Throughout the year, I usually keep a running tab in my head of the best cigars that I have smoked but don’t really know which one is the best out of that list until I sit down and think it through. Like many other blogging websites that put out their “Top of” lists, there really isn’t a whole lot of science behind factoring how the cigars placed. I kind of just go by my gut feeling on which cigars stuck out and were the most memorable. So to make things short and sweet here is my personal list of the top cigar releases of the year,…
10. (Tie) Tatuaje Verite 2009 & Liga Privada Undercrown
The tenth spot here could have been had by possibly another half dozen cigars that were itching to make it on this list, but I settled with two of the most frequently smoked cigars in my rotation in the last two to three months. These two are just excellently made cigars with unique flavors coming from opposite ends of the cigar flavor spectrum. The Undercrown has dark brooding, syrup, and cocoa powder notes. The wrapper tastes of hints of cognac or rum. The ’09 Verite was more earthy, savory, smooth, and delicately balanced. This year’s Verite release beats the hell out of last year's (and was decently priced at 1st tier prices),… thank you Pete!
9. Padron 1964 Anniversary SI-15 Maduro
I am usually never really super surprised by Padrons nor ever let down by them. I have a hard time finding them complex as a lot of other brands, but the flavors that do come out of a Padron are like light beams. The flavor profiles are very pronounced in Padrons, and the SI-15 Maduro was a party in your mouth with the amount of tasty smoke produced from this mammoth sized stick. This stick was like going down to your favorite chocolate shop, purchasing, and popping one of those dark chocolate truffles spiked with chipotle,…..spicy, sweet awesomness.
Link: review of the Padron 1964 Anniversary SI-15 Maduro
8. Grimalkin by Emilio Cigars
Gary Griffith really surprised a lot of reviewers this year by putting out some excellent lines of cigars made by some of the best in the business, especially me. Gary doesn’t divulge the manufacturer of these excellent smokes but we do know they are made in Esteli. My guess is that they have a classic old Pepinesque flavor and profile akin to Troya Clasicos or the Pepin made Atlantic Cigar Exclusive robustos. Unlike the latters, the Grimalkin is smoother and incredibly balanced. Those that pass up these because of the band are missing out on a special stick.
7. Tatuaje Wolfman
I was a little late in getting to sample these cigars (early December). It was hands down a better release than the bland “Face” from last year’s Halloween Series. Pete made the Sumatra wrapper cohesively complement the rest of the blend in this cigar rather than let it dominate the flavor (as Sumatra has a tendency of doing). There was some very unique complexity throughout this very long stick (>7 inches long) of herbs (yerba mate?), cinnamon, leather, and underlying sweetness. The best Halloween release since the “Frank” in my humble opinion.
6. Tatuaje 109 Federal 90th Rosado
Pete’s third entry in this list. The Federal 90th’s were an exclusive to celebrate Federal Cigar’s 90 years in the business. There were around 3 times as many Rosado boxes released than the Reservas. The Reservas, wrapped in a broadleaf wrapper, were the most prized cigars because of there rarity, but I think the rosados were a slightly better cigar. The rosados seemed to be more sweet and balanced. The Conde 109 shape was unique and gave the smoker a long fulfilling smoke. Aftermarket on any of these cigars can bring some steep prices.
Link: review of the Tatuaje 109 Federal 90th Rosado
5. La Flor Dominicana Colorado Oscuro
Bam!!!,… another Sumatra wrapper on the list. I guess it is the year of the Sumatra wrapper. I have been hard sold on many La Flor’s, due to Litto’s concentration on power and strength instead of balance and nuance. Finally, it seems that Litto has dialed back his nicotine meter to produce a flavor bomb of a cigar that doesn’t have you yacking in your ashtray. Litto let the wrapper shine with flavors of Indian spices, leather, and sweetness. I loaded up on these personally due to their limited production.
4. Quesada Espana
Either the corona or the petit robusto were very good choices in this line. This was the essential Cuban cigar that wasn’t made in the island south of Miami. This cigar is all about balance. At medium bodied, this will probably not impress many LFD fans or other full bodied smokers. The Espana was just a beautiful cigar to hold, look at, and smoke. Flavors are of honey, vanilla, marzipan, mild pepper, nut, and graham cracker. You can either buy a box of Cuban Montecristos and wait a few years to get to this flavor profile, or skip all that noise and buy a box of these,… I’m sure your choice won’t be a hard one.
Link: review of the Quesada Espana
3. Tatuaje Black Petite Lancero (Original Release)
Most people deny there is a difference between the original release and the full production sticks. I personally prefer the original release of the Black Petite Lanceros. The wrappers seemed different to me with the OR’s having a lustful oily wrapper and the full production being more dry, blotchy, and less attractive. The flavor profiles are almost identical but the OR’s had more of the signature caramel flavor that helped shoot this cigar near the top of the list.
Link: review of the Tatuaje Black Label Petite Lancero
2. Illusione MK Ultra
Like the “Little Engine that Could”, the tiny corona sized MK Ultra was a sleeper of a cigar release that gained a lot of momentum near the end of the year. In my official review of this cigar for this website I called this the “Dirty Rat Killer.” This cigar delivers a lot of the super dark flavors and earth of the Dirty Rat, but adds cocoa powder and huge amounts of leather, which I like greatly. Plus, the price is a little easier to swallow at $7-$8 apiece.
Link: review of the Illusione MK Ultra
1. Viaje Exclusivo Tower 45th
In a sea of mediocre and just about dreadful releases from Viaje this year, this was the ONLY release that was worth a damn to me. Fortunately, the Tower 45th was so good that it landed in the #1 spot. I guess a blind squirrel does find nut every now and then! How did it land in the number one spot? First of all, it was the one cigar that every time I smoked one I could not put it down and about burnt my fingers off every time I lit one up. I LOVE rich leather flavors in my cigars, and this cigar had it in spades. This cigar married the profound, sharp flavors of dark chocolate and pepper of a Padron, balance of a powerful Pepin made cigar, superb construction, and that excellent leathery profile that comes from many Raices Cubana’s made cigars. What more can I say, other than Viaje turned the flavor volume up to an 11! I wished I would have bought a box of these when released to see how they will age, but unfortunately, I was only able to smoke a few of these, and I am still looking for more.