Charlie’s Top 10 Cigars of 2011 (plus giveaway)

It’s that time of the year again when every cigar reviewer publishes a post that starts with “It’s that time of the year again…” As long as I’ve been smoking cigars, I’ve looked forward to these top X lists since it allows you to do a few really cool things:

  1. Discover some gems you might have missed
  2. See which review source most closely aligns with your smoking palate
  3. Compare the rankings to see if there’s a cigar or two which consistently appears near the top of almost everybody’s list — a sort of AP National Champion of the cigar world

Ever since I started contributing to, I’ve been excited about adding my two cents and publishing just such an annual ranking of my own. I was originally only going to do an unordered top 5 list, but then I decided to expand things a bit to talk about some of the other great cigars I smoked over the past year. Other than dividing the list into two groups (5–10 and the top 5), these cigars are presented in no particular order. Be sure to read all the way down to the bottom of this post in order to get in on a really cool giveaway.

Without further ado, and in my entirely subjective & flawed opinion, here are my Top 10 most enjoyed cigars of 2011. First up, we have the bottom half of the list. These cigars were definitely good enough to make it into my Top 10 list, but weren’t quite as outstanding as the top five.

*** The Top Ten ***

EP Carrillo Edición Limitada 2011 “Dark Rituals”

The first couple of these that I had weren’t anything to write home about, but all the sticks afterwards have been fantastic. Deep, rich flavors with a perfect construction and burn, plus some serious aging potential — this limited edition cigar is truly something special.

Perdomo Reserve Limited Cameroon Edition Petit Corona

Brian’s glowing review, coupled with the fact that I’m a sucker for a nice Cameroon wrapper, convinced me to pick up a box of these. A nice, quick, enjoyable medium-bodied smoke, and a great deal at $49 for a box of 10.

Don Pepin Garcia Series JJ “Little Robusto”

A great cigar for a great cause. Typical outstanding burn and construction that we’ve come to expect from Pepin, with tons of twang in the flavor profile (something I really enjoy). Go out and grab a box — you’ll have some terrific cigars to smoke & share, plus you’ll be doing some good at the same time.

Undercrown by Drew Estate

Other than Liga Privada, I don’t smoke many cigars produced by Drew Estate. And as much as I like them, their price & availability keep Liga Privada from being an everyday smoke for me. Incorporating different primings from the same tobacco crops used in the LP blends, the Undercrown is a Drew Estate offering that I’d smoke everyday.

Crowned Heads Four Kicks

Another cigar manufactured by EP Carrillo, this is the highly-anticipated first release from the former CAO employees who founded Crowned Heads. I really enjoyed the sweet, meaty, twangy flavors, and the construction & burn were first-rate. My only real complaint is their relatively limited availability — hopefully that’ll change with a wider release in 2012.

You might ask, what’s the difference between the cigars in the top five versus the rest of my list? While the aforementioned smokes were truly great, they just didn’t have that “wow” factor I’m always searching for. The following cigars all had that “je ne sais quoi” — they made me sit back in my smoking chair and quietly exclaim “WOW!” to myself, motivating me to go out and track down some more. If you haven’t tried all five of these yet, as soon as you finish reading this post, go out and find some!

*** The Top Five ***

CroMagnon Knuckle Dragger

I usually shy away from full strength cigars as they just aren’t my cup of tea. When I smoke a cigar, I’m looking for big, robust flavors — I don’t want to feel woozy from the nicotine. However, the CroMagnon has completely changed my perspective about what a full strength cigar can (and should) be. I definitely felt the power, but it never tipped into the nausea-inducing zone, and was absolutely packed with an incredible peppery meat taste. The CroMagnon is a perfect example of how lots of power can be balanced with lots of flavor in the same great package. (Currently available exclusively online via Hava Cigar Shop.)

Casa Magna Domus Magnus Limitada

Oodles & oodles, and gobbles & gobbles of flavor…” I like to tease Jerry about his description of the Domus Magnus, but he really hit the nail on the head with his review. Sporting an absolutely perfect construction, it starts slow but ends with an unbelievably good finish. With a deeply satisfying nutty, creamy, café con leche flavor and a hint of spice… I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the Domus Magnus is the first cigar I’ve smoked which reminded of the Behike BHK.

Emilio AF2

I’ll admit, this one took me completely by surprise. I had noticed the boxes of Emilio cigars on the shelves of my local tobacconist, but really hadn’t even considered picking any up. It took several visits before brand developer and B&M manager Gary Griffith talked me into trying his line. I was completely blown away! I also enjoyed the AF1 and Grimalkin, but the AF2 really stood out for me. It’s exceptionally well-balanced and silky smooth, with a rich flavor and perfect draw. The AF2 was one of the first cigars I covered for back when I was doing written reviews only, but if I had recorded a video review instead, you’d better understand how much I enjoy this cigar from my overly enthusiastic expressions.

San Lotano Oval by A.J. Fernandez

No question about it: this was a “WOW!” cigar for me. Awesome flavors that always kept me smoking it down to the nub, and the oval-shaped format really works great. A.J. Fernandez must be doing something right, as two of his cigars have earned a spot amongst my top five of the year. It’s safe to say he can add the San Lotano Oval to his impressive list of home runs in his relatively short career thus far.

La Casita Criolla

As a native son of Connecticut and a fan of broadleaf tobacco, I was definitely intrigued when I heard Pete Johnson was developing a 100% Connecticut broadleaf cigar. It almost seems like La Casita Criolla was designed with all of my personal preferences in mind: medium bodied… deep, rich earthy flavors… and three ring gauges ranging from 42 to 48. After trying one, I rushed right back to the shop the next day to pick up a whole box — and just in the nick of time it would seem, as I grabbed the last full box they had in stock!

A final disclaimer: I certainly didn’t try every new release that came out this year, so I may have overlooked some other fantastic cigars. There were also several others for which I only smoked a sample or two, and wouldn’t feel comfortable including on a year-end list like this one without more experience. I’m sure some folks will be ticked off, and others will think I’m crazy, but that’s just what happens when you share your opinions publicly.

2011 was a great year, both for cigars and for me, personally. There were lots of big developments, with even more to look forward to in the year ahead. I want to sincerely thank Jerry, Walt, Brian, and Mike for giving me this opportunity to share my smoking experiences with all of you, and for allowing me to spread my handsome face all over the Internet where it belongs. I also want to thank all of the manufacturers, reps, and retailers who provided me with samples — even the dog rockets — which helped me to broaden my horizons and try some cigars I might not have had the opportunity to explore otherwise. Finally, I’d like to raise a glass to toast all the great brothers & sisters of the leaf whom I’ve met and enjoyed a cigar or two with in the past year.


In honor of the late Steve Jobs (1955–2011), I’ve got one last thing that I think you all will like. As a special treat for our great readers here at and as a huge “THANK YOU” for all the great feedback you’ve given me thus far, I’ve decided to put together a really nice prize pack for one lucky contestant. I’m giving away a 10-count travel humidor emblazoned with the logo. It’s just like the humidor that Mike recently gave away, except for one small difference: this humidor will be shipped to the winner pre-filled with one each of my top ten cigars of 2011. That’s right, you’ll get the travel humidor plus 10 truly awesome cigars!

There are three different ways you can enter for the giveaway:

  1. Leave a comment below telling me what was your favorite cigar in 2011
  2. Log into Facebook and “like” the Stogie Review page (people who already “like” us will be automatically entered)
  3. Log into Twitter and RT this tweet (you must use the built-in retweet feature, otherwise your entry can’t be counted)

Be sure to take advantage of all three entry methods in order to maximize your chances of winning (one entry per method for a max of three entries per person). I’ll select one winner at random from the properly-submitted entries on January 17, 2012. Residents of the US & Canada only; must be 19 or older.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

Updated: Jan 20, 2012 12:40AM
Congratulations to Fuzzy, whose entry was randomly selected as the winner of this giveaway. Please check your email for instructions on how to claim your prize, and thanks to everyone for entering.

About Charlie:
Charlie has been enjoying cigars since 2000 and generally prefers a medium-bodied, full-flavored smoke. A USAF vet, he is currently pursuing a PhD in computer science, focusing on artificial intelligence and computational linguistics. Originally from Connecticut and now residing in Delaware, Charlie is also a fan of football, science fiction, political philosophy, and single malt scotch. You can contact Charlie on Twitter @greenbacker