FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 1, 2018
What a year 2017 has been. Even with the FDA regulations there was a plethora of new releases and even though we didn’t smoke them all, those we did, showcased the amazing skill and craft of so many cigar makers and factories. This years competition was tight and making this list the most difficult so far, but when it is all said and done somebody has to be #1.
I won’t bore you with any rambling and get right down to the Stogie Press 2017 Top 25 Boutique Cigars.
Our #1 Boutique Cigar for 2017 is…
What more can we say, other than what an outstanding job Nick Melillo (Nick-R-Agua) did with the second incarnation of the El Gueguense (Wise Man). As my Stogie Press associate Zach Riley said in his first ever review on the site:
“The huge amount of variety was fantastic, the strength was wonderful, and it had a great burn from top to bottom. It has incredible flavors from the initial light all the way down to when you’re barely able to hold on to the cigar anymore.”
After reading his review, I immediately went to my local shop and purchased one and I totally agreed. If your palate is not fired up with sparks of flavor notes with this cigar then I suggest you see your doctor, as there may be something wrong with your taste center.
Congratulations Nick, you out did yourself on this one!
Coming in a close second is the Imperia Adventador, from Mike Bellody and MLB Cigar Ventures. Having smoked all the various blends coming from Mike over the years,this is by far his greatest creation yet. Selecting a US Pennsylvania leaf as part of the filler made quite the difference in this cigar. The Stogie Press team was impressed with the unique notes that were being offered including Maraschino Cherry, Savory Cumin, Ginger, Chocolate Mint, and Burnt Caramel – and the list goes on with this flavorful cigar.
Rounding out the top 3, is the Todas Las Dias from Steve Saka. The impeccable construction of this gem made it an easy top contender. Add in the savory BBQ sweetness, Mint, Fruit, and Almond notes and you get a winning cigar for sure. Just look at that ash and tell me you don’t want to grab one to enjoy for the new year.
Fouad Kashouty and Nasir George Dakrat from Hiram & Solomon Cigars decided to link up with master blender David Blanco and move manufacturing to the Plasencia factory in 2017. The result was access to better leaf which was used to tweak the company’s blends. You may have recognized the Traveling Man from last years Top 25, but with a new blend I can say this is by far a better cigar and fits well with the top competition in this years list. By using a true Indonesian Sumatra wrapper, you get a natural tobacco sweetness and when you add in the multi country filler, you get a smoking journey stoked with balanced flavor transitions and the burn that was pristine and error free.
All the rave around the Crux Cigars this year was about their new and long-awaited Epicure. As the 1st Connecticut cigar from the company it did not fail.
Crux Cigars Vice President Casey Haugen is quick to note:
“We have always promised ourselves not to cut corners or compromise in our efforts to blend the best quality and consistent premium cigars. We understand people are anxious to smoke the Epicure, but there have been circumstances that have held up the release.”
Patience paid off as this “Conny” is worthy of being in the Top 5 cigars of the year and resulted in an amazing cigar experience with a complex flavor profile of balanced sweetness, fruit, spice and earth. The burn was pristine throughout and offered no issues.
For the 3rd year in a row, Diany Perez and her Husband Alex Basulto from Yayabo Cigars have made our top 25 list. I will continue to say, if you have not tried a Yayabo cigar, you are missing out on some fine smoking experiences. This year the Yayabo Admiral brings a carefully crafted cigar that offers a spectacular ride as it traveled a wave of flavors from foot to nub. Starting with rich doses of black pepper, cinnamon and earth before cruising along with dark chocolate, citrus, caramel and cream. It finishes with a definite increase in strength and a fine balance of sweetness, spice, and nut.
Who doesn’t love Robert and Sharon Holt from Southern Draw Cigars? Robert is one of the hardest working brand owners on the market and when he is not traveling the country promoting is craft he is working on blends and thanking the lord for their success. The Jacobs Ladder was a very personal project for Robert and his passion has been noticed. The Jacobs Ladder may well be the best creation coming from Robert Holt. The flavors hit you most in the first half and then blend together with short and subtle nuances through the second half. While it teases the palate with those flavors, the strength is a slow and gradually delivered to the head.
Kevin Schweitzer is another one of those hard-working cigar men. As a long time lover of cigars and a Wall Street gold trader, he decided to dump some of his fortunes into buying the Rock-A-Feller cigar company and rebuild it with his image and passion, and created the Vintage Rock A Feller Cigar Group (VRCG). Although Kevin will say he is still learning the process, he struck gold with his Rock-A-Feller Series blend. The burn was spot on and the kaleidoscope of flavors pleased the palate from the foot to the nub.
Anthony Serino made the top 25 last year with his Serino Royale 20th Anniversary Maduro XX . This year his son Carson proved that the apple does not fall far from the tree. With his inaugural introduction the Wayfarer, Carson showed us he knows how to bland a fine a cigar that earned him a spot int he top 10. The Wayfarer is a true flavor bomb with enticing and unique notes of Roasted Acorn, Raisin, Cafe Latte, Spearmint, Cocoa, and dry Candy Sweetness.
Another new name to the industry this year was Al Micallef, a successful Texas businessman who took on the cigar business by working with the Gomez Sanchez family that has crafted cigars for 134 years. The result was a full line-up of cigars presented at this years IPCPR. The 7 x 52 Micallef Cigars Experiencia La Crema was just that – an experience, offering most delectable flavors, creamy smoke and pristine burn. Well over 2 hours of smoke it is the most expensive cigars in the top 10 but worth every cent.
As I said throughout the year, AJ Fernandez has been all over the cigar map this year, with multiple collaborations resulting in some very fine cigars. But AJ himself has himself a winner with the New World Puro Especial. This incarnation is better than the original, and full of delicious flavor throughout. AJ makes it easy to enjoy his cigars with a price-point right in the consumers wheel house.
Villiger Cigars released what I would describe as their best cigar in years. The Villiger La Flor De Ynclan is a cigar that was originally developed over a decade ago but was just not what the company wanted. It was taken off the market and now years later it was re-blended and introduced at this years IPCPR.
The company noted:
“The creation of every cigar carries a story, and this is no different. The La Flor De Ynclan is a special cigar, diligently crafted by Heinrich Villiger and master blender Jose Matias Maragoto of ABAM Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic.”
The new Villiger La Flor De Ynclan was an amazing cigar with consistent full flavor, perfect construction, and an incredible ash.
Cornelius & Anthony Cigars have been rocking the cigar world since their first introductions in 2015. This is the second year they made the top 25 on Stogie Press. The quirky named Señor Esugars was a passion project for Mr. Steve Bailey, the owner of Cornelius and Anthony. The Señor Esugars is one of those cigars that is a delight to smoke with its enticing flavor profile and tasty sweetness. The pepper in the second half is expertly balanced with the natural tobacco sweetness.
Every year, Crux Cigars produces the PB5 Limitada using Angañoso wrapper that what sourced in 2012 and was aged 7 years before the company got it. So each year that wrapper is aged a year longer. This years PB5 earned a spot in the top 25, with a profile that was more complex than the 2106 variety. I suppose an additional year of aging helps here. The burn was just as pristine with no issues throughout the experience. I especially enjoyed the nut and maple syrup flavor and aromas.
Kennedy Achille (Tobacco Kennedy) introduced the cigar world to an amazing 5 day herf in Miami this year known as Black Smoke Miami. During that event he announced the introduction of his personal blend that he collaborated with Karen Berger from Don Kiki Cigars. The TK by Don Kiki was a flavorful and enjoyable smoking experience. It started with a medium volume of smoke and delicious flavors and continued to deliver palate pleasing notes, finishing with spicy pepper. You can expect Mocha Sweetness, Coffee, Cedar, Hazlenut, and Peppery Spice notes with a rich Floral aroma through the smoking experience.
After a short hiatus from the cigar industry, Matt Booth from Room 101 re-entered the market with a fantastic collaboration with Robert Caldwell. The Hit and Run cigar may be the new approach for cigar brands as they work around the FDA regulations. Create a fine cigar and see how it sells before you are required to submit for blend approval. The Hit and Run was incredibly well-balanced throughout and the burn was outstanding with a long ash. This may be called the Hit and Run but I see this as being around for quite some time.
Once again, we talk about AJ Fernandez, this time it is the collaboration with Erik Espinosa and the latest rendition of the Espinosa Murcielago. This Mexican San Andres beauty brings notes of Butter, Red Pepper, Mint, Espresso, Earth and Sweetness to the palate. The balanced flavors intrigued the palate from foot to nub all though a full volume of smoke and pristine burn.
Bill Ives and Juan Cancel from the Cubariqueño Cigar Company have made quite a name for themselves recently with the introductions of the Protocol and the Probable Cause cigar lines. This year they ventured into the blonde world with the introduction of the Protocol Themis. This cigar was delicious, complex, medium body and strength cigar, that was easy to smoke and enjoy. Look for the burnt Caramel, Mint, Spicy Honey and Licorice in this delight!
Francisco Almonte and his Dominican Big Leager (DBL) Cigar company has been on our radar screen for years. This year they place in our top 25 with the DBL Amarillo, a cigar that uses a gleaming, golden tan, US Connecticut wrapper. The DBL Amarillo was a break from the previous stronger blends that DBL has offered. The flavors are slow to grow but amp up in the second half.
The second Steve Saka cigar to make our top 25 is the Muestra De Saka Nacatamale. As the most expensive cigar ($16.00) in this years list, the Muestra de Saka Nacatamale was a complex cigar with notes that ran through the flavor wheel. The filler and binder of this comes from a small single granja in Jalapa, Nicaragua.
I have been a fan of the Four Kicks line from Crowned Heads since they were first introduced. This year the company presented the crowned head enthusiasts with the Four Kicks Maduro. Using a Connecticut Habano Maduro wrapper and Nicaraguan fillers and binder, you will experience unique notes of Grapefruit, Almond, Peppermint, Cherry, Pepper, and Sweetness through the amazing burn and long ash.
Early in the year, Andre Farkas introduced a limited release of his Viaje Zombie known as the Antidote Collectors Edition. It was a pleasurable cigar with a pristine burn and consistent flavor profile. I enjoyed the sweetness that moved through the core and the blasts of orange zest. Though not an overly complex cigar, the flavors did play well together throughout the burn.
One of two new introductions in 2017 by Jas Sum Kral, the Crna Nok is a medium strength and flavorful cigar that you will find quite enjoyable. Using what Riste Risteski describes as a Broadleaf Choculada wrapper the Crna Nok was a deliciously complex yet well-balanced cigar that delivered smooth and flavorful notes through a creamy smoke and error free burn
Isabela Cigar Co., a small artisan craft cigar maker based out Miami, FL released their latest creation known as the StarDust this year. It complements their earlier offering – the Time Traveler. It is the only barber pole style cigar to make the top 25 and the only corona. With all the large ring gauge cigars out there, it is nice to enjoy a slow burning flavorful corona like the Isabela StarDust which is simply outstanding with subtle and complex flavor nuances that dance about on the palate and nose. The burn was absolutely pristine from foot to nub.
Patina Cigars is one of the latest collaborations in the cigar industry between Mo Maali and Mombacho Cigars SA. The new brand introduced two blends at this years IPCPR; a Connecticut and the Habano. The Patina Habano is as a delightful cigar to smoke, I especially enjoyed the shifting aromas on this that kept the journey enticing. The burn was solid and the smoke volume was pretty much medium throughout.
Besides the top 25 we also would like to commend the following brands with an honorable mention. Though not making the top list they are notable cigars that you may want to experience. I certainly enjoyed them!
Honorable Mention 1
The 2012 by Oscar Maduro torpedo was a fine smoke with a complexity of flavor nuances running through the burn. The citrus was a bit overpowering at first but toned down giving way to more subtle notes in the second half.
Honorable Mention 2
The Black Chazaro Black was a pleasant smoking experience. Don’t be fooled or shy away from the dark look of this cigar. The fact that it is a San Andres puro actually brings delectable flavor and the aging of the leaf tones down the strength and pepper.
Honorable Mention 3
The HVC Cerro Maduro was simply an amazing cigar that smoked beautifully with no issues and delivered notes that I would not put on a San Andres wrapper like savory spice and meat. Certainly the fill has played well into this blend.
Honorable Mention 4
The Jeremy Jack El Chapo is a powerful cigar yet offers a delicious set of notes and transitions throughout the pristine burn. This is one you should not enjoy on an empty belly. For a short but stout cigar it lasted a good hour plus. If you are seasoned cigar smoker and are looking for something new, in the mid $8.00 range, I highly recommend trying the El Chapo.
Well that’s it. Congratulations to all those who made our list this year and let’s see what 2018 brings to the industry. On behalf of the Stogie Press family, I would like to wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2018 and I hope to see many of you at the IPCPR this year in Las Vegas. I would also like to thank our sponsors for their support and all our readers for setting a new bar of monthly viewership on the site.
Don’t forget, we will announce the top Connecticut cigars in mid January.
~ Boston Jimmie