some La Herencia Cubana Core, a little like the H. Upmann he collaborated on, and the Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez. Not bad company.
The second half is rippin’ it.

Super complex, a roller coaster of transitions and a perfect finish while coating my teeth with its long list of flavors.

The cigar bands are on so tight it is impossible to just slip the big one off. I was concerned I might see wrapper issues underneath all those tree byproducts but I worried for no reason. Perfection.

I get a lot of emails asking what is my preferred inexpensive cigar. I always send them a link to the lists on the header portion of my blog’s home page. This stick is the one I highly recommend and will do so for a while until the next good cheap stick is reviewed.
Strength hits medium/full.

LAST THIRD:
Smoke time is almost one hour.
This blend never allows you to be disinterested. It grabs you by the balls and won’t let go. It is on this effective upward trajectory that keeps bringing surprises to the palate. I’m amazed that AJ created this blend to add to his long list of inexpensive cigars. If I had blind taste tested this cigar, I would have guessed it was an $8 or $9 stick.

“Free Bird” is playing. Over the decades of playing in blues bands that also played R&B, there has been no shortage of drunken patrons yelling out “Free Bird!!!” We’d nod and then play something by Albert King.

A crack in the wrapper exposes itself. But as I’m nearing the end, it seems to have no effect. No glue is required.

This cigar could easily become one of my go to sticks. The price is right and it’s delicious creating a moment in time that pleases the shit out of me.

Last time with the carousel of flavors: Black pepper, caramel, chocolate, malts, raisins, creaminess, black tea, almonds, and a little toffee. Pretty much what you come to expect from a Nic puro.

Not a lick of harshness or bitterness as this cigar comes to its finale. And miraculously, no nicotine poisoning.
The strength is full tilt now.

Thankfully, my cat is not here watching me smack my lips like a dog watching me eat a steak.

This little inexpensive blend has most of the characteristics of a pricier blend. Anytime a cigar begins with promise and then delivers the goods is a nice surprise. There are so many cigars on the market that are inconsistent; without any redeeming qualities that cause buyer’s remorse. This blend gives hope to the human condition that there are still blenders who take pride in their work…regardless of their price points.

Wrapper issues just might be the fatal flaw for this cigar. I don’t know. This is only my second one. And that first cigar had plenty of construction issues. High priced rollers were not used in the production of this cigar. It can be the only explanation.

I’m going out on a limb here. The cigars come in 15 count boxes. My recommendation is to purchase a 5 pack and see if they meet your expectations. But at around $75-$80 for that box, it’s not a big deal if you’re flush to snag one.

RATING: 89

And now for something completely different:

I first published this story a year or two ago. It is an inappropriate anecdote. But you know what? I don’t care and let me tell you why. For some reason, Sonja Kristina of Curved Air became the person who made disbursements of royalties for the 20 albums they recorded. I have been on several including live albums, studio albums, compilation albums, and a “Best of” series of records.

I’ve been screwed by Kristina for decades and not received what I’m owed. The records still sell. You can go to Amazon or CD Baby or anywhere that albums are sold. The 1975 “Live” album is one of their best sellers.

So this woman has taken it upon herself to cheat and rob me of my contractual royalties. I got no blowback from the first time I published this story. And believe me when I tell you the band; past and present, all know about these stories. I know people close to the band that have confirmed this.

Sonja Kristina is a crook.

The reason that they don’t do a thing to try and stop me from publishing less than stellar stories about their, and my, behavior from back in the day is that my stories are all 100% true. I would love for the Curved Air system to sue me. I could use the publicity.

I had to fuck that woman to keep my job.
Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. No. Not the sex. My initiation into the legendary Brit band Curved Air. Started in 1968 and still going strong some 20+ albums later.

The original band got together, once again, to make good on a record deal agreement with Decca Records and the path of least resistance was a Live Album.

They hadn’t played together in 2 years. And they had gone through 16 bassists…or something like that…one even disappeared through spontaneous combustion…there was no shortage of previous bassists to choose from for the new European tour.

I was playing in CA violinist and leader Darryl Way’s band at the time when the decision was made to do a one off Curved Air tour of 8 weeks and record a live album.
Way told me at rehearsal, “Kohn. You will be the bass player.”
Simple as that. I hadn’t even met the original CA members yet and I had the gig.

I learned quickly just how famous they were in Europe. Big time. The band sold out all their concerts for that tour. Arenas and concert halls holding 20,000 or more CA fans.

Sonja was a recovering junkie. And it was put upon me, as the new guy, to watch over her on the tour. I had no idea what it meant at the time. I was just glad to be there. I was 24. A month earlier, I had 5 Pounds Sterling left in my pocket and thought I’d be stranded in England with my girlfriend and her little girl.

We rehearsed for a week in Covent Garden and off we went. This was a group of highly trained classical musicians playing very complex progressive rock. I had to study my ass off for the concert set. We played the exact same songs in the same exact order for the entire tour. Luckily, I didn’t have to learn the entire CA catalog…in case some improvisation on the set list took place.

Management put me in the same hotel room with Sonja for the tour. I was bedazzled.
She was a pig.

In the original production of the musical “Hair” in London, Sonja had a big part. During the nude scene where actors came out holding a giant parachute over themselves, she would run around the inside and jerk on all the guys’ dicks to give them boners so they would look ridiculous when they discarded the parachute for the audience. Yeah.

In those days, Brits…or Europeans in general, didn’t bathe that often. I bathed every day and the band made fun of me. They literally did their bathing on Saturdays…once a week. You can only imagine the smell of the inside of the touring limo. Oy vey.

The first night in our hotel room, she jumped me. She was so skinny from being a junkie that her bones jabbed me everywhere.
My pubic bone became red as a beet as she sat on top of me and pounded away. I would limp for days until I told her to stop doing that.

It’s not that she didn’t bathe…she never cleaned herself between weekly showers. Her quedgie had a high level of stank with gnats flying around it.

Once, early on, I came close to sticking my face down there but the smell was so bad that I never got closer than a foot away before my face involuntarily repelled itself.
“What’s wrong, honey? Don’t Jews like eating pussy?”
Afraid to tell her the truth, I just nodded in agreement. Small price to pay for a part in the big show.
I said nothing worrying about my place in the band. If she started spreading bad shit about me I could be gone instantly. A stinky woman scorned.

So for two months, I had to mount that thing about 3-4 times per week. Only broken up by the BJ’s she gave the band while touring in the limo between gigs.
She actually performed that act very nicely. Very nicely.

We stayed in the best hotels. Until the road manager fucked up and stuck us in a bedsitter: No bathroom. Only a sink.
I yelled at her when she got up after sex and mounted the sink and peed into it. I leaped up and turned the spigot on so it at least went down the drain.
I screamed that I had to use that sink. (I refused and used one of the other rooms to clean up.) I never told anyone why.

Towards the end of the tour, she and Stewart Copeland…the drummer in the new Way band hooked up. Boyfriend and girlfriend. But she continued to fuck me. Neither cared. This was fucking weird.

They were married for a long time but she was his elder and as Stew got older, he grew tired of her. Plus she got very plus sized.
He was a star now because of his position in The Police and moved on. Turned out he was a real prick towards his two sons. Sonja had custody and every time Stew was scheduled to visit, he called at the last minute, to bail. This infuriated Sonja.
He also stiffed her a lot on child support.

I learned a few months ago from my contacts with management in London that one of the grown boys had a serious cancer. Sonja put CA back together a few years ago with only one original member of the band. (Remember Steppenwolf? Same thing).

The only time that band had any spunk was when I was playing bass or Tony Reeves played bass in the band…and the band has been around since 1968!

So while they are all over YouTube with the new CA playing live, the band sucks. Everyone is a side man and there have been countless changes to the members of the band. And Sonja just keeps on getting bigger. Francis Monkman (Original keys player) told me they called her Mama Cass.

I had to fuck that woman to keep my job.
Two years later, she was the first one to tell me I was fired from the band…on the phone.
Nice.

Sonja then….

Sonja now…

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Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS

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11 replies

  1. AJ has about 5000 cigars on the market so you never know what he is going to produce. The San Lontano Oval is still one of my favorites but it is good to know he can also bring a inexpensive blend to the market that appears to be pretty good.

  2. I will give you half of my box any time, baby.

    Wait, I’m married. And you’re my adopted Uncle.

    Ok this comment went really wrong.

    Let’s try again; yes, I keep all my cigars packed in the Denver snow. I have a 90lb Weimaraner who doesn’t like the cold, so he saves up all his pee and then goes out and unleashes. So, much like Frank Zappa’s huskies, we often have “yellow snow”.

    Today I went outside to dig up a cigar, and it seemed a bit…funky. Is that what they mean by “barnyard”?

    Maybe if I keep these friggin AJs in the snow and let the dog pee on ’em, it will improve the damned construction!

  3. Not to start picking on the guy, but it’s amazing to me that a guy like AJ, who is in high demand, is all over the top cigars of the year lists, etc. can release so many good to great cigars at accessible price points, and the cigar obsession guy releases a $16 cigar. I’ll have to check this one out. Great review, Phil.

    I’ve always been attracted to skinny junkies. What can I say, I’m a sick man. It’s weird, when I went through all my shit and became a junkie myself, I stayed fat. Granted, I was drinking an obscene amount, and I would binge eat and skip meals, so I’m sure I probably did a number on my metabolism. It’s shitty you’re getting stiffed on your money. Shady.

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