Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Cigar of the Year - dmj Edition

When considering how I wanted to approach this year’s round-up of cigars I liked, I decided to take a step back a couple years and name a single “Cigar of the Year” again. Last year I declined to do so because of some ongoing enmeshment that I thought could look fishy if I chose certain cigars, but that chapter has closed so I have no reason not to name what I consider to be winners (I'd love to name what and whom I consider to be losers for 2013, but I'm going to try stay on Santa's "nice" list). So...the rules basically are like this: pretty much any cigar that scored a 10/10 during the 2013 review year are automatically considered. Any other cigars that may have missed the 10/10 mark, BUT achieved a 5/5 on flavor can be considered. And if I did not do a “scored review” of a cigar for whatever reason, but did feature it in some way during the year, it can be considered if I found it appealing enough on repeated smoking. (At the very least, I can honestly say that I have smoked every one of the cigars listed below at least once, most of them multiple times, and always completelynot just basing my assessment on the first inch or so, likeahemwait…staying on the "nice" list.) Basically, then...whatever I say can be considered. Hey, it’s my blog, I’ll do what I want!

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.

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From the Tatuaje Reservas (notably the Noellas and Avion 13) and Monster Cigar, to the 601 La Bomba Warhead by Espinosa, to the La Sirena Lancero (also available in Habano), Drew Estate’s new Nica Rustica, at least a couple of Ortega’s Wild Bunch, La Aurora’s 107 Maduro, and circling back around to L’Atelier’s Maduro, the Connecticut Broadleaf has added its wonderful sweetness, earthiness and pepper spice to a plethora of great smokes this year. It was even such a big deal this year that a certain lifestyle magazine actually wrote about it...something completely out of character for a periodical that spends the vast majority of its pages highlighting $20K watches and golf trips that even the 1% can’t afford in the current economy. So, yes, I am on a huge Broadleaf kick right now and it adorns a good number of the cigars I consider Cigar of the Year (#COTY) Contenders. I’m sure I will eventually find some other wrapper type to obsess over, but for this year, It’s all about the Broadleaf, Baby!

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...

Davidoff Colorado Claro
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.

Padron 1926 Serie, 80 years, Maduro
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.

Velvet Rat by Drew Estate
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.

Old Man & the C by Tatuaje, Black Label Edition
Tat Black Labels are one of those I can’t seem to get enough 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.

Papas Fritas by Drew Estate
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.”

107 Maduro by La Aurora
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.

La Sirena Lancero
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).

L’Atelier Maduro
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?

Noellas Reserva by Tatuaje
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 of my favorite sizes. And with this Broadleaf wrapper, it is simply amazing. I smoked a handful before acquiring a box in that box is going empty fast.

Avion 13 Reserva by Tatuaje
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).

So which one of them won, you ask? Funny thing there...with all these Broadleaf Beauties having their way with my taste buds this year, I was sure one of them would get the #COTY crown. Then something else happened...


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?).

Flavors of earth, coffee, cocoa powder, and pepper all came through loud and clear on the Revere Lancero, along with a bit of a punch not felt from the thicker vitolas. The burn was good and the price is fair. At the time of this writing I’ve smoked a couple and I’m itching to get my hands on more. This might be one of those I could smoke 3 or 4 times a week...which means the box will tend to go quickly.

So...Clint...about those boxes of cigars you were going to send my way


  1. David, I'm so glad you decided to go back and name a COTY in 2013. I always like your candor and am always intrigued by your selections. I love what you put up as your top stuff this year. Belated Merry Christmas and early Happy New Year!

  2. Those are my two favorites as well. And I discovered that on my own.
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  3. Great list and again, your likes are right in line with mine. 262 Lanceros are awesome and both the Revere and Paradigm were on my list of fav Lanceros along with the Black Label Tat. (For that matter, almost any Tat is a fav.) One Lancero I did like very much was the Eddie Ortega Series D Maduro Lancero.