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Staff Reviews

AJ Fernandez Bellas Artes Robusto Staff Review

Tom O. O's picture

Tom O.

I’m reviewing a cigar from a brand that’s been hot on the airwaves in recent years: AJ Fernandez. I’m smoking the Bellas Artes blend in a hearty 5.5 x 52 Robusto. AJ Fernandez has become a sizeable company in Nicaragua over the past decade. The brand is named for its founder, Abdel Josef Fernandez, who got into cigar-making through his father and a fascination with local tobacco farmers in his native Cuba.

AJ grew up learning Cuban tobacco-farming techniques, immersing himself in the cultivation and aging of premium tobaccos. In 2003, he moved to Estelí, Nicaragua, to work for his cousin, Nestor Plasencia, a notable cigar-maker. AJ built his own brand on the side while making cigars under contract for big labels like Rocky Patel. AJ grew his moonlighting business from just three rolling tables in his home to a dozen underneath a canopy outside to keep up with the demand. He bought land and built cigar factories as he established the AJ Fernandez label from a small-batch operation to a nationally distributed brand sold in most premium cigar shops.

Today, AJ manages multiple facilities and farms in Nicaragua and produces over 30 different brands, including a number of Cuban-legacy blends for Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, and others. His cigars continue to win praise from cigar critics and diehard connoisseurs who enjoy beefy Nicaraguan profiles. Bella Artes is a firm example of why.

When you open a box of AJ Fernandez Bellas Artes, a row of reddish-brown Nicaraguan wrapper leaves glisten with a consistent sheen from under their Renaissance-themed cigar bands. Aromas of cedar, black pepper, and fresh-cut hay stand out. The slightly chunky Robusto is box-pressed and its cap slides off with ease when I cut it. Bellas Artes delivers spicy and milky notes of cayenne and leather as I pull in a few cold draws.

As soon as I toast the foot, zesty notes of orange peel and leather tantalize my taste buds and sway my nostrils into a relative state of bliss. I can tell the tobaccos in the cigar have aged nicely. Beneath the wrapper is a complex blend of long-fillers from Nicaragua, Brazil, and Honduras. Tasting notes of cinnamon and wood develop. The draw is cool and slow and leads to a sufficient gray ash.

Bellas Artes clearly reveals a medium to full-bodied profile as it progresses. Sometimes harshness is mistaken for strength but that’s not the case here. The retrohale is intense but also smooth and well rounded. Notes of black pepper persist while hints of earth and nuts come into play. The flavor is rich and engaging while a delightful room note fills the air. Towards the end, sweet nuances of cedar complement the cigar’s leathery texture and spice. The finish is luscious and a bit tangy. Stop smoking short of the nub to avoid hitting a bitter note or two.

If you’re already a fan of AJ Fernandez, I shouldn’t need to convince you to give Bellas Artes a shot. It’s worth smoking. And, if you haven’t had an AJ Fernandez cigar before, this blend is a solid introduction to the company’s portfolio. The line is also available in a Brazilian Maduro wrapper if you prefer cigars with darker, sweeter taste. Pick up a few Bellas Artes cigars today or buy a box from one of our regularly scheduled AJ discounts!

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