Follow along as the Cigar Advisors sample their way through the Joya de Nicaragua cigars lineup: a dozen in all, featuring quick reviews and tasting notes to help you discover what Joya Cigars have to offer – and choose the one that’s right for you!
2016 CA Report: Holiday Cigar Gift Buying Guide
The Advisors’ Picks: 2016 Christmas Cigar Gift Buying Guide
by the Cigar Advisor Staff
“It’s the thought that counts.” Too often, that old adage is often tossed out as an excuse for ill-informed gift selections and useless, last-second secret Santa picks. But if you have a friend who enjoys cigars as much as you do – or, you’re trying to drop some hints on a cigar gift you’d really like – we’re going to make it a no-brainer to help you pick some great cigar stuff for Christmas.
Rather than getting into dollar limits or just picking a 5-pack and checking the gift list “done,” choosing the right accessories and cigars as gifts really depends on how “into” cigars your recipient is: noob or pro, 1-a-day or 1-a-month? You could just sneak a peek into his or her humidor, and put a bow on more of the same; or, you could OWN Christmas and wrap up some cigars gifts like these, as selected by the Cigar Advisors.
One of my favorite annual assignments is choosing items for our Holiday Cigar Gift Guide. Last year, the theme was, “What if you only had $100 to spend on cigars and/or accessories as gifts?” but this year, I’m all over the map. So, while still keeping “value” a priority, I’ve put together a round robin of items that cover all the bases: A cigar brand sampler, a variety cigar sampler, a humidor, a lighter, a cutter, and an ashtray.
Davidoff 9 Cigar Assortment
I’ve actually recommended this, what I call “Whitman’s Sampler” of cigars from the one and only Davidoff, in past holiday gift guides. The reason is, there are few better gifts the avid cigar lover can receive than a box of Davidoff cigars, and this item, which includes 9 of their best cigars, wins on both selection and price. This may be the most affordable “box” of Davidoff cigars you’ll ever buy for a friend, family member, or yourself. (I also like the little descriptions over each cigar, just like a candy sampler.) The Special ‘R,’ Short Perfecto, Millennium Robusto, and Aniversario No.3 are considered classics, and for that matter, all of the cigars in this set deliver on that marvelous Davidoff flavor and aroma. You will be thanked profusely for this one!
Aficionado 2015 Sampler
There’s nothing cigar smokers love more than variety, and this Aficionado 2015 Sampler is the bomb. You get 10 cigars in all, each one a gem, at a very reasonable price. Starting with Cigar Aficionado magazine’s “#1 Cigar of The Year,” the My Father Le Bijou 1922 box-pressed Torpedo, you get the Montecristo Espada Quillon, an Arturo Fuente Don Carlos No.2, the Rocky Patel The Edge Habano, Murcielago La Lune (a cigar I’ve been raving about these days), and five more stunners. I can’t add much more to this collection other than to say that it speaks for itself. Just note that these were made in a limited number, so if this sounds like something you’d like to add to your collection, act quickly.
Craftsman’s Bench Rustic Humidor
What I like about this cigar humidor, besides the affordable price, is its rustic appearance, which separates it from the more traditional-looking boxes out there. It almost looks like you made it yourself, or had a gifted woodworker custom make it for you. Besides, Craftsman’s Bench has been around a while and has an excellent reputation for their craftsmanship. At 13½” x 8½” x 5″, it holds up to 90 cigars, so there’s plenty of room for your cigar collection to grow. It also includes an analog hygrometer and a humidifier, but I suggest you pick up a digital hygrometer and a crystal-based humidifier. The stock analog hygrometer is actually pretty good, but a digital model will also give you an accurate read on the temperature. As for the stock humidifier, it’s a bit “old school,” and this box actually requires a slightly bigger unit. All-in-all, a terrific cigar gift idea for yourself – or for that matter, anyone you know who could really use a great cigar humidor.
Xikar XO Cutter (Black)
Leave it to Xikar to come up with a fancy-shmancy cigar cutter like this XO model that’s shaped like a donut. Not only is it one of the coolest new inventions from the engineering minds at Xikar, it houses their patented, rock-hard, ultra-sharp Rockwell-graded blades and cuts cigars up to a 64 ring gauge; in some cases, even wider. Using a “planetary gear system,” it works just like a double guillotine cigar cutter, and due to its unique shape, cuts your cigars effortlessly, and with a lot more power, too. I like watching the gears intermesh with each other, but then, I tend to be fascinated by such things. If anything, it’s certainly one of the most unique gifts you can give your favorite cigar smoker, or yourself. The Xikar XO cigar cutter also comes with Xikar’s lifetime guarantee, so you’re covered there, too.
Vertigo Mustang Triple Jet Cigar Lighter (Brushed Gunmetal)
From Lotus, makers of some of the best cigar cutters and lighters, this Vertigo Mustang comes with great looks and excellent features at a great price. I like the forward leaning look of this lighter, which, in an “artsy” way, resembles a horse’s head. It’s a little larger than a lot of other lighters, yet, fits nicely in your hand and the trigger pulls down with hardly any resistance. You also get three powerful jets with three vents on each side, so it stands-up to the windiest days, and you get excellent coverage for lighting just about any size cigar. I also like that it comes with a built-in punch cutter, and the blade is a little wider than most punches, too.
Vector 4 Cigar Ashtray
A lot of cigar ashtrays look great, but not all are practical. There are certain things you also need to look for when choosing a good cigar ashtray: The depth of the bowl, the number and length of the saddles, and the material from which it’s made. I chose this Vector four cigar ashtray because it not only comes at a good price, but I like that it holds four cigars for sharing ashtray space, the saddles keep your cigar in place, its rugged appearance, and the yellow & black Cuban Cohiba color scheme. I also like the wooden base, which adds a little warmth to it, and it cleans-up easily. Suffice it to say, if you’ve been thinking about giving someone a cigar ashtray this holiday season, this Vector model is “practical” to say the least.
So many choices…actually, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches – there are so many good cigar gift ideas within your reach this Christmas, it’s downright ridiculous. But what do you do about the really hard to buy for cigar guy on your list, or the smoker who seemingly has their cigar options covered? If your cigar-loving friend or relative is already rocking a well-stocked humidor, something as simple as a nice cutter will go a long way, and stay forever in their rotation. Two to consider:
XIKAR Xi2 Fiberglass Cigar Cutter
Complete with a lifetime warranty, the Xikar Xi2 has that classic teardrop shape – and because it’s made with composite materials, still nets you a great performer without bringing you perilously close to your budget limit as some of the Xi1 selections might.
Firebird Saber Serrated Cigar Cutter
I also like the Firebird serrated cutter – not only because of the super low price tag, but because it’s a pair of nicely tooled cutting surfaces that will help alleviate broken caps. Because of the teeth, the Firebird cuts cleaner and quicker than your run-of-the-mill guillotine. Great for noobs, too. Three big perks here: works on big ring cigars (up to 70RG), comes in a variety of colors, and – most importantly – under 15 bucks. An awesome stocking stuffer…
I am a big fan of cigar gift sets: a great way to sample a variety of smokes, and a very budget-friendly solution for turning your pal onto something different – or at the very least, expanding his horizons. Of the hundreds to choose, here are a handful that are worth a second, third and fourth look…
CAO Champions Collection
CAO has been churning out an incredibly diverse variety of cigars the past few years, but it’s worth noting the brand’s roots. I can remember when cigar lovers were kicking in the smoke shop doors to get their hands on the CAO Criollo, for instance; I remember my first Italia, too. If your cigar buddy needs a primer on the highly rated (as in 90+) legends in the CAO stable, present him with this 10 cigar gift set.
Davidoff Short Pleasures Assortment
Truth: it is a very special or important person who is fortunate to receive Davidoff as a cigar gift. Another truth? These are some of the most flavorful sticks in the Davidoff bunch – top shelf, one and all. If price is no object but luxury taste is, this is one of those cigar gifts that will make this a Christmas for the ages. Or as I’d remember it, “the year I finally got off the Naughty list.”
The Iconic Brand Sampler
The cigar lover on your list might prefer his smokes on the milder side; particularly, mellow Dominicans. Whether it’s because he only smokes cigars occasionally, or because he’s just in the process of stepping up to some smokes with a little more flavor – put your pal nine cigars deep in Montecristo, Romeo and H. Upmann. That’s a whole lot of DR-made bliss.
Drew Estate Traditional 6 Tubo Sampler
Got a friend that’s into Drew Estate? How about a friend that needs to be? Three of their top blends presented en tubo, which is a fancy Spanish way to say “these make great cigar gifts.” Undercrown is a full-bodied staple; the Shade edition is one of the top Connecticut smokes to hit store shelves in years, and the Herrera Esteli is just a nice, hearty cigar you can feel good about gifting.
And to be clear, YES – CIGARS IN TUBES STILL NEED TO BE KEPT IN A HUMIDOR.
Just want to make sure you saw that.
So shop smart and couple one of those samplers above, with one of these humidors below:
Don Salvatore 15 Cigar Mini Humidor
The Don Salvatore has a 15-cigar capacity (rough estimate, of course) and is considered a travel humidor, but I think looks more at home on the desk top storing cigars – yet doesn’t take up a lot of space doing it. Spanish cedar lined, and finished in a burl wood, it’s a nice way to keep a small stash (like those 10 CAOs) on hand at any given time.
Bourbon Street 25 Cigar Humidor
Need to go a little bigger, or give your budding cigar enthusiast some room to grow? Move up to a 25-ct box like this Bourbon St. humidor from Orleans Group. Still considered small, but receives great reviews for ease of setup (we have videos too) and how well it matches pretty much any décor you have going on (if that matters to you, of course). Great look, nice price – as in well under $100.
Famous Gift Set
Need an all-in-one solution? This Famous gift set takes pretty much all thinking out of the equation, especially if your giftee has shown interest in the non-infused cigars from Drew Estate. Fourteen smokes, along with cutter and lighter – consider the HumiJar a gratis perk, as it’s built for the cigar smoker who’s pretty no-frills. And who doesn’t have the attention span to maintain a regular humidor. Just drop the Boveda in, reseal, and let them smokes rest until you’re ready to light up.
Best of the HumiJar Sampler
Then there’s the total noob – the person who keeps asking you about cigars, what you like, what’s good, etc. This cigar gift is great for someone who’s looking to get into the hobby: two fantastic selections from Perdomo represent mellow yet tasty flavor, plus a tangy H. Upmann pick and a good starter smoke in the RyJ – all packed in the lowest-maintenance option in the humidor world. Seriously, it’s now easier to care for your cigars than it is for a goldfish.
I like to make recommendations for cigars and accessories based off of personal experience…if it’s on my desk or it’s in my humidor, or if it’s something I like to use regularly, you’re gonna hear about it. Same goes for the cigar gifts I’m picking to give to my pals, and your herf buddies – I wouldn’t recommend anything I haven’t had a good experience with. So with those ground rules in mind, here are my picks:
Ironsides Cigar Humidor (Ebony finish)
If you need a smaller humidor, or you’re looking for a nice desktop box, then the Ironsides is not only functional, but it’s as manly looking as they get. Available in two sizes, depending on the size of the stash you need to keep fresh. This gorgeous piece of craftsmanship is made with black matte finish oak adorned with metal trim, with a classy metal nameplate for engraving your moniker – and of course, sweet smelling Spanish cedar on the inside. The smaller version (above) of this testosterone laden tobacco box holds between 25 and 50 of your favorite hand-rolled sticks, depending upon size; the larger one holds up to 100. Both come equipped with a hygrometer and humidification device and has an excellent air-tight seal. While old Ironsides makes for an incredibly thoughtful gift, it sure would look amazing perched on the corner of your desk.
Lotus Defiant Quad Jet Cigar Torch Lighter
Now this awesome lighter truly embodies form and function. Your cigar smoking buddies will be tossing the compliments left and right when you break out this stylish piece of precision engineering. The body has an attractive matte red metal finish with the top sporting a dark satin gunmetal look. And, this Defiant has – count ‘em – four laser jets that’ll give your precious sticks that perfectly even light they always deserve. This is a manly looking beast that tells the world you are serious about your cigar smoking passion. What a great gift for the cigar lover in your life… even if that cigar lover is you. (Ed. note: currently available for preorder.)
Plasencia Reserva Organica Nesticos
The Nesticos by Plasencia is absolute proof that good things really do come in small packages. These tasty little flavor bombs are the world’s very first certified organic little cigars. At 4 3/16 x 36, they may be diminutive in size but are big in deep rich Nicaraguan flavor. These sticks are just perfect for when you don’t have a whole lot of time to enjoy a premium smoke, but crave some truly great tobacco taste. It’s also the ideal cigar for a short car ride or while walking the dog. Bigger than a cigarillo but smaller than a full size stick, these Nesticos make a great cigar gift for anyone who wants a quick blast of wonderful (and natural) tobacco flavor.
PDR 1878 Reserva Dominica Capa Oscura Torpedo 5 Pack
Special alert… THIS is the 5-pack you’ll want to get for the full-bodied cigar lover in your life. PDR has been impressing the world for some time now by making cigars with great construction and just a ton of delicious flavor from their factory in the Dominican Republic. While these super-tasty torpedoes contain aged criollo and corojo tobacco on the inside, it’s that oily, dark outer Habano Oscuro leaf that make this stick attractive to the eye and a new best friend to your taste buds. This well-built masterpiece has some wonderful notes on the palate of espresso, dark chocolate and sweet cedar and the aroma fills the room with a decadent tobacco scent. Whether you buy them as a gift or for yourself, these cigars will disappear fast. Maybe you should consider a boxful for your holiday list…
Padron Serie 1926 40th Anniversary Torpedo
We at Famous are here to assure you that sometimes decadence and indulgence can be a really good thing. And for real hardcore lovers of the leaf, the Padron Serie 1926 40th Anniversary is truly the pinnacle in cigar smoking excellence. Impeccably box-pressed and made with all Nicaraguan leaf aged a minimum of 5 years, this glorious tobacco creation is wrapped in a dark and oily leaf that just begs to be cut, lit and smoked. This is the cigar that more herfers say that if they could only smoke one cigar brand for the rest of their lives, the Padron 1926 would be the not-so difficult choice. Pricey?… sure, but so are fine watches and premium whiskies. It’s kind of like that saying, if you have to ask what it cost… well, maybe you shouldn’t bother. But if you are a lover of the finer things in life or you know someone who is – including world class cigars – this is the cigar gift that will give back again and again and again.
So there you have it: top notch cigar gift picks one and all, for smokers of all stripes. We hope this helps you out this holiday. On the other hand, you could also use this gift guide to drop a few hints, if you see something you like for yourself on here…go ahead, take a screen shot or print it out, and wave it under the nose of who ever might have been peppering you with questions about what you want for Christmas. Either way, gifting one of the choice picks we highlighted above – or anything having to do with cigars – will likely be well received, and very much appreciated, by the cigar lover on your gift list. We’re just that kind of people, and the thought really does count.
Merry Christmas, from the Cigar Advisors!