Once considered “the cheapskate’s delight,” today’s bundle cigars have debunked the ‘bundles are where the bad cigars go’ myth. Get our 5 bits of “must-know” wisdom about these (mostly) value-priced premiums that’ll have you rethinking how you fill your humidor.
2015 CA Report: 10 Top Cigar Numbers
Let’s Count by Cigar Numbers!
Numbers are everywhere. Work. House numbers. Your fantasy league draft picks. Making change to get candy out of the vending machine. As kids, we painted by numbers. Even my favorite song from Synchronicity – “Murder by Numbers.” Numbers matter –and in this case, it struck me kind of funny how many cigars there are out there that have “numerical” names. Those cigar numbers (and I don’t mean ratings) are defining, even evocative: admit it, you form an impression in your head when I say, “Montecristo #2.” The numbers define these smokes: because without numbers, these 10 cigars wouldn’t even have names, and even less of an identity.
My cigar numbers are a simple list of stogie mathing, a consecutive list of enumerations in their names and sizes… no particular order, no bias. So with that being my only criterion, what if we just wanted to take a stroll through a smoke shop, and grab a fistful of numbered everyman sticks that deliver a ton of flavor without breaking the bank? That “Perfect 10” could just look like this:
One is for…101, as in Room 101 – and for our purposes today, the Connecticut edition. Room 101 cigars already have an air of mystery around them; if you’ve ever met Matt Booth, you’d understand why. An enigma wrapped in a riddle shrouded in sterling silver, Booth blends with the same attention to detail that’s paid to his intricate jewelry stylings – and surprises you with the amount of assertive flavor that he and his cohorts at Camacho are able to pull out of a Connecticut cigar. A mix of well-aged Honduran and Dominican tobacco is what does the deed, making this a must-try medium bodied smoke.
Two is for…LX2, or in the case of this CAO cigar’s ligero content – twice as much. LX2 = Ligero x2…[a-ha moment], ohhhh, we get it. The ligero priming is dark, thick, oily and brimming with potent spice – and adding even more of it makes this CAO a slow and full-bodied burn. True to CAO form, if some is good – then more must be better: add some of the Dominican’s richer tobaccos along with the bite of Nicaraguan fillers and Honduran binders leaf, this is one that hits all of the senses with the subtleties of a sock full of soda cans. Somehow, it doesn’t overpower – LX2 just dominates instead.
Three is for…3rd Degree, a spicy offering from Oliva in the vein of their more fiery all-Nicaraguan selections. Three is also the number of fermentation cycles applied to its filler tobaccos, resulting in an Inferno that smokes as smooth as it does rich. Those extra turns in the pilones, along with aging, makes for little harshness here – 3rd Degree pulls the handle on the alarm only after igniting the taste buds with a prairie fire of flavor, complexity and a 4-alarm chili-blast of muscle.
Four is for…Four Kicks by Crowned Heads, a Kings of Leon-inspired smoke that is burly in body and even more so in flavor. The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper may lead you to believe that it’s a modest smoke; get a few puffs in and you’ll be treated to a rich ride of complexity. If you crave a smoke that’s howling with in-yer-face Nicaraguan tobaccos and the My Father factory torcedors singing backup, Jon Huber has your number: Four Kicks.
Five is for…#5, the Corojo-clad classic from Gran Habano. The number 5 is doubly important here, as you can bring home just about any size of this stick for under 5 bucks. Fact. Costa Rican and Nicaraguan long fillers provide the full-bodied fare with a complexity that – let’s be honest – you just don’t find in cigars this inexpensive. I hate using the word cheap, because I don’t want to give the impression that this is any less than premium all the way…and it is, evidenced by the creamy smoke with a long finish.
Six is for…601. The Red Label. You know, the Habano wrapper edition. The same one that packs aged Nicaraguan tobaccos within, and smacks of pepper-riddled complexity. That one. 601 Red Label cigars are: full-bodied, rich and oily, with a bite that makes you sweat like you do after a 3rd refill of the bottomless jalapeño popper bowl. If you’re an experienced cigar smoker who loves a robust, bite-y Nicaraguan puro…601 Red is your huckleberry.
Seven is for… 7-20-4, a boutique with a hundred-plus year heritage. Some say old man Sullivan (the originator of the brand) bet the lucky numbers 7, 20 and 4, and they hit; a less-exciting backstory places his cigar factory at 724 Elm St. in Manchester, NH. Either way, New Hampshire’s Kurt Kendall – who revived the brand – has blended a big payoff of Nicaraguan, Honduran, Mexican and Colombian long fillers, bound it with Costa Rican tobacco, and sealed it with a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper. They’re cured, aged, and then rested for an additional 120 days…to which all I can say is, “Flavor Jackpot.” I’m calling it a lucky 7 – and a sure bet to please.
Eight is for…858, Fuente’s legendary Corona Gorda – among the most famous cigar numbers and for many smokers, their first real cigar. The 858 is available in a natural Cameroon (like this one), a maduro and a claro wrapper version – and the ratings just keep getting higher with each selection (numbers matter!). Mild to medium and chock full of warm n’ cedary flavors, the Cameroon wrapper adds a sweetness to the mellow Dominican tobaccos within. Some have called this the best cigar in the entire Arturo Fuente line; given the flavor-to-price ratio, the math definitely adds up on these cigar numbers.
[Ed. Note: 90 Miles is no longer in stock at Famous Smoke Shop; click the image to view other Flor de Gonzalez cigar options.]
Nine is for…90 Miles, the distance from Cuba to Key West. What makes this smoke intensely special is the rare Connecticut seed broadleaf binder that’s been grown in Ecuador: it takes the 90 Miles 1980’s spicy Nicaraguan/Dominican ligero core, and smooths it over, resulting in a caramel-informed finish; it’s even more evident with the addition of a Mexican San Andres wrapper to the mix. Super creamy, this Flor de Gonzalez is a delicious, and incredibly underrated, burn.
Ten is for…10th anniversary, a milestone which Pete Johnson celebrated with Tatuaje in 2013. Think about that for a second – there are cigar brands that have been around 10 times as long (or more), yet Tatuaje has garnered as much notoriety in just a fraction of the time. Credit the tobaccos and rolling skills on display at the My Father factory in Esteli, where Johnson blended this celebration cigar with Team Pepin. A Nicaraguan puro through and through, the math tells us this 10 is not to be missed.