"Have you Kaplowitz'd to-day?"
Have you Andrew Perelson'd to-day?"
by Andrew Perelson
When brothers Billy and Gus Fakih made the decision to sell their preeminent Cigar Inn, in NYC to Casa De Montecristo -- they knew they were not going to leave the industry. As a matter of fact, they decided to go big and create a cigar company and work with one of the hottest blenders, A.J. Fernandez. Their new company is called Artesano Del Tobacco and their line of cigars is Viva la Vida (Live the Life).
Viva la Vida is the first brand of the company and is a total collaboration with A.J. (Abdel) with all the personal touches you would expect from that relationship. Their efforts included blend selection and manufacturing.
One would think that for how many times Abdel Fernandez has been tapped for his expertise and tobaccos that there would be swings in the quality of the endeavors. His magic is that one after another he is able to replicate high standards and creativity in each of his blends regardless if it is for his own brands or others. To use a music metaphor: his prolific nature is the Burt Bacharach of cigars versus other efforts which are more like Phil Collins which is to say "not so hot."
Here is my view of the cigar:
Having spoken to Billy and Gus about their goals I am cheating a bit but it is clear that the blend accentuated flavor over strength. In my eyes, this direction brings the most nuanced cigars to market and the Viva La Vida hits that mark.
The smell of the foot is earthy and fruity. Toast is smooth and easy followed by an equally delightful light. There is a touch of pepper, some cocoa, and cedar. The burn stays even as the ash builds. It goes all the way to the 2nd third and tumbles effortlessly into my dish. Nine out of 10 times, this is on my lap so a rare treat! The cherry is nice and warm and we continue on.
We start to see the Fernandez magic in which he brings out just the right amount of sweetness and woodiness, and a little more chocolate while losing the light pepper. For me, this is my favorite part of a cigar. That part where the blend is clearly well planned and dictated. I get another inch and a half of ash and I choose to knock it gently into the tray. The cigar is perfectly firm without soft spots and the draw is right on.
The light pepper returns and the complexity includes some earthiness and more woods. The sweetness tones down but no bitterness comes to the table. I have not had to relight and the burn has still been even and crisp. I hear angels sing, I tell you!
As the cigar ends I realize the feeling I am having: a remembrance of the best cigars that left me feeling perfectly satisfied. The smoke gave me time to think without worry. I get down to the nub with reasonable disappointment that the meditation and fun are over.
Now with my ear to the rail, I hear the train of awards coming. Not because I think it but because I am shocked at how many people are getting their paws on this fantastic cigar and are singing its praises. I always hold back because it’s not as cut and dry as the best cigar. However, my gut is Top 10 on most lists and their smart collaboration with the Tabacalera Fernandez will not hurt this.
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