Viva La Vida by AJ Fernandez (Atlantic Cigar Exclusive 6x56BP) | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 6 x 56 Box Press
Strength: Full
Price: $12.00

I’ve had this cigar marinating naked in my humidor for over 5 months. Should be ready to go.
I bought this cigar from Atlantic long before we met in a cage match to see who pays who for sponsorship. A serendipitous purchase. So, I hope it doesn’t suck. Hi Matt.

After I had decided to review this cigar, I discovered that I had reviewed this cigar in October of 2021. I gave it a terrible rating. Researching what happened showed that I had the sticks one week before I reviewed this blend. I somehow mixed up that stick with something else and the poor cigar never had a chance. I was only 2-1/2 months into my sleep deprivation study of finding out how long an old man can live without any sleep. Now that I am more than 7 months into sleep deprivation, I’m ready to review this cigar. Where am I? Who’s my daddy?

Limited Production
From Atlantic Cigar:
“Made for Artesano Del Tobacco, the Viva La Vida by AJ Fernandez is a boutique brand the exemplifies the finest quality tobacco one can purchase. Rolled in a Habano Oscuro 2000 wrapper this cigar has a noticeable ‘toothyness’ that only comes from high quality wrapper grade tobacco. This Nicaraguan puro has Corojo 99 and Criollo 98 binders and fillers. The Viva La Vida by AJ Fernandez is a full-bodied experience with notes of chocolate, black pepper, and leather. The Viva La Vida by AJ Fernandez Atlantic Cigar Exclusive Limited Edition is a special one-time run done exclusively in a 6×56 box-pressed format.”

First thing I notice is the Festivus Pole running up the bottom length of the cigar. It has two branches which signify health and sarcasm.

The toothiness makes for a good grip as the nicotine kicks in and I begin to swirl. The cigar has perfect resistance from stem to stern.

Beautifully packed without a single soft or hard spot. Weighty, as well…this will easily be a 2 to 2-1/2 hour smoke. The triple cap is artsy as there are no discernible lines, and the contours match the shape of the box press flawlessly. The wrapper is the hue of a baked potato. Lastly, the press is crisp and consistent. I should not have said ‘lastly.’ The cigar band reminds of things I saw in 1975; the last time I did acid. It was my 25th birthday. And drummer Stewart Copeland handed it out to everyone at the party. He had a chemist friend at UC Berkeley that made up a batch and placed it on an 8.5” x 11” blotter. Then he proceeded to write his letter to Stew on it. At the bottom, was a circle the size of a dime. That was one dose. Plenty to go around. Then for the next two weeks, Stewart and Sonja took a dose every day. No idea how that was humanly possible; especially since we had begun our European tour the day after my birthday. The boys in the band Renaissance were at my party and did the acid as well. Clearly, they weren’t up to the journey as the next day, they couldn’t get out of bed and had to cancel their opening night tour in London. We got 5 encores that night. Annie Haslam (singer) did not do drugs and when she found out they had opened that mystical door and failed miserably in coping…she decided to hate me forever since it was my party…even though it was Stew who handed the stuff out. Women rock stars…can’t live with them, can’t lead them to UC Berkeley acid.

Bright notes of sweet paprika, spicy cinnamon, floral, milk chocolate, vanilla, raisins, espresso, cedar, malt, caramel, and a touch of nuttiness. The aromas were faint without boldness, but I still found them using my huge honker of a nose.

The cold draw presents flavors of hot cinnamon toothpicks, dark chocolate, red pepper, cream, malt, fruit combo of pears and apples, and espresso.

Big fat cigar but the draw resistance is exactly how I like it…uh-huh, uh-huh. I place my PerfecDraw draw resistance tool into the mannequin I made that looks exactly like Amelia Earhart. Took me 16 months to make that thing. Charlotte allows me to bring it into our bed chamber for a ménage à trois. I need to come up with a remedy that keeps Amelia’s head on straight. Creepy. Her head turns like Linda Blair.

I am currently genuflecting and crossing myself because this is a box pressed cigar which I have no luck with in keeping the burn even. I saw the Pope on his private balcony in 1965 when I veered off from the regular tour and saw him above me. We waved to each other. He converted me. I struggled to get my foreskin back on but with my mother’s skill at sewing, it now looks like I am wearing a cocktail umbrella on the end of my schmekel. I frighten small lizards.

Enough bullshit. Time for the real bullshit. I light up.

Good start. I taste the awakening complexity on the first puffs. Notes of cinnamon, bacon, creaminess, espresso, black cherries, and malt.

The char line hasn’t turned on me yet. Plenty of time for that…

With half an inch burned, the character pumps up like my Amelia doll.

There is absolutely no way my first go around with this cigar was appropriate. I fucked up and smoked this baby a week after receipt. This is a good lesson to all you children reading me…Say no to drugs…unless they are free.

Nicely well-rounded blend at this point…which leads me to believe that it will be kicking ass and taking social security numbers soon.

Strength is medium; but not for long. There is a tiger hiding behind the double cigar bands waiting to pounce…and turn me into a blithering idiot…or more of a blithering idiot. I never drool when I write a review…most of the time.

I get a small run in the burn. Dang me. I curse you back…box pressed cigars.

I get a note of fresh black grapes. That is unusual. I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve tasted this in the last decade. Most of the time, I was actually eating black grapes.

Everything is walking the steel beam in a natural balance that does not force one flavor note to sail high above the others. Teamwork. Ooops. There goes Richard. Every big job I ran the steel on, at least 1-3 workers died in tragic accidents. I had only one accident in 2007. I fell off the high roof to the low roof on an 8-story rehab building. I impaled my right hand all the way through with #8 rebar.

The Vida is bordering on delicious. Transitions begin. I only recognize this because a nice finish begins around the same time, and I begin to smack my lips. I’m like a lab rat.

I am going to use a very technical word to describe this blend: Yummy. Google it if you need to…I’ll wait.

Took 25 minutes to get here. And boy are my arms tired.

Cinnamon graham crackers, black pepper, milk chocolate, espresso, a hint of black grapes, cedar, malt, caramel, smoked meat, and raw sweet cashews.

The aging seems right and add to it 5 months of my own aging and the cigar is pretty sophisticated. So, all my beloved readers that are not sophisticated, you can stop reading right here. Go clean the toilet.

This Nic puro is not reinventing the wheel. All familiar flavors we’ve come to love or hate. AJ has a special touch with using these leaf stats. He can use them for good and righteous deeds, or he can turn them into bundle cigars. This cigar is righteous and nothing like what I reviewed last year. I’m such a fuck up.

The burn issue went away on its own. Good cigar…treats for you later.

There is a warm blankey mode happening. The character, the nuances and subtleties, and the balance are working on the chain gang singing gospel tunes.

One of Dylan’s greatest songs is playing: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” First time I heard it was when I saw “Pat Garret and Billy the Kid” in 1973.

The flavor profile is in a full speed ahead approach.
Strength is a potent medium/full.

There are a gazillion blends out there that are Nic puros. I believe that AJ Fernandez is the best at branching off and turning this familiar blend into something special.

Blam. Strength is now full tilt. That happened like a light switch was turned on.

“Southern Cross” by C,S,&N. My band in 1970 had three lead singers and we did plenty of their songs. It was impressive.

Despite the soul killing strength, I still retain my vision. Jinx.

This blend is super complex. Flavors become muted as the cigar grabs the steering wheel and turns this cigar into a big character blend.
I’m at the halfway point. 40 minutes.
The burn remains constant.

I am very happy that this stick didn’t start off full tilt. I never would have made it past the first third. Its growth has been designed perfectly. Nothing linear going on here folks, so please stand behind the yellow ribbon.

Now I want more. This size is an exclusive to Atlantic Cigar. But they have 5 more sizes that are not.

I joined the Atlantic VIP program. I paid for it. I can’t tell you any details as I was directed not to do so. I can say that you will save some serious dough.

This blend is soaring now. I use duct tape on my sack to keep me in the chair. It was easy. Not so easy removing the tape.

Tomorrow is my anniversary. 37 years. Seems longer.

Vision has become depleted. You better be a sophisticated smoker to take this cigar on. It will lay waste to newbies.

The cigar has contained all the aforementioned flavors into a traveling side show. They support the important over all complex nature. Another blend whose sum outweighs the disparate parts.

The strength is blinding me. I will have to walk it off when I’m done.
Despite the power of the blend, it does part the Red Sea and allows me to taste everything that counts while I run across dry land screaming “Don’t close yet!!”

This will be the part that tests my manhood; whatever is left of it.
The burn has been impeccable.
Construction is excellent.

My first sip of water and the parameters of the blend widen like Cherie Ballou’s long legs back in high school.
All of you whose first sexual experience was dry humping a girl raise your hands. I practiced on my kid sister’s Barbie Dolls.

I love this cigar. I now understand why Atlantic may have been unhappy with me on this cigar’s first review. Men in black sedans would be parked out on the curb in front of my house. Never put it together.

The final smoke time will be around 90 minutes.

Flavors break free and explode turning the cigar into a flavor bomb. I can dig it.
Savory v. sweet is spot on.

The spiciness from the black pepper has stayed in the background allowing me to finish this cigar.

The blend started out with a nice flavor profile but then turned into a Marvel hero.

Whatever happens after the cigar goes beyond full strength is where the last third resides.
Yet, the nicotine level is acceptable. I can take my eye patch off as I can now see with both eyes.

Even though my heartbeat slows down to 4 beats per minute, I can finish it down to the nub.
No harshness or bitterness.

I am relieved that I had this opportunity to set the record straight on this baby.
After 90 minutes, I call it.
Love the Velveeta de Vida.
Go to Atlantic Cigar to peruse.


And now for something completely different:

I thought I’d go back to the story that I published a long time ago about how I became a member of the English progressive band Curved Air in 1974.

“Would you like to come to Europe with us this summer?” asked Skip and Debbie.
“Huh?” I replied with exact articulation.
“We are going to buy one-way tickets and go. We thought that we would form a trio of you, me and Travis and head for Greece. And live off of our music. Whatcha’ think?”
My head spun. What a nutty idea. But I was 23 and naive.

We left America and landed in Amsterdam with our one-way tickets. And not enough cash on us to turn around and fly back. It was make it or break it time.
We figured we’d be motivated if were stuck and penniless. A really stupid plan.

After 4 weeks in Europe, we were broke. We figured the dough we brought with us would last for months. Man, were we wrong.

With what little dough we had left, we decided that if we were to be poor, and on the streets, better we were in a country that spoke English. So, we took the ferry from Calais, France to Dover, England…everyone puking the whole way. The English Channel is one of the roughest waterways in the world.

After a few weeks of spinning our wheels and checking “Melody Maker” musician Want Ads every day, we were really, really broke. We lived in a 200-year-old dungeon flat on the west side of London.

I called the phone number in Melody Maker for a roadie gig, but it was also the phone number for a bassist wanted gig. I was dying for any job.

The voice on the other end suggested that I try out for the band and if I didn’t make it, I could look at the roadie gig. So, an audition was set.

There was trepidation from my friends. We had come as a group…sort of. Prior to leaving for Europe, Travis got drunk and wrapped his bike around a tree, a block from our house one late night, and splattered his leg into a million pieces. He spent months in a VA hospital and our plans got all fucked up. But the tickets were paid for, and we decided not to scrap the plan.

I had 5£ left on me. I spent half of it getting to the audition in St. John’s Wood. The home of Miles Copeland III. It was a block away from Abbey Road (EMI) Studio.

Stewart Copeland lived a couple doors down in a flat. And we would sit on the stoop and watch tourists trying to get that famous Beatles’ crosswalk photo…but it was a busy street and English drivers made it a point to run down tourists.

I was ushered downstairs to the practice room. It was encased in glass, and I saw the band playing with another bassist. As I entered the lounge, my heart sank. There had to be at least 20 other bassists waiting their turn. As I sat and listened to the same songs being played over and over again to test the bass players, I played my own versions in my head. Time dragged on unmercifully.

I could hear the whispers of the other bassists as they discussed who was sitting, and waiting, with us. Apparently, players of note had arrived, and the other players felt it was becoming a waste of time. So, did I. So, I got up, grabbed my bass, and left. There must have been at least 30 bassists by then.

I got as far as halfway down the driveway when Stewart Copeland came after me.
“Hey douche bag! Where do you think you’re going?”
I told him I didn’t do cattle call auditions. He insulted me again and grabbed my arm and pulled me back downstairs. He told me: “Sit down and shut the fuck up.”

My turn finally arrived.
With the words, “You know, we’ve been playing the same shit all day. Why don’t you give us something to play?” The color and blood drained from my body.
So I tied my balls to the hitching post and played something in jazz fusion style…really funky…Billy Cobham style. They joined in and we went to town.

At the time, every bassist in England sounded like Chris Squire of Yes. Very technical, but no soul. I on the other hand, had been playing like the players on the CTI label in America. Funky and jazzy. Very Stanley Clarke-ish, Ron Carter, James Jamerson, Jaco Pastorius, and others.

They went nuts over me. We kept playing and I played my ass off in the time allotted.
When we were done, I was introduced to everyone. The keyboard player was Darryl Way. A very famous violinist with the group Curved Air.

I had no idea who that band was. That’s because, while Curved Air, was huge in Europe, they had bombed in America. They sounded like a cross between “Jefferson Airplane” and “It’s a Beautiful Day.” Both bands had chick singers and were considered progressive rock.

I was so naïve that the guys really liked my self-deprecating manner. They asked who I’d played with in the States? I told them no one you’ve ever heard of. Doubt they knew who Chill Wills was.

Then…I actually said to this renowned classically trained violinist…” Gee, I wish you had brought your violin along. I would have loved to hear you play.”
Everyone laughed. What did I know?

I was told that they were going to bring back the best bassists on Sunday and finish the audition. I got back to my bedsitter across from Marble Arch.

The pay phone next to our room rang, I picked up. It was Darryl, He told me how much he liked my playing. But then asked the famous Spinal Tap question: “Do you really have to play so many notes?” I had a quick response: “I tried to show you 10 years of playing in 10 minutes.”
Darryl said that made sense.

A few minutes later, the phone rang again. It was Stew. The same gushing of appreciation ensued. I thought nothing of it and went on with my day.

I went back on Sunday…I was the only bassist there. Damn.

Right place, right time, with the right chops. Never know when opportunity will strike.

But this was not Curved Air. Curved Air had folded two years earlier. Miles grabbed Darryl from Darryl’s own band, “Wolf,” and said he’d build a great band around him. The band was formed and a singer was the last member needed. We became “Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.” We played out a couple times for a pittance in small clubs.

One day, Darryl comes to rehearsal and says we have to put the band on hold for a couple of months because Curved Air had a record deal that had to be completed with Decca… so they figured the easiest approach was to do a live album. Go on tour as Curved Air with the original members, record a couple of gigs and voila! An album.

“Kohn. You’re going to be the bassist.”



2 replies

  1. What did Skip and Debbie do, once you got into Curved Air? Did they stay in London with you? Or go back to America? Either way, they knew exactly what they were doing, taking you to London. I bet they had this in mind for a destination for you, all along. You definitely had angels behind you who knew your talent potential, and it’s how I discovered you, and glad I did, because you’re a one- -of -a -kind musician, and a funny, hearty soul. –
    – L

  2. Thank you, Lara…
    It was not a good time for Skip and Debbie after I joined CA.
    Skip couldn’t find a gig to save his life. Skip was becoming a dinosaur.
    Back in the day, there were rhythm guitarists and lead guitarists. Skip was the former.
    At that time, it had morphed into you’re a guitarist or you are not.
    Skip jammed with a lot of other musicians but nothing ever came of it.
    Meanwhile, in order to bring money in, Debbie worked the only job available to her without a visa that allowed her to work. She was a chambermaid at a hotel for shit money. The longer this lasted, the angrier she became. They argued a lot.
    A year after we got there, they left for Fullerton, CA.
    Skip thought for a long time that I should have helped him. But once in CA, I saw the professionalism of a lot of great guitarists…Skip couldn’t come close to those skills.
    It was a shame as the whole idea was his to leave home like Jack Kerouac.
    I spent the next 10 years apologizing to Skip out of guilt that I couldn’t find anything for him…except the one time he was a roadie for us and he hated it.
    My guilt finally passed. It just turned out that of all my musician friends, I was the best player…but one who also had the motivation to take great chances…as this is what it takes when you’re young and talented.
    I continued to play clubs the rest of my life. My other early musician friends all gave it up. My heart sank when they told me mid life that they had sold all their gear.
    I still have my basses in my mini man cave and play when the urge comes to the forefront.
    And lastly, Debbie divorced Skip months after they returned from Europe.

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