Ladies and gentlemen, AJ’s done it again.
Today, I’m going to be diving into the Man O’ War Valkyrie. This cigar from AJ Fernandez has been one at the top of my mind lately, and I want to explain to each of you just why that is. Get your credit cards at the ready, though, folks – without spoiling the punchline, this one’s a huge BUY from me.
There’s a lot to talk about here, but I want to mention very quickly up top the Desflorado wrapper that AJ utilizes on this cigar. It’s very rare, and you typically only see it on uber-high end (and expensive) sticks like Davidoff or Padron Damaso. Peep our write up above this review real quick for a little more info on the process to make this leaf.
Back? Good. Let’s toast this sucker up and get started.
The flavor on Man O’ War Valkyrie is brilliant from the beginning, as each draw delivers a smooth mixture of cream, cedar, and very slight hits of pepper. That combination of words together is nothing new. Hell, check out almost any review of a Connecticut wrapped stick on this site, and you will easily find the same phrase. However, the way Valkyrie delivers this to you is truly unique. Each note melds together in one, as Valkyrie delivers a flavor unlike anything I’ve had before. Familiar, but exotic – simple, but elegant.
Truly, cigars like this remind me over and over that we are witnessing a generational talent, a true master of his craft, in AJ Fernandez.
As the Churchill I’ve chosen to light up continues to burn, let’s talk about the other Connecticut line in the Man O’ War arsenal – Virtue. There’s one question I feel I have to address: is one better than the other? If you’ve always smoked Virtue, should you switch to Valkyrie?
For me, there’s space in the humidor for both.
Virtue was AJ’s first exploration with the “new wave” Connecticut trend that has dominated the market over the last decade. For those unfamiliar, these blends define themselves by packing a lot more flavor and traditionally, a lot more spice, into a Connecticut than one might expect from something like a Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real or a Macanudo Café.
And Virtue absolutely fits that bill. While the body of the cigar is mellow enough that you can light it up first thing in the morning, the flavor is just as full as a traditional Man O’ War or Ruination. There’s a lot of toastiness. Warm, spicy notes dominate the game, and the cigar is a perfect companion to a sweet, creamy drink like a cappuccino to help balance out the sharper notes of the blend.
Valkyrie is a different animal. While there is some spice, it’s rather light, and the finish is clean and short. No lingering flavor on the palate. What that means is that this is a cigar, in my mind, best enjoyed without an accompanying beverage. Adding a cup of coffee to the samples I enjoyed actually dampened the experience – there’s a lot of subtlety and balance to Valkyrie, and it tends to be a “blink and you might miss it” experience. In short, Valkyrie is a cigar best enjoyed by giving yourself over to it.
For my money, that makes Valkyrie slightly better than Virtue if I had to choose between the two. I’m sure the times we’re living in contribute to this. When I’m looking to enjoy a cigar nowadays, it’s to take a break from the non-stop cycle of crazy news and hectic emails. I want something that will slow me down, that provides an experience in itself, as opposed to my normal routine of smoking cigars as a background to clearing out my inbox, grilling, or hanging out with friends.
Coming back to the cigar, Valkyrie finishes much as it began. Bready notes enter the mix, with some of the creaminess petering out, and the cigar edging a tad closer to medium-body, though still staying just slightly shy of the mark.
I’m adding Valkyrie to my regular purchase list for a few reasons. As a fan of AJ’s work, trying a blend where he utilizes a wrapper out of his normal rotation is already an awesome experience. As a lover of Connecticuts, it’s great to find a cigar that provides so much richness without strength. And as a guy who’s lucky enough to get to burn cigars for a living, it’s very refreshing to have one that truly knocks my socks off.
Long story short, this is an easy recommendation for me. The Churchill rules the roost as my favorite size, though I’ve enjoyed the Robustos I sampled immensely as well. Whatever size you go with, I guarantee you’re going to love it.