Wrapper: Ecuadoran Sumatra Oscuro
Binder: Mexican San Andrés
Filler: Nicaraguan Habano
Size: 4.5 x 50
Today we take a look at the Hoyo La Amistad Black.
A few sticks were received by my concubine, Kellie.
Is there anything left that isn’t a collaboration with AJ Fernandez? He seems to have cleaned up on slapping his name on every cigar brand ever made. So, here’s one more.
To be honest, I believe he is diminishing his brand by going hog wild with over saturation. Plus, he must be pulling in the dough like big pharma.
From the Hoyo de Monterrey web site:
“The collaboration between Hoyo de Monterrey and AJ Fernandez continues with the introduction of Hoyo La Amistad Black. Featuring a meticulously fermented Ecuadoran Sumatra Oscuro wrapper that’s peppered with Nicaraguan Habano filler leaves, La Amistad Black has a Mexican San Andrean binder. Together, notes of cinnamon, leather and hot sauce deliver the quintessential power and spice of an AJ blend, while giving a nod to the bold and flavorful tradition of Hoyo cigars.”
SIZES AND PRICING:
Gigante Box Pressed: 6 x 60 $8.49
Rothschild: 4.5 x 50 $7.29
Toro: 6.5 x 52 $8.09
An oily dark espresso colored wrapper covers this tobacco sausage with tight seams but a bunch of big veinage. The triple cap is nicely applied. And there is quite a bit of tooth on the wrapper. The billboard sized double cigar bands take up half the cigar’s length. I have a water jet cutter at home, so no problem.
SMELL THE GLOVE:
Aromas of very dark cocoa, espresso, smokiness, generic sweetness, fruity, cedar, malt, black pepper, and barnyard.
The cold draw presents flavors of chocolate covered malted milk balls, cedar, barnyard, black licorice, cumin, cedar, smokiness, black coffee, and a touch of chocolate.
The draw is tight so I grab my PerfecDraw cigar draw adjustment tool and remedy the situation with a few jabs.
Black pepper and smoke surround my head. Complexity digs in. Transitions blossom. The finish is extremely spicy.
I should add that this stick has months and months of humi time. Makes a big difference as the reviews I read didn’t think too much of this blend. I suspect it might be a lack of proper humi aging time…just spit ballin’ as it’s early.
All the usual suspects of an AJ blend are present and accounted for. Spicy, strong, and a potent Nicaraguan lean.
I like this cigar even though I just started. Hope it hangs tough.
Creaminess pops its head up providing a better balance to the overall flavor profile. The sweetness is defined by green grapes, butterscotch, gingerbread, and raisins. Nice.
The savory portion is a bevy of bullet points: Smoky meat, charred oak, malt, cedar, and black coffee.
Strength is medium/full. Has been from the start.
The Oscuro wrapper gives the stick a natural sweetness that I find alluring.
I reviewed the original Hoyo La Amistad back in 2016 and thought it a great cigar and awarded it a rating of 93. Except for the Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, it was a Nic puro.
Going in this direction, AJ has mixed up the ingredients in an interesting fashion…sort of like a variation on a theme.
Complexity continues to intensify; meanwhile the transition ferry is full steam ahead. The finish is still finding itself mostly spiciness. The over abundance of black pepper was mentioned in the reviews I read. I’m hoping as the cigar progresses, it calms down due to its humidor time.
Black cherries enter from behind…Doogie Howser style.
Construction is excellent. The ash is now seeking height and with not a single burn issue. Wow. A $7 cigar that is every bit as good as most of the sticks in the double-digit column.
Do I let the ash continue to grow so I can impress you with my agility to lay on my back while smoking and typing? Nope. Once I’m on the ground in the supine position, it takes an act of God to get me up without making a bunch of girly man sounds.
While I wrote that last paragraph, the ash falls into disrepair and jettisons itself on to my lap. I am immune to the pain as I am a cigar reviewer; and as all know universally, reviewers are missing the brain parts that can feel empathy, sympathy, and pain.
“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is playing. Oh, my lord. Every band I played in during the late 60’s played that damn song at every gig. The only upside was that a long drum solo allowed the band to go outside and smoke a doob. I’m just kidding. I never did drugs in the 60’s. (My dick just fell off…damn. Goys see their noses get longer. My people lose their kielbasas).
Based on my experience with the original Hoyo by AJ, the Oscuro finds itself in second place. The original had a broader spectrum of flavors and complexity.
Now, that’s not saying I’m not enjoying the Black…I am. But comparison is unavoidable.
The blend kicks into high gear just short of the second half. Flavors are bold and much more intense now. The complexity provides a new balance that is very satisfying to this old palate. The black pepper calms down as hoped. The finish is full of delights.
My first sip of water and boom! The sweet factors explode. Meanwhile, the savory portion maintains a bedrock of a platform. Now, I’m impressed.
The creaminess goes Bozo crazy.
If you check around the auction sites, you can find any of the AJ influenced Hoyos for less than the $7.
The Hoyo La Amistad Black is a great knockaround stick. I have to hand it to AJ…he seems to have a magic wand that can improve a lot of blends that sorely need his help.
The reviews I read said the stick was sorely lacking in complexity. I’m guessing here but I think that humidor time is the key. A couple months is not sufficient to get the reaction I’m having compared to others.
Frampton and “Show Me The Way” is playing. If any song needed to be dumped over a cliff and swept away to sea, this is the one.
Flavors: Creamy, black coffee, dark cocoa, malt, black pepper, black cherries, raisins, cedar, smoky meat, charred oak, green grapes, ginger, raisins, and licorice are screaming laughter.
Strength has been a steady medium/full. Not overpowering and no sign of the dreaded nicotine yet.
If I could find a box in the $5-$6 range per stick, I would snap it up in a second.
There is a nice even keeled progression to this blend. No startling events occur but it is consistent by improving with each puff and going into discovery mode as the cigar becomes more complex. In fact, while the strength is potent, the stick is smooth as hell.
I can’t find any correlations to other AJ blends with this cigar. It started off very typical of any AJ blend but then morphed into its own identity. A lot of the brands AJ lends his skills to seem to smoke like his more conventional blends. The Black is different.
Strength makes the leap to full tilt. Nicotine arrives. Godamm the Pusherman.
I think some of the reviewers were too tough on this cigar. One thing you must take into consideration when you read or watch the big reviewers…they get truckloads of great cigars all the time. Or they have a budget to buy the big and expensive stuff. It makes sense to me that at some point, you just have to become jaded with the everyday cigars that most of us smoke. How do you not become a snob? I’ve become one over the years. And you guys have probably become one as well. You know what you like and most of the time, you stick with it. But you probably don’t have the auspices to go out and buy every new blend that comes out. I’ve seen a pronounced increase of releases over the last 11 years since I began reviewing. It’s become impossible to keep up unless you have a great income.
The Black is finishing up and is calm and tasty. No harshness. But it is ball busting strong at the end. I wouldn’t advise this stick to newbies or those that like their cigars in the medium spectrum of strength.
I can only imagine the hallucinations that probably come from the cigar in the Toro and Gordo sizes. I’m talking passing out and waking up in Hermosa Beach wearing a two-piece bikini while some guy named Julio rubs oil on your back. And he’s doing it while you are eating blood sausage with a glass of Coors Light.
A good cigar.
And now for something completely different:
The Sonja Kristina Chronicles.
I was tasked during our first tour to keep a secret from the band about Sonja’s rehab. She was a morphine addict that used a needle. She was getting help from a private doctor who put her on methadone…injected.
Within days, it nearly gave me a nervous breakdown. Here I was. A kid from California and whisked away into the big time, from being a bar band bassist, to one of the biggest progressive rock bands in Europe, Japan, and South America. They just couldn’t budge in North America. They tried but just couldn’t break.
Sonja’s instability, while tapering off her morphine addiction, was horrifying. Never saw anything like that. Realized just how middle-class America I was.
She had serious insecurity issues. On the albums, before this tour, she sang with a lovely, soaring feminine voice.
On the tour, the addiction really fucked her up and she thought she was Janis. Some of the written reviews of our concerts were devastating for her. Time after time they wrote that the band was brilliant and I got mentioned a lot for bringing new life to the rhythm section. I was playing jazz fusion while they were playing classical music rock. No soul.
Every time Sonja read a review, suicide attempts came within hours.
She used to cut her wrists a lot. But she would use blunt instruments to do so. All she accomplished was to scar her wrists and arms ugly.
We played in Dover. Jeff Beck was there. Jazz violinist Jean Luc Ponty was there. And Mahavishnu Orchestra violinist Jerry Goodman was there. They even jammed with us during our encores.
In the dressing room, after the show, I shoved Sonja into the bathroom and told her to change. We had to get back to the hotel and shoot her up with methadone. She never shot up before a concert because it made her high. Of course, the rest of the band members were high on either hash or alcohol. But no matter. They’d gone through this with Sonja for years and the caveat for doing the album and tour was that she remained straight the whole time.
So, they couldn’t know she was a junkie. At that time, Stewart Copeland and Sonja became an item. Stew was the only person to know because he had moved in with her.
By the time we got back to the hotel, she was long overdue for that methadone shot.
All three of those monster guest musicians were visiting in the dressing room and I forgot about Sonja.
I dashed to the bathroom. She had been in there for over an hour. I knocked. No answer. I knocked again and again. No answer.
That was it. I couldn’t take it anymore. I went back to the dressing room and told the band what was going on. They were livid.
We all tried to cajole Sonja out of the bathroom but she never made a sound so we broke the door in.
There she sat. On the toilet. Unconscious and her arms extended away from her body with blood running down them. They were superficial wounds caused by a bottle opener.
We carried her to the couch in the dressing room and I went into my gig bag and got her stuff. Minutes later, she was fine.
The tour lasted 8 weeks. The band was in an uproar when they found out Sonja didn’t keep her word. Darryl threatened to quit the tour.
I was the peacemaker as I had finally found the big time and didn’t want to lose it. Naturally, this position made me rife for being the eventual scapegoat a couple years later. Someone had to be sacrificed for a poor recording of an album in 1975; so why not pick the one least responsible for the problems? The bassist of course. The peacemaker.
Sonja and Stewart Copeland eventually married.
Back then, Stew was not half the drummer as he was in The Police. He would constantly solo like Keith Moon. And this pissed off Darryl something awful. He and the guitarist would be up front and center on the stage trading riffs and Stew was soloing. They had no idea where “1” was. So, I started playing quarter notes and accenting the 1 count so they knew where they were. I had to abandon my cool riffs to play quarter notes.
Like clockwork, Stew got fired by Darryl every single week. A brouhaha would break out and Sonja would threaten to leave the band if Stew went.
So, every week, fired…re-hired…fired…re-hired. Tiresome for the morale of the band.
Sonja finally got well after that first tour. She became productive and began to write songs again. But the rancor between her and Darryl never went away.
Darryl was probably the most arrogant S.O.B.’s I had ever met in the music biz. It was impossible to please him and, of course, his shit didn’t stink. (He has been writing music for the biggest orchestras in the world. Ballet and opera as well.)
Darryl invited my girlfriend and me to move in with him in the little town of Datchet outside of London. It was a great deal and we would save money. Darryl still approved of me at that time in the band.
But as things do, shit happened….to be continued.
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS
I’ve always wanted to be a concubine. Thank you for making that dream a reality! 😘
I’ve never had a woman tell me that. The Katman wins again. /sigh
Phil, I always love your reviews. You keep me on the proper path as far as cigars go. To return that favor I must point you to Holt’s cigars as they have this same stick for $95/box with a free lighter, along with many of the AJ blends like the Punch Diablo that you just reviewed and recommended. Thanks Phil.
You are the Charles Bukowski of cigar reviewers—if not Charles Manson. Just kidding, about the Mason part. He is a really bad person. Anyway, you’ve carved out a irreplaceable spot in this little niche I’ve come to love. The foodies once had the great Anthony Bourdain, and we cigar enthusiasts have you. Stay alive will ya. Hey, one quick question. I hear you harp on the aging your cigars thing quite often. Just wondering, how is one supposed to know how long the sticks have been laying around the retailers’ warehouse before I hit the order button. Seems like they would be there a month or two at least. Am I wrong about this? I have no idea. I lay awake tossing and turning many nights fretting over wether or not I’m experiencing the blenders intent! Perhaps this is not a hobby for those inflicted with OCD. Thanks man. Have a great day.
Thanks Darryl…where can I send you a check?
Few cigars have sufficient aging on them by the time they hit the stores. Especially constrained by the cellophanes which while porous do not allow the cigar to breathe to its full potential and allowing it to morph with the other blends in your humidor and enhancing the taste.
I have no crystal ball. I insist that manufacturers send a minimum of a fiver to me for review. The big guys usually demand boxes.
I try a stick a couple weeks in…then a month or two in and that will tell me when the cigar is ready to review.
I also store my sticks without the cellos as I don’t have a massive stash so I want my cigars to age naked and soak up the goodness of their buddies surrounding them. I find 3-4 months is usually the point in which I review a cigar because I feel it has matured enough to be enjoyed.
Don’t ask me the physics of this as I haven’t a clue. But the difference between smoking a cigar you just bought and received compared to a nicely aged naked stick is night and day. I usually taste crap from a new stick hidden in its cello for months.
Few brands actually age their cigars to perfection. They do the minimum required to get the cigar to market. This means that maybe the cigar has seen 4-6 months of aging. Not enough to smoke.
Interesting. People say Cubans need a good amount of rest before they should be smoked, more than Nicas, Hondurans, etc. But the Cubans I’ve been getting lately have had at LEAST a year and even two years on them (the date they were rolled is on the bottom of the box).
So I guess Cubans really need WAY more rest than others? Like for example the Partagas Shorts I got recently were dated April 2018, and they still have a good bit of ammonia and a lot of acidity, WAY too much “Cuban twang”. I would think they need at least another 6 months to even be smokeable.
It’s all such a mystery.
I really like this cigar. I smoked a box of the first Amistad blend, but I think I like this one better, right off the truck. I’m putting my other 4 sticks into a deep sleep as you suggest, because I know you are right. Keep doing what you do, sir. There’s nobody else out there worth reading after finding this site.
I find the Black is a good go to stick for me. I try to keep at least a fiver in my humidor.
Thanks again for the nice compliment and kind words,