|San Lotano Oval|
At the 2010 IPCPR, one of the revelations that came out of the trade show was A.J. Fernandez’s debut of his San Lotano line. While many had heard of Fernandez for his reputation as one of the great young blenders in the industry, San Lotano was a new label on the industry. In the past 12 months, I think its safe to say that San Lotano went from an unknown brand to a cigar that is found in many retailers’ humidors and a name many cigar enthusiasts are now familiar with. The 2010 San Lotano cigars were top notch – as the Connecticut and Maduro notched spots in my Top 30 Cigar of the Year countdown while the Habano garnered an honorable mention. Now the question would be what would Fernandez and the team at San Lotano do for an encore? The answer is the San Lotano Oval which made its debut at the 2011 IPCPR. Once again, Fernandez delivers a quality cigar. How does it stack up against the 2010 line? Let’s take a closer look.
The Oval derives its nickname from its rounded box-press shape. In fact this shape is like no other I have seen before and is a true work of cigar art. The Oval advertised as using ultra-premium tobaccos. From what I’ve heard, this will still be limited production.
Since this was a pre-release sample, I will default to a pre-review to describe the experience and provide an assessment rating at a later date.
When originally hints of the Oval started making their way around the industry, the origins of the Habano 2000 wrapper were not known. From the information I’ve seen, the wrapper is from Brazil. No guesses on my part what the “secret filler” is.
Wrapper: Habano 2000 Wrapper (Brazil)
Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras, and “AJ Fernandez Secret Filler”
When I first heard of the Oval, I was under the impression this would be a one vitola blend. We now know that this is being made in five vitolas. As mentioned above, the Oval has a unique rounded box-press shape.
Petit Robusto: 4 1/2 x 54
Corona: 5 x 44
Robusto: 5 1/2 x 54
Toro: 6 x 52
Gordo: 6 1/2 x 60
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
For this cigar experience, I sampled the Toro vitola. I placed a straight cut into the beautiful cap of the Oval and then commenced with a pre-light draw. The dry draw notes yielded me flavors of coffee, cedar, wood, and a hint of caramel. Overall a very good pre-light draw, so I fired up the Oval and began the smoking experience.
The initial flavors from the San Lotano Oval picked up where the dry draw left off. I definitely detected the coffee flavors as well as the caramel. On these early draws, there were times I also detected hints of cocoa powder in the background. About 10 percent into the smoke, I noticed a subtle cedar spice emerge. Overall, I did not find the Oval to be a very spicy cigar. For the most part, the spices weren’t too deep and provided more of a complementary role.
The second third of the cigar showcases more of the coffee flavors. The coffee notes are front and center and take on more of a coffee-syrup like quality. The caramel sweetness was almost absorbed by the coffee syrup and it made for a very positive flavor profile. As the cigar moved out of the second third, I noticed the depth of the flavors diminish somewhat. In particular coffee notes diminished and by the end of the second third, they were not as detectable.
In the last third, I actually felt some tea notes had replaced the coffee notes. There were times some of the cocoa notes I detected earlier on would creep in, but the tea notes were front and center. The spice also kicks up in the early part of the last third. By this point, the spice took on more of an exotic spice feel as opposed to the cedar spice that was present earlier. This spice still is complementary as opposed to in the forefront, and it does diminish toward the end. The tea notes are present as the cigar experience comes to a close. The nub was outstanding – cool and firm.
Burn and Draw
This was classic AJ Fernandez in terms of burn. Fernandez’s cigars’ tend to burn razor-sharp and the innovative box-press design has no impact on this. Plus the cigar burned at a perfect rate and perfect temperature. The draw was flawless as well – the Oval was a true pleasure to smoke.
Strength and Body
I was expecting a stronger cigar from a nicotine standpoint, but this was not what the Oval was all about. The Oval’s strength was in the medium range. As for the body, the notes had the right amount of flavor depth to appreciate them. I still put this as a medium-bodied smoke – just falling short of the medium to full area of the spectrum. While this is a smooth smoke, I wouldn’t call this a morning smoke either. It’s got enough strength and body to make for the perfect nightcap smoke.
There is one negative I can say about the Oval is the flavor transition it made in the last third of the cigar experience. I felt it lost some of its robustness in that last third and got a little too overtaken by tea notes. This is a case where I would have sacrificed some complexity for the outstanding flavors that were in the first two thirds of the cigar. However, the Oval is still a very good cigar. It is one of those cigars that novice and experienced enthusiasts will both enjoy. It is definitely worth checking out when it hits your retailers’ humidor.
Source: This sample was received at the 2011 IPCPR Trade Show. The sample was initiated by AJ Fernandez Cigars in order to provide feedback. Several members of my team visited the booth and obtained this cigar for me at the time the samples were given out. I am appreciative for the sample, but in no way does this influence this review.
Note: All samples received from the 2011 IPCPR Trade Show will be included in my “2011 IPCPR Series”