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Staff Reviews

San Lotano Oval Staff Review

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Today, I’m smoking San Lotano Oval in a 6-by-54 Toro. San Lotano was one of the first cigars AJ Fernandez released when he began building a portfolio of his own brands in 2010 after gaining recognition making cigars under contract for others. Many bestselling Nicaraguan cigars make up the growing list of AJ Fernandez brands, including New World, Bellas Artes, Dias de Gloria, Enclave, and Last Call.

San Lotano was the name of a Cuban cigar made by the Fernandez family, according to AJ, before the revolution, and Oval refers to the distinctive shape the cigars are rolled in – a gently pressed format that resembles an oval and fits in the in the mouth naturally. AJ has upgraded the bands and boxes on San Lotano Oval cigars since their debut, and the original blend comes in a cream-colored box of 20 cigars, each clad in matching brown and gold bands. San Lotano Oval is drawn from a Cuban-seed wrapper, grown in Ecuador, and a robust blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran long-fillers.  

Introducing San Lotano in the Oval shape was a clever move from AJ. He had already been making small-batch, seasonal cigars for Rocky Patel and several house brands for Cigars International, but consumers weren’t familiar with AJ Fernandez as a brand name. San Lotano Oval cigars stand out because their rounded corners allow the shape to be compressed without the sharp edges of traditional box-pressed sizes, making them very comfortable to hold in your mouth. San Lotano Oval is well made too.

The cap comes off with ease between the blades of my guillotine cutter with a quick snip to the head of the oily and attractive Toro I’ve pulled from a fresh box. The cold draw is woody and leathery and displays tangy notes of pepper. After toasting the foot and taking a few draws over the course of forty-five seconds, San Lotano Oval blossoms across the palate with desirable texture. The flavor is more woody than sweet but nicely balanced. Notes of nuts and hickory linger with a dose of spice in the nose.

The draw is effortless and, perhaps, a touch loose over the first twenty minutes, but more resistance emerges before the first half is done. Luckily, I haven’t had to touch up the ash. Its firm structure straightens into an even burn before any substantial flaking occurs. As the Oval progresses, sweeter notes of dark chocolate and coffee bean come into play in the middle of the cigar, but a noticeable foundation of leather, walnut, cedar, and pepper persists.

Normally, a 54-ring-gauge cigar is about as thick as I prefer to smoke, but the Oval shape feels more slender in the mouth than what it is. Hints of cocoa and molasses provide balance against the cigar’s earthy and spicy tendencies throughout the second half, encouraging a luscious aftertaste. San Lotano Oval finishes a hair past medium bodied, but it doesn’t overwhelm by unleashing a ton of spice at the end. Chewy and smoky notes of leather and fresh tobacco bring the San Lotano Oval Toro to a hearty conclusion.

The best AJ Fernandez cigars never fail to impress. It’s clear AJ grows a lot of tobacco these days, and he understands the importance of fermenting and aging it as long as possible. AJ has expanded his farms and factories numerous times over the past decade. Despite his growth, he maintains a high level of quality control as he scales his production to keep up with demand for his brands, as well as the cigars he produces for Cuban-legacy brands, including Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, and H. Upmann. With so many AJ Fernandez cigars to smoke these days, don’t overlook the original San Lotano Oval. It’s a worthy addition to your humidor, particularly if you’re a fan of Nicaraguan cigars.  


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