Best Cuban Cigars of 2012

Cohiba Behike BHK 52

As the year winds down and after having sampled many a Cuban and non-Cuban cigar alike, both for my own smoking pleasure and for the purpose of reviewing them for CigarInspector.com, I wanted to give readers my thoughts on 5 of the most memorable cigars I smoked this year and why I placed them into my top 5 list. I’ve listed them in a descending order, starting at number 5 and working my way to number one.

5. H. Upmann No. 2

H. Upmann No. 2

A cigar not often seen on the top of the year lists, the H. Upmann No. 2 is a cigar that lovers of the Piramides should take time to sample. While I do enjoy the Partagas Series P No. 2, I included the Upmann because it is simply a tastier cigar. Construction issues aside, these cigars offer very pleasant flavors and thick clouds of smoke. Also, newly constructed cigars show significantly less flaws and, as noted in my review, people wanting to search these out would be best advised to try to find newer ones to avoid those construction flaws. Those looking for older box codes of these should be cognizant of the fact that they will encounter construction flaws that might disrupt their experience, but those flaws never impact the flavour that I described as having a sweeter profile, one that provides noticeable cocoa and coffee tones with hints of vanilla and occasional notes of citrus balanced with just the right amount of saltiness and spice. This, along with the Behike was the only cigar where I caught myself mumbling “yum” as I exhaled the thick velvety smoke after a flavor rich draw. If you’ve never tried one then you definitely owe yourself giving one a try.

4. Cohiba Robusto

Cohiba Robusto

Another fine cigar from the Cohiba line-up. As I wrote in my review of this cigar earlier in the year, “Overall, the cigar was very complex, starting with a hit of cracked pepper over deep woodsy and earthy notes that evolved perfectly into cocoa, dried fruit, citrus and leathery notes with a subtle offering of cedar. The smoke output was full, rich and had a velvety texture to it. All of this was perfectly complimented by an ever so subtle salt on the lips.”

What I enjoy about these cigars is that they are consistently consistent. It is extremely difficult to ever find a bad one in the lot and for me consistency is important. I want no surprises when I reach into the humidor.

3. Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2

Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2

I wrote in my review of this cigar that this is perhaps one of the most flavourful robustos on the market and I was extremely impressed that the growing popularity of these cigars hasn’t impacted construction.

When I reviewed its flavor (5 out of 5 stars) I noted that I was extremely impressed with how the Epicure No. 2 was very balanced and showed signs of complexity with very discernible and pleasurable flavour changes. These subtle changes are what keeps a cigar from being one dimensional. The texture of the smoke remained consistent and provided the cigar with the sweetness it needed to keep the white pepper, occasional bitterness and subtle saltiness in check. I wish all my cigars would have as much smoke per puff as this one does.

If I had to best describe the flavour journey the cigar went from sweet coffee tones to dark unsweetened chocolate, hints of cedar and hints of tea. A pleasing mild salt and pepper was evident throughout serving to nicely balance the sweetness of this very flavourful cigar.

2. Ramon Allones Specially Selected

Ramon Allones Specially Selected

This cigar is one that I had always been putting off. I had been reading quite a bit about it in early 2012 and noticed that it even made Inspector’s 2011 top five list. I can’t tell you why I always put it off but I am so glad that I decided to grab a few and see what all the buzz was about. I am glad I finally decided to make the purchase and add these to my collection.

This cigar is consistently creamy and tasty. It can come off as a little rustic in appearance and not always perfect in that aspect but it surely delivers where it counts: flavor. The construction is consistent as is its rich creamy texture with flavors of sweet coffee, honey and black cherry with the occasional nutty and very subtle pepper undertones. A nice complex cigar that is a bit more on the sweeter side rather than the earthy tones that come to the forefront in other Cuban cigars. The RASS is definitely worth the money and those looking for a sweeter and very velvety smoke output would do well to add these to their humidor. My overall review of this cigar was 4.75 out of 5 Stars but it delivered a perfect score of 5 where it counted.

1. Cohiba Behike BHK 52

Cohiba Behike BHK 52

This is my number one Cuban of the year. It has become my absolute favourite cigar and although it is not my regular daily smoke because of the price, I always want to make sure I have these on hand for those special occasions when you want to kick back and enjoy 70 minutes of absolute pleasure.

No other cigar I smoked this year, or in the last decade for that matter, did so much to involve all my senses while smoking it. It is superior to any other cigars I smoked this year in so many ways. Price aside, no other cigar offers the complexity that this cigar offers. Your palate will consistently be awakened with complex flavors from earthy tones that Cohiba cigars are so known for, with undertones of citrus, vanilla, cocoa and chocolate. The sweetness is balanced by the occasional hints of dark chocolate or unsweetened espresso. The smoke output is simply outstanding with a velvety texture akin to the texture of the froth off a perfectly made cappuccino. Every puff of this perfectly constructed cigar offers your palate an explosion of flavour and because of the way it is manufactured, you can essentially smoke them right out of the box without the need to age them.

We all have our favourite things in life for which we don’t mind spending a little extra money on. Whether it be clothing, spirits, food or fine wine. This, for me, is what I spend my money on to spoil myself now and then.

This cigar was the only one I reviewed in 2012 that earned a perfect 5 out of 5 in every category.

Runners-up

Honourable mentions go to the Partagas Series D No. 4, the Vegas Robaina Famosos, the Bolívar Royal Corona and the H. Upmann Royal Robusto, cigars that have I have not compiled detailed reviews for yet but watch for them in the coming weeks. Who knows, perhaps one of these very worthy cigars will make it into my list next year.

There are many great cigars coming out of Cuba these days and really, doing a top 5 list is difficult because there are so many factors that I needed to consider. This should not put anyone off any of the wonderful cigars coming off the Island of late but these are cigars that I felt offered the best flavor for the dollar in 2012, for my palate.

Please feel free to leave a comment and tell us what were some of your most memorable Cuban smokes that you enjoyed this year.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, cigar aficionados! This is my sixth "happy new year" post on CigarInspector.com and I'm really proud of what the site has become over the years, mostly thanks to you, dear readers. On behalf of all authors I would like to thank you for your feedback and trust. I am raising that glass of blanc de blancs to many more years enjoying our common passion(s).

Buying cigars in Quebec City, Canada

DanielThis guest post is written by Daniel, a cigar aficionado from Quebec City, Canada. He started smoking cigars 4 years ago and, after many visits to Cuba, got a "Certified Customer Tobacconist" degree by the Tobacconist University in NJ, USA. He blogs (in French) at CigaresDR.com.

Tobacco and cigar context in Quebec

Planning a visit in Quebec City in the days, weeks and or months to come? Well, just come over when you are ready and Quebecers will welcome you with some of the best hotels, food, activities and hospitality in the world. Unfortunately, and in regards to cigars, Quebec is not the smokey heaven it used to be. Following the North American trend on smoking bans, tobacco sales restrictions of all kinds and tobacco tax raises, smoke shops are struggling not to say "choking" to keep what's left of a retail business that's not anymore what it used to be even five years ago or so. Which all leads to pretty high cigar prices in the end.

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Famous Female Cigar Smokers (pics)

This is a fairly unusual post here, but it turns out that at the time you are reading these words I find myself in a place where Internet access is limited. More precisely, I am spending this week trekking in Uzbekistan and I didn't prepare a "normal" blog post for today. Instead, for your viewing pleasure you will find below a selection of excellent photographs of women you might recognize. Something tells me you might prefer this to reviews.

Salma Hayek smoking a cigar

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Buying cigars in Rostock, Germany

Baltic Cigar Club

This article was submitted by Martin, a cigar aficionado from Rostock, Germany and owner of Rauchr.de.

Cigar aficionados will appreciate the vibrant cigar culture that Rostock, Germany has to offer. Rostock has an excellent tobacco shop, a variety of lounges for cigar smoking, and clubs that provide humidified lockers for storage.

Tabak Nitz, Rostok’s only local tobacconist, is located at the center of the city. It can be easily found at the Rostoker Hof shopping mall on Breite Strasse, near Universitatsplatz. A climate controlled room ensures the proper humidity levels for rare Cuban, Dominican, and Nicaraguan cigars are maintained at Tabak Nitz. The tobacconists provide a selection of cigar cutters, humidors, lighters, and other fine tobacco accessories for their clientele. Tabak Nitz also sells whisky and cognac, the perfect accompaniments for cigars.

Another place to enjoy the cigar culture in Rostok is the Rittmeister. The Landhotel Rittmeister, at 1 Biestower Damm, has one of the best cigar lounges in Northern Germany. The Rittmeister carries a selection of fine Cuban, Honduran, and Brazilian cigars. The lounge also provides humidified storage lockers. Cigars can be enjoyed in the stylish lounge with a liqueur or whisky from the Rittmeister’s own distillery.

Even though it was only founded in 2010, The Baltic Cigar Club has become the premiere club celebrating cigar culture in Rostok. The club is located at 7 Waldemarstrasse, only 2 kilometers from Universitatsplatz. The Baltic Cigar Club has a special monthly cigar selection, and the club matches it with the perfect distilled spirits. In addition to weekly meetings, The Baltic Cigar Club also has large monthly events that include music, food, and drinks.

Rauchr

A few kilometers out of Rostock in a small village named “Klein Kussewitz” you will find the warehouse of the online shop rauchr.de. Inside the 750 m2 big warehouse you'll find one of the biggest humidors in whole Eastern Germany. This is not a typical B&M store but customers are welcome anytime and they can directly buy from the big stock and smoke a cigar in the warehouse-lounge.

Buying cigars in Barcelona

Buying cigars in Barcelona

Barcelona was pretty high on my "cities to visit" list. In fact, it has occupied the #1 spot for over two years since I went to Venice. It was only recently that I managed to organize a 5-days week-end in Barça - and I wasn't disappointed. If you're still hesitating, stop. I didn't expect the city to be that big though, which means there are still plenty of things I haven't seen. A valid reason to come back!

Spain is one of the most cigar-consuming countries in Europe, so just like in Madrid I was expecting to be able to find some cigars there. Most of the tobacco shops (easily recognizable by a yellow "Tabacs" sign) carry a basic selection of Cubans (Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagas...), but of course I was on my quest to locate the best shops in order to share this valuable information with you. After some research, I selected two shops: Casa Fuster and Gimeno.

Buying cigars in Barcelona

Casa Fuster is located at 29 Rambla de Catalunya (Google Maps >), one of the most splendid streets of Barcelona. A certified "Habanos Specialist", it doesn't have a walk-in humidor, but it carries an impressive selection of older releases. For example, I got some Romeo y Julieta 2005 Limitadas and a lot of Spanish regional editions, all available for purchase as singles. Of course, you'll be able to find some non-Cubans as well. By the way, cigar prices in Spain are regulated at the government level, so don't bother comparing prices at multiple outlets.

Gimeno (Google Maps >) is situated right in front of the Boqueria market (a major attraction in itself!). Because of its central and touristic location, the place is quite crowded and the employees are rather busy. The selection of singles is limited, but if you're into boxes there's an impressive cave downstairs, just ask a seller to have a look.

Have you visited these cigar shops in Barcelona? Feel free to share your favorite ones in the comments below.

Cigar Inn (NY): Lounge & house blend review

Cigar Inn

The Cigar Inn

18 years ago, the Sakih brothers: Billy, Gus and Bass, decided that it was time for them to turn one of their life’s passions into something that everybody could enjoy. That passion of course being cigars. But they didn’t want to put up an ordinary, everyday brick and mortar retail outlet. They wanted to build an experience. The true New York Cigar Experience.

Cigar Inn (web), located at 1016 Second Avenue (between 53rd & 54th), New York, NY 10022 is the premiere hot spot for all cigar aficionados residing in the metro area, or just passing through. From their always fully stocked retail space to their lounge which is sponsored by none other than Cigar Aficionado Magazine, the atmosphere of this top shelf establishment is one of a first class operation.

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Buying cigars in Amsterdam

P. G. C. Hajenius

Amsterdam... what a great city. One of the most beautiful in Europe, in my humble opinion - I love the architecture, the atmosphere, the people - the only thing missing is a national cuisine! :) By the way, if you're planning to visit Amsterdam, I suggest you rent a flat because there are very few hotels, and those are pretty expensive! We had a 100 m² two-bedroom flat for 110 € / night, whereas a friend of ours found himself a 11 m² hotel room for 80 € / night.

For those of you who still want to smoke cigars in Amsterdam (some people forget about their hobby in this city), I selected a couple of places where you can find everything you need. The first one is called P. G. C. Hajenius, it's a huge cigar shop with a long history, located in the heart of Amsterdam (Google Maps >). Even if you don't smoke cigars, it's an interesting place to visit because of its art deco interior that hasn't changed since 1915. The walk-in humidor is exceptional, sellers are professional, you can even visit a tobacco museum. There is also a lounge where you can smoke your cigar and pair it with a selection of drinks:

P. G. C. Hajenius

If you find yourself quite far from the city center and crave a cigar, you can also get one from the Davidoff shop (Google Maps >) and smoke it in the Vondelpark nearby - I believe it's the biggest park in Amsterdam. Again, a walk-in humidor and a wide array of Cuban and non-Cuban sticks.

Davidoff Amsterdam

Of course, do not hesitate to post your favorite cigar places in the comments below.

Update: you might also want to visit the La Casa del Habano Amsterdam, located in The Conservatorium hotel (Google Maps >). Thanks patrickledden for the tip.

Update #2: have a look at David's comment below for even more good places in Amsterdam.

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