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CA Mid-Year Report: The Best New Cigars of 2020 (So Far)

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The Best Cigars of 2020, So Far – The Advisors’ Mid-Year Report

What’s new?

What’s good?

These are a tobacconist’s two favorite questions – because they really love to talk about cigars. So here’s a friendly tip…make sure you ask both the next time you go into a cigar shop.

Can’t make it to a shop near you anytime soon? Well, here’s what’s new and what’s good – actually, the best: our picks for the Best Cigars of 2020. Yes, it’s five months ahead of the cigar awards season. But given the dumpster fire 2020 has been so far, we could all use a great cigar. Or two. Or 15. 

So how did we pick ‘em?  

We’ve been watching (and smoking) every new cigar that’s been landed at Famous Smoke Shop and featured in our Top New Cigars column since last December. Then, we compared notes and cast our votes. And cast them again, and again, until we whittled the list down to 15 cigars that we felt stood out from the static. Those are what’s below.

Our list isn’t numbered because we don’t play favorites. Actually, we can’t – we have to be impartial and just give you the facts. So much like our annual Top 25 Cigars of the Year lists, we’re not crowning a cigar number one. Plenty of other reviewers will do that soon enough. Instead, we selected these blends to represent the best to come out of 2020 (so far). 

Full disclosure: we review cigars. We don’t rate them, because we leave that up to Famous customers like you. We don’t get paid for them, either – we don’t take advertising.

Two additional notes: 1. There are no Cubans on this list. Because we don’t review Cuban cigars. 2. Our opinions are solely our own. 

We hope you enjoy this list. Make sure you hit up the comments to tell us about your favorite smokes of 2020, too! 

 

Alec & Bradley Gatekeeper  

best cigars 2020 so far Alec Bradley Gatekeeper cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Gatekeeper cigars are the sophomore effort (here’s their firstfrom Alec & Bradley Rubin, sons of Alec Bradley Cigars founder, Alan Rubin. Working with the iconic Ernesto Perez-Carrillo on the blend, Gatekeeper demonstrates that these two young guns are committed to excellence. And even if the name of their label sounds similar, they’ve created an image all their own. Draped in a spicy  Ecuador Habano wrapper over a Dominican-Nicaraguan core, the medium-bodied smoke builds to a complex crescendo in the wake of cedar, leather, and roasted cashew on a dominant layer of sweet spice in one of the most impressive follow-ups of the year. – Gary  

 

Asylum Lobotomy Corojo 

best cigars 2020 so far Asylum Lobotomy Corojo cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Hard to believe it’s been 4 years since we debuted the original Asylum Lobotomy; now it’s got Christian Eiroa’s authentic Corojo seed Jamastran wrapper, grown in Honduras. Asylum Cigars’ Tom Lazuka: “We are able to do so much with this tobacco; from full-bodied to smooth, to earthy, and sweet.” This Lobotomy – with all that sweet Eiroa Corojo (say that 3 times fast) – checks every one of those boxes and then some. We found earth, pepper, and plenty of creamy smoke, with a trailing spice on the finish. Cedar, sweet tobacco and citrus find their way to the front of the mix, too. Made only in large and (extremely) larger sizes, the Lobotomy Corojo shows sweet-spicy consistency and nearly-full body for what is easily 90 minutes – and much longer when you size up. – John 

 

AVO Improvisation LE 2020  

best cigars of 2020 AVO Improvisation cigars at Famous Smoke Shop
Limited to just 2500 boxes, the AVO Improvisation 2020 LE sold out early in 2020. Click for more AVO Selections.

Fewer cigars have received as much attention as the Avo limited edition cigars over the years. Since Avo Uvezian’s passing in 2017, Davidoff has continued to honor the venerable cigar connoisseur and jazz musician with some mind-blowing blends—including the Improvisation Series. The Avo Improvisation 2020 is the eighth in the line. An Ecuador Connecticut Shade wrapper over a diverse Dominican core reveals a rich, creamy and fragrant smoke with an earthy base that supports layers of sweet cedar and spice on a long finish. A must for both Avo devotees and others who developed a taste for bolder Dominican blends. – Gary  

 

Cohiba Royale

best cigars 2020 so far Cohiba Royale cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Cohiba Royale is a cigar that spares no expense. Think of it as ‘where elegant presentation and rich flavors meet.’ Flavors like dark fruit, wood, spices, and nuts. It’s one of the few super premiums that’s got big satisfaction chops to go with it. This is the kind of cigar that you don’t smoke in a noisy lounge. It’s the kind you smoke in an oversized chair with your feet up, or on a quiet, dusk setting on the deck. There are plenty of luxury smokes on the market. Here’s one that boasts an experience to match its price tag. – Jared 

 

Crowned Heads Juarez

best cigars 2020 so far Crowned Heads Juarez cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Anyone who thinks you need to spend bank to get a great cigar should try Juarez. Why? It’ll prove em wrong. The blend of Mexican San Andres wrapper and Nicaraguan fillers remind us of popcorn, caramelized sugar, nuts, and sweet wood when smokedCrowned Heads is known for its resume of cigars with kick, but this was just warm and smooth – and generous in the flavor department. If you’re looking for more, be sure to check out our Panel Review on Juarez from earlier in the year. Above all, it’s consistent and wonderfully complex. – Jared 

 

Don Lino Africa  

best cigars 2020 so far Don Lino Africa cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

In one of the most striking package concepts known to man, Miami Cigar released this box-pressed reboot of their Don Lino Africa selection, formerly one of the brand’s most lionized releases. Now made by A.J. Fernández with a Nicaraguan-forward blend, Don Lino Africa dons a plush Habano 2000 wrapper from Ecuador and a hearty serving of Piloto Dominicano, Ometepe, Jalapa, and Estelí fillers sandwiched between an African Cameroon binder. The smoke imparts a creamy mouthfeel revealing a full-flavored safari of cedar, brown sugar, nutmeg, espresso, and black pepper on a lingering finish. In a word, stunning. – Gary  

 

Harvester & Co. Connecticut

best cigars 2020 so far Harvester & Co cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Taking its name from a once-famous racehorse, this is a Plasencia collaboration that comes fresh on the heels of their highly regarded work with Montecristo, Romeo and Trinidad. But what’s different this time around is how well Harvester fills the “value” niche. This Nicaraguan handmade is affordable – as in bundle-level cheap – but loaded with both flavor and frills. For example: somehow, Plasencia’s experimental Nicaraguan Shade-Grown Connecticut wrapper has found its way onto this smoke. Harvester & Co. burns with nutty, sweet spices, making an impressively mellow landing on the palate. Destined to be another humidor hit. – John 

 

Highclere Castle Victorian 

best cigars 2020 so far Highclere Castle Victorian cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Occasionally, a cigar comes along and blows us awayHighclere Castle Victorian was one of the few all three of us agreed on from the start – and by start, I mean way back in December 2019 for our Top 25 Cigars of the YearAnd here’s why: Where some smokes grab you by the seat of your pants, this cigar embraces you with a blanket of inviting smoke. Smoke brimming with notes of caramel, cinnamon, and a sparkling finish that’s laced with spice. This is no doubt due to Nick Melillo’s blending abilities, an up-and-coming cigar legend in the making. Bottom line: it’s a little pricier, but more than worth it– Jared 

 

Punch Knuckle Buster 

best cigars 2020 so far Punch Knuckle Buster cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Punch’s self-styled “blue collar smoke” is made for the person who enjoys a good/inexpensive cigar as a reward for a hard day’s work. Knuckle Buster isn’t as punchy as Punch can often be; at first, it’s actually a mellow, tangy-sweet smoke. But the blend finds its way soon enough, where the noticeably rich tastes of pepper, earth and caramel – plus a spicy retrohale – are enough to grab your taste buds by their shirt and give ‘em a shake.  As I said when I smoked the Gordo for our Playlist: “Punch twists the flavor dial to its highest setting, but without removing more than five dollars from your wallet.” I stand by my original assessment. – John 

 
Puros Huerfanos 

best cigars 2020 so far Drew Estate Puros Huerfanos cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

The two main reasons Drew’s Puros Huerfanos makes this “Best So Far” list is the uniqueness of what’s here, and its price. There’s also the fact that we all enjoyed it very much. Blended by the talented and very tall Willy Herrera (this is a different Puros Huerfanos than the one around in 2012), these sub-$5 “cigar orphans” – not “cigar seconds,” as you learned in our review – allegedly wore one of DE’s super-spendiest labels. Price doesn’t always make a cigar taste better, but it is a sign of highquality tobaccos; Puros Huerfanos burns exceptionally well, indicating some truth to that. So does the flavor: thick, toasty-smelling smoke billows with wood, pepper, malty sweetness and earth. Which on the Drew Estate scale, points the needle more in the direction of Herrera Esteli than Liga Privada or Nica Rustica. A good cigar for short money, worth having around while it’s still around. – John 

 

Rocky Patel LB1 

best cigars 2020 so far Rocky Patel LB1 cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

I’d like to say there’s some deep or metaphorical meaning to the LB1 moniker, but no; Rocky just ran out of names to give his stuff. LB1 was El Paraiso’s internal factory code. He could call it Smoky McGee for all I care, because the taste speaks for itself: sweet cedar and spices, mocha java, nuts and dark chocolate. This is a noticeable break from Rocky’s lengthy run of full, strong smokes these last few years…sure, the LB1 still has spice (it’s a Nicaraguan filler/Honduran Ligero binder/Habano wrapper combo). But done this way, the cigar offers a noticeably sweet, mellow start, and a long, velvety finish. And plenty enough body to please the more experienced smokers among us. – John 

 

Romeo Reserva Real Nicaragua  

best cigars 2020 so far Romeo Reserva Real Nicaragua cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

AJ Fernandez and Rafael Nodal put their top Nicaraguan spin on this aptly named, Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real Nicaragua selection. Handcrafted at Tabacalera AJ Fernandez in Estelí with tobaccos grown on Fernandez’s estate farms, Nodal says, “It is more complex and fuller in body than the original Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real made in the Dominican Republic, but not too strong.” Following a peppery wake-up call, the smoke levels out to a creamy, medium-plus feast with chewy layers of cedar, sweet and peppery spices, brown sugar, and dried fruit with an invigorating aroma. This is a puro so masterfully blended, it’s envied by other puros – Gary  

 

Siboney Reserve Maduro by Aganorsa Leaf

best cigars 2020 so far Aganorsa Leaf Siboney Reserve Maduro cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Last year, we were floored by Aganorsa Leaf’s revival of the Siboney brand as a Famous exclusive. Here they are doing it all over again with Siboney Reserve Maduro. The cigar’s core is a combination of Aganorsa’s signature Corojo and Criollo fillers from their farms in Nicaragua. Then, they add a beautifully fermented Mexican San Andres wrapper and…voila! Expect notes of coffee, earth, nuts, dark cocoa, and peppery spices – all smoothed over by a long nap in the aging room. The three of us always love a good Maduro, and to us, this is what a Maduro should be. – Jared 

 

Southern Draw Ignite Barberpole

best cigars 2020 so far Southern Draw Ignite Barber pole cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

If you look back – even relatively recently – barber pole cigars were a novelty that meant to be…well…eye candy. But some blenders took them more seriously than others. One of Southern Draw’s latest releases, the Ignite Barberpole is anything but a novelty. Dual Ecuador EMS and Nicaraguan Maduro wrappers burn in tandem, creating flavors that teeter between cedar and sweet cream, then spices and coffee. It’s an endless carousel of flavor and complexity married to perfection by Robert Holt’s blending room skills. In short, this Ignite’s got the looks, got the flavor, and it’s even got a reasonable price tag. A must-try indeed. – Jared 

 

Tatuaje Mexican Experiment II  

best cigars 2020 so far Tatuaje Me II cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Mexican Experiment II cigars are Pete Johnson’s regular production follow-up to his limited edition Mexican Experiment line released in 2011. Pronounced, “me, too,” MEII boasts the same dusky Mexican San Andrés Oscuro wrapper and all Nicaraguan core as its predecessor. Well-balanced and medium-bodied, the experience begins smoothly, offering an ample supply of creamy smoke seasoned with notes of earth, leather, cedar, cocoa, and sweet spices. As a result of high tasting scores—not to mention the Tatuaje devoted—demand for the MEII remains high. – Gary  

11 Comments
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Donald McCormick
1 year ago

Never seen any of these……

M Weber
1 year ago

You need to get out more.

Editor
Gary Korb
1 year ago

Hi Donald –
Never seen ANY of them? Well, now you have, which is part and parcel of what we do at Cigar Advisor.
I hope you like some of them enough to give ’em a try, too. And if you do, let us know which cigars you liked best.
G–~

Bob Scott
1 year ago

Alright, now build this as a SAMPLER! That would be great!

Editor
Gary Korb
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob Scott

Hi Bob –
See my reply to Vincent.
G–~

J. Vincent
1 year ago

Mak a sampler and not to expensive and I’ll buy it.

Editor
Gary Korb
1 year ago
Reply to  J. Vincent

Hi J. –
Thanks for the comment. We’d love to make samplers for all of our buying guides and lists, but the new FDA regulations prevent us – and other retailers – from doing so.
G–~

Luke Draeger
1 year ago

Some great picks here. I’m with you on the Lobotomy Corojo. Spectacular cigar, especially for the price, and among the best Asylums I’ve ever smoked. I would love it even more if you had a robusto size. 😋

Editor
Gary Korb
1 year ago
Reply to  Luke Draeger

Thanks Luke –
Agreed. Asylum has some awesome smokes, and their Corojo is among the tastiest out there. The more I try cigars from Asylum, the more impressed I am. Thanks for the comment. G–~

Steve C.
1 year ago

Absolutely agree on the RyJ Reserva Real Nicaragua. What a great stick! I was already a fan of the regular Reservea Real, but I’ve discovered I have a preference for Nicaraguan tobaccos (I’m fairly new to the game,) and this Nicaraguan puro version of the Reserva Real is outstanding.

Editor
Gary Korb
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve C.

Hi Steve – Glad you liked it. I was a fan when the first Reserva Reals came out, too. They really did a nice job on the Nicaraguan. Thanks for the comment.

Cigar Advisor Staff

Cigar Advisor Staff

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The Cigar Advisor Staff is comprised of three good-humored, yet dangerously unpredictable writers who share over 60 years of premium cigar smoking experience. Traversing the tobacco landscape like smoke-shrouded Avengers, they wander (mostly because the fat one ate the map) in search of new leaf adventures armed with nothing but torch lighters and runcible spoons as their weapons. Each is equally knowledgeable on the matters and pursuits of the cigar lifestyle, with his own unique and capricious insights on various luxury, sports, automobiles and entertainment affairs - all served with good counsel for your reading pleasure.

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