Morro Castle by A.J. Fernandez
Today I’m diving into a cigar made by the very popular A.J. Fernandez. AJ’s cigars and me seem to have a love and hate relationship. There are some that I absolutely enjoy and some that are just not quite my profile. So today I’ll be lighting up a Morro Castle Belicoso and see where the next A.J. Fernandez cigar lines up in the review bank.
Now let me just toss this out there.. One thing I’m not happy about when it comes to AJ’s cigars is the restricted distribution and sale of most of them, namely through cigar.com and all it’s affiliates such as cigarsinternational.com. I don’t have a problem with those retailers, but they seem ot have a problem with the awesome people North of the border since they don’t ship to Canada. So needless to say, they are more difficult for me to get my hands on. This also affects a lot of people who prefer to purchase cigars from local B&M’s. Ok, so now that we got that out of the way, what else do we know about this cigar.
Well, the Morro Castle brand actually has roots in the Cuban cigar industry but A.J. Fernandez took ownership of the brand and began blending and manufacturing them in Nicaragua. He also gave what seems to be a throw back to the original heritage by using some Cuban seed leaves in the filler. I stated the MSRP below as being $5 but if you get them by the box and catch them on sale, they can actually be had for prices well below $4 per stick in the Belicoso vitola. Other available vitolas include the Robusto, Toro, Torpedo and Churchill.
We have quite a few other reviews from AJ’s massive resume on the site as well, some of my personal favorites include the Man O’ War Armada, Man O’ War Virtue and a more recent popular cigar that Tony reviewed, the San Lotano Oval. So I think this cigar has a lot to live up to and hopefully it’s lower price will give it a slight edge in the final thoughts section. I received most of my samples through trades and/or gifts, the cigar I’m lighting up today comes from a trade made this past Christmas, let’s see how it stacks up!
Cigar: Morro Castle
Drink: Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene Lambic Beer
Vitola: Belicoso (5 x 52)
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Filler: Cuban Seed Nicaraguan and Honduran
Price: MSRP $5.00
Burn Time: 1.5 hours
• The outside of this cigar looks very shiny and smooth, it’s glistening with oil and has a nice golden-brown glow to it
• Even though there are no large veins, the cigar is fairly bumpy. Most likely due to a rough binder
• The cap of this cigar is finished very cleanly and with expertise as the leaf blends seamlessly into the rest of the cigar
• The length of the Morro Castle has a nice little spring to it as I squeeze it lightly
• The foot appears very well packed and cleanly finished, it’s easy to see a lot of care went into the construction
• Cutting the cap was clean and easy, I didn’t have to cut much and I’m left with a good draw
• The foot did not want to co-operate wit ha slow toasting and just refused to start glowing, but after a few draws it seems to have evened out
• Despite a somewhat challenging toasting, the Morro Castle is burning razor sharp through the first couple of inches
• I ran into a few wrapper issues that caused some burn problems, but I’m attributing these to the cold day today, I can’t knock the cigar since the first half burned perfectly
Smoke & Ash:
• There is a ton of smoke coming from this Morro Castle cigar, just one draw seems enough to provide a thick cloud of smoke
• Even when resting, there seems to be a fair bit of smoke coming from this cigar
• The ash seems to be coming along with a nice white color but it seems a little flaky so far, we’ll see how it progresses
• Even though it looked a little flaky and weak, the ash managed to hang on for about 1.5 inches and it stayed a nice shade of light grey/white for the whole way through
• Another solid ash lasting past the 1 inch mark, showing some good construction quality on this cigar even with the very cold temps today
• The wrapper gives off very little aroma, maybe just a touch of woodsiness
• The aroma on the foot is also fairly faint but it brings out a little bit of cedar and some mild baking spice notes
• The pre-light draw brings more cedar and a little more of those baking spices, now with a bit of sweet paprika mixed in
• The first few draws after lighting had an extremely bitter and dry after-taste that I’ve never really had so early on in a cigar
• As I slowly progress, the bitterness is tapering off a bit, I hope it completely disappears soon
• Flavor wise, the Morro Castle is kicking out a spicy cedar mix with a touch of earthiness thrown in
• The body seems to be hovering in the low end of medium right now and retrohale has just a slight bite and smooth yet dry cedar finish
• It took about an inch of the cigar before I can say the bitter dryness is completely gone, I’m now left with an enjoyable profile of cedar, mild baking spices and earthiness
• The whole balance of this cigar is really hitting it’s stride as I get to the halfway mark, the spices and cedar have developed nicely
• There is a bit of sweetness sneaking into the mix too, maybe like a roasted nutty caramel type of profile, very interesting.
• The earthiness is still lingering and the finish has changed from the dry start to a creamy sweetness, much, much better!
• The body and retrohale haven’t changed much as I get into the final stretch, maybe just a touch higher in the medium range on the body
• The flavors seem to have all melded together in the last third, they aren’t bad but they aren’t as interesting as they were in the middle
• The flavors stayed tasty to the nub with no harshness at all, a good finish
I think it’s pretty easy to tell that I wasn’t a fan of the first inch of this cigar. That bitter dryness is not a great way to make a first impression. But I’m glad to say I stuck it out and kept going because this turned into a pretty good quality cigar. It had a nice array of flavors and the burn was damn near perfect. When you factor in the price you can get these at by box purchase, it makes them a worthwhile purchase. I had a few in this vitola and they all seemed to suffer from bad starts so if I were to purchase them again I’d probably opt for a larger vitola to get more of the sweet spot in the experience.
I took a bit of a risk with this pairing today. I’m no Lambic aficionado like Tony, but from the few I’ve had I know that they are very sweet and usually flavored with some sort of fruit such as raspberry or cherry. They are tasty, but probably not a great pairing for a cigar. So I found this lambic that doesn’t seem to be flavored, I knew it was going to be sweet but I hoped it would still work out. It’s from Lindemans brewery in Belgium and is called the Cuvee Rene. So it is sweet, but not nearly as sweet as their flavored offerings and it’s got a fair bit of carbonation. Surprisingly though, it seemed to work well with a cigar, especially one with a bit more body and a touch of spice to counteract the beers sweetness. It’s sort of hard to describe a lambic beer but I guess you could compare it to an alcoholic version of pop. This particular one has some citrus notes to it so maybe like a delicious and alcoholic version of 7UP or Sprite? I’m probably way off but that’s what I think, lol. Either way, it was tasty and went well with the cigar. Other options for the Morro Castle would be a porter or dark ale, maybe a strong coffee and even some black tea.