Altadis U.S.A. and Abdel Fernández have collaborated on a number of cigars in the past, so it was not exactly a surprise when another was announced earlier this year as an exclusive to Tampa-based retailer Thompson Cigar.

That new blend is named Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez, a four vitola line that incorporates a habano 2000 wrapper covering Nicaraguan tobacco used in both the binder and filler. The regular production cigars are packaged in 20-count boxes and are being rolled at the Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A. factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.


The Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez launched in four different vitolas.

  • Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez Churchill (7 x 50) — $7.49 (Boxes of 20, $149.95)
  • Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez Magnum (6 x 60) — $7.99 (Boxes of 20, $159.95)
  • Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez Robusto (5 x 52) — $6.49 (Boxes of 20, $129.95)
  • Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez Toro (6 x 52) — $6.99 (Boxes of 20, $139.95)

As mentioned above, Altadis U.S.A. and Fernández have joined forces to create a number of cigars in the past, including the Romeo San Andrés by Romeo y Julieta that debuted last month, the Gispert Intenso, Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez, and the H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez. Altadis U.S.A. and Thompson Cigar have also collaborated, most recently on the Romeo y Julieta Aniversario Maduro which debuted in September 2017.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez Robusto
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
  • Wrapper: Nicaragua (Habano 2000)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Robusto
  • MSRP: $6.49 (Boxes of 20, $129.95)
  • Release Date: February 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Visually, Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez Robusto is a very nice specimen, with a chocolate brown wrapper that is quite smooth to the touch. I notice a soft spot just under the band on one sample and there is a noticeable amount of oil present and the cigar is nicely firm when squeezed. The aroma from the wrapper is a combination of hay, manure, earth, black pepper roasted peanuts, leather and slight sweetness, while the cold draw brings flavors of nuts, leather, coffee, grass, pencil lead and slight paint thinner.

Starting out, the first third of the Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez Robusto opens with a combination of cedar and earth as the dominant flavors, followed by notes of hay, dark chocolate, leather and a touch of floral that comes and goes. The retrohale is dominated by both bitter espresso and black pepper and there is a bit of spice on my tongue as well. There is some sweetness present in the profile, but it is neither strong enough nor distinct enough to make much of an impact overall. Construction-wise, the cigar features an excellent draw after a simple straight cut as well as a decent burn that is wavering, but not bad enough to need attention. The overall strength starts out fairly mild and while it does increase noticeably, it ultimately fails to reach the medium mark by the end of the first third.

Unfortunately, the bitter espresso and black pepper combination continue to dominate the retrohale during the second third of the Romeo y Julieta RyJ Robusto, while the sweetness from the first third continues to be too light to really distinguish itself. The dominant flavors are still cedar and earth, followed by leather, licorice, wheat, floral and a slight citrus note. The spice on my tongue is long gone by the halfway point and although the draw continues to impress, the burn has to be touched up once in order to stop it from getting out of control. Strength-wise, the Altadis U.S.A. and AJ Fernandez collaboration increases enough to hit a solid medium by the time the second third comes to an end but does not seem to be going much further anytime soon.

The final third of the Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez Robusto is a virtual carbon copy of the second third, with the same cedar and earth combination leading the way on the palate, followed by flavors of hay, roasted peanuts, dark cocoa powder, wheat, floral and a touch of varnish. As with the two thirds before it, the final third features an sometimes overwhelming espresso bitterness and black pepper on the retrohale, while the sweetness in the blend remains too faint to make an impact. Thankfully, the burn has evened up and while the draw remains excellent, the smoke production has decreased noticeably. As expected, the overall strength fails to increase much at all compared to the second third and the Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez Robusto ends up right in the middle of the medium mark by the time I put the nub down with about an inch to go.

Final Notes:

  • Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG) finalized its $62 million purchase of Thompson and Co. earlier this week.
  • This new line features a very long and confusing name, not something I could ever imagine actually saying in a real life conversation.There is actually a totally different blend with an extremely similar moniker, namely the Romeo y Julieta by AJ Fernandez.
  • Paint thinner is not a flavor I come across often, but it was quite obvious on the cold draw, albeit fairly light. In fact, I had a friend cold draw the foot of the same cigar and while he noticed a particular flavor, he described as more of a “grain alcohol” note. Thankfully it was not noticeable in the actual profile while I was smoking the cigar.
  • Although the official launch for the Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez was on Feb. 26, the cigars were actually available for purchase a little before that date.
  • While I would not call the burn fantastic by any means—each of the samples I smoked had to be touched up at least once—the draw was excellent on each of the cigars.
  • Altadis U.S.A. advertises on halfwheel.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were sent to halfwheel by Thompson Cigars who is a sponsor on halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time averaged one hour and 19 minutes for all three samples.
  • If you would like to purchase any of the Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez cigars, the only place you can get them is at Thompson Cigars here.
85 Overall Score

Cigars made with, by or including AJ Fernandez have become so ubiquitous in the cigar industry in the past year, it has become something of a good-natured running joke particularly in terms of the amount of cigars he is making for the two largest cigar companies: Altadis U.S.A. and General Cigar Co. In terms of the Romeo y Julieta RyJ Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez, the blend is enjoyable enough with some distinct flavors and mild complexity, but there is just not enough sweetness in the profile to cut the sometimes overwhelming coffee bitterness and black pepper on the retrohale. In the end, the construction was quite good overall, the price point is fantastic and if you like a one-two punch combination of bitter espresso and black pepper, this is the cigar for you.


Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.