Breaking Brand: 10 Outlier Cigar Brands
By Tommy Zman Zarzecki
For years, many manufacturers were known for producing certain kinds of cigars that had similar strength and flavor profiles throughout all of their lines. Take La Flor Dominicana for instance. I remember my first LFD Chisel that I smoked on an empty stomach, where within ten minutes I saw several dead relatives riding on horseback through my living room, and I knew at that moment that Lito Gomez made some seriously strong-ass cigars. When I first started smoking finely aged tobacco, like most newbies, I gravitated towards mellow cigars and I fell in love with premium hand rolled Dunhills. They were toasty and creamy and easy on the palate, and there wasn’t a Dunhill I didn’t like.
I’d have to say that for a number of years, most manufacturers followed suit by producing profiles that they became known for. But, or should I say butt, over the last few years, the brain-trust at the cigar companies have started to create blends that are outliers from their typical tobacco offerings. Some true fans of the brand were instantly against this, without ever even trying the new sticks, but what they didn’t realize was that the cigar maker’s goal was to open up their cigar brands to smokers who would have never given their cigars a try. And guess what… it worked.
So, I’ve gone ahead on my very own and picked out ten present-day outlier cigar brands, premiums that don’t fit the mold that the manufacturers have been known for. There are some pretty damned awesome choices in my lineup, if I say so myself, and if you love yourself some tasty smokes, I advise you to peruse the list and get ready to cut and light.
The boys at Drew Estate started things off with their ACID line, tobacco infused with botanicals and essential oils and it started a cult following. Then, they introduced the Liga Privada line – the 9, T52, and the Feral Pig, followed by the Nica Rustica and the Undercrown – all full-flavored beasts that created a monster group of Drew crew maniacs. Then, it happened… little Willie Herrera (little, ha, the guy’s got hands as big as catcher’s mitts), tweaked the Undercrown blend, added a silky Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, and a deliciously smooth, toasty and naturally sweet outlier was born. I’ve proudly turned a lot of people on to this one.
Romeo 505 Nicaragua
Romeo has always made great cigars like the 1875, the Vintage and the Reserva Real – medium-bodied smokes, not overly complex with straight forward flavor profiles. They’re made in the Dominican Republic and covered in lighter shade Ecuadorian Connecticut wrappers. So, of course the mold gets completely smashed as Romeo introduces this Nicaraguan atomic bomb, filled with dark, rich tobacco from various growing regions and covered in a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper. Spice, cedar, toast and a bit of leather make this one hell of a tasty outlier. This is some serious full-bodied yum.
Perdomo Craft Series Amber
The story, as told to me by Nick Perdomo, himself, is that Nick and Arthur Kemper were drinking beer at an outdoor café table somewhere in Europe, and Arthur, a true lover of malted barley and hops came up with an epiphany: let’s blend a line of cigars that perfectly complements different beers – a truly unique concept in cigar making. And thus, the Craft Series was born. I particularly like the Amber, a full-bodied Nicaraguan puro with a gorgeous reddish colored sun grown wrapper leaf. It’s made to pair with toasted malted flavors found in ambers, IPA’s and lagers. You don’t have to pair it with a beer, but damn, it sure doesn’t hurt!
Joya de Nicaragua Cabinetta Serie
I remember early on in my cigar smoking days, I tried a Joya Antano 1970 and within 3 minutes my hair caught on fire. Joya de Nicaragua cigars were sinfully strong with a ton of dark, deep flavors. It took a while before I learned to like that kind of cigar. But sometimes you’ve got to ease back and go a little more medium and that’s exactly what the Cabinetta does. While they use those dark and savory inner leaves, and the outer is a Nicaraguan Criollo, Joya went and put a second wrapper on top (yep, a double wrapper) – an Ecuadorian Connecticut that tones this stick down to a smooth and creamy smoke with an awful lot of rich flavors like nuts and cocoa. I love this cigar and I’ve been smoking a lot of them lately.
Erik Espinosa has become a force in the cigar industry, a guy known for his passion for creating full-bodied sticks sporting bold flavor profiles. The 601 cigar brands put him on the map (the oscuro-wrapped Green is a longtime favorite of mine), and now the deep, rich Laranja is garnering high ratings from reviewers at every level. So, what does Erik do, he goes and throws a curveball by releasing the Crema, a buttery-smooth, toasty and creamy mellow fellow. It’s medium-bodied and covered in a simply gorgeous Ecuadorian shade leaf. Naturally sweet and very tasty and a nice break from every day full-bodied madness.
H. Upmann AJ Fernandez
The H. Upmann line has always been known as a more reserved group of smokes, nicely constructed, medium-bodied, with straight forward flavor profiles. Enter AJ Fernandez who flips over the proverbial apple cart with reckless abandon. As the saying would go, this is not your granddaddy’s Upmann. This one is bursting with very deep, rich flavors, rolled to perfection and covered in a spicy, oily Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper leaf. It’s medium to full-bodied with notes of dark coffee, cocoa, spice and a very pleasant nuttiness. One of the top new cigars from last year for a damned good reason. Love this stick.
You know what you get with a Padron cigar: full body, full flavor, end of sentence. Any cigar in the Thousands line, whether natural or Maduro has gotten forever high ratings with their earthy profiles. Then there’s the 1964 and the 1926 made with 5-year aged tobaccos and are some of the finest, full-flavored, complex smokes made. But, then, in comes the monkey wrench with the introduction of the Damaso. The body on this falls a hair under medium with its silky and flawless Connecticut seed wrapper. This really is one hell of an outlier with its creamy, nutty, and toasty flavor and aroma. This is as high-quality a mellow smoke as you will find.
Macanudo Inspirado Red
People hear the name Macanudo and they instantly think about the Café or Portofino – very mellow and not deep with flavor. Well, hold the phone, stop the presses and kill the engine because that longtime little paradigm has certainly changed – and for the better. The Inspirado cigar brands feature a lineup of four new smokes that are jacked up on flavor – and the Red, in particular, has caught my taste buds. It is the opposite of what you ever thought about the Macanudo brand – full bodied, on the slightly stronger side and exploding with rich complex notes of dark fruit, espresso, and a hint of red pepper. Trust me, this outlier is SO worth a try.
Ah, Montecristo cigars from the Dominican Republic… creamy, nutty, and mellow with those beautiful golden Connecticut shade wrappers. Now, in comes the sound of a record player’s stylus needle ripping across a vinyl LP: (Zeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrp!!!) The Espada is a Nicaraguan puro and the very first Nicaraguan made Montecristo. The great Nestor Plasencia was called upon to blend this beast and good God, did he ever ramp this bad boy up with flavor! There is basically leaf from every region of the Central American tobacco giant while sporting a shimmering 2010 Habano wrapper. This cigar is wickedly delicious and has dome the Monte name proud.
Plasencia Alma Del Campo
Nestor Plasencia makes a lot of great cigars. Hell, he even makes a lot of really good low-priced cigar brands. But, not too long ago, Nestor introduced the Alma Del Campo, a true premium that I would say is on the same quality playing field as the high-end Padron cigars, but, at a more affordable price point. Yeah, I swear, it’s that good. This one is on the medium side but the flavors of coffee bean, dark chocolate and black cherry are very pronounced and really open up a third the way through the smoke. And its Habano wrapper leaf is so smooth and such a beautiful golden brown color that you just want to snatch this baby from the box and smoke it!
There you have it – 10 outlier cigar brands that I would smoke every damned day if you made me! Tell me in the comments below what you think of any of these and if there are any you would like to have seen on the list!