In 2016, AJ Fernandez Cigar Co. introduced a new regular production line named Bellas Artes, which translates to fine arts from Spanish and was supposedly inspired by Abdel Fernández’s visits to Cuba’s national art museum in Havana, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de la Habana. The blend incorporates tobacco that is aged for at least three years, including a Nicaraguan cover leaf, a Nicaraguan Havana 92 binder and filler tobaccos sourced from Brazil, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Although it took two years, a new vitola was released in 2018: the Bellas Artes H-Town Lancero, a 7 x 38 box-pressed lancero that was an exclusive for Houston-based STOGIES World Class Cigars. While the original four vitolas released were both round and regular production, the Bellas Artes H-Town Lancero was box-pressed and limited to 100 Boxes of 10 Cigars.
However, there was apparently a sixth size that was produced around the same time as the original release vitolas that very few people knew about that was also box-pressed. During the 2016 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, Pennsylvania-based Atlantic Cigar Co. approached AJ Fernandez with the idea of producing an exclusive size in the Bellas Artes line for a project. In response, the cigar company produced 2,000 cigars in a 5 1/2 x 46 corona extra size priced at $7.25 each, albeit in bundles instead of boxes.
In an email with halfwheel, Omar E. Fernández, director of operations at AJ Fernández, explained what happened next:
The Bellas Artes Corona Extra was AJ’s favorite size in the original Bellas Artes. After the 2016 IPCPR, Atlantic wanted to do a special project with the newly released Bellas Artes but in a Corona size. Atlantic purchased just over 2,000 cigars and literally forgot about them. They were sold in bundles because boxes were not going to be necessary. Fast forward 4 ½ years and Atlantic found them stashed. They are now available in singles, 5 pack or bundles exclusively at Atlantic while supplies last.
As with the rest of the Bellas Artes line, the Limited Edition Corona Extra were rolled at Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A. factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. While the cigars were rolled in 2016, they were not actually released until March of this year.
- Bellas Artes Robusto Extra Robusto (5 x 52) — 2016 — Regular Production — $8.80 (Boxes of 20, $176)
- Bellas Artes Robusto Extra Short Churchill (6 x 48) — 2016 — Regular Production — $8.30 (Boxes of 20, $166)
- Bellas Artes Robusto Extra Toro (6 x 54) — 2016 — Regular Production — $9.50 (Boxes of 20, $190)
- Bellas Artes Robusto Extra Gordo (6 1/2 x 60) — 2016 — Regular Production — $10.50 (Boxes of 20, $210)
- Bellas Artes H-Town Lancero (7 x 38) — 2018 — 100 Boxes of 10 Cigars (1,000 Total Cigars) — $9.50 (Boxes of 10, $95)
- Bellas Artes Limited Edition Corona Extra (5 1/2 x 46) — 100 Bundles of 20 Cigars (2,000 Total Cigars) — $7.25 (Bundle of 20, $145)
- Cigar Reviewed: Bellas Artes Limited Edition Corona Extra
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
- Wrapper: Nicaragua
- Binder: Nicaragua (Quilalí Havana 92)
- Filler: Brazil (Mata Norte), Honduras & Nicaragua (Estelí, Condega & Jalapa)
- Length: 5 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 46
- Vitola: Corona Extra
- MSRP: $7.25 (Bundle of 20, $145)
- Release Date: March 2020
- Number of Cigars Released: 100 Bundles of 20 Cigars (2,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The Bellas Artes Limited Edition Corona Extra features a milk chocolate wrapper on a soft box-pressed outline that is attractive when combined with the two understated bands. Although the cigar is silky smooth to the touch, there is almost no oil present that I can see and there is quite a bit of give when squeezed. Aroma from the wrapper and foot is a combination of strong dark chocolate and cedar along with nutmeg, leather and raisin sweetness while the cold draw brings flavors of aged cedar, earth, leather, cocoa nibs, faint coffee beans, black pepper and slight floral sweetness.
Considering its age, the Bellas Artes Corona Extra starts with a surprising amount of spice on my tongue, along with strong flavors of both fragrant floral and aromatic cedar followed by lesser notes of leather, earth, hay, cocoa nibs and almonds. There is a faint but distinct jalapeño jelly sweetness on the retrohale, which combines nicely with some black pepper that is also present. Construction-wise, the draw is excellent after a straight cut while the burn is close to razor sharp and there is a large amount of smoke emanating from the foot. In terms of strength, the cigar has issues getting above the mild mark, although it does begin to increase more noticeably just as the first third comes to an end.
There is slightly more of the jalapeño jelly sweetness on the retrohale during the second third of the Corona Extra, which brings a bit more complexity to the profile that is now led by creamy cedar and almond flavors on the palate. In addition, other notes of hay, espresso beans, cocoa nibs, yeast, floral, leather and earth flit in and out. While there is not nearly as much pepper on the retrohale compared to the first third, it is still a noticeable amount, but it does seem to be decreasing as it passes the halfway point. In terms of construction, the burn and the draw continue to give me no issues and the smoke production continues to pour from the foot in large doses. Although the overall strength does increase a bit at the end of the second third, it still fails to reach the medium mark by the end of the second third.
The final third of the Bellas Artes Limited Edition Corona Extra features a number of changes as the jalapeño jelly sweetness on the retrohale morphs into more of a vanilla bean note along with a bit more black pepper. In addition, the dominant flavors have also shifted to a combination of dark chocolate and cedar with lesser notes of earth, hay, creamy almonds, ground coffee and yeast. The spice on my tongue is long gone. The draw continues to impress, but the burn has become problematic enough that it needs correcting, albeit just once. Strength-wise, the Bellas Artes stalls out just under the medium mark and I put the nub down with a little less than an inch remaining.
- While some people consider it mostly marketing, companies saying that they “lost” or “forgot” cigars after they are made is not exactly an unknown event in the cigar business: you may recall it supposedly happened with the Trinidad Lost Blends. In fact, the Robert Caldwell, Tony Bellato and Jaclyn Sears collaboration brand currently known as Lost&Found built a business around the idea of finding those cigars in various factories and repackaging them for sale with new names and logos.
- AJ Fernandez also introduced a maduro version of the Bellas Artes line in 2018 that is made with a Brazilian mata fina wrapper, a Mexican San Andrés binder and fillers grown in Estelí, Nicaragua.
- While the smoke production levels were not quite at Liga Privada levels, there was still more than the vast majority of cigars around this same size, although it is a bit thin in body.
- The cover leaf on the Bella Artes line is fairly unique: basically, it is a hybrid wrapper named rojita that is a cross between Connecticut 8212, corojo 99 and habano 2000 seeds, all of which are grown in Nicaragua.
- The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Atlantic Cigar Co. is an advertiser on halfwheel.
- Final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 12 minutes.
- If you would like to purchase any of the Bellas Artes Limited Edition Corona Extras, the only place to get them is at Atlantic Cigar here.
I mentioned in my review of the Bellas Artes H-Town Lancero that the profile in this blend is excellent, but that cigar’s low score was due to a major construction issue with one sample. Thankfully, there were no such problems with the Corona Extras I smoked, so it does not surprise me that the profile was extremely well-balanced and full of complex flavors, including a distinct jalapeño jelly sweetness on the retrohale that really made the first two thirds shine. After smoking three of the Bellas Artes Limited Edition Corona Extra it is an easy cigar to recommend, especially since it is still in stock at the moment.