Arturo Fuente Hemingway Work of Art Maduro

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In the 1960’s and early 70’s the Arturo Fuente company made a cigar in the style of the traditional Cuban perfecto called “Fancy Tales.” They eventually went out of production, but in the early 80’s Carlos Fuente, Jr. sparked a renaissance of the shape with the first Arturo Fuente Hemingway cigar, the 6 x 47 Signature. Carlos Fuente Sr. had learned to make this shape from his father, and to start making them again he first had to recover the original molds. After finding them in the old Ybor City factory, developing the right blend, and discovering that there was genuine interest in this old shape, the Hemingway series became a Fuente mainstay. Five years after the Signature came the Classic and Masterpiece sizes, all with the “Hemingway” perfecto foot, a mark of distinction which today is widely copied by other manufacturers.

The Work of Art is a limited edition cigar, produced in relatively small numbers and released around the holidays as a special treat for Fuente fanatics. The standard Hemingway series employs Cameroon wrapper, so the Connecticut broadleaf maduro version is an even dearer cigar. The WOAM (as it is sometimes called by Fuente followers) is not a parejo with a funny foot like the Signature or the Classic — it’s a figurado of the first order, with a pointy head and a ring gauge that graduates from 46 to a 60.

The blend is a trade secret. As Carlos Jr. explained in a Cigar Aficionado interview, the Fuente family still operates in stealth mode when it comes to guarding their “recipes”:

Q: They’re not written down?
A: They’re not written down.

Q: All your blends? That’s amazing.
A: That’s how my father taught me. We’re from the old school. Remember, I was born in a community where right next to my grandfather’s house was another cigar factory. At night, when they would have conversations, they would go, “Hush. They’re listening.”

So the only specifications available are that the filler is Dominican, as is the binder, and that is all ye need know.

Prelight

On second thought, ye need to know just a little bit more: the wrapper on this stout perfecto is rough and a little bit chipped, like an old saddle that has been well taken care of and handed down through the generations. Kind of smells like an old saddle too, or perhaps the horse that’s been saddled with it. In any case, this cigar definitely has the aura of maturity about it. The sugars from the wrapper add a soft note to the barnyard scent. After clipping the tip and taking a prelight draw I find some hay with a little sweetness.

First Half

The WOAM lights up easily, due in part to its surprisingly open draw. It tends to burn unevenly at first, but evens out with a little coaxing. The initial flavors are nutty with a sweet char. The finish is very short with a mild and clean aftertaste. This little guy produces lots of smooth smoke with every effortless draw. The aroma becomes woodier as the burn progresses and has a syrupy, molasses-like tinge to it. For the first couple of inches this is a very easygoing medium-bodied smoke.

Second Half

Due to the bulbous construction of this cigar most of it is consumed in the first half. The “sweet spot” is just at the mid-point where the flavor gets meatier, turning from smooth nutty flavors to smatterings of earth and black pepper. The aroma at this point is unreal — this is perhaps the most potently perfumey, sweet musky smoke I’ve experienced from a maduro. This is what I’m after in a stinky black stogie: something to make passersby turn around and take notice. It’s an exquisite scent.

The flavors get gradually darker as the cigar comes to a close. The finish grows to a spicy bite and finally signals the end with a dirty bitterness. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Conclusion

This is a marvelous little cigar. I rarely find much complexity in maduros, but this one has it: nuts, earth, spice, and a rich sweet aroma that invariably leaves me in a puddle. Due to the limited production (and because they’re damned good) prices tend to be inflated when they are in fact available, so be careful. Standard retail price is around 7 or 8 USD, which is extremely reasonable given the quality of the cigar.

If you like a smooth medium-bodied maduro with a lot of complexity, you’ll love this one. Keep an eye out this holiday season for this classic and elusive cigar.

-cigarfan

Arturo Fuente Don Carlos – Double Robusto

Cigar on Box Lid

Cigar Stats
Brand Owner: Fuente Cigar, Ltd.
Tabacalera: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia – 
                       Santiago, Dominican Republic
Model/Vitola: Arturo Fuente Don Carlos – Double Robusto
Size: 5.75 x 52
Wrapper: Cameroon
Binder & Filler: Dominican Republic

Other vitola sizes available

  • # 2 — 6.0 x 44/55 (torpedo)
  • # 3 — 5.50 x 44 (corona)
  • # 4 — 5.125 x 43 (petit corona)
  • Belicoso — 5.375 x 52 (torpedo)
  • Robusto — 5.25 x 50
  • Presidente — 6.50 x 50 (toro)

All sizes are offered in boxes of 25

Summary of Ratings from Cigar Cyclopedia
This table shows composite ratings of Don Carlos cigars from multiple publications from 1995 through 2006. All ratings have been converted to a 10-point scale.

1995 Rated once — 8.90
1996 Rated twice (high of 9.3) — average 8.95
1997 Rated 3 times (one 9) — average 8.40
1998 Rated 7 times (high of 9.1) — average 8.87
1999 Rated 8 times (high of 9.2) — average 8.98
2000 Rated 8 times (high of 9.1) — average 8.45
2001 Rated 10 times (high of 9.0) — average 8.67
2002 Rated 6 times (high of 8.9) — average 8.83
2003 Rated once — 8.80
2004 Rated 4 times (two 9s) — average 9.15
2005 Rated twice (high of 8.9) — average 8.85
2006 Rated 9 times (three 9s) — average 8.99

Quote from Carlito …..

We are a family business. Our factories and our plantations comprise our family “kitchen.” By staying in the kitchen, we’re able to consistently produce outstanding tobacco leaves and rich flavored, perfectly balanced cigars that please cigar aficionados every time, everywhere. Because tobacco is in our blood, that is all my family and I aspire to achieve.

— Carlos Fuente, Jr.

The Fuente family’s tobacco roots go back to the old world Cuba of the 1800’s. The brand (Arturo Fuente) now has more than 500 torcedors making over 30 million cigars a year from their factory’s location in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Carlos Fuente and son, Carlos Jr. are celebrities in the cigar world, overseeing every step of the cigar-making process that bears their namesake. Adversity, in the form of embargoes, revolutions and four major fires, has never dampened their passion. Rather, it has strengthened their resolve to produce some of the world’s finest cigars.

Don Carlos Cigar Band

The Fuente family patriarch, Carlos Fuente Sr. spent years identifying which of their rare vintage tobaccos should be blended to produce the Don Carlos and he reserved final approval until he felt he had achieved the “perfect blend.” In every way possible, Carlos Fuente Sr. strived to attain the ultimate in rich flavor, flawless wrapper color and superior construction in each and every Don Carlos cigar. If you speak with Carlos Fuente, Jr., he certainly gives some of the credit to Richard Meerapfel (the deceased grower of Cameroon leaf) for his contribution. Today, cigar connoisseurs the world over acknowledge the Don Carlos is indeed outstanding and worthy of the title, “Pride of the Fuente Family.” Because of the select tobaccos required, and much to the chagrin of Don Carlos fans, these cigars are only available in limited quantities making them difficult to find and the prices high when you do!

Just a little side note on Cameroon leaf. Did you know after they grow a crop in Cameroon they wait six years before planting on that same land again? I guess it’s one of the things you can do when your growing area is nearly the size of France. I think that’s why Josh Meerapfel’s Cameroon (which is used on Don Carlos, La Aurora and Partagas cigars, among others) tastes so damn good! Thankfully, Josh is walking in his fathers footsteps, continuing the legacy of Cameroon tobaccos for all of us.

The Arturo Fuente Don Carlos was originally released in 1976, taken off the market when the Fuentes lost everything to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and re-introduced in 1986 for the European market. Rolling with 1984 crop tobacco, through spring of 1997 it was only available in 2 sizes (Robusto and Reserva No. 3 which was a corona extra). In an interview with Matt Matalamaki (Cigar Aficionado) late in 1997, Carlos Fuente Jr. informed us that as of early 1997 they began using tobacco from 1986 crops and would release the Presidente, Double Robusto, Reserva No. 2 and Reserva No. 4, by summer or fall of 1998. As of this writing I could not locate the release date for the Belicoso but it is indeed available.

Bottom line up front …..
The Don Carlos Double Robusto is an elegant, medium-bodied cigar, very rich in flavor. The aroma is wonderfully sweet and creamy with notes of earth, leather, oak and chestnuts. This is truly a cigar for connoisseurs IMHO and worthy of the claim of Fuente family pride they instill in this one!

Although many have told me they think it is overpriced, I have thoroughly enjoyed each one I’ve smoked and believe they are well worth the money. It’s always tough making the cost-to-pleasure decision but it is a part of cigar smoking life unless you are independently wealthy, which most of us are not. I can’t smoke these everyday, but when I am in the mood for a “desert” cigar, this one definitely makes the list for those special moments I want to celebrate.

Don Carlos Band and Wrap Closeup

Pre-light
Beautiful to look at, this stick is expertly crafted with a smooth medium brown Cameroon wrap and a well formed slightly flattened cap. Solid to the touch and very smooth on the draw, one can just imagine the care that went into rolling it. Aroma from the wrap is a light cammy scent and from the foot, slightly sweet tobacco with just a touch of horse manure. Draw was perfect with a little sweet tea remaining behind on the lips. I did detect a little spill over glue on the wrap at the edges of the band which had me worried about removing it. When I did there was a small patch of wrap that came off with the band but no effect on the draw or burn. The review cigar was in my humidor for 15 months and the age really did me good!

Seeping Glue

The Smoking Experience
The stick toasts and lights quick and even. The draw was superb and the burn was even although the burn line was tilted. The ash is almost white and holds on like crazy. I ashed the cigar only once when it was nearly to the band. I couldn’t get the band off without disturbing the ash, otherwise I think it may have made it to the nub. The rest of the ash was still on the nub when I laid it down. Smoke production is very good and stays nice and cool to the 2/3 point when it begins to warm up. I had to slow down considerably over the last couple inches to keep the flavors smooth and cool.

Don Carlos - Ash

Arturo Fuente cigars, in general, are notorious for being slow starters. Often the first half inch or so can be rough before the blend warms up. The Don Carlos wasn’t really rough to start, in fact the first few pulls were quite mild with a very subtle tobacco flavor. Then a nice Cameroon “twang” on the nose and at about a half inch it settles into a creamy base of sweet wood and leather. The flavor notes and hints that roll in and out are many. Cherry, nuts, java, caramel, oak, cinnamon and other spices to name a few. The aroma on this cigar turns wonderfully sweet at the half inch mark and remains so throughout the smoke. The final third ushers in a little pepper on the tongue which continues to build to the nub. The finish is medium in length, toasty spice and slightly dry. Need to have a nice cold drink next to you for this one.

My take …..
I like this cigar for special occasions. It has been consistent for me and ages very well. I am always looking for the special deals on Don Carlos (auctions and events) and sock them away knowing how special they will be when I decide it’s time.

 MSRP is currently listed at $231.25/25 or $9.25 per stick. The best online prices are currently at AtlanticCigar.com where you can pick up a 5ver for $42.45 ($8.49 per) and a box of 25 at $184.58 ($7.38 per). Not really that bad!

Smoke Til You're Green

Like it … Very much
Buy it again … Yes
Recommend it … Yes

What others are saying about
Arturo Fuente Don Carlos …..

April 1997
Cigar Nexus, Vol 2. No. 4 – Saka’s Monthly Officious Taste Test
AF Don Carlos Robusto

3 December 2006
MonkeyDan – CigarMonkey
Arturo Fuente Don Carlos #2

22 March 2007
Jesse – CigarJack
Arturo Fuente Don Carlos #2 Cigar Review

Top 25 Cigar – As of 20 September 2007
Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Cigars Double Robusto
24 ratings – 8.61 out of 10

Publications

Summer 1995
An Interview with Carlos Fuente Sr.

November/December 1998
An Interview with Carlos Fuente Jr.
President, Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia.

March/April 2002
Cigar Aficionado – Douglas Doan
Essay: Great Moments
Living the Dream. Our tobacco-growing Virginian (Carlitos)
follows his fantasy to the Dominican Republic.

November/December 2002
CA Staff All-time Top Cigars
(Don Carlos has 6 positions)

10 December 2003
Cigar Aficionado – James Suckling
Havana Corner: The Loss of a Miracle Maker
(Richard Meerapfel the maestro of Cameroon/Central
African wrapper tobacco)

1 September 2005
Cigar Aficionado – David Savona
An Interview with Carlos Fuente Jr.
A decade after the introduction of the Fuente Fuente OpusX,
the cigar maker discusses its significance and what is to come

Fuente Cigar Factory Picture Tour

Date Unknown – Cigar Family News Stand
An Interview with Carlos A. Fuente Sr.
A True Saga of Perseverance and Dedication to Perfection

Wikipedia on Arturo Fuente (the cigar brand)

The Cigar Family Website on Don Carlos

 Don Carlos Edición de Aniversario Band

The 30th Anniversary edition of the Don Carlos
Don Carlos Edición de Aniversario

Among the first cigars rolled by Arturo Fuente
The Tampa Sweethearts


… lucky7

“It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep,
and never to refrain when awake.” (Mark Twain)

Chateau Fuente King B

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The Chateau Fuente King B is a large Belicoso — hence King B — but hiding quietly behind this name is a memory of a place in Ybor City, Florida, where cigar makers used to gather to smoke and play dominoes. Carlos Fuente, Jr. remembers when he was a child that the King B was a sort of tavern for the locals in the industry located behind his grandfather Arturo’s house. The King B no longer exists in Ybor City, having been lost to time and the development of a highway, but its memory has been enshrined in the name of this cigar.

The Chateau Fuente King B debuted at the RTDA in 2005 as a limited (though not really rare) addition to the Chateau Fuente line. All of these cigars are notable for their sun-grown Ecuadorian wrappers and distinctive black ribbons. The filler and binder are Dominican, but that’s all the detail we’re going to get about the composition of this coveted cigar.

This is the fifth entry in the Chateau Fuente series, joining the standard rothschild, toro, and double corona sizes. (There is also a smaller 5.75 x 52 Cuban Belicoso.) The King B is 6 inches in length by a 55 ring gauge and like the other Chateaus it comes in a cedar sleeve. They’re packed 18 to the box and sell for around 8 or 9 USD by the stick.

Beneath the cedar this torpedo reveals a smooth rosado wrapper with the widely spaced veins typical of Ecuadorian leaf. The roll is solid and the cap is a perfectly finished point. There are some small dots of what I think is sap from the cedar sleeve on the wrapper. They aren’t large enough to worry about though, so after a few moments of admiration I clipped the tip to an aperture of about half an inch.

The draw is excellent and the burn was even all the way to the band. I expect great construction from Fuente, and that’s what I got. No complaints there.

This sturdy belicoso starts up with a delicate and woody aroma that lingers for the duration of the cigar. At first it doesn’t seem quite as strong as the aroma of the rothschild size, but the King B takes a while to warm up. The intial flavor is unremarkable — mild straightforward tobacco, pleasant but nondescript. I was a little surprised by this, but I continued to enjoy the sweet cedary aroma rising from the foot and gave it some time.

About half way through the cigar it becomes a little more flavorful, slightly tannic, with very little aftertaste. The smoke is medium in body and has a pretty good nicotine kick, but so far is lacking the flavor to match.

At the two thirds point, the spice and pepper that I expected (based on the other sizes in the Chateau series) finally kicked in. It’s not what I would call complex, but it’s a little more than the simple nutty Dominican tobacco flavor I was getting up to that point. The tannins started to build in the last stretch so I removed the band and after a few more desperate puffs I put the butt to bed.

I have to say I was mildly disappointed in this cigar. I really enjoy the rothschild size in this line and I was expecting something along those lines but BIGGER. Instead what I found was a slow starter with a similar but flatter flavor profile. Same great aroma, perfect construction, but not the royal figure I expected to find. Not the King, in any case. Maybe the very amiable young Prince trying out the crown and scepter.

Ashton Virgin Sun Grown Belicoso No. 1

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At one point in the dim and distant past the name Ashton referred to a line of pipes. In the mid 1980’s Robert Levin, owner of Holt’s Cigar Holdings, decided to launch his own brand of cigars and appropriated the Ashton name for his cigars. The first Ashton was a mild bodied cigar with a Connecticut Shade wrapper made by Henke Kelner of Davidoff fame. This was before the days of Cigar Aficionado and the cigar revolution that it started, so business was slow and marketing was difficult. Ashton would take some time to be noticed by the smoking masses.

By the late 80’s Levin’s friends the Fuentes were in on the production of Ashtons, making the Ashton Cabinet series and Ashton Aged Maduros. Business grew, slowly but surely and with the “boom” Ashtons were flying off the shelves. By 1994 Levin was distributing a million cigars a year, and today produces about six million Ashton cigars.

In the early 90’s Levin began to research an extension to the Ashton line. He was looking for something robust, a rich full bodied cigar, and the line was to be called Ashton Crown. The wrapper was to be from Chateau de la Fuente, the same wrapper used on Fuente’s Opus X cigars. But the tremendous success of the Opus X meant that Chateau de la Fuente wrapper was going to be in short supply, to say the least. As a replacement Carlito Fuente suggested an Ecuadorian Sumatra seed wrapper from the Oliva farms. Levin tried it and was blown away. It was every bit as powerful as he hoped and sensed that it would age extremely well.

Carlito Fuente and Richard Meerapfel (the angel of Cameroon leaf) are credited for the name “Virgin Sun Grown.”

Ashton VSGs are made in the Dominican Republic by the Fuentes. The binder and filler are Dominican and the wrapper is of course the same Ecuadorian leaf noted above. Reportedly the filler includes an extra helping of ligero to pump up the volume — one taste proves that is an entirely credible claim.

The wrapper is very similar to the wrapper on the Diamond Crown cigar — an unusual colorado maduro with even and widely spaced veins. A prelight pull shows an easy draw and a slightly sweet taste. I’ve had this specimen in the humidor for about six months, so it’s had some time to rest and get to know its neighbors. Unfortunately, it’s time for this VSG to bid farewell to the Toranos (such nice people) and the Plasencias (what a sense of humor!) and meet its destiny.

This is a powerful but graceful cigar. The first half is marked by a leathery foundation that wavers at times to cedar. The finish is lengthy, but not persistent. By the time you’re ready for another puff the finish is just taking its leave, and you’re ready for another taste.

The second half becomes a little woodier, as if the leather and the cedar have switched places and now the wood takes precedence. Some peppery notes are also in evidence, and the flavor becomes a bit sweeter. There are some lighter spices in there along with the pepper — I thought I detected cinnamon at one point, but it didn’t recur. Maybe I was hallucinating. Or maybe just buzzed. In any case, I was really impressed by the smoothness of this smoke. It’s surprisingly well balanced for a heavyweight blend. Well, I guess it’s not THAT surprising when you consider who made it.

This belicoso is a very robust smoke, but it’s not overpowering. You will definitely want to enjoy a full meal before sitting down with this one, and a strong refreshment is advised. I pulled an old bottle of Oban from the back of the liquor cabinet — Edan’s video reminded me I still had a couple drams left in the bottle. (And a better cigar to accompany it.)

Fuente Fuente OpusX Perfexcion No. 5

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This year marks the ten year anniversary of the Fuente Fuente OpusX, one of the most highly praised and sought after cigars in the world.

In the early 1990’s Carlos Fuente, Jr. had a dream to produce quality cuban-seed shade- grown wrapper leaf in the Dominican Republic. Wrapper leaf had never been grown there before, and the Fuente company was still importing wrappers from other countries to finish their cigars. The mere idea of growing wrapper leaf in the Dominican Republic was ridiculed and many believed it to be impossible.

But the Fuentes are not people who back down in times of adversity. From their beginnings in Cuba, to Nicaragua where their barns were burnt down by the Sandinistas, to Honduras and another fire, to the Dominican Republic where they were told they couldn’t grow wrapper leaf… this is not a family that gives up easily.

With the assistance of Angel Oliva and the Oliva family, the OpusX project was started on Chateau de la Fuente, about two hours south of Santiago, where Oliva believed the soil to be the closest he had ever seen to the soil in San Luis, Cuba. The first crop was sun grown piloto cubano, but soon after that the farm was expanded and began to produce the shade grown piloto that would make OpusX a star.

It wasn’t long after I first started smoking cigars that I heard about the OpusX, partly because of the way it was released and marketed to the public. At first the OpusX was only available on the east coast of the United States. At the same time, the Newman family’s Diamond Crown brand was released exclusively on the west coast… and being in the west, of course everyone wanted what was in the east. Because, as we know, the forbidden (or in this case unavailable) fruit is always sweeter.

These days the OpusX is sold throughout the U.S. and the world, though it’s not exactly easy to find, and comes with a super-premium price tag.

The Perfexcion No. 5 is the petite corona in the OpusX line, a handsome little stick at a bit under five inches long with a 40 ring gauge. I thought this little feller would be a nice cap on a pleasant Saturday evening. I was in for a little more than I expected.

I clipped the end and took a pre-light draw. The foot of the cigar shows a crazy swirling of leaves, with a solid black leaf curling in the center. The wrapper leaf is smooth and silky, and to my surprise it actually tastes peppery even before it’s lit. This should have been my first sign that this would be more than a little nightcap.

Unsurprisingly, the first taste is a burst of pepper. This lasts only a minute or two until the smoke mellows into a very smooth and complex blend of leather and cedar. It’s a very full-bodied, tasty smoke, but not harsh in the least. Sneaky little devil.

It burns very slowly, though I admit I took my time, smoking slowly and looking at the stars. I almost let it go out, as I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper into the chair. But it smoldered indignantly and never extinguished itself.

At the mid-way point the aroma turns a little musky, an aroma I associate with Ecuadorian sun grown wrappers — a rich scent like new leather, though this time spiked with a peppery flavor that grows to the end. By the finale the pepper had taken up residence in my sinuses and I enjoyed several hearty sneezes which I hope didn’t wake the neighbors. But at the same time, this was a very smooth, almost creamy smoke from start to finish.

And that’s the trouble. This is a powerful little smoke, which I didn’t realize until I stood up after about forty minutes to toss the nub on the compost heap and discovered I didn’t feel so well. This cigar is so smooth and tasty that you don’t realize that with the great flavor you’re also getting a serious nicotine payload.

The OpusX Perfexcion No. 5 is a great little cigar, but don’t take it lightly. It’s much much bigger than it appears.

(I received this cigar in a Club stogie trade from “StudentSmoker”. This was a great experience. Many thanks!)

Peterson Gran Reserva Robusto

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Peterson has a long established reputation as an Irish pipe maker. I smoke a pipe on occasion, and two of the three pipes I own are Peterson system pipes. The “system” was invented by Charles Peterson in the late nineteenth century, a few years after he joined the tobaconnist brothers Friedrich and Heinrich Kapp on Grafton Street in Dublin. The Peterson system employs an extra chamber in the pipe that funnels some of the moisture produced by the tobacco and results in a dry carefree smoke. They’re quite popular pipes even today, a hundred and some odd years later.

An exact replica of Charles Peterson’s favorite pipe has been released to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the company. Engraved on the silver band is the phrase “When stolen, please return to 55, Grafton Street. Charles Peterson.” And that is the beauty of pipes — they can be returned after curious thieves have given them a joy ride. Not so with cigars, I’m afraid.

The Peterson Gran Reserva line was introduced at the RTDA trade show in 2004, but it wasn’t Peterson’s first foray into cigar production. In 1995 they came out with the Peterson Hallmark series, but it was washed away by the storm of the boom years.

Peterson pipes are distributed by Ashton here in the U.S., so perhaps it was natural for Peterson to ask Ashton to give the Peterson name another shot at a cigar line. Ashton makes several well known and highly sought after cigars under their own name, so who better to partner with?

Peterson’s Gran Reserva is produced at the Flor de Copan factory in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras, and is imported and distributed by Ashton. The filler is a Honduran-Nicaraguan blend, the binder is Nicaraguan, and the wrapper is a smooth but dry Cameroon leaf. Not quite the toothiest Cameroon around, but tasty.

Some of the wrappers have water spots carefully arranged at the back of the cigar. (Clever.) The roll is firm and the prelight draw is very good. The caps are well formed and tight on the head of the stick.

The Gran Reserva fires up with a burst of spice typical of Cameroon wrapper. It’s a little rough at first, but smooths out after a half inch or so. It maintains a medium body throughout the smoke, gathering a little strength toward the end, but not enough to become truly heavy. The base flavor is leather. Combined with the spicy floral aroma from the wrapper this is a tasty smoke.

The samples I tried were fairly dry. I found minor splits in the wrapper after the half-way point, but they didn’t affect the cigar and weren’t large enough to be annoying. They also seemed to burn quickly, which may be another indication that they enjoy more tropical storage conditions. (My humidor has been reading in the 65 – 67% range.)

The Peterson Gran Reserva reminded me a little of the Ashton Heritage Puro Sol, but it didn’t have the same depth. They share the same fine aroma, but the Puro Sol just seems to have a more refined and complex flavor.

Despite this perhaps unfair comparison, the Peterson is a fine cigar, and I will be trying these again in the future after storing them at a higher RH. I’m going to consider these first two just a trial run.

Diamond Crown Maximus Pyramid No. 3

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The first Diamond Crown line was developed by Stanford Newman and the Fuente family to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Newman cigar company. As he tells it in Cigar Family, Stanford’s father first began rolling “buckeye” cigars in Cleveland for direct sale to grocery stores. He stored the tobacco in his mother’s cellar. And this was the humble beginning to a family legacy that would survive for the next century and beyond.

The Newmans first got involved with the Fuentes when Carlos Fuente approached Newman to take over his machine-made business in Tampa. Fuente wanted to concentrate on his hand made cigars in the Dominican Republic, but he didn’t want to totally abandon his machine made business in Tampa. Newman balked at first, but realizing the talent of Fuente he finally agreed, with the condition that Fuente make hand made cigars for the Newman company. An agreement was forged, and cigar fans are all the better for it.

The Diamond Crown line and the Opux X line were released at about the same time, in 1996. I remember at the time the clamor that arose over the Opus X, in part because it wasn’t available on the west coast. Part of the Newman and Fuente marketing plan was to release the Opus X on the east coast exclusively, and to release the Diamond Crown on the west coast exclusively. Very smart…and aggravating! I can just see Carlos and Stanford snickering over this, like Boris and Natasha Badenoff. But as far as a publicity generator, it was brilliant idea.

The Diamond Crown Maximus came as a response to the trend toward heavier bodied cigars. The original line is a fairly mild blend with a Connecticut wrapper, while the Maximus is heavier and employs an Oliva grown Ecuadorian sun-grown wrapper from the El Bajo region. The Maximus was released at the 2003 RTDA convention.

All of the DC cigars have large ring gauges so they can incorporate five or six different leaves to give the smoke complexity. The Pyramid No. 3 rings in at 6 5/8 x 50. The head of this cigar is something to marvel at. The wrap is perfect, the work of a true artist. The color is an unusual colorado maduro, an almost drab shade of maduro…I can’t find another cigar in my humidor that shares the same shade.

The wrapper on this cigar is the star of the show. I found the blend to be smooth and spicy, but the aroma from the wrapper steals the show. It starts up with a hint of cedar that grows and grows, over a steady smooth beat that heats up in intensity as the cigar burns. Almost like a piece of music, a jazz quartet that starts out cool and easy but breaks out when the players take their solos. But again, the principle player here is the Ecuadorian wrapper. Between puffs it was nice just to revel in the aroma from the smoldering stick.

Certainly a class act. But now for the letdown. As the band packs up its instruments and the crowd finishes their drinks, the bill arrives. Gulp. At 15 to 20 USD, this is still a damn fine cigar. But at this price… I’ll have to let my wife buy me more, like this one, for Christmas.

Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente Sun Grown

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The Arturo Fuente family of cigars is ubiquitous for a good reason: they’re high quality smokes at a reasonable price. Reviewing a Fuente is almost beside the point, because everyone knows Fuente cigars. Unless you’re brand new to the world of cigars… in which case this review is for you.

The Sun Grown line is the most recent addition to the Gran Reserva line. The wrapper is Ecuadorian “sun grown,” which might lead one to believe that this wrapper was grown in broad daylight. Not necessarily so, because the tobacco region of Ecuador is located in the foothills of the Andes and is cloud-covered for most of the growing season. The clouds form a natural shade cloth. The wrapper for the Fuente sun grown line is grown near Guayaquil by the Olivas.

The Chateau Fuente is a robusto measuring 4.5 x 50. The binder and the filler are both from the Fuente family reserves grown and aged in the Dominican Republic. Both the Connecticut wrapped Chateaus and the Sun grown Chateaus come individually wrapped in a cedar sheath; the Connecticut line (natural and maduro) have green ribbon at the foot. The Sungrown has a black ribbon. The lower border on the band matches the color of the ribbon in either case.

This is a medium to full bodied spicy smoke. It starts up with a bite, but mellows while remaining quite spicy. This wrapper is a real treat. There’s a caramel like quality to it which blends with the spice very nicely. My wife came outside to keep me company for a moment and said she really liked the way this cigar smelled — as opposed to the “heavy” cigars she believes are my standard fare. Indeed, this cigar does have a pleasant aroma.

It burns fairly slowly; a good 45 minute smoke, during which I have to consciously slow myself down. Like all the Fuentes I have sampled these have excellent construction. (Pick up a Hemingway Short Story sometime to see how long a superbly crafted small cigar can last.)

At 4 USD this is a steal. The Sun Grown line is not easy to find, so snatch up a couple when you see them. You won’t be disappointed.

Ashton Heritage Puro Sol Robusto

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5.5 x 50

Wrapper: Cameroon

Binder: Dominican Republic

Filler: Dominican Republic.

The Ashton Heritage Puro Sol is touted as a joint venture between the Fuente family and Richard Meerapfel, the savior of Cameroon leaf. When the French abandoned their tobacco industry in Cameroon, Meerapfel took over and saved this magnificent sweet leaf from extinction. As a lover of Cameroon wrappers, I have much gratitude for his efforts. Sadly, he passed away in late 2003. He hand picked the wrapper leaf for the first Heritage Puro Sol cigars, and the highly respected Fuente family is responsible for the blend.

This robusto is a nicely spiced medium bodied smoke that exhibits what is so great about Cameroon wrapper leaf. It’s slightly sweet and extremely aromatic. It makes you want to sniff the foot of the cigar as it smolders. Lovely kitchen spices abound, as if you were in a kitchen around the holidays with the smell of ginger and cinnamon and nutmeg in the air. The spices eventually give way to a mild leather flavor on the finish.

There is almost no bite to this cigar, and I would recommend it to those who normally smoke only mild cigars. The relative mildness of this cigar is somewhat surprising given the fact that it is all sun-grown leaf. The Ashton Virgin Sun Grown is a very powerful cigar, far heavier than this sweet guy.

The Puro Sol is smooth, tasty, and among the best products of the Fuente family. (I prefer these to the Hemingways, if that says anything.) If they weren’t quite so expensive (7 to 10 dollars) I’d smoke these all day long.

Smoke one for Richard Meerapfel, a true cigar star.