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In late 1995, the Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars was officially released for the first time in seven different vitolas. They were an instant success and their popularity has only grown since then.

In 2009, 14 years later, a bundle of extremely rare OpusX Phantoms, the name Fuente gives to its Lancero vitola, were put up for sale at an auction benefitting the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation. The Lanceros were said to be unique in a few ways. First, it was said these specific cigars were rolled in 1994, one year before the OpusX brand was officially introduced for sale to the public, and a full eight years before the Lancero vitola was formally introduced in 2002. Second, this specific Lancero is said to use a Maduro binder instead of the normal Rosado binder in other OpusX Phantom blends.

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These specific cigars were said to be made specifically for trumpet player Arturo Sandoval, who is very good friends with the Fuente family. As far as I could find out, there was only one bundle of 15 cigars sent to be auctioned off for the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation auction in 2009, where it sold for $2,000.00.

For those unfamiliar with the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, Patrick described it here:

The charity, a venture between the two companies and families, aims to provide a significant humanitarian impact to communities in the Dominican Republic resulting in a better quality of life to those who experience a lack of education, poor access to health care and nutrition and who have little or no sustainable employment.

Here is a picture of all four commercially released Fuente Lanceros:Arturo Fuente Lanceros.jpg

In order of appearance (top to bottom):

There are two significantly different bands not pictured: the FFOX ForbiddenX currently sold at Casa Fuente, which features the black ForbiddenX band and the FFOX Lost City Lancero. Both blends are identical to the normal FFOX Phantom.

Here is a photo of one of the bundles of 15 of the OpusX Phantom with Maduro binder from 1994:

OpusX Phantom  1994 Bundle

OpusX Phantom  1994 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Fuente Fuente OpusX Phantom (1994)
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia
  • Wrapper: Dominican Chateau de la Fuente Sun Grown Rosado
  • Binder: Hybrid Cuban-Seed Dominican Chateau de la Fuente Maduro
  • Filler: Dominican Chateau de la Fuente Sun Grown Rosado
  • Size: 7 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 41
  • Vitola: Lancero
  • Est. Price: $133.33 (Bundle of 15, $2,000.00)
  • Release Date: 2009
  • Number of Cigars Released: 1 Bundle of 15 Cigars (15 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 1

Outwardly, the Phantom with the Maduro binder is identical in every way to a normal OpusX Phantom, with the same band, cedar sleeve and red foot band. Once I remove the cedar wrap, the wrapper is a dark golden brown, extremely smooth to the touch, and with no oil or bumps at all on the surface. There are some sort of raised spots on the wrapper near the foot. (More on that below.) The band is obviously aged with a yellowing logo. It is quite hard when squeezed, especially for a Lancero and the wrapper aroma is strong raisins, sweet cedar, leather and earth. 

The first third of the OpusX starts out with strong and bitter espresso, along with aged wood, leather and creamy earth. There is a very nice sweetness in the background that reminds me of maple syrup, but it is not overly strong at this point in the smoke. There is the perfect amount of pepper on the retrohale, just enough to notice without overwhelming the other flavors. The draw is perfect, but the burn is a bit wavy, although not bad enough to have to touch up at any point. The strength starts out at a medium minus, and ends the first third just under medium.

OpusX Phantom  1994 2

Coming into the second third of the OpusX Phantom and the sweet maple syrup note is only getting stronger, along with the pepper, but  I can still only taste it on the retrohale. Other flavors of milk chocolate, espresso, creamy earth, nuts and cedar vie for dominance, each coming and going in strength throughout the third, but never in competition with each other. Construction wise, the draw remains perfect, and the burn has evened out nicely. The overall strength has increased noticeably, but is still well short of the full mark, and closer to medium.

OpusX Phantom  1994 3

The final third of the OpusX Phantom continues the trend of sweet maple and pepper on the retrohale, but the profile has become quite a bit more creamy as well, and more flavors of earth, nuts, milk chocolate, coffee, wood and hay flit in and out. The profile is extremely well-balanced with each flavor working together. The strength continues to build during the final third, but ends just shy of the full mark. Both burn and draw remain excellent and it is an easy cigar to nub.

OpusX Phantom  1994 4

Final Notes

  • Many people mistake the “Rare Estate Reserve” tins of Fuente Fuente OpusX as being cigars from 1992. The three-packs are nothing more than a different packaging from the regular Fuente Fuente OpusX. The cigars are not special and certainly not from 1992. The date signifies the year the original seeds were planted and is found on plenty of OpusX products. There were prereleases OpusXs, like this, but they have never been commercially sold. 
  • While I have tasted most of these flavors in cigars before, the one thing that stood out to me throughout this smoke was just how balanced the profile was. Every flavor seemed to work in harmony with the other flavors during the entire cigar, something that I have rarely found to be the case. Truly a unique experience.
  • Fuente’s Phantom size is slightly thicker than a traditional Lancero (7 1/2 x 38) at 7 1/2 x 41.
  • As far as I could find out, the bundle of 15 sold at the auction in 2009 was the only time this specific cigar has been released to the public. There is no way to know how many were actually produced and given to Arturo Sandoval.
  • Interestingly, this is one example of a rare Fuente cigar that is not on Vitolas.net/GarTrader.com, the long-time definitive encyclopedia of rare Fuente products.
  • While a photo of four commercially released Fuente Lanceros is above, there are other lanceros that have been sold at auctions, but never commercially. These include the one reviewed today, along with Añejo and FFOX Angel’s Share Lanceros.
  • There have been other cigars made for Arturo Sandoval, most notably the OpusX Arturo Sandoval Reserva Personal.
  • The first time the OpusX Lancero vitola was introduced for sale was in the Forbidden X Humidor in 2002. They became more widely available in 2003 when they were sold in the Forbidden X DVD set and started becoming an annual release, largely through special Prometheus versions.
    OpusX Phantom  1994 Wrapper
  • The spots on the wrapper look like resin from a tree and I wonder if they come from the cedar wrap it that was around the cigar, especially since the wrap seems to be disintegrating in almost the exact area where the spots were on the cigar. I have never seen that before on a cedar wrapped smoke, but then again I have never smoked a cigar that had a cedar wrap that was nearly 20 years-old either. Regardless of what it was, it did not effect the smoke one bit. 
  • In Charlie’s review of the OpusX Phantom Maduro, he found out it was one of the strongest cigars he had ever smoked. I was really hoping that was not going to be the case with this cigar, and thankfully, it was not.
  • Back before they started changing it up, the foot bands on the bottom of the cigars usually indicated what kind of wrapper was used on it. So, red was for Rosado wrapper and black was for Maduro. Since this cigar has a Rosado wrapper, it has a red foot band. 
  • The ash is a very light grey—almost white—and stayed on the cigar for longer than I thought it would considering the vitola. Extremely well-formed.
  • This cigar was given to the reviewer as a gift from another cigar smoker.
  • Smoke production was well above average—but never to Ligaesque levels—and the smoke was dense and white.
  • The final smoking time was one hour and 40 minutes. 
97 Overall Score

The profile of sweet and peppery on the retrohale is the absolutely perfect combination for me and this release has it in spades. In addition, it was not too strong—ending just shy of full—and the construction was good enough that I did not have to worry about it for the whole smoke. The rest of the profile was equally as complex and balanced with flavors entering and leaving so much that I soon lost track of them, but never so overwhelming that they were in competition with each other. In fact, just about the only problem I have with this cigar is that I will never see another one, but I would pay quite a bit of money—and probably do some unspeakable acts—if it ever came up for sale. This is quite possibly the best cigar I have smoked in the last year.

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Brooks Whittington
About the author

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.

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