Late last year, General Cigar Co. and A.J. Fernandez made one of the more bizarre announcements the cigar industry had seen in quite some time: A.J. Fernandez would be taking over the Ramon Allones brand. Not just A.J. Fernandez would be making the cigars, but A.J. Fernandez and its sales representatives would be selling the brand in America.
How we got to that point needs some backstory.
First, the Ramon Allones brand, which General owns the trademark for in the U.S., has not been particularly active in quite some time. In 2015, General moved it over to the Foundry side of its company, but that cigar went nowhere fast. Even with bigger and bolder packaging, the new-look Ramón Allones and accompanying Bolívar seemed to get even more lost within the General and Foundry portfolios. At the time, Foundry itself was trying to reinvent itself, namely by General’s even more bizarre decision to use independent sales brokers instead of its own sales representatives to sell the cigars.
By mid-2017, General had had enough. It announced the independent sales brokers were no more and Foundry moved back into the larger General portfolio, though the company shortly began discontinuing much of the Foundry portfolio.
At the same time, General and its sister company, Cigars International, seemed to be in a virtual contest with its largest rival Altadis U.S.A. about which cigar conglomerate could make the most cigars with A.J. Fernández.
Cigars International had long been the dominant client for Fernández through a variety of brands including Diesel and Man O’ War. In 2016, Altadis U.S.A. and JR Cigar—both owned by Imperial Brands, plc—began contracting Fernández to produce cigars for its catalog, a list that now includes everything from Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta to Gispert. It should be noted that while Altadis U.S.A./JR Cigar has contracted Fernández to make a lot of different brands, from a production standpoint General, and, in particular, Cigars International are still certainly much larger in terms of the number cigars that Fernández is actually making.
While General had an existing relationship, it seemed to counter the aggression from Altadis U.S.A. by contracting Fernández to produce various Hoyo de Monterreys and now Punch. It also seemed to one-up whatever Altadis U.S.A. had done by letting Fernández take over Ramón Allones, one of its Cuban heritage trademarks.
And so this June, the Ramon Allones AJ Fernandez began shipping. The four-size line uses an Ecuadorian habano oscuro wrapper over a Nicaraguan corojo 99 binder and Nicaraguan fillers including corojo 99 from Jalapa, criollo 98 from Condega, Pueblo Nuevo and a hybrid leaf grown in Estelí.
- Ramon Allones AJ Fernandez Robusto (5 1/2 x 50)
- Ramon Allones AJ Fernandez Toro (6 x 52)
- Ramon Allones AJ Fernandez Churchill (7 x 50)
- Ramon Allones AJ Fernandez Torpedo (6 1/2 by 54)
- Cigar Reviewed: Ramon Allones AJ Fernandez Torpedo
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
- Wrapper: Ecuador (Habano Oscuro)
- Binder: Nicaragua (Corojo 99)
- Filler: Nicaragua (Corojo 99 Jalapa, Criollo 98 Condega, Hybrid Estelí & Pueblo Nuevo)
- Length: 6 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Torpedo
- MSRP: $15 (Boxes of 20, $300)
- Release Date: June 9, 2018
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
There’s a lot going on with the cigar once you remove it from the box. I’d argue there’s a lot going on with just the main band, but there’s also the secondary band and a piece of cedar with the words RAMON ALLONES running down the side. All of that distracts from an extremely dark Ecuadorian wrapper that has a bit of oil. Aroma from the wrapper is pretty muted considering the cedar treatment and the use of cellophane, but I manage to pick up a bit of pepper alongside an obvious cedar flavor. While the wrapper aroma might not be medium, the foot is full with vanilla, pepper, some cranberries and a ton of cedar. The cold draw has sweet chocolate, vanilla, black pepper and a very acidic lime note that claws on the back of my throat.
The Ramon Allones AJ Fernandez Torpedo begins with some cedar, buttermilk and white pepper, a bit sharper though more restrained than the pre-light notes. Eventually, the core settles to a vibrant mixture of earthiness, creaminess and a bit of a Sprite-like sweetness. The retrohale is even heartier with lots of cedar and a bittersweet cocoa before a massive black pepper takes over the finish. Flavor is full, body is full and strength is medium-plus. Construction is fantastic in the final third: great draw, no touch-ups and plenty of thick smoke.
Shortly before the exact point of the second third a sweeter cedar takes over and dominates over a mixture of red and black pepper. It’s hearty, thick, yet somehow balanced, allowing each of the three flavors to hit various parts of the palate without seeming muddy. Even more surprising is the retrohale which begins floral before cinnamon takes over and transitions into a finish. Once there, the floral note returns before Worcestershire and pepper add themselves. It’s an incredibly detailed progression and one that adds a refreshing component to the dominant cedar. Flavor and body both remain full, while the strength lags a bit behind at medium-plus.
There’s even more woodiness in the final third of the Ramon Allones AJ Fernandez Torpedo. It’s not the sweet and defined cedar note from the middle portion, but it still has a ton of character. Underneath that is some black pepper and an intense creamy finish. If I let the cigar sit for two minutes—which the burn holds enough to allow me to do—I can find some fruitiness and a generic sweetness over top of a much more restrained pepper note. However, if I puff at anything close to a normal rate and the black pepper is massive. Unfortunately, the complex retrohale is gone, now replaced by massive blows of woodiness and pepper. The flavor and body both remain full, while the strength remains medium-full.
- I cannot say I’m familiar with one cigar company allowing another cigar company to sell one of its own trademarks. The closest example that comes to mind is the Plasencia Reserva Organica which was sold by General Cigar Co. before Plasencia went into the business of selling cigars on its own.
- The way the situation came about is due to one very simple fact: General had nothing to lose as far as Ramon Allones sales are concerned. I’m sure that General is getting a royalty and it still retains the rights to the trademark, but it wasn’t like they were giving up a ton of existing sales by allowing Fernández to restart the brand.
- If I was a betting man I would pick Partagás (General) or Saint Luis Rey (Altadis U.S.A.) as the next brands to get an A.J. Fernández-made version.
- On the one hand, I suppose the lack of accent in Ramón Allones is consistent with General Cigar Co.’s general aversion to using the accent, on the other hand, there should be an accent in the Ramón part.
- In addition, I’ve completely given up on whether it’s AJ or A.J. and Fernandez or Fernández. Internally we’ve tried to use the accented version and Abdel when talking about the person, but the company cannot even keep this straight.
- I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that I failed Spanish, twice. I also probably should have failed Spanish a few other times.
- While the flavor and body were both full from virtually the start of the cigar, the strength was medium-plus for all but the final third. It certainly tastes stronger than it might actually be, but the cigar is barely medium-full in terms of nicotine.
- Over the course of three cigars I made a total of two touch-ups, neither of which was entirely necessary, though seemed better than puffing quicker to keep the smoke rate up. That being said, construction was very good and none of the cigars featured anything but very even burns.
- I was completely unaware how expensive these were until adding the sponsor links below. This is a very good cigar, but it’s also not particularly cheap and I would imagine the most expensive thing on the A.J. Fernandez price list at the moment.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- While I felt like I was smoking pretty quick, final smoking time was two hours and 10 minutes on average.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co. and Corona Cigar Co. carry the Ramon Allones AJ Fernandez Torpedo.
I’m not sure if it’s time or the size that made the difference, but what a difference it made. The first two examples of the Ramon Allones by A.J. Fernández were not great, just an average cigar from what seems like the world’s busiest cigar factory. When I finally got around to smoking a store-bought Torpedo, I found a cigar that was far better than I remembered. The first two-thirds were an awesome hearty mixture and the final third, while a bit finicky, was a logical conclusion to an otherwise great cigar. The three samples I smoked for review were the best cigars I’ve smoked from A.J. Fernández, the company, since the Mayimbe.