Ave Maria Crusader (Guest Review)
from the Stogie Review Fan Forums
Looking through the latest cigar.com catalog last week, a new cigar that immediately caught my eye was the Ave Maria, apparently the latest creation by AJ Fernandez. Billed as a medium-bodied smoke, for some reason I felt compelled to purchase a box on the spot, despite never smoking one of these. I am a big fan of a lot of what AJ has produced, and my humidor was stocked with full-bodied sticks and mild connecticut-wrapped cigars, so I was in need of something to fill that void. With that said, here we go!
Vitola: Crusader (robusto)
Price: ~$113/box of 20
Smoke Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
The band on the Ave Maria is impressive, taking up a third of the real estate on the cigar. The wrapper is a natural colored habano, with a few coarse veins throughput the length of the cigar. This cigar feel nicely compacted, with no noticeable soft spots. Wrapper and foot give off a rich natural tobacco smell. Pre-light draw is loose, with just a bit of resistance, and the taste is of a mild hay.
The Ave Maria burned evenly throughout the entire length of the cigar, requiring touch ups near the tail end of the smoke, but only because I am finicky with the burnline. The first Ave Maria I smoked held an ash until it reached the band, but the other two seemed to have a looser ash that wanted to fall off after every inch or so. The draw remained perfect for all three of these that I have smoked, allowing me to fill the sun room up with plumes of aromatic smoke.
This is where this cigar really shines. Initial puffs reveal a very mild spice through the retrohale, with a finish of wood. This spice died out fairly quickly in the first cigar I smoked, but the other two it lingered on for about half the length of the stick. Along with the spice are nuts, wood, and some very prevalent leather towards the latter part of the stick. Mouthfeel was a nice woody quality that became “chewy” at about the halfway point. Body is medium and stays that way until the last inch of the cigar, where the leather qualities make it more of a full-bodied smoke. I find that by smoking this slowly (about 1 puff every minute), the complexity of this cigar really shines. I have yet to pair this with anything stronger than water, but imagine it would pair nicely with a medium-roast coffee or a nice bourbon.
While I haven’t smoked a ton of new offerings this year, I will say that the Ave Maria is one of my favorites from this past year. I don’t smoke a lot of medium-bodied sticks, but this really accomplished what I wanted out of this cigar and then some. I will likely make this cigar a regular rotation in my humidor, and will certainly buy more once my box runs out. I would highly recommend this cigar.