It has been an amazing year of cigars even with the FDA regulations bearing down on the industry, many of the boutique cigar companies have seemed to weathered the storm so far and released new blends or extended their current lines.
This year we also started our new rating system in July, and though not perfect, it was consistent and transparent. I would say the most common points deducted was for burn quality. We have gotten feedback on this system and some have said our ratings may be too high on the scale and did not focus enough on flavor. As I have said in our introduction of the rating system we feel flavor is a personal preference, but there were some cigars we reviewed that had points deducted for overly bitter or sour notes. As far as rating scores, we may look at adjusting the system in 2019 but as a consumer, you should look at ratings as a gauge to what a reviewer sees as a high quality cigar. Our 95 may be another’s 92, but when looked at holistically the higher the value the better we see the cigar.
Number 1 Boutique Cigar of 2018
This year’s Stogie Press Number 1 boutique cigar of the year goes to Mike Bellody and his MLB Cigar Ventures, David P. Ehrlich PLM Series. I must have smoked a box of these in both the robusto and toro vitolas and each one performed spectacular. It is the best cigar he has produced. It was full of flavor and burned perfectly from foot to nub. Rated a solid 99, this is one I highly recommend buying a box of and just enjoy them as they age month to month. You can read our review of this masterpiece here.
Congratulations to Mike and his team for producing a truly memorable cigar that should live on for years to come.
Number 2 – 10
#2 – Dominican Big Leaguer MAFU Cameroon
A truly outstanding cigar that should not be judged by its 8 x 60 size or pre-conceived notions of past DBL cigar profiles. The MAFU is simply a great 2.5 hour smoke that burns great and offers flavors never before found in a DBL product. If you are a fan of big ring gauge cigars this is must try. If you are like me, and shy away because you are afraid it will give you burn issues then don’t be. Though there are two blends in this line a Cameroon and a Maduro, I smoked the Cameroon this year and without a doubt the DBL MAFU Cameroon is one pleasurable smoking experience. We will get to the maduro next year.
#3 La Barba Richochet Corona
Tony Bellatto and his La Barba cigars team have returned to the market with one amazing cigar. The La Barba Richochet Corona was a stupendous cigar that was filled with complexity of core and nuanced flavor and aromas from foot to nub. The burn and ash were precisely what I try to bring attention to in my reviews. Like numerous other brands this year (I can count at least 5), Tony had to change the name of this cigar from Primitivo to Ricochet but that did not make a difference in the pleasure I got from smoking it. Just the other day I smoked the larger toro version and it was spot on also.
#4 Southern Draw Cedrus – The Hogan
Robert Holt of Southern Draw Cigars, is one of the hardest working cigar men in the industry, always pushing the envelope with his blends and following his calling to help those in need. When it comes to making a special cigar, there are many who have accomplished it but when it comes to making the cigar special, that is a little different. This year, Southern Draw Cigars accomplished “special” in many ways, when they introduced a cigar known as Cedrus – The Hogan. This cigar is by far the best product out of Southern Draw Cigars to date. Five years in the making, it lives up to everything the company pledges to deliver. The robust and balanced flavors along with excellent burn kept me intrigued from foot to nub.
#5 Foundation Cigars The Tabernacle Havana Seed CT No. 142
Coming off the number one boutique cigar of 2017, Master Blender Nick Melillo and his Foundation Cigar Company has once again hit the mark with the Tabernacle Havana Seed CT No. 142. Using U.S. Connecticut Havana Seed #142 grown in Connecticut, that is specific for this cigar, Nick has created a delectable smoking experience. This 1 hour smoke was filled with palate pleasing flavors and aromas that will entice you to come back for more, so you might as well buy a box.
#6 Rock-A-Feller Cigars Vintage Nicaragua Maduro Lancero (Best Lancero of 2018)
I was once told by Litto Gomez, “if you want to make a small fortune in the cigar business…start with a large one”. Well Kevin Schweitzer, the owner of Rock-A-Feller Cigars doubled down this year after getting a top 25 ranking last year for his Gold Series cigar last year. This year he decided to churn out a lancero. Not an easy task for even the most experienced blenders in the market but it was a brilliant move as the Rock-A-Feller Cigars Vintage Nicaragua Maduro Lancero is the best lancero I smoked this year. Don’t take my word for it, just ask anyone who has smoked this and they will tell you what a gem it is. Besides looking great, using the old school twist cap, it had an outstanding burn and flavors that would please the most discerning palate.
#7 Felix Assouline II Saints La Petite Mort Perfecto
Felix Assouline is a story of perseverance and rejuvenation. After taking a hiatus from the industry, Felix stormed back with a vengeance. At the IPCPR this year he introduced a plethora of cigars to his portfolio. The II Saints was especially memorable. Go get this cigar!! You heard me, this is a cigar I am sure you will enjoy. The burn on this was absolutely pristine and the flavors were perfectly balanced with amazing nuances throughout the burn. Take your time and puff it slowly and retro-hale often and you will enjoy every flavor laden, aroma filled puff.
# 8 The “K” by Karen Berger Connecticut Toro
I really enjoyed the “K” by Karen Berger Habano back in 2016 and this year Karen introduced the most memorable Connecticut cigars I smoked this year. The “K” by Karen Berger Connecticut was rated a solid 96 with no issues in the burn and construction while delivering palate pleasing flavors including spice, chocolate, butter, and fruit. There was a characteristic Connecticut bitterness near the end of the second third but that lasted for a short period leading to additional spice and nut components. If you are fan of Connecticut cigars, this is certainly one I recommend picking up a fiver to add to your rotation, I took it down to the nub.
#9 Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII Robusto
Crowned Heads was quiet last year, but sometimes, time is your friend, especially when it comes to cigars. This year the company introduced the Court Reserve XVIII Robusto at the IPCPR and it was a solid offering. This 96 rated cigar is certainly one of the best cigars to come out of Crowned Heads and, as a tribute to its fans, the Crowned Heads team certainly delivered. There was a full body of balanced flavor through the journey with a solid medium strength that should be enjoyable to any cigar lover. The construction was spot on with a long ash and perfect burn cone with an even char line.
#10 Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder Lancero
Rounding out the top 10, is the Jacobs Ladder Lancero from Southern Draw Cigars. This is makes 2 cigars from Robert Holt and his team that made the top 10 in our list this year. The original Jacobs Ladder was one we described as “smooth strength” and this years rendition was just as special. The flavors were pretty close to the other vitolas in the line with an added citrus component in the middle and a bit more chocolate. To add to the attraction, when you buy one of these, part of your purchase goes to the Cigars for Warriors Charity.
Numbers 11 – 25
Like I said, the year was terrific with over 950 new blends and line extensions hitting the market. There is no way every one can be smoked and rated here at Stogie Press, but for those that were, here are numbers 11 – 25.
#11 Felix Assouline EGO Gold 24 CT
#12 Sin Compromiso Selección No. 5
#13 Cornelius and Anthony The Mistress Robusto
#15 Potter Cigars Salomon Black
#16 Isabela Cigars Shape Shifter
#17 DBL Cigars 35th Anniversary
#19 Gran Habano Blue in Green Churchill
#20 DAV Cigars Aristocrat Robusto
#21 Caldwell Long Live The King Mad MF Corona
#23 Micallef Grande Bold Nicaragua 554N
#24 Providencia Cigars The Hostage
#25 El Artista Cimarron Maduro Robusto
We also would like to mention 5 more cigars that came close but did not make the cut for the top 25. These cigars were all 92 and 91 rated cigars. It should be noted that the Crux Epicure Maduro, included in this list,was a cigar I received from the company at the IPCPR and after I smoked it, the nationwide release was delayed until next year, but having already smoked it I felt it was deserving of being mentioned in our list this year.
Balmoral Añejo XO Oscuro Rothschild Masivo
Cornelius and Anthony The Gent Robusto
Ventura Cigars Archetype Mini Series Curses
So there you have it, the book is closed on 2018. As I mentioned, we may not have gotten through all the cigars and certainly have not received all the new product for the year. We will be shifting to what other media outlets have adopted and in future years we will include cigars in a 2 year window for the top 25 list.
I would like to once again thank all our sponsors, contributors, and supporters for helping Stogie Press grow. 2018 has been a banner year as it has once again set new viewership records year over year. I wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2019. Stay smokey and enjoy your pleasure.
~ Boston Jimmie – Publisher, Stogie Press