Pinolero by A.J. Fernandez (Pre-Release Cigar)

While in a lot of eyes, A.J. Fernandez is still considered a rising star in the cigar industry, many cigar enthusiasts are well-familiar with the products he produces.  He is the name behind such brands as Diesel and Ave Maria.  Over the past couple of years, he has built a solid reputation in the brick and mortar stores with his San Lotano brand (two of which were in our Top 12 for 2010).  Recently when Cigar Aficionado previewed the San Lotano Oval Maduro, they mentioned another project that Fernandez was working on under the A.J. Fernandez Cigars’ umbrella. This cigar is called the Pinolero and is a cigar targeted for release later in 2012.  I recently had a chance to sample a pre-release of the Pinolero, and if this is any indication of the final product, it looks like Fernandez is once again going to have a highly ranked cigar at year’s end.

To start, we don’t know a lot about the Pinolero.   The sample smoked came right from the factory, which I then aged for an additional six weeks. It’s quite possible the blend will be the same, tweaked, or revamped.  This is still very much an earlier release of the cigar.  However, the Pinolero marks a major project for A.J. Fernandez Cigars and given this was a very positive cigar experience, I’ve decided to share some information.  As always, pre-release cigars are done as a pre-review.  The purpose of the pre-review is to share some experiences with the cigar.   A score and assessment rating will be given once the cigar hits retailers shelves.

Blend Profile

No details are known about the blend at this time.   I think its a safe guess that since Fernandez is a Nicaraguan grower, there is Nicaraguan tobacco in the blend.

Vitolas Available

There is no information on what the vitolas will be at this time.  The pre-release sample I smoked was basically a robusto size.  It was about 5 to 5 1/4 inches in length, and had a ring gauge in the 48 to 50 size.


The wrapper is a light colored natural wrapper, but it is definitely darker than an Ecuadorian/Connecticut shade wrapper.   The wrapper has an oily complexion.  It is a smooth wrapper with some visible wrapper seams, and some visible veins.  There is a small pig-tail on the cap.  The cigar was packed very well with no soft spots.

The pre-release sample was unbanded.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

I opted to go with a straight cut into the cap of the Pinolero as opposed to pulling the pig-tail off.   This is what I normally do with pig-tail cigars.  When I started the pre-light draw, I detected a combination of leather and pepper.  While it wasn’t the most exciting dry draw, I still considered it a satisfactory one.  At this point, it was time to fire up the Pinolero and see what it brings to the table.

Flavor Profile

The start to the Pinolero treated me to a moderate dose of pepper.  I would assess this pepper blast to be a notch below what is normally detected on Garcia (My Father) family cigars (famous for such pepper blasts).  As the pepper subsided to the background, I was very surprised to taste cocoa notes.  These cocoa notes moved to the forefront early on.

Around the five percent mark, a natural tobacco sweetness joined the cocoa notes in the forefront.  The pepper remained significantly diminished.   The cocoa notes transitioned to nut flavors by the 20 percent mark.  The natural tobacco sweetness dialed back a little and become a (close) secondary flavor.  The pepper was playing a tertiary role.

By the midway point, the pepper started to increase a bit.  It could definitely be detected on the retro-hale.  The nut and tobacco flavors were still very much in control.  By the 60 percent mark, the pepper picked up a little more and closed in on the nut and tobacco flavors. However, the spice never took control and overpowers here.  The resulting nub was firm, but slightly warm.

Burn and Draw

The Pinolero was vintage A.J. Fernandez when it came to burn and draw – outstanding with both attributes.  The burn of the Pinolero was razor sharp from start to finish, requiring minimal touch-ups.  The ash was mostly white and gray and was very tight with no flaking.  The cigar also produces large volumes of smoke.

The burn rate was ideal.  I had a similar experience with burn temperature to what I just had with a recently smoked Drew Estate Undercrown Corona ¡Viva!: While the burn temperature was also ideal, there
were a couple of times I needed to ease on the draw because I could
sense it was skewing toward the warmer side.   This seemed to do the
trick, and only resulted in the cigar being warm at the very end.  This
didn’t seem to have any impact on the flavor experience.

Sharp burn at tight ash of the Pinolero

The draw of the Pinolero was outstanding.  It is one of those cigars you don’t want to overdraw, but savor and smoke.  If you do that, you will have a great cigar experience.

Strength and Body

The strength of the Pinolero was very interesting.  For the majority of the smoking experience, the Pinolero is not an overpowering cigar and can be assessed at medium strength.  Around the 60 percent mark, the strength really picks up – and picks up quickly.  The strength progresses into medium to full range, and by the end of the cigar, this cigar is full strength.

The body of the Pinolero is classic medium-bodied – providing just enough flavor for an enjoyable cigar experience.   For the most part the Pinolero had this as a balanced cigar, but when the strength kicks up at the end, it definitely overshadows the body.  This might be the one “area for improvement” of this cigar.

Final Thoughts

Last month, we did our second annual Cigar Draft.   The Pinolero was not drafted because I was already in posession of this sample.  I can say if I were drafting a cigar now, I would use an early draft pick.  This is a very good cigar.  The interesting thing is this is a very unconventional cigar for A.J. Fernandez.  It seems to have more Dominican and Cuban qualities than any of his cigars I have had.  The blend works real well, and this is an enjoyable cigar.   The strong punch at the end of the cigar might be too much for a novice enthusiast. Seasoned cigar enthusiasts who like a flavorful cigar with a great kick at the end will really like this cigar.  I also would say those cigar enthusiasts who like Dominican and Cuban-tasting cigars will also like the Pinolero.  This is a cigar I look forward to revisiting again.


Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium (progresses to Full by the end)
Body: Medium
Finish: Good

Source: This cigar was provided by A.J. Fernandez personally. The cigar was given in the spirit of friendship and to provide thoughts on this upcoming release.Cigar Coop is appreciative for the sample, but in no way does this
influence this review.