Apologies for the lack of picture. I smoked this while on a cross-town trek and forgot to snap one while driving. I decided to take one of this gaudy band instead, so if this disqualifies me from the competition, no worries, but I thought the cigar fit perfectly with the theme and took detailed tasting notes, so I wanted to post it anyway. Similarly, unsure of the date, but the box is new to the shelf of a local B&M, so I would expect 2019 or late 2018.
An old friend died last week, and though I have been incredibly busy, I wanted to smoke something a little outside the ordinary to meditate on our relationship, and ‘pour one out’ so-to-speak, as I no longer drink alcohol. He always had an abrasive and challenging personality, so a Fuente, which I have always struggled to appreciate or enjoy, seemed appropriate.
A little background on my history with Fuente’s: I have smoked a fair variety of regular production, Hemingway, Don Carlos, ect. but have never smoked an Opus. Fuente has been the only major non-cuban brand that I have found worse quality control than Cuba. I have had almost a 50% plug rate and nigh on 100% burn issues and some degree of unraveling. One Don Carlos Reserva is tied for the most unsmokeable cigar I have ever come across. It was plugged, and one side of the cigar was completely fire proof. I could literally hold a torch to a specific point for 20-30 seconds, and not only did it fail to combust, it wouldn’t even disintegrate. Even when Fuentes have been passably smokeable, I have usually found them sharp and unpleasant in flavor and harsh on the palate, often burning and chapping my lips. In many ways they characterize all the aspects of cigars that kept me from delving fully into this hobby a long time ago.
That said, I have never tried an Opus. As such, I believed that my blanket criticism of the brand might be unfair. A stellar flagship can really offset poor performance by lower tier offerings. I have yet to smoke an excellent 1000-series Padron, but that doesn’t stop Padron from being my favorite non-cuban brand. So, out of fairness to Fuente, I felt I needed to try an opus before dismissing them entirely. And what could be more appropriate to my larger-than-life friend but the epitome of a brand that has always challenged me.
Very oily wrapper slightly darker than Colorado but with a touch of rosado vibrance that I don’t associate with Colorado Maduro. Veins were raised, prominent, and accompanied by long dark streaks which made for a somewhat unrefined appearance. The foot was slightly smooshed, but not cracked. Overall feel was quite firm. Overall, not a pretty cigar to me, but no characteristics that suggest a bad quality one.
Thankfully no draw issues. Solidly medium, neither tight nor loose. Flavor and odor at cold was mainly musty attic and strong tobacco. Somewhat resembled a richer Hemingway with a touch of the sharpness rolled off but the pungency maintained.
The cigar was a bit resistant to lighting, which was unexpected given its relative lack of girth and the brawny quad-flame torch I borrowed from the B&M where I purchased it. When the outer rim appeared to be evenly lit I gave up on getting the center aflame and decided to just start puffing. I was immediately greeted by a TON of black pepper which somewhat dwarfed anything else for a moment. Again, I was reminded of a better Hemingway. More complex and rich, better underlying flavors, but it had that same combination of mustiness and peppery sharpness.
Strength is just shy of full, but body and flavor are only around medium leading to a somewhat hollow sensation to the strength. Along with the pepper there was a strong woodsmoke or campfire type flavor which was somewhat harsh and not to my liking. Yet it was well developed and seemed intentional rather than just a sign of youth. The underlying base was strongly overshadowed by the pepper and woodsmoke flavors but consisted of a combination of a heavy woodiness (oak comes to mind) and leather, but not the bright clean leather of a new jacket. No, this had a dirty washed-out pungency, like old saddle leather or your grandfather’s leather couch that hasn’t been cleaned in years and carries some of that nursing-home staleness. Some earthiness was also present. Overall the first third was much what I expected: typical Fuente flavors with a more refined and complex delivery. Definitely one of the better Fuentes I’ve smoked, but still not a cigar that I enjoy very much.
As far as construction, the cap unraveled almost immediately after lighting, and needed to be reaffixed with some saliva. Similarly the burn developed a slant of about 45 degrees, but thankfully didn’t get worse as I didn’t have a torch in the car for corrections. Though initially irked, in retrospect I think the burn could likely have been due to the smashed foot, and therefore not a true construction issue. Cap unraveled repeatedly throughout this third, but wrapper itself stayed solid.
Around the second third the pepper subsided rather dramatically and abruptly, and the strength of the cigar dropped with it, to just over medium. The underlying base flavors took prominence and the leather seemed to freshen up with a touch of tang or sourness. Almost as if someone had gone over the old saddle with some Murphy’s oil soap. Similarly the oak flavor of the first third transitioned to a brighter wood, perhaps pine or cedar. There was still a strong musty aspect to the cigar, but it became less smokey (in flavor) and intense. Earthiness similarly faded into the background.
While strength went down, body actually picked up a bit with the flavors becoming richer and filling the palate more. I’d say around medium full. Burn remained slanted for most of the third, but straightened up towards the end. I had to reaffix the cap a few more times, but no issues beyond that.
I got distracted trying to jot down some notes while driving, and let the cigar die down. It didn’t go out by any means, but took a few puffs to really get going again. When it did, I was greeted by an entirely new cigar. Somewhere between the flavors of the first two thirds, but at the same time distinct from either of them. The smokiness was back, but now took on the distinct flavor of charred steak. The old attic mustiness remained strong, but blended into the other aspects of the cigar more effectively, transforming it into an indulgent pleasure rather than an annoying distractor. Almost how a hint of a bitter flavor can transform a good meal into a great one. Sourness faded substantially, but there was still a hint of tang. New flavors entered as well, I got a touch of dark red wine, like a cabernet sauvignon, around the charred steak, and I am reminded of a candlelight steakhouse. Body is now distinctly full, and strength picked back up slightly to a medium full. Burn has corrected itself.
Over the course of the third the charred flavor began to subside again into the rich mustiness, The wine flavor becomes lighter and more vibrant, perhaps a merlot now, and a bit of chocolate enters the edge of the picture. At times I even think I might get a hint of subdued cherry, more rich than tart though, as if it had been candied some time ago. This is the cigars shining moment, and I absolutely get what people see in it. Even if I hate the packaging and marketing (a cigar does not need 4 names, nor do you need a sub-brand for a single line, Fuente Fuente) and it is not a flavor profile I seek out, I cannot help but recognizing that this third shows greatness.
Rating and Final Thoughts:
Overall I’ll give the Perfecxion No. 5 89-90 points. Complexity and dramatic evolution were definitely strengths, but the initial harshness and lack of balance detracted, as did substandard construction for a premium NC, particular at this price point. I found it a really good cigar that I could appreciate, but was not necessarily to my liking. Still, it was just at the cusp of being a truly great cigar that I couldn’t help but love despite not being what I traditionally look for. That final third was phenomenal and really spoke to the cigars potential, but the first 2/3 left, to me, something to be desired regardless of subjective taste.