The Best Alternative Smokes to the Top 25 Cigars of 2015
By Gary Korb
Every December, cigar smokers look forward to the list of the “Top 25 Cigars” of the year published by Cigar Aficionado magazine. The list has become so highly-anticipated that the publication begins leaking the names of the cigars between 11 and 25 several weeks before the final top-10 are released. Retail cigar stores begin clearing space to display the winning boxes as they await the onslaught of customers who will be coming in to buy the best cigars of the year. Think of it as the Hajj for cigar lovers. This concept of creating an annual “best” list has become so popular, practically every cigar news and blogger site now has their own Top-25 list, including us here at CigarAdvisor.com.
Manufacturers love it, too. Landing a spot in Aficionado’s “Top 25 Cigars” is akin to winning a coveted Oscar for “Best Picture.” Some brands sell out entirely from the notoriety, especially if they’re limited edition cigars, while others that some cigar smokers may have overlooked earlier in the year are given new life.
Recently, Famous Smoke Shop created a cigar sampler made up of cigars listed in the “Top 25 Cigars of 2015.” Suddenly, a lightbulb appeared overhead. What if we took the 10 cigars in that sampler and created a second sampler made up of alternative cigars? Let’s face it, no matter how many accolades a given cigar receives, when you come right down to it, opinions are utterly subjective. For every good cigar on the market, there’s another cigar that’s just as good…in someone else’s opinion. So, for those who may not agree with the chosen cigars – and there always are – or those looking for “equivalent” smokes that are easier on the wallet, we present the following alternatives to 10 of the Top 25 Cigars of 2015, and why they were selected.
Inferno Flashpoint Maduro Torpedo (alternative to the My Father Le Bijou 1922 Torpedo – #1)
This cigar is made in Estelí by Oliva, who, like the Garcia family, have been making some of the best Nicaraguan cigars for generations. Like the Le Bijou 1922, this torpedo has a diverse, all-Nicaraguan core, but with a deliciously dark Mexican San Andres Morron wrapper that’s comparably sweet as the Nicaraguan Pelo de Oro Oscuro used on the Le Bijou.
Four Kicks Black Belt Buckle Corona Gorda (alternative to the CAO Flathead V642 Piston – #3)
Though it’s not box-pressed like the CAO Flathead V642, the Four Kicks Black Belt Buckle Corona Gorda does boast a similar Nicaraguan long-filler core and an equally dark and oily Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper. The smoke is full-flavored, earthy, woody, and impressively complex with just the right amount of sweetness.
La Aurora Cameroon Belicoso (alternative to the Arturo Fuente Don Carlos No. 2 – #4)
Not an easy match-up due to the Don Carlos’s extraordinary reputation, but this figurado similarly melds the most select Dominican Piloto Cubano longfillers with a dash of Nicaraguan for extra depth, and completes the recipe with a plush Cameroon wrapper. Medium-bodied, you may pick up notes of sweet spice, cocoa, and cedar along the way.
Rocky Patel Cuban Blend Torpedo (alternative to Rocky Patel The Edge Habano Torpedo – #7)
Here’s a match that’s so close it’s scary. Rocky’s bestselling The Edge Habano line has become a modern classic, but one taste of the Cuban Blend with its plush Corojo wrapper offers a bold, spicy, creamy, and “decadent” smoke with awesome balance in a virtually identical blend. You can’t miss with this alternative, and you’ll save a few bucks, too.
Romeo House of Montague Robusto (alternative to Laranja Reserva Toro – #13)
Even Cigar Advisor had the Laranja Reserva near the top of our Top 25 Cigars of 2015 list, so finding an alternative presented a unique challenge. The result was this Romeo House of Montague Robusto. Blended with Nicaraguan, Dominican and Brazilian long-fillers, the Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper may not have all the citrusy notes found in the Brazilian Laranja leaf, but it makes up for it in balance, complexity and natural sweetness in a more medium-bodied smoke.
CLE Plus Toro (alternative to Alec Bradley Sanctum Toro – #15)
Several Alec Bradley Cigars have earned high scores for their complexity, full-flavor and pristine Honduran Trojes Corojo wrappers, but few can do Corojo like Christian Luis Eiroa. His CLE Plus Toro is a full-flavored, all-Corojo Honduran puro that smokes like a dream. Loaded with caramelized flavors of cedar, nutmeg, and a hint of cinnamon, this is one creamy, sweet n’ spicy delight.
Perdomo2 Limited Edition 2008 Maduro Epicure (alternative to Avo Syncro Nicaragua Toro – #16)
This Cuban-pressed Perdomo2 Limited Edition 2008 Maduro Epicure is a Nicaraguan puro. It may not have the complexity of the Avo’s multi-nation blend, but you will find plenty of rich, earthy-spicy Nicaraguan flavor in there. Plus, the inherent sweetness of the maduro wrapper is on-par with the Syncro. It’s also a lot more affordable.
Liga Undercrown Robusto (alternative to L’Atelier La Mission 1959 – #17)
This favorite from Drew Estate has a lot in common with the L’Atelier: Rich-tasting Nicaraguan long-fillers, a savory Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper, and outstanding quality from a top-tier tabacalera. Add the Brazilian Mata Fina and the T-52 stalk-cut binder, and you’ve got yourself a thick, creamy, full-flavored banquet of a smoke.
Perdomo 20th Anniversary Sun Grown Churchill (alternative to Montecristo Espada Quillon – #20)
With all due respect to Montecristo’s Grupo de Maestros, Nick Perdomo and his team also use a variety of Nicaraguan tobaccos from Estelí, Condega and Jalapa in this extraordinary tribute to 20 years of Nicaraguan tobacco farming and blending achievement. Rolled in a flawless and flavorful Sun Grown wrapper, 14 months of bourbon barrel fermentation and at least 6 years of aging make this puro nothing short of magnificent. Brimming with caramelized flavors of sweet wood and spices, this savory surrogate delivers rich complex flavor in spades.
Perla Del Mar Perla P (alternative to Nub Cameroon 358 – #23)
Nearly identical in size to its Nub counterpart, the Perla Del Mar Perla P boasts a resoundingly rich-tasting blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos from Pueblo Nuevo, La Reina, Condega, and Jalapa box-pressed in a silky and seamless Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper. The smoke is earthy, delicately spicy, well-balanced, and complex with a slight paradigm shift that’s equally satisfying.
And there you have it: 10 cigars that stand-up to an equal number of sticks that have been chosen to be among “the best.” Most of these top 25 cigars were hard acts to follow, and let’s face it, we’re talking apples to oranges; but if nothing else, you’ll save some money in the process.