I don’t know about the rest of you but 2013 is one of those years that I want to put behind me. Personally, I am hoping for a positive and joyous 2014. Historically this list is published on December 16th so our readers can reference and add last minute items to their holiday wish lists. Our friends at that popular print lifestyle publication caught on to this idea and decided to start their Top 25 revealing process early this year. So I moved up my release date as well.
Cigars in 2013, for the most part, echo my thoughts from 2012. Lots and lots of pretty good to really good cigars with very few memorable cigars. Although there was an increase in the memorable category this year. Thats my experience. I’m sure your thoughts may differ. But thats what makes this fun right? I didn’t smoke everything. My total this year was 914 cigars (average of about 2.5 a day). Out of those 914 cigars, I smoked 117 different lines. Some I smoked just once, others a lot more than once.
As in the past, my Top 10 list consists of cigars that I’ve personally smoked and have made an appearance here on Stogie Review either in a full review, first impressions, in an episode of Week in Smoke or a quick picture on Instagram.
10. 1502 Emerald – Every year there is always one cigar that comes out of nowhere and makes a strong impression. The 1502 Emerald is that cigar this year. 1502 wasn’t on my radar most of the year but as soon as it did my humidor became nicely stocked with them. The Emerald is a nice little gem. With its refreshing flavor profile the 1502 Emerald cannot be ignored and had to be included. I foresee smoking a lot of these in 2014.
09. Tatuaje Verocu #5 – The Tatuaje Verocu #5 was my #1 Cigar of The Year in 2010 and continues to be a staple in my humidor. This year, a new band was added which as silly as it sounds, rekindled my interest and caused me to reach for it on more occasions not just when I was short on time. Price friendly, exciting and a complex flavor profile are a few reasons the Tatuaje Verocu #5 makes it return to my Top 10 list.
08. Reinado Habanito – I know the Grand Empire Reserve (GER) is probably the more beloved line from Reinado, but this year, the Habanito reigns supreme. Perfect fire cracker of a companion. You need something quick and packs a punch, the Habanito is where it is at. Great combination of sweet and spicy notes all packed in a small format. Small format but formidable flavor.
07. Fratello – The new kid on the block! Omar de Frias exploded onto the scene at this year’s IPCPR with his initial release of Fratello. Its been non-stop since. If you follow Omar on any of the major social media platforms you see Omar crisscrossing the country. One of the most well balanced cigars I had this year. Solid all around with a smooth, mature natural tobacco flavor. Sprinkling of woody and light peppery notes, slight undertone of sweetness, creamy texture that engulfs your tastebuds. Like I said, solid!
06. Surrogates Animal Cracker – I’m sure this entry won’t make many other lists out there with the more popular releases from L’Atelier overshadowing the Surrogates Animal Cracker. There are very few big ring gauge cigars that get the job done for me but the Animal Cracker is one of them. Even with it’s crazy name, the Animal Cracker is actually very elegant to smoke with it’s assortment of light flavors that combined deliver a full experience.
05. JD Howard Reserve by Crowned Heads – Making a strong rebound for 2013 is our friends at Crowned Heads and their instant classic, the JD Howard Reserve. Sweet and woodsy with a penetrating dark chocolate and pepper notes on the finish. Burns beautifully with an irresistible aromatic smoke that is just awesome when smoking outside.
04. Intemperance EC XVIII – This surprised me. If I was a betting man, I would’ve bet the original CroMagnon Knuckle Dragger would have been the cigar from RoMa Craft to make this list like it has in years past. As much as I love that Knuckle Dragger, I have to admit, that I love the Intemperance EC XVIII more. Creamy and savory with a very slight and subtle spice on the finish. Elegant bouquet of aromas with lots of beautiful white smoke make for an impressive treat.
03. Ortega Series D Maduro – Back to back strong showing for the Ortega Series D Maduro. The lancero originally at the DC Cigar Tweetup and later released nationally was a nice addition. Always a consistent experience. One of the three cigars I smoked the most of all year just because I knew every time I picked it up, no surprises, I always knew I was going to have an enjoyable experience.
02. Undercrown Corona Viva by Drew Estate – The Undercrown by Drew Estate is another hold over from last year and up two spots. Again for the second straight year, the Undercrown is one of the Top 3 cigars that I’ve smoked in quantity in 2013 (Davidoff Special R and Ortega Series D). I just couldn’t stop smoking the Undercrown. While I enjoy every size, the statistics show the Viva was my most smoked size. Rumor is thats the Viva is the favorite size of all the reps. Who am I to argue? The Undercrown continues to deliver what I love with a rich, dark, earthy, gritty, syrupy taste and texture that builds layers on your palate. Slow and smokey. A classic gem of a cigar.
01. Illusione Rothchildes – Where have you been my whole life Illusione Rothchildes? It doesn’t get much better than this folks. I said it all year long, easily a Top 5 cigar on any list. The flavor profile is like Dion himself. An enigma. Simple but complex. Smooth but rough. Sexy but ordinary. Exciting but low key. All the contrasting elements of the Rothchildes is what I really dig. For an affordable, simple looking cigar it offers a challenging experience.