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Staff Reviews

H. Upmann AJ Fernandez Toro Staff Review

Tom O. O's picture

Tom O.

As the weeks warm up, I’m in search of more great golf ‘gars to smoke on the course, and today I’m smoking an H. Upmann AJ Fernandez in a 6 by 54 Toro to see if it passes my litmus test for taste, quality, and price before I add a box to my collection. My pals know I’m obsessed with golf, and they love playing with me because I’m tough to beat, and I always bring plenty of cigars to smoke. Good golf ‘gars have to meet specific criteria, though. They can’t be too expensive, yet they need to taste amazing because a bad cigar can ruin your concentration. Every spring, I canvas the Holt’s warehouse for new cigars to add to my weekly cigar rotation.

H. Upmann is a historic Cuban-legacy brand created in 1844, and the brand, born out of a banking enterprise, was the first to put cigars in boxes – in an effort to promote the H. Upmann banking business. Today, H. Upmann is owned and distributed by Altadis U.S.A. alongside the famous non-Cuban versions of Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta cigars. Over the past ten years, Altadis U.S.A. has turned to one of Nicaragua’s hottest cigar-makers, AJ Fernandez, to create new cigars for several of its bestselling Cuban-legacy brands. The collaboration has proven successful and resulted in a fresh audience for old-school brands like H. Upmann. I’ve already reviewed the classic H. Upmann 1844 Reserve and Vintage Cameroon blends, as well as a handful of AJ’s most popular cigars, including New World Cameroon, Bellas Artes, and Bellas Artes Maduro. Let’s see what happens when AJ joins forces with H. Upmann. 

First, kudos to Altadis for updating the packaging for H. Upmann AJ Fernandez. Altadis owns several brands that were old mainstays before the Cigar Boom of the 1990s. Revitalizing the boxes and bands prevents these otherwise “old-man cigars” from languishing in the blowout bins in stores across the country. H. Upmann AJ Fernadez cigars are packaged in 20-count, chestnut-hued cedar boxes with a turquoise and cream label that matches the cigar bands. The modern colors make the cigars look attractive.

Aromas of baking spices, fresh wood shavings, and pepper fill my nostrils when I remove a Toro from its cellophane sleeve after selecting the cigar from the top row in a new box. An oily, gingerbread-hued Ecuador Sumatra wrapper leaf covers a well-aged core of Dominican and Nicaraguan long-fillers. The veins on the wrapper leaf are faint, and it’s easy to see the wrapper was patiently applied as there are no noticeable seams when I spin the cigar around for a closer look. The cold draw is tangy and woody when I slice off the cap and take a few preliminary puffs.

I can tell H. Upmann AJ Fernandez is well made by the ease of the draw. The Toro ignites effortlessly as the flame from my trusty Jetline Hurricane II Triple Torch Lighter hovers at the foot. Spicy notes of cinnamon, cedar, and cumin introduce an unexpectedly complex taste. The flavor is slightly intense but stops short of becoming abrasive. I recommend eating before you smoke this bright and perky Nicaraguan-made H. Upmann to ensure you’re not overwhelmed early.

The cigar displays a nice density from head to foot, and the wrapper is firm, making it a fair candidate for the golf course, although I wouldn’t hand this particular AJ Fernandez blend to someone expecting a mild beginner cigar. The slightly thick Toro reveals traces of pecan and orange peel with a substantial backbone of cedar and smoked hickory. A crisp IPA would go down nicely with this multilayered smoke.

As the final third comes into focus, I’ve been smoking for about forty-five minutes. I knock off a strong ash every couple of inches, and I purposely set the cigar down in between puffs for longer than normal, as I would if I were golfing. Every time I’ve picked it back up, the draw was impeccable, and the cigar kept burning at a manageable pace.

In the final stretch after I shed the cigar bands, H. Upmann AJ Fernandez surrenders a sweet molasses-like influence that lends approachability to the finish. Notes of dried fruit, wood, and baking spices leave a luscious aftertaste as the nub reaches its hottest peak before I abandon it in the ashtray. For under ten bucks, I’m scoring AJ’s take on H. Upmann a respectable 87 points. Wait to buy box when it’s in one of our deeply discounted deals, but don’t be shy about sampling a few singles in the meantime. I plan to toss a few in my golf bag before it’s officially 70 degrees again. 


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