Cigar Aficionado

A.J. Fernandez Acquires La Gran Llave

A.J. Fernandez Acquires La Gran Llave

Nicaraguan cigarmaker A.J. Fernandez has now added La Gran Llave to his lineup of brands.

The cigar, which came to market last year, was previously owned by La Gran Llave, Ltd., a company headed up by partners Michael Argenti and Angel Aguayo. They contracted A.J. Fernandez to produce the cigar. Argenti left the company in May last year, leaving Aguayo in control of the brand.

"We started distributing La Gran Llave around September," said Frank Santos, marketing director for A.J. Fernandez. "We finalized complete acquisition of the brand in late December."

La Gran Llave debuted at the Tobacco Plus Expo in March last year. A few months later, Argenti left the company. Shortly after, A.J. Fernandez, who already blended and manufactured the cigar, agreed to pick up distribution. The cigar was on display at Fernandez's booth at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe retailers trade show in July. Now, Fernandez owns the line.

La Gran Llave wears a Mexican San Andres wrapper over binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua. "The binder and filler tobaccos are grown by A.J. Fernandez on his farms," Santos said.

The cigars are available in five sizes: Corona Extra, 4 3/4 inches by 48 ring gauge; Double Corona, 7 1/2 by 55; Robusto, 5 by 54; Guapo, 5 1/2 by 60; and Torpedo, 6 1/2 by 56. La Gran Llave comes packaged in boxes of 20, and the cigars retail between $7 and $11.

"After incredible success at the show, and great reception across the country over the last few months, Angel [Aguayo] and I agreed that it would be in both of our best interests to add La Gran Llave to the A.J. Fernandez distribution portfolio and overall ownership of the brand," Fernandez said in a statement regarding the acquisition. "This unique blend complements the rest of our collection."

According to Santos, a Habano and Connecticut version La Gran Llave are slated to launch in a few months.

La Gran Llave is rolled at Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua, in Estelí, Nicaragua.