2012 has been a great year for P&C, and for me personally. I got on board here towards the end of 2011 after a number of years elsewhere in the world of cigars, and my first full calendar year with P&C has been quite a ride. I’ve gotten to travel a lot, I went to Chicago for the Chicagoland Pipe Show, Orlando for the IPCPR trade show, and of course Danli, Honduras to tour the Rocky Patel factory. I’ve gotten to meet tons of cool people, not the least of which are the many great folks on the staff here, and of course as you might imagine I’ve smoked a whole bunch of really good cigars.
That leads me to the point of today’s post, where I’m releasing to you the TalkingTobacco.com, and by proxy PipesandCigars.com, list of the top 25 cigars of 2012. I know we’re not alone in putting out these lists, but more information is better and I’m sure you’ll all enjoy having another opinion to go on. I hope those of you who have read our reviews and come to understand our voice will find helpful suggestions for great smokes you haven’t tried yet. This list was put together by a whole bunch of us, and while I’m the “author” here, these rankings were determined by a panel of P&C cigar experts, consisting of myself, Russ, Jason, Josh, and Zak. We all hashed out our opinions and put together a list that we all (sort of) agree on.
Here’s the criteria for our list:
- The cigar must have been released in 2012
- The cigar must be a nationally distributed brand
- Limited edition cigars are acceptable, as long as they are/were nationally distributed and not exclusive to one website/shop/geographical region
- The cigar must be legal for purchase/sale/distribution in the USA
Enough with the rules, let’s get to the list!
25. El Primer Mundo La Hermandad – We’re rounding out our top 25 with a terrific new release from El Primer Mundo who makes some of our other favorite smokes, most notably the Epifana. The La Hermandad is a less expensive line that somehow gets the price point way down without skimping a bit on the tasty tobacco. These unbanded smokes may look a little rough, but once you fire one up you’ll be ensconced by a complex flavor profile that continues to evolve throughout the cigar.
24. CLE Corojo – Christian Eiora is back in the cigar game, and he named his new company’s flagship release with his own initials to show that he’s willing to stake his good name on them. He certainly came up with a winner, these spicy stogies offer a sophisticated blend that shows off the spicy Corojo wrapper while complimenting it with a variety of unique flavors.
23. Rocky Patel Private Cellar – Rocky had a slew of new releases in 2012, and we all agreed that this Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro-wrapped gem was the cream of the crop. Medium-full bodied and delivering notes of chocolate and earth, this is a smoke Rocky fans aren’t going to want to miss out on.
22. San Lotano Oval Maduro – I personally really enjoy the shape of this cigar before even lighting it up, something about it just feels good in your hand. Fortunately, in addition to the cool and comfortable shape this is also a great smoke! You’ll get smooth, sweet, creamy flavors to enthrall you with this blend, and a perfect burn and easy draw to go with them. This one also has a pretty friendly price point to go along with its quality, so you’re getting an extra good value.
21. Viva Republica Rapture – This one hit our shelves just a week or two ago, but it earned its way on to our list anyways. This is the first release from Viva Republica, and it was blended in conjunction with Guillermo Leon and is produced in the famed La Aurora factory. It utilizes a blend of Cuban-seed tobacco grown in Nicaragua, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic to achieve it complex flavor profile.
20. My Father Flor de Las Antillas – One of a number of cigars from the My Father factory to make our list, the Flor de Las Antillas is a fantastic addition to their long line of terrific smokes. This one delivers thick clouds of rich smoke that convey a flavor profile consisting of a dominant coffee/espresso note with hints of wood, hay, pepper, and cocoa in the background.
19. 262 Revere – The third full production release from Clint Aaron and 262 Cigars hit the market about two months ago, and it impressed us enough to score a slot on this list. This Nicaraguan premium delivers a unique and complex flavor mixture that is unlike anything else available today. Leather and salt are the dominant flavors in this blend, and they mesh with a number of other tasting notes to form a cigar you’ll want to keep smoking until it burns your fingers.
18. Nat Sherman Timeless Nicaragua – The Dominican version of the Nat Sherman Timeless is a great smoke, but we all agreed that the Nicaraguan one hit our palates better and therefore was the clear choice for this list. This is a very balanced smoke with elements of flavor to satisfy every aspect of the palate. No surprise this one features impeccable construction and a smooth, easy draw, given Nat Sherman’s reputation for producing quality products. We are all expecting this blend to become Nat Sherman’s signature smoke.
17. La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva – A fresh take on the popular and highly rated La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor that took home Cigar Aficionado’s #2 Cigar of the Year for 2011, this stogie was also good enough to crack our list. A dark Mexican Oscuro wrapper highlights this cigar and gives it a spicy kick, while the blend of Nicaraguan binder and filler gives it a full body and an array of tasting notes including wood, earth, spice, and chocolate.
16. Viaje Super Shot 10 Gauge – If this was Russ’s list alone, this one might have squeaked into the top 5. This is a serious powerhouse stogie with a big spice blast that doesn’t let up. This is among the strongest cigars all of us have ever smoked, but it also delivered a very enjoyable flavor profile that made it our favorite of the many limited edition Viajes that hit the market in 2012.
15. Room 101 Daruma – The most recent limited edition release from Room 101 earned its way onto our list, and into all of our smoking rotations. This one is a little milder than you might expect from Room 101, but the unique array of flavors is something that works very well at any strength. Spice, earth, wood, coffee, and leather make up some of the flavors you’ll get from this premium that also exhibits flawless construction.
14. Alec Bradley Fine & Rare 2012 – The second edition of what I personally thought was the best new release of 2011, this year’s version didn’t quite live up to last year’s excellence. It had a tough act to follow, and last year’s being so amazing certainly doesn’t take anything away from this one, a terrific smoke in its own right. 10 different tobaccos in this blend (1 wrapper, 2 binders, and 7 fillers) make for a very complex flavor profile. This one is on the milder side, with a smooth, buttery, creamy smoke that provides the feeling of luxury and decadence that you’d expect from a cigar called “Fine & Rare”.
13. Quesada Jalapa – Quesada produced a number of fine releases this year, but this one really stood out to all of us. There’s a little bit of everything in this complex flavor profile, among all of our panelists we have tasting notes including sweetness, spice, nuts, cream, cedar, vanilla, earth, and pepper. This is a fantastically well-constructed stick and certainly earns it’s spot on this list.
12. Partagas Benji Menendez Master Series LX Toro – To celebrate his 60th year in the cigar business, Benji Menendez released another edition of his famed Master Series smokes. The previous versions have gotten big ratings, heaps of praise, and were favorites here at P&C, and this release was no different. This is a refined smoke designed for the aficionado who derives joy from appreciating the subtle nuances of flavor that mesh together to create a luxurious smoking experience.
11. La Duena – Another stogie with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper came in at #11 for us. This release from the My Father factory went a little less spicy than some of their other offerings, but is still chock full of flavor and quality. This is a smooth, balanced smoke offering a little something for every aspect of the palate.
10. Paul Stulac Red Screaming Sun – No secret that Paul Stulac’s stogies are a big hit here at P&C, and getting 2 new releases in our top 10 is a great indication of that. While we all preferred the White Blinding Light, the Red Screaming Sun is certainly no slouch. The Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper highlights this blend, giving it a chocolately, but not sweet, flavor profile that keeps us (any apparently everyone else) coming back for more.
9. L’Atelier – Pete Johnson and his brother KC are the brains behind this eponymous release from the newly formed L’Atelier company. Their goal with this smoke was to create an homage to one of their favorite Cubans, the Cohiba Behike, and while I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying one of those the L’Atelier stands just fine on its own. A sophisticated flavor with a muted profile lends itself to enjoyment by the aficionado with a refined palate, but such an easy-going and well-constructed cigar can be enjoyed by anyone. No surprise this one cracked our top 10.
8. Perdomo 20th Anniversary Maduro – When I was given a sample of this at the IPCPR show, I lit it up expecting it to taste like a Perdomo cigar. Not a big stretch I know, and that’s a good thing since I’ve never met a Perdomo I didn’t like. This one has more Padron than Perdomo in it to my palate, and it delivers a rich, spicy Nicaraguan flavor-bomb of a smoke that shows you that even a brand you thought you knew can have a few tricks up its sleeve.
7. Tatuaje Wolfie – Tatuaje has released a number of terrific smokes this year, but this one was a unanimous favorite for us and is the lone Tatuaje smoke on the list. Released in limited quantities, the “Little Monsters” samplers caused quite a stir here at P&C and in the cigar world in general, and the smokes lived up to the hype in a big way. We easily could have selected any of them to this list. However, the Wolfie was our pick, the peppery/hickory/almost BBQ flavor was something I especially enjoyed and put it over the top for me. It’s a shame that these aren’t a regular production smoke!
6. Tres Reynas – This is a limited edition smoke that was the result of a collaboration of 3 powerful ladies from the My Father and Quesada companies. The smoke is made in the My Father factory and distributed by the fine folks at Quesada, and the blend is a very unique one. If this was my personal list this one would be even higher than #6, but this is where we ranked it as a group. Like a chocolate-covered pretzel I get a delectable mixture of salty and sweetness from this stogie, and it’s one that I’d smoke daily if there were enough of them to go around.
5. Headley Grange - One of the most hotly anticipated cigars of the year rounds out our top 5, we all agreed that this one lived up to the buzz. According to Crowned Heads, this smoke was blended to taste like the drum into from Led Zepplin’s “When the Levee Breaks”, and whenever anyone asks me what it tastes like, that’s what I tell them. A very unique cigar with subtle yet incredibly enjoyable flavors, this one is a must-try.
4. Joya De Nicaragua CyB - This collaboration between Alejandro Martinez Cuenca and Jose Blanco earned heaps of praise upon its release at the 2012 ICPCR trade show, and our experts think it earned every glowing word. A complex blend of tobacco from 4 countries delivers a complex flavor profile that will keep you puffing happily right to the nub. Our panel suggests going with the Lonsdale Club vitola.
3. Paul Stulac White Blinding Light – One of three new releases from Paul Stulac this year, the White Blinding Light was rated as the best of the bunch by P&C. The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper yields a rich, spicy flavor and the blend is so smooth and creamy that you almost don’t notice how strong it is. A decadent smoke worthy of any special occasion, and more than worthy of the #3 slot on our list.
2. Oliva Serie V Melanio – This is a beautiful cigar, and the excellent flavor, construction, and complexity earn it the #2 spot on our list. Oliva is usually known for producing “great for the price” smokes, but this one is just plain great. Our panelists were wowed upon firing this one up, and it stays delicious and enthralling all the way through.
1. Rodrigo La Fortaleza – A lesser-known smoke tops our list, but this one won in a landslide since while we normally all disagree, across the board this one is loved by all of our esteemed panelists. This is the only cigar that was a top 3 pick for every one of us. This one is smooth, strong, complex, and bursting with flavor. You could run the gamut of adjectives to describe the varied assortment of flavors, but to me personally, it’s tough for a cigar to get better than La Fortaleza.
Honorable Mentions: There were a whole bunch of really good cigars released this year that didn’t make our top 25, but I want to let you know what they are anyways. Here’s a few additional suggestions of new 2012 releases that got close but didn’t make the cut: Fernando Leon, Emilio AF Suave, J Grotto Silk, Merlion, Ortega Serie D, Pinolero, CAO Concert, Carlos Torano Master Maduro, EP Carrillo Inch, and the limited edition Zino Platinum Ten.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our picks for the best new cigars of 2012, and we hope that it helps you to get an idea of which new blends would be best for you. Remember that taste is always subjective, and as we all know one man’s dog-rocket is another man’s everyday favorite. Did we miss one? Overrate one? Underrate one? Give us a comment and let us know what YOUR favorite smoke of 2012 was!