Special Edition; Limitada; Reserva; Aniversario…when cigars have these titles, we know they are cigars of distinction; with one distinction being their high price. For example the “regular” Padron line sells in the $6 range, but if we want to sample the elite 80th Anniversary cigar, it will set us back a whopping $33! That’s more than five times the cost. Or take the Arturo Fuente line: $6 for their “regular” Sun Grown cigars vs. $79 for an Opus X “A”…ouch! That’s thirteen times the cost! But are these cigars really worth the huge increase in price? Is this the only thing that makes them distinctive? Without breaking the bank I set out to see just how special these “special” cigars really were, and whether they were worth the extra expense. What I found was that this question had many answers and brought up some conflicting emotions.
Why are they “special”?
Unlike strawberries at the grocer, it’s hard to tell the quality of a cigar by looking and squeezing. The best cigars are not plump and juicy, and only an expert can tell one tobacco leaf from the next. But we DO know a great cigar when we smoke one. Cigar aficionados quickly learn that price does not foreshadow quality. Yet all cigar companies offer cigars at myriad price points. Are the most expensive ones always the best? Many cigar companies offer ultra premium lines at ultra premium prices. Can these premium prices be justified? Let’s talk about:
After cigar tobacco is grown, cured, and aged, the next important step in cigar making is leaf sorting. This is where the tobacco leaves are separated by type, grade and color. Leaf sorting goes through many stages, and continues until the moment the cigar is rolled. During this sorting process, the best leaves are reserved for the best cigars. Consequently, only a small percentage of the total harvest is suitable for a cigar makers’ “premium” line. This scarcity of raw material can drive up the price of these cigars.
This may explain why some cigars cost more than others, but does it justify a price multiple times its standard line? Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no. Cigar prices can be part of a company’s marketing strategy. Brands like Stradivarius rely on high cigar prices to give their product the appearance of exclusivity. Although these cigars are considered decent, the $30+ price tag suggests a quality that many feel is inflated. But in other cases, the additional cost truly reflects a quantitative jump in cigar flavor and uniqueness. This is certainly true when it comes to our first example: the prestigious Fuente Opus X.
The Creme de la Creme.
Cigars from the Dominican Republic have a distinctive flavor. And no other cigar exemplifies this Dominican flavor better than those made by Arturo Fuente. Long considered one of the best cigar companies in the world, they also grow and process tons of premium tobacco. The first to produce wrapper leaf in the Domincan Republic, Fuente has developed a super high-grade product at their plantation Chateau de la Fuente. It is this wrapper that adorns their Opus X line. Over the years I’ve smoked a number of different Fuente cigars and am familiar with the nutty, herbal quality that runs through their entire line. This familiarity led me to choose the Opus X for a quality comparison. Would the Opus X be much better than the standard Fuente line? For this experiment I chose the:
Opus X Robusto Rare Estate 1992.
Actually, choosing the Robusto was a matter of necessity. It was the only Opus X I could find. All the online vendors were sold out of these rare and highly sought-after cigars. As it turned out, this was a very good choice.
The Robusto comes in a beautiful tin containing three cigars. Each cigar is encased in a cedar sleeve. I chose to smoke this stick right out of the cellophane and the incredible pre-lit flavor was intense, with a strong presence of herbs and licorice. I could tell right away that this was going to be an outstanding smoking experience…and it was. Tremendous complexity, deep flavors of fruit, licorice, and honey; this was a cigar I could not put down. If I could afford to, this would be the only cigar I would ever smoke. It was that good. But its $30 price tag and limited availability relegates the Opus X Robusto to “special occasion” status. It’s a cigar I won’t be sharing, and will smoke in solitude with the lights turned low. I’ll want to savor every puff.
So, in the case of the Opus X Robusto vs. the “standard” Fuente line, the extra expense could be easily justified. But the Robusto was “only” $30. Would a $50 Opus X be even better?
The crème de la crème…de la crème?
To up the ante even more I chose a cigar gifted to me three years ago. I was saving it for the exact right moment and, well, I guess this is it. (It’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it!) Next up was the:
Fuente Opus X Rising X 2008.
At $50/stick I was anticipating a cigar experience like no other. The presentation was certainly opulent. With its single coffin case and gold and red double rings, this cigar looked expensive. It was a box pressed double perfecto with a cap resembling that of a whale’s tail. Cutting this beauty seemed like defacing a work of art. But cut I did, and unlike the Opus X Robusto, the pre-lit flavor and draw was disappointing. There was absolutely no flavor on my lips and the draw was non-existent. Fact is, this stick was almost completely plugged. I cut it three times trying to get a draw. Eventually I broke through enough to proceed, but the draw was never better than very tight.
Smoking the Rising X just went from bad to worse. It had a bitter, burnt charcoal flavor that reminded me of the fake Cuban cigar someone gave me last week. To cut to the chase, this $50 cigar is one I wouldn’t smoke again if it were free. I put it down after two inches and had to chew jellybeans to purge my palette of its awful finish. What a tremendous disappointment. Unlike the Opus X Robusto, the Rising X did not justify its high price. (Side bar: It’s hard to believe that an Opus X could be so awful. These are usually excellent cigars and I can only figure this stick was an anomaly.)
Now on to Padron…
I’ve been smoking Padron cigars from day one and have seen the expansion of the “Anniversary” line first hand. At first I resented these expensive cigars and viewed them as simply a marketing ploy. I later boycotted the entire brand because I felt the standard Padron line had suffered at the hands of the more expensive offerings. These days I have a less judgmental approach to the Padron cigars but generally prefer the Anniversary sticks to their standard line of cigars. Now, enter the:
Padron 80th Anniversary Maduro
Here we sort of skip a step. There seems to be three tiers of Padron quality. First is the standard lineup (i.e. 2000-8000), next the Anniversary lineup (1964 and 1926), and finally the most exclusive 1926 40th, 80th, and other small batch Anniversary editions. For the sake of this experiment, we jump right to the upper level 1926 80th Anniversary. And what a jump it is!
I chose this cigar because it is already one of my favorites and I had some on hand. I prefer the maduro wrapper when it comes to Padron, and the 80th is dressed in superb tobacco leaf. Comparing the standard Padron maduro to this cigar is simply unfair.
The Padron 1926 80th Anniversary Maduro is a cigar of such richness and intensity, that it stands alone as possibly the best maduro cigar ever made. That’s a bold statement and others may disagree (we all have different tastes and preferences), but this cigar delivers everything I look for in a maduro; rich dark chocolate, espresso, fruit, a perfect draw and construction, and undeniable strength. It’s a cigar I simply can’t smoke in one sitting, making it an all-evening cigar. There is no cigar I’d rather smoke on a formal occasion than the 1926 80th Anniversary maduro. Is it worth $30? Absolutely.
Do they have to be expensive?
Well, the fact is, special cigars can be found for well under $10/stick. But it takes a lot of homework to trace the pedigree of a cigar. And the pedigree will determine a cigar’s quality. What do I mean by pedigree? That’s all about the cigar blender, the tobaccos used, and the factory that rolls the cigar. I don’t expect the casual cigar smoker to be interested in that sort of thing, but to me, this information feeds my cigar obsession. Occasionally the confluence of blender, tobacco, and factory will produce a truly exceptional cigar that, without the proper homework, can go virtually unnoticed by the general cigar-smoking population. One such cigar is the:
Aging Room, Small Batch M356.
The Aging Room M356 came about when a limited amount of exceptional Domincan tobacco was brought to the attention of Rafael Nodal of Oliveros Cigars. With not enough tobacco for a standard production run, Nodal decided this tobacco was too good to dismiss. Thus was the beginning of this truly “special”, small batch cigar. In the recent article A Unique Cigar With a New Kind of Kick (Joe’s Gems), I extol the virtues of the M356 and how its effervescent quality was unlike any I’d experienced before. But what’s important to note here is that at $7/stick, this cigar is as flavorful and satisfying as any cigar, regardless of price. The M356 has tons of wonderful Domincan flavor, (see above) with an intensity that challenges the senses. Smoking this cigar feels like a special event, but at an everyday cigar price. The M356 illustrates that when rare, exceptional tobacco is put in the hands of a master blender, cigar magic can happen. Another such cigar is the:
Los Hermanos Robusto
Here again, cigar pedigree breeds perfection. Made at Raices Cubanas (Illusione, Viaje), using Aganorsa tobacco, and blended by Arsenio Ramos (Casa Fernandez), the entire Los Hermanos line is outstanding.
Casa Fernandez makes terrific cigars across the board, and has a number of outstanding lines in production. In the case of the Los Hermanos, it is rolled just once a year. Carefully selected tobaccos are used in this small batch run, making the Los Hermanos a truly special cigar. Perfect construction, intense flavors of black pepper, leather, and rich tobacco gives the smoker the impression of an expensive, “exclusive” cigar. And at $5/stick, the Robusto can go head to head with cigars costing much more. With perfectly aged Corojo 99 and Criollo 98 tobacco, coupled with decades of cigar blending experience, it’s no wonder why this cigar is exceptional. It would be special at any price.
So what makes a cigar special?
This “experiment” shows that, above all, when great tobacco is put in the hands of talented blenders and manufacturers, great things can happen. But when “special” tobacco is used, the end result can be truly extraordinary. And it’s not always about price. Sometimes it will be an expensive cigar that pushes the boundaries of flavor; other times an obscure stick will grab our attention, and cost a fraction of those exclusive brands.
In the case of the Padron 1926 80th Anniversary, the exceptional tobacco and additional fermentation and aging makes for an extraordinary cigar…but at a price. On the flip side the Aging Room M356 is equally worthy, but a fraction of the cost. Does that mean the later is a better cigar? If we judge a cigar in terms of value then yes, the M356 is better. But price aside, all but one cigar mentioned in this article are equally exceptional. If we want to experience the best cigars in the world then sometimes we just have to pay the price. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s the expense that can make for a “special occasion” cigar. If it’s the only cigar of its kind in our inventory, it will be one to savor with every puff; to reflect on how wonderful life is with a truly great cigar.
But the best news is that we don’t have to pay a lot to have a great cigar smoking experience. Over the last decade, cigar making has improved to the point that we can always find a great cigar within our budget. Ultimately finding any cigar we love makes it a special cigar. But when we want something extraordinary, and have an upcoming celebration, it’s rewarding and fun to be indulgent. ‘Cause when that “special” cigar is truly special, it can make for a Cigar Memory unlike any other. And great memories are priceless.
Thanks for listening,
This is always one of the toughest decisions to make when at the neighborhood shop. Do I splurge and purchase a high priced stick or do I buy a five pack that comes with promising reviews? With our depressed economy I really appreciate the information contained in your article. It looks like the Aging Room and Los Hermanos Robusto will get my hard earned dollars when it’s time to make that decision. Thanks for passing on the savings!
Great read Joe. I have had similar experiences with Opus, although I have not smoked too many of them.
I totally agree with your aqssesment of Padron cigars. I think the difference between Padron’s production cigars and limited editions is night and day. Over the last 5 or 6 years Padron’s quality in the 2000-8000 lines has fallen heavily. And as you stated the high end lines are some of the finest cigars on the planet these days. For me a strictly special occasion cigar at $30 plus a stick.
I am so looking forward to trying an Aging Room smoke.
Keep up the fine work
Great read. Its a good question to ask yourself when plonking down your hard earned on $50 or $60 smoke. I’ve often wondered if I’ll get 6 times the enjoyment out of a $60 stick than i will out of a $10 stick. I guess part of what makes having a “special occation” smoke is knowing how much it cost and knowing that you’d need a really good reason to spend that kind of money on another one.
That being said, can you please let me know where you found the Opus X Robusto Rare Estate 1992?
Opus X are one of my fav cigar lines (I’m including cubans) and they are one of the few smokes that i have a hard time not justifying the price
Thanks for your comment Polar Bear!
I found the Opus X Robusto by performing a Google search. My first tin was purchased at bestcigarprices.com. Other than the Lost City cigars, the Robusto was the only Opus X they had. I didn’t want the Lost City because the tobacco used in these sticks were not from Fuente’s usual harvest. That was important because of the nature of my “experiment”. I have recently bought some Opus X Robusto tins from cigarsdirect.com and atlanticcigar.com. The atlanticcigar.com VIP pricing was the best deal.
I hope this helps in your search for these wonderful cigars.
Joe – thanks for the quality feedback. I’m a big fan of Fuente & Padron high end cigars. I recently had the same experience you had with the Rising X, bad draw, bite taste and had to cut it down to the band to get a decent draw. I smoked a few BBMF and found them to be worth the $65 spent. I just enjoyed a 80 Anniversary today (always a great smoke packing a punch). My all time favorite is a Partagas AA and Montercristo #2
The extraordinary Opus X Robusto is a great smoke – I was fortunate to get a tin last summer from a close friend of Carlos Fuente Jr. who owns a cigar shop and get limited edition Fuentes.
Great insight and review on some of the cigars you have here. Have quiet a few Opus X and Padron and Aging Room. Was searching to know what is too much time for the Opus X to rest?
Mike, thanks for your comment. Opus X cigars are strong, and can benefit from years of aging. But the longer they rest, the more they will mellow out. So if you want to preserve some of that spicy punch, then don’t let them rest more than a couple of years. And leave the cello on. But if you want a super smooth, mellow Opus X, let them age at least ten years.
You’re actually getting quoted way overpriced on the opus even if you buy online and not at a brick-and-mortar cigar store. Other than the things like the rising ask which comes in a coffin and is from a set called the Opus 22 or it has 22 rare cigar shapes the rest of the cigars Are priced probably three or four times with their MSRP is. Even online you can find an opus Robusto for maybe $15 fairly easily if you watch the certain sites that sell them online not cigars direct which Galjour’s people. However, if you watch the sites that sell them and sold out fairly quickly you can easily get a good deal on opus regular sizes. I even picked up five love affairs which are considered a fairly rare size today. One good place to start is tampasweerhearts.com. The website and the actual brick-and-mortar store is owned by a for Fuente nephew or son. They have the best prices on all the actual Arturo Fuente products. They do not sell opus X normal releases and less you’re at the store. However they have a section of the store labeled rare and hard to find. What they do then is make up like 5 to 10 packs of very rare cigars including Opus x. I just purchased a sampler/pack they put together that has the extremely rare and no normally extremely expensive from many retailers that gouged the price. It’s called the opus X rosado oscuro. It’s totally different and has a yellow band at the bottom instead of the normal opus red band. The wrapper is completely different as it’s a rosado oscuro and rosados are not frequently fermented to you Oscuro level. So, there are websites that sell this box of 15 cigars for this planned I’m talking about and they sell them for $700 and people are buying them. The MSRP the Arturo Fuente recommends is $250 and tax. I could understand a little Mark up but there’s definite Price gougers out there. What Tampa sweethearts does though is spreads things along so that everybody who buys from them is able to try some of the rare cigars. So I recently purchased a pack that was $110. It had three sizes of the Opus x rosado oscuro which if you can find them in singles or a small pack they are marked up extremely high unless you have a good brick-and-mortar cigar store and have a relationship with them, so they have those three that I mention they have an open sex lost city Toro, they also have a Fuente Anejo 50. For $110. Now that sounds very expensive but the cigars that make up the bulk of the pack are being bought by people for $50 apiece. So you get those cigars at a great rate and some excellent cigars added in. You can also get the San Carlos personal reserve and the personal reserve I have the shark which if you’re from familiar with the shark size is the round to square vitola. You can get a pack to try those cigars which again our price gouged all over the Internet paired with some other extremely rare and hard to fine cigars for again maybe $100 for a six or seven cigars of extreme rarity. The website has the cheapest rate anywhere online for actual normal Fuente product including Ashton VSG, Hemingway’s, normal don Carlos, The 858 sign grown which is an excellent cigar fresh and even better aged is available for $6.50 a cigar most stores with tax and sometimes a mark up you get that and nine dollars or eight dollars. There an excellent cigar you can buy a single a five pack 10 pack or a box. Now when you mentioned the rising ask that is included and what’s called the Opus 20 to set it’s 22 this year they added one extra cigar in and it’s at the extremely rare sizes. I personally don’t advise picking one up in less you have a lot of money to burn. I lucked out when I bought a rising ask just on its own when I was at for Fuente mania at Holts in Fuente and I lucked out as I let it age for a couple of years and it was one of the best opus of smoked. However I have heard people say that some of the cigars in the coffins from the Opus 20 to set can be hit or miss as far as having some bad apples in that batch. Whatever you do don’t purchase from cigars direct VA mark up any of their stock for Arturo Fuente by 3 to 4 or times or more. You can also buy the new casa Cuba line on the site. You can also find sampler’s that have different rare cigars and the Casa Cuba Divine Insperatio,” The late Carlos Fuente was the one who came up with the CC line. When he was in his hospital slowly passing away he actually came up with a blend in his head and called it into carlos Fuente jr in dictated it over the phone as far as what blends and fermentation he had in mind that was the last cigar that he designed. It’s an excellent cigar in my Pinyan and again that’s another one it’s gouged. You can get them for under $10 and a five pack at the site and mention. Also the personal reserve and the eye of the shark are of the land that’s a very tweet San Carlos plans that the lake Carlos Fuente had rolled every couple months in batches of 50 for his own personal smoking use he was also handing out as gifts to friends or to people. Before you could only find them at that one event I mentioned in Philadelphia and they were $30 I believe. For their final release of that blend they drop the price down substantially. They may look like a Don Carlos from the outside. However, they are extremely different. For example, one of the fillers is the cigar wrapper from the Ashton VSG as well as the cigar wrapper of the opus inside the filler. There is actual Don Carlos tobacco in the cigars well but it’s a completely different cigar and the site lets you buy at it again in a pack with some additional cigars such as the Don Carlos addition tobacco in the cigars well but it’s a completely different cigar and the site lets you buy at it again in a pack with some additional cigars such as the Don Carlos edicion Anniversario or normal Casa Cuba, there are sites and people online that sell the eye of the shark personal reserve blind or the personal reserve Robusto at $30 apiece. You can definitely gets an excellent samplers. Also there is a cigar that is expensive there and it is the actual MSRP it’s the Don Carlos edicion Anniversario which is actually $29.99 per cigar but is a cigar with the opus x cigar wrapper and a very and to me takes like a mix of an opus and a Don Carlos. However, even though the current release shows a date of 2008 on the van it’s still the same 2006 planned and roll so the cigars have an extreme amount of age on them are just amazing. An are just amazing. Anejos can also be bought by the box on this website and if you keep checking you can fine packs that have more opus in them if you want classic opus X . So, I would recommend Frequently checking the rare and hard to find section on that website Tampasweethearts.com. Also there is a website called Emersons cigar. They also sell opus at very close to the MSRP. With them you have to check the site frequently because the soon as they get some in stock there sold very quickly because they don’t se they also sell opus at very close to the MSRP. With them you have to check the site frequently because the soon as they get some in stock there sold very quickly because they don’t Mark them up at all. So you’re getting cigars at the correct rate like maybe $10 for an opus number five which technically should be eight dollars but there’s taxes etc. some websites would charge you 20. Also, I would recommend the Edgars.com and niceash cigar. Those are also two websites that get opus in stock but sell very quickly I try to make a habit of checking the sites daily and it does pay off. egars.com also has a very frequently updated and highly stock selection of li also has a very frequently updated and highly stock selection of Liga Privada both the #9, the T52 blend, and most importantly the Unico series which is very rare and highly sought after and excellent boutique/small batch cigars. If you’ve never heard of them or if you have they are the ones that have the dirty rat, the ratzilla, the L-40(unico Serie- in a Lancero size), and finally the UF – 13 which is an excellent cigar in the Unico series. I just wanted to post some of these options I know this is an old post but I wanted to give some people some options for buying online and not having to pay an arm and a leg.
I apologize for my spelling and grammatical errors I was using speech to text on my iPad and that doesn’t always come out right.