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Staff Reviews

AJ Fernandez Enclave Staff Review

Tom O. O's picture

Tom O.

I’m smoking an AJ Fernandez Enclave in a 6-by-52 Toro. AJ Fernandez has taken the cigar world by storm over the past decade with a perpetually growing portfolio of premium cigars. In addition to his own label, AJ Fernandez is the cigar-maker behind a number of Cuban-legacy cigars produced for big brands, like Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta, as wells as small-batch boutique companies like Southern Draw.

Everybody in the cigar biz, it seems, wants to work with AJ. Despite the limited number of tobacco-growing and cigar-making operations that can produce brands at scale, AJ finds a way to increase his bandwidth to accommodate new projects without losing focus of his core lines. Enclave is another cornerstone in the AJ Fenandez portfolio that proves you can access consistent flavor and expert construction in the $8 to $9 price range. 

Enclave cigars are finished in a pair of red and gold cigar bands depicting Native Americans on horseback, and they’re packaged in blue cigar boxes. In 2016, the critics in Cigar Aficionado ranked Enclave in their ‘Top 25 Cigars of the Year.’ Let’s see if the Toro lives up to the early accolades this brand received.

My first impression is positive when I slip a fresh Toro from the top row in a new box. After sliding the cigar from its cellophane sleeve, pleasant aromas of cedar and baking spices emerge from the raw foot and the oily Habano Rosado wrapper leaf. Enclave is handcrafted at AJ’s sprawling Tabacalera Fernandez factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. Under the wrapper is a Cameroon binder that cradles a blend of Nicaraguan long-fillers grown from Cuban seeds on AJ’s extensive network of farms. The cigar’s hearty appearance is perfectly firm from head to toe with no bumpy veins or messy seams.

After I slice the head with a thick cut with my Jetline Judge V-Cutter and spin the cigar around in my mouth, deep and spicy notes of cinnamon, pepper, and wood create a complex preview. The draw is superb, and the cigar lights up easily with a few blasts from the knockaround Visol torch I use when I’m kicking back at the picnic table in my backyard.

The first few puffs are peppery, but Enclave soon settles into a smooth profile of bread and coffee bean notes after about five minutes. Molasses, earth, and cinnamon develop as the cigar progresses, and a noticeably spicy undercurrent sticks around, especially in the nose. A nice, leathery texture layers the palate with chewy nuances, likely from the cigar’s reddish-brown Rosado wrapper.

I’ve reviewed plenty of AJ Fernandez cigars before, including Bellas Artes Maduro, New World Cameroon, and the original Bellas Artes. One thing they share with Enclave is consistency. You can count on AJ Fernandez cigars to perform from the first puff to the last, and many of them fall in a medium-bodied, or slightly more intense, strength spectrum, which makes them appealing to a wide range of today’s cigar lovers. And because they’re not mind-blowingly expensive, you can buy a box and enjoy an AJ Fernandez cigar with more spontaneity and less guilt that you save it for a special occasion.

After forty-five minutes my anticipation gets the best of me, and I start peeling the cigar bands off so I can fully appreciate the nub of my Enclave Toro. The ash has been mostly firm, and I haven’t had to touch up the cigar at any point. Tasting notes of cedar and fresh bread fill out the final third with brief hints of sweetness reminiscent of smoked barbecue sauce.

In my final thoughts, Enclave is a great cigar to go with bourbon. Add a single to your next purchase, or smoke Enclave in our AJ Fernandez ‘El Cubano’ Sampler or ‘The Franchise’ Monster Deal, and decide if it makes your list of the best AJ Fernandez cigars available today.

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