10 You Need: Classic Cigars to Revisit Immediately
Do you remember your first cigar? You probably recall the experience – or at least, who was around at the time, or who might have given it to you. Mine was a Don Diego corona gifted by my friend Mike, who had a few years of premium cigar experience and a friend who owned a shop. Apparently he saw in me a lost soul, yet a potential BOTL, when I remarked, “wow…those Garcia y Vegas come in tubes? They must be nice.”
The Don Diego was a treat – and as I made my way into the cigar world, I learned…tried…sampled…smoked…and just (I’m sure) like you, found new and exciting things to fill my humidor with that were decidedly un-Don Diego-ish. My palate developed and I found new tastes and sensations in premium cigars; I learned what “toasty” tasted like, and so on. But looking back, there were some classic cigars along the way that – even though they were really good – I just drifted away from, almost never to return, for no reason other than having been lured away like a hungry trout at a fishing derby. The choices! And that’s when I decided I needed to try these cigars again, and see how much (or even if) I still liked ‘em.
The bad news: many of my old go-to’s are discontinued. As the Boom went bust, many brands crashed and burned; leaf supplies dried up, and some smokes were never to be rolled again. Some were no loss, but others are still a standard by which I judge today’s sticks (fare thee well, Oliva Special S – I will always remember). So I rounded up 10 from back in the day, and gave them another try; here’s what happened…
AF Chateau Fuente Sun Grown
Size: Belicoso (5 3/4 x 52) Strength: Medium
Your first Fuente might have been a Curly Head, but this was my first exposure to sun-grown wrapper – as well as using a v-cutter on a torpedo. I always enjoyed these classic cigars, and now I remember why: Dominican tobacco that’s done like no one else can…and still does. If Arturo Fuente has fallen off your radar – you need new radar.
Size: Magnum (5×50) Strength: Mild
The classic mild cigar story: aged Dominican filler meets up with Connecticut Shade wrapper; creaminess ensues. Because I was an inexperienced smoker at the time, Ashton taught me a thing or two about mild cigars with body and flavor – and it was one of the first cigars I ever smoked to the nub. And I did it again.
Size: Robusto (5×49) Strength: Medium
The cigar that even non-smokers know: “hey, is that a Cohiba?” (I’m sure you’ve heard that.) People knock it because they think this Dominican version doesn’t hold up to the Cuban Cohiba; truth be told, you’ll be keeping a few of these in your humidor, and maybe even getting a dog to guard them. Try it again with an open mind, if you don’t believe me.
Carlos Toraño Exodus 1959
Size: Robusto (5×52) Strength: Medium
What I forgot: this smoke intensifies in flavor AND body as it burns. What I remembered: how much I like the 5-nation blend, and the fact that this stick just burps big smoke from start to finish. If you want a refresher on what complexity is all about, revisit this cigar immediately.
Size: Condados (6×48) Strength: Mild-Medium
We all have a special occasion cigar; though newer things have since replaced it, this was mine at one time. I got turned on to it because a friend smoked Dunhill cigarettes. Smooth, elegant, consistent and DELICIOUS, this Dominican super-premium has always been worth the splurge – even if the occasion isn’t special.
Size: Churchill (7 ¼ x 54) Strength: Medium
Connecticut-creamy, smoking it again had me up to my eyes in mellow flavor in no time…and that’s because Excalibur uses the cream of the crop (literally) tobaccos, as they’re rolled in the same factory as Hoyo de Monterrey. I think the Excalibur has been around as long as I have – but so what? A solid 10: it still smokes great. Do it.
La Gloria Cubana
Size: Wavell (5×50) Strength: Medium
To everyone who dumps on “old man” cigars: my old man taught me when to fight, and how to fix my car – so I’ll take it as a compliment. LGC was a Boom all-star and a brief go-to, so it didn’t take much arm-twisting to light it again. Classic looking and tasting, medium body is my wheelhouse…a bold and rich payoff. Great value, too.
El Rico Habano
Size: Corona Suprema (6×50) Strength: Full
Meet my first full-bodied cigar – and the one that gave me my first serious case of the sweats. I forgot how incredibly aromatic this cigar is, but had no problem recalling its Nicaraguan tobacco-inspired lust for power. If you like ‘em strong, drop what you’re smoking and give El Rico Habano another try…you won’t be disappointed.
Sancho Panza Extra Fuerte
Size: Barcelona (6 ½ x 48) Strength: Full
I was going through a phase where all I smoked was Honduran cigars (don’t ask), and even then I knew this one stood apart from most of them. Spicy and peppery, “robust” doesn’t even begin to cover it: noobs are on notice. Still stands tall, though – all business, and burns great. If I stay on the “nice” list, maybe I’ll get a box for Christmas.
RP Vintage 1992
Size: Torpedo (6 ¼ x 52) Strength: Medium
A Nicaragua-Dominican blend with a Mexican binder, it’s a 52-ring buttered biscuit of delight. The smoke output is a little thinner than others on the exhale, but the flavors more than make up for it – and there are many of them. Other solid blends have come from the Patel family in recent years, but this is Rocky at his best.
One more bright spot about this list of classic cigars you need to try again: they’re all pre-2007. That matters, if the FDA institutes their “substantial equivalence” testing clause when they make their final ruling regarding premium cigar regulation. Premiums that were on the market before February 2007 would be grandfathered; subsequent products released would be required to undergo an extensive (translated: expensive) testing period, to make sure that a blend has the same characteristics (materials, ingredients, design, composition, etc.) and raises no new questions of health when compared with the pre-2007 standard-bearers. Sounds simple, but it’s not; FDA has been reviewing almost 4000 cigarette applications for 4 years, and ruled on fewer than 1% of them.
On the plus side, if the FDA lowers the hammer on cigars – you’ll still be able to smoke these 10.
Did I miss any? Make a comment below, and shout at me.