Walt’s Top 10 Cigars of 2012

Drew Estate

Diesel Grind

10. Diesel Grind

Smoking the Diesel Product line was a recommendation of our own Jerry Cruz. Based on my experience with the Diesel Unholy Cocktail, I didn’t have high hopes for the other offerings. To my surprise, I found the Diesel Grind and what has become a go-to cigar of mine.

The Diesel Grind isn’t a stellar cigar. The flavors won’t knock your socks off, nor are they suitable for any serious celebration. Now that you know what this isn’t, what is it good for? This cigar is a fantastic middle of the road cigar. It is good in the morning. it is good in the afternoon. It is good in the evening. This cigar is good any time and every time. It is consistent and makes a wonderful companion.

The Diesel Grind isn’t going to win awards but it has earned a place in my regular rotation. When you consdier the price, it is tough to beat. For that reason, it makes it on my Top 10 Cigars of 2012.

Los Blancos - Nine - Short Ashes - May 2012

9. Nine by Blanco Cigar Co

I know what you’re thinking, the Nine isn’t new! You are absolutely right, it isn’t new. In fact, I think it has been out for a few years now. The reason it was considered for this list is because I rediscovered it this year. It was a good cigar when I smoked it a few years back but for whatever reason, it is even better now.

The company name was changed from Los Blancos to Blanco Cigar Company. During this change, the headquarters were moved from Chicago to Tampa. The Nine boxes and bands were given a face-lift (possibly a blend tweak too) and when it all came together for me at the 2012 IPCPR Convention, it was like a new company and a new cigar, run by a familiar face.

The Nine is a full bodied cigar with pleasant flavors. They pack a little too much punch for a morning smoke but I find them to be a nice treat in the late afternoon or evenings.

Drew Estate Undercrown and Spyderco Native 4 - 1

8. Drew Estate Undercrown

The Undercrown and I have a checkered past, plagued with problem sticks. Honestly, I don’t know why I continue to come back to this cigar. It would seem that one in every three I smoke has some sort of problem. The draw is too tight, the cap falls off, the smoke volume is lacking, you get the idea. Despite all that, I continue to drop roughly $8 per cigar and smoke them semi-regularly.

Perhaps it stems from me not being able to pick up either the Liga Privada No 9 or the Liga Privada T52 from a local shop. I absolutely adore both of those cigars and the Undercrown, in my mind, is the next best thing.

With a medium body and a variety of flavors steeped in depth and richness, the Undercrown really is a wonderful smoke. Well, it is a wonderful smoke two out of every three times I pick one up.

Pinolero by AJ Fernandez

7. Pinolero by AJ Fernandez

The new Pinolero creation by AJ Fernandez has been a roller coaster ride for me. I came away from IPCPR with a bunch of them and every single cigar was different from the one smoked prior. Body was the problem and it ranged from Mild / Medium all the way up Melt Your Face Off Full. Some cigars were dull because of how mild they were and others were nearly unsmokable because of how powerful they were.

Fortunately, that all seems to have been fixed now that the line is on store shelves. Each Pinolero that I’ve smoked recently has been somewhere in the middle of those early samples. They aren’t overly powerful nor are they mild. I’d say they have a comfortable foothold in the Medium to Full range.

One aspect of these cigars which hasn’t changed is the flavor profile. The Pinolero remains full flavored with a variety of tastes to enjoy. One of my favorites is a sort of sweet smokey flavor that pops up from time to time.

@xikarinc (@xikarkvk) HC Habano Squared from #ipcpr

6. Xikar HC Habano Squared

Every year there is one cigar that stands out in my mind as a stellar smoke. The problem with this one standout cigar is that often times I’ve smoked far too few of them to be absolutely sure. This makes including that cigar into my Top 10 Cigars of 2012 list very difficult.

When it comes to the Xikar HC Habano Squared (Or Xikar HC Habano 2, as some are referring to it), I’ve only smoked five. Even so, I’ve become a big fan in those few experiences. Flavors are sharp and on point while the body is on the fuller size of Medium to Full. The balance between flavor and power is beautifully done, making for a stellar smoke which I hope to smoke many more of in the coming year.

EP Carrillo Cardinal Maduro

5. EP Carrillo Cardinal Maduro

During this years IPCPR Convention, we had the pleasure of speaking with Ernesto Perez Carrillo. As we talked, he handed each of us a cigar and explained it was something new and was called the Red Box. At first glance I thought it may have just been a variation on the Core Line.

Cigar reviewers often refer to different cigars as flavor bombs. If you’ve never quite understood what that means, try the EP Carrillo Cardinal Maduro and you’ll understand. Each puff puts off a thick plume of smoke filled with richness and depth.

I’ve had too few of these cigars for my liking (To be honest, even if I’d have smoked 100 of them it would be too few for my liking). This is a result of them being relatively new and a little tricky to find. If you haven’t seen them yet, keep your eyes peeled because they are well worth it.

Anoranzas from Miami Cigar Co

4. Anoranzas from Miami Cigar Co.

During the 2012 IPCPR Convention in Orlando, Miami Cigar was like a bunch of pushers. Every time I stepped foot in that booth I was handed an Anoranzas and offered a cold Presidente. It got to the point where I felt conditioned. I could use a break, lets head over to the Miami booth for a beer and a cigar.

By the end of the show I came home with a fistful of Anoranzas in addition to all the ones I’d smoked already. At first I thought they were just a decent smoke. As I smoked more, I grew fonder and fonder of them. I’m to the point now where I could probably smoke a 5 pack per week throughout 2013 and not get tired of them.

Each cigar that I light up delivers a pleasant flavor profile with medium body. They aren’t too heavy for a morning smoke, nor are they too light for the evening. The only size I don’t really care for is the 6.00 x 60.

Ortega Serie D No 10 - 1

3. Ortega Serie D Maduro

Eddie Ortega has been a friend of Stogie Review for years. The first time I met him was during my first IPCPR Convention, in Las Vegas back in 2008. Eddie is a good guy and was successful with EO brands. When it was announced that he was leaving EO Brands to pursue a solo venture, I wished him the best.

When the word spread about the Ortega Serie D, I was unsure of what would come. The cigar looked great but I wondered about the naming. Would people think of the famed Partagas Serie D and brush off the Ortega product as a Cuban knock-off? As it turns out, the cigar was a slam dunk.

What makes this cigar so wonderful is the flavor profile. We often talk about cigars needing a balance between power and flavor to be memorable. The Ortega Serie D Maduro has a good balance but the flavor saturation is what pushes it over the top. There aren’t many cigars on the market that are as loaded with flavor as the Serie D and, for that reason, it is one of my Top 10 Cigars of 2012.

San Lotano Oval Maduro

2. San Lotano Oval Maduro

A couple of years back I was Introduced to the San Lotano Line of Cigars by AJ Fernandez, of Man O’ War Fame. I thought they were a good buy for the money but wasn’t ever really wow’ed by them. That all changed when I smoked the San Lotano Oval. That cigar was everything the standard lines were missing. It was deep, it was rich, it was smooth, and it was powerful. The Oval quickly became my favorite AJ Fernandez Cigar, by a large margin.

When we attended the 2012 IPCPR Convention in Orlando, I was handed a San Lotano Oval Maduro. I was shocked, how did the Maduro brother of one of my favorite cigars slip past without me knowing about it? I smoked that cigar and was impressed enough to mooch another from the AJ Fernandez Booth the following day.

The San Lotano Oval Maduro is everything the standard Oval is missing (which, to be honest, isn’t much). It is deeper, it is richer, it is smoother, and it is even more powerful. The Maduro wrapper introduces a slight bitterness with coffee / espresso tones that make it pop.

This cigar would have easily been my top cigar of the year if the next one hadn’t have had so much adversity to overcome.

Oliva Serie V Melanio

1. Oliva Serie V Melanio

The Oliva Serie V Melanio was a cigar I didn’t even want to like, let alone see anywhere near my Top 10 Cigars of 2012 List. I mean, c’mon, who does Oliva think they are? They take the wonderful Oliva Serie V Liga Especial, fancy up the band a tad, tweak the blend, and double the price? Damn straight, I know I’m going to hate it before I ever light one up.

Against all the odds, the cigar performed beautifully. Before my first Serie V Melanio was finished, I knew it was a cigar of the year candidate. Simply put, the cigar is balanced perfectly between power and flavor. It is rich, complex, smooth, and has delicate undertones that set it apart from everything else I’ve smoked this year.

It is almost like some sort of cigar fairy tale. My number one loathed cigar of 2012 transforms itself into the best cigar I’ve smoked all year. Even so, just because I love the cigar doesn’t mean I love the price. Just to keep things in perspective, I’m still a little bitter about that aspect of the Serie V Melanio.

Ortega Cigars