- Vitola: Robusto
- 5” x 54 ring gauge
- MSRP $7.59
- Samples provided by General Cigar
Much was made this year of the collaborative efforts made between General Cigar and A.J. Fernandez. I made some remarks on the issue in my review of the Time Flies from Foundry, but it still bears mentioning in today’s review: this collaboration isn’t as odd as it may seem at first blush…after all, A.J. Fernandez got his start in the American cigar industry making online-only cigars for Cigar International, which is effectively a sister company to General (both being owned by the same parent company).
The idea of re-energizing the Hoyo de Monterrey brand is nothing new, either. Several years ago, it was attempted with Hoyo de Tradición and Reposado en Cedro; last year and earlier this year a more concerted effort was made with the shortening of the name to “Hoyo” in most cases and a new logo that looks a bit like a compass.
Here is what General and A.J. had to say about the new brand in a press release:
Hoyo La Amistad is bold and full-bodied, and showcases the artisanal cigar making techniques and modern packaging of the new Hoyo launched earlier this year. Named for the camaraderie forged when creating this exciting new release, La Amistad means friendship in Spanish.
Alan Willner, vice president of marketing for General Cigar said, “AJ Fernandez embodies the same ethos as the Hoyo brand. His passion for the craft of cigar making is what led us to collaborate with him on La Amistad. This collection combines AJ’s love of tobacco and blending with the knowledge of Hoyo’s cigar makers in Honduras and Nicaragua.”
AJ Fernandez noted, “I grew up very near to the Hoyo de Monterrey farm and I have always had a love for the brand. When it came time to develop this blend, I put my heart and soul into it. To me, this project represents how far my family and I have come since Cuba, and how our expertise in tobacco continues to be recognized. This cigar represents the best of me and my factory and I am proud to be a part of this collaboration.”
The blend is primarily Nicaraguan, featuring leaf from Estelí, Ometepe, Condega and Jalapa, wrapped in an Ecuadorian Habano leaf. There are four sizes, all of which are relatively inexpensive. I have smoked several of these, starting with show samples the boss brought back, continuing with the ones I bought in the store when we received our shipment, and continuing on with the samples General sent for my review purposes.
While I’m not surprised by General and A.J. Fernandez working together, I am a bit surprised by how much attention is paid to A.J. in the packaging department, to the detriment of the actual name of the blend, “La Amistad.” “Hoyo by A.J. Fernandez” is emphasized on the box with “La Amistad” in smaller type attached to the logo on the top and sides of the box. Also on the top the big “compass” logo incorporates “La Amistad” into itself in a very subtle way. The banding of the cigar doesn’t say the name of the blend anywhere, just “Hoyo” in the compass logo in the main band, along with “A.J. Fernandez” and the AJF logo on the secondary band. In fact, the secondary band is identical to the secondary band shipped on Bellas Artes, the new blend from AJF. Prediction: almost everyone looking for this cigar will come into a store and say, “You have that new Hoyo A.J. Fernandez cigar?” with almost no one knowing that the blend is called La Amistad. Other than that, though, the packaging is good-looking and catches the eye.
The wrapper leaf was a milk chocolate brown color with light veining and a medium amount of oils under my fingertips. The aromas from the wrapper were of earth, leather and hay. The foot had a more pungent earthiness, along with a sweeter cocoa powder and dark chocolate note.
Once clipped, the Amistad had a very good draw with cold flavors of cedar and semi-sweet chocolate, along with just a bit of a vegetal note.
The Hoyo Amistad started off with a prominent cedar flavor, riding just above notes of earth and natural tobacco, with just a little coffee bean, cocoa powder and black pepper coming in on the finish. The retrohale was intensely peppery…almost an eye-watering moment really…but after a few minutes even it mellowed out a bit and gave up some additional flavor, mostly of wood. As I continued through the first third, the pepper mellowed a bit, giving way to a very nice balance of sweet and savory and spicy flavors.
The second third still featured cedar up in the front, but the balance of black coffee and semi-sweet chocolate that came right behind, mixed with some red pepper, was delightful. The cigar started off in the medium-to-full range and continued to sit there.
As I cruised into the final third of the Hoyo Amistad, the cedar was still most prominent, but some herbal notes started creeping into the mix, too, as secondary notes with the coffee and chocolate.
I’ve had consistently great construction with all Hoyo Amistad cigars I’ve smoked: great draw, very even burn line, and solid ash throughout.
Very good cigar at a very good price, which is something AJF seems to be doing consistently the last few years; I’m glad to see that this collaborative effort with General stays the course.
Hoyo de Monterrey, General Cigar, and A.J. Fernandez definitely have a winner on their hands with this cigar. It is medium-to-full in body throughout, with an interesting and complex flavor profile beyond its price tag. Oh, and that price tag? Not quite as low as the AJF New World, but not far above it, either. And with the shortage of New World that seems to be plaguing the market right now, this would be a very acceptable alternate. Very good cigar and a very good value.