Rafael Nodal has had a hand in blending some of the most renowned cigars in the world, gathering huge ratings and prestigious awards along the way…not bad for a kid who was picking oranges in Cuba at 15. Today, we sit with Rafael to discover the 5 cigars that influenced his style, earned him success, and give some little-known facts about your favorite Altadis and Boutique Blends.
2015 CA Report: 10 Most Underrated Cigars
How many times have you heard that something is just so…underrated? Something or someone so freaking awesome, it takes all your control not to grab a complete stranger by the collar and scream “AREN’T THESE INCREDIBLE?!?” in his face. Complete strangers love that, and usually reward such enthusiasm with a restraining order or throat punch. Beware crossing the fine line, however: Harvey Keitel, food trucks and Rubber Soul are not underrated – people just haven’t been exposed to them enough. Defined, “underrated” describes someone or something that is “not given enough recognition for its quality,” or to “underestimate its extent, value, or importance.” Gimlets. “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner.” George Harrison, solo. Gary Oldman. The movie “Smoke.” All underestimated in the extent of their value and importance, and all too often, not given enough recognition for their quality; and so it is with these cigars. Five bucks says you haven’t heard of half this list – double or nothing, you haven’t smoked the other 5 (professional reviewers, you don’t get to play). So that’s gonna change – as we dig into 10 of the most underrated cigars that need to find their way into your humidor now.
La Sirena Jaxx
Banded pinstripe-y in a New York Yankees sort of way, Jaxx is the Mike Stanton of cigars. Google him. This La Sirena smoke is brimming with Nicaraguan and Brazilian tobaccos and brings serious flavor along for the ride – everything you could hope and dream for in a medium body cigar. The deep/dark/delicious Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro wrapper only adds to the package; smooth, peppery and sweet all in one. Don’t pass it up.
7-20-4 is to cigars what Doug Flutie is to football. The man had his own breakfast cereal, for God’s sake. He also had the “Flutie Effect.” And so it should be with 7-20-4: a hardworking 5-nation blend that must be tasted to be appreciated, this underdog is mellowed in Spanish cedar for another stretch of time to produce a smoke that could be one of the best in your rotation – as long as you give it a shot. It will surprise you with what it can do.
Nestor Miranda Collection Connecticut
Forget the Nestor you knew…it’s time to try it again, as Miami Cigar has completely overhauled their Nestor Miranda core line of smokes in honor of 25 years in the business. Ecuadorian Connecticut on the outside, Nicaraguan, Dominican and Honduran on the inside; and though it’s surprisingly tame and approachable for a cigar rolled at the My Father factory, the abundant flavor completely upends the playing field for Connecticut-wrapped cigars as a whole moving forward.
El Suelo is the 2nd half of our Pete Johnson double feature in this list. Maybe you passed on this cigar because it came in a bundle; maybe you should be ashamed of yourself. All the big, important cigar words are present when discussing this L’Atelier-made cigar: Habano Oscuro (wrapper), broadleaf (binder and filler) and Nicaraguan long leaf (also filler). All are yours in an astonishingly budget-friendly smoke that will set fire to the hair of even your most elitist smoking buddy.
Sabor De Esteli Habano [Ed. Note: Sabor de Esteli is no longer in stock at Famous Smoke Shop; click the image to view other Guayacan Cigar options.]
Or, “Flavor of Esteli” if you prefer. This hidden gem from Guayacan features everything fantastic about Nicaraguan cigars, wrapped in a natural Ecuadorian Habano for total tobacco fulfillment. All I can say is have your cutting and lighting tools at the ready – once you smoke one, you’ll tear the lid off the box trying to get to the rest of ‘em. Bonus factor: Sabor De Esteli is priced to be a regular burner in your rotation.
Last year was a breakthrough, of sorts, for Tattoo – not because people finally discovered this Pete Johnson-blended diamond in the rough, but because they finally talked about smoking it. So while it’s now among the least underrated cigars on this list, this spicy Nicaraguan has yet to win over as many humidors as it should. Grab ‘em now because you know better: rolled in surprisingly-dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper at Pepin’s Estelí factory, it’s big-time flavor for short coin.
Gran Habano Corojo #5
Next time your cigar pals go off and suck all of the oxygen out of the room talking about the “it” smoke that’s hot this minute – let me suggest instead, a gem among underrated cigars: Gran Habano Corojo #5. The thick smoke and heavy flavors from this mostly-Nicaraguan blend smoke way more expensively than their embarrassingly low price would ever lead you to believe. How do I know? I sit next to a guy who won’t STFU about them; and having tasted them, I now know why Corojo #5 holds up far better than many of the “it” cigars ever will.
Aging Room Maduro
It made my list of after-dinner smokes, and is again here – so consider this my grab-you-by-the-collar moment. Aging Room Maduro cigars feature 5-year-aged Nicaraguan maduro wrapper draped over Dominican filler; and for each of these components, only the best in Rafael Nodal’s tobacco arsenal will do. Ultra-complex and medium-full (it actually ramps up in strength), I highly recommend you find one and put fire to the foot immediately.
La Hoja Autentico Maduro
Great smoke. But be honest for a second and ask yourself: are you just going to take my word for it? In this rare instance, YES – and this generous mixture of spicy all-Dominican leaf awaits your lighter to prove it. Autentico’s blend delivers strong flavors right out of the gate and remains rich and creamy throughout, and with a medium-plus profile so consistent it gives the Master Atomic Clock a run for its money. Push it to the top of your to-do list immediately, as this Hoja de Flores easily competes with the big boys.
Matilde is a Dominican-Nicaraguan masterpiece – you won’t be overlooking it for much longer. Reason #1: it’s from Jose Seijas, who ran TdG for Altadis for eons, where they roll Montecristo, RyJ and other legends. #2: deceptively smooth, the flavors (and there are many) distract you from the medium-full potency that sneaks up and takes you out at the knees. Well-experienced rollers = fantastic construction; in a word, luxurious. Definitely not to be missed.
When it comes to underrated cigars, there are many; these are but my top 10. What is/are yours? Or should we keep them a secret, so there’s more available for the rest of us? Weigh in with your comment below…