The Box-Worthies: Brian’s Top 10 Cigars of 2016

Drew Estate

2017 is here, and just when you think it you’re safe from 2016, up pops my list of the top 10 cigars of 2016. I hope the sudden shock and inevitable controversy that follows is not too taxing on your health. Remember, breath deeply and evenly when you’re yelling at me over the internet. Stress, like the FDA, is not your friend.

My rigorous scientific method in picking the top cigars of the year is as follows:

1.) Sit around smoking cigars all year.
2.) Realize the year is nearly over and break into a cold sweat.
3.) Decree no top 10 list should ever be published prior to January 1st of the following year.
4.) Pour some bourbon because the previous step bought me some extra time.
5.) Smoke every cigar ever made again. Twice. Back-to-back.
6.) Reorder a list of 50 great cigars 50 times.
7.) Give up and randomly pick 10 cigar from 10 other lists.
8.) After internal battle, throw away the stolen list. Reward self with bourbon.
9.) Wake up, take some tylenol and start writing.
10.) Reorder the list one more time and publish.

I’m kidding, the actual scientific method is kept in a safety deposit box in the same vault that holds the Colonel’s Secret Recipe. (I know this because once a year the Colonel and I get together to eat chicken and make top ten lists of secret herbs and spices.) There’s no way I’d publish the actual method, because then anyone could start up a cigar blog and there’d be total chaos.

The Rules
Are the same as last year. Briefly, to be on this list, the cigar must…
1.) Have been smoked by yours truly in 2016.
2.) Have been liked more than almost everything else smoked in 2016.
3.) Have been in production/produced and could reasonably be acquired in 2016.

Though not a rule, I generally give a little more consideration to cigars that were new in 2016. New is fun, but it doesn’t immediately mean better, so you’re likely to see some older favorites mixed in here as well. Also, I’ve been known to bend the rules all out of shape in the honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions
These cigars were memorable in the past year, but for one reason or another didn’t make the list.

Drew Estate Undercrown Flying Pig
This entry is a surprise to me, as it may be to you. My love of the Liga Privada T52 is well documented, but my enjoyment of the Undercrown Flying Pig exceeded my enjoyment of the T52 every time I lit one up this year. As a guy who is not that into the Flying Pig vitola, that’s saying something.

1502 XO
I only had the chance to smoke one 1502 XO, but it’s a cigar that I thought about a lot the rest of the year. To quote a Week In Smoke from May “I made a good call, the XO was packed with mouth-coating flavor.” This annual release featuring very well-aged tobaccos didn’t last very long, and for good reason. I regretted not buying more when I could.

Avo Syncro Nicaragua Fogata
I smoked a good number of 2016’s Avo Syncro Nicaragua Fogata, and while I think it is a cigar worthy of note, it didn’t quite achieve the greatness of its predecessor. The cigar will treat you to some great flavor if you take your time with it. The toro vitola specifically put it in the running for my list.

The List
It’s time to start counting. But in reverse. If you can’t handle counting backwards, it’s time to call an Uber. There’s no way you’re going to be able to recite the alphabet backward at the roadblock ahead. And you shouldn’t be reading this while you’re driving anyway.

10. Davidoff Yamasá
The Davidoff Yamasá is a cigar that was in the works for 20 years before its release in 2016. In that time they converted inhospitable soil to tobacco-friendly land, tested 30 different seeds and built a special facility specifically for curing the tobacco. That’s a lot of time and money to put on the line, fortunately, the hard work paid off. The Yamasá is a great smoke that is both clearly a Davidoff product, but also something exotic and different. I think it’s the spice profile that really does it for me (clove is really nice in these colder months), but the base leather and coffee are also very enjoyable.

9. Avo Syncro Nicaragua
Last year’s No. 2 cigar of the year is back again. Though the numbers on the calendar may have changed, the flavors that keep bringing me back to the Syncro Nicaragua remain the same. I’d say more, but the cigar speaks for itself. Grab a lighter and let it speak to you.

8. Foundation The Tabernacle
Nick Mellilo delivers the goods again this year with the Foundation Tabernacle. I didn’t get a chance to smoke as many of them as I would have liked, but I was really impressed with the ones I did. It’s a heavy smoke with a lot of bold, deep flavor. And it achieves a complexity that a lot of cigars with this kind of robust profile just do not. Mocha, leather, pepper and spices like cinnamon and cumin are just a taste of what you’re in for when you light up one of these. And light one up you should.

7. Hoyo La Amistad
I really like what I hope is a growing trend of collaboration in the cigar industry. We like to wonder what could happen if the hot boutique cigar makers of the day suddenly got access to Cuban tobacco for their blends. Perhaps we should instead ask, what could happen if the hot boutiques team up with the big boys and their vast warehouses of (sometimes exlusive) tobacco? Hoyo La Amistad is the answer General Cigar and AJ Fernandez gave us in 2016. And it’s a flavor bomb.

6. Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust Sobremesa Short Churchill
When Steve Saka told us he was making an “amped up” version of the Sobremesa, I was skeptical. “Amped up” versions of anything make me instantly suspicious. The original is so good, why mess with it? This is Steve Saka we’re talking about, of course he’s going to mess with it. But he also is not going to release something that isn’t up to his standards, as we saw with the original Sobremesa at IPCPR 2015. So it isn’t shocking to be here, in the season of lists, assigning a number the Sobremesa Short Churchill. And in fact, I’m smoking one even as I type these words. You can’t help but love the sweet almond and rich, savory earth that make up so much of the profile. I never get tired of these.

5. La Flor Dominicana Andalusian Bull
I made a tactical error with the Andalusian Bull. A box of them sat on a shop shelf, undisturbed, except for the couple I bought. I knew it was a impressive cigar in all aspects, the look of the wrapper, the heft of it in your hand, the beautiful way it burned, and most importantly, the wonderful flavors it had to offer. I thought I could go on buying them a stick or two at a time, but I was wrong. I’m not going to hold my miscalculation against the Andalusian Bull, it is worthy of the success it has found. Best of luck in your search for the Bull.

4. Warped Guardian of the Farm Apollo Seleccion de Warped
The very first time I smoked this cigar I knew it was destined for my top ten list. I had just come back from a trip abroad where I sampled heavily of the forbidden fruit and there were elements in this cigar that reminded of that misbehavior. Prior to the Apollo Seleccion de Warped I smoked several of the other vitolas. They were also good, but after the Apollo, there was just no going back.

3. Curivari Buenaventura
For most of 2016 the Buenaventura was my default go-to cigar. I smoked them all the time, in the office, at the cigar shop, in the car between the office and the cigar shop, they were always burning. I rarely smoke the same cigar twice in one day, but that happened numerous times with the Buenaventura. It is the perfect intersection value and flavor, and in the case of the shorter vitolas, also time.

2. Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf
Yes, I assure you, you’re still reading my list of the top cigars of 2016. From time to time I make a point to go back and smoke some of my old favorites just to see how the measure up against the latest crop of boutique cigars. Usually the verdict is “these are still good, I should smoke them more often” and then I get back to burning the new stuff. In the case of the Aganorsa Leaf, I didn’t just go back to the new stuff, I smoked another. And then I did it again. Now it’s one of the first cigars I think about when I walk into a humidor. It was great when I put it on my top ten list in 2010, and it’s just as great today.

1. Warped Maestro Del Tiempo
Over the years we’ve spent a lot of time talking about cigars that wow you. To make it on this list, each of these cigars had make me say “wow, that’s good”. No cigar this year was as good at wowing me every time as the Warped Maestro Del Tiempo. The flavors fight for your attention, from the bold sweet spices at the beginning to the graham, wood, honey and pepper that follow it. This cigar is the box-worthiest of the box-worthies.

A List of Lists
Haven’t had enough of lists yet? How about one from the days of yore? I’ve made a few lists in my tenure at Stogie Review, here’s some quick links to the previous five.
The Box-Worthies: Brian’s Top 10 Cigars of 2015
The Box-Worthies: Brian’s Top 10 Cigars of 2014
The Box-Worthies: Brian’s Top 10 Cigars of 2013
The Box-Worthies: Brian’s Top 10 Cigars of 2012
The Box-Worthies: Brian’s Top 10 Cigars of 2011

MBombay Gaaja