Archive | December, 2013’s Top Cigars of 2013

31 Dec 2013

With this being the last day of 2013, now is a good time to reflect, as well as look ahead. To that end, it’s common for my colleagues and I at to take a look at the cigars we awarded top ratings to. In other words, the cigars that received the heralded five stogies out of five rating in the past year.

This year there were but two, and, coincidentally, both reviewed by me:

Arturo Fuente King T Rosado Sun Grown: “From the first rich puffs to the finger-burning last, the cigar is a powerful pleasure.”

La Flor Dominicana Limitado V: “A terrific cigar with more changes than a Rockette in the Christmas show.”

In addition to the two cigars that received our highest rating in 2013, fifteen came close, earning the impressive rating of 4.5 stogies:

Abaddon (Blue Havana Exclusive): “One of the more interesting cigars I’ve smoked this year.”

Curivari El Gran Rey Belicoso: “I can see why this small manufacturer has gained such a large reputation.”

Dante Canto VI Asmodeus: “While Dante puts itself in some pretty exclusive company with that price, it’s not out of its league.”

Drew Estate Herrera Estelí Short Corona: “Cubanesque and a wonderful buy.”

Drew Estate Liga Privada Único Serie UF-13 Dark: “Dark flavors with charred oak and lots of powdery earth.”

J. Grotto Reserve Lancero Limitado: “An impressive smoke worth seeking out, even if finding it may be difficult.”

Joya de Nicaragua Cuatro Cinco: “It’s traditional in flavor yet somehow also unique, powerful, and nuanced.”

La Musa Mοῦσα Toro: “The quality, subtlety, and balance of the blend cannot be denied.”

Ouroboros (Blue Havana Exclusive): “A dense, leathery flavor with pepper spice, coffee bean, earth, and traces of bitterness.”

Reinado Grand Empire Reserve Elegidos: “Unique, flavorful, and spirited.”

Sencillo Platinum Pirámide: “It makes you want to fire up another as soon as you’re done with the first.”

Swag Elite: “It’s nicely balanced and smooth. And the flavors are diverse.”

Tatuaje The Mummy: “A creamy profile of peanut, white pepper, clove, and dry cinnamon.”

Tesa Picadura King Connecticut Robusto: “Mild, harmonious, and well-balanced with an interesting interplay between sweetness and spice.”

Tesa Picadura King Habano 5.5 x 48: “I absolutely love what the Picadura King Habano brings to the table for such a reasonable price.”

As a matter of perspective, two is by far the fewest five-stogie ratings in a calendar year since’s mid-2006 founding, and I was surprised. I know I smoked a lot of excellent cigars in 2013. And I’m sure my colleagues would agree.

But the more I thought about it, the more sense I think it makes. I believe the ratings are a reflection of the fact that there are more terrific cigars available now than ever before. Not only do high-quality boutique brands continue to proliferate, the industry giants are experimenting and creating smokes far beyond their regular high-production lines. And it’s easier for more smokers to get more cigars. Cigars that once were nearly impossible to find are available at more and more tobacco shops as well as online, with several specialty sellers offering extraordinary selections. So, it takes more for a cigar to truly stand out from its peers.

At least, that’s the way it seems to me. I know I smoked a lot of excellent cigars this year. I’m looking forward to smoking even more in 2014.

You’ll find our complete list of five-stogie rated smokes here, as well as our complete archive of reviews here. Take a look, and let us know what you think. And, finally, keep in mind the above cigars are simply the best smokes we reviewed this year, not necessarily our take on the best cigars to come out in 2013.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Review: El Primer Mundo La Hermandad Caballito

30 Dec 2013

Back in May, Abe Flores of Pinar del Rio Cigars (PDR) issued an announcement that, going forward, PDR would be managing the sales and distribution of the El Primer Mundo (EPM) brand throughout the U.S. and international markets. “This is a great opportunity for the EPM brand,” said Sean Williams, head of the Atlanta-based EPM. “Abe and I have… some good synergies with our overlap on sales reps and key accounts. This move will just make things a lot more efficient for our reps and our retailers.”

La HermandadThe EPM lines now sold and distributed by PDR include Liga Miami; the Black, Blue, and Red Labels; Epifania; and La Hermandad. The latter, which translates to “brotherhood,” has been made by Abe Flores at his factory in the Dominican Republic since its inception in 2012. (It should be noted that Flores’ factory also produces cigars for other brands outside the PDR-EPM fold, including Gurkha and La Palina).

The La Hermandad recipe boasts a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It is marketed as full-bodied and available in three sizes in the $8-10 price range: Caballito (5 x 50), Embajador (5 x 52), and Consejero (6 x 60).

Upon examination of the Caballito, all you can see without removing the large black foot band is the dark color of the exterior leaf, a sizable vein or two, and a wrinkled cap. After removing the band, the character of the cigar is more apparent. It’s firm, oily, and a little rough around the edges (Brazilian tobacco is built for flavor, not for looks). The pre-light notes are earthy and musty. The cold draw is smooth.

As advertised, La Hermandad Caballito’s taste starts with a full-bodied bang. Espresso bean, black pepper, charred wood, and red pepper spice are the dominant flavors. The texture is bready and a little chalky. I don’t detect much sweetness on the palate, but the resting smoke has a creamy aroma that’s slightly sweet. A hint of peanut seems to come and go throughout, and the cigar tends to settle down a bit in the middle third—only to ramp up in strength once again towards the end.

The samples I smoked for this review exhibited exquisite construction. If and when you fire up a Caballito, expect a straight burn line, easy draw, voluminous tufts of rich smoke, and an ash that holds firm at the foot. I find that establishing an even burn at the outset means you don’t have to touch your lighter again until the nub.

Over time, I’d be interested to see if this smoke develops more complexity. It seems like it would have good aging potential. Right now, though, I’d say $8 is a very fair price for this flavorful, consistent, well-built cigar. That’s ultimately why the El Primer Mundo La Hermandad Caballito earns a solid rating of four stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: E.P. Carrillo Edición Limitada 2013

29 Dec 2013

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”


The latest annual limited release from Ernesto Perez-Carrillo is an attractive toro (6.1 x 54) featuring a blend with a Mexican San Andres wrapper, dual Brazil and Ecuadorian binders, and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. It’s medium-bodied, very balanced, and rounded. It has the taste of a well-aged cigar with a unique combination of hickory, bread, and oak. The finish is smooth. It also has excellent construction. Despite a wrapper that isn’t my personal favorite, it’s a very tasty, well-made cigar.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: La Gloria Cubana Serie N JSB

28 Dec 2013

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

One of the interesting things about cigar smoking is the ability to return to a smoke and see if your opinion has changed over time. I did a Quick Smoke on La Gloria Cubana Serie N JSB about three years ago, not long after my colleague’s full review. Recently, I smoked a couple I’d had in my humidor for who knows how long. Interestingly, my view of this Ecuadoran Sumatra-wrapped smoke hasn’t changed. It’s a dark, meaty smoke with a bitter finish. This La Gloria Cubana is still not for me.

Verdict = Sell.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 363

27 Dec 2013

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

Mitch Zeller1) Earlier this month, Mitch Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products, hosted a webinar on the topic of reducing the burden of regulation on tobacco. A recent newsletter from Cigar Rights of America reports the “webinar focused almost entirely on the prevention of youth usage initiation, ways to encourage cessation of tobacco usage, the reduction of product harms and addictiveness, and new developments of science based regulatory regimes for tobacco.” However, Zeller did acknowledge “the position of the premium cigar industry” and has “received the message that premium cigars are different.” The Center for Tobacco Products is a subset of the Food & Drug Administration that oversees forthcoming tobacco regulations—regulations many consider the greatest threat to the premium cigar industry.

2) The 2014 Midwest Smoke Out will be held on April 24 at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana. Six yet-to-be-announced cigar industry legends will be making an appearance at the event, meeting with attendees who purchased VIP tickets (which go on sale January 1). Proceeds will benefit Cigar Rights of America. Only 20 VIP tickets will be sold at a price of $200; regular admission tickets will be $150.

3) Inside the Industry: Pete Johnson (sort of) announced the makings of a Tatuaje Lancero sampler for 2014. As mentioned earlier, new cigar trademarks are increasing.

4) Deal of the Week: Cigar Place has a variety of cigars on sale with brand-specific coupon codes. Most notable is 30% off Cusano, 20% off Drew Estate Undercrown, and 20% off Oliva.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: FDA

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (2013 Retrospective Edition)

23 Dec 2013

In this special segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I look back at 2013, its new cigars, and the lists we’ll use to judge them by.

Best of 2013 Lists

Best of 2013Now is the time for “Top Cigars of the Year” lists. Lots of them. In fact, a “List of the Best Lists” list is probably not far off. (We don’t have plans for one this year, but we reserve the right to change our minds.) They’re fun, but I don’t pay too much attention to them. Probably because I’m fortunate enough to try most new cigar blends that appear on various lists so I can draw my own conclusions. In fact, I’d estimate I’ve tried in excess of 50 new cigars this year (not including multiple vitolas of the same blend). If you feel strongly about whether we should compose a 2013 list or not, please let us know.

New Cigars… Lots of Them

In case you were wondering just how many new cigars there are, our friend Frank Herrera took a look at the number of trademarks that have been filed that include the word “cigar”. Filings have exploded. From early last century through the 1980s, trademark filings never averaged more than 100 a year, even though many more cigars were smoked at the beginning of the 1900s. This decade, they’re on pace for nearly 1,000 a year, a roughly 50% increase over the decade of 2001-2010. Besides being good for trademark lawyers, like Frank, I think it’s largely good for cigar smokers, too. More competition keeps everyone on their toes, and it lets newcomers try and create their own niches in the market with unique cigars that appeal to small subsets of cigar smokers.

About That Top 25 List

It’s hard to miss Cigar Aficionado‘s Top 25 list. It even generated CNBC segments, though curiously I don’t recall CNBC coverage in a year where the winner wasn’t a Cuban cigar. I looked through previous year’s CA lists, and I find that this one resonates with me far more than previous editions. With the exception of the top pick (the Cuban Montecristo No. 2), I’ve smoked all the blends in the top ten this year (and I’ve smoked plenty of Monte #2s in the past). Kudos especially to Aging Room (#2) and Buenaventura (#7), two under-the-radar gems that made the list.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: E.P. Carrillo Family Blend #809 (Unreleased)

22 Dec 2013

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”


Released as part of an exclusive sampler for Bespoke Post, the blend is billed as a “custom-made edition that the family enjoys for their personal use. It’s never been released to the public due to the limited availability of the tobaccos used in the blend.” That blend contains an Ecuadorian wrapper, a Dominican binder, and Nicaraguan filler, and comes in a single size (5.75 x 54). The well-made cigar features a medium-bodied blend with woody notes and a slightly astringent quality. It’s a pleasant enough cigar, but it’s far from my favorite E.P. Carrillo.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys