Fonseca 120th Anniversary “Rarissimus” Corona

Fonseca CXX

I’ve been working my way through a couple of Fonseca samplers that I snagged on C-bid, and though I’m wary of cigars that have been repackaged in this way I’ve been quite satisfied this time around. Certainly there have been more hits than misses. One of the better finds is this Anniversary blend, dubbed “Rarissimus”.

The CXX Anniversary blend was released in 2011 to commemorate the founding of the Fonseca label in 1891. Francisco Fonseca established his Havana factory that year (or thereabouts) and eventually introduced two innovations still observed by some manufacturers today: he wrapped his cigars in fine Japanese tissue paper (which is still the case with the Cuban Fonseca) and he was the first to release cigars in tubes (tin, at the time). He immigrated to America in 1903 and registered the Fonseca brand name in 1907.

The 120th Anniversary line was issued by Quesada’s SAG Imports in a limited release of 120,000 cigars. The blend is composed of a Dominican and Nicaraguan filler surrounded by a Dominican binder and finished with a sungrown Dominican wrapper called Habano Vuelta Arriba, a tobacco that is presumably descended from that region in Cuba.

The Rarissimus was created in three sizes:

  • Corona – 6 3/8 x 46
  • Robusto – 5 7/8 x 52
  • Gordo- 4 7/8 x 60

I can only imagine what Francisco Fonseca would have thought of a gordo sized cigar.

Fonseca CXX 2

Construction Notes

The CXX Anniversary Corona is a rough looking customer with its mottled colorado maduro wrapper and pig-tail cap. The roll is solid, though on the surface it feels a little bumpy and lumpy. The head of the cigar is not particularly elegant, despite its pig-tail, but the cigar draws smoothly and burns beautifully. The ash is firm and a pleasantly dirty gray.

This rough looking parejo is not conventionally handsome, but it has character.

Tasting Notes

The Fonseca 120th Anni opens up with a moderate dash of black pepper, but this is quickly overtaken by the complex aroma of the cigar.  It reminds me of something like graham cracker, but with more cinnamon.  This is a medium-bodied cigar of equally moderate potency. At times the smoke seems a bit thin, but its flavor never wanes.

A caramel sweetness appears an inch or two into the cigar, supplanting the cinnamon and balancing out the mildly peppery sensation on the palate. The aroma continues to impress even without a dramatic transition.

The cigar settles into earthier territory at the conclusion but otherwise stays the course to its final destination.

Conclusion

The Rarissimus is a fitting tribute to the lasting legacy of Francisco Fonseca. True to the Fonseca tradition, it is a fairly mild cigar, but one with sophistication and finesse. Also true to the tradition is the price of this limited edition: around $5 US for the corona. That’s a remarkable price given the quality of the cigar, but that has always been the hallmark of Fonseca.

If you appreciate a quality medium-bodied cigar, don’t hesitate. I doubt these will be around for much longer.

Fonseca CXX 3

Final Score: 89

MATASA 30th Anniversary Toro

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Manuel Quesada established MATASA (Manufactura de Tabacos, S.A.) in Santiago in 1974, at a time when the Dominican cigar industry catered mainly to domestic consumption. Around this time the Dominican Republic established tax-free export zones which attracted entrepreneurs like Quesada to a country not really known for producing cigars. Baseball players, yes, but not cigars.

MATASA is best known for producing the Fonseca brand (and all its offshoots) but Quesada’s family has been in the tobacco business for generations, going back to pre-revolutionary Cuba where they were primarily leaf growers and brokers. The companies founded by Quesada’s great great grandfather, Sobrinos de A. Gonzales, and his great uncle Constantino Gonzales, were the largest leaf brokerages in the world before the family was forced out of Cuba at gunpoint.

The Quesada family left for Miami, where Manuel Quesada Sr. was able to secure a loan– with no collateral– from a bank the family had done business with since 1907. They invested in warehouses and machinery and soon a fledgling leaf brokerage was started in the Dominican Republic, selling leaf to many of the same customers they had in Cuba. One of those customers was Juan Sosa, whose Miami factory was struggling with labor issues. Based on their previous business relationship, Sosa and Quesada joined forces in Santiago and in 1974 MATASA was born. During the same year, MATASA bought the Fonseca label from Antillian Cigar Co. in Miami.

The MATASA 30th Anniversary by Fonseca, created to celebrate the founding of the company, was introduced in 2005 in only two sizes: a 5 3/4 x 54 perfecto, and this 6 1/2 x 52 toro. The binder and filler were selected from bales of Honduran, Dominican, and Nicaraguan leaf aged over ten years. When this cigar was chosen as the Robb Reports’ “Best of the Best 2006” cigar, Quesada told Richard Carleton Hacker,

…we used the finest of old, noble leaf so that we would have the depth of some of the choicest aged Cuban-seed tobaccos, but without the hardened strength. What we got was a strong yet smooth cigar that reminds one of chocolate pudding.

The wrapper is a high priming Olor Dominicano grown by the Reyes family in the Cibao Valley. The limited number of cigars produced was determined mostly by the amount of wrapper produced. “We said we’d make cigars as the wrapper for the project came about,” Quesada told Smoke Magazine. “You’d like to have 100 percent yield from the wrapper crop, but you never do… If you get 60 percent of usable wrapper out of any given crop, you should go to church and thank God.”

In the end, only 30,000 cigars were produced.

The wrapper on this Anniversary Toro is rich and oily, though as it turns out it is also quite thin and delicate. The roll is solid and the head is finished with a triple cap. The prelight scent is of sweet tobacco and hay.

From the first puff the flavors that pour forth are dark and rich — coffee bean and cocoa, with chocolate making a lasting appearance after an inch or so. Beneath the overarching sweet bean flavor is a grassy or green wood flavor which makes the overall impression something like light-roasted coffee. Meanwhile, the aroma is complex, adding an incense-like quality to the smoke.

The body builds strength after the first half, about 45 minutes into this supersized toro. The flavors gradually veer away from cocoa and enter spicier country, with pepper on the tongue and baking spices on the nose. At one point I thought I detected cinnamon, but after an hour of chasing scents my palate might have been a little fatigued.

Part way into the last third I heard the dreaded crack of wrapper splitting; I looked down and my cigar had suddenly unraveled. Thankfully I was nearly finished with this ten dollar Anni, but I was still a little disappointed. (Sadly, this is the second one that has finished in this fashion for me. Other reports are more favorable, so maybe I just pulled from a bad box.) Otherwise the construction here is very good — a fine draw and a slow cool burn.

If you’re a Fonseca smoker, be aware that the MATASA 30th Anniversary is a much heavier cigar than your standard Fonseca, but don’t let that dissuade you — it’s not a giant killer either. This is a limited edition cigar, but it is still available and doesn’t appear to be selling out anytime soon. Part of that may be due to the price, which is in the 8 to 11 USD range. Not your everyday cigar, but a special treat for maduro lovers. Just be extra careful with that wrapper!

-cigarfan