At this year’s IPCPR show, Miami Cigar & Company showed off several new offerings from their lines, including the La Sirena Merlion (which I’ve already reviewed) and a few new items from the Nestor Miranda Collection (which I’m sure we will get to eventually). Probably the most press, though, went this pair of cigars I’m going to feature today: the Fernando Leon Family Reserve (from La Aurora) and Añoranza. After the show was done, Barry Stein from Miami Cigar sent out some samples for the bloggers who didn’t attend the show and I was fortunate enough to benefit from that generosity. Thank you.
FERNANDO LEON FAMILY RESERVE
Two years ago, La Aurora produced the Guillermo Leon Signature, a cigar that famously took over 50 blends to achieve perfection...and I loved it so much (especially in the Corona Gorda size) that I called it my Cigar of the Year. Now Guillermo has released the next cigar in this series, meant to honor his father and called the “Fernando Leon Family Reserve” (the Guillermo Leon has been changed from “Signature” to “Family Reserve” as well). Same 5 sizes, roughly the same price tag; this cigar is based on the blend that Fernando Leon “smoked on a daily basis.” There are some that say that this is the “Don Fernando” produced years ago, but others say this really is not the same. Dominican Corojo leaf is used for both wrapper and binder of the Fernando Leon, while the filler is a mix of Brazilian, Dominican, and Peruvian. I have had two or three samples in different sizes previous to this review sample.
Overall presentation of the cigar is very attractive. The themes of the Guillermo Leon Signature were carried over, but with a white motif instead of black this time. I still think the banding is very modern-looking, especially when most of the rest of La Aurora’s banding and marketing is more in the “traditional” mode. The rolling job is typical La Aurora perfection...except for the cap, which looks like it was hurriedly and somewhat sloppily applied. I haven’t noticed any of the others I smoked having this problem, so I’m going to assume this is an anomaly for now. The wrapper leaf was oily to the touch and to the eye, with a few medium-sized veins; it had a rich hay and wood aroma to it. I got more hay and a bit of barnyard on the foot of the cigar. After cutting, I experienced a very good draw with flavors of natural tobacco, hay and a bit of earth.
After lighting, I tasted a rush of creamy, milder flavors like hay and natural tobacco, but there was a nostril-filling pepper spice, too, and a citrusy zing on the palate. Overall, the effect was that of a very complex cigar that started firmly in the mild-to-medium bodied range. As the first third burned on, the body established firmly in the medium range and the pepper spice abated somewhat, leaving an earthy core flavor note along with more subtle touches of citrus, cedar, and sweet tobacco.
As I cruised into the second third of the Fernando Leon Family Reserve, I could find no fault with the construction. The burn line was very even, ash was strong for more than an inch and the draw was almost perfect. I found myself looking for the similarities and differences between this and the Guillermo Leon Family Reserve...and basically they are few and very subtle. The use of La Aurora’s own Dominican tobaccos gives almost all of their cigars a “family flavor” and this is no exception, although it is not that close to most other cigars in their line-up either...just notes here and there. The Peruvian leaf that lends the Guillermo Leon with the wonderful orange zest note is muted down here to a mere hint of citrus. As I neared the end of the second third, though, some of the spiciness of the Corojo leaf started to come through again, giving a bump to the complexity of the cigar.
By the end of the cigar, the Corojo-fueled pepper burn was fully evident and totally enjoyable to me. While the Fernando Leon Family Reserve never got beyond medium in body, it was nicely full in flavor. Overall, I liked the Fernando Leon, but I did not love it...at least not in this size. I have had at least one other size...Corona, I think, but I’m not 100% sure, it could have been a Corona Gorda...and I liked it better. That’s the same conclusion I came to with the Guillermo Leon, though, so I don’t really find this to be a huge surprise. It is easy to recommend, though, as a great quality La Aurora smoke.
Añoranzas is roughly translated as “yesteryears” and refers to a longing or yearning to go back to a time in your life that you miss and wish we could go back to. This was the first cigar that our old friend, Barry Stein (formerly of the A Cigar Smoker’s Journal blog), worked on when he left the blogging world and moved to Miami to work for Nestor Miranda’s company. It is made in Nicaragua at the My Father factory, as many of the other Miami Cigar-owned brands are and it uses all Nicaraguan tobacco for filler, binder (dual binders actually), and wrapper (a Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro). This is said to be “a look into the cigars of yesteryear with the profile and body that todays discerning cigar smoker wants and expects from a premium cigar.” Again, thank you to Miami Cigar & Company for sending me samples of this cigar; this review is based on my second one.
The banding is a very much a throwback to a by-gone era, with its intricate use of “decorative wallpaper” design, gold foil, embossing and other little touches. Interestingly a Miami Cigar logo is used on a tab where the band glues to itself...this is the first time I can remember seeing the Miami Cigar logo on a band anywhere. I double-checked and it IS also on the Merlion band, but quite small...maybe 50 percent the size it is on the Añoranzas band. I’m guessing this is a new branding practice they will be following. I’d call it a very good idea since we are starting to come to an age when it’s hard to tell the brand behind a cigar sometimes. For instance, the Emilio Grimalkin release had no notice on the band who made it and neither Four Kicks nor Headley Grange has any real indication that the parent company is Crowned Heads (if you look very, very closely at the Headley Grange embossed gold portion, you can see a CH logo, but it’s not all that well-defined). Maybe it is because I’m starting to get into the marketing and branding part of the business a bit myself that I’m thinking about these things a little more...at any rate, I think this is a good idea. One article that Barry posted about the Añoranza stated that these were a “soft box-press”; looking at the sample I have in front of me, I wonder how soft a box-press can be before it is no longer a box-press. This just barely had a flat top and bottom, such that if you put it on a flat surface it wouldn’t roll away...but you would be hard pressed (ha! hard-pressed!) to really detect it visually. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this...this was probably a bundled sample that would not have gotten the pressing as much as the regular boxed versions. The wrapper was a smooth, milk chocolate shade of brown with more oil to the touch than to the eye and very little in the way of visible veins. I smelled earth and wood on the wrapper, more earth and some chocolate on the foot. I got a good clean straight cut and a wonderful draw that gave up notes of chocolate, earth and chili pepper.
The tobacco was hard to get lit; not a knock on the cigar, just a fact pointed out. The Añoranzas started out with a deep earthiness along with hints of coffee and mildly sweet chocolate. There was an ample amount of pepper spice on the palate and even more on the retrohale. So far, it was nothing hugely surprising in that it was delivering a very nice, solid Nicaraguan flavor profile...but that’s a good thing. By the end of the first third, the spice had died down a bit, but not disappeared completely. The earthiness and overall profile was somewhat reminiscent of some of the other cigars My Father has made for Miami Cigar, although different enough and more full of body to justify calling it a new blend.
The body of the Añoranzas was definitely in the medium-to-full range right from the beginning and construction proved to be very good. I had a very even burn line with only a need for a minor touch up or two by the middle of the second third. The draw was excellent and the ash was solid, hanging on for an inch or more before tapping off. The flavor in the second third had more cedar mixed with the earthiness, as well as a bit of sweet dried fruit.
In the final third, I got more black coffee flavor and earthiness than anything else in the Añoranzas, along with enough sweetness to balance that well. The pepper spice pretty much dropped out of the flavor profile altogether by this point. Overall, I found this to be a very good cigar that delivered on solid flavors all the way from first light to nub. The body never left the medium-to-full range and the strength was about the same, making it hard to recommend for newer smokers, but fans of Nicaraguan smokes will likely find something to like here.