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2019 CA Report: 10 Top Sleeper Cigars You Need to be Smoking
Sleeper Cigars: 10 Surprising Gems You NEED to be Smoking
A Sleeper Cigar is one that either doesn’t seem to get the accolades or perhaps the love it deserves in social media or by the reviewers, or, somehow just got lost in the shuffle… But it’s an excellent stick and should be known by the cigar loving masses.
It’s like those movies you love that didn’t have the critics talking, or Rotten Tomatoes gave a so-so rating, but you love them and could watch them 20 times over. (A few that come to mind for me are Shooter – 2007 – with Mark Wahlberg and bad guy Danny Glover who puffs on what he thinks is a celebration stogie in the film’s final scene… The Big Red One – 1980 – a WW2 flick with Lee Marvin, Robert Carradine, and Mark Hamill… and a real fave of mine, Capricorn One – 1978 – with James Brolin, Hal Holbrook, Elliott Gould, Telly Savalas and God forbid, OJ Simpson, yeah really. The government fakes the first Mars landing and it’s an awesome plot!)
I actually think there are a great number of sleeper picks in the world of hand rolled tobacco, so narrowing it down to 10 wasn’t an easy task. I wanted to go with sticks that are well made with excellent flavor and consistently deliver every time – not obscure by any means, but, for some strange reason just don’t get the attention that I feel they really deserve.
So, here’s my choice of 10 – I smoke them all and really enjoy each one of them very much. I think the time is right for the entire world to know about these gems and I recommend them occupying real estate in your precious humibox.
Cedrus by Southern Draw
Size: 5 ½” x 52
Shape: Belicoso Fino
Wrapper: Indonesian Besuki
Southern Draw is a true-blue boutique cigar company hailing from the Lone Star state that has been releasing outstanding premiums like the Rose of Sharon, Kudzu, and Jacobs Ladder. But owner, Robert Holt has worked with the great AJ Fernandez to produce a smoke with a wildly unique flavor profile that has introduced my palate to an array of complex flavors. The mix of a number of tobaccos from various regions is impressive. The filler utilizes three different leaves: Nicaraguan 99 Corojo, 92, Habana and Dominican Piloto Cubano, and vintage Nicaraguan 2000 Habano binder. But it’s that rare Indonesian Besuki wrapper that makes this cigar unique and oh-so flavorful. It’s a creamy one all right, with pronounced notes of cedar, spice, citrusy fruits and floral notes that come into play. Pretty cool box presentation as well. I really enjoy the hell out of this one and recommend it highly.
San Pedro De Macoris Sun Grown
Size: 5 1/8″ x 52
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
The tiny town of San Pedro De Macoris in the Dominican Republic is home to a cigar that is a best kept secret, ultimate sleeper cigar put out by Royal Agio. And while the brand delivers four excellent offerings, I think it’s the Sun Grown that is the most flavorful and worthy of my list. The inner core is a blend of Dominican tobaccos for the filler and binder, and the outer wrapper is a supple, shining sun drenched Ecuadorian Habano leaf that makes for a very toasty flavor and aroma. You get a real nice mix in the flavor profile of nuts, spice, vanilla and a hint of caramel, especially on the retrohale. While all this sounds inviting enough, they’ve created this cigar at around a five-dollar price point which makes it a wonderful choice for your everyday smoke. Good burn and nice ash mean excellent construction to top it all off. The San Pedro is a terrific cigar at a steal of a price.
Size: 6″ x 54
Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
Skip Martin and Mike Rosales of RoMa Craft are known for a core competency of creating full-bodied blends that pound your palate with a whole lot of intense flavor. And now the boys introduce a bundled cigar, but DO NOT let that fool you because it kills in every way in the flavor department. Blended exclusively by Esteban Disla, this full-bodied premium (but not overly strong by any means) shows off a spicy maduro, Mexican San Andres wrapper whose outer box-pressed appearance resembles a silky-smooth chocolate bar. The inner fillers are Dominican and Nicaraguan, and the binder is a Brazilian Arapiraca which adds even further to its spiciness. Robust notes of earth, leather, and pepper give way to a nice sweetness coming off that gorgeous wrapper. (Note, I was too chicken to retrohale this spice monster.) This one’s a sleeper, not for long.
Trinidad Esteli by Plasencia
Size: 6 x 50
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
I can tell you in all honesty that the Trinidad Esteli could be one of the most underrated, sleeper cigars on the market today. No, I swear, this is a stick that is bursting with flavor and so well made, but that’s nothing new for Nestor Plasencia. For this special project, Nestor teamed up with Aging Room’s Rafael Nodal to create a cigar that deserves to be in your humidor. Complex notes of wood, earth, and a citrus sweetness can be experienced in this wonderful Toro. It starts off medium bodied but a third the way in the intensity picks up in both flavor and strength. The complexity derives from the intricate 5 leaf blend from Nicaragua and Honduras, with that oily, golden brown Nicaraguan Habano wrapper. The retrohale displays that citrus component nicely as I willfully hit it several times. This just might be the Capricorn One of cigars and it’s time we let the gato out of the bag.
EP Carrillo Core Plus Maduro
Size: 5 7/8″ x 52
Shape: Club 52 (Toro)
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
I am, and always have been a sucker for dark chocolatey brown Connecticut broadleaf Maduro wrappers, and the one that’s draping this Core Plus is supple and shining with natural oils. While the #1 Cigar of the Year 2018 Encore, and the #2 Cigar of the Year 2014 La Historia get so much of the reviewer’s fanfare, it seems that the Core Plus from EPC’s Classic Series slips under the radar and I really don’t know why. With a hearty inner blend of hearty Nicaraguan filler and Ecuadorian binder, and that dark American outer leaf, the cigar emits a delicious sweetness from start to finish. Notes of dark coffee, cocoa, wood, and spice make up a profile that is moderately complex but brimming with premium aged hand rolled taste. The retrohale was a bit spicy but sweet at the same time due to that luscious outer leaf. Yet another sleeper to start making some noise about.
Size: 6 ¼” x 54
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
Okay, so one single Connecticut Shade wrapped cigar makes my list, and because of one reason only: It is such an outrageously damned good stick. What… a Connecticut? Right. The Fratello Oro is a brawny, beefy cigar that’s weighty in your hands because it’s packed with a whole lotta high-grade leaf. While the Oro (Spanish for gold which is appropriate by the look of the wrapper) is mellow to medium bodied, it is very rich in flavor, and a Connecticut Shade cigar that I can smoke after dinner, which is rare for me. Yes, it’s THAT good. Made at the La Aurora factory and blended by former NASA rocket scientist Omar de Frias (what a story), it sports Dominican filler and a rarely used Cameroon binder which gives it that bump in taste. The retrohale is sweet and I recommend trying it. Notes of cream, citrus, wood and spice make it another cigar that needs a wake-up call to the masses.
Size: 6″ x 54
Wrapper: Mexican San Andres Maduro
Yeah, we all know that Christian Eiroa has blended top tier cigars for years and his CLE company is producing some gems. But I think the Azabache (named for a real Honduran gem that’s believed to be a good luck charm) doesn’t get nearly the fanfare it should from the cigar community. It’s a flat, box-pressed cigar whose dark and flawless Mexican San Andres outer leaf looks like glossy smooth silk. Wrapped in white tissue paper, the presentation is beautiful and deserving of a cigar of this quality. Full-bodied and both peppery and sweet, it boasts delicious notes of freshly brewed coffee, leather, and just a touch of a molasses-like sweetness. With filler tobaccos hailing from Nicaragua, Honduras and Peru, it’s that magnificent Mexican wrapper that delivers its spicy sweetness. This is truly a great smoke and I have a feeling it won’t be on my sleeper list for long.
Oliva Inferno Melt
Size: 6 ½” x 52
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Broadleaf
They just don’t get any more underrated than the Inferno Melt, a cigar made by the same hands that craft top premiums (like the Master Blend 3) at Oliva. This box/oval-pressed cigar is an explosion of taste, impeccably constructed, and I’m serious when I say, ridiculously low priced for a smoke of this quality. The inside offers up Nicaraguan ligero filler, a Habano binder, and a dark and sweet looking sun grown broadleaf wrapper. The Melt is truly complex, starting out with rich, dark roasted coffee flavor that morphs into creamy yet earthy notes, as an almost brown sugar-like quality delivers on the finish. The retrohale was a bit zesty and one try was pretty much good enough for me. And the flat oval-pressed shape burns razor sharp and draws so perfectly smooth. Trust me, the Inferno Melt needs to be on your tobacco radar.
Rocky Patel Royale
Size: 6 ½” x 54
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
While it received the high honor of being chosen as the #5 Cigar of the Year in 2014, do you ever remember hearing people clamoring about it on social media? No, you don’t, and again I am a bit bewildered that this cigar doesn’t get the adulation of other top Rocky cigars like the Decade, the Olde World Reserve, and 15th and 20th Anniversaries. I think this is one of those premiums that like I said, kind of got lost in the shuffle. The uniqueness of this cigar comes from its double binder: a Connecticut Shade and a Broadleaf. Inside is Nicaraguan and Honduran filler draped by a simply gorgeous toasted brown Ecuadorian Sumatra leaf. At the very start it’s a bit front-loaded with spice, but instantly settles in to a complex, medium-bodied flavor consortium of espresso, cocoa, leather and earth. The retrohale was actually amazing as it intensified all the notes mentioned. Listen, this cigar was rated so highly in 2014 for a good reason. Seek it out.
Balmoral Anejo XO Oscuro
Size: 6 1/4″ x 52
Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
So, a second cigar from Royal Agio (San Pedro was the first) makes the list which tells you that this company is doing something very right. And one of the things that they’re doing is using very high-grade tobacco, like a stalk-cut, sun grown Mexican San Andres wrapper leaf that is dark and laden with oils. They continue with the ultra-quality inside using stalk-cut Brazilian Mata Norte along with Nicaraguan and Dominican long fillers. This combination produces a spicy cigar that’s banging your taste buds with a wonderful sweetness as well. Oh, it’s complex, all right, as spice stars it off, but a distinct taste and even aroma of rich espresso kicks in along with a nice smack of bitter dark chocolate and almost a hint of red pepper. Interesting, right? The construction is something to take note of as this cigar burns with perfection and draws the same. I’d go as far as calling this a luxury smoke that won’t be a best-kept secret for long.