Review: Ave Maria Divinia
Wow, is right! It’s no wonder this super-premium creation by legendary cigar maestro and blender, AJ Fernandez, has become a highly desired, but strangely, hidden treasure. Lord knows I feel as if I’ve just stumbled on to the lost treasure of the Incas. Well known for his other brands like Bellas Artes, San Lotano, Enclave, Diesel, Man-‘O-War and others, the legacy of this world-renowned cigar God began with AJ’s grandfather, Andres Fernandez, in pre-Castro Cuba.
The elder Fernandez started the brand, San Lotano, which became popular with the surrounding area of San Luis, the Fernandezes Cuban hometown. AJ pays tribute to his roots with the reintroduction of the San Lotano brand – another wonderful selection of great cigars. But the Ave Maria brand is a bit of a unicorn. You wont find one reference to the brand or any of the sticks on the AJF official website. You’ll only find a handful of meaningful reviews around the internet.
The reason for this is that the Man-‘O-War and Ave Maria lines are now “catalog” brands owned by Cigars International. As of March 2017, these brands along with other contracted brands, are made exclusively in AJF’s newly refurbished (acquired from the Olivas family which made the El Baton and Brickhouse cigars for JC Newman) San Lotano factory in Ocotal, Nicaragua.
The Divinia was born on the heels of its ultra-premium sibling, the Reconquista, arguably the crown jewel of the Ave Maria Line. The flawless box-pressed Divinia comes either as a “naked” toro in singles and packs of 4 or packaged in beautifully ornate wooden “coffins” in boxes of 12. The banding on these cigars is simply stunning, and my favorite is the Divinia, with its chrome-accented blue-white-red artistry.
- Profile: Medium-Full
- Vitola: Box-pressed Toro
- Length / Ring Gauge: 6.0″/ 54
- Purchased: Online retailer
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Sun-grown Habano
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Aged Cuban-seed Nicaraguan
- Cutter: Xikar punch
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird 4-jet
- Price Range: $13 – $20
This beauty features a rich, coffee-colored Nicaraguan sun-grown Habano wrapper w/nearly invisible seams and some veinyness. The build is flawless with a uniform firmness from head to foot. The toro is my favorite vitola, and while I’m not a huge fan of box-pressed sticks, this thing sitting in my hand felt like a small gold bar. The aroma from the shaft offers hints of nougat and cedar while the foot entices you with aromas of raisins and hay. The cap felt a little delicate, strangely enough, but a 9mm punch worked fine and provided a smashing draw. The cold draw was complex with sweet spice, earth and nuts. I didn’t have to the light the thing to enjoy this…yeah, its happening.
The first third is wonderful and if someone is watching you, they will tell you, you have that deer-in-the-headlight look. Yeah man, it’s that good. A rich, creamy burst of toasted nuts surrounded by notes of pepper and coffee bean. The earthiness will grow as you get into the second third, as will the spice. A medium profile transitions into a more bolder complexity in the second third, but still maintaining a wonderful mix of sweetness and spice with hints of graham cracker.
The burn is dead even getting only slightly off once or twice. As you move into the final third, the Divinia becomes a little bolder, moving into a medium-full body. Theres a little more earth and hay with some cedar, but is balanced with a touch of sweet nougat. The toastiness never dissipates. The smooth, balanced character is omnipresent. Trust me, you will not want this ride to end and unless you get creative with a bamboo stick or fancy cigar skewer, you wont mind burning off a few layers of skin. No pain, no gain.
What a tremendous and almost “religious” experience. Yeah, I went there. There are very few cigars Ive smoked that have left me in awe and this is one of them. From the presentation to the aroma to the peace and absolute joy of smoking something so tasty, I couldn’t ask for anything more on such a beautiful south Texas day, just sittin’ with my dogs on the back porch. It’s no accident that AJ’s creations always seem to be at the top of my lists, and they are fast becoming some of my all-time favorites.
I know its picky, but this would be an absolute perfect smoke if the cap instilled a little more confidence and if it wasn’t so pricey and only available online. In truth, I don’t think I’ve had a “perfect” smoke yet, but with this one, I’ve come oh so close. Ok, so is it worth the money? Does Rose Kennedy own a black dress? Seriously, beauty is in the eye…uh…mouth of the beholder, so its subjective. Personally, I would grab a 4-pack, squirrel ’em away in your humi for special occasions, or save them for a time when you just need to get back in the game. In reality, $15-$20 doesn’t buy a lot of joy these days, but oooh boy, when it comes to cigars this baby makes a strong argument. Smoke. A. Divinia. Right. Now. Then send AJ a Thank You letter – In Fumo Pax!