Casa Fernandez Aniversario 2014

Casa Fernandez Anni 2014

I remember my first anniversary. My girlfriend surprised me with the announcement that we had been together for six weeks and it was time to celebrate. Then came the three-month anniversary. And the sixth. We didn’t make it to a year. I blame all the damn anniversaries. Well, not really… but it’s true. After a while Anniversaries can be a bit of a chore.

But not for cigar makers. It seems like nearly every manufacturer has a few Aniversarios in their portfolio these days, and Casa Fernandez is no exception.

As a brand name, Casa Fernandez is fairly young, but the company has old roots. The business that would become Casa Fernandez began as Tabacalera Tropical in the 1970’s. Eduardo Fernandez had already been operating Aganorsa for a few years when he purchased Tropical from Pedro Martin in 2002, but with Arsenio Ramos employed as a blender using Aganorsa tobaccos, the cigar maker emerged from the shadows of the shade cloth. So I think it’s safe to say that the anniversary this cigar celebrates is not so much a founding of a finished product as the beginning of an evolution.

The tobaccos used in the Casa Fernandez Aniversario are Aganorsa grown, including a Corojo 99 wrapper grown in Jalapa. After harvesting, the tobaccos were aged five years and the cigars were rolled in the small factory Fernandez opened in Miami in 2011. The 2014 release, a 6 1/4 x 52 parejo, was limited to 2000 boxes of ten. (The 2015 release was made in two sizes: a lancero and a toro size slightly larger than the 2014 parejo.)

Because this blend utilizes aged tobacco they may not have needed the bonus humidor time that I usually afford Casa Fernandez cigars, but they’ve been cooling their heels at 65% for almost a year anyway.

Construction Notes

The Casa Fernandez Aniversario is a handsomely appointed toro, complete with the super premium accoutrement: a tasteful white band, a silver anniversary band, and a parchment sleeve etched with the company logo. All it’s missing is a black tie.

The wrapper is a smooth milk-chocolate colorado claro with subtly dimpled veins. The head is perfectly symmetrical and topped with a clean flat cap. The cigar has a slight box press which has relaxed a bit after resting loose in the humidor. It draws well, burns evenly, and produces a nice volume of smoke. The ash is a solid light gray.

The only construction flaw I encountered is that the wrapper, despite its beauty, is somewhat fragile and has a tendency to split. Careful storage and optimal atmospheric conditions are recommended when lighting up.

Overall construction: Very good.

Casa Fernandez Anni 2015 b

Tasting Notes

Cocoa jumps out at the first puff and stays in the driver’s seat for the whole ride. Some sweetness enters on the palate, rendering caramel after an inch or so. Some woody notes are present in the first half of the cigar which veer into earthy territory in the second.

The smoke is smooth, a little dry, but never heavy. Some pepper shows up toward the end, but that’s about it for spice. This toro is very easy to smoke, but it lacks the development that I expect in a cigar of this magnitude.

Casa Fernandez Anni 2014 c

Conclusion

The CF Aniversario is definitely a super premium, upper echelon blend. It’s like a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter’s day.  I would recommend this stick without reservation as a special occasion cigar for a novice smoker (assuming the construction holds up.)

Unfortunately, this blend lacks the complexity that veterans might expect in an Aniversario. (Compared with the Padron Anniversary blends, let’s say.) And of course there is the price. At $12.50 a shot it has some serious competition. All things considered, I still think it’s worth it.

Final Score: 92

Illusione *R* Rothchildes

Illusione Rothchildes A

According to Richard Hacker’s Ultimate Cigar Book, the first Rothschild cigar was produced by Hoyo de Monterrey in the late 19th century in response to a request from the London-based financier, Leopold de Rothschild. He wanted a short cigar with a large ring gauge that would smoke like a full-sized cigar, but in a shorter amount of time. Since then, many cigar makers have produced cigars in this size, though stumpy cigars have often been assigned the moniker “Robusto” instead. Nevertheless, the Rothschild persists — sometimes as Rothchild, or Rothchilde, or in the case of Illusione’s entry: Rothchildes.

Due to their power and wealth, the Rothschild family has been the target of numerous conspiracy theories over the years, from currency manipulation to presidential assassination. And as we know, the Illusione mystique relies in part on the shadowy world of conspiracy theory. Therefore we should ask the question: why the misspelling? Why Rothchildes, and not Rothschilds? What is the significance of the missing S, and the added E? Is there a hidden meaning?

But we also know that the Illusione mystique does not rely on conspiracy theory alone; it also relies on premium quality Nicaraguan tobacco, specifically Aganorsa tobacco. This quality is apparent from the first puff on the *R* Rothchildes, and the flavor is quintessential Illusione. The binder and filler leaves are Aganorsa grown, and the wrapper is a nicely processed maduro leaf from the San Andres Valley of Mexico.

Illusione Rothchildes 2

Construction Notes

The Rothchildes are rustic in appearance with rough maduro wrappers and single caps slapped on heads that are sometimes a little uneven. The throw-back bands blend well with the rough appearance of the wrappers. The roll is solid, though the cigar feels a little light — perhaps it’s this desert winter air, the nemesis of my humidor. But any worries about underhumidification are dispelled by a draw that offers the right amount of resistance and an even, steady burn.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The first third of the cigar is marked by the clean crisp flavor that is Illusione’s stock in trade. Hardwood smoke with a cherry edge. If I didn’t know what this cigar was and had to guess, I might have to say La Riqueza.

A peppery spice builds as the cigar grows in complexity.  The flavor on the palate gradually loses its crispness and becomes earthier, and the cherry on the nose transitions to cocoa.

In the final stretch the cocoa loses its sweetness and the earth turns darker and sharper; the smoke bites a little, but doesn’t bitter.

Illusione Rothchildes 3

Conclusion

The Rothchildes bear more than a passing resemblance to the veteran blends in the Illusione family: the clean woody flavor of Aganorsa tobacco is prominent and distinguishing, and the subtle cherry flavor that appears in the first section is an unexpected bonus.

And while they’re not quite as complex as the pedigreed Original Documents, they have a particularly redeeming characteristic: a price tag under $5 USD.  A tall price is frequently an indicator of premium quality, but it’s not a requirement, as Illusione *R* Rothchildes ably demonstrate.

Final Score: 91

Sindicato Corona Gorda

Sindicato

Sindicato is a clever name for a cigar — it has that underworld overtone,  that slightly sinister suggestion of menace that is so common in cigar marketing these days. But the name is a classic red herring. Sindicato has nothing to do with the mob — it’s the Spanish term for a labor union. Leave the gun. Take the chaveta.

Sindicato Cigars are made by a union of cigar industry veterans: retailers, manufacturers, lobbyists, the whole kit. Their motto is “Join the Union.” After smoking a couple of their flagship brand cigars, I believe I will.

Sindicato is a Nicaraguan puro blended by Arsenio Ramos. The cigar is made in the Casa Fernandez factory, so it should be no surprise that the wrapper is a shade-grown Corojo leaf grown on the Fernandez farms in Jalapa. Under the hood is a double binder from Esteli and a filler blend of leaves from Jalapa and Esteli. I will openly confess my weakness for Jalapa tobacco, and I’ve been a fan of Aganorsa leaf from the early days of Tabacalera Tropical, so I was stoked to fire this one up.

Sindicato was released on March 1, 2014, in six sizes:

  • Corona Gorda – 5 1/2 x 48
  • Robusto – 5 x 54
  • Toro – 6 x 54
  • Belicoso – 6 1/8 x 54
  • Churchill – 7 x 52
  • Magnum – 6 x 60

Sindicato 2

Construction Notes

The Corona Gorda is a square pressed cigar with a soft and supple milk-chocolate brown wrapper. The cigar feels light in the hand, but it’s packed well and burns slowly. The foot is unfinished (flagged) and the head sports a tight pigtail cap. The draw is excellent, producing a consistent volume of medium-bodied smoke, and the cigar burns evenly.

This is a handsome cigar, obviously rolled by experts.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Sindicato Corona Gorda is a medium strength cigar with notably aromatic complexity. The cigar starts out as smooth as its silky wrapper leaf and never gets harsh. Initial flavors are of roasted nuts with a dash of black pepper, but the aroma steals the show. It’s too complex to call it cedar –it smells to me like sandalwood. There is a sweetness to the scent that complements the flavors on the palate, a nutty brown sugar sweetness that grows earthier and more peppery as the cigar burns.

The finish is lengthy, and though it becomes fairly spicy in second half it stays smooth to the end.

Sindicato 3

Conclusion

Sindicato is an elegant and extraordinary smoke. I haven’t seen anyone do a flavor map for this cigar yet, but if I made one it would cover the whole spectrum. Everything from wood to pepper to floral scents — it pretty much made my palate light up like a Christmas tree. It’s smooth and sweet, very easy to smoke, and never boring. It’s one of the best new cigars I’ve tried in a long time.

Just one catch though, and you knew this was coming. You don’t get to join the Union without paying your dues. While the price is not exactly prohibitive, it is still considerable. The Corona Gorda runs around $10 USD, with larger sizes commanding commensurately larger fees. And you won’t find these in the discount aisle anytime soon, or ever, so save up your shekels. It’s a worthy investment.

Final Score: 94

 

Padilla Artemis

Padilla’s Artemis series is the first box pressed cigar for Padilla, but just about everything else about it is quite familiar — it’s a Nicaraguan puro utilizing Aganorsa tobacco, and it’s made at the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras. Those are enticing details, and enough to get my salivary glands going.

Artemis uses Cuban-seed criollo and corojo from Nicaragua’s now-famous Aganorsa company, a tobacco grower affiliated with Casa Fernandez cigars. The line was originally released in 2011 as a brick-and-mortar exclusive, but it now appears to be available online as well.

It looks like the lion from the Dominus line has clawed its way to the top of the advertising department and has been declared the company’s icon. It now appears on the bands for Padilla’s Miami and 1932 lines as well, bringing some needed consistency to the brand’s presentation. (I was always fond of the fountain pen nib on the bands of some of the older blends, but there is something to be said for a single and recognizable emblem.)

Padilla’s Artemis is available in four sizes:

  • Robusto: 5 x 54
  • Torpedo: 6 1/4 x 52
  • Toro: 6 x 54
  • Double torpedo: 6 3/4 x 56

Construction Notes

I’m glad I smoked the Artemis in two sizes, the robusto and the double torpedo, because one was simply superior to the other. Both are nice looking sticks, especially the double torpedo. In reality this is a zepellin perfecto, and a big one, with a finely finished head and foot. (The head and the foot are distinguishable only by the placement of the band.)

The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro with a moderate amount of oil. Both sizes had an accessible draw, and the box press didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the performance of the cigar. But I experienced a burn problem with the double torpedo that I didn’t with the robusto, and it wasn’t the irregular burn that is the hallmark of many box-pressed cigars.  This was a more serious problem that affected the taste of the cigar — the wrapper would not burn in sync with the binder and filler, resulting in a flavor that was at first merely tepid, but quickly made it hot, bitter, and unbalanced.

For this reason I’m going to focus on the robusto and not the double torp.

Overall construction: Very good for the robusto; Needs improvement for the double torpedo.

Tasting Notes

If you’re familiar with the Padilla 1932 or some of the cigars from Casa Fernandez you’ll recognize the flavor of Aganorsa tobacco. It’s a little different in the Artemis, but it’s there. The first notes are of leather with some sweetness and a little bite. The aroma is slightly fruity, but also reminiscent of hardwood smoke — something like hickory, perhaps. After a minute or two the pepper begins to build on the palate.

The mid-section is earthy but a little sharp. The flavor isn’t quite as clean as Illusione’s “original document” line, but it has that crisp minerally tang which is Aganorsa’s trademark.

The final inch and a half is rich and powerful in flavor, though the cigar is still medium-to-heavy in both body and strength. The last section bottoms out a little as the spice takes over and edges out the subtle notes on the nose.

Conclusion

Fans of Padilla and Aganorsa leaf will probably enjoy the Artemis, though perhaps not as much as some other blends that employ that particular leaf. The flavors are quite pronounced, and in the robusto were well balanced up to the last third of the cigar.

I was more than a little disappointed in the double torpedo, but I would probably pick up the robusto again at the right price. The right price for me is a little south of the MSRP, which is in the 9 to 10 USD range. To be honest, Padilla has already provided this cigar’s competition in the Padilla 1932, and in that contest the winner goes to the elder blend.

Final Score: 86

Due to a memory error in my camera I lost my cigar-in-progress photos. I know you only come here for the articles, but my apologies anyway. 

Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf

As one of the purveyors of Nicaragua’s finest black tobacco, Casa Fernandez (and its farms) really ought to be better known by now. If you enjoy Illusione or Padilla cigars, both of which employ Aganorsa Leaf as a key ingredient,  you’re just going to have to hunt up some Casa Fernandez products: Particulares, Condega, and JFR (Just for Retailers) are all bangin’ smokes.

Last year I surveyed a few of their offerings, including the flagship Casa Fernandez cigar,  so I got a little chill up my spine when I saw there was a new formulation on the shelves.

Aganorsa is an acronym for Agricola Norteña S.A., the tobacco manufacturing arm of Casa Fernandez, and one of Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia’s first employers after he left Cuba. For quite a long time the company (also known as Tabacalera Tropical) was satisfied with rolling just a few different blends and concentrating its resources on tobacco production. With the advent of Casa Fernandez it looks like they are promoting the cigar side of their business with more gusto. It’s not hard to see why.

The Aganorsa Leaf extension of Casa Fernandez is similar to the original line in flavor, but with its dark corojo wrapper it is bolder and more potent. It might sacrifice a little complexity in exchange for power, but until I do a side-by-side comparison I can’t say for sure.

The binder and filler are also Nicaraguan, of course, and are probably from the Aganorsa farms as well. The Aganorsa Leaf line is box-pressed and sold in boxes of 15.  Three sizes are available:

  • Robusto: 5 x 52
  • Toro: 6 x 54
  • Torpedo: 6 1/2 x 52

Construction Notes

The Aganorsa Leaf torpedo is a solid and swarthy looking cigar. Its sturdy square press and dark, weathered wrapper give it a rustic appeal. The head is wrapped well and clips cleanly. It draws perfectly, though the burn is somewhat irregular, which is fairly typical of both maduro or oscuro wrappers and of box pressed cigars. The ash is a dark dirty gray streaked with black. If you smoke Illusione cigars you know what this looks like.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

When you light up this cigar it is almost immediately apparent that you’re in for a ride. The smoke is thick, full-bodied, and rich. The flavors are crisp and sweet but heavy.

The first inch of the cigar is dominated by a sweet woody flavor, reminiscent of juniper smoke and the smells of late autumn as the temperature drops and people fire up the wood stoves and fireplaces. The smoke is smooth, but assertive.

In the middle section the assertion becomes more of an insistence. The flavors turn a little darker and less sweet: coffee and baker’s chocolate come to mind. The flavor is still crisp, but the smoke starts to bite a little. The finish is lengthy and the aftertaste spicy.

By the last third you’re either in it to win it or staring at the stars. This is a powerful smoke. The aftertaste is profound and cries out for a beverage to match — whisky would be a welcome companion. A strong aftertaste of pepper and char lingers long after the last puff.

Conclusion

For lovers of full bodied Nicaraguan style cigars, the Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf is a must-try. Its powerful finish, peppery aftertaste, and solid kick are exactly what a lot of full-bodied cigar smokers are after. It is a little too aggressive for me to smoke on a regular basis, but occasionally even I like to get out the big guns. As long as it has the flavor and finesse to match the fire-power there is a place for it in my humidor. And this one achieves that balance. I also expect this cigar will age very well.

Boxes of 15 sell for around 100 USD, and singles are hovering around the $7 mark. Pick up a five-pack and let me know what you think.

Final Score: 89

Casa Fernandez Robusto

CasaFernandez

It’s safe to say that the Casa Fernandez cigar is the flagship blend of Casa de Fernandez, the new face of Tabacalera Tropical. The cigar was introduced in 2007, before the company’s name change, but it hasn’t gotten as much press as I would expect. The lancero has received some attention on the cigar forums (mostly positive) but only a few of the review sites have taken a serious look at the blend. After smoking this cigar, I don’t think that it’s a quality issue. The fact is that this cigar is not terribly easy to find on the shelves.

It looks like the distribution of this brand is spread worldwide, so maybe it’s easier to find in Europe or Asia than on American retail shelves. I had to track these down online.

The Casa Fernandez features a wrapper that is dramatically described as “Super Premium grade ‘A’ 2006 Sun Grown Corojo.” It is of course an Aganorsa grown Nicaraguan leaf, as are the binder and filler leaves.

Five vitolas are listed as currently in production, per the Casa de Fernandez website:

  • Robusto – 4 1/2 x 52
  • Torpedo – 6 1/4 x 52
  • Toro – 6 1/2 x 52
  • Lancero – 7 1/2 x 40
  • Salomon – 7 1/8 x 60  (the Salomon is also available in Ecuadorian Connecticut and Nicaraguan Maduro)

Construction

This robusto seems squat by comparison with traditional 5 x 50 robustos; it’s slightly truncated and a little overinflated, but handsome nevertheless. It feels a little light in the hand, but the pack is firm with no soft spots. The pig-tail cap is mashed into the head of the cigar, making a little swirl that is easily overlooked.CasaFernandez2 (The same technique is used to finish the Particulares cigar.)  The triple cap is otherwise extremely well executed. The wrapper is dark, glossy and attractive, despite being a little rough. The corojo cover leaf seems to be very thin, allowing the  texture of the rough binder leaf to show on the surface of the cigar. One sample arrived with a small v-shaped crack that posed only a cosmetic threat.

The Casa Fernandez burns well with an open draw.  The ash is dark and little bit crumbly — typical of Aganorsa leaf, and not really an issue. CasaFernandez3One odd thing I noticed was that the ligero centered in the middle of the cigar seems to flame out as the cigar burns, creating the illusion that the cigar is tunneling, when it really isn’t. I would say it was my imagination, but it happened with both of the cigars I smoked.

Tasting Notes

The smoking characteristics of the Casa Fernandez are quite similar to the Particulares, but a little heavier. There is more pepper and more punch to this cigar, especially in the back half.

The first few puffs of smoke are smooth in texture but are served with plenty of black pepper. It doesn’t come out as trenchantly as say, the Don Pepin Blue, but it isn’t shy either. The aroma is corojo all the way — caramel sweetness over an underlying cedary base.

The pepper dies down after the two-thirds point and the flavor becomes less sharp. An astringent woodiness takes over from here, accompanied by a pleasant and familiar nuttiness. The aroma continues on the same track as before, but replaces some of its sweetness with a stronger pungency while remaining woodsy and cedar-like.

The last part of the cigar turns up the heat. Pepper returns on the palate and the aftertaste becomes tannic. While still tasty, the smoke becomes a little too aggressive for my taste. I let it smolder on anyway to enjoy the aroma, hoping the neighbor doesn’t think I’m nuts for waving a cigar butt under my nose instead of just smoking it. Corojo is good stuff.

CasaFernandez4

Conclusion

The Casa Fernandez robusto is a fine smoke, but it loses some of its finesse in the home stretch. It’s similar to but more complex than its sister blend Particulares, but it’s also slightly more expensive. Ringing in at around 8 USD per stick, it’s not over the top for a “super premium” smoke, but I’d think twice before picking the Fernandez over Particulares.

Final Score: 87

Other Thoughts

Brian finds the Torpedo to be boxworthy for the Stogie Review

Rob digs the robusto but finds the price discouraging for PuffingCigars.com

Particulares Robusto

Particulares

My original intention in trying more cigars from Tabacalera Tropical was to find a less expensive but comparable alternative to the Nicaraguan puros that I smoke on a regular basis.  The name Aganorsa kept popping up, and I thought that by following the trail of that grower’s tobacco I might find cigars of a similar style, possibly at a lesser price.

Since cigar makers like Pepin Garcia, Dion Giolito, and Ernesto Padilla have all at one time or another used Aganorsa leaf in their blends, I expected that Tropical’s blends would at least have a passing resemblance to smokes like DPG’s Cuban Classic, Illusione, etc.  Their JFR cigar certainly does.

I was a little disappointed to find that Lempira Fuerte and Condega didn’t live up to my expectations, though I still thought Condega was a very good blend. Particulares, on the other hand, is a great cigar, and it is the first in the series so far to really taste like it’s in the same category as the Big Nicaraguans I have been using as a benchmark.

Particulares is an old Cuban brand name (as well as a frontmark for the Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey “A” size) but the name was revived by Tropical as one of their first brands.  (Their very first brand was Solo Aromas, followed by Particulares, Cacique, and Maya.) And even though this appears to be the only formulation available it is listed with its royal appellation “Reserva Privada” in some online catalogs.

Not surprisingly, the Particulares (Reserva Privada) is a Nicaraguan puro. The wrapper is a Corojo leaf from 2006. Four sizes are currently in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Toro – 6 x 52
  • Torpedo – 6 1/4 x 52
  • Churchill – 7 x 48

Construction Notes

Particulares2I didn’t notice it immediately but it turns out these sticks have pig-tail caps. The tail is curled and pressed down into the head so it just looks like a small swirl. It can be easily prised up with a fingernail, though admittedly there isn’t much point. The rest of the head is wound perfectly into a fine triple cap. The wrapper is somewhat rough but consistent in color, a dark colorado maduro. The band features a lock-and-key motif that “locks” at the point where the band ends meet — a clever design, I think.

The draw is good and the  burn is slow and even. The ash flakes slightly, but not enough to matter. Overall excellent construction.Particulares3

Tasting Notes

The Particulares robusto starts up with a rich hickory-like aroma that is immediately recognizable. This is what I’ve been looking for. From the first puff this cigar tastes more like an Illusione or Padilla than the Lempira Fuerte or the Condega Corojo.  The flavor is a little charred, but not in the way that the Lempira was. The flavor is closer to grilled meat with some maple syrup-like sweetness.

The middle section continues in this vein but softens up a bit — it’s smooth with some fruity notes, almost brandy-like at times. It reminds me of the JFR cigar, but smoother and more refined.

Particulares4

The last third is spicier but still sweet. The finish lengthens, but it doesn’t settle in for the night like some cigars do after the mid-point. It stays clean and crisp and leaves in a reasonable amount of time, like a good guest.  The aftertaste gets a little tarry at the band, but by that time this cigar has said its piece.

Conclusion

The Particulares robusto is a tasty smoke that finally delivers on the flavor I was expecting from Tropical – Aganorsa.  The only hitch is that it isn’t much less expensive than Illusione or Padilla or others in that class. Prices range from 6 to 7 USD.  That’s not too much to ask for a cigar of this caliber, but I was hoping to tap a secret source of Nicaragua’s finest and save myself a bundle. But I really have no legitimate reason to be disappointed — it’s still a great smoke at a reasonable price.

Particulares5Final Score: 90