Rich Meade of the Stogie Review Fan Forums.
Today, I’m doing a cigar that is a bit of an anomaly.
Being born out of the result of a hurricane in 1998 that devastated the plantations of Chateu de la Fuente. The result of that hurricane made for a shortage of Opus X wrappers for the 2000 year. Carlos Fuente Jr. made the brilliant decision to go with a different wrapper, an aged Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro. The original release was constructed using the Opus X filler and binder, and finished off with a 7 year old CBM wrapper (8 months of which occurred in congac barrels). Voila! The Fuente Añejo was born.
The Añejo is released twice a year, in the summer (for fathers day) and in the winter (for X-mas). And because of Fuente’s brilliant marketing, they become so hard to find any other time of the year. You can run across them on some online dealers but you will be paying a premium for them. The Vitola I am smoking today, the No. 77, or the Shark, as it is better known, is the toughest to find because it is only released once a year (for X-mas) as opposed to the other vitolas getting released at fathers day as well. Easily reaching a $35 price tag at most online retailers. It might surprise some of you that the MSRP for this cigar is in fact $9.25! We here in Atlanta evidently lucked out because 4 b&ms in the area all received sharks in their yearly shipment. There is a Santa Clause!
…On to the review!!!
Arturo Fuente Añejo Reserva Xtra Viejo
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro (Aged 5 years, 8 months in Cognac Barrels.
Size: No. 77 (pyramid) “The Shark” (5.8″ x 54)
Price: MSRP-$9.25, I paid – $11.60, Cigar.com – $34.95
Drinking: Sweet Tea
The Shark is one of the coolest looking sticks on the market. It’s super dark maduro wrapper combined with the red satin foot band along with the Fuente Añejo band makes for a striking visual contrast. The vitola, a Pyramid, that is box pressed at the foot and a torpedo at the head is an impressive sight, and gives the cigar an intimidating presence.
The cigar is tightly and evenly packed, but has a slight spring to it. The cigar is moderately veiny, but all are smooth to the touch, and because of the darkness of the wrapper they are hard to distinguish. This is truly a beautiful cigar to behold.
The aroma of the wrapper is a musty syrupy one, with hints of cinnamon. The foot gives you a nice strong whiff of cognac, an oaky syrupy smell. The cold draw is free and tastes of pure cognac… its like sticking your nose into a snifter and taking a deep breath! The cigar was a little tough to light, but with a healthy dose of butane it proved to be no match. The first puff is all wood… and through the sinuses you get the cognac once again. The finish is nice, heavy and savory, with only a hint of spice on the sides of the tongue.
The woodiness has subsided a bit and is allowing a nice fruity character to come through. The cognac flavor still is dominant, particularly when retrohaled. Each puff is almost like taking a sip of ‘yac. There are some buttery undertones, and the smoke on the tongue is getting slightly sweeter. The finish is still quite heavy, but turning slightly dry about half way through the 1/3. Little to no spice is prevalent. The burn is a bit interesting. Its quite wavy, but with a bit of patience and turning it seems to correct itself.
Starting into the 2/3, the cigar is pretty consistent as far as flavors go. A nice mixture of fruit and oak, and of course the cognac. There are some occasional hints of cinnamon, and chocolate, which add a nice dimension to the smoke. It has a heavy and smooth character, definitely full bodied. There is a little spice lingering on the finish around the edges of the tongue, but its so fleeting you almost miss it. The burn is still fairly wavy, and requires regular attention, but I’ve not had to hit it with the lighter yet. The ash is fairly strong, holding on for around 1.5″ each time, tho when the stick’s burn corrects itself, the ash from the wrapper tends to flower off, but is only a minor nuisance. The strength of the Añejo is not too pronounced to this point. I feel only a slight buzz, but it could be because this is the first stick I have had today.
Last Bit (2hr):
The flavors are now leaning more into the typical maduro realm. I pick up a bit more chocolate, and occasional pops of coffee. The woodiness is still there, but the fruit has given way to the maduro flavors. The ever present cognac is still found when retrohaling, but is not as in your face as it was in previous thirds. The burn stayed right on par with the rest of the stick, so did the ash. I did get some sap near the end of the smoke, but a quick clip took care of that. The body picked up slightly, but I chalk that up to the cigar heating up, as well as the squishyness of the stick after the band cam off.
The first time I had this stick, I was absolutely blown away. The complexity of the flavor, and the fullness of the smoke make for a fantastic cigar. This time is a little different, and I think I know why. The first Añejo I had was gifted to me at a herf, and had a bit of age on it. It was marked as being an ’06. It didn’t have quite the cognac kick this one had, and felt more rounded. I’m not saying this is a bad stick…in fact… quite the opposite.
The stick I smoked for this review was brand spanking new from the 2008 X-mas release. It had ample amounts of flavor, and came off much like an infused cigar with the cognac flavors permeating every puff. The box press of the shark I feel was the culprit of the wavy burn, but it really didn’t affect the smoking experience. The heart of this fine stick is the oaky, fruity, cognac flavor that makes for a truly unique experience. Based on my experience with “aged” Añejos, It is a completely different journey when these bad boys have a couple years on them. I think brand new… this stick is good… not great. If you are a lover of the “Yac” then you’ll love this stick. This stick is truly like having a glass of XO with a fine cigar. If, you aren’t that into alcohol, or cognac aromas and flavors, this stick, straight out of the box, may be a bit much for you. But factoring in its tremendous aging potential, and unique flavor characteristics, I have to recommend you get one anyway.
Now you may be saying…”why should I pay $35 for a stick that I have to wait to really enjoy?”
Well, first off, you would be foolish to pay $35 for these, (particularly if they are from a recent batch). I realize that a lot of places will not get Añejos, and most people’s best option is an online dealer. But If you look hard enough, you can find them for their proper price. Are they worth $11.60 (what I paid)? Absolutely! Even if you pick up a couple and are not all that impressed with it… save one, let it mingle with the rest of your sticks, and in a few months you will be rewarded. And who says you have to wait?… Many of you will enjoy this right out of the box! But personally I prefer them with some age.
The Añejo has become one of my favorites cigars of the year. Its complexity, and unique flavor are something I look forward to, and savor each and every time I light one up.
Liked it: Yes… but with a year or so under their belt reveals a much more balanced and rewarding smoke.
Buy it again: Yes… but I’ll be patient and hunt down the properly priced sticks.
Recommend it: ABSOLUTELY…be sure to get an extra one with the intention of aging!