I’ve been working my way through the previously mentioned MATASA robusto sampler, and I have to say they’re all good smokes. The standard Fonseca is an outstanding mild cigar, but the Serie F and the Habanos Sellecion are excellent as well.
The “F” in “Serie F” is for Fuerte — for you gringos, that means STRONG. But strong is a relative term. Think of this as strong for a Fonseca — compared to the standard Fonseca line, the Serie F is indeed a heavier smoke. But in comparison to other full or heavy bodied cigars, it’s not exactly Godzilla.
Manuel Quesada, the man behind MATASA and Fonseca cigars, is not a fan of strong cigars, and it is only because of the “general trend” toward heavy bodied cigars that he started blending them. (I say “general trend” with some hesitation. It’s well known that the best selling cigars in the United States are still very mild, with Macanudo leading the pack.)
The “F” series was introduced in 2002 in one size only, the Toro. Soon after, the robusto and a smaller breva was added. They are manufactured in the MATASA factory in the Dominican Republic.
What we have here is a cigar that is very similar in many respects to the standard Fonseca — a luscious Connecticut Shade wrapper is the primary similarity. They also share a Mexican binder, so the difference is in the filler. The Serie F uses a brawnier blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan ligero to pump up the volume a bit. These fillers are aged in tercio bales, a process which Quesada says keeps the moisture content in the bale higher over time, resulting in a more flavorful leaf. On the band are pictured little packages which are presumably tercio bales.
The robusto is a plump 5 x 52 with a beautifully golden EMS wrapper. There are a few graceful and unobtrusive veins. The draw is a little bit tight on these, a trait they have in common with the Habanos Sellecion. All the samples burned slowly, forming a solid ash that was gray in color with streaks from dark gray to black. The burn was fairly even, though not perfect. No corrections were required.
The underlying flavor is earth with some shavings of cedar. Floating over this is a wonderfully nutty, lightly spicy aroma. To me this cigar smells remarkably similar to the standard Fonseca, a very good thing indeed, but the flavor is definitely darker. This flavor grows deeper towards the end, culminating in a rich, somewhat graphitic taste. The finish at this point leans toward the long side of the spectrum, and the aftertaste is just a tad tannic.
But I have to agree with Quesada when he says the Serie F is “strong but not overpowering.” I would rate the power of this stick at a solid medium, but the taste as rich. It’s a nicely balanced blend, the earthy filler integrating well with the wrapper’s lighter notes of spice and wood.
Overall I think the Habanos Sellecion is a somewhat better choice, but the Serie F is a nicely nuanced smoke as well.