Bite Size Review: AJ Fernandez New World Puro Especial
The year 2017 was a great year for new cigars and Team Fernandez was right there with a ringer – the New World Puro Especial. The Fernandez family of dad Ismael and son, AJ, have been turning out award-winning blends like a Nike sweatshop. I’m beginning to think they’re cigar demigods. An extension of the New World Line originally launched in 2013, the Puro Especial is focused not only Nicaraguan-only leaf, but leaves aged for 2-3 years and leaf grown only on several of the Fernandez’s many farms. From the reported Criollo ’98 leaf used as the wrapper to the habano binder, to hear AJ distinguish the terroir of his farms in San Jose or San Diego, for example, is a portrait of a man who knows his products from the ground up – literally. Doin’ that whole demigod thing again.
The cigar community and critics alike seem to agree since the Puro Especial not only was awarded a 93 rating by Cigar Aficionado, but also made their coveted Top 25 list in 2017. The fact that this cigar was drawn up to be a premium with aged tobacco, but at a sub $8 or $9 price point also turned heads – and emptied piggy banks. Lots of them. The duo began the line with only 3 vitolas, a growing trend, but introduced a 6”x60 fat boy earlier this year. Hmmm, more to love.
One unique aspect of AJ’s cigars is his occasional use of non-traditional vitolas. For example, a traditional toro is typically six inches, give or take, but Fernandez likes to use what I like to call the AJ toro. Varying only by length, the AJ toro adds half an inch making it 6.5” – just shy of a typical Churchill. The presentation of our Puro is damn near perfect sporting an oily, seamless, dark chocolate-colored habano skin with a perfect cap and firm girth. Aromas of fragrant flowers, caramel and baking spice delight the nose. The V-cut draw provides an excellent draw and the game is on.
She lights effortlessly and immediately begins to sing. Deeply rich in earth and leather overtones, the Puro’s sinfully smooth and semi-sweet retros and inhales will win over even the hardass knuckle draggers who love cigars that discharge bus exhaust and lithium grease. The lingering notes of caramel, baked bread and espresso into the second act are equally rich. The word “rich” is the operative term here as the Puro never tosses in the towel. The finishes are long and toasty, seamlessly fading from caramel to espresso and back to caramel. She smokes meatier than the reported “medium” profile – more medium-full at times, at least in my book. The woody transitions are zesty but the moderate complexity and balance are always on full alert. Combustion is superb in the first half but lags a bit in the second causing some uneven burning; however, no touch-ups required.
I’m used to fuller bodied cigars from the Fernandez clan, so the Puro is a nice surprise. Some reviews were not kind to the Puro citing lack of flavor and complexity, among other things, and adding that maybe some humi time would have helped. It’s been rumored that Fernandez’s sticks are optimal after a couple of months in the humi, but these cigars employ aged tobacco making this myth somewhat spurious. In our humble opinion, if you’re not hunkered down in a corner in your underwear trying to smoke the last centimeters of the Puro with a pair of tweezers, you are truly missing out on a wonderful cigar. – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: The Puro Especial was blended by AJ’s dad, Ismael Fernandez.
- Profile: Medium
- Vitola: Toro
- Length/ Ring Gauge: 6.5″ x 52
- Purchased: Online
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano (Criollo ’98)
- Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Cutter: Colibri V
- Lighter: Xikar Exec. II
- Price: $8.55
- Age: 6 months
- Box: 20
- Other Vitolas: Short Churchill [6″x48], Robusto [5.5″x52], Gordo [6″x60]
Build: Solid, uniform girth; seamless; toothy; semi veiny; nice cap; oily; holds 2″ ash.
Draw: Very good.
- Shaft – Floral essence; caramel.
- Foot – Chocolate; baking spice.
- Cold Draw – Hay.
- Initial: Rich earth, leather; roasted nuts, anise hints on retro; baked bread on inhale; toasty, caramel finish.
- Transition: Zesty with woody and earthy tones; light cedar tang on palate; cedar and caramel intonations on retro; a little spice; espresso notes become apparent on retro.
- Transition: More nuanced with light sweetness prevalent; spice remains; more espresso on finish; more coffee intonations in profile.
Touch ups: None
Combustion: Excellent; near white ash
Weaknesses: Burns a bit uneven in second half.
Recommend: 1. Go-to
- Go-to (boxworthy)
- 3rd stringer (keep 1 on hand)
- Smoke a banana instead