Friday, January 8, 2010

Cigar Aficionado's Top 25 Cigars of the Year

Cigar Aficionado released their annual list of the top 25 cigars in the world today, and as always, there is much debate on the cigar blogs and message boards. Here are my thoughts in the list, and the process itself.


First, The List:

1.) Padron Family Reserve No. 45 Maduro
MADE BY: PadrĂ³n Cigars Inc.
FACTORY LOCATION: Nicaragua
WRAPPER: Nicaragua
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Nicaragua
PRICE: $25.00
RING GAUGE: 52
LENGTH: 6"
RATING: 95
I personally don’t feel this cigar should have been #1. I love a lot of stuff that Jorge and Orlando Padron are doing, but I thought this cigar was overhyped, and was dull and uninspired. With the marketing blitz behind it, it came onto the market in September with almost unprecedented buzz, and I was woefully unimpressed.

2.) Cohiba Siglo V Tubo
MADE BY: Habanos S.A.
FACTORY LOCATION: Cuba
WRAPPER: Cuba
BINDER: Cuba
FILLER: Cuba
PRICE: £25.00 ($40.06 USD)
RING GAUGE: 43
LENGTH: 6 3/4"
RATING: 94
This is one of the few Cubans that I like (not that I’ve had it, because that would be illegal) Cuban cigars in general have suffered a decline over the past 10-15 years. This has also coincided with huge advances in cigar quality from Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. Almost every time someone asks me where they can get Cubans, they always want Cohibas. They are the biggest name in cigars in Cuba, and this cigar is deserving of their name.

3.) My Father No. 1
MADE BY: My Father Cigars Inc.
FACTORY LOCATION: Nicaragua
WRAPPER: Ecuador
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Nicaragua
PRICE: $10.00
RING GAUGE: 52
LENGTH: 5 1/4"
RATING: 94
This was my #1 cigar of the year. Pepin Garcia is the hottest cigar maker right now. His tobacco is second to none, and his blends and production are top notch. The leather and coffee flavors in this cigar make it a great compliment to a glass of aged single malt. The Habano seed wrapper grown in Ecuador is silky smooth with a nice touch of oil.

4.) Diamond Crown Maximus Double Corona No. 1
MADE BY: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia.
FACTORY LOCATION: Dom. Rep.
WRAPPER: Ecuador
BINDER: Dom. Rep.
FILLER: Dom. Rep.
PRICE: $17.50
RING GAUGE: 50
LENGTH: 8"
RATING: 93
I have only smoked one Diamond Crown in my life, and was so unimpressed by it that I have no desire to spend the money on another one. There are so many other cigars in this price range that blow this away.

5.) Oliva Serie V Liga Especial Belicoso
MADE BY: Tabacalera Oliva Cigar S.A.
FACTORY LOCATION: Nicaragua
WRAPPER: Nicaragua
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Nicaragua
PRICE: $5.90
RING GAUGE: 54
LENGTH: 5"
RATING: 93
The Oliva Serie V is by far one of the best values in the cigar world. Its construction is fantastic, and they are able to match a true full bodied cigar with a touch of sweetness on the palate. I haven’t smoked many V’s lately, but I know it’s always there, in my humidor, and I reach for one when I’m not sure what I’m in the mood for. It’s a cigar that never disappoints.

6.) 601 Box Press Maduro Toro
MADE BY: My Father Cigars Inc.
FACTORY LOCATION: Nicaragua
WRAPPER: Nicaragua
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Nicaragua
PRICE: $9.30
RING GAUGE: 54
LENGTH: 6 1/4"
RATING: 93
Yet another cigar made by Pepin Garcia in the top 10. The 601’s in general, and especially the Maduro and Oscuro wrapped varieties, are absolutely gorgeous cigars, and their cocoa and strong coffee flavors match the appearance. Eddie Ortega and Erik Espinosa made a great choice when combining with Pepin Garcia to make this cigar.

7.) Arturo Fuente Hemingway Classic
MADE BY: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia.
FACTORY LOCATION: Dom. Rep.
WRAPPER: Cameroon
BINDER: Dom. Rep.
FILLER: Dom. Rep.
PRICE: $8.10
RING GAUGE: 48
LENGTH: 7"
RATING: 92
This is my favorite production Fuente out there. For me, the wrapper makes this cigar…it is super thin with a toothiness that I like. The aroma and flavors on this cigar range from citrus to coffee, and it produces a large amount of smoke.

8.) Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Maduro Torpedo
MADE BY: El Paraiso Factory
FACTORY LOCATION: Honduras
WRAPPER: Costa Rica
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Honduras
PRICE: $10.50
RING GAUGE: 54
LENGTH: 5"
RATING: 92
I’ve never been a huge fan of Rocky Patel’s cigars. Occasionally he’ll come up with a good one, but for the most part, in my opinion, he’s doing far too much. It seems like every week he’s coming out with a new blend, size, or cigar. This one surprised me, and I fell in love with the wrapper of this cigar. Not something I smoke frequently, but it’s a good change of pace smoke.

9.) Ashton Virgin Sun Grown Torpedo
MADE BY: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia.
FACTORY LOCATION: Dom. Rep.
WRAPPER: Ecuador
BINDER: Dom. Rep.
FILLER: Dom. Rep.
PRICE: $11.25
RING GAUGE: 55
LENGTH: 6 1/2"
RATING: 92
This is my favorite Ashton, and the Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper is a piece of art. It’s not as full flavored as I like, but I’ve never had a bad one, and if you like a nice cedar flavor to your cigars, try this one for sure!

10.) Partagas Serie P No. 2 Tubo
MADE BY: Habanos S.A.
FACTORY LOCATION: Cuba
WRAPPER: Cuba
BINDER: Cuba
FILLER: Cuba
PRICE: £16.20 ($25.91 USD)
RING GAUGE: 52
LENGTH: 6 1/8"
RATING: 92
I haven’t had the opportunity to try this cigar yet, but it sounds like something I’d like. According to Cigar Aficionado it has a rich, earthy flavor.

11.) Aurora Preferidos Maduro Robusto
MADE BY: La Aurora S.A.
FACTORY LOCATION: Dom. Rep.
WRAPPER: Brazil
BINDER: Dom. Rep.
FILLER: Brazil, Dom. Rep., Cameroon
PRICE: $10.00
RING GAUGE: 50
LENGTH: 5"
RATING: 92
This was one of the strongest cigars on the top 25, mainly due to the large amount of Brazilian tobacco in the cigar. It is also one of the few cigars made today that uses Cameroon tobacco in its filler. I would have rated this cigar higher, probably 6 or 7. It was a strong hickory flavor, with a hint of cherry…it almost reminds me of a backyard BBQ down south.

12.) Casa Magna Colorado Extraordinario
MADE BY: Segovia Cigar Factory
FACTORY LOCATION: Nicaragua
WRAPPER: Nicaragua
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Nicaragua
PRICE: $10.75
RING GAUGE: 58
LENGTH: 7"
RATING: 92
The Casa Magna Colorado Robusto was named #1 last year. As normally happens when a relatively unknown cigar is highly rated, they couldn’t keep up with demand. This cigar is still a good value at the price, and is beautifully constructed. It has a little more pepper than I remembered from the robust, and is a good smoke, just not one that I will reach for again.

13.) La Flor Dominicana Salomon
MADE BY: Tabacalera La Flor S.A.
FACTORY LOCATION: Dom. Rep.
WRAPPER: Nicaragua
BINDER: Dom. Rep.
FILLER: Dom. Rep.
PRICE: $23.00
RING GAUGE: 64
LENGTH: 7"
RATING: 92
This is a great cigar, but it is a bit pricey. The price is well justified by the difficulty in rolling this thick (an inch around at its widest) cigar, but the price also takes it out of my regular rotation. Litto Gomez is still creating great blends though, as evidenced by his Factory Press series, as well as the Double Ligero, which is my current go to cigar.

14.) Fuente Fuente Opus X Reserva D’Chateau
MADE BY: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia.
FACTORY LOCATION: Dom. Rep.
WRAPPER: Dom. Rep.
BINDER: Dom. Rep.
FILLER: Dom. Rep.
PRICE: 92
RING GAUGE: 48
LENGTH: 7"
RATING: 92
Carlos Fuente, Jr. and Sr. have long been two of the most respected and revered names in the cigar industry. Their Opus X line has been one of the most talked about brands in recent history. The main problem I have with Opus is, for my palate, they’re not very good right away. You give one about 2-3 years more age, and you have an outstanding smoke. However, like the LFD Salomon, their price takes them out of my regular rotation, but they are good for an occasional special event cigar.

15.) Benji Menendez Partagas Master Series Majestuoso
MADE BY: General Cigar Co.
FACTORY LOCATION: Dom. Rep.
WRAPPER: Cameroon
BINDER: U.S.A./Conn. Habano
FILLER: Dom. Rep., Nicaragua
PRICE: $9.98
RING GAUGE: 46
LENGTH: 6"
RATING: 92
This is by far the best Partagas I’ve ever had. The thin, oily Cameroon wrapper is a perfect compliment for the faintly salty taste I got, combined with a bit of pepper. Outstanding cigar…in my top 10 for the year.

16.) Alec Bradley Family Blend
MADE BY: Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubanas S. de R.L.
FACTORY LOCATION: Honduras
WRAPPER: Honduras
BINDER: Indonesia
FILLER: Honduras, Nicaragua
PRICE: $6.50
RING GAUGE: 50
LENGTH: 5 1/2"
RATING: 92
This is not the Alec Bradley cigar I would have had on the top 25. I wasn’t that impressed with it personally, but the SCR and Tempus are great smokes.

17.) Partagas Salomon
MADE BY: Habanos S.A.
FACTORY LOCATION: Cuba
WRAPPER: Cuba
BINDER: Cuba
FILLER: Cuba
PRICE: £19.00($30.44 USD)
RING GAUGE: 57
LENGTH: 7 1/4"
RATING: 92
Haven’t had this cigar, and wouldn’t mind trying it. It looks beautiful.

18.) Ambos Mundos No. 2 Robusto
MADE BY: My Father Cigars Inc.
FACTORY LOCATION: Nicaragua
WRAPPER: Ecuador
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Nicaragua
PRICE: $5.00
RING GAUGE: 50
LENGTH: 5"
RATING: 92
Yet another Pepin cigar in the top 25. This one, made for Pete Johnson of Tatuaje, is the best cigar for the money on the market, hands down. Great pepper, with a hint of coffee and leather. This cigar can stand up to the strongest of coffees, and is a perfect complement to a nice glass of rum. A must try.

19.) Illusione Epernay Le Ferme
MADE BY: Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubanas S. de R.L.
FACTORY LOCATION: Honduras
WRAPPER: Nicaragua
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Nicaragua
PRICE: $8.50
RING GAUGE: 48
LENGTH: 5 1/4"
RATING: 92
This is another cigar I would have liked to have seen rated higher. Dion at Illusione is creating a lot of buzz in the cigar world, for both his cigars, and his marketing. It takes a unique man to show up at the largest tobacco trade show with a display featuring the picture of cult leader Jim Jones. His message, “Don’t drink the Kool Aid.” Cigars are all about marketing, and once you decide what you actually like, not what marketing tells you you should like, things are much better for you. This is a cigar that, with or without marketing, is a must smoke. A hint of sweetness on the finish preceded by bits of pepper and leather.

20.) Mi Dominicana Lancero
MADE BY: Tabacalera de Garcia Ltd.
FACTORY LOCATION: Dom. Rep.
WRAPPER: Dom. Rep.
BINDER: Dom. Rep.
FILLER: Dom. Rep.
PRICE: $8.00
RING GAUGE: 40
LENGTH: 7 1/2"
RATING: 92
This cigar, a Dominican puro, is a very interesting smoke. It’s not as flavorful or full bodied as I like, but the lancero is very well made, and a beauty to the eye. It’s worth a try.

21.) Casa Fernandez Lancero
MADE BY: Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubanas S. de R.L.
FACTORY LOCATION: Honduras
WRAPPER: Nicaragua
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Nicaragua
PRICE: $7.00
RING GAUGE: 40
LENGTH: 7 1/2"
RATING: 92
Wow, is all I can say about this cigar. Certainly full bodied, with a very toothy dark oily wrapper that is bursting with hickory flavor…great smoke, in my top 10 as well.

22.) Padilla Signature 1932 Torpedo
MADE BY: Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubanas S. de R.L.
FACTORY LOCATION: Honduras
WRAPPER: Nicaragua
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Nicaragua
PRICE: $11.50
RING GAUGE: 50
LENGTH: 6"
RATING: 92
Ernesto Padilla is one of my favorite people in the cigar industry, and this cigar is a perfect indication of why. He is a traditionalist who makes cigars for people that admire full bodied cigars. This cigar has just a hint of pepper to go with a rich leathery taste that is sure to please just about everybody.

23.) C.A.O. Lx2 Toro
MADE BY: C.A.O. Fabrica de Tabacos S.A.
FACTORY LOCATION: Honduras
WRAPPER: Nicaragua
BINDER: Honduras
FILLER: Nicaragua, Dom. Rep.
PRICE: $7.25
RING GAUGE: 50
LENGTH: 6"
RATING: 91
This cigar does a great job of blending strength with flavor. Smooth, creamy smoke comes out of this cigar, and you’ll get some nice pepper flavors, with just a hint of sweetness and leather.

24.) Xikar HC Series Babano Colorado Belicoso
MADE BY: Segovia Cigar Factory
FACTORY LOCATION: Nicaragua
WRAPPER: Nicaragua
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras
PRICE: $9.25
RING GAUGE: 54
LENGTH: 6"
RATING: 91
I was very skeptical to try this cigar. I’ve long been a fan of Xikar for their cutters and lighters, but was leery of them spilling over into the cigar making business. I was wrong. This is a great full bodied smoke blended by Jesus Feugo, with a brilliant blend of filler tobaccos. Heavy pepper flavor here, and not for the faint of heart!

25.) Nestor Miranda Special Selection Coffee Break
MADE BY: My Father Cigars Inc.
FACTORY LOCATION: Nicaragua
WRAPPER: Nicaragua
BINDER: Nicaragua
FILLER: Nicaragua, Honduras, Dom. Rep.
PRICE: $6.00
RING GAUGE: 50
LENGTH: 4 1/2"
RATING: 91
It’s only fitting that the top 25 end with a cigar made by Pepin Garcia. This is one of the few medium bodied cigars I enjoy, with just a hint of sweetness. It was great seeing what Miranda and Garcia could do with Honduran and Dominican tobaccos. This is a must try also.

Now the Process:

Here’s what Cigar Aficionado says about their rating system for cigar of the year:

It’s the most challenging of tests facing any cigar—making it onto Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 list. It’s hard enough for a cigar to rise to the top of any one of our ratings, but to make it here requires consistent performance. A cigar must excel in not only one taste test, but in several. And the competition gets stiffer each time. It’s an exhaustive search. We begin by scouring a year’s worth of blind tastings from Cigar Aficionado magazine and Cigar Insider, our twice-monthly newsletter on cigars. We rate more than 700 cigars annually, and this year we looked at all the cigars that scored a minimum of 90 points, outstanding on our 100-point scale. We eliminated duplicates among brands, choosing the best of each, then sent our tasting coordinator out to buy new samples of the chosen cigars. Just as in the original tests, the coordinator stripped each cigar of its identifying cigar band and gave each cigar a new code known only to him (and he is not one of the tasters). The cigars were then smoked by a panel of senior tasters from the magazine, each with a minimum of 12 years experience in cigar tastings. The cigars were rated on their appearance, smoking characteristics, flavor and overall impression, and those scores were averaged for each cigar. At the conclusion of that round, the best of the cigars were rebanded once again with a new code and resmoked by the panel to ensure their consistent quality, and to find the very best. This final tasting consisted of 14 cigars, all of them wonderful, none of them mediocre. At the end, we had our cigar of the year, a smoke that was clear in our tasters’ minds as the very best of a series of rigorous and exhaustive tests, a cigar that we found absolutely brilliant.

It seems pretty simple to me. All the conspiracy theorists that say if you spend more on advertising, you get better ratings. It’s simply not true. The process is legit. One thing people need to keep in mind is that the ratings, as in all ratings, should be a guide, not a gospel. I’ve learned over the years to read the descriptions, not the ratings, to decide if it’s a cigar worth trying. If the description says full bodied, tons of pepper, I’m going to try it, even if it gets an 85. If a cigar is a 95 and it has flavors of salt, citrus, or is mild, it’s not something I’m likely to try.

For all the people who get bent out of shape about the ratings…remember one thing…you’re reading the ratings and talking about them, which is exactly what Cigar Aficionado wants.

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  5. Nice and expansive post.

    As I am living in Dubai, I do not have any problems to smoke Cubans [and it is not illegal] and I guess, you need to have a further sight on Cubans.
    Just drop by in DXB :)

    A lot of people say, that Cubans are not great nowadays [and they say, now they are becoming better with Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchell, Punch Duke and Cohiba Behike] but I do have another opinion.

    All Cubans I smoke which are older than 2 or 3 years are usually very good - cigars which are older than 5 years outstanding.

    The good thing here: everything in Dubai is about status, so you cannot find an aged Cohiba or Montecristo - because these are the fastest moving cigars... however something lesser known is here- sometimes since they brought the brand here [this means, here are some boxes of 1997 and very few even older].

    Younger Cubans are ok - but it depends on your palate... the "new age Cubans" are usually good if you directly smoke them. Don't even bother to age a Montecristo Open...
    I had few better known Cigars like the Montecristo 2 and they were surprisingly excellent after only 3 years [but still not comparable with much cheaper lesser known brands, which were older].

    Anyway - Cubans are / were like old fashioned Bordeaux - not always consistent - but quite good or even outstanding, if aged properly...

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have some of the cigars in these top 25 cigars of the year. I never thought there are lots of great cigars around and I am very interested in trying all of it.

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