Awesome info. Didn't even know DC had an EL. Glad to see that Opus and Don Carlos do well with a bit of age. I can't always smoke that fast and getting decent Fuentes overseas is a nightmare.So all that follows is JMHO (AKA nonsense) Ill start by saying my opus experience dates to late 90's (via smokes from 2009-ish) and all others referenced begin in 2008 with a few pre-dated due to acquisitions or post-date to whenever released.
1. Don Carlos Edicion limitada
3. Don Carlos
4. Opus X
Best 3-5 years:
1. Don carlos Edicion limitada
3. Opus X
4. Don Carlos
Best over 5 years:
2. Opus X
3. Don Carlos Edicion limitada
4. Don Carlos
I'm not a huge fan of the broad generalization that NC don't need age, or that Cubans are always better aged. I find that we as consumers and judges of cigars get stuck in certain ideas from limited experience and then use it to judge everything else. Cuban cigar have whole years and sometimes multiple years that are known to be less quality or to a lesser standard. We use this to guide purchasing decisions but the consistently among NC's isn't matched ( I say this as someone that has collected and consumed many NC's and ISOM cigars).
To Fuente specifically, they have terrible glue issues, and the bands rarely come off clean. Hemmingways burn "wonky" and most times there cigars are double MRSP. But flavorwise they hit a particular veins that a lot of people lean into due to clout, or preference.
Opus X over that last 20-25 years (limited here to late 90's so just barely make the cut-off) to me at least, has been consistent with the understanding that you sit them down. Back when they where hitting there stride Opus was the top of what Fuente produced. BUT that was only toward the late 90's. First crop sown 1992, and release 1995. Carlito was using as an experiment to showcase Dominican wrappers and with Don Carlos helming the ship I doubt the first time around he said, "use our most prized tobacco for your secret experiment". But after the initial release and CA articles I'm sure it brought it to the forefront over the next few years. Prior to that, the Don Carlos was the highest end regular production cigar they had, see where I'm going with this.... Boost ahead 20 years plus and now the regular release Opus is in a sea of limited but consistent stream of Opus lines (Oro, Angels Share, Destino, Forbidden, Dubai, CCF, Holts, Casa, Lost City, 20th, GOF, Elle Bleu, Prometheus) with each release pushing the crop further and further than before. The lost tobacco in 12' was either for the Angels share specifically or the 100th anniversary of Fuente depending on which Carlito interview you believe. To me it just pushed fresh tobacco out into the mix, and after 10 years I find it hard to imagine that they are still losing sleep over it.
To me the Don carlos ages like a "normal cigar". Smoothing of edges, refinement and melding of flavor, and overall cohesiveness. Ive also seen a drop off in the 5-10 year depending on how they are stored of the flavor. Not negatively, but maybe from the "blenders intent"; loss of spice, or maybe some slightly bitterness that balanced the equation initially. Opus on the other hand doesn't really become Opus until 3-5 years. Its a strong ass cigar that maybe in years past was aged more prior to release and takes time to become balanced. That being said if you like AF and you aren't smoking or aging Anejo or Don carlos EL you may be missing out on the best they have to offer JMHO.
I've also never associated heavy richness to the Opus, may be present but to me was always more dark dried fruits, spice, leather, with heavy cedar and sweetness that ebbed and flowed depending on the age. That being said regarding the amount of "high value" smokes produced, consistently over time, issues with production, and every other factor against creating and maintain great cigars I would say AF is one of a few that seem to hit that nail on the head nearly every damn time and my wallet pays the price.
Sorry for the novel, hopefully it wasn't a waste of a read, I tried to tie it up so may have missed a point or two. as always means nothing, just my word vomit.
I always really wanted to like the OpusX, especially when I first started to find places in the mid to late 90s where I could actually score a few sticks. There I was, friends with the salesmen of one of the best tobacco shops, having on display a few boxes of OpusX, with a sign "2 stick limit" for regular customers and you must buy something else. Individually wrapped in celo with gold lettering. The prize in the humidor. They were decent, but not spectacular for me.
So now there are all these variations of both DC and Opus, diluting their own lines, not sure if I agree with that, but hey, I'm no Cigar manufacturer.