Arturo Fuente’s Premium Value
Arturo Fuente is one of the reigning families of the premium cigar industry and, without a doubt, the most prestigious cigar manufacturer in the Dominican Republic by virtue of its rare super premium cigars, such as the OpusX or the Anejo, as well as its commonplace premium cigars, such as the Gran Reserva line or the Especiales. The Especiales are a line of mixed-filler (“Cuban sandwich” style) cigars from Arturo Fuente’s Tabacalera Factory in the Dominican Republic. The line features three sizes in a natural Ecuadorian Habano seed wrapper: a Conquistador (Double Robusto, 5.5×56), an Emperador (Churchill, 7×52), and a Cazador (6×50). Finding their roots in the Cuban communities of Ybor City and West Tampa in the early 1900’s, Fuente borrows a complex blend of the Tampa philosophy regarding cigar sizes and marketing. One such case of this philosophy is seen in the Cazador, its size sharing more in common with the old school Tampa Cazadores (resembling Toros or Soberanos) and less with a traditional Cuban Cazadores (5.75-6.25×42-46). Regardless, the cigar represents exceptional flavor and aroma, taking the smoker back to Tampa’s golden age as the cigar city of the world. A true cigar aficionado would be remiss not to purchase a box to enjoy with friends or as an everyday smoke. The box comes with 30 cigars and sells for a mere $121.37!
Beginning in 1886 with the manufacturing of the first cigars by Messrs. Ybor and Haya, Tampa became a global powerhouse for cigar manufacturing which continued through the founding of Arturo Fuente’s cigar company in 1912 and the Cuban Embargo in 1962. However, most Tampa cigars made during the golden age from 1886 to 1962 were made from Cuban tobaccos. After the dreaded embargo began, however, Tampa manufacturers changed to other varietals of cigar tobacco. Tobacco from the Philippines, Java, Sumatra, Puerto Rica, Cameroun, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Honduras became commonplace. Eventually, the allure of inexpensive labor and tobacco drew cigar manufacturers to relocate their operations from Tampa to countries where tobacco was cultivated in Latin America. Of those countries, the Dominican Republic became a cigar manufacturing colossus and the spiritual successor to Tampa.
Birthplace of a Dream
In 1980, Arturo Fuente Cigar Co. relocated its manufacturing from Tampa to the Dominican Republic and began an evolutionary process. Ecuador, while lacking the cigar manufacturing of the Dominican Republic, became the world’s preeminent tobacco wrapper grower. This is the context in which Arturo Fuente cigar company emerged as the world’s finest cigar manufacturer. Another relocated Tampa company, Oliva Tobacco Company, owns one of the largest wrapper farms in Ecuador and supplies the wrapper for the Fuente Especiales.
A couple of caveats to set the mood: (1) the Ecuadorian Habano wrapper on the ~$4.50 Cazadores is from the same farm and crop as the wrapper on a $12-25 handmade cigar and (2) the Dominican filler tobaccos for the Cazadores are a blend of aged filler tobaccos set aside for the Especiales and the scrap tobacco from premium handmade cigars, such as the Don Carlos or the Rare Pinks. This means the smoker enjoys the same flavors and aromas in the Cazadores as a cigar four times its price in retail value! This returns to the core tenets of the Fuente-Tampa philosophy: every cigar you sell should be as good as the best cigar you make, regardless of consumer base or price point. In any case, the wrapper has an attractive coffee-brown color with a slight oily sheen. The status of its relegation to mixed filler cigar is evident only in a few bumps and variegated veins. It bears a strong hay aroma from the short filler blend which is counterbalanced by the floral notes of the relatively young tobacco used for the wrapper and binder.
Light Up and Let Up with a Tampa Cigar
The cigar lights evenly and burns consistently with little evidence of canoeing or tunneling. The cigar smokes for about an hour and fifteen minutes. The initial tasting notes found in the foot aroma and cold draw (barnyard hay, vanilla, grasses, and cinnamon) are joined by a more complex symphony of chocolate, cardamom, toasted wheat, and pepper. The cigar did not build in intensity but maintained its balance with the motif of tasting notes found during the second and final third segments of the cigar. Mixed-filler cigars tend to take a slight hit in the overall construction and quality of the cigar. However, any minor blockage or burn rate issues are negligible in the consistent flavor and value of Arturo Fuente’s Dominican handmade cigars. This is not a cigar you want to sleep on as far as adding it to your humidor collection. It encapsulates the romantic and sensual environment of a summer evening in Tampa, Florida during the 1940’s. The smoker imagines oneself playing dominoes and drinking Cuban coffee with the old man Arturo Fuente while smoking this cigar.