Cigar Reviews

Morro Castle by A.J. Fernandez

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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
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Cuban Seed Nicaraguan and Honduran
Price: MSRP $5.00
Burn Time: 1.5 hours

Construction:
• 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

Burn:
• 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

Tasting Notes:
• 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

Final Thoughts:
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.

Pairings:
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.

Daniel T. (a.k.a. Dalamscius) is an IT Professional from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He enjoys cigars, scuba diving, hockey, fishing, nature and anything that challenges his mind. If he’s not sitting on his big comfy couch or at work you can usually find him in a boat on top of the water or 100ft under the water enjoying a dive. He is engaged to a wonderful Fiance and looking forward to his wedding. Feel free to contact Daniel anytime via email (dalamscius[at]gmail[dot]com). And make sure to follow him on twitter http://twitter.com/Dalamscius

13 Comments

  1. Lou Bozzelli

    January 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Excellent review and pics Daniel. Isn’t funny, the name Cigar International……………….
    …….INTERNATIONAL???? but we won’t ship next door. I can only assume that they had so many returns due to customs they felt it wasn’t worth their time. It’s understandable but also dissapointing.

    At least we have so other guys willing to ship Northward.

    Looking forward to trying the Morro!!

    • Daniel T.

      January 27, 2012 at 8:22 am

      EXACTLY what I’m saying Lou! haha, glad someone understands it 😉
      Thanks again buddy, looking forward to the next herf!
      Tell Jarv I said hi, we miss his long-winded story posts, they always make me laugh, lol

  2. Tony Casas

    January 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Awesome review dude! Cuvee Rene is my favorite brew by Lindemans! Good work.

    • Daniel T.

      January 27, 2012 at 8:44 am

      Darn good Lambic, that;s for sure! I am beginning to understand your obsession with Belgian brews, lol

  3. jjo

    January 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I had a couple of these belicosos several months back, and I recall them being a pretty decent smoke, especially considerering the price I got them at. I do have a couple of coronas that came in an AJ corona sampler. I’m looking forward to seeing how they are in that vitola.

    Lou, I totally agree with you about the contradictory name. Cigars National would sound a little odd, wouldn’t it? 😉

    • Daniel T.

      January 27, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      Jeff, I’d be curious to hear if you had bad starts on yours? Or did I just have bad luck?

      If the corona would be in the sweet spot the whole time it would be an awesome smoke. I definitely need to try a torpedo or toro, I think I would really enjoy that.

      • jjo

        January 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm

        Daniel, I don’t recall having a bad start on the belicosos, but then again, at my age the memory ain’t what it used to be. I had intended to get some torpedos to try, but I kept getting outbid, and then they fell from my radar.

      • jjo

        January 31, 2012 at 8:08 pm

        Well Daniel, I tried one of the coronas today, and I must say it wasn’t such a great experience. I did get that bitterness that you got early on, and a lot more pepperiness ,with little of the smooth sweet woodiness and light coffee/cocoa I recall in the ones I had earlier. I don’t know if they changed anything in this line, or whether it’s just the typical inconsistency of CI exclusives, but the other one I have will have a nice long rest. I’m not sure I’ll be tempted to buy these again, but maybe if I could get the larger size cheap enough where I could cut off the first third before lighting up lol?

  4. Dan

    January 27, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Great review DT! Digging the Belicoso size.

  5. Sticks

    January 27, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    Great review of this cigar line. The first Morro Castle I had in a sampler,robusto, was a great cigar with that carmel \nutty flavor that you enjoyed. So I bought two five packs and these sure don’t seem like the same cigar I enjoyed. Just a woodly, mildly spice flavors. I might have to pick up a few in the size that you enjoyed and maybe that is the sweet spot for the Morro Castle line. In the meantime, I am aging my robuto sticks hoping to improve the flavor.

    • Dalamscius

      January 28, 2012 at 12:28 am

      This is something I always worry about when it comes to budget line sticks. Consistency seems to be all over the place. It really sucks when you enjoy a stick then buy more just to find they taste totally different 🙁
      Hopefully aging helps them out a bit! Thanks for the comment Sticks!

  6. czerbe

    January 30, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Hey Dan great review. Big AJ fan here although I haven’t had the castle yet. Its alway hard to find AJ stuff locally and I’m not a big fan of buying online if I don’t have to. I really dig his MOW lines although I haven’t had the virtue yet. Hope all is well stay warm my friend

  7. LTCCRJ

    May 16, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Dan, This is one of my favorite AJ blends. I picked up a box of the Churchill’s on cigarbid for $31. Great investment. I agree with the assessment that sometimes the Fernandez blends can be hit or miss, sometimes within the same line, but I these are becoming one of my regular rotation sticks. Great review, appreciate the information on the pairing as well. Might have to at least try a lambic just to see what I think.

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