Well folks, it’s that time of the year when the cigar media start to release their top cigars of the year. As you know, StogiePress releases our Top 25 Boutique Cigar list at the stroke of midnight on December 31, but the most coveted Cigar of the Year (COTY) list is from Cigar Aficionado. If you get the top slot in their list, it is almost assured that the cigar selected will fly off the shelves and many times the selection itself will be debated for months to come. Some will say the brand paid the most in ad revenue and others will say the cigar was not even originally released in the year it was selected. Of course none of that matters to the one that is crowned.
I was recently asked in an interview, on Bear Duplisea’s El Oso Fumar Takes, what I thought Cigar Aficionado would select as the Cigar of the Year for 2017. My answer was simple. Whatever one is selected I think it will have a tie back to AJ Fernandez. I mean, seriously, just look at the list of new releases that HalfWheel publishes every year. It has Fernandez all over it this year.
History of A.J. Fernandez and Tabacalera Fernandez
Abdel J. Fernandez (A.J.) was raised in Cuba and is a third generation cigar manufacturer and tobacco farmer. The family had its roots in San Luís, Cuba, where A.J.’s grandfather started the San Lotano brand. That brand eventually was blended for the US market as the San Lotano Oval and was praised as the #2 cigar of the year in 2011 by Cigar Journal, Between the San Lotano and Man O War, the company started to make a name in the industry,
A.J. has noted:
“My Grandfather first started growing tobacco in pre-Castro Cuba, in our hometown of San Luis. I was taught the importance of patience and time honored methods when working with premium tobacco and have been blessed to have been given many of Cuba’s most coveted cigar making secrets. The key to my success is an uncompromising commitment to that tradition. My company is dedicated to the memory of my Grandfather Andres Fernandez and my father Ismael Fernandez.”
A.J. has kept to that tradition and has been cultivating tobacco on his farms in Nicaragua the US and today Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua in Estelí is among the largest in Nicaragua, producing some 9 million cigars a year. The company sells its products in more than 32 countries. As noted in just this year alone, brands big and small have been flocking to get their hands on Fernandez tobacco and manufacturing capability.
The company site notes:
To ensure superior quality, the day-to-day operations at Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua, are managed under the watchful eye of AJ himself. Through a fusion of inherited technique and learned patience, Fernandez filler tobaccos are grown from prized seeds which are proprietary only to the Fernandez family. Perhaps the most essential quality of the AJ Fernandez line of cigars is the perspective and motivation of AJ, as well as the history of the Fernandez family.
It is a known fact that his Pennsylvania Broadleaf is a highly sought after component in some of these top cigars.
Why Cigar Aficionado Cigar of the Year for A.J. Fernandez?
In 2017 there was over 1100 new blends or line extensions introduced to the market. That is a boat load of cigars and nobody smokes and reviews all of those. A solid 36 of those have AJ Fernandez associated with them as either his release or a collaboration with the brand. All 36 of those listed were a new line not an extension. The brands run the spectrum from boutique to big box and include:
- Diesel Grind (AJ Fernandez)
- Enclave Broadleaf (AJ Fernandez)
- Gispert Intenso (Grupo de Maestros/Altidis)
- H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez (H. Upmann)
- Highclere Castle (Foundation Cigars/Highclere Castle)
- Hoyo La Amistad Silver (General Cigars)
- Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez (Altidis)
- Murcielago (Espinosa)
- New World Puro Especial (AJ Fernandez)
- Rose of Sharon (Southern Draw)
- The Tabernacle (Foundation Cigars)
- The Truth (Matt Booth/ Robert Caldwell)
This is an amazing list of cigars and a testament to the agriculture and craft of AJ Fernandez. Both big and small brands gravitate to him to produce truly outstanding cigars.
Now of course, I have not tried every one of these new cigars, but the ones I or my associates have, certainly rank up in our list of fine new releases. I will not predict which one of these will be the COTY for 2017 as I don’t want to tip my hat, but I would be surprised if you don’t see a cigar with an A.J. Ferndandez fingerprint on it selected as the Cigar Aficionado Cigar of the Year.
We welcome your opinions and thoughts on this – Boston Jimmie