Abdel “AJ” Fernandez worked under industry legend Alejandro Robaina for many years before moving to Nicaragua and starting his dream of producing his own cigars. He has been a big success ever since with his self branded blends, some Internet retailer exclusive blends and most recently, some B&M exclusive blends. Tony actually just reviewed the San Lotano Oval with is AJ’s newest B&M Exclusive.
The Man O’ War Armada is available exclusively at Cigars.com and Cigarsinternational.com as with the other Man O’ War lines. The other blends in the series include the Ruination, and untitled Man O’ War, the Virtue, and the Puro Authentico. The Armada is the special edition of the Man O’ War line and priced rightly so for that purpose at a hefty $20 per cigar.
Now I have to say how much I love these bands. I think I mentioned this in my Man O’ War Virtue review as well. This particular band has the gold Spartan mask with hints of metallic green in it all splashed on a black background. It really stands out and gives the cigar a “mean” look! lol Maybe there’s a hint of inspiration from the “300” movie here? hehe
The boxes of these cigars are packaged in impressively made chests of 32 cigars that also include a humidifier and a hygrometer. Currently, the Man O’ War Armada is only available in a single vitola, the Toro Grande. There are also two limited edition boxes that come with a few other cigars and include an Armada. These two boxes contain the Armada in a Perfecto and Box-Pressed Robusto Vitola.
The Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper is extremely rare and all the tobaccos used undergo an extensive fermentation and aging process before being put into any cigar. The fillers in this cigar are ligero from AJ’s farm in Nicaragua, specifically the Esteli and Ometope regions. The Armada is also produced in limited quantities of only 10,000 of this cigar each year. All these key features come together to justify the higher price tag. Now all that is fine and good, but if it doesn’t have a delicious profile and excellent construction to back it up, most people probably won’t buy it right? So let’s see if it has that important last piece to the puzzle.
Cigar: Man O’ War Armada
Drink: Brights Canadian 74 Port
Vitola: Toro Grande (6.5 x 56)
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra Maduro
Price: $20 MSRP
Burn Time: A little over 2 hours
• Now this is a beefy looking cigar with mean face! The dark brown wrapper glows in the light with a nice oils it has
• The whole cigar is super smooth and evenly constructed, although it does have a few sizeable veins
• It’s also a fairly heavy stick, feels substantial and has no soft spots to be found. Just a tiny bit of spring when squeezed
• The foot of the Man O’ War Armada is finished super clean and looks fully packed
• The cap on this cigar is also damn near seamless and even the exact same color, wonderful construction all around
• The first cut was clean and easy but the filler was so packed near the cap that I barely got any draw
• I went in for a second deeper cut and the result was a little better, but still tight. The amount of filler in this cigar is beyond comparison
• The toasting took a bit of time but rounded out nice and even with a perfect glow
• I can tell right away that this cigar is gonna burn SUPER slow, especially with all this filler
• The burn for the first bit was razor sharp and not wavy at all, it continue to burn at a turtles pace
• I’m getting a bit of a wave near the middle of the cigar, hopefully it evens itself out
• Did I mention how slow this thing is burning?!?!
• The wave in the middle corrected itself but I got another one soon after, turned into a pretty long peninsula that needed a correction
• Got another peninsula shortly after correction, just seems one part of the wrapper just stops burning
• It’s still burning super slow by the way
Smoke & Ash:
• Despite what seemed like a tight draw I’m getting super full smoke from every draw, it’s thick and creamy as it coats my palate
• There is a good amount of resting smoke coming off the cigar, not over powering, and it smells almost like the burning wood of a campfire
• The ash on this cigar is strong, clean and an awesome white color with occasional dark grey bands. With all the filler in this I would expect no less
• Although the ash looked amazingly strong, it gently fell into my ashtray after just over an inch
• The other ashes fell off on their own at a similar 1 inch length
• The smoke stayed super thick and creamy right to the end
• The wrapper has a mild coffee and cocoa aroma to it, very pleasant and light
• The foot is a different beast, bringing a full sensory aroma of cedar, floral, earthy and a touch of spice
• The pre-light draw is bursting with spices, I’m getting some pepper, cloves and maybe nutmeg, along with some cedar and earthiness
• Initial impressions are impressive, lol. I’m getting a really full and balanced cigar right off the bat. It’s not in your face but it seems so full flavored
• The flavors on the first few draws are filled with cedar, spices, earthy notes and a super smooth creamy coffee finish
• I have to stress how amazingly balanced this cigar is so early on, and the finish is so smooth and tasty, I really hope it continues
• The body is starting off in the medium range but I have a sense that this is going to be a powerhouse of a cigar (which is why I busted out my trusty port wine!)
• I’m surprised to say the retrohale is very subtle and laid back, almost no kick to it and a smooth/light cedar finish
• Just an inch or so in and the flavors gave me a nice change up. The coffee notes are much more pronounced, most of the spice is settled in although still lingers, and the smooth cedar rounds out the profile nicely
• Did I mention how wonderfully balanced this cigar is?!?!
• I’m getting another tasty change-up just past the halfway mark. Although I feel the body increasing the flavors are getting a touch sweeter and I’m also picking up some vanilla and cocoa notes
• The spice is making rare appearances in more prominent bursts, then settles nicely into the background
• The intensity of the flavors and body is really starting to burst out in the last third, but it’s still balanced amazingly well
• It seems like all the flavors are making a comeback and playing nicely together now, coffee, cedar, earthy, spicy, vanilla-y (lol?), sweetness and a touch of cocoa
• I’m finally getting a bit of a nice bite in the retrohale now but still nothing over powering, still keeping the smooth cedar finish as well
• The body is really shining through into the full range now
• The flavors started to fade a bit in the last inch and I was left with mostly woodsy and leathery notes. Very surprised to get very little harshness on such a full cigar
I’ll admit I had my reservations going into this cigar. I haven’t had too many AJ cigars that wowed me but I also haven’t had any of his newer ones. Also, with a $20 price tag, this cigar set the bar high from the start. I have to say I’m not at all disappointed and it was $20 well spent! The flavors in this cigar were excellent and the balance of them all with incredibly spot on. It kept me on my toes and going back for more to see what flavor would be the dominant one on the next draw. My only real complaint here might be the draw, which was a bit tight even after a few pokes with a toothpick. But the construction on this cigar was something to admire and AJ Fernandez’s skills in the blending department definitely shined through! The price may be out of range for most people to purchase a box but I think it’s definitely worth getting a few to sit in the humidor for a special occasion. Take note that this cigar does have some kick and power behind it, so pick your pairings well and don’t give it to a new cigar smoker as they may not be able to fully enjoy the complexity and balance that this cigar offers. Perhaps this will be a contender on our 2011 list??
I was pretty excited when I found this bottle at my local liquor store. More Port wines are produced in Portugal and it’s fairly uncommon to find them produced by many other wineries. I’ve only come across a small handful that are made in Canada and this one happens to be from one of my favorite wine regions, Niagara, Ontario. The winery is called Brights and this particular bottle is called Canadian 74 Port. I fully plan to visit the winery on my next road trip to the Niagara region and see what else they have. Why you ask? Well, because this port is fantastic! It has a light start with cherry, current and blackberry fruit notes along with a woodsy touch. But the real treat is the finish, when it builds in body and gives you a full heavy red wine flavor, similar to the Merlot wines I’ve come to love from the Niagara region. It’s incredibly tasty and I will definitely be buying more, especially at a super cheap price tag of only $12 even after all the ridiculous liquor taxes here.
But the question is, did it pair well with the Man O’ War Armada? You’re damn right it did! the light fruity start complimented the flavors of the cigar extremely well and the full smooth finish contended the full body of the cigar perfectly. This was a powerful cigar but I find a good port wine really helps counteract any nicotine effects you might feel. I’m not sure there is a better pairing for this cigar but if I had to choose I might pick out a smooth aged scotch or possibly a strong cuban coffee with a couple sugars to combat the nicotine. A full stout might also work well here.