With its grand opening on June 2, 2005, Casa Fuente marked a milestone for the Fuente brand: a cigar boutique featuring its cigars exclusively. This is what CA had to say about the new store:

Casa Fuente is a joint project between Tabacalera A. Fuente, Ashton and FreyBoy Tobacco. The store stocks only Fuente-made cigars, including Fuente Fuente OpusX, Arturo Fuente Don Carlos, Ashton VSG and Diamond Crown cigars. The rarest cigars, including some that were previously released only for charity dinners and as personal gifts, are secluded in a vault in the back.

Due to the generosity of a friend who was there in Vegas recently, i got my hands on a couple of Casa Fuente cigars — specially made, exclusive for sale at the store. Apparently, they are quite pricey, and i’m grateful for the opportunity.

The word around the cigar forums is the Casa Fuente is an Opus X with a rosado Cameroon wrapper. That would probably be too simplistic a description of this cigar, though it does happen to be basically true. Wrappers make a huge difference in how a cigar performs and taste, and so it was with the Casa Fuente.

The first thing i noticed about the cigar was its weak scent. I ran the length of the cigar underneath my nose, and picked up very faint fruity notes; even deep inhalation on its foot revealed very little, just a pinch of woody fruit. The first marker of difference between it and Opus X.

A quick snip later, and the cap came rolling off. A touch of the flame, a few draws, and this cigar was ready to deliver. Strangely, it took its time to come about. Smoke volume was good, billowing bales of thick grey smoke curled up to the ceiling in no time. But flavour-wise it seemed very muted. Almost as though something was holding it back.

The first two inches burned through agonizingly slowly. Dry nuttiness, burnt sugar sweetness and some chalkiness prevailed. Not necessarily tasteless, but certainly very tame. Past halfway, i was beginning to wonder whether i was smoking a dud — could the cigar the Fuentes rolled for a store carrying their name be so underwhelming?

Sadly, the answer seems to be a yes, though it started delivering on its potential much better in the second half, and especially in the very last couple of inches. Doses of raisin fruitiness, laced with pepper-spicy notes replaced the chalky-metallic flavour, and that was a welcome change. Finally, i thought, this cigar was beginning to get interesting. The nice little nicotine punch it delivered at the very end was a welcome delight too, and i must admit, overall, it was an enjoyable cigar providing a comfortable 60 minutes of good, straightforward smoking fun.

Verdict: For the price tag, its a tough sell. Probably appealing very much to the spur of the moment cigar indulgence while you’re actually basking in the grandeur of Casa Fuente, that’s probably as far as interest in this cigar will go. Not that its a bad smoke, far from it: the Casa Fuente is pretty yummy if you give it some time to mature on the burn. Worth a try, definitely. Worth a box? Perhaps not.