Want to know how EPC made the #1 Cigar of 2018? We dug into the CA Video Vault for a look back at our May ’18 sitdown with Ernesto, and learned everything there is to know about Encore Majestic by EP Carrillo. Watch now, and learn from the Master…
2017 CA Report: 10 Top Rated Dominican Cigar Brands
Top Rated: Ten Best Dominican Cigar Brands
By John Pullo
True in life, and for cigar ratings: live by the numbers, die by the numbers. But whose numbers matter more?
We read a lot of cigar reviews. And while we write a lot of reviews too, the Cigar Advisors don’t score cigars – we think it’s hard to justify assigning a numeric value to a personal experience that could be biased. For example, if a reviewer prefers medium to full-bodied cigars, he or she may have a tendency to rank Dominican cigar brands lower than the Nicaraguans they prefer. We’d rather be matchmakers and help you find the right cigar for you, based on the qualities that cigar exhibits.
As I’ve said before, good brands can (and do) get bad ratings…so if you only see numbers, you may miss the details that will really make a difference in finding the good things a cigar has going for it. You don’t read only the 5-star reviews on Amazon, do you? Nope. That’s why, when I’m looking for something different to try, I like reading what I call “crowdsourced” ratings – as in, a good number of them, from real, everyday cigar smokers. And it’s how I arrived at this list of the top rated Dominican cigar brands you see here. When evidence mounts from cigar lovers of all walks, a high rating across the board tells me we can all agree that there’s something special about that smoke. So it is for these Dominican cigars: well-loved brands, highly rated by real people – and it’s time you got turned on to them.
A few important notes: there are many new or recognizable Dominican cigar brands that are highly rated, like the Macanudo Inspirato Black and Montecristo Epic. They’re plenty good, but we don’t have a decent enough amount of data to add them to this “cream of the crop” list – yet. Other ratings winners, like Davidoff Nicaragua, are made in the DR but have no Dominican tobaccos – so my conscience said leave them out. Ratings are for the brand as a whole; flavors can and will change, depending on the size you smoke. I’ve added a quote on each stick from reviews you can read right now at Famous Smoke Shop. Ratings are current as of April 5, 2017.
La Flor Dominicana La Nox – Rated 100
Known for their full-bodied Dominicans, LFD added to the greatest hits list in 2015 with this Brazilian Habano-wrapped treat that’s closer to an oscuro color. A San Andres binder and Dominican long fillers complete this lush recipe, which has earned raves since it hit the streets just under two years ago. The name is Latin for “the dark.” Or as one reviewer commented, “D-LISH-US.” Come to think of it, that would make a great license plate.
Digger in Craig, MT: “Secret’s out, this is an incredible, bold, exciting, long burn from LFD!”
Ashton Estate Sun Grown – Rated 98
A spicy, full-bodied staple on the top shelf of Dominican cigar brands. Ashton ESGs began their run in 2006 as a celebration smoke honoring the 20th Anniversary of the Ashton brand. And each year that followed, featured a release of the ESG blend (made by Fuente, FYI) in a different shape: the first year saw a Churchill…2007 had a Robusto, then a Torpedo, a Toro in ‘09 and a Figurado in 2010. Only a limited number of sticks are produced, as the tobaccos used are quite rare – and, well, because they’re special.
Mike in Bucks County, PA: “The Ashton ESG is by far the best money spent – for a great cigar.”
Kristoff Ligero Maduro – Rated 97
These Kristoff Maduros explore the heartier side of the DR’s tobacco, making a full strength smoke that gets an assist from some spicy Nicaraguan ligero in the long filler blend. But the icing on the cake is a dark Brazilian Arapiraca leaf that has a terrific oily sheen. Some say this Kristoff leans medium-full, but to me it’s more of a straight up, full-bodied smoke that has very savory tastes – like coffee, cocoa and citrus – all of which keep this Dominican smoking smooth.
Jima in Columbia River Gorge: “Smooth layers of subdued flavors that will have you burning your fingers as you enjoy this delightful cigar to the nub!”
E.P. Carrillo La Historia – Rated 96
The first of two highly-rated Carrillo entries on this list. La Historia is a part thank you note, part salute to his family for the support of his Dominican cigar brands – the next generation of whom is working side-by-side with Ernesto at his factory. They’ve created a smoke that has graced many a “top cigar” list, including this one. Inside La Historia: Dominican long fillers, mated with Nicaraguan leaf for some punch, bound in Ecuador Sumatra and finished in a sweet n’ spicy San Andres. Boutique for sure – and where flavor counts, this EPC has the goods.
Marty in Chicago: “Excellent construction, good looking cigar. Dark and rich flavors. This is a home run stick.”
Winston Churchill – Rated 94
An Advisor list is incomplete without a mention of the patron saint of cigar smokers. Davidoff pays tribute to The Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill – Knight of the Order of the Garter, Member of the Order of Merit, Companion of Honour, Fellow of the Royal Society, etc. etc…Prime Minister of the United Kingdom under George VI, Churchill was a cigar fiend; these top-of-the-top shelf cigars would surely satisfy such an appetite, with an undisclosed blend of Dominican Cuban-seed tobaccos and Yamasá binder, all under a special wrapper grown in full view of Ecuador sun. “Elegant” doesn’t begin to describe this creamy, flavorful smoke.
Dustin in NJ: “I can fully recommend this cigar to just about anybody from a beginner to an old pro.”
Arturo Fuente Seleccion D’Oro – Rated 93
Many of the top Dominican cigar brands – like ESG and Winston Churchill, above – get their great taste (and their resulting high ratings) by using leaves that are available in very limited supply. Add Fuente’s Seleccion D’Oro to the list, with its prime, well-aged Dominican core tobaccos; the CT-seed wrapper, farmed in Ecuador, is no ordinary leaf, either. Put it all together, and you get that classic nutty, Fuente flavor with a little more oomph…yet somehow, without a fattened-up price tag.
Roberto in Homestead: “Nice burn, no surprises, this is what an expensive cigar should do, but without the high price.”
El Rico Habano – Rated 92
Who? E.P. Carrillo, that’s who. LGC was his, and this is La Gloria’s bigger, fuller-bodied brother. The old hands around these parts know what I’m talking about; the young guns, not so much. El Rico Habano was one of the few Dominican brands fighting for top spot in the “power cigar” category. And if you like full, this one checks every box: strength, body, aroma and flavor all pin the needle, courtesy of a big dip of ligero in the blend, which is clad in a rustic Sumatra wrapper. A cigar legend.
Ron B. in Palm Bay: “A must for your private stock. Brothers and Sisters of the leaf: a must have!!”
H Upmann 1844 Reserve – Rated 92
Another old school smoke that more than holds its own to this day. A tasty array of DR-grown long fillers for the foundation of the 1844 Reserve; a Nicaraguan binder is added, then a layer of Ecuadorian Cubano to top it all off. Cubanesque, some say – but definitely a step up from the mellower blends near it on the smoke shop shelf.
Mark in Columbia, MO: “The 1844 line gives an even burn with pleasant woody flavor and aroma—just outstanding!”
La Aurora Preferidos Maduro – Rated 92
Good things happen in threes: the Preferidos Maduro blend is three tobaccos (DR, Brazil and Cameroon) aged in oak barrels. The oily Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro capa is triple fermented. Chock full of dark chocolate and rich earth flavors, the smoke is thick – almost chewy. These La Aurora Maduros have been flying under the radar for years; so if you like your smoke to be a satisfyingly full Maduro, and you like it when they stay on the sweeter side, it’s time you two finally meet.
John S. in GA: “All the lush and elegant attributes you could ever ask for in a cigar … this one has it!”
Montecristo White – Rated 92
Montecristo is no stranger to big ratings and gushing reviews; but as your palate and preferences expand, you look to something a little fuller, a little more well-rounded. It’s here you’ll find Montecristo White, which takes the classic Dominican recipe and swaps in a Nicaraguan binder, plus a choice Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper. One of the top names in luxury-class Dominican cigar brands, now smoking with beefed-up body and flavors.
Adam in CA: “If you want something that has lots of smooth smoke, even burn and balanced taste all the way to the end, then this is the cigar for you.”
We’re always glad to hear from more cigar lovers who want to make their voices heard – so take some time to spread the good word on the cigars you like, and add your review to the site. You just may end up being responsible for turning your fellow cigar smokers on to their new favorite smoke…