January 2024

Throughout 2023, I had the fortune to indulge in a variety of premium cigars, each offering its unique blend of flavours and experiences. However, amidst this rich tapestry of smoking experiences, one cigar rose above the rest – the Cohiba Maduro 5 Magicos Cigar. This cigar not only surpassed my expectations but also reshaped my view of what a truly exceptional cigar can be.

The Unlikely Choice

My journey with cigars has often steered clear of Cohiba’s line, primarily due to their character which didn’t always align with my taste. However, the Maduro 5 Magicos is different. Measuring at a comfortable 4 1/2″ in length with a 52 ring gauge. But the true beauty of this cigar lies not in its dimensions but in the experience it unfurls. The Maduro 5 series, known for its aged wrappers, brings a rich depth to the cigar. This vitola, the Magicos, combines these aged qualities with a size that is both approachable and generous, offering a full-bodied experience without being overwhelming.

The Experience: Burn, Draw, and Flavour Profile

The Cohiba Maduro 5 Magicos I smoked last year was an exemplary showcase of craftsmanship. The burn of this cigar was a consistent, maintaining an even and steady pace throughout the smoking session. This flawless burn, a reflection of the skilful rolling and high-quality leaves, ensured that the flavours were delivered smoothly and uniformly, preserving the cigar’s character from the first light to the last draw.

The draw of this particular cigar came with a good amount of resistance. Each draw required a satisfying degree of effort which added to the overall experience. I find cigars that have a loose draw tend to burn faster, generating more heat which ultimately leads to harsh and bitter flavour notes.

Flavour-wise, this Maduro 5 Magicos unfolded like a symphony. I was greeted by dark chocolate notes, accompanied with sweet spiciness. As I progressed through the cigar, it revealed layered nuances of leather and coffee, with an occasional heavy hand of earthy tones that harmonized beautifully. This interplay of flavours and aromas along with excellent construction meant that I had a cigar experience I would like to recreate.

Transcending Price: The Value of Excellence in the Cigar World

In the world of cigars, the relationship between price and value is often a topic of debate among aficionados. Cohiba, as a prominent brand, exemplifies this discussion. It’s widely recognized that Cohiba’s prices have soared, positioning them firmly in the luxury segment. For many, including myself, this raises questions about their value, especially when more cost-effective and enjoyable options are available.

However, the essence of cigar smoking sometimes transcends such economic considerations. There are moments when a cigar’s quality – its flavour, construction, and overall smoking experience – elevate it to a level where its price becomes a secondary concern. This isn’t unique to Cohiba but is a phenomenon that can be observed across various brands and types of cigars.

In these instances, the experience of smoking a particularly outstanding cigar can be so profound that it justifies the expense. It’s not about the brand or its luxury status, but about the perfection of the product itself. The flawless construction, the balanced and intricate flavours, and the overall experience can be so exceptional that they overshadow the price tag.

This perspective doesn’t negate the fact that many cigars, including those less expensive than Cohiba, offer fantastic smoking experiences. It’s a reminder that, in the realm of cigars, sometimes you encounter a cigar so remarkable that it stands out not for its price, but for its ability to provide an unparalleled smoking experience. In these rare instances, the price, though still a consideration, takes a backseat to the excellence of the cigar itself.

In summary, while price is an important factor in selecting cigars, there are occasions when the quality of a cigar can make its cost seem inconsequential. To be clear, this sentiment applies to inexpensive cigars too not just cigars that come with mighty price tags. Occasionally, there are moments in cigar smoking where the experience itself is the true luxury.

Noteworthy Contenders: Other Remarkable Cigars of the Year

Leaf by Oscar 10th Anniversary Criollo

The Leaf by Oscar 10th Anniversary Criollo Toro was not just one of the best cigars I smoked last year, but its enjoyment was significantly enhanced by the setting and company. Smoking this cigar in the serene environment of a beach in Curacao, and having the honour of sharing this experience with none other than Oscar Valladares himself, added a layer of exclusivity and personal touch to the smoking experience.

The blend’s richness and balanced flavour profile, emblematic of Honduran craftsmanship, were complemented by the ambiance and the firsthand insights shared by Mr. Valladares. This personal interaction and the picturesque setting in Curacao undoubtedly elevated the Leaf by Oscar 10th Anniversary Criollo Toro to more than just a cigar – it became a memorable experience, a fusion of excellent craftsmanship and a unique moment in time.

This cigar, with its medium strength and an intricate mix of earthy, sweet, and spicy flavours, encapsulated the essence of a well-crafted Honduran puro. The Criollo Maduro wrapper, typical of Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co.’s dedication to quality, contributed significantly to the complex taste profile.

In summary, the Leaf by Oscar 10th Anniversary Criollo Toro stands out not only for its superior blend and construction but also for the extraordinary circumstances under which it was enjoyed. This encounter, combined with the cigar’s inherent qualities, cemented its place as one of the most remarkable cigars I had the pleasure of smoking last year.

Davidoff Signature No.1 Limited Edition

Last year, the Davidoff Signature No.1 provided me with an extraordinary smoking experience, distinguishing itself as one of the best cigars I had the pleasure of enjoying. Despite not being officially labelled a lancero, it closely mirrors what a proper lancero should be — in my opinion, ideally 7 1/2 inches long with a ring gauge of 38. This cigar’s dimensions bring it as close as Davidoff has come to a true lancero in recent times, however due to it’s larger ring gauge of 39, Davidoff have called this cigar a Panatela Larga.

The Davidoff Signature No.1 Panatela Larga, with its rich history and evolution from the original Classic No.1, is a masterpiece of cigar craftsmanship. Its reintroduction as a limited edition has allowed enthusiasts to revisit its classic charm and complexity. The cigar’s flavour profile is a journey in itself, beginning with subtle notes of barley and transitioning through toasted wheat and oak wood. It progresses into a creamy mixture of brown sugar and floral spice, culminating in an exquisite blend of cedar wood, dried fruit, and black pepper. Every stage of this cigar presents a sophisticated and layered experience.

Davidoff’s reputation for producing top-tier cigars is well represented in this Signature No.1 Limited Edition. The brand’s history, beginning with Zino Davidoff’s original shop in Geneva and evolving through the decades, is reflected in the quality and elegance of this cigar. Even after shifting production from Cuba to the Dominican Republic, Davidoff has maintained a standard of excellence, with the Signature No.1 Limited Edition serving as a prime example.

Final Thoughts

As I reflect on my cigar experiences over the past year, a surprising revelation comes to the forefront. Despite a long-standing preference for Cuban cigars, the cigars that truly stood out in 2023 were predominantly from regions outside of Cuba, specifically Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. This unexpected shift highlights the rich diversity and quality that the global cigar industry has to offer.

My journey through the world of cigars has taken me beyond the familiar territories of Cuban tobacco, opening my palate to the unique characteristics of cigars from different regions. Each cigar from Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic brought with it a distinct set of flavours, aromas, and smoking experiences, challenging and expanding my understanding of what makes a great cigar.

The realization that many of my top cigar experiences of the year came from countries other than Cuba is a testament to the evolving landscape of cigar production. It underscores the fact that exceptional cigars are not confined to any single region or tradition. The craftsmanship and innovation in cigar making across various countries are evident in the quality of their products.

Looking ahead, I’m eager to continue this exploration, to discover and savor cigars from even more brands and regions. The world of cigars is vast and varied, and the joy in exploring it lies not just in the familiar but in the new and unexpected discoveries. As I venture further into this journey, I anticipate more surprises and delights, broadening my cigar horizons and deepening my appreciation for the art of cigar making.

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