Charlie’s Top Cigars of 2012 (plus giveaway)

Drew Estate

It’s that time of year again. So exciting. So suspenseful. So controversial. It can only mean one thing: everyone with a blog is publishing their highly-opinionated list of top cigars for the year, and everyone else is having fun arguing over which cigars were overlooked and which were overrated. Allow me to add my inflation-adjusted two cents to the equation with my own list of Top Cigars of 2012…

I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about how I’ll approach my cigars of the year (COTY) list for 2012. I have to agree with Jerry that many of the new cigars released this year were a tad… underwhelming. So, I’ve decided to do something different.

One thing I noticed is that several of the cigars that I really enjoyed this year are technically ineligible to appear in my 2012 list — I either smoked only one or two pre-release samples of a cigar scheduled to come out in 2013, or the cigar really only hit the market in the final weeks of December (so they’ll really have more of an impact on the 2013 scene). So what I’ve done is split things up into two lists: my top 5 cigars of 2012, and another list of 5 cigars I think you should look for in 2013 based on my initial impressions. I’m sure some folks will have a problem with it, but I think this is the best way to cover all the ground I’d like to include in a COTY list. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: if your favorite cigar of 2012 doesn’t appear on this list, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I didn’t like it. I can’t possibly smoke every cigar released each year, and there’s always the possibility that I only smoked one sample, didn’t care for it, and didn’t give it a second chance. Please don’t hold it against me.

Another Disclaimer: both of these lists are presented IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER. That’s why there are no numbers attached to any of the honorees. Yes, that’s another cop out, but this is my list and I do what I want.

Hey! Don’t forget to enter to win the giveaway at the end of this post!

TOP FIVE CIGARS OF 2012

These cigars really “Wowed!” me this year, and I definitely recommend trying them if you haven’t already.

Cuenca y Blanco

CyB by Joya de Nicaragua – Formerly known as “Cuenca y Blanco,” this gem was the standout smoke for me at IPCPR. Despite suffering from severe palate fatigue, the flavors from the first CyB I tried shined through at the end of a long day in Orlando. Whatever you want to call it or however you want to pronounce it (“see eee bee” or “see why bee” ??), it’s a winner.

Intemperance BA XXI

Intemperance BA XXI by RoMa Craft Tobac – Skip and Mike at RoMa Craft are doing great things. The CroMagnon Knuckle Dragger made my top 5 list last year, and Jerry’s top cigars list in back-to-back years. The Brazil Aripiraca-wrapped Intemperance BA XXI is no slouch either. One thing it has over the CroMagnon is versatility: the medium-bodied BA XXI can be enjoyed at any time of day, while the CroMagnon will punish you if your blood sugar is running low.

EPC Cardinal Maduro

E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro – Although Ben reviewed the natural version, we haven’t had a featured full review of the E.P. Carrillo Cardinal Maduro. Irrespective of that oversight, however, it’s appeared in multiple week in smoke posts, and both Jerry and Walt also saw fit to include it in their COTY lists. That’s quite a lot of coverage as things go here at the Stogie Review, and with good reason. It’s a terrific full-bodied, full-flavored smoke.

Partagas 1845

Partagas 1845 – The folks at General Cigar had a very busy year, with lots of new lines hitting the market. My favorite was the 1845, a new breed of Partagas. It made it into my Month in Smoke series not once, but twice, and deservedly so. Great construction, sweet chocolately flavors, a nice medium-full body, and a very wallet-friendly price point. I liked it so much, I bought a box for all to enjoy at my friend’s wedding.

Ortega Serie D Maduro

Ortega Serie D Maduro – Truly a great cigar. Rich pre-light aromas of earth and chocolate. Dense, syrupy smoke loaded with molasses, leather, and baking spice. Transition into meaty, chocolate sweetness with charred oak. Excellent construction. Eddie Ortega clearly knows what he’s doing.

HONORABLE MENTION

Tatuaje Mini Mum

Tatuaje Little Monsters – The Little Monsters collection wins the award for “best idea of 2012″ in my book. It was an incredible treat for people who missed out on the earlier releases in the Tatuaje Halloween series (or wanted to reminisce), plus the Mini Mum offered an advance look at the new full-sized Mummy before it hit retailer shelves. Also, I generally prefer smaller cigars, so the corona-ish sizes of the Little Monsters were right in my sweet spot. I enjoyed all five cigars in the collection, though Frank Jr. was probably the best.

FIVE CIGARS TO WATCH IN 2013

Nothing beats a good first impression, and if these cigars live up to their samples, you’re going to want to hunt them down in 2013.

La Musa Melete by Emilio Cigars

La Musa Melete by Emilio Cigars – To say this cigar blew me away would be an understatement. The Melete is packed with incredible flavors and smokes like a dream. No question about it, this will be my first box purchase of 2013. Gary Griffith is truly on a roll.

Liga Privada Papas Fritas

Liga Privada Papas Fritas by Drew Estate – Problem A: Liga Privadas cigars are great, but pricey. Problem B: I don’t always have 2 hours to smoke a toro. Problem 3: a lot of top-quality tobacco goes to waste in trimmings when making a premium hand-rolled cigar. Solution to all 3 problems: Papas Fritas. This is the best short-filler cigar I’ve ever smoked. Period.

Dona Flor Puro Mata Fina

Dona Flor Puro Mata Fina – This one really caught me by surprise. The folks at Dona Flor USA contacted me out of the blue asking if I’d be interested in some samples. I said sure, I’d love to become more acquainted with Brazilian tobacco. In the sampler pack they sent me, there was a Puro Mata Fina that knocked my socks off. I’m a big fan of coconut flavor — something I’ve not encountered in a cigar before — but this one was full of it! Definitely on my shopping list for 2013.

Headley Grange by Crowned Heads

Headley Grange by The Crowned Heads – The latest cigar to run into naming challenges, the Estupendos size of the Headley Grange is a sneak peak vitola ahead of the full release in 2013. This Ecuadorian Sumatra-wrapped beauty packs a lot of complex flavors into a medium-bodied package. The sophomore effort from The Crowned Heads is sure to make a big splash when the entire line hits retailers next year.

Miami Anoranzas

Añoranzas by Miami Cigar & Co. – Miami Cigar also had a big year, and put out several new cigars. In my opinion, the highlight of their releases was the Añoranzas. Arguably, this cigar has been out the longest of those on my 2013 “watch list,” but I’ve only had the opportunity to smoke a couple so far and haven’t seen them widely available at retailers just yet. Maybe it’s because they keep selling so fast, no one can keep them in stock. In any event, with the great flavors I found in the samples, I’ll definitely be on the lookout for these in the new year.

GIVEAWAY

Any COTY list from me wouldn’t be complete without a giveaway. While I’m not in a position to do something as awesome as last year, I’ve got a nice little prize pack put together that I think you’ll enjoy. I’ve added a bit of mystery into the mix as well…

This year, my COTY giveaway prize pack will include the following (at a minimum):

  • A 4-pack of of one of the cigars featured in this year’s list
  • A single stick of another cigar listed herein
  • A few items of cigar-related swag that I’ve accumulated over the years

I might even toss in a few more surprises for good measure.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below either unfairly criticizing me for an inexcusably inadequate COTY list, or congratulating me for being a terribly nice fellow (and charmingly handsome to boot). I’ll select one lucky winner at random on January 15, 2013. Residents of the US & Canada only; must be 19 or older.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

Ortega Cigars