The Man O’War Armada by AJ Fernandez is a celebrated cigar with a devoted cult following. In this article, you will discover the Man O’War Armada cigar for yourself, which we will review in detail using the following points:
This is the Man o’ War from Armada, which is a brand produced by AJ Fernandez, in his Ocotal factory in Nicaragua. It is a cult classic and well-known among the cigar community. It is available in a variety of usually large vitolas. In this case, we opted for the War Horse Perfecto, which is 6.5″ x 64 in size.
The Man O’War is made with an Ecuadorian Sumatra Maduro, which is a very low-yield crop. Only 10,000 of these are made per year, which partly explains its high price tag of around $20 per cigar.
We’ve been holding onto these cigars for a couple of years and they were transferred to a Boveda acrylic humidor several weeks prior to the review. This ensured that they were properly acclimated for a consistent review. They were kept at 69% RH using the Boveda packs and monitored regularly using a Boveda butler.
The Man O’War is a very sleek cigar with an even construction. Its spring is firm with just the right amount of resistance when pinched. Its wrapper has a nice reflection to it thanks to an oily sheen.
Similarly, there are no particularly visible veins. In fact, the wrapper is very cleanly rolled and you can barely see the seams of the wrapper leaf. As for its aromas, it was pretty heavy on ammonia at first but eventually revealed dark, thick leather and Ceylon tea.
Draw: Slight Resistance
Aromas: Raisins, Varnished oak, Nutmeg
In terms of aromas, I was getting some raisin, which has a boozy headiness as well as varnished oak. The latter was reminiscent of vintage oak furniture that had been heavily polished with beeswax. Furthermore, there is a distinctive nutmeg aroma as well, which offers additional spiciness.
1st Third Smoking Experience
Notes: Brazil Nut, Burnt Rosemary, White Pepper
I don’t want to be influenced by the cult following, and I was very excited to try the Man O’War. In fact, I’m a big fan of AJ Fernandez’s creations. One of my favourite cigars is the “Monte” that he did for Montecristo some years ago.
Indeed, I still have a couple of those old box-pressed cigars with the band that covers the whole cigar.
Admittedly, I found that the first Armada that I tried was a bit flat in flavour. In fact, it just came across as a powerbomb. However, the second cigar wasn’t overwhelming whatsoever. Nevertheless, the flavours are quite hard to detect.
In the first third, I mostly experienced a very distinctive Brazil nut flavour, which is followed by rosemary. Some connoisseurs would argue that you can’t have aromatic flavours in a cigar. Yet, for me, this was a burnt aromatic note.
For instance, it would be similar if you were to chargrill meat with herbs or even set a spring alight. Finally, there was also some white pepper in the retrohale.
2nd Third Smoking Experience
Notes: Dark Cocoa, Clay Earth, Toasted Oak
As for the second third, I was experiencing some dark cocoa with clay. For instance, where I live, the earth is very argileux, you’d say. It’s very thick and when dry, it’s rock solid. Meanwhile, it turns to mush when wet. It is rich in minerals with an unsurprisingly earthy quality.
Meanwhile, I also detected toasted oak. So oak wood, that hasn’t yet been fully set alight but is just starting to get wisps of flames.
Final Third Smoking Experience
Notes: Old Leather, Black Pepper, Charred Oak
By the final third, the toasted oak extends to charred oak. Its flavours become thick, dark, heavy, and bold. Yet, still not overwhelming. This remains a medium-bodied cigar.
In parallel to that, I had old leather that’s been worn in over years of use. And finally, black pepper was a distinctive note on the retrohale.
Overall, the Man O’War Armada was quite intricate. It was a complex smoking experience, which probably explains why I struggled to identify those various aromas.
In terms of mouthfeel, it’s quite smooth with a toothy finish, which leaves an oiliness on the palate. However, it’s surprisingly tart and a little dry on the tongue. Therefore, it needs a good drink to accompany it or you might get a bit thirsty.
Similarly, the palate stimulation was quite focused towards the centre and lateral front, certainly at first. And then towards the final third, it did start to reach to the back of the tongue, but not as much as I felt that he should.
The lifecycle, so this wasn’t as developed as I hoped as it didn’t offer an evolution as rich as I expected. It wasn’t linear by any stretch of the imagination but I just didn’t feel that it was really trying to tell me something new throughout it.
Finally, the finish was by no means short but it wasn’t terribly long. That being said, it left a surprisingly pleasant residual scent in the room for a maduro cigar, which tend to leave a strong smell.
Ash Backbone: Weak
Burn Angle: Wavy
Draw: Slight Resistance
Final Smoking Time: 90 Minutes
I admit that I was a little disappointed by the first Man O’War I smoked. Perhaps I just didn’t give it the time that it deserved. Yet, I was still taking it seriously for the purposes of this review.
In terms of the draw, it was ideal and consistent with the pre-light by offering just a little bit of resistance. At first, there was not much of a smoke output when it was first lit, but this was likely due to the Perfecto shape. As I progressed, the smoke output improved significantly.
Meanwhile, the burn is quite wavy. As you will see in the photos, there were a couple of issues that needed correcting. Nevertheless, it produces a very cool smoke indeed.
Finally, the backbone was quite disheartening. Initially, I was getting about a third of an inch of ash, and it was hanging on quite well. And then suddenly without any warning, it just popped in my lap.
Usually, I’m pretty decent at anticipating the ash as I like to smoke the cigar naturally yet it surprised me when this happened.
Box, Presentation & Experience
First of all, it’d be hard to ignore this band, which is reminiscent of Frank Miller’s 300. I want to like it and I think it’s cool with a bit of bling to it. Yet, I admit that I do have a preference for more understated, smaller, bands with more nuance. Nevertheless, it is very stylish in its own way.
In terms of occasion, this is a very mighty cigar, that you probably want to reserve for special occasions. However, I would refrain from using them on formal occasions. I’d probably keep them for a good moment among friends around a barbecue to treat yourselves.
If you’re going to a luxury club or a wedding, do you really want to take a cigar out with a massive Spartan helmet on it? I suppose it depends on the environment, but I’d be a little bit reluctant, to be perfectly honest.
And in terms of value, so there’s a lot is said about the $20 price point. And this was, I believe, as part of a sample pack, and they would have been $15 each.
While I appreciate the labour-intensive production of these particular cigars and their wrapper leaf, I will personally feel that it’s still somewhat pricey for the experience.
Ideal Pairings With Man O’War Armada
As mentioned earlier, this would be an excellent cigar for a barbecue. Indeed, it would go wonderfully with a wood-fired barbecue in particular thanks to the charred oak notes.
Dark chocolate would be an interesting choice as well. In fact, I specifically thought of Argencove’s Batch No. 18, which Paul and I discovered in Nicaragua. With its vibrant flavours, they would work beautifully together.
Finally, if you’re looking for snacks to go with the cigar, I would recommend Brazil nuts. They were in the first third with a distinctive aroma, and it would certainly be interesting to extend that by pairing them together.
Naturally, we often enjoy our cigar with a drink, and I would highly recommend it here as the cigar is quite tart. Bourbon whiskey was at the top of my list, especially a Woodford Reserve or potentially Buffalo Trace.
Otherwise, two good non-alcoholic beverages would be either root beer or an espresso coffee. However, you might need several of the latter given the cigar’s size!
Wrapping up this review, I’ve given this cigar 77 out of a 100 using the Bespoke Unit Cigar Formula. That’s a good four-star rating and it is a good cigar indeed. 77% may sound low as many publications use very high numbers most of the time yet we try and use the full scale of 100 points.
I’d be very happy if I got 77% in an exam!
Was I really disappointed by the Man O’War? No, I wasn’t disappointed. I did enjoy it for what it is but I feel that it’s a shame that I let myself be a victim to the hype, and I expected something that it was more.
Once I had the second one, I began to understand it a little bit more and I began to appreciate it. I believe that this is a cigar that is definitely worth trying, at least so you can understand the buzz, and then make your own opinion.
"Deep woody and earthy flavours dominate this rich cigar that is well-known among the BOTL community."
Bespoke Unit Rating: ★★★★
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Charles-Philippe's work has covered a broad range of subjects from cigars and fragrances to wine and spirits. Fascinated by how history and culture together form the unique contemporary identities of alcoholic beverages, his articles follow an in-depth exploration of their development through a combination of tradition and innovation.