While sitting on the patio with the Don Carlos robusto last night I had a flashback to the first Don Carlos I ever smoked. It was about four or five years ago, and I was really looking forward to it as a “super-premium” special occasion kind of cigar. Prepared for a glorious experience I blazed it up on a star-lit summer night and sat back, waiting to be enthralled.
It didn’t happen. I thought it was a fine Cameroon style cigar, but not leagues beyond the Hemingway, or even the Chateau Fuente. The additional expense just didn’t translate into additional enjoyment that night, probably because my expectations were too high. I couldn’t complain, because it was an excellent cigar, but still I felt let down.
Now, several years later, my approach is a little different. I’ve read the reviews, sucked up the hype, smoked the cigars, and snatched the pebble from the torcedor’s hand.
Most importantly, I’ve learned not to let price interfere with my expectation or cloud my judgment of a cigar. It’s not that price doesn’t matter — of course it does, especially in these uncertain economic times — but it doesn’t bear a direct relationship to the quality of a cigar. If you don’t believe me, get yourself a $30 Stradivarius and let ‘er rip.
So forget that the Arturo Fuente Don Carlos costs ten or twelve bucks a stick.
For the story of the cigar and biographical info on the Fuente enterprise, click here: Lucky7’s review of the double robusto. The long and short of it is that this is a special blend created by Carlos Fuente Sr. that incorporates Dominican tobaccos from the Fuente farms, capped by an exquisite Cameroon wrapper.
At 5.75 x 52, the Don Carlos Double Robusto is a slightly longer, slightly fatter version of the standard Robusto. It doesn’t differ in appearance from others in the line — a sandy textured Cameroon wrapper surrounding a well rolled parejo, topped off with the customary Don Carlos glue smears.
It starts off a little bland, but after a half inch or so this cigar really warms up and gets to work with a soft cedary aroma and a toasty demeanor. Core flavors are nuts and cedar and the finish is dry. The sweet spice from the Cameroon wrapper contributes a minty element that at times tastes almost like anise.
By the mid-point of the cigar the smoke is creamy and has built up a more solidly woody flavor — more like oak than cedar, complemented by a cherry vanilla accent. The sweet spice from the wrapper continues, creating a complex brew of tastes and aromas.
While the Don Carlos is by no means a bruiser like Fuente’s Opus X cigars, the final section is fairly serious, kicking in a heavier dose of leather with black pepper. The sweetness begins to fade and the woody flavors become increasingly earthy. The finish grows longer and starts to muddy a bit near the band.
Despite the fact that the 5 x 50 robusto is only a bit smaller than the Double Robusto, it seems to have a very different personality. The flavors are generally the same, but the robusto is a little feistier than the double.
It picks up where the double robusto leaves off — with a spoonful of black pepper dropped on the back of the palate. The aroma is a little less subtle as well; it’s not quite as soft but is still minty in nature, like crushed eucalyptus leaves. Not quite that strong, but more potent than most Cameroon wrappers.
Unfortunately this particular cigar decided to challenge me with some construction issues after an inch or so. When the burn went sideways almost immediately I thought that I hadn’t lit it correctly. A good blast from the torch and a stern reprimand and I figured we’d be back on track. But no.
After an inch or so I noticed that the stick seemed to be burning hot, and the flavor was getting a little ashy. I looked at the cinder and noticed that the wrapper was no longer burning, while the filler smoldered on. Despite my best efforts to rehabilitate this delinquent it appeared that my robusto was headed for reform school.
There’s only one way to deal with a tunnel if you hope to salvage an errant stick: shut it down. I put the cigar in the ashtray and let it extinguish itself. Ten or fifteen minutes later I clipped the cigar about a quarter inch below the ash line. I expected to find a hole, but the filler looked like it was solid and just slightly charred, so I relit it, hoping for the best. The first few puffs were positively acrid but after a minute or two the flavors began to clean up and become recognizable. The wrapper was burning in synch. Things were looking up.
The remainder of my now half-robusto was actually pretty decent, if short lived. Oak barrel smooth with a smattering of black pepper. The sweet spicy aroma was the highlight of this sad amputee as it turned prematurely dirty tasting close to the band, probably due to the rough treatment it received.
Of the five vitolas in this line that I was able to sample thanks to Cigarsdirect.com, I have to award the laurels to the Double Robusto. The Number 3 was very good as well, and the others were fine cigars too. Even the robusto had its moments, despite what I think was a rare construction defect.
All told, this is one of the great Cameroon cigars, but is it worth the price? Yes, I think so, if your cigar budget can handle it.
As I think back to my initial impression of the Don Carlos robusto, lo these many years ago, I think my expectations were indeed a little too high. Sometimes a Don Carlos is just a Don Carlos, and for Cameroon lovers, it’s a must try.
Don Carlos Double Robusto: 91
Don Carlos Robusto: Incomplete
With thanks to Cigars Direct