Today, we live in the world of small batch. From the thousands of coffees and bourbons on the market to the bizarrely hipster artisanal water bars and toast houses (thanks, Portland!) it seems all you need to do to make a mark in this day and age is tell people something’s rare. Off-breed, exclusive, the forbidden fruit… I’m not even sure what artisanal means, really, but it’s damn provocative and gets the people going.
And indeed, our beloved cigar hobby is no stranger to the limited-edition phenomenon. From anniversary releases to limited run productions, it seems like there’s more “small batch” cigars coming out every year than regular production ones. For this review, I’d like to dive into one of these rare gems from everyone’s favorite cigar manufacturer: AJ Fernandez.
You may be familiar with AJ’s Man O’ War brand. If you’re not, stop what you’re doing, and go buy a 5-pack of the regular Man O’ War Toro, and a few Ruinations. Seriously. For those who’ve already been initiated, you know as well as I that this boutique blend from AJ’s factory is synonymous with full-flavor, full-bodied blends that are remarkably dark and rich.
Side Projects are tweaked, special edition versions of the Man O’ War brand, with each blend crafted in a single size that perfectly encapsulates the experience. Specifically, we’re going to dive into the Little Devil – a 5.5”x44 corona. For me, this is the perfect size. I know, I know, a ton of you out there prefer the value of Churchills and gordos, but I love smaller cigars and I always will. It’s tough for me to find a time frame I can really sit down and go through a whole 7”x54 monster in one sitting – plus, its way easier to burn through five or six cigars in a day when they’re robustos or coronas.
Let’s get this out of the way up front — if you glance at this cigar’s smaller frame and assume it’s going to be short on flavor, you’re dead wrong. Incredibly full-bodied and heady, this firecracker packs a real punch. That’s thanks to the wrapper: utilizing a potent, extra-fermented Habano Sun Grown wrapper leaf from Nicaragua, Little Devil is (arguably) even more full-bodied than its full sized counterparts.
Toasting the foot on this sucker, it reminded me immediately of some old school Don Pepin or Tatuaje brands. Loads of black pepper rush forth, but give it an inch or so, and things mellow out a little bit with the pepper replaced by roasted coffee, earth, cedar, and a rich, natural sweetness. It’s intense, for sure, but in all the right ways.
Truth be told, this still isn’t my favorite Man O’ War, that honor goes (easily) to Ruination. Hell, it might even be my third favorite, behind Armada. But in this case, third place is still a gold medal – take the affordability into account, and Little Devil is a no-brainer that I can heartily recommend.