My answer to the question about my favourite cigar is that I do not have a specific favourite but rather a collection of go-to cigars, and these change. I often rotate five or six different ones, and the following three are on heavy rotation:
A.J. Fernandez Bellas Artes Maduro Robusto
Readily available in SA for the past year, I sampled quite a few of the A.J. Fernandez cigars, including the San Lotano Requiem Habano Gran Toro, the Last Call Maduro and Habano Chiquitas, the New World Cameroon Toro, the New Oscuro Redondo and the Bellas Artes Hybrid Robusto. But, from first draw, it is the Bellas Artes Maduro Robusto, that has me hooked.
The Maduro Robusto is box-pressed and has a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper (grown in the Recôncavo, near Brazil’s northeastern coast), a Mexican San Andres wrapper (more than likely grown by the Turrent family in Mexico) and a Nicaraguan filler (said to be a combination of tobacco grown in Estelí, Condega and Jalapa).
Listed as medium to full bodied, it is a complex, dense smoke that can be tangy, particularly in the first third. It does settle as you work your way through it, but it’s definitely not for the light- or medium-bodied smoker.
Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial Double Robusto
The Oliva Serie V Double Robusto has been my main go-to for coming on six years. It always delivers what it promises: a solid, rich and consistent smoke. It was even Cigar Aficionado’s Cigar of the Year in 2008. Imagine my excitement when I got my hands (and lips) on the Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial Double Robusto.
Acquired by Belgian cigar company J. Cortès in 2016, Oliva Cigar Comany’s roots stretch back to the late 1800s in Cuba where patriarch Melanio Oliva grew tobacco. They have been producing award-winning cigars since Melanio’s grandson Gilberto established the Gilberto Oliva brand in the mid-1990s.
I was not disappointed by the Especial Double Robusto once I got past the first couple of draws, which were a tad harsh and biting. It leans towards full bodied and smooths out as you smoke, with a creaminess that lingers, making it rich and balanced. Taking your time, you get hints of coffee, chocolate and wood.
It has a Mexican San Andres Maduro Wrapper, with the binder and filler both coming from Nicaragua, in particular the Jalapa Valley and Esteli regions.