Which begs the question: Why the heck didn't AJ Fernandez keep this blend for himself?
When we first heard about it, we figured it would be blended by AJ but manufactured by Altadis. Not so. According to the company, it comes right out of AJ's factory in Nicaragua. That makes it kind of a head scratcher since presumably Altadis takes a big cut of the profits. AJ has been putting out some very fine products on his own, so it's not like he needs the help. On the other hand, maybe it's a win-win: AJ profits less per cigar but earns more money overall thanks to Altadis' wider distribution capabilities, and Altadis gets some street cred with boutique cigar fans.
Here's another thing: these cigars are reasonably priced right in the $7-8 range. If AJ cut out the middleman and sold them on his own for around $6 instead, you'd have to assume this would be an automatic, runaway hit. Then again, who knows? Maybe Altadis provides the tobacco in quantities and with consistency beyond the capabilities of a boutique manufacturer.
The blend has a heady Ecuador wrapper leaf hugging Nicaraguan binder and filler with a touch of Dominican to temper things a bit. It comes in three sizes: a chunky 5x52 robusto, a 6x54 toro and 7x54 churchill. We think the churchill is a little too fat (52 would be more manageable and less baseball-bat like) but otherwise we like the succinct selection of popular formats. Still, can we haz a corona pleez? Even if it's a 44 or 45 ring gauge?
Upon lighting, the Fernandez-Upmann produces smoke that's mouth filling and lush like cappuccino. Wood, earth and meaty leather notes are counterbalanced by nutty sweetness, dusty cocoa powder and wisps of candied fruit. Once the cigar gets going, it pretty much exhibits the same characteristics throughout, and that's a good thing since it's reasonably complex, endlessly pleasant and remains cool smoking to almost the final quarter.
We picked the toro as the subject of this review since it's the best of the three sizes. The robusto is excellent also but left us wanting just a little more smoking time, while the churchill was slower to start and tougher to handle due to its substantial girth.
H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez is one of the best cigars made by either AJ or Altadis, which makes it an unqualified success. Definitely recommended.
F: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic
Gorgeous. Excellent burn and draw. Rich but never overwhelming. Appealing balance of sweet/savory notes including meat, wood, leather, cocoa, fruitcake and nuts. Notably well rolled.