Reading Time: 5 minutes Some might say we’re crazy…but really, we’re just smoking Lunatics. In this cigar panel review, we’re taking on the JFR Lunatic by Aganorsa Leaf in a whopping 6” x 54 format. Click now to see what we thought of its flavor and complexity!
2020 CA Report: The Best Selling Cigars of All Time
The Best Selling Cigars of All Time
Updated April 2020
Welcome to the Cigar Hall of Fame.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that your first cigar – or at least a few of the cigars that took you from amateur to pro – is on this list.
How a cigar gets elevated to best seller status: (a) it’s good, and (b) it’s been around forever.
Not a science.
But more than an enjoyable burn, a truly great smoke fills a hole in cigar smokers’ appetites. I think cigar lovers are smart enough these days to look past the marketing hype. Ratings in a fancy magazine are one thing, but smoking is believing. And even though we always say, “palates are subjective, and everyone’s tastes are different” – if a cigar is going to go on to sell a couple zillion sticks, then I think we all have to agree that cigar has something going for it.
As for a cigar’s staying power, I think a large part of that comes from our shared experiences. There’s a reason why cigar veterans recommend certain sticks to the up-and-comers. Then it becomes a cycle: cigar is good; cigar is recommended to another BOTL. Repeat until cigar becomes perennial favorite. Which means the odds are ever higher, then, that your lighter will come across it at some point, too.
Of course, there’s always a wild card. This is the smoke that does more than just impress the judges, earn good reviews, or win widespread word-of-mouth praise. It’s the cigar that takes humidors by storm, for reasons that defy explanation. (Legitimately skilled writers might use words like “disruption” or “zeitgeist” here.) And yes, there’s one of these on our list.
The More Recent Best Selling Brands
The Cigar Association of America reported the Big 3 (Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Honduras) shipped about 362 million handmade cigars to the U.S. in 2018. Though down to 337 million for 2019, those are both Cigar Boom numbers. There is no shortage of cigars to choose from.
But before you think it’s all the newer, younger, flashier offerings or the “boutiques of the week” that are shoving aside the old timers, check out what Cigar Insider learned when they called around to 170-some cigar shops around the country last year…Of those 362 million cigars, these cigar brands were moving the best:
- Arturo Fuente
- Rocky Patel
- My Father
- Romeo y Julieta
All the old timers, the ones who have been around long enough to show you a thing or two.
Keep in mind, their research was an accounting for all a company’s cigar brands combined. So, in the case of Perdomo Cigars, this is the Barrel Aged Habano AND Champagne AND Fresco AND 2oth Anniversary AND… you get the idea.
Then, when you compare that list with the selections below, a good 30% of the cigars on our list still outperform the brands selling best at cigar shops across America.
About Our List of Best Sellers
We need to talk dates. Because if we really mean “all time,” then we’re going back 100 years, when there were (literally) 100,000 brands you’ve never heard of. And 99.99% of them aren’t made anymore. So, there’s not much value in discussing the best size of Speed Kings, or your first box of Pap Georges.
For the purposes of our list, we’ll define “of all time” as the modern smoking era: say, mid-70s/early 80s, on through the Boom and up to the present day. Also note that I’m examining individual cigar lines, not whole companies.
Now to examine the numbers…and to do it, I politely asked our resident data guru and “knower of where the bodies are buried” (her name is Jackie), who accessed decades worth of Famous Smoke sales data. She’s condensed it to give you the top 10 best selling cigars of all time. Now it’s time to meet the reigning champs.
Tops on our list for two reasons: first, Macanudo had a bit of a head start over most of the others here. Founded in 1971 by Ramon Cifuentes (a Cuban exile, and formerly of Partagas) with General Cigar in Jamaica. Reason #2: made with Dominican and Mexican tobaccos and rolled in a painstakingly fermented Connecticut Shade wrapper leaf (that story in itself is incredible), Macanudo became wildly popular, as well as earning itself a reputation as the ideal cigar for beginning smokers. I’d wager a smoke out of the Advisor office humi that you’ve recommended Macanudo to one of your noob friends.
If you want a true “comeback kid” story, Arturo Fuente is it. Founded in 1912 in Florida, a fire destroyed their factory in 1924; production ceased for 22 years. Once they resumed business, Fuente was a Tampa mainstay until the Embargo propelled them onto the national stage. Then lightning struck twice: another fire, this time in 2011, devastated 2 warehouses full of vintage tobaccos. Now over 100 years old, Fuente continues to be one of the top selling cigars here, and across the globe. Also, it’s worth noting that I’m showing the Fuente 858 because that classic Dominican-in-Cameroon wrapper combo is the taste that made Fuente a staple.
So, here’s our wild card. Acid steamrolled its way onto the cigar scene a little over 20 years ago, due primarily to Kuba Kuba. Even Jonathan Drew knew he was onto something when Acid cigars first landed: “At first, everybody pushed back on it, but the Acid Kuba Kuba is a phenomenon amongst cigars.” Drew Estate’s effort to infuse cigars with such diverse botanicals and essential oils meant that classic Cubanesque flavor was out the window – but this smoke clearly struck a chord with cigar lovers looking for “different.” Now one of the best selling cigars of all time, Jonathan has since called Kuba Kuba one of the top 5 cigars that made his career.
Punch is more than one of the top selling cigars of all time; it’s one of the world’s longest living cigar brands, launched in the 1840s. Punch was the strong cigar before strong cigars were a thing. A diverse, 4 nation blend (in 3 wrapper options) gives Punch its signature kick, while still retaining that classic cigar charm. Granted, this Punch Clasico isn’t exactly on the tip of cigar enthusiasts’ tongues these days – that space is reserved for things like Knuckle Buster and Diablo. But the faithful return to Punch like the swallows of Capistrano: who would want to give up a big, fat and full-flavored smoke like this? And such an incredible value…
Surprised to find Baccarat on the list? Don’t be – it’s another perennial starter smoke. A huge number of people owe their love for cigars to this mellow Honduran. And many of the people who come for the easy-to-enjoy blend are so taken by the sweetened cap and creamy Connecticut smoke, that they never leave. An extraordinarily toasty blend, with Dominican tobaccos under Connecticut-seed wrapper raised in Honduras. What earns Baccarat its stripes is that it’s really a value cigar disguised as something more. Smoke it again and see, it is “sweet doing nothing” indeed.
Romeo y Julieta 1875
Stop me if you’ve heard – or said – this one: “I was looking for a change of pace smoke…” And the name Romeo is somewhere in the sentence. 1875 celebrates the company’s Cuban founding year – and since then, have become a mainstay of premium cigar culture, especially this Dominican version. Romeo owes a large part of its success to the fact that it’s available pretty much everywhere (the thesaurus tells me “ubiquitous” is the word I’m looking for). Show me a cigar shop that doesn’t at least have a box of Bullys on the rack and I’ll eat my hat.
Hoyo De Monterrey/Excalibur
Ain’t no school like the old school, folks – and old school cigar smokers who know good flavor when they taste it. With Excalibur, everything about its success comes from playing the long game: consistency in quality and taste, and not changing one iota since its inception. This Hoyo has deep, deep flavor emanating from long aged Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican tobaccos. But more than one of our top 10 best selling cigars, it’s earned its way onto a few other important lists as well: best golf cigars, top Honduran cigars, and highly rated in a variety of sizes.
Padron Thousand Series
Nutshelling the Padron story a bit here: Boom time up-and-comer becomes the gold standard of Nicaraguan cigars. “Hold up,” you’re saying. “Padron came out in 1964. What do you mean up-and-comer?” While it’s true that Jose Padron began his quest to make a cigar that rivaled the smokes in his native Cuba, don’t forget that Padron didn’t break through to national attention until the Boom arrived. As it is, we didn’t even start selling Padrons until 1997 – previously, they were a Florida-based boutique when Jorge was calling on our old B&M storefront in Manhattan. Then, once the public got a taste for the more robust taste of Nicaragua – Padron goes to #1 with a bullet and remains perennially in demand. My, how times have changed…
La Gloria Cubana
While the Macanudos and Punches were being mainlined into the nation’s humidors through newspaper ads and such, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo was busy rolling La Glorias at his El Credito factory in Miami. A great smoke, and a local success story. But this Wavell was rarely noticed outside of Little Havana – after all, guys like Ernesto weren’t buying 2-column ads in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. And there were no cigar magazines…yet. Then came the Cigar Boom. It changed everything. And once those high Aficionado ratings came in ‘92, La Gloria Cubana was elevated into the national consciousness, and Ernesto saw his humble handmade smoke become one of the biggest names in cigars.
So here we are on the tail end of the list, and only now are we getting to (arguably) one of the biggest names in the biz. I’ve long said Cohiba is the cigar that even non-smokers know. And it’s become synonymous with luxury and high rollers, ever since the people got their first taste of the smooth, sweet flavor. Part of this cigar’s success is its pedigree, where this Dominican version shares the name of Castro’s private smoke – it doesn’t get much more exclusive than that. But lore and legend aside, Cohiba has offered the mild cigar smoker an easy transition to more flavorful cigars, as well as making a name for itself as a celebration stick.