The Box-Worthies: Brian’s Top 10 Cigars of 2013

With 2013 now safely behind us it’s time for a top ten cigar list for 2013. I know what you’re thinking, “Top ten cigars? Whatever can that be?” Here’s how it works: What follows is a list of cigars that I most enjoyed smoking in 2013. I’ve numbered them for your convenience, but get this- I’ve put them in reverse order so you don’t see my very favorite until the end, which makes it considerably more fun and suspenseful than an ordinary numbered list. All you have to do is read top to bottom, left to right to properly enjoy it. You can read them aloud if you like, but I find it preferable to imagine the list being narrated by Christopher Walken. Advanced top ten list readers may find that reading only one entry a day will lead to maximum enjoyment. The choice is yours. The list starts here:

10.) Herrera Esteli
I’ve been really fortunate this year. I’ve had pleasure of smoking the Herrera Esteli almost all year long. Early on, Big Willy Herrera hooked me up with early versions of the blend, and then later with pre-release sticks, so I’ve been with it from the beginning, and I’ve definitely enjoyed the ride. Rich, creamy and cedary with a nice pepper bite, for so much of the year it was just the cigar I wanted to smoke, and I never seem to have enough on hand. If I see one, I’m smoking it, they just don’t last.

9.) CyB Lancero
This lancero was my favorite smoke of the trip to Esteli I took in 2013, and that’s saying something. This cigar is such a winner. It burns beautifully and has a wonderfully balanced profile of creamy, woody and earthy flavors with a lingering smokiness easily eclipses the Lonsdale Club, a previous top 10 cigar.

8.) Tatuaje 10th Anniversary Commemorative
The Regio 10th was just beautiful all around from the pungent sweet honey like wrapper aroma to the dense woody earth, lingering coffee, caramel and hints of anise the smoke offered. I knew the first time I smoked it that it was a contender for my top ten.

7.) J. Fuego Edicion De Familia 2012
What’s a top ten from me without a J. Fuego somewhere on the list? Seriously though, I burned through a box of Edicion De Familia 2012’s quickly shortly before IPCPR 2013. I meant to go back for more, but the trade show always changes everything and I forgot. Regardless, the 2012 had that great spicy character I associate with J. Fuego along with some great woody and nutty flavors that made it hard to save any for later.

6.) Nica Rustica El Brujito
For a month or two it seemed like every other cigar I lit up was a Nica Rustica. I just haven’t been able to get enough of it. The big flavor and little price tag are hard to beat. If there weren’t so many other cigars out there I needed to try, I might have kept up the pace. I think everyone expected the KFC to be this year’s Drew Estate champ, but the Nica Rustica is the real winner in their stable.

5.) J.D. Howard Reserve
The J.D. Howard Reserve is another cigar that really grabbed me at the end of the year. I smoked a few earlier when they were released, but a couple of months on the shelf made a huge difference. That rich mix of woodiness, earth and cinnamon with touches of sweetness and vanilla will make you happy you bought more than one.

4.) Mayimbe by AJ Fernandez
Though it was off my radar for the majority of 2013, when I lit my first one up in late November I knew I had found something special. In fact, that first Mayimbe was probably my single most memorable smoke of the year. It was that perfect combination of no expectations, beautiful sunny day and excellent cigar. It was complex, it evolved as it burned and every single puff was delicious. Every one I’ve had since has been excellent as well.

3.) Viaje 5th Anniversary
I know the Viaje 5th Anniversary was officially released in 2012, but I didn’t latch onto them until early 2013. I don’t know if it was luck or the higher price tag, but my local shop had them in stock for a really long time. And when the time came that it was necessary to secure my supply, I bought the last box. While so many Viajes are are about maximum pepper and power, the 5th Anniversary is all about decadent flavors like rich tobacco, caramel, cream, cedar and vanilla. I couldn’t make an honest top ten list for 2013 without including it.

2.) L’Atelier
Looking back, I’m a little surprised the L’Atelier didn’t make it into a Week In Smoke, much less a long form review. I had plenty of them, generally the LAT52, and I loved it every time. The rich, creamy and subtle flavor profile is just amazing. I’ve known for a while this was top ten material, and I couldn’t resist lighting up another while working on this list.

1.) Davidoff Nicaragua Toro
If you follow me on twitter, you probably already know that the Davidoff Nicaragua Toro has been my runaway favorite for the last quarter of 2013. The creamy profile of coffee, nuts, chocolate, mild spices and honey keeps me coming back for more.

Honorable Mentions
Congratulations, you made it through the list! As your reward, here are a few noteworthy cigars that that didn’t make this list, but were memorable enough to merit some acknowledgement.

Arturo Fuente Don Arturo Destino al Siglo Amore
The Destino al Siglo appeared so late in the year that I only had a chance to smoke one before switching calendars. But it was one that really stands out when I think of the best cigars I smoked in 2013, and is worthy of recognition. Over the past couple years the OpusX hitting the market have been really good, but the Destino al Siglo is even better.

E Cigar by BOTL LLC (Esencia)
Another cigar that wowed me this year and was in the running for my top ten was the unfortunately named “E” by BOTL LLC (Esencia). (Try googling it, you’ll see what I mean.) I burned through a small, but closely guarded assortment of these midyear and thoroughly enjoyed each one. So much flavor and at a reasonable price tag, it would likely be part of my regular rotation if it were easier to locate.

Joya de Nicaragua Rosalones
The Rosalones was one of the pleasant surprises of my trip to Nicaragua. I loved the little flavor bombs, but they were only available in parts of Europe. But before long, that changed, and I smoke a bunch of them in 2013. If you saw Ben and I discussing the Rosalones in an episode of Herfin’ Heads a while back, you know what I’m talking about. It’s got that full-bodied profile for which Joya is known, but it delivers it with surprising finesse. If you light one up, expect a lot of coffee, cinnamon, chocolate, smoky wood and a nice touch of sweetness. Size matters here, the 448 Consul is definitely the way to go.

Now that you’ve seen my list of the top ten cigars of 2013, why not use the comment field below to share your own?