Cigar Buying Guides

CA Mid-Year Report: 2019 Top 10 Cigars of the Year (So Far)…

Top 10 Cigars of 2019 – Cigar Advisor Summer Guide

So far, 2019’s been a great year for cigars. We’ve been spoiled with great blends, wowed by boutique blenders, and even surprised by some of the latest offerings of industry giants. With IPCPR still fresh in everyone’s memory, I’m certain from what we saw that there is more on the way to tip the favorite-flavor scales. Still, six months is an awful long time to wait for an awards season, and even worse, when the best picks get announced, it’s too cold outside to go and enjoy one anyway. To help alleviate this, I’ve decided to throw my Top 10 Cigars of 2019 into the ether, now, during the heart of summer – so that you can get out there and enjoy them to the fullest.

My goal for this list is not to crown a cigar as much as it is to introduce you to cigars that I think are worth your time and money to enjoy, and you’ll find that there’s a wide spectrum of flavor, strength, and prices within it. Even if you only walk away finding one new cigar that you love, I feel I’ve done my job.

It’s important to note the following:

Below is a snapshot of why I picked each cigar, and if you decide to try them out for yourself, I hope you’ll tell me about your experience in the comments below!

No. 10: Montecristo Espada Oscuro

Only recently hitting the shelves, Montecristo Espada Oscuro is a puro of epic proportions. I’ve smoked a handful of them already and they’re incredibly consistent in their construction and flavor experience. The Montecristo name comes with a level of provenance that shouldn’t make this revelation all that surprising to some, but in my opinion, it’s one of their finest cigars I’ve smoked to date. When you indulge in one, its dark and oily Oscuro wrapper contrasts that signature sweet Nicaraguan spice with a delicate balance of extra-creamy cocoa and coffee notes. If you’re looking for the inside scoop on a solid Monte, it’s a solid choice for both this list, and your humidor.

No. 9: EP Carrillo Core Plus Maduro

Given that Ernesto’s Encore Majestic took the top honors of 2018 with the Cigar of the Year, it’s clear that E.P.C. has his blending game down. My pick for number nine is a cigar that Gary and I both fell in love with earlier this year, the Core Plus Maduro. The smoke is cyclical in its complexity, dishing out tantalizing notes of cocoa, pepper, a fresh sweetness, and a drop of tea-like flavor. Each cigar features a lush, U.S. Connecticut-grown Maduro leaf over a Nicaraguan core of tobaccos that are blended to bring you instant satisfaction. If you love a balanced smoke, E.P.C. Core Plus Maduro will allow you to sample some under-the-radar greatness from 2018’s top cigar manufacturer.

No. 8: Crux Union Fire

Crux Union Fire is meant to honor the first volunteer fire company in the U.S. It was started by Benjamin Franklin in 1736, 40 years before America was even America. And even though fire is in the name, Crux Union Fire is even-keeled with an across-the-board medium-body experience. Its proprietary Nicaraguan Engañoso wrapper, in tandem with Nicaraguan and Dominican long-fillers, and a Connecticut Broadleaf binder, provides a mouth-watering mix of tangy, salty sweetness. It’s one thing to pay homage with a name, and its another altogether to bestow it with a perfectly executed blend, and that is precisely what Crux has done. If you’re looking for a cigar that fires on all cylinders, Crux Union Fire is a dependable smoke and available exclusively through Famous Smoke Shop.

No. 7: Alec Bradley Project 40

A company that skyrocketed from boutique to national brand in 2012 when their Prensado Churchill was knighted Cigar of the Year, Alec Bradley has since remained on the tips of our tongues. Now, if that blend seemed too stout for your palate, their latest offering, Project 40, might serve to welcome you to their portfolio with an incredible medium-bodied appeal. Its Nicaraguan core is framed within a Brazilian Habano binder and topped by a reddish-hued Nicaraguan Colorado wrapper. The result of this diverse recipe imbues an entire flavor wheel of notes like wheat, graham cracker, toast, oak, sweet spices, and a dry finish that lingers long after your most recent puff. Head to the backyard, stoke the firepit, and let Alec Bradley Project 40 show you how to spend a summer evening.

No. 6: My Father La Opulencia

My Father is acclaimed in the cigar biz for a catalog stuffed with connoisseur’s smokes, but when it comes to My Father La Opulencia, the cream has most decidedly risen to the top. Its box-pressed format offers a cooler smoke laced with rich and hearty swaths of earth, cocoa, wood, and a tingling spice. Meticulous in their selection of premium tobaccos, the blend consists of a lush Mexican Rosado Oscuro wrapper over a Garcia family-grown Nicaraguan core. The cigar was awarded second place in 2018’s Cigar of the Year honors, and it lands comfortably in the number six slot on my list for its flavor-forward approach to a full-bodied smoke. The name La Opulencia itself is Spanish for the opulent, making this one of the most aptly named cigars I’ve come across in recent memory. You might want to clear some space in your humidor, because this is a box-worthy addition to your collection.

No. 5: M by Macanudo

When it comes to crowning the best cigars, rarely, if ever, does an infused cigar make the cut. M by Macanudo’s has compelled me to break rank as it’s easily one of the most pleasantly surprising cigars I’ve smoked this year. The infusion of Colombian coffee into a mellow blend comprised of an Indonesian Besuki wrapper, a Philippine binder, and Nicaraguan long-fillers unearths a velvety layer of coffee, cocoa, and sweet cream. If coffee flavor is your thing, M gives brands like Drew Estate’s Tabak Especial a run for their money. Given their long history as a mainstay national brand, Macanudo is world-renowned for their mild-mannered cigars often being the introductory vehicle for many into the realm of premium tobacco. It can now be said that they do the same for the infused market, too.

No. 4: New World by AJ Fernandez Cameroon Selection

I spent a little time at AJ’s estate in Esteli, Nicaragua in 2014 to learn how a tiny tobacco seed can turn into a cigar. AJ more than earned my respect, and it was clear that he is a master of the craft, but he just wasn’t my master. I never latched onto his blends because they tend to be stronger and hit harder than I’d prefer. Similarly, I’m not big on Cameroon wrappers, either, but after hearing a gaggle of co-workers lauding New World by AJ Fernandez Cameroon Selection, I got curious. I’m glad I listened…because this AJ is different! The Nicaraguan core, in tandem with its African wrapper, releases a medium-bodied chorus of spice, sweetness, cedar, and white pepper without the obligatory bite. In my opinion, New World Cameroon is AJ’s opus, and I wouldn’t sleep on it any longer than you already have.

No. 3: Aganorsa Leaf Famous 80th Anniversary

Aganorsa Leaf is the boutique smoker’s boutique cigar manufacturer, and the Anniversary blend that they’ve crafted exclusively for Famous is nothing short of a stellar achievement. The smooth and silky appeal of its complex smoke is brimming with notes of savory butter, spices, a hint of sweetness, and is accented by a cinnamon-sweet aroma. We gave it a unanimous thumbs up in our recent Panel Review on it, but there is a catch; only 250 boxes of these limited-edition jewels were made. Accounting for its character, construction, and its price, it is well-deserving of its number three spot on my list, and equally deserving of a new home in your humidor. I’d recommend trying one while you still can!

No. 2: Le Careme by Crowned Heads

It was a hard decision to list Le Careme as my number two. My affinity for these last two cigars is near equal, and Le Careme only fell behind by an obsidian blade’s edge. This line is named for Marie Antoine Careme, the famed 19th century French chef who gifted the world with chocolate soufflé. Crowned Heads staked the claim that the blend was supposed to impart that soufflé character, but it never really translated to chocolate for me. What I received instead was a whole lot better. Pats of raisin, caramel, dry nuts, and fruit played an ensemble on the palate thanks to E.P. Carrillo’s employment of a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper, Ecuador Sumatra binder, and Nicaraguan fillers. The result was a cigar encounter like few I’ve enjoyed before. Not only does it sit near the top of this list, but Le Careme is seated highly on my all-time favorite list as well. If you crave only the highest shelf appeal, the buck can easily stop here.

No. 1: The Tabernacle Havana Seed Connecticut #142

In late December 2018, I was circling the humidor in Famous Smoke Shop in search of something new. I went up to Tyler (who, in my opinion, is one of the best tobacconists in the biz) and asked him to recommend something that would blow my mind. In typical Tyler form, he was loaded and ready to go: “You have to try that Havana Seed, man. It’s straight up fire!” I headed over to the new release section and found an empty box. The last one had likely sold only moments before.

Armed with his recommendation and the fact that we couldn’t keep it in stock, I knew it had to at least be good, so I checked for it every couple of days. After about three weeks, I saw a fresh batch and headed straight to the register. Once back at my desk, I started looking into the blend. I saw that in 2014, Foundation Cigar’s Nick Melillo returned home to the Connecticut River Valley to work with local tobacco farmers on the development of a new varietal of Connecticut tobacco: the Havana Seed Connecticut 142. The leaf contains much more oil than a typical tobacco leaf; so much, that each of the wrapper leaves used on The Tabernacle Havana Seed CT 142 undergoes a three-year period of fermentation.

Once the wrapper is paired with a Mexican San Andres binder and Nicaraguan fillers, the resulting flavor is astounding. Expertly balanced by a sprinkling of creamy cedar, caramel, earth, and exotic spices, any occasion you choose to light up this masterpiece becomes instantly euphoric. In my opinion, this is a truly once-in-a-generation cigar that’s priced fairly enough to be enjoyed regularly.

Please join me in a congratulating Nick and the rest of the Foundation Cigars family for topping my list – so far – this year.

Do you have some favorites that should end up on one of our Best-of lists? Let me know in the comments below!