Smoking A 20-Year-Old OpusX

Smoking A 20-Year-Old OpusX
Photo/Jeff Harris
The first OpusX boxes had slanted lids (top), which were impractical, as they couldn't be stacked. The second incarnation had slide lids (bottom).

The December Cigar Aficionado features a story about the 20th anniversary of Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars. To accompany the piece, we smoked several first-release cigars to see how they have aged. The issue, featuring Jon Voight on the cover, is on newsstands now.

Ever wonder what 20 years of age can do to a Fuente Fuente OpusX cigar? We did. And seeing how this year marks the 20th anniversary of the brand's commercial release, we thought to ourselves what better way to celebrate than to light up some of the original, two-decades old cigars? Not that we need much of a reason to reach for an OpusX of any age. The cigar is known for being big, bold and earthy with plenty of leathery snap and spicy zing. But after 20 years in an unopened cedar box, something happened. Something changed. More on that later.

Here's what you need to know:

On November 18, 1995, a few New York City retailers had the privilege of selling the first commercial run of Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars. Some of you might have even been there.

The project was esoteric because, at the time, no one had grown quality wrapper tobacco in the Dominican Republic. The Fuente family not only accomplished this, but created the first high-profile premium cigar that consisted solely of Dominican tobacco.

There was demand for the cigar before it even came out. Between the preliminary story published by Cigar Aficionado ("Seeds of Hope") and the high ratings published by the magazine, everybody wanted an OpusX and was willing to pay top dollar for it.

The rest, you probably know. Here's something you might not know. The first boxes looked nothing like the boxes you see today. They started out with a pyramid top. That didn't work. Yes, it was eye-catching, and sure, the pyramid even resembled an X when you looked at the top, but it was impractical and too expensive. Then the Fuentes moved to a slide-lid format. Better, but sliding out a plank of wood didn't have quite the same striking effect as lifting up a hinged lid and watching the dramatic spectacle of cigars materialize right before your eyes. Ultimately, the Fuente's went with a hinged box.

But here in the humidors at the Cigar Aficionado offices, we happen to have an entire vertical of the first-run boxes. That includes both pyramid tops and slide-lid boxes. Some of them were still in their original shrink-wrap—and we cracked one open. Or better to say slid one open. A box of Double Coronas to be exact. We also dipped into a box of robustos.

The first thing we noticed was how yellow the cellophane was, a great indication of age. The second thing was the tobacco at the foot of the cigar. Twenty years ago, Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars were rolled in the accordion method, whereby tobacco was folded into s-shapes rather than scrolled into tubes, using the entubado method. Today, all OpusX cigars are made in entubado style.

As for the classic, in-your-face Fuente Fuente OpusX strength and power, 20 years have mellowed out these cigars considerably. Earth, spice and leather have turned into cinnamon, cedar and flowers. In all of the Double Corona's nearly eight inches, hints of earth, coffee bean and nutmeg came and went, but the cigar is nuanced and mature, perhaps with nothing to prove anymore after 20 years of maturation. It burned cool and slow and really showed the softer side of an OpusX. The Robusto was a bit stronger. Like the Double Corona, it came from an old slide-lid box, but unlike the Double Corona, some of its stronger barnyard and leather qualities were still perceptible underneath the floral and tea-like elements.

Our conclusion: there's still life left in a 20-year-old Fuente Fuente OpusX. It isn't the powerhouse you might expect it to be, but an interesting period piece and a glimpse into the past of Fuente's experimental cigar-turned-phenomenon.

 




"These sound great. Is there a way to purchase a couple and indulge?" —January 27, 2016 23:14 PM
"Fuente Fuente OpusX "A"s are extraordinary when released. I would definitely check in on those older ones. " —January 13, 2016 09:16 AM
"I have one 15 yr old, and one 16 yr old, Opus X "A"s in my humi. Might be time to check them!" —January 12, 2016 17:57 PM
"The earliest Opus X cigars had no writing on their cellophane wrappers. Other than the original box styles shown in the pictures, that's the only overt identifier of the early releases of which I'm aware. I had never heard of the accordion method but will check the feet of the two clear cellophane double coronas I have in my humidor against some of the later versions. " —October 14, 2015 08:52 AM
"William, it really depends on the cigar. In my opinion 20 years was a little long for these particular smokes, as they have become something else. But I have smoked 30, 40 and even 50 year old cigars that still have lots of life left. Read our Connosseur's Corner for more info. " —October 13, 2015 09:52 AM
"Is there a sure fire way of know if you have one of the early Opux X? Do they have any noticeable differences, like no print of the cellophane. Please post pictures." —October 12, 2015 23:21 PM
"After reading this article my mouth started to water but I am starting to believe that 20 years is just too long to age any cigar. I have found that 2 to 5 years works wonders and 10 is my maximum. I will continue to experiment. Lastly, please present some pictures of this cigar." —October 12, 2015 14:21 PM
"Sounds fabulous, I have boxes of cigars in various states of aging some 20+ years and it's always interesting to see how they react to age. As you guys have stated some age well and some don't. So now I need to fire up one of my old Opus' and see if my experience aligns with yours. Nice work if you can get it!" —October 8, 2015 21:01 PM