Unless you’ve been asleep at the wheel the past few months, you know that SCHIP has hit home. This bill places a heavy tax on all cigars, and has resulted in higher prices starting 4/1. Some manufacturers are using this tax as a vehicle to introduce price increases that, in some cases, go above and beyond the level of the tax. In several cases, manufacturers have instituted multiple price increases on the same cigar, capitalizing even further. On top of this, some cigars are already quite expensive, and any new increases (whether it be additional costs or taxes) could possibly put them out of reach for the working man. In an effort to provide you with optimum value, I will be matching up two cigars each week. One expensive cigar and one lesser-expensive option, comparing them based on flavor, satisfaction, construction, and price.
– Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva and 5 Vegas Classic
Like previous SCHIP Buster reviews, this write-up will be difficult for many to stomach. Arturo Fuente has a diehard customer base, one that’s loyal to the core and swears by every cigar under the Fuente label. On the other hand, 5 Vegas Classic has quite the following as well, and it seems to be getting stronger by the second. The blends are very different, but both offer a solid, medium-bodied smoke that’s hella-consistent and of the highest quality.
Yes, I just said hella-consistent. Gonz, add that to your Gonzism list, I think it’s a winner. Anyway, let’s get into the cigars.
Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva – Everybody knows this name. And, like I said, many swear by it. In fact, folks walk into our shop asking for a particular vitola in a specific Fuente line. If we don’t have it, they simply walk away, despite having immediate access to every blend under the sun at comparable - if not better - prices. This Dominican brand as a whole is rated very highly....very often. The standard Gran Reserva line combines a toothy Cameroon wrapper with Dominican long-fillers to produce a consistent, well-made stick. I will be burning the 8-5-8, a popular, 6”x47 vitola.
5 Vegas Classic – This brand has become a monster. Hand-made in Nicaragua, the red label 5 Vegas is a 91-rated blend of dark Sumatra wrappers and Cuban-seed long-fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican. In fact, premium tobaccos from five different farms are utilized throughout this cigar, producing what is considered to be a complex and balanced, medium-bodied bang for the buck. To keep things as comparable as possible, I’ve chosen the Double Corona, an impressive 6”x48 parejo.
I’ve reviewed both of these blends several times in the past and am quite familiar with each, so a side-by-side comparison should be interesting. Without further ado, let’s dig deeper into the flavor and quality of these two popular cigars....
Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva – This cigar is already clipped and ready for my torch lighter. The pre-light aroma is that of cedar, with no hints of spice or pepper. The 8-9-8 is lit and away we go. The cigar begins with a heavy dose of cream which seems to magically disappear after each puff. A short finish. I am picking up notes of toast and cedar, with a crisp tobacco influence. Midway through, a new flavor enters the mix - a somewhat grassy note lingers on the aftertaste. This is pretty much how the story unfolds. Despite being delivered in a nice, toasty fashion, the tobacco and cedar flavors are crisp and sharp, only to be finished by a misplaced touch of grass. Definitely medium in body....but only by a hair. The all Dominican core resulted in a relatively straight-forwarded experience.
5 Vegas Classic – After cleansing my palate, it’s time for the 5 Vegas. The cigar is clipped and the pre-light aroma is that of baked bread. A slight tingling sensation hits my nostrils, hinting at a faint spice to come. Upon lighting, my palate is coated with a core of rich, creamy flavors. Early on, it’s difficult to pick out any one flavor, but the sensation is enjoyable. Shortly after, a strong backbone of coffee is clearly noticed, with softer notes of earth. The aroma is toasty with a little bit of zest. Midway through, I begin to pick up a little bit of peanut – it almost tastes like the toasty skin of a peanut. I also note a touch of pepper....a very faint touch. The cigar has been burning slow and smooth, and comes to a complex finish during the final inch without losing any balance along the way. The medium-bodied strength was apparent from the start and lasted through the burn. I think the Nicaraguan tobaccos helped add a pleasant level of complexity to this cigar.
Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva and 5 Vegas Classic. Different cigars from different countries. A true underdog, David and Goliath matchup....one would think. Both burned perfectly, with an effortless draw and razor sharp burn. Both seemed to be well filled from head to toe, and made with top-notch wrappers. However, one appealed to my finicky palate more than the other. Arturo Fuente, 86.
5 Vegas, 89.
Now let’s add price to the mix. Both of these cigars can be considered a good value. The Fuente 8-5-8 carries an MSRP of under $5 apiece, while the 5 Vegas Double Corona chimes in at under $3.50 apiece. What’s a buck and a half between friends, eh? However, the price for Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva has gone up due to SCHIP. 5 Vegas Classic is not. I think you know where this is going.
Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva: 86
5 Vegas Classic: 90