Now that we’re all safe from 2014, but not completely comfortable writing (or typing) 2015, it’s time for my annual top ten list. As I’ve said numerous times over the past year, it isn’t good enough for a cigar to just be good anymore, it has be to excellent to really make a go of it. And even if it is excellent, it’ll still have stiff competition. That can make it difficult to choose just ten cigars for a list, but it also means we’re smoking better than ever.
You may have noticed I did things a little differently in the 2014. Instead of producing 50-or-so long form reviews of a single cigar, I focused on shorter reviews of numerous sticks in each edition of Brian’s Week In Smoke. It seemed like the rational way to handle an industry that produces a seemingly unending flow of new blends and sizes. Not to mention a great way to mix in various aged and single cigars I’ve collected over the years. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed producing them. (Probably not, I was the one that actually got to smoke all those cigars, after all.) While I won’t claim to have smoked everything new out there, I did cover a lot of ground and my list of favorites fell into place more easily this year as a result.
And now it’s time for the list. As with previous years, the main criteria for inclusion in my top 10 is me smoking the cigar in 2014 and loving it. I’ve excluded some great cigars I lit up last year simply because they were long gone from shop shelves by the beginning of the year. This time around, the ten were surprisingly easy to pick, but the order of the list was the real challenge. Here it is:
10.) Camacho Ecuador Robusto
Between the scorpions and bold new packaging, it’s tempting to assume any Camacho you light up is just going to be a backhand of peppery ligero. That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth with the Camacho Ecuador. Sure it does deliver pepper, but it has so much more to offer- syrupy raisins, cedar, cinnamon, bread, creamy earth and a touch of acidity. It really is an excellent cigar, and bonus, it’s very reasonably priced.
9.) Nat Sherman Epoca
Nat Sherman has been doing a good job of producing noteworthy cigars lately, and my favorite is the re-release of the Epoca line. As I’ve said before, the creamy blend of medium-bodied flavors like coffee, aromatic cedar and vanilla is worthy of the historic name. I can enjoy these any time of the day, and I suspect smokers of the original Epoca would have approved as well.
8.) J. Fuego Americana Robusto
Since the discontinuation of my beloved Grand Reserva Corojo No. 1, the Americana has stepped into the top spot at the J. Fuego Cigar Company for me. I smoked a great deal of them in 2014, both in Robusto and Original sizes. But the Robusto seems to be where the blend really shines. (Much like the Grand Reserva Corojo No. 1, it actually plays second fiddle to the Origen in the smaller Original vitola.) The full-bodied earthy, herbal, sweet and spicy profile always satisfies in a way no other cigar can.
7.) Curivari Buenaventura
Back in my 2012 list, I gave the Curivari Buenaventura an honorable mention, promising to get to know it better in the future. I reviewed it the following year, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I really got into it with gusto. (It helps that my local shop started carrying them last year.) In addition to the budget friendly price, I love how different it is from many of the cigars I usually smoke. No matter how many I buy, they never last long.
6.) Tatuaje Avion 12
I’ve grown away from figurado violas over the years, but one tapered smoke kept drawing me back in 2014- the Tatuaje Avion 12. For whatever reason, I really didn’t smoke them much until this past year, but when I started to, they quickly became a favorite. Pepper, chocolate, wood, leather, spices, all those great Nicaraguan flavors are there. For a about a month or so, it was the only cigar I wanted to smoke.
5.) Re+United by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo & Michael Giannini
After smoking the Re+United, I was a little surprised this collaboration didn’t seem to be getting all that much attention. Perhaps it was the limited numbers produced and the lack of fanfare when it was released. Or maybe it was the unusual packaging and the cigar’s rustic appearance. Whatever the case, the beauty of this cigar isn’t these surface considerations. It’s in all the evolving, complex flavors. Syrupy raisins, earth, bread, cedar, peppercorns, coffee and floral notes to name a few. And if you’re looking for a little power, it has that too.
4.) Crux Passport Lancero
One of the things I regret not doing last year is not tracking down more Crux Passports. There are several cigars on this list that came out of nowhere and really wowed me, this was one of my favorites. As I smoked through an assortment of samples, largest vitola to smallest, I found myself liking them more and more. By the time I made it to the Lancero, I knew it was a solid contender for my annual top ten. The rich profile of bread, coffee, cedar, graham cracker and vanilla is pretty hard to beat.
3.) CLE Eiroa CBT Maduro Prensado
I can join Ben and Jerry in saying the Eiroa CBT Maduro was a very pleasant surprise. I was expecting something bold and pretty straightforward when I lit it, instead I was treated to smoke that had varied and complex flavors. Chocolate, coffee, espresso, pepper and spices but with some sweeter notes are what I encountered. As I recall, the first time I smoked it, I told a friend, “wow, this is really, really good.” I love it when that happens.
2.) Sindicato The Sindicato Corona Gorda
My introduction to the Sindicato was arrival of some unexpected samples in the middle of 2014. I lit the first one up without reading about it and had no expectations one way or the other. I didn’t get very far into it before the big rich flavors the cigar produced made me stop what I was doing and start looking into it. When I saw that Arsenio Ramos blended it, it all made sense. Before I even finished it, I knew this would be on this year’s list.
1.) Crowned Heads The Mason Dixon Project Southern Edition 2014
I lit another Mason Dixon Project up as I was creating this list, in part because it sounded good, but also I felt the need to check one last time on it’s worthiness for the top spot. There’s no question it’s a box-worthy smoke but it’s it THE most box-worthy cigar? My gut says yes. A few puffs in and my palate was already sending word back to my brain that it agreed. My heart told me to quit eating so much fried food. That’s about as unanimous as it gets. Seriously though, this cigar is perfect. It burns and draws flawlessly and oozes rich, well-blended flavors that I always want in a cigar.
There you have it, those were my favorite cigars of 2014. If you’ve had them, let me know what you think. And if you haven’t, what were your favorite cigars last year?