The Don Carlos line is one of Arturo Fuente’s “super-premium” brands, a step up from the Hemingway Series, but not quite as exalted as the Opus X. The highlight of the blend is an aged Cameroon wrapper, underneath which is a Dominican blend from the Fuente farms.
I’ve always liked this blend, but I don’t smoke it much because of the price (in the $10 -12 range). The robusto has always been my goto Don Carlos, when my wallet has been sufficiently lined, but our friends at CigarsDirect.com were kind enough to send a sampler pack my way so I could try a few of the sizes I’ve never smoked.
Last year Lucky7 posted what I think is the definitive Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Double Robusto review –check it out for more information about the blend and the story behind it. I’m not going to try to top that review but I’m going to try my hand at a few of the other sizes in a vertical review to see how they compare with each other. First up, the No. 3 corona versus the toro-sized Presidente.
The No. 3 is a typical corona: 44 x 5.5 inches long. The wrapper is attractive but marred by a mucilaginous smear, a strangely common defect in the Don Carlos line. The corona cuts cleanly and has a satisfyingly firm draw. It lights up easily, burns evenly, and builds a long and solid light gray ash.
The flavor starts out smooth and full, nutty with a minty veneer typical of Cameroon. Unlike some other Cameroon blends, the wrapper here seems better integrated with the rest of the blend: it adds an element of spice but maintains its neutrality.
The Don Carlos corona definitely has a sweet spot in the middle third where the flavor becomes a little richer, moving from nuts to leather, and the aroma is sweet and mildly spicy. The final third heats up a bit, so you’ll have to slow down to maintain the balance and keep the taste from getting bitter.
This is a great little cigar — one of the best in its size, I think — but there may be some consistency problems, as Lisa found in her review for Her Humidor.
The Presidente, a 6.5 x 50 toro, is the largest (or at least the longest) size in the line. It displays the same construction characteristics as the Corona, including a distinctive glue smear half way down the barrel, and a neat triple cap. It lights easily on a match or two and burns without a hitch.
By contrast with the corona, the Presidente has a little more kick and by the end a lot less nuance than the smaller cigar. This toro opens up with a dose of peppery tobacco — piloto cubano, perhaps — and a barely noticeable touch of Cameroon spice.
After an inch the pepper wears off and the flavors glide down into nuts and leather, but it never achieves the same smoothness as the corona. It’s not harsh by any means, but there is a spicy vibrancy here that the corona does not possess. And while the corona is a solidly medium-bodied smoke, the Presidente reaches well into the full range.
The cedary sweetness from the Cameroon rises up when the pepper dies down and stakes its claim in the middle third of the Presidente, followed by a peppery reprise from the final third to the band. In the last couple of inches the pepper gradually builds and eventually overpowers the more subtle spices, leaving a lengthy and powerful finish on the palate.
Obviously there are similarities between the Don Carlos No. 3 and the Presidente — the way the wrapper blends with the core of the cigar, adding an element of spice without being obtrusive, is common to them both. Aside from that, they smoke quite differently and might very well appeal to different kinds of smokers. The No. 3 is smooth and medium bodied with finer notes of leather and mint, whereas the Presidente is medium to full and offers lots of pepper at the start and again at the conclusion of the cigar.
Both are quality cigars, but they are as different as the youngest and oldest brothers in a large family. Sure, they resemble each other, but one might be your best friend. The other might just be your best friend’s brother.