To smoke, or not to smoke? That is the question of Hamlet Liberation, the third major release from Hamlet Paredes who said: “I wanted to create something different, something liberating.” Made with an Ecuador Habano wrapper over a Nicaraguan-Honduran core blend, did our Review Panel sing its praises? Click now for the answer…
2015 CA Report: Top 25 Best New Cigars of the Year
Cigar Advisors’ Top 25 of the Year: the Best New Cigars of 2015
The bands are piled up, the ashtrays are full – and with another year under our belts, we think we’ve whittled it down to a consensus on the 25 best new cigars cigars we liked the most, and recommend you add to your rotation.
Considering the slew of new cigar releases this year, you may be wondering how we narrowed such a wide array of excellent smokes. Well, I have to be honest…a 2015 Top 25 cigars list comes easier than you might anticipate. It’s important not to overthink this stuff. It should be fun. So defining the actual process for including a smoke on our year-end “best new cigars” list was pretty simple:
- We smoked it.
- We liked it.
“We” being me, Gary, Jonathan and Zman, of course – along with a few of the friends you see appear in our video review panels from time to time. Thanks, boys.
All the pomp and circumstance aside, a simple, micro-crowdsourcing of sorts is really all it takes – as in, all of the Advisors & Friends agreed that there was something special that stood out in each of these cigars. Just like you do with your regular group of cigar-smoking pals on any given Thursday night.
No doubt you’ll disagree with a few (or many) of our best new cigar selections; and as you peruse the other “Best-of” lists out there right now – and there are many – it’s likely you’ll see more dissonance than harmony. And for good reason: while great cigars are great cigars, we’re all different…our palates, likes, dislikes, etc.; and the disparity among the Best Cigar lists proves that. One of our readers captured our sentiments exactly, when I compiled the “Gold Stars: 96 Rated Cigars” report a few months ago: “Putting numbers on cigars is like putting numbers on women, wine, art, or music. Such things will always be in the eye of the beholder.” Truth, Stuart.
Before we get started, and in the interest of full disclosure – it’s critical we admit and identify two very important notes:
- No money, favors, in-kind considerations or advertising dollars were exchanged between Cigar Advisor and any of the cigar makers on this list.
- No Cuban cigars were included on this list.
With that out of the way, read below and you’ll find our selections for the Best New Cigars of 2015…and for our purposes, let’s include some 2014 cigars that were too new to include at the time on last year’s list, as they may have been released very late. And 1 or 2 we missed completely, so they’re new to us. Maybe you missed out on these when they came out, maybe you just haven’t had the chance to smoke one yet. Maybe you didn’t even know they existed. That’s the other half of the fun with making a list of the best new cigars: you get a shot at the latest and greatest in your smoke shop, instead of a stick that’s been on shelves for half a decade. We already know those are pretty good.
Each of the Cigar Advisors have contributed some of their thoughts and what they think made each special; but remember, it’s the sticks that do the talking. Hopefully, you’ll find something special in there when you try them, too.
~ John Pullo, Cigar Advisor Managing Editor
#25: 1502 Ruby
An attractive, box-pressed cigar with a medium-bodied, full-flavored blend that boasts a lusciously dark Ecuadorian wrapper perfectly-pressed around a well-balanced Nicaraguan long-filler and binder core. The smoke is ultra-smooth, creamy and fragrant, offering an earthy-woody baseline with subtle flavors of sweet cedar, raw nuts, and some appealing floral notes. Cigar smokers not yet familiar with the 1502 selection will find the Ruby an ideal choice for introducing themselves to this very promising boutique brand. – G.K.
#24: New World by A.J. Fernandez
AJ Fernandez just always seems to create excellent cigars and the New World, a 2014 latecomer, is definitely a part of that line up. It’s a dark medium to full bodied Nicaraguan puro that’s packed with spicy ligero leaf to give it some serious oomph on the palate. It starts out a bit peppery with a nice little blast of spice then smooths down and rounds out with a complex creamy natural sweetness. It’s a solid smoke with excellent construction. – T.Z.
#23: Fratello Bianco
Omar de Frias is as cool as they come. Mix in that big ol’ learnin’ brain of his, and you get the Fratello Bianco. Style in relaxation meets master blending at Omar’s hands, and the Bianco has plenty of both. The tobaccos used are sourced from around the world in order to incorporate a little of everything into a symphony of flavor that is out of this world. Spicy, sweet, bold, aromatic, smooth… I’m running out of adjectives here! – J.D.
#22: Viva Republica Guerilla Warfare
Overlooked by us last year, so it makes the list this year – we’re breaking the rules a bit because it’s new to us. Seemingly made to cause a cigar revolution, Viva Republica is trying to attack the industry full force with knockout flavors. In our opinion, their Guerilla Warfare has the industry shaking. Never have we had a cigar that hits with the boldness of a true full bodied cigar and the smoothness of a creamy mild cigar, wrapped up in one complete package. Spice mixed with sweetness and a long burn time, this is worthy of every accolade you can throw its way. – J.D.
#21: Señorial Maduro (Brick & Mortar Only)
This third regular production cigar from José Blanco melds prime Dominican long-filler & binder tobaccos with a plush Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper, giving it a markedly different flavor profile from its Ecuadorian Habano wrapped brother. The well-balanced smoke makes a spicy-peppery entrance that quickly rounds-off to a more intricate mix of earthy, fruity and cocoa notes. Some sweetness enters the fray as the pepperiness peaks its head out at times in various intensities, while retaining its position in the overall flavor profile. Blanco is a perfectionist, and this dark, earthy flavor-fest is a testament to his profound knowledge of tobacco. – G.K.
#20: Tabaquero – Hamlet Paredes
Remember how Johnny Carson used to introduce new comedians and almost overnight they’d become stars? That’s sort of what’s going on here. Cuban exile, Hamlet Paredes, is a Rocky Patel discovery who has a very bright future. His debut Tabaquero hits it out of the park in this medium-full cigar draped in a sweet n’ savory San Andrés maduro wrapper. Flavors of spice, sweet tobacco, earth, and espresso dominate in this perfectly-balanced, complex beauty that gets it right the first time. – G.K.
#19: Heritage Honduras by Dunhill
The news is out, people… Dunhill ain’t your granddad’s mild and creamy Connecticut wrapped cigar anymore. The all new Heritage is a rich bomb of a Honduran smoke that is officially the first full bodied cigar made by the people at Dunhill. With strong notes of cedar, dark chocolate and coffee, this stick is a wonderful post dinner treat that pairs up nicely with a good craft brew or a belt of your favorite whiskey. – T.Z.
#18: EPC Short Run 2015
On the heels of the critically-acclaimed Short Run 2014, comes this equally attractive-looking selection draped in a slightly toothy and flawless Nicaraguan Criollo ’98 wrapper. Notes of sweet spice and cedar kick-start this medium bodied, full-flavored cigar that maintains its earthy-woody baseline, while stopping to pick-up some notes of fruit, anise, and cinnamon along the way for an impressively complex smoke with extraordinary balance and a captivating aroma. – G.K.
#17: CLE Plus 2015
CLE Plus 2015 is a highlight reel moment-in-waiting: Christian Eiroa reaches shoulder-deep into his magic hat and pulls out a gloriously complex mix of his signature Corojo tobaccos, refining the punchy recipe of the original. Already one of CLE’s best new cigars, the Plus that debuted in 2013 has been replaced by this new all-Honduran brew, offered now in 3 fresh sizes plus a robusto go-to. All smoke with a more refined medium-full body; but the pepper n’ spice you want/need/crave remain, along with a whiff of excellence. Bonus: not a limited edition, so I’m glad to say we’ll have this one around for a while. – J.P.
#16: Flor de Gonzalez 20th Anniversary
The Flor de Gonzalez 20th Anniversary reminded me of an important lesson in 2015: don’t judge a book by its cover. Delightfully unexpected was the amount of flavor in this milder smoke from FdG, clad in a choice Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper that’s been aged 8 years; the broadleaf maduro version is just as tasty, and a little more potent. Both of these wrappers were offered on the original Flor de Gonzalez cigars this FDG 20 Aniversario celebrates. And as with any special edition smoke, Flor de Gonzalez 20th is a limited-production cigar, capped at 180,000 sticks. Don’t let this one escape you. – J.P.
[Ed. Note: Flor de Gonzalez 20th Anniversary cigars were limited edition, and are no longer in stock at Famous Smoke Shop; click the image to view other Flor de Gonzales cigar options.]
#15: L’Atelier La Mission
The L’Atelier La Mission was blended by Pete Johnson, and rolled by My Father Cigars in what can be considered one of the best tag team duos in the history of cigars. But the real story here is the world debut of the Sancti Spiritus hybrid wrapper. You can expect loads of caramelized flavors for an ultra-complex smoke that gradually transitions from one dominant stroke of flavor to the next as you work your way through this masterfully crafted cigar. – J.D.
#14: Perdomo Special Craft Series – Pilsner (Connecticut)
The Perdomo Craft Series Connecticut – also known as the “Pilsner” – is a Connecticut-wrapped gem, with an eye opening flavor. It’s sweet with hints of cedar and raisin, mixed with floral notes, but then shifts gears to add a mixture of cocoa, espresso, and other rich flavors. One of Perdomo’s best new cigars to hit shelves in 2015, the complexity is unreal…the flavor is incredible…and it goes perfectly with your choice of pilsner or light beer. – J.D.
#13: Quesada Oktoberfest 2015
What better way to ring in the biggest beerfest in the world than with a great cigar that pairs perfectly with the Bavarian Märzen Style (Oktoberfest style) beers of Munich? This yearly offering always stands on its own as a winner for me, with loads of sweet, rich, full flavor, and that quintessential Quesada quality we all know and love. If you’ve never tried Quesada, go for the Oktoberfest. This is an absolute winner. – J.D.
#12: La Imperiosa
While the people at Crowned Heads have been doing all the right things making great cigars, they went one step even better and got the great Don Pepin to create this tasty winner. This Nicaraguan made gem is draped in a dark and oily, sun-drenched Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro leaf and it is as full-flavored as it gets without being overly strong. While it’s peppery and earthy in character, it’s wonderfully smooth at the same time. – T.Z.
#11: Undercrown Shade
With the help of master blender, Willie Herrera, Drew Estate has done their magic and made the delicious Liga Undercrown even more flavorful and amazing. The silky smooth Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper has made the original Undercrown smoother, creamier and definitely more refined. It’s a medium bodied stick with a natural sweetness that billows with thick white smoke. A stellar cigar. – T.Z.
The Top 10: 2015’s Best of the Best New Cigars
#10: CAO Flathead Steel Horse
CAO Flathead Steel Horse cigars are a promise made good by Rick Rodriguez, who thought the two-wheeled crowd deserved a Flathead of their own. Well worth the wait: Steel Horse rolls up on you in two sizes – big and bigger – and each is packed with a juicy 4-nation filler blend (Honduras/Nicaragua/Dominican Republic/Brazil) under a Connecticut Habano Grueso wrapper and maybe even a twist of Squatch Sauce. It’s pretty much “the one” of the best new cigars I’ve smoked this year: the thick, meaty flavors tweak the Umami dial and run the throttle wide open, being full bodied with big rips of smoke. As always, your mileage may vary; but not likely. Do it. – J.P.
#9: Macanudo Estate Reserve
A gorgeous specimen of a Dominican-made cigar brimming with flavors of sweet wood and spices with a bright, fruity element in the mix. Made in limited edition, the smoke of Macanudo Estate Reserve is thick and creamy with an indescribably sweet fragrance, and burns clean with a thick, white ash. Notes of hickory are revealed in the latter stages, adding to the impressive complexity of this cigar that also offers excellent balance and no trace of bitterness, even at the nub stage. The wrapper is a 10-year-aged Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro, the fillers a mix of proprietary Jamaican Silver Tongue, Proprietary Nicaraguan Gurdian and Dominican; a gimme for inclusion in the top 10 of the best new cigars released this year. – G.K.
#8: Rocky Patel 20th Anniversary
This was the year, I think, that Rocky Patel recaptured people’s attention in a big way – see Tabaquero from Hamlet Paredes – but it was also the year that Rocky celebrated his 20th Anniversary in the cigar world, and what a tasty cake he’s baked. Flush with naturally sweet flavors with a dark, roasty touch, it’s a blend of premium Nicaraguan & Honduran fillers that do the yeoman’s work of showing how tasty these tobaccos can be. The icing on top: it’s finished with the most decadent-looking wrapper in RP’s collection. The Rocky Patel 20th Anniversary is a medium body, medium strength smoke through and through; try one, and I’ll bet we hear you up here in the cheap seats talking about it. – J.P.
#7: J. Fuego Americana
I’m just gonna say it straight-up: anything out of the Fuego camp is going to be good. Not to be an exception to that rule is the Americana. What makes this baby sing is the PA Sun Grown wrapper that amps up the flavor, and satisfies every inch of your palate. – J.D.
#6: La Boheme
La Boheme ain’t just a looker – solid and stately, this one straight up sings Puccini on its own. Probably what Boutique Blends’ Rafael Nodal had in mind, as it is his favorite opera. Spicy and full (as is the Nodal way), La Boheme got my vote because it’s one of the meatiest new cigars I smoked this past year. But that’s how Rafael does it…take the fullest-smoking Dominican tobaccos, wrap them in a Habano outer layer, and wring as much flavor and body out of them both as humanly possible. It’s a stiff cocktail for sure, friends – but one you’ll savor. – J.P.
#5: Laranja Reserva
Erik Espinosa brought his brand to new heights with the Laranja, a cigar that just about everyone has raved about since its introduction. This blend is full bodied, wonderfully complex and bursting with a whole lot of different flavors that marry on your taste buds i.e. pepper citrus and wood. The wrapper leaf is a shimmering golden brown Brazilian Laranja leaf (which in Portuguese means orange). Truly delicious. – T.Z.
#4: Camacho American Barrel Aged
The boys at Camacho set out to make a memorable smoke and I say “mission accomplished.” This is a full bodied beast with massive flavor from the very first puff and wickedly complex with just a whole lotta good stuff going on in that flavor profile. The wrapper is a supple dark Corojo leaf aged for six long years and then the entire cigar itself is aged in bourbon barrels for a good 5 months. It’s my top pick among the best new cigars of 2015 and I just can’t stop smoking them! – T.Z.
#3: La Flor Dominicana La Nox
Latin for “The Night,” La Nox ushers in another outstanding release from Litto Gomez that’s made in limited edition, but will be available annually. Blended with a mix of Dominican long-fillers (Piloto & Pele de Oro) grown on his La Canela estate farms, this dark, smooth and creamy cigar offers one of the most complex La Flor Dominicana releases to-date. An extra-dark Brazilian wrapper graces this Toro-sized beauty that goes through a number of gear shifts, revealing flavors of roasted nuts, cocoa, tart citrus, coffee, sweet cedar, spice, and more in this perfectly-balanced banquet. – G.K.
#2: Famous 75th Anniversary by Padron
Remember earlier, when I said, “great cigars are great cigars?” The verdict has been in on Padron’s Serie 1926 for quite some time – yes, I’m also breaking a rule because it’s not a new blend. But the Famous 75th Anniversary Padron is a new and exclusive size (a beefier 5 x 54 box-pressed robusto), which settles in nicely between the standard production Padron 1926 robusto and toro vitolas. Everything you love about the ’26 is on display: full, rich, smooth, spicy-sweet…need me to go on? So are 2 wrapper choices, though only 1500 boxes of each selection are to be had. Sometimes the best new cigars are the ones you rediscover, and I doubt much arm twisting will be needed to make the Famous 75th Anniversary by Padron’s case. – J.P.
#1: Davidoff Escurio
About Cigar Advisor’s #1 New Cigar of the Year:
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: 4½” x 54 (Robusto)
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Brazilian Cubra
Filler: Brazilian Cubra, Mata Fina, Dominican San Vicente, Piloto, hybrid Olor/Piloto Seco
When Davidoff introduced their Nicaragua selection a few years ago, my question was, How are they gonna top this? Well, they pulled it off, alright – with the Escurio. This stocky little masterpiece delivers layer upon layer of thick, creamy smoke that jockeys its way through a virtual maze of nutty, toasty, earthy, sweet-spicy flavors, and the occasional wisp of chocolate served-up in a perfectly balanced brew. There wasn’t one moment of boredom while smoking this cigar. From the opulent construction, to the even burn, to the seductively fragrant aroma, it isn’t often I find what I call a “perfect cigar,” but the Davidoff Escurio Robusto is one of them. – G.K.