San Lotano Oval

28 Aug

Blender: AJ Fernandez
Maker: Tabacalera Fernandez
Filler: Nicaraguan/ Honduran
Binder: Nicaraguan
Wrapper: Ukn Habano 2000
Flavors:  Aged tobacco, wood, mild spice → oak, leather, anise
Draw/Volume/Strength: +3 / +3 / 4
Rating: 9.2

You think you’ve seen everything, and then… POW! Something new comes along to rewrite the rules. Such is the role of renegades and revolutionaries, challenging the status-quo, upsetting the system of power, and exerting a rebellious influence on everything they touch.

The San Lotano Oval is just one of those cigars.

Photo of San Lotano Oval Gordo cigar, with inset showing detail in the foot highlighting the unique oval shape

San Lotano Oval Gordo (6½x60)

At this point, I shouldn’t have to tell you who AJ Fernandez is. If you don’t recognize his name, start here. He created quite a stir recently with his “Best stick of the day” ad, which offended some of the more, how should I say, “repressed” readers of a certain bi-monthly men’s lifestyle magazine. He also created a stir by rewriting what a cigar should look like, taste like, and cost.

I’m not suggesting that San Lotano Oval is going to change the world, but it will leave an impression. And in a product that has changed very little since the cigar makers of Seville perfected the modern cigar and its manufacture in the early 1800s, that’s something to take note of. Innovation in blending is nothing new. Innovation in the shape of a cigar, well, that just isn’t something you see very often.

So what’s the big deal? What is the point of an oval-shaped cigar? First of all, it’s eye-catching, and in a world that values presentation as a key element of substance, being eye-catching counts. But it’s not just about looks. What makes this cigar a game-changer is something in the general trend of cigar -making over the past five to ten years. Cigars have been getting bigger, fueled in part by exciting new blends, and the demand for greater strength, complexity, and well, sheer size! The oval shape enables the smoker to enjoy a massive 60-ring Magnum (or even larger?) without feeling like he’s breaking his jaw. It provides for a delightful embrasure in a ring gauge which, for many of us, pushes the upper limits of comfortable smoking. Based on this trend towards super-sized cigars, and the added smoking pleasure of this new shape, I’m confident in my prediction that the next several years will produce an abundance of 60+ ring gauges in the oval shape. And we can all look to AJ as the first… like the Beatles.

For all that is known about this cigar, the blend remains somewhat mysterious. It features a mix of Nicaraguan and Honduran longfillers of unspecified varietal and origin, with a Nicaraguan binder, and it’s wrapped in a gorgeous Habano 2000 capa. One would presume that the wrapper leaf is Nicaraguan in origin, but AJ has been known to pull some amazing leaves out of the Connecticut River Valley. Regardless, company literature is mute on the subject, other than to say that the leaf is aged for 4+ years.

I selected the “Gordo;” as I mentioned above, the ring gauge is 60, and at 6½ inches long, this is a huge cigar. The ads showing the San Lotano Oval floating above a crowd like a blimp are not far from the mark. And because of its slightly flattened shape, it looks even larger than a regular 60-ring Magnum (and for the record, I slipped the ring off and tried it for size on another 60-ring cigar, and it was a perfect fit). The cigar is seamlessly rolled and veinless.

The initial flavors show plenty of mellow aged tobacco, with the added depth of rich wood and leather, and a hint of anise in the background. The spice one might expect from such a richly-hued Habano wrapper takes a back seat to an oaky character which evolves from the wood present at first, adding complexity to an already complex blend. It turns out that 4+ years of aging can take some of of the bite out of such a potent leaf varietal, leaving rich in flavor and complexity.

The draw from a cap cut is wide-open (+3) producing a massive smoke volume (+3) of above average strength (4). The smoke is remarkably cool, and the burn is quite straight, producing a flaky white ash with nice cones which flatten slightly towards the finish. It’s an eventful smoke, delivering copious amounts of flavor over an 90-minute period, evolving in richness and depth, while maintaining a stable character throughout.

I’m pleased to rate the San Lotano Oval 9.2. Its unique shape aside, this is a beautifully made cigar, with flavor and body in cunning balance. It’s a fitting flagship to the AJ Fernandez stable of fine cigars, and I look forward to sampling the Connecticut and Maduro blends in the line.

Until next time, this is the Cigar Sasquatch saying, “Love what you smoke, and smoke what you love.”

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