Cigar Ratings & Reviews

Top 10 Cigars of 2013 As Determined By ME

Twenty fourteen. We’re barely a month in, and for some reason I can hardly remember a thing that happened during the entire previous year; probably due to a few sharp blows to the head received as an impressionable youth. All I can recall are Rob Ford, government shutdown and Sharknadoes. Three good reasons to turn it all off and clear the mind with a good cigar.

Actually, one good thing I remember is IPCPR. It seemed that at the show, three big trends of note were on full display:

1. Several companies have sourced premium tobacco from Pennsylvania to be used as both filler and wrapper. Of course, Pennsylvania was a huge source for tobacco in the United States back in the “golden age” of cigars – and now it’s making its way back into the premium hand-rolled market. That is a good thing.

2. Size matters. The 6 x 60 was just a trend a few years ago, now it’s part of just about every manufacturer’s lineup. And even that size has been left in the dust by the 7s and 8s that are on shelves now. Sweet Jesus.

3. There are a lot of small batches. It seems there’s a lot of a little, meaning that there’s a lot of different harvested leaf to be had, but not a large quantity of each. So more manufacturers are producing extremely limited offerings of super premium sticks available in runs of only 200, 300, 500 boxes to 2000, 3000, 5000 cigars. Worth the hype? Some, yes.

So, I’ve put together my personal list of the top 10 cigars of 2013. Just to be clear, the only criteria for a cigar to be considered for the list is that the blend was released in 2013, so all my old favorites were out of contention while I focused on all the great new stuff to hit the shelves in 2013. Let me tell you about how I made this list…first, I actually smoked these cigars. Many other shops just ride the hype wagon all the way into your wallet, trying to find enough enticing words and a big enough crowbar to pry the money out. Go ahead and ask them to describe it to you. They can’t.

Second, I’m not made of money. So if I can talk myself into dropping a few bucks on the smokes in this list, then they’re going to be pretty accessible sticks to anyone who takes cigars slightly seriously. Not that I have anything against the pricey super premiums that came out this year (yes, I mean you, Macanudo Estate Reserve; though I love you too) – but if I have to choose between paying rent and paying for a cigar, rent wins. When the day comes that I don’t have to pay rent, I’ll drop $24 for a cigar. But not before.

Third, I’m not a “label bitch.” The people I define as being a label bitch are the same kinds of guys who dump all over you because you’re not drinking the proper odd and obscure craft beer. Those people exist for cigars, too. And they suck. Remember these words, friends: “smoke what you like, just like what you smoke.”

So here they are, the top 10 cigars of 2013, in no particular order…not because I care about hurting anyone’s feelings, but because. Just, because.

monte by montecristo cigars
Monte by Montecristo cigars

Monte by Montecristo

I’ve always shied from Montecristo because I felt dirty smoking them – the same way you felt when you bought beer with that twenty, instead of paying back your roommate. I didn’t deserve it. But now that Monte by Montecristo cigars have hit the market in ’13, I do deserve it, dammit. Using more than their average dose of Nicaragua and doubling up on the binder, it’s a sweet punch of medium-bodied flavor.

What’s in it:

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano

Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo AND Dominican Olor

Filler: Dominican, from Villa Gonzales and La Canela

CAO Flathead

Rick Rodriguez is psychic – for he has read my mind. Cigars, muscle cars and girls. Admittedly, he didn’t have to try hard…we all dig that stuff. And that’s what led his team to come up with CAO Flathead cigars. Medium

cao flathead cigars
CAO Flathead Cigars

to full body, the Flathead oozes horsepower.

What’s in it:

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf

Binder: Habano Connecticut

Filler: Nicaraguan Ligero and Piloto Cubana Ligero

Padilla Vintage Reserve

I. Love. This Cigar. Padilla Vintage Reserve cigars are awesome smokes, period. Now that Padilla is working with Oliva, he’s got a world of possibilities before him when it comes to blending. And if this medium-full stunner is how he starts, good for us all. Made with that Pennsylvania Broadleaf we discussed earlier, and tasty as hell, which he came across in the Oliva family stash of tobacco. And again hitting the notes about rare and small batch this year, the band of each cigar – as well as the boxes – are individually numbered.

What’s in it:

Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf

Binder: Nicaraguan Habano

Filler: Cuban seed Corojo (aged 3 years)

Aging Room M21 Fortissimo

Rafael Nodal must be walking on air right now, as his other Aging Room stick was voted #2 cigar of the year…though I’d argue #1, since rating a Cuban cigar #1 in a “best of” poll is a pretty douchey thing to do. Boutique Blends brought out the next Small Batch in 2013, called Aging Room M21 Fortissimo. It comes in one – count it, one – size, a Preferido. It’s actually like a cannon – full body, and explosive. Most SWAG and Aging Room make me their bitch after an hour smoking them, but it’s totally worth it. Limited in its production to 3000 numbered boxes of 10 cigars, don’t miss this small batch smoke.

What’s in it:

Wrapper: Dominican Habano

Binder: Dominican Habano

Filler: Dominican Habano

Toraño Vault D-042

I’ll admit it – I didn’t think Charlie Toraño could outdo the first Vault blend. It’s still one of my top 5 favorites, along with his Loyal. Not only was I wrong about the new Torano Vault Blend D-042, I was dead wrong. Again – and maybe this is why I like it so much – it sports PA leaf in its construction; BUT, it turns out that the blend has been in Toraño’s book for the last 16 years. Which means Toraño has been ahead of the curve by more than a decade and a half. Full body, full flavor and offered in boxes of 20, you’ll be glad he finally pulled the recipe out of hiding.

What’s in it:

Wrapper – Habano Ecuador

Binder – Habano Nicaragua

Filler – Nicaragua (Jalapa, Esteli) and Pennsylvania

Perdomo Champagne Sun Grown

perdomo champagne sun grown cigars
Perdomo Champagne Sun Grown Cigars

Christ on a bike, is this cigar good. You already like the Champagne, but wait til you see what the Sun Grown wrapper does to it. Though you shouldn’t panic – it doesn’t stray from the medium-body range, as it seems that the binder and filler are the same as what we know and love from before. When we reviewed the Perdomo Champagne Sun Grown, I said it was like smoking a glass of scotch – a ton of flavor and body. Do yourself a favor and drink it in.

What’s in it:

Wrapper: Jalapa Cuban-seed Sun Grown

Binder: Nicaraguan

Filler: Nicaraguan

Romeo y Julieta House of Montague Churchill

Since I tend to prefer more medium-full body cigars, I leaned on the Romeo y Julieta House of Montague over the Capulet in this paired release from Romeo y Julieta. Maybe it’s because I can relate to Romeo’s devilish charm; though it’s more likely that it’s because I enjoyed the more flavorful Brazilian Maduro over the three-country blend of longfillers. Solid, even burn on it, too. More medium than full, but not to be missed.

What’s in it:

Wrapper: Brazilian Arapiraca

Binder: Dominican Olor

Filler: Nicaraguan/Dominican/Brazilian

Room 101 Master Collection One

Ok, ok – this strays a little (a lot) from my “affordable” price proposition from before – but somehow over the past year, I’ve really developed a taste for San Andres wrapper. And this is good wrapper. Matt Booth and Co really outdid themselves with this luxurious blend, and the they really went above an beyond in searching out such a terrific wrapper. The Room 101 Master Collection One lives up to both the hype and the price tag.

What’s in it:

Wrapper: San Andreas Ligero Rosado

Binder: Honduran Corojo Corte #3

Filler: Honduran Corojo, Nicaraguan Habano Ligero, San Andreas Ligero

Tie: My Uzi Weighs a Ton KFC (Kentucky Fire Cured) and Nica Rustica

Don’t call it a cop out – they’re both sharp smokes, and I couldn’t make up my mind. Sue me. Kentucky Fire Cured was the talk of the cigar world since last summer, but turned out to be an interesting taste you almost had

nica rustica cigars
Nica Rustica Cigars

to acquire – and the aroma was akin to the sweetness of BBQ ribs. Needless to say, I acquired the taste. As for Nica Rustica, it was expected to be a “rustic smoke, made from wild Nicaraguan tobaccos found nearby” – the kind of stuff the “locals” would smoke, raw and wild. It’s actually more refined than that, and that’s a good thing. Both are medium bodied.

What’s in it:

KFC: Just about everything…Kentucky & Virginia fire-cured tobacco, Brazilian Mata Fina, Nicaraguan, Mexican San Andres…

Nica Rustica: Wrapper: CT Broadleaf Binder: Mexican San Andres Negro Filler: Nicaragua “Grade A”

Rocky Patel’s RP Royale

Look, I get it – the knock on Rocky is that he has a ton of different blends, and you have a hard time keeping them separated in your mind and on your taste buds. This one does the trick, however – you know how the 15th Anniversary and his Vintages stand out? Rocky Patel Royale seals the deal with a medium-full smoke that’s he’s been working on for six years. Most of the time was spent just trying to acquire the tobaccos he wanted to use. But he did it – using leaf from two different farms. My sense is the extra flavor comes from him box pressing it.

What’s in it:

Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra

Binder: Honduran/Nicaraguan

Filler: Honduran/Nicaraguan

Honorable Mentions

There was no way I could keep my list to just the top 10 cigars of 2013 as there were so many terrific releases. So don’t skip these either, or you’ll regret it:

Juan Lopez: rereleased by Altadis as a Nicaraguan puro. It’s a powerful smoke.

OSOK by Edgar Hoill Cigars (One Shot One Kill): New blend, and under a different company’s banner, Edgar Hoill has relaunched his lifestyle brand. Awesome.

Alec Bradley Raices Cubanas: These tend to be more medium body, and are a good everyday smoke named for the factory that turns out Alec Bradley cigars.

Camacho: any of them! Three got new blends, three stayed the same – and all got a new look. The classic Honduran blast remains.