First, something a little different. I found so many cigars that I scored highly and that I smoked time after time after time all ended up sharing one thing in common: the same variety of wrapper leaf. There are different variations of this leaf...different primings, different farms, different colors, different fermentation levels, too...but so many great cigars hitting the shelves (and our palates) this year were wrapped in Connecticut Broadleaf, that I had to give it special recognition.
|image from wholeaf.com|
There are a few cigars that I smoked this year that came very close to making the “Contenders” list, but I a mention is well-deserved...
Working at Burns most of 2013 has afford me the opportunity to...uh...afford...some Davidoffs finally and there are some fantastic smokes in the company’s line-up. None of them gets any better for me than the Colorado Claro. I’m going to specify the “Special R” (Robusto) size here because it’s a great balance of size and price with a flavor that is just off the charts. I smoked the Double R this year as well, and it was spectacular, but mostly it was just too much cigar. I wish I had the money to smoke these every day.
The so-called “Padron 80th Maduro”...widely regarded as the “Best in the Shop” by some of the people I work with. Know what? They’re right! If you already love the 1926, then you can’t help but love this iteration. The perfecto vitola isn’t big, but it does burn exceedingly slowly over the course of nearly 2 hours, and even though the price tag is fairly huge, I still consider it worth it.
This was a cigar I was gifted during my trip to Nicaragua for Drew Estate’s Cigar Safari. I’ve had quite a few Liga Privadas and Unico Series cigars over the last 3 or 4 years. This beat them all. Period. Full stop. I really wish this were actually more widely available...or available at all, for that matter.
Tat Black Labels are one of those I can’t seem to get enough of...in the right vitola anyway. I always loved the Petite Lancero (which made an appearance on one of these lists a couple years ago), but the true Lancero in the Old Man & the C collection is even better...and the twisty Culebra cigars were no slouches, either! All for just over $30? A steal!
Mule Kick by Crowned Heads
This cigar was Crowned Heads’ first “Limited Edition,” sparked when they got a batch of wrapper leaf that was a little too dark to put on their regular Four Kicks line. They tweaked the blend slightly--adding just a little ligero, if I remember correctly--and released them last December. I gave mine a couple months and they started banging on all cylinders. Great, great cigar.
Part of the Liga Privada Unico Series, Papas Fritas were created partially as a way to use some of the trimmings of the very exclusive (and expensive) tobaccos purchased for the Liga Privada lines. So, it’s a mixed filler Liga? Yeah...and it’s great. Since the first time I tried them early in 2013, I’ve smoked 15 or so and they have easily become my favorite “short smoke.”
This cigar saw a long and winding journey. There were a couple “early” blends that hit testers and a couple stores but they were not especially well-received so they never got any further development or distribution. In 2013, though, La Aurora cracked the code of the 107 Maduro (in time for the 110th anniversary of the company) by putting a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper on it. Magic time! I prefer the Corona, but the Robusto is pretty great, too.
Arielle teamed up with Paul Warner of Silo Cigars to produce a special size, exclusive to his Knoxville, Tennessee, store. Fortunately Paul is a friend so he sent me one of each wrapper variety a month or so early. I smoked (and reviewed) both the Habano and the Broadleaf. While the Habano is definitely worthy, the Broadleaf is flat-out fantastic. Have I mentioned that I really like this blend as a Robusto? Well, I do. I might mention as well that the Corona is even better. This takes that to a whole new level. Really and truly one a fine cigar that I hope sees wider distribution in the future (and in the meantime, call Paul...I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to hook you up).
Pete Johnson’s other brand produced a few new goodies this year, but nothing stood out to me more than this Maduro wrapped version of the flagship line. I honestly don’t know how similar the core blend of this is to the original version, but the resulting smoke is great regardless. The Broadleaf works exceedingly well on this blend, creating a cigar that reminds me a lot of some Tatuaje Reservas (not a really big stretch), but with a little less body and a little less spice. So...maybe a good smoke for someone for whom Tats tend to be too strong. They look great, they taste great, the price is great. What more do you want?
2013 wasn’t the first time this cigar saw the light of day, but it was the first time it was released at a time I could get some. And it stands to become a regular piece of the Tatuaje line-up, and that’s a fantastic thing. The Noellas vitola is part of the original Tatuaje Cazadores line, a Corona Gorda of sorts...one of my favorite sizes. And with this Broadleaf wrapper, it is simply amazing. I smoked a handful before acquiring a box in September...now that box is going empty fast.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? This is the 4th cigar in a row in this “Contenders” list that has (1) been made in the My Father Factory and (2) been adorned with a Broadleaf wrapper. The Fausto blend is where this one started. Two years ago Avion was developed as a Fausto extension: make a special box-pressed figurado vitola of Fausto each year and call it Avion. It worked...the Habano-dressed cigar was popular, and I liked it better than regular Fausto. Then Pete got crazy with the Broadleaf and we got Avion 13 with the “Reserva” secondary band...and the possibility of Avion 11 and 12 Reservas coming sometime soon. This blend is reportedly very similar to what was used for the 2013 Monster Cigar (JV13, “Jason”) except for 3 things: (1) this is less expensive, (2) it’s actually available (since the Monsters are all but sold out), and (3) it tastes a little better. If I had to choose among one of the Pete-n-Pepin Broadleaf trio that made it to this list, I would go with Avion 13 Reserva on terms of flavor (although I’d pick Noellas Reserva if price was weighed in).
Revere Lancero by 262 Cigars
I’ve joked around a lot with Clint Aaron, owner of 262 Cigars, about how many boxes of cigars he would have to compensate me with for me to name one of his sticks Cigar of the Year. He’s actually come very close in the past, with the Revere Corona and the Paradigm Lancero both making last year’s list of “12 for ’12.” The Revere Lancero, though, sealed the deal. In a year that Broadleaf dominated my humidor and my palate, this Nicaraguan puro was a revelation, cutting through the competition like a hot box cutter through leather chaps (what?).
So...Clint...about those boxes of cigars you were going to send my way…