Cigar Review: Arturo Fuente Sungrown
When you hear the name Fuente, what comes to mind? Well, if you’ve had any dabbling whatsoever in the world of fine cigars, you’d probably say that Fuente is a legendary name in the world of tobacco. And you’d be right! Recognized worldwide for unbeatable quality and value, the Arturo Fuente brand is revered for always being at the top of the food chain when it comes to premium cigars. In fact, Arturo Fuente is among the top 3 best-selling cigar brands in America, and usually resides at numero uno. But why? Perhaps it’s their near flawless quality and consistency. Maybe it’s the exotic flavor profiles that are blended with surgical precision. Or, maybe it’s the fact that when it comes to bang for the buck, Fuente does it like no other. I’m convinced that among all other things, that third point really stands out more than the others. A basic Fuente can be had for around $5-6 at the time of this article, something that can’t be said of most of the hot boutique brands and new names in the business today. As a matter of fact, Fuente is more or less the most affordable and available of all the old school brands that survived the cigar boom as well. Whether you’re a true cigar snob that just wants a cheap afternoon smoke or a beginner that wants the best cigar for the least amount of money, Arturo Fuente is a universal go-to.
But it can’t be just about the money, right? Ok, well to further support the sheer dominance the Fuente brand has boasted over the years, it can be said that, while the current available options in the Fuente portfolio are few compared to some brands, every single cigar marked with the Fuente name is absolutely incredible. The Fuentes are somewhat of a rare species when it comes to blending prowess and the uncanny ability to fine-tune tobacco recipes. There’s something about Fuente cigars that just makes them different from the rest. It could be called a combination of old fashioned cigar taste mixed with modern bouquets of gourmet nuances. Or we could just be simple and say that the Fuente cigars are darned good smokes. Yea, we’ll go with that.
Founded by Cuban immigrant Arturo Fuente, Sr. in Tampa, Florida in 1912, the Fuente brand is among the oldest of all. The family has faced their fair share of adversity over the past century or so, but nevertheless they always come back stronger and better. Many times, the turmoil turns into incredible success, as was the case with the Anejo line of cigars, but that’s a whole other story altogether. In 1958, Carlos Fuente, Sr. took over the brand, demonstrating amazing leadership throughout the next several decades as the Fuente name became known as one of the best non-Cuban cigar brands in the world following the embargo. Some 50-plus years later, Carlos Fuente Sr. still oversaw the operation until his passing in August of 2016. His son Carlito works hard as the head honcho of the brand. It’s no small deal, either. The Arturo Fuente company pounds out more than 30 million cigars per year! That’s a ton of tobacco to keep track of.
So when people talk Fuente cigars, it’s always regarding one of two things: Either the affordable, uber-available original line that can be bought for a few bucks literally anywhere that sells tobacco, from gas stations to liquor stores to your favorite cigar shop, or the Opus X, which is basically the exact opposite. Finding one in a brick and mortar store is basically the equivalent to finding a winning lottery ticket on your front lawn in the morning, and if you did happen to come across an Opus X in a store, you’d need that winning lottery ticket to pay the insane price tag, sometimes soaring as high as $50-100 per stick, based on availability. But what about the rest? What about all the amazing sticks in-between the first and last pages of the Fuente portfolio? Nobody ever seems to mention the Hemingway, Don Carlos, Magnum Rosado, or Casa Cuba. And what gets me the most is that nobody ever says a word about what I consider to be the absolute best value of all on today’s cigar market: The Arturo Fuente Sungrown series. So today, I’m gonna give this amazing cigar a proper rave.
The Fuente Sungrown cigars come packaged in gorgeous flat wooden boxes (with the exception of the once-rare 858 size) and are adorned with cedar sleeves. The iconic black band at the foot of the cigar makes it easy to tell it’s a sungrown. Also, the main band is red, gold, and black, as opposed to red, gold, and green on the original series, or white on the Anejos. Commonly referred to as “Reserve Sun Grown” or “Chateau Series,” the Fuente Sungrown consists of Dominican filler and binder tobaccos and a dark, oily Ecuadorian sungrown wrapper leaf. The stick almost looks like a maduro, but the flavor is more than enough to tell that it’s something extra special. It’s available in a variety of sizes, too many to list, in fact, but the most popular sizes seem to be the King B, a 6 x 55 Torpedo that smokes cool and long, the Cuban Belicoso, a 5 3/4 x 52 Belicoso that is rich and powerful, so much so that it’s usually referred to as the “poor man’s Opus X,” and of course the iconic Sungrown 858, a 6 x 47 Toro that up until the past year has been considered an exotic Fuente, along the same lines as the Anejo or Opus X, but thankfully is readily available now. I’ll say that I’m as big a rare Fuente fan as just about anyone you’ll ever meet, but if I have an Opus X craving, the Sungrown 858 usually does the trick of satisfying it in the event that my rare Fuente stash is at a low point. Yes, it’s THAT good.
After removing the foot band and cedar sleeve, the Fuente Sungrown has a pre-light aroma of sweet Spanish cedar mixed with premium raw tobacco. It truly is amazing how much extra character the cedar sleeve imparts to this already phenomenal stick. The outer wrapper leaf literally glistens with oils and boasts long roadmaps of veins and a toothy texture. Despite its rugged appearance, there is an element of luxurious opulence that comes to mind when handling this gorgeous piece of tobacco art. Every cigar is packed just right--tight enough to hold a long ash, loose enough to get boatloads of thick, white smoke on every puff. Construction-wise, the Fuente Sungrown is a cut above all others. The thing about the Fuente family is that they treat each and every cigar as if it’s their very best, meaning that there is no distinction in quality between the regular lines and the exotics, as is the case with many other cigar manufacturers. A few dry puffs reveal a rich, chocolatey flavor. That’s only a teaser though. The best is yet to come.
The first light of a Fuente Sungrown is truly a memorable experience. A potent blast of cedar opens the show, soon followed by a bombardment of spicy white pepper from the robust sungrown wrapper leaf. These two flavors are the basis upon which the entire profile rests; they stay constant throughout the smoke from beginning to end. After about an inch or so, the intensity goes from a solid 9 to about a 7, as the smooth Dominican filler blend takes over. From this point on, the amazing sweet and earthy flavors that Fuente is so well-known for really make themselves apparent. The intensity of the cigar settles at this point and remains the same until the last couple inches(if you make it that far), at which point it increases once again to about a 9 on a scale of 1-10. For now, though, during the second, third, and most of the fourth quarter of the experience, things get really pleasant. There are all the things that make a high-end Fuente what it is: floral notes, fruity nuances, hints of chocolate and honey, and even some molasses-like flavors here and there. As with any upper-level Fuente, the true complexity of the cigar is experienced through the retrohale, or blowing the smoke through your nose. Admittedly, only experienced connoisseurs should attempt to retrohale, as it can be a memorably painful experience if done improperly. Nevertheless, the smoke delivers amazing hints of raisin and sweet tobacco flowers as it glides through the nose, making for an undeniably dessert-like finish on each puff. Approaching the last couple inches of the cigar, the strength really begins to build up to an almost overwhelming level. It’s during this time, however, that the blending expertise of the Fuentes really shines, as even though the raw strength is almost too much to handle, there is never so much as a hint of harshness or bitterness. It’s velvety smooth until the very last tongue-tingling puff. From first light to last puff, the parallels between the Fuente Sungrown and the infamous Opus X are undeniable. The two cigars are so similar it’s almost bizarre that the price of the Fuente Sungrown is so low.
Wait a minute, what was that? Low price? Oh yeah, I bet during this review you thought I was describing a $20 cigar, right? Well, the best part about the Fuente Sungrown series, aside from the amazing exotic Fuente flavor profile and standard-setting quality, is that they can usually be had for $6-8 a pop, usually less if bought by the box. Yes, you read that right, typo-prone as I may be, there’s no mistake here. The Fuente Sungrown series offers an ultra-premium smoking experience in a Dominican-made, hand-rolled cigar that uses a sungrown wrapper leaf, presented in a wooden box, individually clothed with a cedar sleeve, that has a flavor profile similar to the most sought-after cigar on earth, all for just $6-8 per stick. If that’s not as good as it gets regarding value, I have absolutely no idea what is.
In conclusion, the Fuente Sungrown series is, both in my opinion and that of many others “in the know,” the very best bang for your buck value available on today’s cigar market. While not a beginner’s cigar, anyone with a year or two of experience under their belt will be able to really enjoy everything that makes the Fuente Sungrown as special as it is. If you’ve been enjoying fine cigars for years but still haven’t tried a Fuente Sungrown, it’s forgivable. It’s somewhat of a hidden gem among the true connoisseurs. But now you know, so there’s no excuse not to try one. Get your hands on one and see what you’ve been missing!