There are a number of cigar vitolas that have been produced in enough quantities over the years that they are visually instantly recognizable to cigar aficionados and casual smokers alike, a list that includes Camacho’s 11/18, La Flor Dominicana’s Chisel and Drew Estate’s Flying Pig.
Perhaps one of the most famous of the unusual shapes would have to be Arturo Fuente’s Shark, which is essentially a cigar in a round to square shape. Although the cap looks similar to a normal rounded cap, as the cigar progresses to the foot, the shape gradually squares up until it ends at a perfect square at the end. Although it was never officially released, the first names given to this shape were Round To Square Shape and Bull Shark when it was handed out as a prototype during Cigar Family Charitable Foundation’s event in 1999, although that incarnation featured more of a rounded cap as opposed to the pointed belicoso-style cap that would be seen in later production versions.
The first commercially available release of the uniquely shaped cigar was in 2001, when Fuente made it part of the Añejo line of cigars, albeit a year after the rest of the line debuted in 2000. Named Añejo Shark No.77, the 5 3/4 x 52 vitola came to be known as the Shark for a rather amusing reason, which was posted on the long defunct Vitolas.net website:
The Añejo Shark was actually made and named because of Marvin Shanken (Cigar Aficionado owner) and Carlito’s brother in-law, Wayne Suarez. Carlito named it the “SS Shark” because they both loved this vitola and blend; one “S” stood for Shanken and the other “S” stood for Suarez.
The “No.77” designation comes not from the ring gauge of this cigar, as it does for the other cigars in the Añejo line, but rather from a more amusing reason altogether. Carlito took his kids to Sea World in Orlando, FL, and there noticed that some of the sharks in the tank had two pectoral fins, which looked sort of like two 7’s.
While there have been a number of different versions of the Shark—a list that includes the OpusX Shark, Diamond Crown Julius Caeser Shark, Don Carlos Private Reserve Eye of the Shark and the never released Suarez Shark—one of the most interesting versions in my mind has always been known as the Sand Shark.
This particular incarnation is basically just a Cameroon-wrapped Añejo Shark No.77 that replaced the normal Connecticut broadleaf maduro wrapper found on the Añejo line with a Cameroon wrapper. The cigar debuted in November 2006 as part of a Holt’s Cigars sampler named the Carlito’s Way sampler which included five different cigars priced at $50. Only about 2,000 of the Carlito’s Way samplers were sold and it remains the only public commercially sold release of the Sand Shark to date.
This is how Holt’s described the Carlito’s Way Sampler when it was originally sold:
Carlito’s Way Sampler $50.00
This sampler is unbelievable! This could be the single most sensational sampler in the history of cigars! Not only is each cigar here fantastic, but also extremely rare. Let’s put it this way: You have a better chance of finding Jimmy Hoffa than you do of finding these 5 marvelous cigars anywhere other than Holt’s! The Arturo Fuente Añejo Special Release Cameroon Shark has never even been sold before! We anticipate a full-scale feeding frenzy. Here’s the story behind this sampler!
About a month ago, the Holt’s Tasting Committee was lounging around Holt’s headquarters smoking a boatload of cigars as usual. We had a couple minutes to spare, so we decided to design the ultimate 5-cigar sampler. We put in a call to our main man Carlos Fuente Jr. and bada bing bada boom – he made it happen! Carlito blended and manufactured each of these cigars and is a huge proponent of this 5-cigar selection. Now we’re thinking: If Holt’s is able to bring you something as outstanding as this sampler, why shop for cigars anyplace else? That’s a darn good question. Enjoy while supplies last!
- 1 Arturo Fuente Anejo Special Release Cameroon Shark (5.88 x 64)
- 1 Arturo Fuente Hemingway Work of Art Maduro (4.88 x 60)
- 1 Ashton Virgin Sun Grown Wizard (6 x 56)
- 1 Fuente Fuente Opus X Belicoso XXX (4.63 x 49)
- 1 Fuente Fuente Opus X Perfecxion X (6.25 x 48)
Here is what I said in my first review back in 2010:
In my mind, the Arturo Fuente Añejo Sand Shark is a prime example of how nothing more than a different wrapper change can change the flavors of a cigar in major ways. The regular maduro Añejo Shark is a spicy wood bomb, and with nothing more than a different wrapper, it turns into a creamy, sweet goodness, but keeps the best flavors from the blend. This blend is infinitely more complex than the maduro version and there is plenty of spice to keep the sweetness in check. This is one of those rare cigars that is actually worth tracking down and paying for.
- Cigar Reviewed: Arturo Fuente Añejo Reserva Xtra Viejo Limitada No. 77 "Sand Shark"
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia
- Wrapper: Cameroon
- Binder: n/a
- Filler: n/a
- Length: 5 5/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Belicoso
- Est. Price: $10 (Sampler of 5, $50)
- Release Date: November 2006
- Number of Cigars Released: 2,000 Samplers of 1 Cigar (2,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 1
It seems like every one of the Arturo Fuente Añejo Reserva Xtra Viejo Limitada No. 77 “Sand Shark” I have seen and smoked over the years have featured a different shade of wrapper, and my newest sample is no different with a darker milk chocolate cover leaf that is totally devoid of any oil whatsoever. The wrapper is smooth as silk to the touch and there is very little give when squeezed. The aroma from the wrapper is a combination of strong fudge, rich leather, oak, dark chocolate and slight citrus, while the cold draw brings flavors of aged oak, earth, leather, espresso beans, cinnamon, generic citrus and graham cracker sweetness.
Removing the extremely yellow cellophane and still bright red foot band take a bit longer than I expected, and things don’t get much better after lighting the square foot of the Sand Shark, as flavors of gritty earth and oak easily dominant the rest of the profile. Other notes of bread, chocolate, hay and a touch of varnish flit in and out, but none of them come close to overtaking the top spot at any point. There is some white pepper and generic sweetness on the retrohale as well, but the latter note is so light that it is hard to place with any accuracy. While the dominant flavors remain basically the same in the second half other that a noticeable increase in sweetness—which has thankfully become distinct enough to remind me of caramel—on the retrohale, the profile also adds an unfortunate bitterness on the finish that continues to get stronger until the end of the cigar.
Construction-wise, the Sand Shark does not fair much better with a burn that needs at least one touchup in each third as well as a wrapper that begins to unravel just after the second third starts, leading to me giving it more attention than I would like. Having said that, the draw is excellent after a straight cut while the overall medium strength is balanced nicely with the rest of the profile, and I put the nub down with a bit more than an inch left after one hour and 49 minutes of smoking time.
Despite the fact that I loved this cigar when I originally reviewed it back in 2010, I was a bit apprehensive about what another decade of age had done to this particular blend. Unfortunately, it turns out that I had reason to be concerned, as the profile has become decidedly less enjoyable: the creamy wood, sweet chocolate and nutty notes were virtually nowhere to be seen, replaced by much more generic flavors of earth, leather and aged oak. In addition, while the wrapper on the cigar in may first review gave me no issues, this sample started to unwrap near the end of the first third, which made the final two thirds a bit more challenging to smoke. In the end, while my first Sand Shark will always stand out in my mind as one of the best Arturo Fuente creations I have smoked; but if this one cigar is any indication, the blend isn't made to be aged for this long.