Cigar Buying Guides

2016 CA Report: The Most Underrated Dominican Cigars

Are These the 7 Most Underrated Dominican Cigars in the Humidor?

by Gary Korb

One of the small rewards we cigar smokers receive occasionally is finding a cigar we think is really great, yet others view as…meh. I call these “my little secret” cigars. Since it’s my nature to want to share my good fortune, I inevitably tell my friends about these cigars, and in some cases, I hand them one to try. I’ve made a few converts over the years, but more often than not, I get a warm “thank you” and that’s the end of it. OK, maybe they just didn’t like it, or maybe they’re resistant to trying new things and want to stick with what they know. Fair enough…

That said, sometimes I’m puzzled as to why some really good cigars go unnoticed. Maybe it’s because the cigar wasn’t marketed well; maybe it doesn’t have the brand name recognition; or maybe the cigar didn’t get a high enough tasting score. Whatever it is, there are hundreds of excellent cigars that are underrated for any number of reasons, while conversely, there’s no shortage of overrated cigars.

So, where do these “underrated cigars” fit in? Maybe the term, “under the radar” is more appropriate. With millions of cigars on the market, a good many of them are going to slip through the cracks, but unless you’re a vampire, it would take you several lifetimes to smoke every cigar in every line of every brand manufactured by General Cigar Co., Altadis U.S.A., and Davidoff alone, not to mention Arturo Fuente, Drew Estate, Perdomo, Oliva, Rocky Patel, and My Father.

For the purposes of this post, I’ve focused on seven cigars made in the Dominican Republic. To be clear, I’m not speaking for the industry. I didn’t run any numbers or ask around as to what cigars others thought were underrated. Rather, these Dominican cigars are the ones I personally felt warranted a little time in the spotlight. Most of us avid cigar smokers have similar lists, and we favor these so-called “underrated” cigars because we know their value, a value that far exceeds their cost, which is why they are known to only a few of us.

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The Griffin’s Perfecto (4 5/8” x 52)

Core blend: Cibao Valley Dominican
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut

The Griffin’s, maybe because of their close association with Davidoff cigars, sometimes get passed-over for their upmarket price, but they are pretty classy. I’ve always been drawn to the double perfecto shape, which is how I found this one. Griffin’s also has a rep for being mild, but the wide hips and tapered ends make this sexy little number a lot more flavorful, offering notes of sweet wood, spice, and toasted nuts all rolled-up inside its rich and creamy smoke. Price-wise, the Perfecto is pretty reasonable for a box of 25 or a pack of four.

José Benito Toro (6″ x 50)

Core blend: Dominican/U.S. Connecticut
Wrapper: Indonesian Sumatra Oscuro

Here’s one from Manuel Quesada of Fonseca and Casa Magna cigars fame that’s been a pleasant surprise. The José Benito brand was revived in 2003 and is now sold in bundles at a very wallet-friendly price. The Sumatra Oscuro wrappers are attractively dark and oily, the burn is impressively even with a firm white ash, and the medium-bodied smoke offers a rich, earthy-nutty flavor with a hint of powdered cocoa on the finish. If you’re looking for a great “yard gar,” the Toro stands-up well to the elements.

La Unica Cabinet No.400 (4½” x 50)

Core blend: Dominican
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut

Why this Arturo Fuente-made line from J.C. Newman doesn’t get enough love has always had me scratching my head in wonder. OK, they look like a bundle brand, but you know that $10 bottle of wine that tastes like a $30 bottle? You get the idea. I always liked the Rothschild shape as an alternative to the robusto, and you can’t beat the ingredients – Fuente-grown long-fillers and a genuine U.S. Connecticut wrapper – plus, the shorter dimensions give it a little octane boost in the flavor department, which yields a creamy, toasty-nutty flavor profile. If you’re looking for a great-tasting value, jump into this boxcar, or keep walkin’.

Macanudo Crü Royale Toro (6″ x 54)

Core blend: Dominican/Nicaraguan/Brazilian
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano

In trying to keep up with the more full-bodied fare that crops up every year, Macanudo has occasionally had to come up with cigars that distance themselves from their original, ultra-mild Café selection. When they released the Crü Royale it was a cigar on a mission, and I was impressed by its complexity, full-flavor and perfect balance. You don’t hear much about them these days, but if you’d like to get acquainted, the smoke is earthy, spicy, and woody, with just the right amount of sweetness in the smoke and the aroma, making it one of the most pleasant surprises around.

Partagas Naturales (5½” x 49)

Core blend: Dominican/Mexican
Wrapper: African Cameroon

Some might call Partagas an “old man’s” cigar, and it just so happens that an old man turned me on to these, but the Naturales are as classic as it gets. The African Cameroon wrappers are among the best and the most flavorful, and the semi-box press shape offers a nice fit in your hand. I don’t see many younger cigar smokers lifting too many of the Partagas core line, but this robusto has never let me down. The smoke is spicy, nutty, and toasty with notes of sweet cedar, all nicely balanced for a relaxing “first-cigar-of-the-day.” Some things never change; they just get better with age, and this is one of them.

Romeo y Julieta Vintage No. 1 (6″ x 43)

Core blend: Dominican
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut

I discovered this lean-looking Lonsdale in a sampler and never looked back. The tobaccos are all vintage Dominican and the Ecuador-grown wrappers offer a little more flavor and aroma to its nutty-woody character. If I could sum-up these Dominican cigars in a word it would be “elegant.” The smoke is especially creamy, smooth, and well-balanced, plus, the box also doubles as a humidor, which is a nice added touch. I would almost dare anyone not to like this cigar, even those who prefer full-bodied cigars.

VegaFina Toro (6″ x 50)

Core blend: Dominican/Colombian/Honduran/Indonesian
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut

Maybe because VegaFina’s Dominican cigars first earned their excellent rep in Europe, I’m not sure how many cigar smokers know just how good these cigars are, not to mention the outstanding construction, especially on the Toro. After all, they’re blended and rolled by the folks who also bring you Montecristo cigars. The Ecuadorian wrappers are buttery smooth and burn with an inescapable floral aroma, while the smoke continually evolves offering caramelized flavors of sweet cedar, herbal spices, leather, and a slight hint of pepper.

Agree, disagree? What are some of your favorite “underrated” Dominican cigars? If you have any, please mention them by leaving a comment.