This will be a combined review, both of us having received samples. For a description of Bob and Jim's evaluation procedure, see our reference page.
The Carmen estate, owned by the Aguilera family, is located at 1850 meters in the Paso Ancho valley of the Volcan growing region of Panama. They have been planting coffee since 1950, and recently gained Rainforest Alliance certification. Their auction lots always place highly in competition, and are sold by the top roasters in North America. The 1750 Reserve lot is specially selected micro-lot from the highest elevations of the estate using Typica, Caturra, and Catuai varietals.
I wrote this review before seeing what Jim had to say and it's almost as though we wrote these reviews together. I fell in love with this coffee at first sight, noting that this is what great Centrals are all about. It's the quintessential Panama. No, not the special ones like the Geishas and others, but the classic, clean, "coffee-tasting" coffee. I sent Miguel an email before cupping saying that I hadn't formally cupped it yet, but I tried a vac-pot brew of it and it was poetry in the cup.
This coffee has outstanding aromatic qualities, ranging from cedar and spice to floral scents. It's a sweet coffee with a potpourri of flavors; fruit, toasted walnuts, caramel and a hint of the aforementioned cedar. It's beautifully balanced and maintains the balance from from hot to room temperature with a very slight wineyness when it's cool. It's not an aggressive coffee but neither is it too mild as is the tendency with some "neither here nor there" Centrals. The caramel sweetness is evident even in the finish. This is one fine Panama!
If there is a Platonic ideal of the Central American classic cup, this would be the one of the truest embodiments I've tried. Despite it being mostly Typica, the initial flavor is the only moderately acidic, baked fruit and marzipan I always associate with Bourbons. However, there is more. This coffee shimmers with fleeting glints of just about every flavor on the taster's wheel. Even at the light cupping roast, one could catch distinct peat and clove distillates, along with the apple acidity at the top. This variability in flavor even affected the acidity; and I kept changing the score with nearly every sip.
This coffee will take a wide latitude in roast with all the flavors remaining, and only the balance shifting. End your first roast at the first pops of the second, or just before; then do your next one to get the balance you like. This coffee also makes a fine SO since all the flavors from the cup make it into the shot undistorted.
Dry Fragrance: 4.5
Wet Aroma: 4.4
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 91.2
Dry fragrance: 4.0
Wet Aroma: 4.25
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 91.5