After writing up my thoughts on Ave Maria, I got an email from a guy who was part of a customer trip to Nicaragua in September. I read his, then scrapped mine. He says it all:
"....the surprise highlight (by far): Ave Maria. Arriving in Esteli late I was jet-lagged and dragging the next morning. Come noon I was seven cigars deep and hadn't had lunch yet. So when his factory manager approached us with a new tray of Ave Maria cigars from the packing room, I just about puked. He had a serious look in his eye though, and ceremoniously announced in broken English that this was a "berry special proyect" he started two years prior that's finally set to be released. I politely accepted. The artwork/band was stunning and the wrapper looked like it came right off the pages of a magazine. I'd pick this one out of a lineup any day based on looks. So good was it that I lowered my expectations....can't tell you how many times I've been let down by cigars with great style points. I thought my taste buds would be fried but lit er up anyhow. It was the only one I burned down to my fingers that trip (and still wanted more!)....next morning after a good rest I made this the first smoke of the day, to give it a fully unbiased review on a fresh palate. Boom. Wrapper: flawless. Construction: spot on. Flavor: rich, smooth, balanced, refined, complex....I'm at a loss for more adjectives. The thing that struck me most about it- it's the most complete cigar I can recall. If you want a knock-yer-head-off powerhouse, Ave Maria is not it...same token if you like mild, look elsewhere. Everywhere in between though, this one's masterful. The finest I can remember smoking. I since downed 8 more over the next day and a half of the trip. Blown away. Ship me 2 boxes off your shipment as soon as they land."
Ave Maria has also received well-deserved praise from some highly respected folks in the cigar industry:
“This is a cigar you could easily pay $8 apiece for.” - Nestor Plasencia
“It’s got a distinctive sweetness to it.” - Pete Johnson (Tatuaje)
“This is definitely a premium cigar....well-balanced....this is a hit.” - Doug Wood (La Perla Habana)
“I’m enjoying the heck out of it. I’ve already asked for a second cigar.” - Carlos Diez (Puros Indios)