December 23, 2014

Cigar Aficionado is out with their latest cigars of the year.  Like any ratings, it is always surrounded with controversy.  Do I agree with them?  Yes and no. But the one thing about CA—their taste tests are blind and the panel is the same over the years (maybe one or two differences as staffing changed). The only time they know what cigar they are smoking is when they review the best of the year…that is when they take the highest rated cigars for the year and smoke them again.  SMOKE Magazine also has blind tastings…the only quibble with that is the panelists change often so different palates make for different ratings.  For the other magazines who knows how the ratings work.

For example, Cigar Journal –formerly known as European Cult Cigar Journal –named its cigar of the year the A.J.Fernandez New World Gobernador.  This is a good cigar and the price on it is fabulous (around $5).  But on CA this did not crack the top ten.

Cigar Journal and CA both agreed on Rocky Patel’s Royale as being a top pick.  CA listed it at Number 5 and Cigar Journal had it at Number 3.  The only thing is Royale came out in 2013 and many stores dropped it to carry Rocky’s newer releases this year.

Cigar Journal doesn’t even acknowledge Padron’s 50th, nor Opus X.  CA ranks the Monte by Montecristo as number 9.  The Monte is a nice affordable choice with prices about $8.   Number 8 on the list is the Ashton ESG 22 year Salute.  Even CA admits that with a list price of $20 per cigar this special Ashton is not for everyday, but more a celebratory smoke.

Dion Giolito of Illusione fame debuted his newest smoke, Fume D’Amour, at the trade show. It had a very clean taste and used tobaccos from lower primings which lowered the strength.  Dion said that this new brand was actually one he had come up with before but he simply changed one leaf out and it made all the difference in the world.  Fume D’Amour was ranked number 3 by CA.

The number two release comes from Ernesto Perez Carrillo, la Historia.  This cigar marked the fifth anniversary of EPC’s re-launch.  The band is truly a work of art with Ernesto’s grandmother on one side, a Pinar del Rio tobacco field in the middle and then his daughter Lissette in Miami on the right.  The E-III is named for Ernesto’s son Ernie the third.  The cigar itself uses a dark San Andres  wrapper over an Ecuador-Sumatran binder.  The fillers come from Nicaragua and the resulting cigar is a deep medium to full taste.  The retail price is under 9 per smoke.

CA’s cigar of the year is the Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado, Cigar Journal ranks the Melanio double toro number 5.  The Melanio is named for Melanio Oliva who began growing tobacco in Cuba in the 19th century.  In the 60’s as Castro took hold, Gilberto Oliva left his homeland and began working with another exile, Nestor Plasencia.  Over the years, Oliva began using more and more of their own Nicaraguan tobacco and as CA notes it was a time when tastes were heading toward that tobacco. The Melanio is part of the family’s serie V, but it uses an Ecuador wrapper over Nicaraguan tobacco.  Very tasty indeed and while this is the first cigar of the year for the Olivas, their cigars have been on CA’s top 25 list 9 times in a row.

It is interesting to note that on the CA list only one Cuban made it this year, the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial at the number 4 spot.   The usual Hoyo de Monterrey Governor made CA’s value list with a suggested retail price of $5.49.  The famous Cohiba Esplendido took spot number 11 and the Te-Amo Revolution was number 13 and also the top value cigar.

Others in the value category were Pete Johnson’s Tatuaje Tattoo (of which two different sizes made the cut) and Pete’s Havana VI.  From Gurkha, the Red Witch, Alec Bradley’s always tasty Black Market, Matt Booth’s Big Payback, Oliva Serie O  and the Oliva Serie G..  Then there is the Fuente Maduro Churchill, Aging Room Havao  and the re-blended Juan Lopez

There are certainly lots of cigars from which to choose on this list and only two are Cubans…which will bring us to the whole discussion about what will happen next on that Island South of Miami.  This being a holiday week, we’ll save that for next week.


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