December 21, 2011

Seth's Humidor's Top 25 Cigars of 2011

It is that time of the year! Time to release the Top 25 Cigars by Seth's Humidor. If you think it is easy to pick out 25 cigars out of all the cigars I reviewed, you are wrong. I can not believe how Cigar Aficionado can work its way down to 25 out of over 700 cigars rated, but they do, and props to them. To get in my Top 25 a cigar has to deliver consistently in the initial review, between two and three cigars smoked. After that I work my way down to the Top 50, and assess cigars again. At this point I have smoked the cigar three to four times, and it is now that the cigar is worthy of making the Top 30 or not. Once I get to the Top 30 I have to cut five more, and then work on making a Top 25 list. Some of these cigars I have smoked between four and six times. I have been modifying this list since the beginning of December, and now I am ready to publish the winners. I hope you enjoy!

Number 25: Quesada Oktoberfest - The Bavarian

Many smokers love a cold beer with their cigars, and when Manuel Quesada decided to create a cigar that would go perfectly with a Märzenbier I was intrigued. Coming in at No.25 this year is the Quesada Oktoberfest Bavarian. While the cigar is meant to be paired with an Oktoberfest beer I found that it was just as amazing by itself. I picked up tons of wonderful flavors in this cigar ranging from bread, earth and toast notes to some bitter chocolate, wood and malts. This Dominican puro has been quite popular among smokers, and I am sure this limited production is coming close to being out of stock. If you have the opportunity to pick these cigars up I would not pass it up because they will not be around for the next Oktoberfest. Prost!

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Number 24: PDR 1878 Reserva Dominicana Capa Habana - Robusto

When a cigar company takes on the name of the infamous Pinar del Rio region of Cuba, you have to live up to that, and that is what Pinar del Rio Cigars did. This year our No. 24 Cigar is the PDR 1878 Reserva Dominicana Capa Habana Robusto. This is a new release for 2011, and one of the finest cigars Pinar del Rio Cigars has launched. The cigar is a Dominican puro, and it is limited in its production. The company has strived to make affordable cigars that can be enjoyed every day and this cigar lives up to that. Expect lovely flavors of wood, coffee, cream and spice in this beautiful cigar that is finished with a shaggy close foot and a pigtail cap.

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Number 23: E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut - Gran Via

The only manufacturer to make the list three times is E.P. Carrillo. 2012 was a great year for him, and while all of his blends are unique and flavorful I found a great, flavorful and light cigar in the E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut Gran Via. Coming in at No. 23 the cigar really captured those amazing cream and wood flavors of a Connecticut Shade wrapper, and also had the depth and complexity of a fuller bodied cigar while remaining light. I think this is one of the best Connecticut Shade cigars on the market right now, and it is a great daily morning smoke. If you enjoy Connecticut Shade cigars then look no further than this.

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Number 22: 262 Cigars Paradigm - Torpedo

262 Cigars is a new company to the industry, but so far they have been taking all the right steps. They certainly impressed me from the first time I met Clint Aaron, the President, and I have been singing their praise since. Working with Nestor Plasencia in Honduras and Nicaragua, Clint Aaron of 262 Cigars really made a great cigar in his Paradigm line. Coming in at No. 22 this year is the Paradigm Torpedo. The cigar really utilized a beautiful Brazilian wrapper for this cigar, and the flavors coming out of this smoke were tremendous. The cigar is incredibly boutique right now, but retailers from across the nation are beginning to hear the praise of this cigar and pick it up. I look forward to the day when I see this cigar getting great reviews in Cigar Aficionado. Expect wonderful flavors of wood, mocha, spice, sugar, leather and orange peel throughout. A must try torpedo from a great up-and-coming cigar company.

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Number 21: San Lotano Oval - Robusto

A.J. Fernandez has been making some amazing cigars for himself and others for years now, but it was in his new release that I saw something truly fabulous. At No. 21 this year is the San Lotano Oval Robusto. It was last year that A.J. Fernandez released his own brand, and they have been very popular since then. I have always loved the cigar he has produced, and I find him to be an excellent blender and creative manufacturer. Before starting his own factory in Nicaraguan A.J. was working under the great Alejandro Robaina in Cuba, and the time there truly shows. The San Lotano Oval comes in a beautiful and unique size that shows a great amount complexity and flavor. While all the vitolas are fabulous it is the robusto vitola that captured the spice, coffee, cocoa, herbal and leather flavors that made this cigar really great. Look for these at your local shop and pay attention to future blends; he is a great and creative cigar manufacturer.

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Number 20: My Father - No. 1

This cigar needs no introduction, and the brand alone needs none as well. The My Father No. 1 comes in at No. 20 this year, and what a cigar it was. It is hard to tell if the story behind this cigar is better than the actual cigar or not, but are cigars are just flat out amazing. Jaime Garcia really did a fabulous job when crafting a cigar to honor his father, and I know I would be as proud as Don Pepin if my son did a job like this for me. The No. 1 was a stellar robusto showing wonderful flavors of leather, spice, cream and coffee. The cigar is very full in body, and great for a wonderful evening outdoors. If you have never smoked one of these cigar you need to right now, and if you have not smoked one in some time come back to it and rejuvenate those wonderful memories from the last one you did enjoy.

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Number 19: Room 101 LTD. Namakubi - Sucio

Coming in at No. 19 this year is a new cigar by Room 101 Cigars, and their best release to date. The Room 101 LTD. Namakubi Sucio was an amazing Churchill, and the best vitola in the line. Room 101 Cigars has really come a long way since they entered the industry, and their work with Camacho has produced some incredible cigars. Influenced by his time in the Far East Matt Booth has brought a new and hip vibe to the cigar industry while making wonderfully flavorful cigars. Very unique, this cigar will show lovely hints of wood, spice, leather, coffee and lemon while remaining fairly medium in body. A cigar that can be enjoyed any time of day this cigar will never disappoint.
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Number 18: Padrón 1926 Serie - 80th Anniversary Maduro

This cigar is an oldie but goodie to me. I don’t smoke these cigars often, but when I do I am definitely embracing a special occasion. The Padrón 1926 Serie 80th Anniversary Maduro comes in at No. 18 this year, and what a cigar it is. There is only one buncher and roller who work on these cigars in their factory in Nicaragua, and you can see the amount of quality that goes into these cigars. All the tobacco in this cigar has been aged for a minimum of five years. The construction is always beautiful, and it always delivers those wonderful Padrón flavors of coffee, cocoa, nuts, toast and a spice. If you are looking for something more special then this you will struggle in finding it, and I am sure it will not deliver as nearly as much as this cigar. Though pricy this cigar is a great cigar to purchase by the box.

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Number 17: Tatuaje Fausto - FT127

Following the Black Label Petit Corona No. 1 ranking is another great cigar by Tatuaje Cigars. This year’s cigar at No. 17 is the Tatuaje Fausto FT 127. This robusto has been an enjoyable cigar from beginning to end, and box to box, and that is why it was no surprise it was in my Top 25 Cigars of the Year. I think this was one of the finest years Pete Johnson has had, and the cigars that he released were incredible. This particular cigar showed so many flavors ranging from cocoa and spice to nuts and earth, while remaining very full in body. While all these Top 25 Cigars are box worthy, I would say this is the one cigar that you will smoke through more often than others on a daily basis. Another fabulous release by Pete Johnson.
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Number 16: Punch - Double Corona

Punch is another one of the older Cuban brands, and one of the more recognizable ones as well. I think every cigar smoker has seen the Mr. Punch puppet whether you have smoked the Cuban or non-Cuban brand, and both brands signify what the brand is meant to capture. Punch cigars typically pack tons of flavor and nice bit of strength which is great to capture the smoker’s attention. The Punch Double Corona came in at No. 16 this year, and I found it to be the best vitola in the brand. The cigar captured amazing flavors going head to head with the Ramon Allones Gigantes almost to the end. I found this to be the second best Double Corona of 2011 and another great Cuban. The Punch Double Corona is not as strong and dark as the Ramon Allones, but it will show lovely flavors of stone fruit, coffee and cocoa throughout. A great cigar that must be enjoyed when there is enough time.
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Number 15: H. Upmann - Sir Winston

We all know that Winston Churchill was a big time cigar smoker. It is hard not to look at photos of him and not see a cigar in his mouth, and that is how the name Churchill came about for a certain vitola. Measuring 7” with a 47 ring gauge the H. Upmann Sir Winston came in at No. 15 this year. The cigars are made in limited numbers at the H. Upmann Factory on the outskirts of Havana, and what quality these cigars show. While Winston Churchill did not smoke the H. Upmann brand, he certainly would if this was the cigar they made at the time. The cigar really showed so many great flavors it is hard to remember them and get them all when smoking. One of the best Churchills on the market today.

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Number 14: Guillermo Leon - Corona Gorda

At No. 14 this year is a cigar that I have been enjoying for some time now. La Aurora Cigars have been making incredible cigars for years now, but it wasn’t until last year that they made a cigar that really captured me and sucked me in to be a ”La Aurora junkie.” One of their newer lines, Guillermo Leon, was made to honor the name and family of the company’s current President. Guillermo Leon’s family has been running La Aurora since the beginning in 1903, and this cigar truly honors them with its wonderful flavors and strength. The cigar is composed of a lot of unique tobacco from throughout the Caribbean, Central America and South America, and remains balanced and complex all the way through. Within the line all cigars showed great flavors, but I found the best size to be the Corona Gorda. With a thinner ring gauge the cigar really captured some wonderful flavors from the wrapper, while the filler tobacco still showed its wonder. A cigar you will buy a box of after smoking, the Guillermo Leon Corona Gorda is truly a magnificent cigar, and this is its second year making it in the Top 25.

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Number 13:  E.P. Carrillo Edición Limitada 2011 (Dark Rituals)

Coming in at No. 13 this year is another cigar by E.P. Carrillo. There were several lines of theirs this year that were amazing, and this year’s 2011 Limited Edition was among them. The E.P. Carrillo Edición Limitada 2011 (Dark Rituals) really showed amazing flavors and strength while staying very balanced. It was an incredibly complex cigar that will age wonderfully, and can even be enjoyed now. The cigar is one of the largest cigars E.P. Carrillo has made, but it is also one of their more complex and flavorful cigars as well. If you are looking for something incredibly special and rare this is a cigar for you. Limited to 2,000 boxes, each and every cigar will deliver amazing flavors now and for years to come.
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Number 12: Illusione Cruzado - Domenicos Extra

Coming in at No. 12 this year is another great cigar by Illusione, the Cruzado Domenicos Extra. The Cruzado line has always seemed to keep a low profile among critics and smokers throughout the industry, but I have found the line to have some great vitolas within it. Out of the three vitolas that I rated, I found the Domenicos Extra to be the best, and what a gorgeous cigar it was. It is the largest of the Cruzado line, similar to the ~mj12~ in size and also comes in an ornate covering. Instead of aluminum coloring though it comes in a wonderful gold. The Cruzado line has always reminded me of the Crusader period in Jerusalem and in some ways captures those Eastern flavors. The cigar is incredibly flavorful showing lots of nuts, cocoa, coffee and spice while remaining medium to full in strength. The Domenicos Extra is a wonderful cigar that never bores.
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Number 11: Fuente Fuente Opus X The Lost City - Double Robusto

The Fuente Family is an incredibly well known family, and one of the reasons for that is because of a cigar line they released in the late 1990’s. The Fuente Fuente Opus X is possibly the most sought after cigar in the world, and wherever one goes you often hear people asking a cigar retailer if they have any Opus X. While the Opus X is truly a limited cigar, the more limited and slightly more unique version is the Fuente Fuente Opus X The Lost City. It was in the earlier 2000’s that Andy Garcia was filming The Lost City in the Dominican Republic at Chateau de La Fuente and wanted to film a scene at a tobacco field. Well it was summer time, and that is not time to grow tobacco, but Carlito Fuente said he would grow some tobacco for the scene, and because the tobacco did so well after being planted he decided to make a cigar with it. What was crafted was the Opus X The Lost City, and the cigar has been produced every year since. The cigar is still as flavorful and complex as the regular Opus X line, but I find them to be lighter and more enjoyable at any time. The tobacco for this cigar is grown in the summertime, and that plays with the cigar in terms of strength and flavor. While the vitolas in the line are all unique and beautiful, I found the Double Robusto to be stellar, and that is why it came in at No. 11.
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Number 10: Cohiba - Robusto

There is no brand like the Cohiba brand, and there is not vitola like the Robusto in that brand. The Cohiba Robusto comes in at No. 10 this year, and it is really no surprise to me. While these cigars do fluctuate in quality from time to time, production overall in Cuba has been top notch recently and it showed with these cigar. The brand was originally produced in 1968 for Fidel Castro solely, but eventually it became available for political guests/visitors and eventually available on the global market. The robusto vitola was not a part of the original three vitolas, but after several years the size was added. The cigar shows all those wonderful qualities known for a Cuban Cohiba, coffee, toast, nuts and lemongrass, and was very balanced and smooth from beginning to end. A wonderful vitola in a great brand.
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Number 9: La Palina El Diario - Gordo

La Palina is a brand that has been brought back since it was originally released in the late 19th Century, and what a brand it is now. It was in 2008 that Bill Paley resurrected his grandfather’s line, and did so in the Bahamas with Graycliff Cigars. His first line, The Family Series, was complex and flavorful, but it was in his second project that they crafted a cigar that stuck with me. El Diario, which is Spanish for “the daily,” is their latest line, and it is crafted in Honduras at the infamous Raices Cubanas Factory. Mr. Paley teamed up with the team of Casa Fernandez to make an everyday cigar that was just as unique, flavorful, and of the highest quality as The Family Series line and he certainly captured that with this line. Using Honduran and Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 and Criollo ’98 tobacco La Palina El Diario Gordo came in at No 9. The cigar showed tons of cocoa, coffee and spice flavors while having a solid strength as well. I have been thoroughly impressed with the lines La Palina has launched, and I will continue to enjoy El Diario regularly as it was intended to be.
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Number 8: Rocky Patel 50 - Robusto

As I have said countless times, 2011 was a huge year for the cigar industry. I think every manufacturer gave everything they had this year, and produced some amazing blends. One of the most anticipated of these cigars comes from one of the most popular manufacturers on the market. Rocky Patel is a rock star in the cigar industry, and this year he released a cigar that would honor his 50th birthday, and also be the No. 8 in Top 25 Cigars of the Year. They say Rocky Patel is one of the hardest working men in the industry, and I would agree with that hands down. The Rocky Patel 50 Robusto was a truly amazing cigar, and having the fortune to smoking the robusto vitola from Box 0 of 2000 was truly a wonderful gift. The robusto vitola is the only size I sampled, but it was truly amazing. The cigar delivered tons of flavors while showing so much complexity and a great strength. This is definitely the best cigar Rocky has released, and everything about it is divine. Production is limited to 6,000 boxes, and that is limited to 2,000 in each size. If you have the opportunity to purchase a box of these you should take it, because these cigars though pricy will go fast.

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Number 7: Casa Fernandez Miami - Reserva

Casa Fernandez is a manufacturer that has kept a somewhat low profile over the years throughout the industry, and has managed to do so while making incredible cigars. I know I love all the blends they have produced, and this year there was some exciting news for them. When it was announced that the company would begin manufacturing their new and some existing lines in their new factory in Miami I was very excited. They have always had strict quality control over their other lines, and the fact that they would be making cigars in the States was fairly exciting. One of their new cigars was the Casa Fernandez Miami Reserva. The new line Casa Fernandez Miami is actually not a new line, it is the same as the original Casa Fernandez line, but they added Miami to the name because that is where the city in which the cigar will be produced. The Reserva is a one size vitola addition to the Casa Fernandez Miami line, and features a new blend. The cigar is still a Nicaraguan puro, but the company announced that they would be using Medio Tiempo tobacco in the cigar. This is the same type of tobacco leaf that is used in the infamous Cohiba Behike line, and it really adds a lot to the cigar. The cigar showed an incredible amount of flavors and strength while remaining complex and balanced. I know I have smoked through many of these beyond reviewing, and they all have been spectacular. If you have the opportunity to pick the No. 7 Cigar of the Year I urge you to do so while supplies last. Because of the limited amount of Medio Tiempo tobacco, production is very limited on this cigar.
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Number 6: Ramon Allones - Gigantes

The double corona is a vitola that most do not have the time to appreciate anymore. It is a size that we do not often seen in production for the United States, but fortunately Habanos. S.A. continues to make cigars in this beautiful large size. Coming in at No. 6 this year is the Cuban Ramon Allones Gigantes. I sampled all of Cuba’s double corona offerings this year, and I found the Ramon Allones to be the best of them all. The Ramon Allones brand has always been known to produce rich and full bodied cigars and this cigar definitely lived up to that. Supposedly, the Ramon Allones line is the first line to use decorative boxes, but more importantly inside of those boxes are great cigars. The flavors I got were always complex ranging from coffee, stone fruit, cocoa, leather and more. If you find yourself having plenty of time, and ready to enjoy a great cigar I recommend you reach for this one. Let this beautiful Cuban take you on a journey of rich and complex flavors while you sit back and relax.
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Number 5: Illusione Epernay - Le Matin

When Dion Giolito launched the Epernay line in 2008 his thought was to create a cigar that could be paired wonderfully with Champagne. Well, he absolutely did that, and more importantly he created a fabulous cigar. The name Epernay comes from a village in the Champagne region of France that is notorious for its fabulous Champagne, and if you have the opportunity to smoke this side by side with a wonderful bottle of it you will see the perfect pairing. Of all the vitolas within the line, the finest in my opinion is Le Matin. The name truly fits the cigar, because it is French for “in the morning,” and that is a perfect time for this cigar. The cigar shows wonderful notes of coffee, honey, cream and floral notes and burned wonderfully throughout. This cigar has always done well for me, and it is one of two cigars that were on my Top 25 Cigars of 2010 that are back again. You will not be disappointed with this cigar and though it is my No. 5 Cigar of the Year this year, and No.3 last year, it is still a phenomenal smoke. Well done Dion, well done.
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Number 4: Grimalkin by Emilio Cigars - Toro

If there was one cigar that surprised me from the get go, it was the Grimalkin by Emilio Cigars. Gary Griffith has done an incredible thing with Emilio Cigars, and I believe its crowning achievement is the Grimalkin. While there is a great amount of mystery to the cigar, it is safe to say that there is no mystery in the fact that it is an amazing smoke. I have found it to be amazing every time I light it up, and I know others have as well. While the factory in which this cigar is made has not been officially disclosed by Gary Griffith, there are certain aspects that lead myself and others to believe it is made in the My Father Cigars Factory. The toro vitola in particular showed wonderful and complex flavors of spices, cocoa, coffee, wood and more. From the first time the cigar was smoked I knew it would do well, and here it is now as my No. 4 Cigar of the Year. If you are looking for a more boutique cigar then this, you will most likely not find one, and if you do, you will not find one nearly as great as this. Wonderful job Gary Griffith and Emilio Cigars, and I look forward to future production.

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Number 3: E.P. Carrillo Core Line Maduro - Club 52

Release after release Ernesto Perez-Carrillo is making phenomenal cigars that smokers love. I know I have enjoyed his cigars since he launched his first release in 2009, and it seems that every new release is something different and great. While the E.P. Carrillo Core Line was a great cigar, he really outdid it when he released the Maduro version. Though keeping the same name, the blend is completely different, and just as flavorful. As I was told by some, the cigar is a classic Maduro, and it captures so many flavors that one wants in a Maduro and a great cigar. While there are so many great vitolas in the E.P. Carrillo Core Line Maduro that I enjoy, I found the No. 3 Cigar of the Year in the Club 52 vitola. This particular size really captured all the great tobacco in the filler and binder while showing the powerful flavors from the Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. If you are looking for a better Maduro then this then you are going to have a hard time, and I would not even bother. I was not surprised when I found myself placing this cigar in the Top 10, and when I found it in the Top 5 I knew where it needed to be placed. This cigar came in third place out of many great cigars, and I know it will continue to do well for years to come. A must try Maduro that will get you back on that wagon if you got off some time ago.

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Number 2: Hoyo de Monterrey - Épicure No.2

When one thinks of Cuban cigars and Robustos, more often than not the first thought that comes to mind is the Cohiba Robusto and the Partagás Serie D No. 4, but this year the underdog showed it’s truly calling. The Hoyo de Monterrey brand is one of the oldest in production, and this year’s No. 2 Cigar has been in production since pre-1960. The Épicure No.2 is not the most well-known vitola in the Hoyo line, but the cigars I smoked were incredibly complex and flavorful while remaining very light. I have found that production of these cigars since 2008 have been smoking wonderfully and whether you purchase these in their tubos or boxes you will get a wonderful cigar. This cigar did well in my ratings since its initial review, and I found that over time these cigars got better and better. You are sure to get flavors that show wonderful notes of spices and coffee, while showing lovely floral notes as well. I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy this cigar as much I did, and see why it got the ranking of No. 2.
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Number 1: Tatuaje Black Label - Petit Lancero

2011 was a big year for Tatuaje Cigars and Pete Johnson. With so many great releases it was hard at sometimes to see which one would stand out among them, but in the end the Cigar of the Year was found in a unique and uncommon size. While the Lancero is not a typical production cigar by anyone, the Petit Lancero is even more uncommon. Very few manufacturers make this vitola, but Pete Johnson was up to the task when he created the Tatuaje Black Label Petit Lancero. The Black Label has always been a small production line and very sought after, some say Pete Johnson’s personal blend, but it was with the Petit Lancero that Pete Johnson released it on a larger scale. The cigar truly shows how much flavor and strength you can put in such a small cigar when blended well, and I could not get enough of them. I picked up tons of stone fruit, coffee, cocoa and spice flavors in these cigars and after reassessing the cigar many times I found it to be worthy to be the No. 1 Cigar of the Year. I urge you to go and buy some of these at your local retailer, and truly experience a great Petit Lancero. It might not be your preferred size, but I am sure at the end of the cigar you will love it completely and be open to new and unique vitolas.
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