“You’re not a cigarmaker. You just assemble tobaccos,” quipped a Parisian retailer in the 1980s. He was talking to Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr., now owner and patriarch of Arturo Fuente Cigar Co. Back then, the company was owned by his father and the Fuentes were producing cigars with tobacco from different origins. The snide remark stuck with the younger Fuente, and he knew the problem was wrapper. Dominican wrapper was nearly nonexistent, and this became the young Fuente’s obsession.
If that derisive comment was the prologue to the OpusX story, chapter one began in the early 1990s with the ambitions of Fuente Jr. and his plan to grow quality wrapper leaf in the Dominican Republic. Conventional wisdom dictated that Dominican soils were unsuitable for growing good cover leaf. And this was for the most part true. But Fuente was on a mission, and when he finally planted the right Corojo seeds in the right plot of land in 1991, the result was a unique wrapper with a gorgeous reddish hue, enviable elasticity, big aroma and even bigger flavor. What is now known as Chateau de la Fuente is a farm located in Bonao, where the soil differs from other growing regions in the Dominican Republic. It’s lighter and loamier with a higher clay content.
Fast forward to a chilly November evening in New York City in 1995. A line of people hoping to enter a Manhattan cigar shop extended all the way around the block. It was premiere night and cigar fans of all professional stripes waited in the cold for their chance to try an OpusX. On that night, a cult classic and cigar phenomenon was born.
When OpusX was released, it was a strong cigar in a mostly mild market. Today, it has a lot more competition in the full-bodied segment, yet OpusX remains relevant—and coveted. It’s leathery and assertively spicy without being harsh. Every puff is inlaid with an opulent sweetness of baking spices, nutmeg and vanilla. The balance of power and elegance is astounding and precisely why it’s our Cigar of the Year. Because the ring gauge of the Reserva d’Chateau is somewhat slim, the wrapper plays a major role in the smoking experience. Ultimately, the story of OpusX was about a wrapper that was thought to be unfeasible. In the end, Fuente proved everyone wrong and created a stunning, all-Dominican cigar that’s much more than the sum of its parts.