At the 2016 IPCPR Trade Show, General Cigar unveiled the Hoyo de Amistad – a collaboration done with master blender AJ Fernandez. The Hoyo La Amistad is the second release under the Hoyo de Monterrey brand’s Hoyo line. Back in 2015, the Hoyo de Monterrey brand celebrated its 150th anniversary. At that time, a limited commemorative cigar called Hoyo de Monterrey Edicion de Cumpleanos 150 was introduced that featured a more contemporary look for the Hoyo de Monterrey brand. That look carried over into 2016 when the company launched the regular Hoyo line – which was based off the Cumpleanos 150 concept. At the time when the Hoyo was announced Alan Wilner (who at the time was the Vice President of Marketing) indicated there would be more projects under the Hoyo line by stating “Small batch cigars, collaborations and other exciting special projects are all possibilities under the new Hoyo.” Now we see one of those concepts come to life with the AJ Fernandez collaboration for the Hoyo La Amistad. Recently I’ve had an opportunity to smoke Hoyo La Amistad in the Rothschild size. Overall it’s one of the best releases by General Cigar and it’s one of the best Rothschild cigars I have smoked to date.
Over the past year, AJ Fernandez has been working with many clients to produce cigars. In addition to the Hoyo La Amistad, Fernandez also worked on Time Flies for General Cigar’s Foundry brand. Some of the higher profile releases include:
- Time Flies (Foundry / General)
- Montecristo Crafted by AJ Fernandez (Tabacalera USA via Santa Clara)
- Romeo y Julieta Crafted by AJ Fernandez (Tabacalera USA via Santa Clara)
- Gispert Intenso (Tabacalera USA via Altadis U.S.A)
- H. Upmann by AJ Fernandez Released (Tabacalera USA via Altadis U.S.A)
- La Palina Nicaragua
- The Tabernacle by Foundation Cigar Company
- Aging Room Pelo de Oro by Boutique Blends
- Southern Draw Rose of Sharon
The name La Amistad is Spanish for friendship. When the cigar was released, Fernandez explained how this fits into his connection with Hoyo de Monterrey:
“I grew up very near to the Hoyo de Monterrey farm and I have always had a love for the brand. When it came time to develop this blend, I put my heart and soul into it. To me, this project represents how far my family and I have come since Cuba, and how our expertise in tobacco continues to be recognized. This cigar represents the best of me and my factory and I am proud to be a part of this collaboration.”
Without further ado, let’s break down the Hoyo La Amistad and see what this cigar brings to the table.
The blend features filler tobaccos from the four main growing regions of Nicaragua – Estelí Ometepe, Condega, and Jalapa. The cigar is produced at Fernandez’s Tabacalera Fernandez in Estelí, Nicaragua.
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan (Esteli)
Filler: Nicaraguan (Esteli, Ometepe, Condega, and Jalapa)
Country of Origin: Nicaragua (Tabacalera Fernandez)
There are four sizes for the Hoyo La Amistad. Each is available in 20-count boxes:
Rothschild: 4 1/2 x 50
Robusto: 5 x 54
Toro: 6 x 50
Gigante: 6 x 60
The Ecuadorian wrapper of the Hoyo La Amistad Rothschild had a medium brown color to it. The surface of the wrapper had a light coat of oil on it. There were some visible wrapper seams as well as some thin visible veins.
The band design is quite interesting and it is definitely one of the better ones that the cigar industry introduced in recent years. The Hoyo La Amistad features two bands.
The primary band uses a design similar to what was introduced with the Hoyo Edición de Cumpleanos 150, but using a white, gold, and red color scheme. On the center of the band is a windmill-like design on the front featuring the letters “H” “O” “Y” “O” – with one letter sitting on each of the four wings of the windmill. There are red and white pinstripes going to the left and right. Additional red, gold, and white adornments sit on these pinstripes. The text “HOYO” appears in thin white font on a small red nameplate design. The original design on the Edición de Cumpleanos 150 had a black and silver color look that made it look very contemporary. With the Hoyo La Amistad’s color scheme, I found it made it look more classic.
The secondary band has a thick red stripe with thick gold trim across the top and bottom. On the center of the band is the text “AJ FERNANDEZ” in large gold font. To the far right are the initials “AF” in gold font on a red square. What is most interesting about this band is that it pretty much the same secondary band design that is used on AJ Fernandez’s own brand – the Bellas Artes.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
After clipping the cap of the Hoyo La Amistad Rothschild, I moved into the pre-light draw ritual. The dry draw delivered a mix of natural tobacco sweetness, wood, and a slight black pepper bite. Overall I considered this pre-light draw to be excellent. From that point, I moved on to the smoking phase and awaited what the Hoyo La Amistad Rothschild would have in store.
The start of the Hoyo La Amistad Rothschild produced a mix of natural tobacco, wood, and an almost apple-flavored like sweetness. In the background, I picked up some subtle white pepper and coffee notes. On the retro-hale, I detected a mix of white and red pepper.
Toward the latter part of the first third, the apple sweetness diminished into the background joining the pepper and coffee notes. Meanwhile, the natural tobacco and wood continued to be the primary notes.
During the second third of the Hoyo La Amistad Rothschild, the coffee started to increase and by the midway point it joined the wood in the forefront. The natural tobacco now receded into the background and joined the apple-like sweetness and pepper notes.
By the last third, the coffee notes receded leaving the woody notes as the sole primary note. The apple-like sweetness and pepper increased slightly. Meanwhile, there still was a touch of natural tobacco in the background. This is the way the Hoyo La Amistad Rothschild came to a close. The resulting nub was firm to the touch and cool in temperature.
Burn and Draw
From a burn standpoint, I found the Hoyo La Amistad Rothschild maintained a straight burn path. At times, there was some unevenness on the burn line itself, but that was easily remedied with some touch-ups. The resulting ash had a light charcoal gray color. This wasn’t the firmest ash, but it wasn’t a loose and flaky ash either. Meanwhile, the burn rate and burn temperature were both ideal.
As for the draw on the Hoyo La Amistad Rothschild, this was one that wasn’t too loose, nor too light. Overall this was a cigar that was low maintenance to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
When it came to strength and body, I assessed the Hoyo La Amistad Rothschild as medium to full for both attributes. There was a slight increase in the strength and body along the way, but overall I found both attributes stayed medium to full from start to finish. In terms of strength versus body, I found both attributes to balance each other nicely with neither overshadowing the other.
This Hoyo La Amistad collaboration is a home run for General Cigar and AJ Fernandez. It’s a cigar that has quite a unique flavor profile. There was also plenty in the way of flavor transitions to keep me interested in this cigar from start to finish. These days not only does it seem difficult to find a Rothschild vitola in a line, but more difficult to get a good one. The Hoyo La Amistad Rothschild is as good as any Rothschild I have had. Finally, this was a cigar that has responded very nicely to aging in the humidor as the samples smoked for.
This is a cigar I would recommend to a seasoned cigar enthusiast. It’s also a great cigar for a newbie looking to move into the medium plus range. As for myself, this is a cigar I would smoke again – and it’s certainly one that is box worthy.
Key Flavors: Coffee, Natural Tobacco, Wood, “Apple Sweetness”, Pepper,
Burn: Very Good
Strength: Medium to Full
Body: Medium to Full
Assessment: 4.0-Box Worthy
News: Hoyo La Amistad Makes Debut at 2016 IPCPR Trade Show
Brand Reference: Hoyo de Monterrey
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop