Aaron’s Top 10 cigars of 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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

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.

Honorable Mentions

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2012

It's the 5th time that I have the pleasure to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year on this blog (yes, that's right, we'll be celebrating the blog's 5th anniversary in 2012!). 2011 can't be called a calm year - indeed, the world has seen multiple rather worrying events. The cigar industry wasn't spared, and the fight with the FDA is still ongoing. On the other hand, the number of new great releases is certainly encouraging so I'm raising my glass to a more reasonable 2012.

Happy New Year!

Best Cuban Cigars of 2011

Partagas 8-9-8

December means top cigars lists and, of course, our blog is no exception here. You will find below my list of the best Cuban cigars I had the pleasure to smoke in 2011. Some of them are new releases, some of them aren't, some of them are regular production, some are limited, but in all cases I enjoyed their consistency, flavors and ageing potential - they led me through 2011 which in all honesty wasn't the easiest year for me.

  1. Partagas 8-9-8. This elegant lonsdale earns the #1 spot as it changed its status from 'discovery' to 'humidor staple'. Highly recommended.
  2. Ramon Allones Specially Selected. Now, that's quite a comeback. I've been trying to find some hidden gems within the general production in 2011, but often find myself thinking that there's not much that can equal a good RASS. And, thankfully, the recent production has been rather consistent!
  3. Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto. I've been smoking a lot of these during cold months. I feel that they are on par with Monte Petit Edmundos that were crowned many times in my lists, but are more affordable and have a very pleasant sweet spot.
  4. Montecristo No. 4 Reserva. I received a fiver of these as a gift in the beginning of the year and they have been absolutely perfect. Too bad they are expensive and hard to find.
  5. H. Upmann Royal Robusto. If you read my review, you'll see that at the moment, although definitely not uninteresting, it really needs some time. I feel that the potential is high enough to get it an entry to the top list.

What makes these lists even better is your contribution. Please share your favorite Cuban smokes of the year in the comments below!

Buying cigars in Geneva

Time to talk about Geneva in my "buying cigars in" post series. Geneva is often considered like the cigar capital in Europe, because a lot of online shops operate or claim to operate from this city. However, it's a bit hard to find a cigar shop there that can provide a very wide choice and solid advice.

Buying cigars in Geneva

This is why I prefer the shop that has the choice. It's the Davidoff shop located at 2, rue de Rive (one of the main shopping streets in town) [Google Maps >]. It has a very wide selection of Cubans (no old limited editions though) and all latest offerings by Davidoff, including Avos and Camachos plus some more nice non-Cubans. Last time, I picked up some Avo 85th Anniversary Limited Editions, CAO La Traviatas and Por Larranaga Valiosos. Now, don't get me wrong - I didn't say that you could get no advice in this shop. However, there are a lot of customers and it's hard to talk to a salesman for more than 10 minutes. I think that sales people are more used to newbies who want to buy some gifts, and their advice in this case is very special - while I was checking out the selection, two boxes of Cohiba Behike were sold. Impressive.

By the way, I highly recommend you visit Geneva if you have a chance, especially in the summer. It's not overcrowded like some other European cities and you can spend a pleasant week-end if you love long walks near a lake, admiring architecture and enjoying city parks.

Update: alternatively you can also go to Gestocigars located at 12-14, rue du Marché. Thanks to B.I.G. for the suggestion.

2010 Zen Cigar of the Year

Yeah it's a bit late, but I've done a lot of pondering as to who is worthy of a "Zennie". Remember a candidate for Cigar of the Year must have been newly created for 2010; for example, Arturo Fuente Hemingway would not be eligible. The official list is located here. So without further ado, here are the nominees in random order:

Zen Cigar of the Year

Click here to read the full article...

Top Cuban Cigars of 2010

Cohiba Maduro 5 Genios

It's the middle of December again and, like every year, I am bringing you the list of the best Cuban cigars of 2010 (strictly based on my personal experiences). In fact, I'm quite surprised at the result because, for instance, I would never have thought that two cigars of a brand that I never particularly liked could make it to the list. Note: these are not just 2010 releases (in fact, none of these were released in 2010...) but simply my favorite cigars that I smoked in 2010.

  1. Cohiba Genios. No, not the Behike. Although the new release is certainly an excellent cigar, I think that the Genios are more complex and flavorful. This is a cigar I take out of the humidor for special occasions only; I must have smoked 5 or 6 this year and they all were amazing.
  2. Partagas Shorts. I could have placed this one on the top, but nobody would take that list seriously, so here goes. Due to the lack of free time (and recent cold weather), the Shorts, along with another cigar that you will soon discover, has been my go-to stick. I managed to acquire some aged boxes, have been ageing them some more and with 3-4 years they are just amazing.
  3. Trinidad Robusto T. Still as good as last year, Trinidad Robusto T resists and only loses a few spots. If you still haven't tried one, do yourself a favor.
  4. Partagas 8-9-8. I rediscovered this cigar in 2010. Impulsively bought a box from 2008 in Duty Free and the 3-4 that I managed to find time to smoke were great. I will try to update that old review in 2011!
  5. Montecristo No. 5. So this is my second go-to cigar this year. Again, it's better if you age them a couple of years like I did.

I hope you enjoyed the list and, as usual, I will be very happy to hear about your good smoking experiences in 2010. Unleash the comments!

2009 Blog Highlights: Summer

In the "Blog Highlights" series, we are taking a look back at the best cigar reviews & articles published on CigarInspector.com in 2009. Enjoy.

Oliva Serie G Maduro

Oliva Serie G Maduro

We ran a contest back in June and some participants submitted their cigar reviews. One of the best ones was written by Charlia a.k.a. Labman and concerned a great cheapie, the Oliva Serie G Maduro.

Montecristo No. 4 Reserva

Montecristo No. 4 Reserva

I had a chance to smoke a few very rare cigars in 2009, and the one I enjoyed the most is probably this Montecristo No. 4 Reserva. As it is extremely hard to find, I didn't include it in my top cigars list, otherwise it could have shifted the Trinidad Robusto T from the top spot.

Cain Habano

Cain Habano Belicoso

Cain is a marca released by Sam Leccia, supposed to be as strong as it can get. The Cain Habano, reviewed by Michael, is the blend that received better reviews across the blogosphere.

2009 Blog Highlights: Spring

In the "Blog Highlights" series, we are taking a look back at the best cigar reviews & articles published on CigarInspector.com in 2009. Enjoy.

Cubao Lancero

Cubao No. 3

So far, this is the only Cubao review that has been published here. Jason talks about the lancero size and thinks that it deserves the high praises this blend received from cigar blogs and publications.

La Gloria Cubana Serie R Maduro

La Gloria Cubana Serie R No. 5

Despite the ugly looks, La Gloria Cubana Serie R Maduro earns a good rating from Lee. Considering its relative cheapness ($5 a pop), this blend can be considered as a good budget cigar.

Panacea

Panacea Red Perfecto

In May, a lot of blogs started publishing raving reviews of Panacea cigars. CigarInspector.com was no exception and I reviewed the Panacea Red, which was a genuinely pleasing cigar.

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