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StogieGuys.com’s Top Cigars of 2017 (Part II)

28 Dec 2017

As always, the StogieGuys.com list of the absolute best cigars we smoked throughout the year is small: just four. That is, though, the same as in 2016. In fact, through the years, the number of five-stogie cigars has been relatively consistent.

Another constant in our five-stogie ratings is diversity. This year’s list, for example, features the debut of MBombay, a stellar line of cigars rolled in Costa Rica for Californian Mel Shah’s Bombay Tobak, and Cornelius & Anthony, a firm with longstanding ties to the tobacco business but is relatively new to premium cigars.

On the other hand, you’ll spot the familiar name Tatuaje. This marks its 10th five-stogie cigar, quite a few more than any other brand.

In order to achieve a five-stogie rating, a cigar must be better than good. As we note in the explanation of our rating system, a five-stogie cigar is “tasty, complex” and “truly an occasion.”

Here’s a chronological look at this year’s top-rated cigars:

MBombay Gaaja Maduro TorpedoWhile this is the first cigar from MBombay to score five stogies, it is not the first to be rated highly. Two others got four stogies and one received four and a half. The Gaaja Maduro was introduced early in 2017 and made a strong impression. Our review called it “delicious,” “harmonious,” “well-balanced,” and “up there with the finest.” It also urged readers not to be put off by the $15.50 MSRP: “This is one not to miss.”

Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection Havana Cazadores: When Tatuaje’s Pete Johnson introduced a 100-cigar collection rolled in Miami with a price tag of $1,200, the brand’s devotees were captivated. One of the distinguishing features of these cigars over similar earlier releases was the use of a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper rather than an Ecuadorian. The review found this lonsdale-sized smoke featured “tempered strength that walks the fine line between balance and full flavor.” It also called it “a perfectly constructed combination of full Nicaraguan flavors with the restrained richness that Connecticut Broadleaf provides.”

Cornelius & Anthony Aerial Robusto: In just a few years, Cornelius & Anthony has created an impressive line of cigars. The Aerial—rolled at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Nicaragua—has a creative combination of an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper with Nicaraguan filler and an unnamed U.S. binder. The Robusto has a $9.25 MSRP. As the review noted, “…the first few puffs are bursting with spice and a strong finish. By the start of the second third, the spice has backed off and tobacco sweetness moves to the fore. In the final third, the spice amps up again, mingling with leather and a light earthiness.”

Muestra de Saka Nacatamale: Since reentering the cigar business in 2015, Steve Saka, with his Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, has knocked ‘em out of the park like Aaron Judge: a five-stogie rating in 2015 followed by numerous four-and-a-half rated smokes. This year’s entry comes packed in a wooden coffin with an MSRP of $15.95. “What makes Nacatamale so outstanding—and, yes, it is absolutely outstanding—is not any individual flavor,” said our review. “This cigar is a great example of how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.”

You can find all 58 five-stogie rated cigars with reviews dating back more than a decade here.

Here’s to many more wonderful cigars in 2018!

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

StogieGuys.com’s Top Cigars of 2017 (Part I)

26 Dec 2017

It’s time for the annual StogieGuys.com roundup of the best cigars we reviewed throughout the past 12 months.

As it is every year, the number of cigars that achieved the coveted five-stogie rating is small: only four in 2017. That’s fitting because the top StogieGuys.com rating signifies the cigars are “tasty, complex” and are “truly an occasion” to smoke. The total also dovetails neatly with the results in recent years. In 2016, for instance, there were also four top-rated smokes, while six made it in 2015 and 2014, and only two in 2013.

On the other hand, many more of 2017’s cigars were close to the top. I counted 22 four-stogie cigars and 16 four-and-a-half-stogie cigars. Again, while the numbers go up and down annually, that’s not far off from previous years. Today we’ll take an alphabetical look at our four-and-a-half stogie candidates with a quote from each review. Later this week, we’ll follow up with the five-stogie rated cigars of 2017.

Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger: “RoMa Craft has built its well-deserved reputation on quality, consistency, and great bang for the buck. The Aquitaine Knuckle Dragger lives up to these virtuous characteristics…”

Davidoff 702 Series 2000: “With a perfect draw, solid ash, and even burn, the cigar delivers wonderful medium-bodied flavors from start to finish.”

Davidoff Nicaragua Box Pressed Robusto: “Without question, Davidoff’s first box-pressed line is a winner.”

Davidoff Year of the Rooster Limited Edition: “…the Rooster is incredibly smooth, balanced, and easy to smoke.”

El Galan Dona Nieves Negra Macho: “This is a flavorful, complex, well-made, balanced smoke at a very fair price.”

E.P. Carrillo Elencos Don Rubino: “After an even light is established, the profile is incredibly full-bodied right from the get-go. The bold, spicy flavors include espresso, black pepper, cayenne heat, and dark cherry.”

Illusione Singulare Phantom (Regular Production): “The new Illusione Phantom is a complex and balanced smoke…”

Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial Limited Edition 2017: “Fans of Connecticut Broadleaf cigars will want to seek this one out, even if the price means it will probably be only an occasional indulgence.”

Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Churchill: “… undoubtedly full-bodied, strong, and spicy. But to write it off as a mere heavy-handed powerbomb would be to miss the excellent, balanced flavors that comprise the profile.”

Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2015 LC50: “The overall impression is one of a well-balanced, medium-bodied, spice-forward smoke with some Cubanesque, old-school personality.”

L’Atelier Imports La Mission 1999: “…La Mission 1999 may be the best L’Atelier to date. I would even encourage those who are typically put off by San Andrés (I know you’re out there) to give this standout specimen a try.”

Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Maduro (Smoke Inn Exclusive): “I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone when I say the Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Maduro is a terrific smoke. It’s a compact, concentrated iteration of a blend we all know and love that delivers exactly as expected.”

Padrón Serie 1964 Prototype Natural (Smoke Inn Exclusive): “Once lit, nutty, creamy pre-light notes transition to a complex, well-balanced profile of oak, almond, sharp cedar spice, and vanilla. Background notes of powdery cocoa and cream help add balance.”

Sobremesa Elegante en Cedros: “Flavors include cocoa, cedar, café au lait, baking spices, creamy caramel, and white pepper. Balanced, harmonious, and delicious.”

Tatuaje Black Petit Lancero: “This classic-tasting, medium-bodied cigar scores very well due to its ample complexity and harmonious balance.”

Tatuaje Reserva Broadleaf Collection Especiales (Laguito No. 2): “All told, this is a wonderful, balanced, satisfying cigar that commands your attention from light to nub.”

You can read about the StogieGuys.com rating system here, find all of our reviews here, and see a curated list of five-stogie smokes here.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Crux Classic Toro Marblehead

23 Dec 2017

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.”

Crux Cigars has rolled out another winner. This Toro (6 x 52) is a medium-strength, flavorful smoke that is, by turns, surprising and satisfying. For instance, you might expect that as a Nicaraguan puro, there’d be a lot of spice. There is spice, but it’s more often a background note than a dominant chord. StogieGuys.com has rated several Crux cigars highly, and this is another one not to miss, especially at a price tag of around $7.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Crux Cigar Co.

Cigar Review: Avo Syncro Nicaragua Fogata Special Toro

13 Dec 2017

With its name so closely linked to burning wood, you might expect Fogata to resemble the smoky presentation of fire-cured tobaccos in cigars from Drew Estate or Sam Leccia.

It doesn’t. In fact, in a statement when the cigar was released last year, Avo Uvezian said an outdoor fire (fogata is a Spanish word that can be translated as bonfire, campfire, or wood fire) was among his “favorite settings to share unforgettable and intimate moments with my closest of friends.” So it’s the surroundings, not the burning, that served as inspiration.

Another assumption for which a smoker could be forgiven is also tied to the name: Like its older sibling, the Avo Syncro Nicaragua, Fogata is far from a Nicaraguan puro. It sports an Ecuadorian Habano 2000 clara wrapper, a Mexican binder, and a mix of Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos.

The Nicaraguan filler does not include any leaves from the volcanic island of Ometepe, and Fogata is round, not pressed. Both characteristics are different than the Avo Syncro Nicaragua.

Lastly, on the expectations front, Fogata also pleasantly surprised me with an absence of the disagreeable dirt taste I so often find in Mexican tobacco.

Fogata comes in four sizes, with an elegant Short Torpedo, Robusto, Toro, and the Special Toro. The 6-inch, 60-ring gauge Special Toro continues the trend of including a larger stick in releases. The MSRP is $11.90.

I had no complaints about construction or performance, though the burn tended to be a little fast and a bit uneven at times, even if it didn’t require any significant touch-ups.

The flavors of Fogata are an interesting and well-balanced mix. There’s not an abundance of pepper or spice, but when those ramp up a bit they blend nicely with the overall experience. Significant flavors along the way included a fruity sweetness, coffee, and leather.

I thoroughly enjoyed this cigar, perhaps not quite as much as the original Avo Nicaragua line, but certainly enough to recommend it highly. And to give it four stogies out of five.

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

George E

photo credit: Avo CigarsStogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Pinar del Rio 1878 Cubano Especial Capa Natural Robusto

9 Dec 2017

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.”

Let’s cut to the chase: This is one of the tastiest mild cigars I’ve smoked. The blend—Dominican and Nicaraguan filler under an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper and Dominican Criollo ’98 binder—kicks in a little spice to keep it interesting along with wood and an occasional touch of sweetness. I found virtually none of the grassy component often common with Connecticut Shade tobacco. But full disclosure: This cigar has been in my humidor for a couple of years and I can’t say how that might have affected it since I hadn’t smoked one previously. The Robusto (5 x 52) from Pinar del Rio is a bargain, available online at just a bit over $5 a stick.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Perla del Mar G

25 Nov 2017

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.”

Another in J.C. Newman’s production of lower-priced cigars, the four-vitola Perla del Mar line marries an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper with Nicaraguan filler and binder tobaccos. The G is a box-pressed 6.25-inch toro with a ring gauge of 54 and a price tag around $6. A little pepper and a little wood are the primary flavors from start to finish. It’s a fairly one-dimensional smoke, but for those who like a mild Connecticut, it is well worth lighting up, especially for the agreeable price.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Perla del Mar

Commentary: Turning to a Friend

13 Nov 2017

I am more than ready to bid goodbye to 2017.

Perhaps you had a good year. I certainly hope so. For me, though, it was a pretty poor twelve months filled with stress. And anxiety, tension, strain, or any other similar descriptor you’d like to use.

I’m not complaining. Well, maybe I am a little bit. But I try not to forget that I have much to be thankful for, and that I’m in a better position than many others.

Nonetheless, that’s a difficult mindset to focus on when you’re watching TV meteorologists charting Hurricane Irma’s path to your doorstep. Or recuperating from hours-long surgery. Or dealing with 2017’s other lousy events I won’t bore you with. (But I will tell you Irma eventually took a different path, inflicting no more damage on us than a few downed tree limbs and a day-long power outage. Also, the surgery was elective, not life-saving. I seem to have made it through the other incidents as well.)

Through it all, I turned to cigars as one would a trusted friend.

Tobacco foes focus on the addictive properties of nicotine, the dangers of disease, and the evils of big tobacco. As StogiesGuys.com has written many times, though, these risks are all pretty minimal when it comes to premium cigars.

And all but ignored in their attacks are the beneficial aspects afforded many cigar smokers. Quiet time. Relaxation. Stress reduction. Pleasure. Just looking forward to having a cigar helped.

I don’t even recall what I lit up most of the time. Usually, I turned to one of my standbys, like something from Don José “Pepin” Garcia or a Perdomo Lot 23. The truth is, though, that what I was smoking didn’t really matter too much.

That’s because what I got was far more than a smoke. It was a time to relax and recharge. Whether I was sitting on the deck listening to music, watching a baseball game on my iPad, or simply staring off into the distance, the time I spent with a cigar was like an oasis.

Yes, I’m sure I could have made it through 2017 without cigars. But I’m also sure it would have been a much rougher trip.

So, here’s to a better New Year coming. And cigars to help us celebrate the good times and help us through the bad times.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys