The Box-Worthies: Brian’s Top 10 Cigars of 2009

I hope you’re not tired of top ten lists, because I’ve got one more for you: Mine. My criteria this year is a little different than Walt’s and Jerry’s. To qualify for my top ten all that was required for me to smoke and really enjoy them sometime in 2009. Last year, I tried limiting myself to only cigars I reviewed during that year, and found it just too limiting and resolved to leave my options open this year.

Even with the added freedom, quantifying cigars is tough. Especially when dealing with all the excellent choices we’ve been blessed with this past year. If this is, as they say, the golden age of cigars, 2009 marks the current peak of that age. Which makes it especially challenging, and raises the risk of a significant sin of omission. Accordingly, I’ve spent weeks on this list, evaluating and re-evaluating the candidates and their placement. And I think it’s ready. So here it is, my box-worthy top ten list for 2009:

10. Camacho Liberty 2009
For a Camacho, the Liberty 2009 is a little mellow. But I don’t mind. It’s delicious and demands to be savored. And If you’re jealous of the people who have collections of Camacho Liberties from years past, you don’t have to be anymore. The 2009 is the best Liberty made to date.

9. Oliva Serie V Maduro 2009
If you’ve had the opportunity to smoke a Serie V Maduro from 2008 recently, you’ve experienced first hand the incredible magic of aging a cigar. Having smoked both the 2008 and the 2009 quite a bit recently, I can tell you that the 2009 has the aged 2008 beat. And who knows how good these things will get with the equivalent age? I plan to find out.

8. Zino Embassy Selection Limited Edition Perfecto
As a guy who doesn’t have a long Zino/Davidoff track record, I picked up the first Embassy Selection out of curiosity, and because the price looked like a deal compared to some of their other products. Deal is right. But price has nothing to do why I keep reaching for the Embassy Selection when so many other options are at hand. The complexity and incredible flavor make it one of the best cigars of the year.

7. Alec Bradley Prensado
The Prensado was a favorite smoke of mine while wandering the floor of IPCPR 2009. It became part of the routine to stop by the Alec Bradley booth first thing to weasel another sample. The downside is that I didn’t bring home enough from the show to do a review. The cigars just didn’t stand a chance. (Or maybe I didn’t, I’m not sure.) And that remains a problem to this day. The cigar that was my trade show staple easily transitioned into the role of my favorite Alec Bradley smoke. These cedary cocoa tobacco treats don’t last long when I’m around.

6. Murcielago Robusto
I’ve been bitten by The Bat. The Murcielago won my heart with first stick out of the first box, fresh off the truck and I’ve been in love ever since. The rich cocoa, cedar and coffee flavors never fail to satisfy.

5. EP Carrillo Edicion Inaugural 2009 Encore
How does a cigar making legend start up a new company? If said legend happens to be Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, he kicks it off with a creamy and complex masterpiece called the Edicion Inaugural Encore. Smoking one is a bittersweet venture, at once incredibly enjoyable and a little sad because you know you have one less of the very limited release.

4. Illusione MJ12
Every now and then I get one wrong. When I reviewed the MJ12 earlier this year I called it “enjoyable” but said it “didn’t do it for me”. But then sometime later, I lit up another and it did do it for me. It did it for me really, really well. I’m not sure what happened, whether it was the additional bit of aging, or, more likely, a momentary palate failure on my part, but this cigar is a beautiful smoke.

3. CAO La Traviata Divino
When describing the La Traviata, invariably the bargain price of this cigar is mentioned. But regardless of what the price tag says, this cigar has earned a position of honor in my top ten list. The great flavor, slow burn and beautiful oily, toothy wrapper leaf have ensured the La Traviata will always be a staple in my humidor. The low cost is just icing on the cake.

2. Illusione 88
I can’t yet claim to have smoked every Illusione available, and part of the blame for that is the 88. Unusual circumstances were responsible for me buying my first box of these. I had planned on buying a box of the conveniently sized 68’s, but walked out with a box of 88’s instead. Whether that was an accident or the result of Dion Giolito’s touted “MINDKONTROL” abilities, it was destined to be. The Illusione 88 is a perfect illustration of what is possible when the best creative minds and the finest tobacco come together.

1. J. Fuego Grand Reserva Corojo No. 1
If you follow me on twitter, chat on the Stogie Review Forum or have checked out our About Us page, you probably knew this was coming. Not only is the Grand Reserva Corojo No. 1 my favorite cigar of the year, it’s also easily my most smoked cigar of the year. (Hey, I’m consistent anyway.) From the initial puffs, which are my favorite first puffs of any cigar ever, right down to the nub there is just no other cigar that suits me so well. The specific combination of earth, cedar, spice and sweetness sets off a tidal wave of endorphins and somehow brings back pleasant memories of better times.

Honorable Mentions

Zino Platinum Emperor Edition 2009
The Zino Platinum Emperor probably deserves a spot in my top ten list. Aside from a bit of text, the only thing preventing it from being on this list is operator error on my part. I did smoke one of these in 2009, but did so after a long day of beer and cigars, and really couldn’t taste it. While putting the finishing touches on this list, I smoked another that a kind soul gave to me, and was really impressed. I had list makers remorse. But the list is done, and 2009 a part of history. Don’t make my mistake, sample the decadent flavors of the Emperor Edition 2009 on a clean palate. This is a cigar that should not be missed.

Tabacos Baez Serie SF
If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you may remember I panned the original, long filler Tabacos Baez. On a whim, and probably in large part because of the bargain price, I picked up the Serie SF and was pleasantly surprised. I really, really liked the combination of creaminess, sweetness and spice it delivered. And I’ve been smoking the heck out of them ever since. If you’re on a tight budget and want a great value alternative to the excellent CAO La Traviata, you owe it to yourself to try the Tabacos Baez Serie SF.