It sounds almost boastful to say, but I have had the pleasure of smoking each & every cigar brand & line that we carry in our retail stores. If you take a look at our “Big List of Brands” section of our website you’ll notice that we have a list of 576 BRANDS that we sell online – plus we have quite a lengthy list of “in-store-only” cigars…not to mention the brands that we no longer carry. The list of closeouts alone that we’ve handled over the 10+ years that I’ve been in the business has got to be in the 1,000’s, not to mention all of the sample blends that I get to “test” for research & development...most of which never even become production cigars. Then there are the feeble attempts that I’ve made at blending cigars, using my vast knowledge of all the different types of tobaccos at my disposal during trips to Central America (not a-one has ever made it into production by the way – it’s a lot harder than most of you would think to put together the right 5 or 6 tobacco leaves in order to get a well-balanced cigar that’s actually smokeable, let alone tastes anywhere near good.) So after a few quick calculations (using fingers and toes for this one) I can honestly tell you that I’ve tried about 4,321 different, unique blends of cigars in my career. That equates to just over 8 different cigars per week….for over 10 years! Man, my job is demanding sometimes, but someone’s got to do it!
So where am I going with this, you ask? Well let me tell you. It ain’t all fun & games trying all these different cigars day-in & day-out. Sure, I’m constantly trying new stuff, but a lot of times the cigars I’m trying are pure dog-rockets or they are “prototypes” so strong or unbalanced that I sometimes almost lose my lunch after “testing” them. Once in a while I’ll get a real treat when I try something new, but more times than not I’ve been let down by so many new cigars. And then, of course I have my favorites which vary from 5 Vegas, Perdomo, Oliva (Studio Tobac) & A.J. Fernandez – it seems some of these guys just can’t make a bad cigar. Their background in tobacco cultivation, curing, buying/selling & acquiring the best of the best of the tobaccos that are available today are one thing, but their ability to put those tobaccos together in a way that delivers a perfectly balanced cigar from start to finish demonstrates their love of the leaf & pure brilliance that they possess.
Out of all the blenders in this industry, A.J. Fernandez stands out for me. He apprenticed in Cuba for many years under the legendary Cuban Master-Blender, Alejandro Robaina (Godfather of Cuban Tobacco.) A lot of my favorites come from his blends, such as Man O’ War, Man O’ War Ruination, Diesel, La Herencia Cubana, Sol Cubano Cuban Cabinet, Ave Maria, and many more. Out of all of A.J.’s phenomenal blends I’ve enjoyed over the last few years nothing stands out to me quite as much as his latest release, The Man O’ War Puro Authentico. This cigar was THE BLEND, in THE SIZE that A.J. himself smoked on an everyday basis. On one of our buyers’ many trips to Nicaragua someone finally convinced A.J. to let him sample one of his own, personal cigars (right out of A.J.’s pocket) & as soon as he fired it up he knew that CI needed this cigar to be available to our customers. So after some serious wheeling & dealing A.J. started production of this blend for the Man O’ War line & it was aptly named “Puro Authentico.”
Now for the Review:
So I finally got my hands on my very own 10-count boxes for the Downtown Bethlehem retail shop & I feel like a kid on Christmas finding his first bike under the tree. They’re really nifty slide-out 10-count boxes, and I immediately opened one up, pulled a cigar out from the loose tobacco that gently holds them in place & with much gusto fired it right up. I was instantly in love! As the shaggy foot of Esteli Nicaraguan wrapper leaf blasted me with intense Habano ligero goodness I knew I was in for a real treat. FULL, intense, rich spicy-sweet flavor for the first few puffs & then I got into the “meat” of the cigar where the whole blend of all kinds of Nicaraguan Ligeros started burning harmoniously & the complexity was amazing for such a powerful cigar. I was tasting every single thing I love about Nicaraguan tobacco in this one little corona sized cigar. Sweet-spiciness, hints of leather with rich, almost creamy smoke plumes all around me. I finished the first one in about 45 minutes, and I was truly amazed at how long this seemingly small cigar lasted me. I quickly fired up another and I swear it was better than the one I just finished. Within that same day I had so many customers ask me what cigar I was enjoying so much & after telling them what I had I sold through almost 3 entire boxes of singles that very day. Joey B. from Wanaque, NJ (a longtime friend & customer of CI) happened to be in the shop that day & after trying one out with me, ended up going home with 3 boxes that very same day. Prior to his introduction to the Puro Authentico, Joey B’s all-time favorite cigar was Drew Estate’s Dirty Rat. Now, at half the price of the Dirty Rats he’s found a new favorite & they are widely available now (and like I said, AT HALF THE PRICE.)
If you’re a fan of full-bodied, full-flavored cigars with a lot of complexity then this cigar is a MUST TRY for you. I’m amazed that these cigars are under 6 buck each. Gotta be one of the best-buys of the year! I’ve already filled up all the empty room in my humidor at home with these sweet little 10-count boxes so get yours now before more people find out about them.