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CA Report: The Essential Cigar Advisor Guide to Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary Cigars

Reading Time: 12 minutes

CIGAR ADVISOR’S ESSENTIAL FAMOUS SMOKE SHOP 80th ANNIVERSARY CIGARS TASTING & BUYING GUIDE

UPDATED JULY 2020

Editors/Reviewers: Jared Gulick, Gary Korb, John Pullo

Famous Smoke Shop got its start on the mean streets of Manhattan in 1939; at the time, it wasn’t much more than a tiny newsstand that sold candy and cigars in a space about the size of your garage. In the 80 years that have followed, Famous has grown to become the country’s largest privately held, American-owned online cigar retailer.

Eighty years in business is a significant milestone, indeed…and to celebrate, Famous has partnered with a number of gifted cigarmakers, both big brands and boutiques, to mark the occasion with a limited edition series of anniversary cigars. The intention was to create exclusive blends that not only delivered on flavor and consistency, but also catered to the diverse palates of their customers. Those cigars became The Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary Collection.

Famous Smoke Shop 80th anniversary cigars guide Famous Smoke Shop in New York City's Garment District circa 1980s
Famous Smoke Shop’s home in the Garment District of New York City (circa 1980s).

Nearly all of the 80th Anniversary cigars Famous has commissioned are box pressed: the squared-off shape fits nicely in the hand, smokes cooler, and evokes a refined, artisanal feel. Additionally, all but one cigar is made in the popular (and value-conscious) Toro size. Third, each 80th had to honor Famous’ history of low prices, because every customer – casual cigar enthusiasts and deep-pocketed collectors alike – should be able to enjoy these special smokes.

One thing worth mentioning: even though these blends are affordably priced, they are still limited production cigars – some in batches as small as 700 boxes, making them soon-to-be unicorns.

For this Essential Guide, we’re sharing our notes and experiences with the 80th Anniversary cigars from Romeo y Julieta, Aganorsa Leaf, and AJ Fernandez. As of Summer 2020, we’ve added a rare commemorative version of Arturo Fuente’s Don Carlos to the list, which also boasts Famous 80th cigars from Carrillo Cigar Company and Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. As always, our reviews are subjective – but our basic impressions should tell you what you can expect from each cigar, and help you decide if it’s going to earn a spot in your humidor.

If you’ve already enjoyed any of the Famous 80th blends, tell us what you thought about them by leaving a comment for us at the end of the article.

Famous 80 cigars banner

 

 

Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Personal Reserve Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary Cigar Review 

Country of Origin/Factory: Dominican Republic/Tabacalera Arturo Fuente 
Size: Robusto (5″ x 50) 
Strength: Medium-Plus 
Wrapper: Cameroon 
Binder: Dominican Republic 
Filler: Dominican Republic 

Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Personal Reserve cigar review box 80th Anniversary Famous Smoke Shop

Famous Smoke Shop 80th anniversary cigars guide Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Personal Reserve cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

John Pullo’s Tasting Notes…

Construction: Cameroon wrapper has some veins, a bit of tooth, and wears an evenly shaded dark caramel color. Barrel is firm, seams are noticeable.    
Draw: Free, without resistance. 
Pre-light flavor: Intense flavors just from testing the draw – cocoa sweet, leather and slight spice. Sweet-smelling, too. 
Toasting & Light: Dry leather and hay, along with a goodly amount of spice on the tip of the tongue. 
Base flavors: Cedar, leather, spice, espresso. 
RetrohaleCedar, with a dash of pepper. 
Aroma: Floral, bordering on sweet. 
Burn & Ash Quality: Burn is mostly straight, leaving behind a firm-holding, light grey ash. 
Balance of flavors: Very well-balanced flavors, with moderate complexity. 

arturo Fuente Don carlos Private Reserve cigar review by John Pullo

Summary 

Some quick background on this Fuentethe Don Carlos Personal Reserve “The Man’s 80th” Robusto was made in honor of the late Don Carlos Fuente Sr.’s 80th birthday. Then, Carlito made another special edition; his faithful attempt at providing “The Man’s” personal flavor profile, he called this slightly modified Don Carlos special edition, as a nod to Famous Smoke Shop’s 80 years in the cigar business. As is the Fuente wayit is top-grade Cameroon wrapper over aged Dominican tobaccos.  

Right from the get-go, each draw erupts with thick, rich and chewy smokeSpice quickly stakes its claim, planting a flag right in the middle of your tongue, then surrounds it with primarily darker flavors. This Don Carlos is already showing medium body; it’s also parading a super long finish, with those spices hanging on forever.  

Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Personal Reserve cigar review by gary Korb

By the midway mark, the highlights are cedar and espressoBut some really great flavors step forward here too, including cocoa sweetness and a little bit of the dark fruit you’d find in red wineThe finish is still very long, and the ash continues to stack up neatly. I was able to burn it to the band before the first ash dropped off. 

With an inch to go, the flavors finish out as a pretty aggressive mix of cedar, spice and espresso – in that order of intensity. 

Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Personal Reserve cigar review by Jared Gulick

Now, one might think that Carlos Fuente Sr.’s personal reserve cigar would be some elegant, white glove smoking experience. And it certainly is nice – but there’s a subtle rustic quality there to remind you that Sr. was still a “hands-in-the-dirt” kind of guy at his core. 

Which brings me to another point: did you ever notice that whenever the old cigar masters have a “personal blend” or “private reserve,” they’re never these big, fat 60s? It’s because they know flavor – and this Famous Don Carlos has a lot of it packed into this five inch by (barely) 50 ring gauge frame. It’s a comfortable size to hold, and a real nice size to smoke. I hope you get the chance. 

 

arturo fuente don carlos box symbols meaning
Carlito Fuente buried secrets & Easter eggs in the Don Carlos box design. We decoded them – click to read now…

 

Romeo y Julieta House of Capulet 80th Anniversary Toro Cigar Review

Country of Origin/Factory: Diadema Cigars de Honduras S.A.
Size: 6″ x 52 (Soft-press)
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Connecticut (Ecuador)
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Honduras, Nicaragua

Famous Smoke Shop 80th anniversary cigars guide Romeo Capulet 80th Anniversary cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

John Pullo’s Tasting Notes…

Construction and Overall Appearance: A smooth and silky Ecuador Connecticut, maybe a bit darker than the wrapper on the regular Capulet; this one’s more of a caramel color. Nice oval press, too.
Draw: Clear and easy.
Pre-light flavor: Natural tobacco, green herbs and sweet.
Toasting & Light: Wood, grains and pepper.
Base flavors: Cream, wood, zest and earth.
Retrohale: There’s some pepper in there at the start, for sure; later it’s much more smooth, helping to bring out that creamy base flavor.
Aroma: Subtle – nutty, toasty, and a faint hint of sweet.
Burn / Ash Quality: Ash is the darker side of grey; burn line opens with a bit of a wave, but evens out cleanly.
Balance of flavors: More flavor, less strength.

Summary

You SAY you’re not a fan of box-pressed cigars – but let me show you something in a Romeo…

Being a Connecticut, and being a RyJ, no – we’re not going to be getting a ton of complexity or an outrageous show of strength. But we are going to get a noticeable amount of pepper out of the first few hits – which transitions to a warm and buttery-sweet profile mixed with a bit of citrusy zest on the finish. If you drink vodka tonics, you’ll recognize it: where you take a sip and get a taste of the lime and tonic lingering on your taste buds. Very fresh, very crisp.

Already I could tell that, even though this is the same blend as the RyJ Capulet, my taste buds were going down a far different path…previously, I had reviewed the Capulet and said, “The flavors are not heady – they are subtle. If I had to sum it up in two words, I’d say wood and toast – making the Capulet a great contender to go with a cup of coffee.” But we now have a totally different taste going with this box-pressed Romeo, and I’ll throw down cash money that if you’re familiar with the everyday edition, you’ll find it’s noticeably different than the Capulet you know, too. And just throwing back a cup of coffee with it undervalues this cigar’s potential.

Famous Smoke Shop 80th anniversary cigars guide Romeo Capulet 80th Anniversary cigar review by John Pullo

This is an expression of how box-pressing a cigar – even a modest and more comfortable oval press like this – makes a difference.

Overall, the flavors lean dry…a bit of leather, more than a bit of earth. The Capulet 80th Toro eventually adds a more savory quality – a little sweet, a little salty. It’s more of that little hint of mineral (again, like tonic water), but the sensation is fuller, which got my mind on the taste of white wine. Think Sauvignon Blanc.

A little bit of spice peeks out into the mix for the second half; and again checking my old notes on the original Capulet, I picked up a sweet spice that got me thinking of cinnamon toast. Here, it’s more cinnamon than toast.

There’s not a ton of smoke pouring off the end – but each rip is pretty productive on its own, letting go of a chewy smoke that’s woody and a bit creamy.

So, is it better than the original Romeo y Julieta Capulet? No. It’s just very different…and that is either good or bad for you, depending on how you feel about our original exclusive blend. This 80th is still barely medium in strength – but the flavors are much more forward, like how a smaller ring gauge cigar smokes. That is, this may be a Toro, but smokes with the taste impact of a Corona. So if you prefer smaller cigars for their flavor, but you’re willing to get outside your vitola comfort zone for a good smoke, then yes – try this.

Read our complete review and see more tasting notes for the RyJ Capulet Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary cigar here.

 

Aganorsa Leaf Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary Toro Cigar Review

Country of Origin/Factory: Nicaragua / TABSA S.A
Size: 6″ x 52, box-pressed Toro Marblehead
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
Binder& Filler: Proprietary Nicaraguan Aganorsa

Famous Smoke Shop 80th anniversary cigars guide Aganorsa Leaf 80th Anniversary cigars at Famous Smoke Shop sold out

Gary Korb’s Tasting Notes…

Construction: Excellent. Wrapper has a nice glossiness, even in hue throughout, and topped with a four-seam cap.
Draw: Very good.
Pre-light flavor: Leathery and lightly salty.
Toasting & Light: Excellent. Foot took quickly and evenly to flame. Initial puffs show some nuttiness and a hint of salt, followed by a smack of black pepper.
Base flavors: Earth, light salt & pepper, cedar, sweet spice.
Retrohale: Tangy with some light pepper.
Aroma: Sharp.
Burn & Ash Quality: Very good. Burn was even, revealing a firm grey ash and a thin carbon line.
Balance of flavors: Perfect.

Summary

Following an initial shot of light salt, some nuttiness, and a healthy serving of black pepper, the cigar wasted little time rounding-out, while leaving a trail of pepper on a long and creamy finish. The smoke continued to round-out throughout the first act, settling in to a very smooth, creamy cigar with some additional woody notes and sweet spices.

By the time I got to the midsection, the cigar was playing at full-volume; plenty of dense smoke with all the flavors harmonizing, while the finish remained long and spicy, like the remnant spice of a cinnamon candy.

Famous Smoke Shop 80th anniversary cigars guide Aganorsa Leaf 80th Anniversary cigar review by Gary Korb

This cigar has some mucho savory kick to it, which might make it better suited for enjoying in the afternoon and evening hours. It would probably pair well with just about any fine whiskey or liqueur, even a Cabernet or Port, but I was quite satisfied with this cigar over coffee.

As the cigar came around the clubhouse turn, the flavors transitioned to a slightly sweeter profile. It was also at this juncture that the cigar revealed an additional note of hickory riding shotgun to the sweetness, while the spice continued to languish on the palate. In the final stretch, the smoke remained smooth, full-bodied, and kept just about all of its flavors intact. Quite impressive.

Suffice it to say. . . the Aganorsa Leaf Famous 80th Anniversary is elegant, refined, and loaded with flavor, making it an ideal selection for the avid enthusiast. This cigar will also do right by newer cigar smokers seeking something very unique, and with more depth and complexity.

Read our complete review and see more tasting notes for the Aganorsa Leaf Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary cigar here.

 

AJ Fernandez Enclave Broadleaf Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary Toro Cigar Review 

Country of Origin/Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez – Estelí, Nicaragua    
Size: 6″ x 50 Box-pressed Toro
Strength: Medium-plus
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder/Filler: Nicaragua
Presentation: Limited Edition boxes of 10 (Only 300 boxes produced.)

Famous Smoke Shop 80th anniversary cigars guide AJ Fernandez Enclave Broadleaf 80th Anniversary cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Jared Gulick’s Tasting Notes…

Construction: A light tooth to the wrapper, chocolate brown in hue, and a rustic cap.
Draw: Smooth.
Pre-light flavor: Floral and fruity. Sweet.
Toasting & Light: Savory and nutty.
Base flavors: Coffee, salt, bread, fruit, and floral notes.
Retrohale: Peppery and floral that gets sweeter as the cigar progresses.
Aroma: Roasted peanuts.
Burn & Ash Quality: Burns straight with a rock-solid ash.
Balance of flavors: Well-executed.

Summary

My initial dive into the Enclave Broadleaf Famous 80th by AJ Fernandez will be different from most. The new vitola and box-pressing will surely carry some differences, so let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

Beginning with the pre-light, I noticed some light echoes of a floral, fruity sweetness that progressed into a savory nuttiness once the cigar was lit. Up front, Enclave 80th was headstrong, peppery, and it fits AJ’s signature level of strength note for note…but not for long.

AJ Fernandez Enclave Broadleaf Famous 80th Anniversary cigar review by Jared Gulick cigar in ashtray

After burning through the first inch, the power tapered off and it settled in as a balanced smoke through the remainder of my session – an attribute that I loved.

Fairly soon afterward, I noticed that the cigar was somewhat static. There were no crests or troughs, but it was a non-issue when I considered the flavor profile. Notes of coffee, salt, and bread kept pace along with a faint floral sweetness on the finish. To say that this blend exhibited a Cuban quality is an understatement, so if that’s your kind of thing, you’re going to be left satisfied. Fans of AJ will still feel at home, but the added benefit of a medium-bodied appeal will put this in many more hands. Yours should be one of them.

Read our complete review and see more tasting notes for the AJF Enclave Broadleaf Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary cigar here.

 

EP CARRILLO FAMOUS SMOKE SHOP 80TH ANNIVERSARY TORO CIGAR REVIEW 

Country of Origin/Factory: Tabacalera Alianza – Dominican Republic
Size: Toro (6 1/8″ x 50, box-pressed)
Strength: Medium to Medium-Full
Wrapper: U.S. Hybrid Connecticut Habano
Binder: Ecuador Sumatra
Filler: Nicaragua

ep carrillo famous smoke shop 80th anniversary cigar review at Famous Smoke Shop sold out

John Pullo’s Tasting Notes…

Construction: The meaty, dark brown wrapper on this soft press toro has some obvious texture, along with a nice bit of oil.
Draw: Nice, with some resistance.
Pre-light flavor: Sweet, like raisin – along with natural tobacco, wood and tea.
Toasting & Light: Pepper and charred oak – but doesn’t take long for some sweetness to creep in.
Base flavors: Pepper, oak, earth and crispy zest (in that order of intensity).
Retrohale: White pepper, oak, and a fresh green vegetable type sensation.
Aroma: Floral and wood.
Burn & Ash Quality: Near white ash is nicely stacked – excellent burn.
Balance of flavors: Flavors play very well together, even the “drive-bys.”

Summary

After a bitey, peppery start, the EP Carrillo Family Series Famous 80th gets a little creamy after some time puffing on it. And half an inch in, the sweetness is more apparent – bordering on “raisin-esque.”

As this sweetness builds, so does the body – there’s a smack of charred oak, and the finish develops a taste that’s something between coffee and leather. But it doesn’t get truly strong; while this Carrillo LE cigar starts out medium in both body and strength, it finishes only a notch or two above that. Smoke production is very satisfying.

ep carrillo famous smoke shop 80th anniversary cigar review by John Pullo

Then come the drive-by flavors.

What I mean by that: the base flavors establish themselves pretty early on…then, in pops a tasty nuance that complements the main taste profile, but disappears just as you recognize it. Sometimes it’s that raisin sweetness; others, it’s damp earth. A little later, it adds a fresh green vegetable or herb taste. If you grow tomatoes or peppers at home, you’ll know what I’m talking about – that scent that hangs in the air and sticks to your fingers when you rub your hand up against the tomato plant’s leaves.

The EPC Famous 80th Anniversary is closely related to the La Historia and Encore (2018’s #1 cigar of the year), which all fall into the Family Series – at the top of the EPC pyramid of blends:

ep carrillo famous smoke shop 80th anniversary cigar review epc cigar lineup pyramid

Taste-wise, the Famous 80th falls right in between those two cigars: I’d say La Historia is sweeter, while Encore is more woody-earthy. This one we’re smoking splits the difference, taking on a bit of taste from each.

A top-tier smoke from Ernesto Perez-Carrillo – and as an affordable limited run selection, consider this a great treat-yourself cigar.

Read our complete review and see more tasting notes for the EP Carrillo Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary cigar here.

 

DUNBARTON TOBACCO & TRUST FAMOUS SMOKE SHOP 80TH ANNIVERSARY TORO CIGAR REVIEW 

Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size:
 Box-Pressed Toro (6” x 52)
Strength: Medium (listed Full)
Wrapper: Nicaragua Sun Grown
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua

Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary cigars guide Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust 80th Anniversary cigars at Famous Smoke Shop sold out

Jared Gulick’s Tasting Notes…

Construction: Dark, a little oily, and well rolled with a sturdy cap.
Draw: Excellent.
Pre-light flavor: Earthy and fresh.
Toasting & Light: Sweet with notes of baking chocolate.
Base flavors: Coffee bean, baking chocolate, spices, and peppers.
Retrohale: Woody, toasty, spicy, and smooth.
Aroma: Semi-sweet and a little reminiscent of a darker hot cocoa.
Burn & Ash Quality: Firm salt and pepper ash with no notable burn issues.
Balance of flavors: Perfect.

Summary

Steve Saka needs no introduction, so I’m not going to give one. Chances are good that by the time you’ve read this review, this limited run of 250 boxes has sold out. If they haven’t, let me just spoil this and say that if you want to get in on this addition to the Famous 80th Anniversary party, you might want to take the plunge right now.

Dunbarton 80th opens up with a crisp, earthy quality on the pre-light. Some sweetness gets added in once it’s aflame, and I was awarded with some overtones of baking chocolate shortly afterward. I’ve had a few samples, and this intro lasts anywhere from 1-3 inches before the smoke evolves with a heavy emphasis on roasted coffee beans.

Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary cigars guide Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust 80th Anniversary cigar review by Jared Gulick

Throughout my session, I found that this blend exudes a gentle complexity. Coffee is almost always on the frontlines, but I found a dusting of wood, toast, sweet spices, and peppers, too. And if you’re of the retrohaling persuasion, you may share my take on it being smooth. It even gets a little vegetal at times.

Most of Saka’s creations reside in the fuller spectrum, but I found this to be pretty toned down in comparison. If you’re able to get your hands on this soon-to-be Saka Unicorn 2.0, I think you’ll be anything but let down – because this is as delicious as cigars get.

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The Cigar Advisor Staff is comprised of three good-humored, yet dangerously unpredictable writers who share over 60 years of premium cigar smoking experience. Traversing the tobacco landscape like smoke-shrouded Avengers, they wander (mostly because the fat one ate the map) in search of new leaf adventures armed with nothing but torch lighters and runcible spoons as their weapons. Each is equally knowledgeable on the matters and pursuits of the cigar lifestyle, with his own unique and capricious insights on various luxury, sports, automobiles and entertainment affairs - all served with good counsel for your reading pleasure.

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