Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Man O' War Armada

6.5x56 'Toro Grande'

The MOW Armada seems to be the CI camp's attempt to enter the super-premium cigar market, one that they otherwise don't usually compete with, staying more in the bargain/discount 3-5$ range. At 20$ for a single, or 500$ for a "box" (actually a humidor of 32 sticks), the Armada strays far from the other Man O'War lines. It features an Ecuador Sumatra seed Maduro wrapper, around fillers that I can't find info on anywhere. The Armada is offered in 2 sizes that I know of, a 6.5x56 "toro grande", and a 5x44 petite corona (not on the website, I have only heard about it, and had it offered via emails). The Armada may be available in other sizes in samplers from CI and, but I'm not positive on that.

What I am positive about is how great this massive cigar looks. I'm a devoted fan of tiny ring gauges, so the 56 ring is a bit beyond my comfort zone and preference, but the wrapper leaf, with its reddish dark chocolate color, and heavy tooth, is enough to make me look past the girth. The construction looks good as well, though for 20$/stick, a triple cap would be nice (a complaint I also have with Padron...) The seams look great, though the cap is a bit lopsided. The pack is even, and firm, and looking at the foot, the different leaves are clearly identifiable (lots of ligero...). The aroma from the foot is not overly complex, just a meaty, rich tobacco, with a slightly musty character to it. The cold draw however is awesome. One of the most defined chocolate flavors I have ever gotten. Not a bitter cocoa, but straight milk chocolate. There is also a wet, earthiness to it, that reminds me of really dark, nutrient rich potting soil. Surprisingly, there is just a touch of spice, not the overwhelming heat I expected.

Lit at 1:25pm.

The massive Armada lights easily enough under my torch, but once fully lit, the smoke production is not all that enthusiastic. Kind of disappointed by that. The flavor however, is awesome. I'm getting everything from milk chocolate, to hot peppers, and even a unique smoked pepper flavor, that reminds me of Mexican spices. Very strange, but awesome. About a half inch in, the burn line is a little crazy, but that could either be because of the big ring gauge, or the humidity here near the James River in Virginia in the summer (steamy, swampy, etc.).

The ash is pretty impressive, probably because of the size, and has held so far for almost 2 inches and is a mottled white and gray. The burn line has evened out by the end of the first third. The flavors have also shifted, now producing a more bitter chocolate, rather than the milky character initially present. The spicy heat has also picked up actually, and sticks around for a long time, mingling with some sweetness on the finish, which as I said, is impressive and really long.

Some strength starts to become apparent to me around the halfway mark, which is also about an hour in. It isn't overwhelming, but just enough nicotine to know it is present. The high ligero content, and the fact that (after doing some research while smoking), the wrapper is actually apparently a ligero leaf, is probably the culprit. Not unpleasant, just lets you know it is there. The sweetness remains, mingling well with the spicy finish. The specific flavors I'm picking out at the halfway point still include interesting dried chili peppers, bitter chocolate, and now a bit of coffee bean.

At the band point, the only adjective that immediately springs to mind is wet. The flavor profile, mouth feel, all of it, everything has taken on a wet, dark character. Like when you throw a wet log into the fire. There is a little bit of mushroom character as well becoming apparent. Removing the band (which comes off easily, and cleanly, reveals a small crack in the wrapper, maybe 1/4 inch long. It doesn't seem to be problematic at this point though.

Approaching the end, a big blast of cinnamon comes out of no where. The complexity present here is, I have to admit, a little surprising. For the price, I am glad it is present, but for a brand sold exclusively through... well anyone, it is something special. I know it is produced by AJ Fernandez though, and he has made some awesome cigars (though not everything he has done has been gold, there are some real gems in his portfolio), so I guess I shouldn't be entirely surprised. Great blender using great tobacco... bound to work, right? In this final third a surprisingly hot spice also kicks up through the nose. Up until now, the spice has mostly been the kind that jumps around, mostly in the back of the throat though, while through the nose it has been mellow, smooth... now hot and spicy (significant "burn"). The crack in the wrapper burns through just fine, without a hitch. Actually, the performance has been great, considering that about halfway through, the weather went all fucked up, and it starting storming, raining, the works out here.

Ended at 3:20pm for a total smoke time just shy of 2 hours. I think I pretty much have summarized my feelings already, but for those who skip to the last paragraph... what a great amount of complexity! Also, I will admit to a bit of nicotine sickness for almost 30 minutes after finishing smoking this. The Armada is a strong smoke, no doubt about it... but the flavor and complexity, as well as the great performance make it worth a little suffering after the fact in my opinion.

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