Onyx Reserve cigars have enjoyed a very loyal following; now, this modern classic gets kicked up a few notches with the Onyx Esteli, created by AJ Fernandez. An all-Nicaraguan core gets treated to an almost pitch-black San Andrés wrapper; it sounds tasty on paper…but did Onyx Esteli pass our panel’s taste bud test? Watch now, and find out!
Arturo Fuente Especiales Cigar Review – Video
Arturo Fuente Especiales Cigar Review – Cigar Advisor Review Panel
Arturo Fuente Especiales Conquistador
It’s a fact that Arturo Fuente cigars have long been a staple of many a cigar smoker’s rotation over the years…so when something new comes along from their casa in the Dominican Republic, let’s just say we’re quite eager to get our paws on it and see what it can do. This one is called Especiales, and it threw us for a bit of a curve ball: it turns out that Fuente, they of Opus X fame, have unexpectedly done the value cigar market a solid and created a mixed filler stick that hits the wallet quite gently. Let’s just say that if you didn’t know their background before, the Especiales are not at all what you’d expect – which works out to be a good thing. But before we see the surprising results in the newest installment of the Cigar Advisor Review Panel, we’ll clue you in to some things you’ll learn about this cigar…consistency over complexity, the term “Cuban sandwich,” affordability, “Fuente taste” and how Oliva Tobacco (not the cigar company) is involved – they all make an appearance in our video.
So it’s time to fire up our Arturo Fuente Especiales cigar review: watch for our reactions to this new smoke, and scroll down below to get all the tasting notes on the Fuente Especiales Conquistador we tried.
The Stats: Arturo Fuente Especiales Conquistador
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: 5½” x 56
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Filler: Dominican mixed filler
John Pullo’s Tasting Notes…
Construction and Overall Appearance: Neither of the sticks I smoked for this Arturo Fuente Especiales cigar review was much of a looker. They’re far from the prettiest example of a premium handmade, but it should be noted that there are far uglier sticks out there. Interesting: seems to have a slight box press, along with a fair amount of tooth to the wrapper. Pretty veiny, too. Felt a little loosely packed, but this is (a) a budget stick and (b) a mixed filler.
Draw: Draw was quite loose, but that’s not to be unexpected from a mixed filler cigar.
Pre-light flavor (cold draw): A bit of barnyard at the foot, a bit of dry hay at the head. Not much else to speak of here.
Toasting & Light: The Fuente Especiales took flame quick and easy, no issues here.
Base flavors: Not many – it has a woody undertone (like cedar), with some slight pepper; everything here tastes very toasty.
Aroma: Aroma was just ok; especially considering the volume of smoke output.
Burn / Ash Quality: Even though this is a mixed filler cigar, the ash held pretty decent – say about ¾ of an inch at a time. But when it flaked, it flaked. Major positive: the burn line was straight on every Fuente Especiales I sampled.
Balance of flavors: More appropriate to say balance of flavor, as there was really only one. So in that sense, it was even: a not too dry cedar, with just a hint of pepper to it – especially through the middle of the cigar.
Consistency: The name of the game, as the flavors finished the same way they started.
I thought it was important for us to do this Arturo Fuente Especiales cigar review for two reasons:
- There’s not a lot of info out there about this cigar.
- The info that is out there is, I think, either vague or completely misleading.
Case in point: I googled Arturo Fuente Especiales Cigar Review, just to see what some other people were saying about it. One of the first results I found was the biggest hype piece ever, with the reviewer finding no fewer than TEN different notes – ranging from butter, cedar and baking spice to caramel, nutmeg and anise flavors in this cigar.
Look, I’m probably the most un-judgy guy you’ll meet when it comes to smoking what you like, if you like what you smoke. But when someone says “I’m going to be picking up a few of these for ‘special occasion’ purposes in the near future,” in hopes that you’ll do the same, that person is doing you – and Fuente – a total disservice. Overhyping a budget stick like this as a straight-up premium on par with Don Carlos sets unreasonable expectations for what this cigar is and what it can do. Because if you take the bait, you’ll be disappointed – maybe even pissed – and likely be ready to write off all Fuente cigars as being underwhelming. It’s dishonest.
So here’s a reality check on Fuente Especiales: it’s an interesting and intriguing option for a beginner cigar, an honest, simple, everyday burn for a modest price – all things being relative, as it is a Fuente. This cigar gives you a good baseline reference of mild-medium, cedary, hay-like flavors that are typical of the brand – and if you like that profile enough to stick with them, maybe you’ll consider moving to some of Fuente’s other higher-tier sticks – like the AF Sun Grown – when the time is right.
Let’s call the Fuente Especiales what it is – and what Fuente, themselves, call it – a value cigar. At under $4 each, I think it nestles into a sweet spot between the Curly Head and the 8-5-8, and smokes like a bigger Fuente Brevas – making this a cost-effective knock-around selection for your daily cigar ritual.
Gary Korb’s Tasting Notes…
Construction and Overall Appearance: Very good with a buttery, semi-rustic-looking wrapper. Well-packed.
Draw (airflow): Excellent.
Pre-light flavor (cold draw): Nutty.
Toasting & Light: Very easy and relatively quick.
First few puffs: Flavors of cedar & roasted nuts.
Retrohale: Sweet and smooth.
Base flavors: Cedar wood and roasted nuts.
Burn / Ash Quality: Excellent. Burn is clean and the grey-black ash has a tight, crystal-like appearance that is not as firm as it looks, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Balance of flavors: Excellent.
What we have here is a cigar that’s very “basic;” basic in terms of its construction and flavor. Because it is a mixed filler, or “Cuban Sandwich” cigar, the cigar lights easily and draws well. One thing to keep in mind is that Cuban sandwich cigars tend to burn a little faster, as was the case for this Conquistador. However, the size of the cigar made-up for any time lost.
As for the flavors, they were mostly that of sweet cedar and roasted nuts with a delicate hint of saltiness on the wrapper, all perfectly balanced throughout. Once again, very basic, but also very good, and fortunately, these happen to be flavors that I find very appealing. I was also impressed with the wrapper, which is an Ecuadorian-grown Habano, and different from the usual Connecticut or Cameroon wrapper used on many Arturo Fuente cigars. It also gave the cigar a little more character. Suffice it to say, this cigar was as rock-steady as a brain surgeon’s hands.
Although the Especiales make for a good “newbie” cigar, they are also ideal for smoking when you want a good mild-to-medium smoke that you don’t have to constantly pay attention to. For example, as Tommy Zman notes in our Arturo Fuente Especiales cigar review video, this is a good choice for poker night, the golf course, or presiding over the weekend barbeque grill.
Arturo Fuente already offers a couple of other mixed filler blends such as the Brevas and Curly Heads, but I would rather recommend the more flavorful Especiales edition for those in the market for a well-made, value-priced cigar. By going with the Especiales, they will get a good idea of what the long-filler Arturo Fuente cigars have to offer, and can move up and on from there.
Jonathan Detore’s Tasting Notes…
Construction: It has solid construction, but it looks a little rough around the edges. Remember, this is a Fuente cigar rolled by Fuente rollers. The construction isn’t going to be bad.
Draw: It was pretty tight for me, but it loosened-up on its own after a while.
First few puffs: The first cigar was a little bitter which I’ll chalk up to lighting it like a Neanderthal sticking his face into a campfire. The second started-off without a hitch and presented some good flavor. Nothing bites you up front. It’s a pretty mellow cigar from start to finish.
Base flavors: The Arturo Fuente Especiales really digs its heels in and stays with a sweet cedar, creamy, and nutty base with not much else going on.
Aroma: The aroma has the most bite out of anything here. It has a bit of baking spice, but matches the cigar with a sweet cedar aroma.
Burn/Ash: It’s a medium filler cigar which means it’s going to be a bit flakey. You’ll be lucky to get a solid inch of ash off this thing before it falls off on its own. If you’re a really expressive person and use your hands a lot while you talk, maybe keep the cigar in the ash tray while having your conversation, or you’ll feel like you’re experiencing your own personal Pompeii.
Balance of Flavor: It’s a well-balanced cigar considering there are only a few flavors swimming around in there. The flavors mesh well and create an overall satisfying experience.
Consistency: Each smoke is right on par with the next. It’s a fairly basic cigar, so it’s hard to truly mess up rolling and getting the proportions of tobacco right. That means great consistency and high quality with every smoke.
While this isn’t all that complex, I truly love this cigar for what it is. If you’re looking to analyze Fuente and what they’re all about, Especiales is the way to go. Each puff gives you a blast of the base flavors found within every Fuente cigar on the market today. From here, you can start layering on the complexity by going to the 8-5-8 or to the Hemingway lines. But if you’re new to cigar smoking, or if you’re a vet just looking for something with truly incredible flavor on a dime, there’s not many better than the Arturo Fuente Especiales.
Positives: Great consistency, solid flavor, and for God’s sake, it’s a Fuente! Need I say more?
Negatives: It’s medium filler, which is a negative for me for two reasons: first off, the ash quality is sub-standard and flakey because of this. I just hate it because it makes a mess if you’re not careful, but that’s more personal preference than anything. More importantly, medium filler cigars tend to burn quicker than longfiller cigars, turning what would typically be an hour long smoke into a 45-minute burn.
Tommy Zman’s Tasting Notes…
Construction and Overall Appearance: Good for a mixed filler
Base flavors: Sweet Cedar
Burn / Ash Quality: A bit flakey because of the mixed filler
Arturo Fuente is known for making some of the world’s finest cigars… Don Carlos, the King & Queen B, Hemingway and the Opus X. Now two things I’d like to mention about these excellent smokes: 1. They’re full bodied, complex and not recommended for beginners. And 2. They’re NOT bargain priced sticks. With that in mind, we realize that a lot of guys are on strict budgets and can really only afford budget line smokes – and hey, nothing wrong there one bit! Some friends of mine simply can’t afford to splurge for the likes of a finer Fuente, but now the Fuente’s have created a value-priced cigar that’s not only affordable, but gives you the base flavor profile of the cigars from that family’s fabled line-up.
The Especiales is a good looking cigar with a nice wrapper. Now the difference here is that the inner blend is a mix of long and short filler tobacco but don’t turn your nose up on that. The short filler is still nicely aged tobacco; it’s just chopped up scraps of leaf left over from when the cigar roller cuts the leaves while making a long filler cigar. The one thing all four of us editors agreed on is that this stick gives you a good swift shot of sweet cedar, which is the base flavor of the most tasty Fuentes. So, if you can’t afford the pricey Arturos, you can afford this one and still get a blast of honest to goodness Fuente flavor.
OK, so to wrap up this Arturo Fuente Especiales cigar review, I’ve said that the Especiales is a great cigar for the budget conscious, and it’s definitely a great choice for beginners who are trying to find their palate’s sweet spot. But a third option I’ll swear by is that it’s the perfect smoke for when you’re on the golf course, working in the yard or manning the grill. It’s priced right so you won’t mind if it takes a little beating, but will still give the nice tobacco flavor you’re looking for. The Especiales… made by the hands of a great cigar family and priced right when price is important.