Let's just get right into it. This cigar is a beast. I am not a big fan of large cigars, in fact I try and stay away from them, but when a cigar is made in only one vitola there really is not much of an option. The cigar itself falls into the category of a toro grande/gordo, it measures 6" in length and has a ring gauge of 56. Throughout this cigar you get notes of black pepper, spice, mocha, and some wood at the mid point on. The flavors in this cigar don't disappoint and it is very complex. Along with all those flavors you can really pick up the flavor of the Sumatra maduro wrapper, which was sweet and spicy and very pleasant.
The body on this cigar is very full. From the first puff all the way to the end it doesn't let up. In my years of smoking experience I have found a lot of the time when cigars are made to be full bodied they loose their flavor profile, but the Armada does not. From the foot to the head this cigar keeps its flavor and stays complex, but along with that it doesn't loose a bit of it's strength. This cigar was a treat worthy of 95 points.
One of the coolest things about this cigar is the tobacco that goes into it. The wrapper on this cigar is a ligero Ecuadorian Sumatra that had undergone the maduro process through fermentation. From what I am told it is the only Sumatra Ecuador Sun Grown Maduro. Of the tobacco grown for the wrapper, only 1% was able to be used, and from that 1% a lot of leaves were damaged and no longer able to be used in fermentation. I know some of you now are wondering some of these terms and I will define them below.
...Ligero is tobacco taken from a certain part of the plant, specifically the upper most priming. The leaves toward the top of plant receive the most amount of sunlight, making them heartier with a thicker texture. Also, as a tobacco plant is harvested, it is picked from the bottom to the top in phases over a period of several weeks. As the lower leaves are chosen, more nutrients from the plant’s root system are delivered to fewer leaves making the top leaves (the last to be picked) the strongest.
Maduro literally translates to "ripe" in Spanish. After tobacco leaves are harvested from the plants, they are taken into the curing barn where over a 45 day period they change from green to brown. From there, the leaves ferment in large "pilones" or piles for up to three years. During fermentation, the leaves change from light to dark brown as the sugars extract and the leaves become less tannic. How long a leaf needs to ferment depends on the leaf's thickness and nutrient content, which is determined by many factors including seed type, growing region and the priming on the plant. For a tobacco leaf to naturally ripen into a true maduro, it can take three to five years of fermentation and requires a very hefty, thick leaf. For this reason, many seeds and tobacco types can never become true maduros because they spawn thin, delicate leaves. The three plus years of fermentation required to naturally darken each leaf can be so destructive that these varieties ultimately fall apart and almost disintegrate before they achieve the sweetness and dark oily color associated with a true maduro. (That is why the Armada is so rare)
Fermentation is the act of releasing ammonia from tobacco leaves using moisture and extreme temperatures. To ferment tobacco, the leaves are stacked 4 to 6 feet high in pilones (piles), moistened, and then allowed to rise in temperature. Temperature is the most important part of this process, and may reach 140 degrees. Temperature is constantly observed and regulated, while the leaves are re-stacked to ensure even distribution until fermentation comes to an end naturally. During the fermentation process, the leaves emit ammonia and other compounds like sugar and sap, which come to the surface and create rich, mellow, and smooth flavors. The leaves also become significantly darker in color.
...You should pat yourself on the back for making it through that. Almost done.
The wrapper on this cigar was of a crop from 2005 that was fermented for three and a half years and then aged for an additional two years.The filler is all ligero as well grown from Cuban seeds. The ligero's were from AJ Fernandez's , maker of the cigar, farm in Esteli as well as ligero's from the island of Ometepe. Both of these ligero's were from a 2008 crop. These two varieties were then rounded out with a very special and limited ligero filler also grown in 2008. This was a leaf that no one in the world has or will as I have been told. The binder is a Cuban seed grown in Jalapa, Nicaragua in 2007. It was a viso priming, upper middle part of the plant, below ligero. It was the only leaf in the entire cigar that was not taken from the very top of the plant. I have been told that they did this for flavor and combustion reasons.
Well there you have it. This cigar is a very limited cigar and should be saved for special occasions. I don't know why I smoked it the other night, possible because I was finishing Rome Season 1, but oh well. I hope you all have a chance to enjoy at least one. Try one out at Cigar.com Man O' War Armada.