This relationship actually runs pretty deep…so I’m sharing 5 Things I learned that bond whiskey and cigars together: how cigarmaking dovetails with distilling, why a smoke is a natural fit with a pour of whiskey by its side, and what else these indulgences have in common.
2016 CA Report: Top 12 Best Tasting Maduro Cigars
Reader Rated & Reviewed: The 12 Best Tasting Maduro Cigars
By John Pullo
The old adage is that “the best cigar is the one you’re smoking right now.” But if you have maduro on your mind, you have a specific – and highly desirable – set of expectations when it comes to the taste and flavor attributes of your smoke.
But what makes for the best tasting maduro cigars? For starters, quality. Most, if not all of the cigars in this report are clad in a wrapper that’s been well-aged, in addition to the lengthy and intense fermentation process that yields a top-quality maduro color and flavor. That’s right, color – maduro is not a type of leaf, but a color shade. It’s achieved through fermenting the wrapper leaves at a higher temperature and for a longer time than usual for wrapper leaves. This extra heat and time brings out more oils and natural sweetness from the sugars in the leaf. No “painting” here – all of the maduros in this list are fermented the natural way, with no shortcuts in the process.
Yes, yes…”taste is subjective,” you say. While I would tend to agree with you, I’ll fall back on my ratings-by-crowdsourcing argument to show that if a significant number (let’s say 10 or more) of our fellow smokers can agree that a cigar tastes good, then…well, I’ll take them at their word that it tastes good.
So what are people looking for in “the maduro taste” to help these cigars achieve high taste ratings? In general, these wrappers feature a mix of spice and sweetness that complement each other. It’s also common that if your palate can detect them, you’ll find an interesting spread of flavors that range from espresso and dark coffee bean to dark chocolate and cocoa flavors in the mix.
Here’s a quick guide to the most commonly used leaves:
- Brazilian…Cigar wrappers cultivated in Brazil, such as Mata Fina and Arapiraca produce a smooth, slightly earthy smoke that is naturally sweet (not saccharin) with a plentiful aroma.
- Broadleaf…Broadleaf cigar wrappers tend to have a toasty quality, and whose flavors lean more to the meaty and earthy side in contrast to a more faint natural sweetness.
- San Andres…these wrappers are very thick, very oily; they were originally cultivated in Mexico, but are grown in many countries, and tend to exhibit bolder tastes of spice and chocolate, with a touch of earth.
To compile this list of the Best Tasting Maduro Cigars, Cigar Advisor used the following criteria:
- Cigar reviews, both good and bad, are contributed by the general public at famous-smoke.com and are broken down into 6 categories: Taste, Construction, Draw, Consistency, Appearance and Burn, scaled from 10 (Poor) to 100 (Excellent).
- While all of these qualities can have an influence over the others (i.e., construction affecting draw, thus affecting taste), Taste was isolated exclusively – if a reviewer’s burn was off and it affected the taste, he/she wouldn’t be able to rate it 100; so it’s considered a pure score. To be considered, a cigar brand’s maduro line must have no fewer than 10 reviews and/or 10 ratings.
- Every maduro cigar for sale was then ordered by Taste score, from highest to lowest; the cigars that had the highest total ranking Taste scores vs. the total number of reviews for the brand were selected.
- The cigars brands which rated the highest average Taste score among all of their vitolas (because size can affect flavor to a certain degree) were then selected, and the results below randomized into no particular order – as all 12 ranked in the top, or “best tasting maduro” decile.
One thing I did notice when I compiled the list of what our fellow smokers considered the best tasting maduro cigars – the specific vitolas that clocked in with the highest ratings in “Taste” tended to be of the bigger ring variety. It’s a bit ironic, as larger cigars tend to have a smaller wrapper-to-filler ratio and are preferred for slow-burning flavor of the fillers. But more is better, and with that in mind, I added a second list of honorable mentions that shouldn’t go unnoticed or overlooked when you’re searching for a good – actually, excellent – maduro cigar.
Arturo Fuente Añejo
With Fuente, much love abounds – their Añejo is the entry that earns their spot in our list for best tasting maduro cigars. And that’s no surprise, as Fuente piles on the decadence by using filler and binder contents that are identical to the Opus X. The difference here lies in the U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, which is cured to a deep, dark and oily maduro that gets a full year’s aging in cognac barrels and “makes Cuba unimportant” on taste alone, according to one review.
La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero
Ligero is a thick, potent leaf; the fact the LFD has twice as much makes each one a slower, spicier burn. Chock full of flavors and “100” ratings for taste, these best-in-class maduros had many reviewers typing their tasting notes in all caps. The maduro tends to outpace the natural selections ratings-wise, in just about every size – the wrapper leaf of choice here lends a more savory note to the smoke, with a super long finish. Highly prized; smoke it and see why.
Padron Family Reserve
No list of Bests is complete until we’re treading in to super-luxury class territory…so now’s about the time we trot out Padron. As with all Padrons, a Nicaraguan puro; but unlike all their others, their best tasting maduro comes from the Family Reserve. This line is the cream of their crop – literally – boasting ten year aged tobaccos from their finest stock. Yes, they’re pricey; but as the reviews will tell you, you get what you pay for in these celebration cigars.
The Nub is short in stature, big in ring, and huge on high taste ratings. Inside you’ll find a nice array of Nicaraguan tobaccos that bring a robust pepper-spice combo free of harshness, but it’s the Brazilian maduro that tugs on the taste buds with dark, coffee-laden sweetness that one reviewer thought was ”a nice surprise.” If you’ve never sampled Nub before, go directly to the best cigar in their stable…you’ll see.
Perdomo Champagne Noir
If you liked the Perdomo Champagne, try the Perdomo recipe for the Champagne Noir: same all-Nicaraguan tobaccos on the inside, but the mellow Connecticut wrapper has been replaced with a Nicaraguan leaf that’s been triple fermented for over a year, then left to rest and age in bourbon barrels for another 6 months. The maduro’s characteristic sweetness is amplified, as is the complexity of the flavors and the aroma. No surprise it racks up high taste marks, then, with accolades like “top 5,” “phenomenal” and “a grand cigar.”
And now for something completely different…here’s the straight dope: Java Mint is infused with a mellow brew of mint, vanilla and mocha essences, all of which highlight the richness of the Nicaraguan tobaccos inside. The icing on the cake is a sweetly-rich Mata Fina maduro wrapper from Brazil. The result is an infused smoke that is a nice diversion for the experienced smoker, or a great treat for those who partake occasionally. And there’s the high water mark: for the uninitiated, “this one hits the spot” – meaning you’ve stumbled across a superbly rated maduro by chance.
EP Carrillo Core Line
The EPC Core Line garners its high marks through a combination of talent and tools: Ernesto Perez-Carrillo was the driving force behind La Gloria Cubana’s ginormous early success, and these days he’s wrapping a tempting Connecticut Broadleaf maduro around a creamy center of well-aged Nicaraguan and Dominican Cuban Seed fillers. While you may only know EPC for his giant ring smokes, get to know his more manageably-sized Core Line – if only to partake of one of the best tasting maduro cigars your fellow cigar smokers have sampled. According to the numbers, anyway.
La Aroma De Cuba Mi Amor
Love is in the air, and it is delicious. La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor is rich, to be sure – full in flavor, full in body and by all accounts, pinning the taste-o-meter. At the heart of Mi Amor is an all-Nicaraguan longfiller blend that’s clad in a double binder, then finished in what is probably one of the finest examples of Cuban-seed San Andres tobacco that was actually grown in Mexico. “The wrapper really ties it all together” was one comment that lingered, almost as long as the sweet and earthy undertones on the finish of this remarkable cigar.
Many of these best tasting maduros have been in circulation for quite a while; but while it seemingly makes Flathead a relative newcomer, this box-pressed CAO big boy smoke has quickly tapped into the desire for full body and deep, rich flavors. Connecticut Broadleaf maduro is back with its mellow natural sweetness to counter the spiciness of the Ecuadorian Habano binder, and balance the burly Nicaraguan longfillers in the middle with amazing skill. Follow the advice of those who have sampled it before: use a cigar punch to channel the flavor, and you’ll see why this top-tasting maduro hits all the high notes.
Creamy, smooth, rich, espresso-like, tasty, satisfying. All these words were used to back up the high “Taste” ratings of Cohiba Black, as was “off the hook.” Here’s how Cohiba did it: mix smooth Dominican and earthy Mexican tobaccos with a bright and flavor-rich Dominican Piloto Cubano; age it all together for three years, then roll it in the heartiest U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf they could find. “Bring the scotch,” as one reviewer noted, and you’ll be spending quality time with one of Cohiba’s most flavorful offerings.
Oliva Serie V Melanio
Wondering when we were going to get to this Oliva stunner? If you haven’t yet been introduced, this cigar showcases the top-notch Jalapa-grown Habano tobaccos coming off Oliva’s farms, all of which contribute a marvelous complexity with an intoxicating aroma to match. The reviews are actually more of the rave variety, with consistently stratospheric marks for taste – so it’s not a shock that Melanio has brought home a number of highbrow awards, and why it’s a natural for inclusion in our Best Tasting Maduro Cigars report.
Surprised? Don’t be. Gurkha went all in to make a maduro chart-topper, emphasizing the earthy-creamy taste and dark chocolate/coffee bean flavors a well-fermented leaf can provide. With a nice dash of complexity, crisp flavors and a “rich smoke right to the nub,” this Brazilian varietal runs thick with semi-sweet flavors. Word has it that Abe Flores (PDR Cigars) was lurking behind the scenes before the curtain went up on this Gurkha feast, helping to define a blend that offers a complexity with a “wow factor” – so if that’s what you’re waiting for, Gurkha is ready to deliver.
The only thing that sets this second list apart from the parade of champions above is that there aren’t as many cigar reviews on the books, and thus don’t fit the minimum required criteria. Does it make them any less tasty? Not at all – so while I write “honorable,” these next 9 still rate sky-high on the taste scale according to those who’ve taken the time to rate them. Look at it this way: many of them are special editions, boutiques or small batch cigars – meaning availability (and thus, feedback) is limited; but the fact that these sticks even showed up in the research and discussion about the best tasting maduro cigars makes them a lead pipe cinch for excellent taste, and – by virtue of recommendation by other cigar smokers like you – well worth your time and trouble to seek out and smoke.
Perdomo 20th Anniversary Maduro…
Perdomo’s recurrence on this list shows that he’s got this fermentation thing nailed. Hailed as “Perdomo’s best yet,” the all-Nicaraguan tobaccos burn slow, full and creamy with a lingering pepper. Word has it the Epicure is the go-to size for this best tasting maduro.
Surrogates Bone Crusher…
Pete Johnson’s puro is complex, peppery and full with Nicaraguan flavor from start to finish. The super-thick robusto (55RG) is clad in a Connecticut Broadleaf varietal for max potency, and yes – it delivers.
Padilla Vintage Reserve…
Padilla Vintage Reserve takes high priming Corojo leaves and wrings every last drop of flavor from them. A limited run, this one gets super complex thanks to a potent PA Broadleaf maduro finish.
San Lotano Oval Maduro…
AJ Fernandez’ list of accomplishments is lengthy; the maduro edition of his highly-acclaimed San Lotano Oval is yet another appetizing notch in the belt, with a wealth of complexities and round, full flavors. The fillers are Nicaraguan and Honduran, the wrapper is a San Andres from Ecuador.
J.C. Newman’s Nicaraguan goes darker: the already-heady Nicaraguan blend gets extra smooth, creamy and full flavored when wrapped in this darker leaf. The Brick House Maduro robusto is the best tasting maduro “they” say to smoke, with an Arapiraca wrapper from Brazil playing all the hits.
EP Carrillo La Historia…
“Hard to beat.” “Home run stick.” The El Senador, a beefed-up robusto (5 3/8 x 52), is what earned taste raves for a full-flavored but medium-bodied Nicaraguan tobacco mix underneath a San Andres maduro outer leaf. Bonus: at around 8 bucks, La Historia smokes just as delicious as most big-money maduros on the market.
Herrera Esteli Norteño…
Willy Herrera’s second go-round with his brand for Drew Estate, it’s the Belicoso Fino that grabbed highest marks for the best tasting maduro cigars in the line. Layering flavor upon flavor, it’s a tasty Top 25-ranked spread of tobaccos from Nicaragua and Honduras finished in Mexican San Andres.
La Palina Black Label…
Best performer among the Black Label series is La Palina’s Gordo, a thick n’ full 6×60 full of Nicaraguan spice that’s clad in a Brazilian maduro that is deep in complexity and flavor.
Perdomo Double Aged Vintage Maduro…
Third time’s a charm for Perdomo, as Nick bookends the list with yet another savory maduro wrapper offering. The Gordo Extra vitola got the highest marks as this line’s best tasting maduro, as Perdomo shows once again that not only bigger is better – but better is better.
Again – we know taste is a subjective thing…but if the consensus says these smokes all get high marks across the board for it, these people are on to something – which means this best tasting maduro cigars are certainly worth checking out for yourself.