A.J. Fernandez is a name that even a new cigar smoker is familiar with. He is known for pumping out highly rated cigars with brands such as New World, San Lotano, Bellas Artes, Diesel, and many more, including Ave Maria. For the most part I've enjoyed all of the blends created by A.J. Fernandez and I've had pleasant experiences with the Ave Maria brand. A while back I picked up a fiver of their bolder offering, Dark Knight. Much to my surprise I found it off putting. Alright, it happens, lots of variables, and it may have been just me. I let some time past and gave it another whirl. I still found it flat, boring, and at times a chore to smoke it. This isn't the AJ I know! Let's keep going and see. After firing through four of them over the course of a few months my opinion was pretty much set; it's the one Ave Maria that kind of sucks. When I received this one to review I had already given it the gavel bang and my arms were folded. Little did I know that I'd be humbled. It was actually pretty decent! I thought I'd be tearing this one down, but instead it's the opposite. Funny how cigars can be like that. Terrible one minute and tasty the next. Granted, some are just trash 100 out of 100 times, but don't count a cigar out even after a few tries. Revisit every so often and you may have a different experience.
Cigar: Ave Maria Dark Knight Robusto
Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez de Nicaragua
Size: 5.2 x 54
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Maduro
The single cap will always be a point off for me. I simply don't like it. The one that was there was a bit rustic, but overall the appearance wasn't bad. The cigar-lifting coffin is cool in my book. Wrapper was a hearty tone with the slightest amount of grit. A band with a gnarly knight on it can never be a bad thing I suppose.
Since single caps always make me a little nervous when it comes to chop time, I chose a fatty punch. It worked perfect on this one and provided the ideal draw resistance. I can't recall what cuts were used on the previous robustos that I had (the ones I mentioned I disliked), but the punch cut may have been a factor in this sample, delivering more flavors.
No complaints on the construction for this sample. Ran it to the nub, burned pretty much straight, and the ash held on as long as it needed to. Others didn't toe the line as well, but in general there were no major issues.
1/3 - After the flame has been applied and a couple puffs I'm greeted with fresh hay, chocolate earth, and some black pepper that feels on the medium side. It took a few puffs to nail down, but I kept getting strong notes of veggie straws. Ever have those? Light, airy, crispy veggie straw crisp chip things? Anyway, plenty of that. At the end of the first third there is mild black coffee and a spiciness.
2/3 - Second third brings in roasted almonds, bold dust, and baking cocoa. Sometimes there is an unsweetened creaminess on the palate. That is, when it's not on the dry side. How is it dry and creamy at the same time? I don't know, it just was.
3/3 - The boldness has really ramped up now with tobacco earth and dry leather up front. Any sort of nuances have faded and I'm left with those couple notes.
In the end, it wasn't like my previous sessions and could honestly say I enjoyed it. While this sample tested nicely, I doubt I'll rush to replace the remaining Dark Knight in the humidor. It'll be interesting to see how that 6th one will be. One should give it a shot though and see for yourself.
**Number of cigars smoked for the review: 5