Havoc by A.J. Fernandez
The newest addition to JR Cigar’s family of exclusive blends is Havoc, blended by none other than the legendary A.J. Fernandez. With his intimate knowledge and mastery of Nicaraguan tobaccos, he was inspired to create a blend with the boldness and ferocity of ancient Roman gladiators, some of history’s fiercest warriors.
Back when the rows of the famous Coliseum in Rome were filled with spectators, one of the most popular spectacles was battles between gladiators, depicted celebrating a victory on the lid of each box. In every battle their lives were on the line, and with the stakes so high, gladiators would wreak havoc on their opponents and fight with reckless abandon.
The potent all-Nicaraguan blend of Havoc cigars seeks to capture the boldness and intensity with which the ancient gladiators fought.
But despite the bravery and ruthlessness with which they fought, few gladiators were able to claim victory in more than 10 matches. Since a gladiator achieving victory over his opponent more than 10 times was exceedingly rare, those with the skills and good fortune to secure an 11th victory earned a lavish retirement, where they hung up their sword and shield and lived out the remainder of their lives in luxury.
To represent the final victory of a gladiator, each box of Havoc cigars houses 11 cigars, one for each victory they must achieve to earn their retirement from fighting. But how do the cigars themselves stack up? Let’s take a closer look at the all-new Havoc by A.J. Fernandez and see how it performs!
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Cigar Strength: Medium-Full
Smoke Time: 75 minutes
- Havoc Robusto (5 x 50)
- Havoc Toro (6.5 x 52)
- Havoc Belicoso (6 x 54)
- Havoc Gordo (6 x 60)
Cold Draw Impressions
Before I take my cold draws or clip the cap, I am immediately impressed by the trio of bands covering the cigar. Near the cap, the main band has the Havoc logo with a sword and shield above it. The foot band has a shimmering gold finish and is slightly embossed with a branch and leaves on either side. In between is a large band depicting a gladiator victoriously raising his sword with “Havoc” running down the side. An excellent first impression!
After removing the foot band, which slides right off, I go for some sniffs of the foot. I pick up some earthy, barnyard notes backed by cedar, leather, and a rich tobacco scent. Aromas from the wrapper are a bit more mellow but still have a leathery, cedary, and earthy aroma.
Once I clip the cap with a couple of V-cuts, I go for some cold draws. Unlike the aromas from the foot and wrapper, leather leads the party with support from cream, cedar, and tobacco sweetness.
First Third Impressions
After getting the foot aflame with a match, my palate is immediately greeted by a smooth leather flavor. Behind the leather, I can detect cedar, dry earth, some baking spice, and barnyard. The finish is creamy with a bit of earthy mustiness. The flavors are intimately tied together and not so refined so picking out individual flavors is tougher, but the balance and the way they interact with each other is sublime.
Retrohales reveal touches of black and red pepper, but they certainly do not overwhelm my sinuses, rather they are pleasant and help to unravel the tied-up flavors. Flavor and body so far are hovering just above medium, but as the first third ends, I get the feeling that there is more in store.
Although the first clump of ash falls off just over an inch in, it has a brilliant near-white shade on the outside with salt and pepper colors within. The burn line also has a slight lean to one side but does not require any touch-ups to stay even or on course.
Second Third Impressions
As the burn transitions into the second third, there is an accompanying transition in the flavor. Baking and sweet spices move to the forefront along with some white pepper, while leather and cedar are not far behind. On the finish, pepper, earth, and leather linger on my palate along with a creamy, surprisingly smooth texture. The body is also markedly increasing in intensity, now hovering just under medium-full.
As I near the halfway mark, leather makes a bit of a comeback to join back with the baking spices and pepper, however, the flavors still meld together in such a way there is no one clear leader. The second clump of grayish-white ash falls right at the sweet spot, revealing an evenly burning core hiding behind the ash.
Retrohales become more potent with pepper, leather, and touches of sweetness, complementing the earth, cedar, and cream I experience on my palate. Given the Havoc name and its gladiatorial theme, I was expecting to experience a steady stream of peppery flavors, but I am surprised and impressed at the level of finesse and balance exhibited by the smoke.
Through the second third, the burn line also corrected its slight lean without needing a touch-up. While the burn line is a bit jagged and not razor sharp, the burn moves steadily with no signs of any issues.
Final Third Impressions
As I reach the final third, I am greeted with the peppery spice I was expecting at the beginning. Black and white pepper rise to the occasion and finally take a lead in the profile, but the leather, cedar, and earth are by no means down for the count. The finish still has a creamy quality to it despite the more aggressive pepper, leading to a flavorful and palatable profile that even a more novice aficionado can appreciate.
Retrohales also grow in complexity in the final third. As the pepper becomes more intense, earth and leather come into the fold and make themselves known. I also detect some mocha, a combination of chocolate and coffee, which was not present during the first two-thirds. This cigar is just full of surprises and was seemingly saving its most ferocious flurry of flavors until the end!
The burn line is as sharp as it’s ever been, and the ash continues to show a gorgeous grayish-white shade, however, it still seems to not want to hold on for more than about an inch. However, some proactive knocking of the ash prevents any ash from landing in my lap.
The body is also firmly in the medium-full realm, seemingly trying to make a final push into full-bodied territory. Despite the gradual increase in the body, the strength of the nicotine has remained negligible.
With just about an inch to go and nearing the taper of the belicoso cap, the onset of heat and bitterness signal that it is time for the cigar to end after a triumphant burst of flavor in the final third. Although Havoc burned a little faster than some cigars clocking in at just over 75 minutes, the cigar fit a stellar experience into the briefer timeframe.
Although the cigar starts just around medium-bodied, the Havoc Belicoso is firmly a medium-full-bodied smoke. While I went with my usual pairing of water, which acts as a great palate cleanser and allows the finish to shine more, a cup of strong black coffee would be an excellent accompaniment. A cola would also help bring out more of Havoc’s underlying sweetness.
If an alcoholic drink strikes your fancy, a nice, aged tequila or bourbon would pair wonderfully with Havoc. Red wine with a fuller body would also be an interesting pairing. I do not typically dine while enjoying a cigar, but any kind of meal consisting of red meat or sauteed mushrooms would accentuate the savory leather flavors and bring more focus to the creaminess on the finish.
For a cigar that costs just over $8, it is hard to ask for more from the Havoc Belicoso. It comes with fantastic construction and delivers a balanced, flavorful, and bold smoke with flavor transitions in each third to keep things interesting. I especially enjoyed the increase in intensity and how the flavors revolved and took turns at the forefront of the profile with peppery spice driving home the final third.
Much like a gladiator fighting for his final victory, the Havoc Belicoso finished strong and did not let up, slowly dialing up the intensity and fierceness in the final third. Given that this is an A.J. Fernandez blend I had some high expectations, but I am pleased to say that my expectations were surpassed with flying colors. If you are an A.J. fan or are looking for an interesting and bold cigar to enjoy regularly, these shockingly affordable cigars will be right at home in your humidor.