Cusano 1959 Rare Cameroon Robusto (5 x 50) – $105.99/box of 20: I don’t smoke a lot of Cusano cigars, but when they introduced this line in 2008 I immediately fell in love with it. For one thing, it produces one of the most gravity-defying ashes, the all-Dominican longfillers are perfectly packed, and the rolling is seamless with a triple cap that clips perfectly. Then there’s the quality of the Cameroon wrappers. Even in color throughout, these are some of the sweetest Cammies you’ll ever smoke, too.
Davidoff Short Perfecto (5 x 50) – $51.99/pack of 4: The double perfecto is one of my all-time favorite shapes, and this little number from Davidoff never fails to impress me. A lot of double perfectos tend to burn awkwardly, but I’ve never had a problem with the Short Perfecto. Kudos go to how well these cigars are packed and rolled as I’ve never had a draw problem either. The Connecticut wrappers are flawless, the smoke is robust, and the aroma is exquisite.
La Floridita Pancho Connecticut (5½ x 52) – $32.99/ bundle of 20: After a long hiatus I re-discovered this cigar and I’m glad I did. The packing on these cigars is first-rate offering an impressively even burn. The Connecticut wrappers are really clean and finished with triple caps – a rare feature on a value-priced bundle cigar. The cigars have a nice heft in the hand, too. The Dominican/Nicaraguan fillers offer perfect balance and their toasty, nutty, and sweet character are consistent from foot to head.
Liga Privada No.9 Parejo (6 x 52) – $235.99/box of 24: These cigars were designed by Drew Estate exec Steve Saka, so it’s no surprise the Liga Privada No.9 Parejo hits on all cylinders. Steve knows good cigars, and there’s a lot of love in there. (The Parejo was the original and only shape first offered.) The packing is par excellence, and from the lusciously dark Broadleaf wrappers to the deftly applied triple caps, this cigar delivers a hearty, complex smoke. The ash is firm, exposing a nice round cherry when tapped-off.
Mi Barrio El Puro (7½ x 52) – $139.99/box of 20: When I reviewed this Don Pepin blended cigar earlier this year it had a selling price of $250.99/box, and I said then it was “justified.” Now take a look! Moreover, the cigar is packed to the gills with Nicaraguan Esteli & Jalapa, rolled in perfectly even toned Nicaraguan Habano wrappers. Ultra-smooth, perfectly balanced with gobs of thick, creamy smoke, and was surprisingly sweet. The ash is firm, reveals a nice round cherry when tapped, and the smoke has one of the most seductive aromas, too. About as good as “all-around” gets.
Padron Anniversary 1964 Exclusivo Maduro (5½ x 50) – $272.50/box of 25: It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that a Padron Anniversary 1964 made it into this list. From the first one I smoked back in the late 1990’s to today, these puros have been amazingly consistent on every count. This box-pressed beauty shimmers with a dark, oily Nicaraguan Maduro leaf, the packing is solid, and the draw, effortless. I also enjoy how chewy this cigar is. The flavor? Let’s just say it’s a candy bar for adults.
Rocky Patel American Market Toro (6 x 52) – $101.99/box of 20: I think I’ve recommended this cigar more than any other during the past two years for the simple reason that it never fails to deliver the goods. It feels good in the hand, burns perfectly and offers one of the firmest and longest ashes. The Nicaraguan/Honduran blend is spot-on medium-bodied and perfectly balanced, offering a rich, creamy and earthy smoke with toasty, nutty and sweet tobacco flavors. The Ecuadorian wrappers are deftly rolled, buttery in appearance, and emit a sweet aroma.
The above cigars are examples based on my experience, and I’m sure you have your own list of best-mades. For those of you who are still getting acquainted with premium handmade cigars, as you continue to experiment, you’ll notice there are cigars you can always go back to because they have a proven themselves, not merely by their flavor, but by their overall quality.