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2014 CA Report: Top 12 Strong Cigars
12 Strong Cigars That Might Just Kick Your Ass
So…you say you like a strong cigar, ehhh?
You enjoy the rush, you soak up the Vitamin N. You like the way your smoke elbows you in the gut while sucker punching you with flavor. Understandable – who, among us full-bodied smokers, doesn’t appreciate a good mugging by our cigar?
Understand, though, the primary reason a cigar is strong: Ligero. These leaves are the high primings, found near the top of the stalk. As the lower leaves are harvested, the plant focuses more of its growing energy and nutrients into these sun-soaked leaves remaining at the top. Some growers even let them over-ripen to brew a little more power, body and complexity. More sun = thicker, more powerful tobacco. If you look at the foot of a cigar, it is often the Ligero – those darker leaves – that you see at the core.
Now, before you start wondering out loud about “why the hell isn’t the Opus X Forbidden X on here?” Or, “where’s the Padron 1926? That thing kicked my ass so hard it should have had a warning label!” Remember: strength and body are not descriptive twins – they’re more like blood brothers. Strong cigars can be full bodied, but not all full-bodied cigars are strong; one is a comprising quality of the other. Also – I just happen to think that these twelve plant a boot more firmly in the arse than the rest.
Let’s do this thing…
El Cobre by Oliva
Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro houses a Nicaraguan blend with more kick than a karate master. The robust El Cobre was previously Gilberto Oliva’s private “Lobotomizer” recipe…which makes me wonder if get-togethers at the Oliva house are like the dojo fight scene in “Fist of Fury.” I’ll bet that happens. This powerhouse is Bruce Lee in a bundle – skip the Dragon and Enter El Cobre.
601 La Bomba Warhead II
Choosing between 601 cigars is like arguing whether Fat Man or Little Boy was more devastating. So where the kick of Erik Espinosa’s new 601 Steel administers a sound beating to your senses, it’s the Warhead II’s brawn that gives it the edge here. An equilibrium-impairing amount of all-Nicaraguan Ligero long fillers and binder core team up with a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper to pummel you like an undercover drug narc at a Hells Angels’ rally. If it’s unbridled strength you seek, 601 does not disappoint.
Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo
Some say it’s “the original Nicaraguan power cigar.” Others call it “the last thing I remember before passing out.” Raw, rude and unadulterated strength blisters from this oily, aged Joya puro. Let’s put it this way: when they say they’ve “tamed the blend a bit” for their newer (and still rich) cigars like Joya Red, you know this thing is a top-of-the-power-heap beast. Novices beware.
Camacho Triple Maduro
Triple Maduro? More like 3-prong attack. The name says it all: the pitch-black wrapper, binder and filler are all Maduro, and mashes the gas pedal with enough power to throw even the most seasoned vet back down in his seat. I once heard someone say this cigar “wasn’t overpowering.” Liar. Smoke it on a full stomach – or it’ll make you dizzy.
Cain F Nub
Hey, Studio Tobac – what did we ever do to you? Cain F cigars were already aggressive…and here you go and make it over in shorty form, drilling down to that Nub sweet spot and overfilling it with power. Cain F Nub is fierce in its simplicity: long-leaf Ligero on the inside, Ligero wrapper on the outside. This cigar doesn’t just smack your taste buds; it kidnaps them and demands ransom. You are warned.
Punch Gran Puro
The strongest Punch of them all, Gran Puro packs more heat than a marauding street gang. It’s as spicy as the day is long – and thanks to the extensive use of sun-grown tobaccos, wallops the taste buds with flavor. Because each member of this flavor gang wants its turn with you, Punch will hit you; prop you up, and hit you again. Bonus: incredibly affordable, which means you can get Gran Puro for well under $5 per beat-down.
Innocent and understated, as Dominicans usually are – until you touch a flame to it. Jesus Christ on a bike. You’d think it was a Nicaraguan puro. Rafael Nodal should have called this “blackout,” if another cigar didn’t already have the name. The dark-natural, Habano-wrapped SWAG Black is to cigars as atomic hot sauce is to chicken wings: awesomely explosive. A friend of mine actually lost feeling in his left hand after smoking 2/3 of it. If you dig big strength, you have to jump on these cigars.
La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero
Consult any smoker for his or her list of strong cigars that kicked their ass, and you’ll see La Flor Dominicana on it in short order. Again, you have milder expectations of Dominican tobacco, as it features a dark natural Ecuadorian wrapper – until you find out it’s a Ligero blitzkrieg underneath, and powerful stuff at that. The truth: LFD ravages the countryside, feasting on the big talkers and leaving the weak and timid in its wake. Masochists. All of you.
Asylum Straight Jacket
For some of us, brutally strong cigars are a rare treat; for Christian Eiroa, it’s a way of life. And by collaborating with his brother from another mother, Tom Lazuka, they have put kicking your ass on their daily to-do list with Asylum Straight Jacket. A Nicaraguan puro powerhouse, Straight Jacket guarantees the palate a good shellacking; though your friends may say you have to be crazy to smoke this cigar, it would be crazy not to.
The wisdom with strong cigars is, as we’ve noted, don’t smoke ‘em on an empty stomach – and with CAO Brazilia, about 2 or 3 pizzas should do the job. Full, full Nicaraguan power just drips out of this smoke, and with its similarly-rich Brazilian Maduro wrapper, has hobbled even the most iron-sided smokers among us. So good, it hurts: with a ‘91’ rating in its back pocket, Brazilia busted more than a few kneecaps on its way there.
Don Pepin Garcia Original [Pepin Blue]
Next on this Murderer’s Row is Jose Garcia…though you know him as “Don Pepin.” How synonymous is his name with power and flavor? Well, if we were to play word association, I would say “spice” – and you would immediately say, “Pepin.” His all-Nicaraguan Blue Label starts strong, and power-bombs you from there. “Hearty” doesn’t even begin to cover it: it is rumored that demolition teams use this in lieu of dynamite, and not just because they’re smaller…just more efficient.
Inferno by Oliva
Oliva sneaks back onto the list with an under-the-radar smoke: Inferno. It’s not normally thought of as a strong cigar, and that’s the catch…you don’t see it coming until it’s too late. Its Habano wrapper is crammed with layer upon layer of dark Ligero, running the throttle wide open for a full-tilt, full time smoke – just how we like it. If you weren’t sitting down when you started smoking it, you will be by the time you finish.