Nothing quite compares to the enjoyment cinema and cigars simultaneously. This is one of the truly great art combos to be enjoyed together. Naturally then, I was especially excited to see Privada Cigar Club begin a 10-part series of cigars in collaboration with AJ Fernandez, that pay homage to one of Hollywood’s most creative, unique, and enigmatic film makers, Wes Anderson.
Aside from Anderson’s knack for bringing fantastical styled characters, unparalleled quirkiness, surrealism, and easily recognizable filming style, one might take notice that this director does not shy away from portraying smoking frequently in his filmography. More notably, this activity is not just relegated to his antagonists either, which is a refreshing change of pace from the increasingly hostile attitude towards tobacco in Hollywood film. (We almost never see a character smoking on screen unless he or she is a bad guy anymore.) Wes Anderson additionally is an artist who expresses himself in a thoroughly original way. He clearly has a respect for the greats that came before him in his art, but undoubtedly puts own recognizable signature and charisma into his works.
This uniqueness and willingness to challenge the usual trends of his craft is immediately striking, and highlights that Wes Anderson is an ideal subject to be honored by Privada, another entity that follows a very similar M.O. AJ Fernandez is the final piece of this passion project and represents yet another artist who sets his own pace, method and charism in his work. With AJ recently opening a new factory in Nicaragua – dubbed Tabacalera Annex – all the pieces were in place to make for an outstanding homage project. What a trio! Now let’s dive into the cigars…
The first cigar of this series was released in April of this year as an LCA Plus entry, titled “Fireworks” and was a tip of the hat to the 1996 film, “Bottle Rocket”. AJ brought out a banger of a blend with this 7”x50 Nicaraguan puro that highlighted the naturally bold yet balanced character that is typical of well fermented Nicaraguan tobacco. The follow up release in May of 2022 was again an LCA Plus, titled “Academia”. This one paid homage to Anderson’s 1998 full length feature, “Rushmore”. AJ brought out something special for the wrapper leaf of this blend, utilizing a Nicaraguan Double Claro leaf with that light gold coloring and ever so subtle greenish hue. Something like this is a leaf that cannot be planned for, but rather something that must be taken as it comes, when it comes. This in turn made for a much subtler smoking experience from the initial medium habano-wrapped Fireworks cigar.
This most recent release, however, is the most impressive of the series so far. This 3rd release of the W.A. series is dubbed “Royal Affair” and is a homage to my favorite of Wes Anderson’s works, “The Royal Tenenbaums”. Much like the third movie, this third cigar has much in common with its predecessors. It is made with tobaccos from similar regions as the first two releases but brings in new elements to the blend for a simultaneously familiar yet novel experience. In The Royal Tenenbaums, we get to see some familiar faces with Owen and Luke Wilson, but also see Anderson feature for the first time in his work the talents of Bill Murray, Ben Stiller, and Gwyneth Paltrow among others. This blending of the familiar and the novel counterbalance each other so beautifully in each example and adds a new layer of appreciation to each work.
The smoking experience of the Royal Affair was stellar. Esthetically it was perfect, with a flawless roll, excellent packing, and a beautifully uniform dark brown coloring to the wrapper. The texture was well north of medium and gave a powdery yet creamy sensation on the tongue and palate. The flavors above all were nothing short of magical, with rich cocoa, dark chocolate, cream, cinnamon spice and an amazing seasoning of warm black pepper that tingled rather than burned the senses. The retrohale heavily emphasized the black pepper, cedar and cinnamon for a savory/sweet aroma that was thoroughly satisfying. Notes of honey roasted peanut, sweet cedar and tamarind join the mix before long adding a delightful level complexity and balance to the draw flavor. This cigar came in as a 6”x52 toro, utilizing Nicaraguan corojo fillers grown on AJ’s farm in Estelí, along with a shade grown habano Criollo binder, and a Nicaraguan sun grown habano wrapper leaf. I paired this particular stick with a neat pour of Knob Creek 100 proof bourbon and got nearly 2 hours of enjoyment from this outstanding blend.
It was soon after first enjoying the Royal Affair that it first struck me just how apropos it is that Privada would creating this honorary series of smokes for Wes Anderson given their numerous similarities. As I mentioned before, Privada and Anderson clearly do things different in their industries. Both are curiously stylized in their approach to their craft. Both have an affinity for bucking trends. Both demonstrate an honest respect for the established talents of their industries but are always on the prowl for new talent and creativity. Lastly, both have a fervent body of admirers and followers, but also have their share of vehement haters and detractors of their work. In other words, most either love ‘em or hate ‘em! Admittedly, I can see that both artists may not be for everyone, but there is no denying that they are here to stay, and that they have made too much of an impact in the world to go unrecognized.
Anderson has built a rapport with numerous legendary players of the game like Willem Defoe, Gene Hackman, Adrien Brody and Harvey Keitel, while also tapping into the more recent talents of Saoirse Ronin, Timothée Chalamet, and Léa Seydoux. Likewise, Privada has strong relationships with cigar legends such as AJ Fernandez, Isaias Santana Diaz, Erik Espinosa and the Newman family, while also seeking out and working with newer players like Sebastien Decoppet, Kyle Gellis, Jonas Santana and Tony Barrios.
This common approach to their individual crafts is a formula for success, but more importantly, it is the single best way to preserve the wonders of the art while guarding against its decline and stagnation. All artists in any craft have a duty to do just that, to honor and guard, to innovate and take risks, but above all to demonstrate a passion for excellence to be shared with the world. Brian Desind of Privada, AJ Fernandez, and Wes Anderson are all artists that honor that duty.