Just prior to the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show, AJ Fernandez Cigars launched a maduro blend under its Bellas Artes line. Appropriately titled the Bellas Artes Maduro, the cigar became the second blend under the Bellas Artes line. Bellas Artes translates to “Fine Arts” in English. The Bellas Artes Maduro is highlighted by the use of a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper. While AJ Fernandez had worked with Brazilian tobacco before in the AJ Fernandez portfolio (ie. a Brazilian Habano wrapper in the San Lotano Oval), this would be the first release where he would use the popular Mata Fina wrapper. Today we take a closer look at the Bellas Artes Maduro in the Toro size.
In the period of 2014 – 2015, AJ Fernandez Cigars established three popular value-priced lines initially offered in the $6.00 price range with the New World, New World Connecticut, and Enclave offerings. Bellas Artes would be a slightly more premium price point in the $8.00 to $10.00 range. Bellas Artes would incorporate a unique hybrid wrapper that Fernandez had not worked with before. Bellas Artes Maduro continues that theme as Fernandez now works with the Mata Fina wrapper for the first time.
Without further ado, let’s break down the Bellas Artes Maduro Toro and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
In addition to the Brazilian Mata Fina Maduro, the Bellas Artes Maduro consists of a Mexican San Andres and Nicaraguan tobaccos from AJ Fernandez’s farms. This blend is a completely different blend than the original Bellas Artes natural release.
Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina Maduro
Binder: San Andres Mexican
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: Tabacalera Fernandez
Bellas Artes Maduro is available in the same four box-pressed sizes as the current Belles Artes Natural offering. Each size is presented in 20-count boxes.
Robusto Extra: 5 x 52
Short Churchill: 6 x 48
Toro: 6 x 54
Gordo: 6 1/2 x 58
The Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper of the Bellas Artes Maduro Toro had a dark espresso color to it. Upon closer examination, some darker mottling could be seen on the surface of the wrapper. There was a very light coating of oil on the wrapper. The wrapper had some thin visible veins and minimally visible wrapper seams. The box-press had a slight soft Cuban press in a square shape.
There are two bands on the Bellas Artes Maduro similar to the original Bellas Artes offering. The primary band has a dark peach background with black and gold trim around it. On the center of the band is a spiritual/Renaissance style portrait painting. Below the portrait is a series of gold medallions as well as the Nicaraguan and Cuban flags. Above the portrait is the text “Bellas Artes” in a classic English style font with gold trim – also in black trim. The lower portion of the band is metallic gold and has a pseudo-secondary band effect. The back of the band has A.J. Fernandez’s signature.
The secondary band has a thick black 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. The far right has a black square with gold trim with the gold “AJ” (Fernandez) logo.
A straight cut started the cigar experience of the Bellas Artes Maduro Toro. After the cap was removed, it was time to commence the pre-light draw. The cold draw produced a mix of coffee, citrus, and a slight cedar note. Overall this was a satisfactory pre-light draw. At this point, it was time to light up the Bellas Artes Maduro Toro and await what the smoking phase would have in store.
The Bellas Artes Maduro Toro started out with a short spurt of white pepper. The pepper receded into the background, giving way to notes of mocha, earth, and citrus. The mocha was a cross between black coffee and semi-sweet chocolate notes. The mocha quickly moved into the forefront during the first third. Meanwhile, the retro-hale delivered a mix of black pepper and cedar.
As the Bellas Artes Maduro Toro moved into the second third, the mocha notes shed the chocolate sweetness and became more of a classic black coffee. The coffee remained the primary note with the earth, citrus, and pepper notes in the background. The pepper transitioned to more of a classic black pepper note and was joined by cedar notes. During the second third, both the earth and pepper notes increased in intensity pushing the citrus and cedar into the more distant background.
By the final third of the Bellas Artes Maduro Toro, the earth notes joined the coffee in the forefront. The pepper was now a close secondary note with the citrus and cedar more distant. This is how the smoking experience of the Bellas Artes Maduro came to a close. The resulting nub was slightly firm to the touch and cool in temperature.
The Bellas Artes Maduro Toro performed quite well when it came to burn. The cigar maintained a relatively straight path and straight burn line from start to finish. The resulting ash was on the firm side with a mostly silver-grey color to it. The burn temperature was ideal. A couple of the samples of the Toro I smoked did have a slower burn rate, but this had no adverse effects other than a slower smoking time (if you consider that an adverse effect).
The draw to the Bellas Artes Maduro Toro also performed quite well. This was a cigar that had a nice balance of openness and resistance – especially for a box-press cigar. It produced a bountiful amount of smoke – even on the slower burning samples. It also was a low maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
The Bellas Artes Maduro Toro started out as medium strength, medium-bodied cigar. There was a spike in intensity with both attributes just after the midway point, and by the second half, both attributes crossed into medium to full territory. During the second half, there was another uptick in the intensity levels, but in the end, the cigar remained in medium to full territory for strength and body.
While much of the attention on the market has been on some of the high-profile projects master blender AJ Fernandez is doing for other people, Fernandez hasn’t taken his eye of his own brands. The Bellas Artes Maduro demonstrates that Fernandez is a master at working with just about any wrapper – and in this case, it’s the Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper that shines. In the end, this is a cigar that is going to excel in what ultimately is the most important category – flavor. This is a cigar I’d recommend to an experienced cigar enthusiast, but it’s also a nice cigar for the novice looking to graduate to something medium/medium plus. As for myself, it’s a cigar I would smoke again. It performs like a ten-dollar cigar should – and it easily garners box worthy consideration.
Key Flavors: Mocha (Chocolate, Coffee), Earth, Citrus, Pepper, Cedar
Complexity: Medium Plus
Strength: Medium (1st Half), Medium to Full (2nd Half)
Body: Medium (1st Half), Medium to Full (2nd Half)
Value: Box Worthy Consideration
News: AJ Fernandez Bellas Artes Maduro Launching at 2018 IPCPR
Source: A.J. Fernandez Cigars and Purchased
Brand Reference: AJ Fernandez Cigars
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop