Review: Artesano Del Tobacco Viva La Vida
What happens when the Fakih brothers (Gus, Billy and Bass), iconic Manhattan purveyors of fine cigars for a quarter century, throw in with cigar legend AJ Fernandez to create a new cigar? Viva La Vida, baby! A perfect moniker for a cigar: a celebration of life and a notion in which the joy of smoking cigars is intrinsically manifested. Hell, throw in some clever branding and colorful imagery and you’ll have people skipping church to stand in line for this stuff. Viva La Vida was officially launched earlier this year and represents the inaugural offering from the Fakih Brothers’ new concern, Artesano Del Tobacco.
Due to his meteoric success, AJ Fernandez pretty much walks on water which is why so many are standing in line for his contract and catalogue blends. There’s no tires to kick here folks and if I’m launching my first cigar, I can think of few hitters who could smack this out of the park. The Viva La Vida, a Nicaraguan puro, features a rich Habano Oscuro 2000 skin (a Corojo hybrid) cloaking both spicy Corojo 99 and sweet, nutty Criollo 98 leaves. Reportedly featuring 3-year old tobacco, the cigars are produced at Fernandez’s Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A in Estelí.
Our toro is oily, firm and almost seamless. The draw is semi-open with vanilla and dark fruit on the palate and the Habano 2000 wrapper and foot offer aromatic chocolatey and floral goodness respectively. Initial complexity is tasty featuring notes of leather, toasted almonds and marshmallow with a hickory tang, but the initial profile becomes muddled and unbalanced. The blend sorts itself out through well-balanced transitions highlighted by more chocolate, oat and cedar notes along with the return of the marvelous hints of marshmallow.
Noticeable hints of graham cracker on the retro are wonderful while finishes go from coffee to wood to heavier espresso and chocolate. Expect fuller body and a spicy, earthy profile in the final leg. Incredibly smooth throughout, our toro produces lots of smoke and she is a slow burner. Combustion is very good, but maintains a wavy char throughout requiring one late touch up. While the opening profile was a bit discouraging, the Vida, like life, recovered and at times dazzled. Overall, the Viva La Vida is a very smooth, delicious treat and a solid companion for celebrating life.- In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: Previously, the Fakih brothers owned the iconic Manhattan cigar lounge, Cigar inn, before selling to Tabacalera USA (Casa de Montecristo). From 2008 to 2015 it served as the “official” lounge of Cigar Aficionado.
- Profile: Med -Full
- Vitola: Toro
- Length / Ring Gauge: 6.0″ x 54
- Purchased: Direct**
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro 2000
- Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo ’99
- Filler: Nicaraguan Criollo ’98
- Cutter: Colibri ‘V’
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird
- Price: $10.50 – $14.50
- Humidor Age: 1 mo.
- Box: 20
- Other Vitolas: Robusto [5 x 54], Torpedo [6.5 x 54], Grand Toro [6 x 60], Limited Edition Diadems Fina [6.5 x 52]
** 99 Cigars typically pays for all cigars; however 2 cigars were provided by ADT in exchange for complimentary advertising.
Smoke Time: 2:00
Construction: Firmness uniform; almost seamless; lightly veiny and toothy; semi oily; pecan shell-colored wrapper; holds 1″ near-white ash.
- Wrapper – Chocolate, prunes, barnyard
- Foot – Cocoa powder, light floral essence
- Cold Draw – Vanilla, dark fruit
- Initial: Leather, toasted almonds and marshmallow; hints of hickory; long coffee bean finish; light graham cracker on retro; profile becomes muddled and indistinct.
- Transition: Dominated by coffee and cedar notes; woody finish with hints of espresso; earthy hints; return of marshmallow notes; hints of oats noticeable on draw; chocolatey notes more discernible.
- Transition: Earthy profile and increased body; heavier finish of dark chocolate and espresso notes; intonations of dark fruit (plum); hints of caramel; noticeable spice.
Complexity: Very Good
Balance: Very Good
Touch ups: 1
Combustion: Good, but with wavy char
Weaknesses: Initial flavor palette becomes indistinguishable; irregular burn w/1 touch up
Recommendation: 2. 5-packer
- Go-to (boxworthy)
- Yard ‘gar
- Smoke a banana instead