That being said, a lot of the nuances and aromas do have a somewhat whisky-like resonance to them. The texture of the smoke is cake-like, with a sugary, bready mouthfeel that positively drenches the palate in upfront flavor. First impressions are of a more medium-bodied experience but it quickly ramps up closer to full. It's initially deceiving because a lot of the hallmarks of full-bodied, Nicaraguan cigars like leather and earth are less prominent here and balanced by sweetness and wood.
The blend is crazy. Mexican San Andreas tobacco is so rich and characterful it's best used in small doses, and AJ smartly chose it for just the binder. But that also happens to be the one leaf which is bourbon barrel aged, ramping up the uniqueness even further. Our suspicion is the boldest flavors are coming from the binder—the sweetness, the cake and sugary icing—while the Ecuador wrapper brings the smoothness and the three region blend of filler (Ometepe, Jalapa, and Condesa) impart the more recognizable and expected Nicaraguan traits of wood and earth. Blends like this would've been considered over the top just a couple decades ago to the point of being unmarketable, and indeed, some of the tobaccos used here either barely existed or were not in common use then.
The four sizes are pretty close together: a chunky 5.5x52 robusto, a 7x49 churchill that we like a lot, a stupid 6x60, and the best compromise of the bunch, this 6x54 toro reviewed here. We'd love to try this in a corona gorda around a 45 or 46 ring gauge, but perhaps the reason it doesn't exist is because it wouldn't allow for enough filler tobacco to balance out the blend. Still, it would be fun to try, even if it blew half our heads off!
Branding-wise, there's a little too much going on for us to decode. It's a partnership with Rabbit Hole Distillery, who supplies the used whiskey barrels used to age the binder leaf, and that's noted on the bottom band. It's also somehow a line extension of Diesel, which we tend to think of as a Cigars International exclusive house blend. Yet these are distributed to brick-and-mortar stores by General Cigar, which we guess sorta makes sense because Swedish Match owns both General and CI. Why not just call it Whiskey Row? Or make it Rabbit Hole's first cigar under their brand name, just like Drew Estate did with Pappy Van Winkle? It's a little confusing.
Fernandez keeps taking on new blends and upping production, which you would expect to impact quality, but there's no evidence of that here or in any of the other cigars of his that we recently sampled (and continue to enjoy).
Certainly this would pair well with just about any whiskey you'd care for, but we liked it best with a classic Scotch and soda. The fizz and flavor were more palate refreshing than you'd get with straight liquor. In fact, it was almost flavor overload with so many bold, upfront and harmonious things going on. This also goes great with a malted vanilla milkshake or coffee, too, and probably cola as well. There's a lot of versatility built into this blend, making it a great choice for after lunch or after dinner or heck, even after a hearty breakfast...just as long as your belly is full since this one could go wrong on an empty stomach.
AJ Fernandez has another winner on his hands. It's not the first time we've said that, and probably not even the last time we'll say it this year. There's never been a better time to be a cigar enthusiast thanks to dudes like him.
B: San Andreas
Bold, rich, dense, upfront, mouth-filling and exciting. While not overly complex, this is a delicious and balanced cigar with notes of cake and earth and wood and leather. Very well made.