A. Fuente Opus X Anejo ‘Shark’ (Belicoso 146mm x 52 ring gauge, Dominican Republic)

Occasionally you get the chance to smoke something extremely special (more often, if you know Aizuddin). The subject of today’s review is one of those sticks. The Sharks are available in very small quantities (thousands of sticks per year) released rarely, and snapped up very quickly. This particular example has nine years of age on it, plus the four that all of the Anejos enjoy, for a grand total of thirteen. It shows, in the best possible way.

Construction – 10/10

I’m trying very hard, but really cannot flaw the rolling in any way. Moulds are used to achieve it’s unusual shape: tapered like a pyramide at the head, square (acutely so) at the foot. As with all Dominican cigars, it’s a tightly packed bundle of goodness with very little give, but somehow yielding a perfect draw upon clipping the cap. The wrapper is a very dark chocolate with few veins and little oil; pre-draw aromas of fruity pepper and raisin bread abound – seemingly a common trait of Opus Xs.

The cigar required a little more firing time than usual to light – no doubt due to the density of its construction – but held heat extremely well and only required one minor touch up through the entire smoke, with the burn line self-correcting at many points and really quite fascinating to watch. The first ash lasted for over half of the cigar, and was a beautiful fine, firm white with leaf details visible (!). It only dropped when the Shark after sitting on its tail for a minute or so while grabbing a photo – and this after stubbing it in a little to even out the end to get it to balance. There was no second ash, the remainder held down to the nub. Smoking time was about 1.5 hours.

Flavor – 9/10

Like all well-aged cigars, the flavor profile of the Shark was very complicated yet smooth; finely balanced flavors were present throughout. Frankly, the mix of flavors was so complex that I’m having a difficult time in describing them – other than to say that at no point was the taste unpleasant, even right down to the last 1cm nub. The first puffs being with fruit and spice; this transitions after an inch or so to sweet fruitiness with a hint of the raisin bread smelled earlier before lighting. Savory flavors build over the fruit and come to dominate around the halfway mark, with some hints of black tea, too. Interestingly the earlier flavors are all still present, though well layered and getting increasingly complex. I stopped trying to identify the taste at this point and just enjoyed the smoke; the Shark produced big, thick, creamy clouds of it with little effort. The final third was an intensification of all experienced up to this point; it’s as though the dial got turned up to 11, including the nicotine kick: this is not a beginner’s smoke. The power of the finish is truly astounding, and whacks you solidly in the head. I was very much under its spell at this point. I wanted to continue past the nub, but in many ways I’m glad it ended there because I doubt I could have smoked another inch at that level of strength.

After reading that, you’re probably wondering at this point why it isn’t a 10 point rating for flavor: to be honest, I found the end a bit *too* strong for my personal liking – but to each his own.

Conclusion – 9.5/10

An outstanding smoke in every way. And a big thank you to Aizuddin for generously donating the review stick in question.