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.
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.
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.
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.
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.