New BlendLab YY-4550 by AJ Fernandez from Cigars International | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatran Oscuro (Aged 4 Years)
Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
Filler: Nicaraguan Ligero
Size: 4.5 x 50
Strength: Full
Price: $3.50 in bundles of 20 for $69.99





Today we take a look at the brand new BlendLab YY-4550 by AJ Fernandez from Cigars International.
Carefully read the PR info from CI below.
Only 50 bundles are for sale.
And only available through the Cigars International B&M in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
They cannot be bought online.
Samples were provided by Cigars International.

BACKGROUND:
According to Cigars International:
“Cigars International is proud to announce the official return of their popular BlendLab series.

“Fifteen customer favorite blends were introduced earlier this year and beginning in 2020 new additions to the line will be released quarterly in limited quantities.

“To support the company’s retail expansion, the BlendLab series will be featured exclusively at Cigars International brick and mortar locations.

“The program will launch with a kick-off event at the Original Cigars International Superstore in Bethlehem Pennsylvania on October 12th and 13th.

“In regards to the decision to revive the program Merchandising Director Jeff Kocher had this to say:

‘The BlendLab was built around experimentation with tobaccos & blends. So, when the FDA’s deeming regulations were passed in 2016 and immediately changed the landscape for premium cigar blending, we assumed the days of CI’s Blendlab were numbered. When we ended the program, and in the 1-2 years of hiatus, we received dozens upon dozens of customer requests for its return. More specifically, requests for the return of their favorite BlendLab blends. It was then that we realized that the program was about much more than just experimentation. It was about great tobaccos, great manufacturers, and a cigar experience that was less about the band and more about the cigar. We’re excited to announce that BlendLab is back. And while it may not have as much variation and blend rotation as in the past, you can definitely expect the same world-class quality cigars, blends, and manufacturers that put the program on the map nearly 10 years ago!’

“For the inaugural release of the new BlendLab, CI has collaborated with the one and only AJ Fernandez to produce a delectably full-bodied, full-flavored power-bomb of a blend that’s sure to have cigar lovers clamoring for more. Don’t let the size fool you – this firecracker packs quite the punch.

“Featuring a 4-year-old Ecuadorian Sumatra Oscuro wrapper overtop Nicaraguan ligero, this new BlendLab cigar features loads of chocolatey flavors backed by espresso and black pepper. Just be warned – there’s only 1,000 of these cigars in existence, and once they’re gone – that’s all folks!

“For those unfamiliar with the BlendLab series, it was summed up here by Director of Retail Mat Cook:
‘The Blendlab was created to provide the customer with an instore experience that exposes them to the blend selection process. Many blends never make it to market because of price or rarity of tobacco. This is where the Blendlab steps in, providing customers with an opportunity to try blends that may never make it to the marketplace.’

“This Blend will only be available at Cigars International Bethlehem Superstore beginning on October 12th whiles supplies last.

“Bundles of 20 can be purchased for $69.99.”

APPEARANCE:
Nice looking stick. Some seams are visible. A small modicum of veinage. The cap is so expertly applied that I am unable to count them. The stick is evenly distributed with filler. No hard or soft spots. Feels heavy in the hand.
The wrapper is a dark espresso hue but with sunlight upon it, there are shades of red permeating different areas of the cigar. It is slightly toothy but mostly smooth to the touch.

SMELL THE GLOVE:
Big wallop of black licorice. Then followed by espresso, floral notes, unidentifiable sweetness, malt, cream, black pepper, cedar, barnyard, and various baking spices.
The cold draw presents flavors of orange zest, malt, espresso, chocolate, licorice, cedar, and brown sugar.

FIRST HALF:
The draw resistance is spot on just the way I like it so no need for my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool.

Flavors start with a big bang: Black pepper, creaminess, chocolate, black coffee, almond marzipan, brown sugar, slight notes of vanilla, cedar, and malt.
Great start as the job of becoming complex begins immediately. My palate is flush with interesting elements that come from the 4-year-old aged wrapper.
There is a nice steak sauce component that gives the cigar a tart and sweet flavor.
The burn is perfect. Straight as a razor.

The strength starts out at medium/full…but that won’t last long.

When I got these cigars a month ago, I tried one the next day and could not believe my senses. AJ, like Pepin Garcia, manages to weave some magic in many of his blends. A couple days after receipt, his blends show off their potential instantly. And a few days after that, they recede to needing a month or longer to upgrade to the blends’ full potential. I smoked one a week in and, instead of going to sleep, it was even better.

This is a friggin’ $3.50 cigar pretending it is a fancy overpriced boutique blend.

Balance is excellent as the complexity continues on its journey. Transitions are wonderful showing off fast moving flavor components. The finish is delicate and lip smackin’.

The spiciness began pretty strong but has settled down quickly so as not to blur the flavor profile.
The burn line is impressive and as I look at my own photos, it appears that it is a triple cap atop the AJ sausage.

I’ve reviewed my share of double-digit priced sticks that don’t match this quality. I am literally blown away. Now, if this cigar was a $10-$12 stick instead of $3.50, I’d be telling you this is what I expect from AJ.

CI has really made the effort to bring back the BlendLab series with panache and punch.
If they can keep this up, the BlendLab blends will be a force to be reckoned with.

I Googled the in-house brand looking for past reviews. I believe I found 4 of them; including one by me in 2013. I didn’t particularly care for it. I also remember a lot of BlendLab blends and found myself confused about what I was getting. I think that is the reason for the lack of cigar reviews back then. I’m convinced it was overload. A lot of smokers were busy yacking it up on cigar forums discussing the myriad number of blends and it was a little confusing.

My hope is for a more focused attack that doesn’t swamp the market with dozens of different blends making it hard for the consumer to choose. A nice slow roll out would up the ante on the brand’s word of mouth and get some solid reviews.

The YY-4550 is a stunning representation of some of AJ’s best blends. Aging of the wrapper is the key. There is no info on the binder and filler’s aging but I gotta guess there was no shortcuts taken here either.

The spectrum of flavors widen as does the enjoyment factor.

I’m nearly to the second half and the ash has not moved an iota. The burn line remains impeccable.
The blend has smoothed out impressively. Flavors are on a completely level playing field without one element overshadowing the other.
I’m completely plotzing over this gem.

I really hope that after the introduction of BlendLabs back to the CI family, they do convince AJ to do it again. A different blend would be fine; but he really nailed this one.

A creamy custardy flavor shows up. Milk chocolate and malt really shine. It is extremely nutty. The licorice hangs back and brings the right touch to the balance. The orange zest is there as well providing the tanginess that really makes the blend pop. Other sweet factors include brown sugar, a crazy touch of banana, and raisins.

SECOND HALF:
Man, I hope you guys know someone near the CI store in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania that will do a cigar run for you. The sale starts tomorrow, the 12th, and I expect the cigars will be gone by end of day.

But if nothing else, I’ve been allowed by CI to give you a heads up of what’s to come. And, clearly, CI ain’t fooling around. This is a concerted effort to bring back the series with nuclear intent. I am positive that the crew at CI learned from the first go around and are now primed for bear. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
By any standards, this is a high premium with a near perfect assault to my palate.

Strength reaches full. But hallelujah! Not a lick of nicotine. How can that be? The filler is all Ligero. I should be swooning with near unconsciousness. Yet I am sane…OK, I heard that.

The complexity is three times what it was in the first inch.
The cigar is perfectly built. I don’t have a single criticism of the construction. It is a work of art. Good on yer’ AJ.
$3.50!! Damn!

Of course, you are thinking it might be a loss leader. I don’t think so. I believe it is a grand fanfare for the return of newly designed group of spectacular blends. CI is officially entering the big market of boutique brands it can call its own.

I’m not bullshtting you when I say this cigar is as near perfection as my palate can handle. Yes, I’ve always been an AJ fan, but this is something very special.

Cinnamon graham cracker shows up totally unexpectedly. More flavors enter: smoked meat, honey, black walnuts, and a luscious peaty element.

There are a lot of great blends on the market but if could get my hands on a thousand of these cigars, it would be my only cigar to smoke for months. I know, bold statement.

Intensity increases. It is now an official flavor bomb. It is unrelenting.

Now I know from comments and emails, that you prefer I trash a cigar so I can attempt to be funnier. But I won’t get this chance again, so I need to make it count.

Haven’t taken a sip of water yet. Will do so now…and yes, there is an explosion. This sounds nuts but I can taste a Slim Jim in the mix. Used to love those as a kid. But since learning that the ingredients are mostly byproducts, I have stayed away to my dismay. But you can’t argue with the spices they use to make it a guilty pleasure.

Chocolate covered malted milk balls. Big notes of that aged tobacco rounding up the flavor profile into one corral.

You don’t need a trained palate for this baby. There won’t be a dry eye in the house for any of you that get the opportunity to snag some of these. But even better is the notion that CI is on a new journey yelling to the heavens “I am Spartacus!” This venture is going to be highly successful and will bring a whole new outpouring of attention from even the snobbiest of smokers to the new BlendLab series.

Keep an eye out for the new releases and snag them as soon as they hit the shelves.
Thank you Cigars International and Alexander Gougher for giving me this opportunity to sing your praises. You’ve sold me. Brilliant timing.

RATING: 95



Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS

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