The Box-Worthies: Brian’s Top 10 Cigars of 2012

Making a top ten list is never an easy task, but I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to revisit the year, and spend some time thinking about its finer moments. I gave some thought to changing the way I do my top ten this year, like limiting it to only new releases. But then it occurred to me that I really didn’t have to. This year I spent most of my time smoking new and new-to-me cigars, and much less time to burning old favorites. (It goes with the cigar reviewing territory.) If I just focus on the stuff I smoked and enjoyed the most this year it’ll be a much different list than the preceding one, no limitations necessary. So here it is, my list of box-worthies. If I had the required money and humidor space for 10 new boxes of cigars, and if they were available, these are the cigars that I’d buy.

10.) CyB (formerly Cuenca y Blanco) by Joya De Nicaragua
I think Jose Blanco covered when he said, “This cigar is just about about flavor, flavor, flavor, complexity.” And he’s right. It’s an easy-going but complex cigar that was enjoyable any hour of the day, early or late. I knew when I reviewed it back in August that it would be showing up on my top 10 list.

9.) Reinado Grand Empire Reserve
I think I summed it up nicely in my review: “The Reinado Grand Empire Reserve is a cigar that stands out from the pack. It’s rich, delicious, complex and a little different than everything else I’ve had this year. Not to mention being a hard cigar to put down even when my fingers got uncomfortably warm.”

8.) Ortega Cigars Serie D Maduro
This entry really requires no explanation. Searching our site for “Ortega Serie D” is like asking for a list of every edition of The Week In Smoke we’ve ever done. Though I’ve admittedly smoked far more Serie D Naturals, the Maduro definitely deserves a spot on this list. It’s too rich, too delicious and too quick to disappear from my humidor to not be here. And if you needed another reason to love it (you don’t), it’s very reasonably priced.

7.) Perdomo 20th Anniversary Maduro
Some of the stuff coming out of Perdomo lately has been impressive. And the 20th Anniversary Maduro is the best of the bunch I’ve tried thus far. It took me a while to become acquainted this cigar and now I eagerly look forward to my next opportunity to light one up. So rich, so decadent, so delicious. Tobacco aged in old bourbon barrels? It’d be almost impossible for me not to love this cigar.

6.) La Hermandad by El Primer Mundo
As I was holding together the wrapper on a badly damaged La Hermandad so I could smoke the second one of the evening, I realized I had a thing for this new cigar by El Primer Mundo. (Damage caused by my poor decision to cram it into a tight shirt pocket.) This chewy, peppery cigar is another one of those I like little more with each smoke. I haven’t sprung for a box yet, but it’s only a matter of time now.

5.) Tatuaje Little Boris
I have to hand it to Stogie Review’s wee Croc-wearing imp, he was so right about the Little Boris. Going by what he said, and the fact that I completely missed the original Boris, I called up placed an order for this limited edition Tatuaje, the box was nearly gone a month later. It was nearly impossible to stop smoking them. Just writing about it now, made me light up one of my few remaining sticks, and the creamy wood, caramel, spice profile is every bit as beautiful as I remember.

4.) Liga Privada T52 by Drew Estate
There is just is no substitute for the deliciously earthy T52, which is a shame, because they’re not cheap, and they are often hard to find, due to a notoriously uncooperative wrapper leaf. It’s a little like a hottie with expensive tastes that takes forever to get ready. I put up with the inconveniences because she’s worth it.

3.) EP Carrillo Cardinal Maduro
The Cardinal Maduro is one I think just about every here at Stogie Review agrees is a top ten smoke. There isn’t much that the rest of the crew hasn’t already said about this wow-smoke from the legendary Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. Which is funny, because it still seems like it hasn’t gotten the buzz it deserves (nor the review, for that matter). I became acquainted with the Cardinal Maduro late in the year, and though I haven’t had that many yet, I spend a lot of time thinking about when I’m going to smoke another. I have some catching up to do.

2.) Crowned Heads Four Kicks Mule Kick
Easily the best thing they’ve made so far, I’ve loved every one I’ve had so far. Jerry probably said it best when he said the Mule Kick was dreamy. I feel bad about including a limited edition that’s nearly impossible to acquire now, but the heart wants what the heart wants, or something like that. And who knows, perhaps if there’s enough outpouring of affection for it, one day maybe they’ll try to recreate it. After enjoying the rich, complex flavors the first time, I quickly went to work on finding and acquiring a box, which I jealously guard like a dragon in a Tolkien book.

1.) Ortega Cigars Serie D Natural
When I told someone recently that I prefer the Serie D Natural to the Maduro, their response was the familiar “Really? Eddie doesn’t even like the Natural.” While that may have been true at one point, the last time I spoke with Eddie on the matter, he told me the Natural was growing on him. And that’s what it does, grow on you until it’s your default smoke. That is until you discover the box you just bought is already empty. Which in my case isn’t such a bad thing, it’s a reminder that I have other cigars I need to try and review.

Honorable Mentions & Memorable Smokes
A top cigar ten list is a hard thing to put together, as stated again and again by everyone who makes them. It’s full of second guesses, and angst over cutting cigars that really do deserve some recognition. But it also brings back pleasant hazy memories that are worth sharing, but don’t really belong in a top ten list. This section covers a medley of these things.

J. Fuego Origen Originals (aka “The Soft Pack”)
If anything, I’ve smoked more Origen Originals in 2012 than in the year following it’s original release. At any point in time, I probably have at least one open pack in my car, a few more in various locations at home and maybe even one in a shirt pocket. I just don’t know how I’d get around in Atlanta’s notoriously bad traffic without them. Which reminds me, I’m running low again. (If the list went to 11, this blue collar tobacco star would be at the top of the page.)

El Baton Robusto
What’s the old, unexciting brand doing anywhere near my top 10 list? It started with a wow moment. I don’t remember if I was in a hurry, or just forgot cigars, but I bought a bargain mixed five pack to get me by for the day. The El Baton I smoked was delicious, and I had to comment. The proprietor told me “they should be, they’re several years old”. So I bought the remaining stock, and have been buying them sporadically since. It became something of a go-to cigar for me during 2012, and as strange as it may sound, it’s my favorite cigar to smoke after a workout.

Curivari Buenaventura
This new smoke by Curivari may have had a shot at the list, if I had been able to smoke more than one of them in 2012. But that single experience kept coming to mind as I put this list together. A very intriguing smoke that I plan to revisit in the new year.

Alec Bradley Fine & Rare 2012
Despite the construction issues I’ve had with it, I toyed with the idea of putting the Fine & Rare on my top 10 list. It had such great flavor.

Liga Privada L40, Undercrown and Black Rat by Drew Estate
Any and all of these are deserving of high praise, but they have the problem of standing in the smoky shadow of the T52, a long standing favorite of mine. And in the case of the L40 and Black Rat, there’s also the problem of availability, which kept either from having a shot at stealing my heart away over time.

Tatuaje Little Monsters
Charlie kinda stole my thunder with his hat tip to the Little Monsters concept. I kinda wanted to put the entire box in as one entry on the list. It was a brilliant idea that was well executed, and I loved that even though this was a limited edition, Pete produced enough of them that anyone who wanted one could get one. (In fact, you probably still can.) And because it was done with smaller vitolas from different crops of tobacco, it in no way diminishes the perceived value of any original sticks that may linger in people’s collections.