The past decade has seen a major influx in presence from boutique manufactures, with brands such as Drew Estate, Illusione, Aging Room, and countless others quickly gaining reputability with enthusiasts for putting out unique and exciting blends. Whether this is due to the advent of the internet and it’s ability for things to quickly generate hype, or merely due to a demand for blends outside of the normal spectrum is anyone’s guess. Either way, it’s an exciting time to be a cigar smoker, as there is a near constant supply of intriguing new cigars hitting the shelves across the world.
Today we’re firing up the A. Flores AFR-75, a cigar blended by Pinar Del Rio mastermind Abe Flores. The A. Flores line bares the founders name, and features the most prestigious releases from the PDR factory. This year saw two new lines in the A. Flores lineup; the Gran Reserva and the AFR-75. Both are arguably some of his best work, and both are some of the strongest Abe has ever blended. The blend of the AFR is comprised of Connecticut Broadleaf, Nicaraguan Criollo 98, and Dominican fillers, wrapped up in with a Nicaraguan Criollo binder and a San Andres Maduro wrapper. Sizes consist of the Sublime (5×56), the Edmundo (6×58), and the Immenso (7×60). Production was limited to only 500 boxes per size this year, but we’re starting to see more boxes trickle into our store recently.
Cigar: A. Flores AFR-75
Size: Sublime 5×56
Wrapper: San Andres Maduro
Binder: Nicaraguan Criollo 98
Filler: Connecticut Broadleaf, Nicaraguan Criollo 98, and Dominican.
Appearance and Pre-light Aroma:
The wrapper of the AFR-75 looks like it came straight out of a South American jungle. Most wrappers fall somewhere in the category of “Brown with a hint of”, but the AFR is better described as black with a hint of brown. The color is impeccably uniform, with almost no variation. Noticeable veins line the outside, however the wrapper remains quite smooth. Tooth is present all along the wrapper, and there is a thick layer of oil soaked into the wrapper. I’m predicting large mushroom clouds of smoke are imminent.
Smelling the foot of the AFR elicits imagery of the tobacco fields in which the tobaccos were grown. The scent of fresh, earthy soil is immediately present. Rich notes of coffee and cocoa appear to the senses next, with soft sweet notes in the finish. There’s usually a strong presence of spice in most of Abe Flores’ products, but these notes are surprisingly absent. Oak wood and grass appear in the dry draw.
The appearance of the AFR matches the flavor. A barrage of flavor invigorates the palate instantaneously. Rich dark chocolate maduro flavors hit in the first wave, with a sweet red pepper spice entering the fold shortly thereafter. Oddly, retrohaling has almost no trace of spice, but instead blows out smooth and sweet. Despite the immense power of the AFR-75 the profile is far from disarrayed, and presents itself as remarkably well balanced. Nuances lay hidden in the periphery, waiting to be uncovered should you choose to go looking. Notes of hay and oak lurk in the depths of the profile, going unnoticed on the first pass.
The second third sees most of characteristics mellowing, although the spice is ramping up. Whether this is the result of the spice actually increasing in strength or just becoming more apparent due to the rest of profile smoothing out remains to be seen. The body has taken on a moderately creamy touch, while still coming across as a fairly dry smoke. Notes of earthy, rich soil and a touch of dark espresso have picked up in the finish at this point.
The AFR-75 is arguably at its mildest in the final third, offering a noticeable reprieve from the display of power in its early stages. The Dominican fillers are noticeable here, showcasing the balance and refinement that the region is known for. Notes of coffee, chocolate, and earthy soil make up the profile in this stage of the game. The spice had a sweet characteristic to it early on, akin to that of red pepper. The body of the pepper has finally scaled back, and has evolved into more of the classic Dominican white and black pepper. The finish remains clean, with only the pepper leaving a slight tingle on the palate. Near the nub there is virtually nothing in the way of bitterness; a rare feat in cigars of this strength. Retrohaling the AFR-75 is truly a treat, with rich earthy notes gracefully flowing through the nostrils. The AFR draws to a close with a chocolaty finish.
Burn and Construction:
The AFR-75 was clearly rolled by proficient hands. Smooth roll lines, and packed as tight as possible without inducing burn or draw issues. A delicately placed pigtail cap sits atop the cigar, becoming the proverbial ‘cherry on top’. The AFR can be manhandled quite a bit without any worry of unraveling or flaking.
The burn line got a bit wavy at parts, but was able to correct itself quickly enough that only one minor touch-up was ever needed. The draw was ever so slightly tight, but not to an extent that it detracted from the experience. A firm pull would deliver a mushroom cloud big enough to rival any Liga.
While the AFR-75 isn’t the most exotic release of the year, it is one of the few that manages to walk the ever elusive line between power and refinement. With so many factors at play in creating a powerhouse that contains enough depth and nuance to entertain a developed palate, and how it easy it is for a good blend to lose it’s charm; the AFR stands as a testament that Abe Flores has truly mastered his craft. While availability is still a bit limited, I remain confident that the AFR-75 will become one of the heavy hitters among connoisseurs. Fans of rich, robust full-bodied cigars with plenty of complexity who want a unique touch will love the AFR-75, and without Abe Flores’ touch you won’t be able to find anything quite like it.
4.5 out of 5