Review: Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Senior Blend
In addition to the Don Carlos, which is the blend crafted by its namesake Carlos Fuente Sr., a small number of cigars are actually made exclusively for the patriarch of the Fuente family, the Don Carlos Senior Blend. On the outside, the Senior Blend looks like a typical Don Carlos, although Fuente doesn’t make the 5 x 48 Robusto as part of the normal Don Carlos line. Inside, the cigar is presumed to be completely different with the exact details publicly unknown.
The wonderful vitolas.net has the lengthiest description of the legendary cigar:
This special blend of Don Carlos cigar is never released, it is only given away (such as at CFC 2002, 2005, and 2006) or occasionally auctioned. The blend is specially created by and for Carlos Fuente Senior; it’s the cigar he smokes.
This cigar is rolled by only one roller in one vitola only, making 50 cigars a week, this cigar has a Don Carlos profile, but has a very unique taste, due to the usage of tobacco that’s not rolled into any other cigar Fuente makes.The tobacco is aged wrapper from the Oliva farm (the same wrapper used on VSGs), put into the cigar as filler.
The wrapper and filler tobacco used to create this cigar is among the best the Fuentes have available: both have at least a decade of age on them.
The Senior Blend is still given out at select events attended by Carlos Fuente Sr., as well as by the man in person, who is rarely seen without a few mysterious cigars, oftentimes the Senior Blend, in the pocket of his guayabera.
In addition, for the past two years, Fuente has gifted a select group of retailers specially-banded versions of the Senior Blend in the form of the Don Carlos 75th and Don Carlos 76th. A single box was given to each retailer free of charge as thanks for their support in honor of Carlos Fuente Sr.’s 75th and 76th birthdays.
Here is all three known versions of the Don Carlos Senior Blend:
And the particulars.
Cigar Reviewed: Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Senior Blend
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia
Size: 5 Inches
Ring Gauge: 48
Release Date: 2002
Number of Cigars Released: n/a
Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 2
Outside, it’s hard to tell the difference given the wrapper of the Senior Blend and any other Don Carlos. It’s classic Cameroon in appearance, but in the Fuente style including a smoother wrapper than the typical African tobacco. Aroma-wise, it doesn’t smell like much Cameroon. There’s lot of sourness, an edgy pepper and a bit of the leather and barnyard associated normally with Cameroon, although it’s minor. From the foot, there’s a salty nuttiness, much more edge and pepper, grilled meats and a bit of acetone. It’s full and rich, quite different than anything else I’ve ever had. Cold draw is tight with some cedar, peppers, a bit of meatiness and lots of cinnamon. It’s medium-full and not overly complex.
The first third begins very Cameroon-like, which is odd because the initial aroma from the Don Carlos Senior blend is mainly just cedar and pepper. There’s a medium sweet nuttiness that literally caramelizes before the cedar and earth take over. Once again, not pushing the limits of complexity, but it’s sweet and very well-developed. This trend continues with the Cameroon sweet leather and nuttiness dominating, a bit of Dominican cedar, sweet cocoa and touches of pepper. Midway through there’s a brief cotton candy note that leaves sugarcane on the palate for the entire first third. Draw is still tight, fine for me, but others might have issue.
Into the second third and the journey of the Senior Blend continues. There’s a great creaminess and meatiness that emerge alongside the nuts and leather. Overall, the Don Carlos is much more mature than the first third. The burn in the first third of one of the cigars was plagued by a burn that almost required my correcting. My liberal approach paid off and the burn corrected itself perfectly as the smoke production picked up, likely due to an opening draw. Strength is now medium-full up noticeably from the medium-state of the first third.
The final third is even more mature. Leather, cocoa, sugarcane, cedar and a touch of barnyard dominate the profile of the Don Carlos Senior Blend. At times, the nuttiness comes surging back, but it comes and goes. Strength is now an interesting full, it doesn’t creep up, given that it’s always there, but it is a bit shocking. By the end, construction is solid with the lone complaint being the temperature of the smoke itself, more on that below.
- The closest size to the Don Carlos Senior Blend in the regular Don Carlos blend is the Don Carlos Robusto at 5 1/4 x 50.
- In both Senior Blends I smoked, the temperature of the cigar was a lot warmer than most. I’m not really sure what it was, as I doubt it was my slow smoking, but from the get, the smoke was warm. It doesn’t become problematic, although it does gradually increase over time.
- There are few cigars that are as forgiving when it comes to flavor and smoke rate. I smoked a Don Carlos 75th a year and was shocked that even moving a bit quicker than I should have, the flavor profile delivered each and every time. It truly is resilient.
- The Don Carlos 77th is expected in the next few months.
- This is not the only special Don Carlos created, although it’s probably the most desired. There’s the Prometheus collaboration Don Carlos Edición de Aniversario limited releases, Don Carlos Shark and the Don Carlos Lancero, which was commercially released in limited quantities late last year.
- The bands on all Don Carlos and Hemmingways changed in mid-2011, as such the Don Carlos 76th and presumably all future versions will include the slightly-changed blends.
- Strength by thirds: medium plus, medium-full and full.
- The concept of personal cigars to handout to friends and visitors is far from rare: Cohiba, Trinidad and AVO are the common and most noted examples. Others include: León Jimenes Don Fernando, Tatuaje Black Label and Viaje War Hammer.
- The Don Carlos Senior Blend has never officially been commercially sold, although some retailers have sold the 75th and 76th versions.
- With my generally slow smoking pace, the Don Carlos Senior Blend takes one hour and 15 minutes.
The Bottom Line: The Don Carlos #3 is probably my favorite Don Carlos release of all time, except for the Senior Blend. This is not a cigar like the Compay 95 Aniversario, where the cigar exhibits intense and sometimes overbearing amounts of complexity, rather the Senior Blend features a medium stable of flavors, some more common and some peculiar — all very developed. Like the Don Fernando, the cigar is the personal cigar of Carlos Fuente Sr. and it seems to embody the man perfectly: classic with a few tricks up its sleeves.
Final Notes: 93