Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 Cigars of 2020

January 11, 2021

No doubt this has been one of the most insane years on record.  For all the horror and insanity we all witnessed, we are all still looking for some semblance of normalcy and a return to the way things were.  While the date changed its usual pre-Christmas launch, Cigar Aficionado was able to bring us that by releasing their Top 25 cigars of the Year.  This list set the precedent for cigar rating and is still the most viewed cigar ranking list in the industry.  Whole opinions change and everyone has their own views on this list and lists in general, this does give a solid guide to the industry especially for new smokers.  So, without further a due, here are the Top 25 cigars of the Year from Cigar Aficionado.

25. Ramon Allones Allones No. 2 Edición Limitada 2019

While I haven’t had the chance to smoke this particular limited version of the Ramon Allones, I have been a fan of the brand for a long time.  Often seen as the cigar nerds Cuban, this release of Ramon Allones is one of the few Edicion Limitadas that is actually worthy of all the hype.

 

24. Herrra Esteli Miami Short Corona Gorda

What started as a limited-edition collaboration between Drew Estate and Willy Herrera’s home factory at El Titan de Bronze has become a fan favorite among seasoned smokers. It uses a blend of tobaccos from three countries including a dark Ecuadorian wrapper.  This lends itself to a sweet and rich blend with touches of brown sugar and leather.

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23. La Flor Dominicana 1994 Mambo

I have always felt that the La Flor 1994 was one of their more underrated lines, so I am excited it is getting some recognition.  The unique combination of a Mexican San Andres wrapper with the aged Dominican tobaccos Litto Gomez is famous for has created a well rounded and Robusto cigar.  Notes of dark chocolate and coffee are combined with touches of nuts and cedar.

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22. Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real Nicaragua Toro

AUSA is continuing their successful relationship with AJ Fernandez by revamping a fan favorite cigar from Romeo.  This new version of the Reserva Real uses Nicaraguan tobacco for the filler, binder, and wrapper.  Its great flavorful and top-notch construction has garnered its high reviews all year and earned it a spot on the CA top 25.

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21. Highclere Castle Victorian Toro

The sequel to the luxurious Highclere Castle Edwardian really made a splash at the 2019 trade show.  This ramped up version from Foundation swaps the Connecticut wrapper for a more intense Ecuadorian leaf.  It has the same clean and smooth core but now with a more flavorful wrapper that offers up notes of pepper, caramel, and leather.

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20. Four Kicks Capa Especial Robusto

This cigar was unfortunately released at the worst time, right as all of the lockdowns started.  However, it is so good it was still able to make its way to the humidors of smokers across the country and they loved it.  The Capa Especial was one of the prototype blends for the original Four Kicks.  Made by EP Carrillo for Crowned Heads, this rich smoke boasts great notes of leather, sweet nuts, and a little pepper.

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19. Plasencia Cosecha 146 La Vega

Plasencia continues to dominate with their name brand releases.  While I still love the Alma Fuerte above all, the Cosecha 146 is no slouch.  A combination of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos give this cigar a balance of sweet notes, spicy notes, and some earthy undertones.

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18. Fonseca by My Father Petite Corona

This year saw the Fonseca line brought back to life, but not by Quesada.  My Father worked out a deal with the Quesada family to release their own version of the historic brand, and the results are fantastic.  This Nicaraguan puro is zesty and balanced, with hints of red pepper, cinnamon, and even a touch of citrus.

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17. Camacho Nicaragua Robusto

One of our favorite releases this year as well, the Camacho Nicaragua is an exquisite smoke with a ton of flavor.  While its name still lends itself to some confusion, as the cigar hardly uses any Nicaraguan tobacco, the result is an intense and well-balanced cigar with savory notes of spice, wood, and a dash of sweetness.

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16. Viva la Vida Jester

The Viva la Vida has been making waves in the past few years.  Billy and Gus, the two brothers who first opened the Cigar Inn stores, teamed up with AJ Fernandez to bring us this really complex and beloved smoke.  A Nicaraguan puro, the Viva la Vida boasts some of the best construction I have ever seen on a cigar with a tremendous flavor profile as well.

15. La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial No. 1

Earlier last year, My Father and Ashton re-released the Edicion Especial to make it a bit more complex and with a tad more strength.  The result is almost an entirely new cigar in my opinion, with deep spice notes and an added level of complexity.  This is a great addition to the La Aroma lineup and obviously one of the best releases this year.

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14. Casa Turrent Serie 1973 Torpedo

The Turrent family are one of the main innovators of using Mexican tobacco, specifically San Andres wrapper. For this cigar, they are continuing to create new and innovative tobaccos and for the first time have used not your typical San Andres Maduro, but a San Andres Criollo.  This new variety combines notes of sweet richness with a zest and leather notes most often seen in Cuban seed tobacco.

13. Warzone Robusto

What do you get when you combined the blending talents of Erik Espinosa with the massive tobacco access of General cigar? You get the complex and unique Warzone.  Coming out of La Zona in Nicaragua, this cigar uses a unique blend of tobaccos including a stunning Cameroon wrapper.  Notes of cinnamon, earth, and a slight zest make this a great addition to the Espinosa Portfolio

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12. Ashton VSG Sorcerer

Another legendary smoke has made this years list.  The Ashton VSG belongs in the conversation as one of the best full-bodied cigars ever made.  Its consistency over several decades in production makes this a half of fame smoke and a fan favorite among seasoned smokers.

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11. Bolivar Belicoso Fino

Often regarded as one of the finest Cuban cigars in the world, the Bolivar Belicoso fino is compared to the Montecristo #2 in terms of popularity and impact.  It has inspired several “new world” projects with its immense flavor and a perfect size.  Every Cuban aficionado will definitely have a few Bolivars sitting in their humidor

10. Henry Clay War Hawk Corona

Once again, AUSA was able to bring a brand back from total obscurity to being one of the most popular and talked about cigars in the industry.  While the original Henry Clay was an iconic brand in years past, it lost a step in recent years and wasn’t widely known by the modern-day smoker.  However, with the addition of the War hawk line, everyone now knows about Henry Clay.

Crafted at the Flor de Copan factory in Honduras, the War Hawk uses aged Honduran filler tobaccos followed by a stout Connecticut broadleaf binder.  It is finished up with an exquisite Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper.  This smooth and mellow cigar is still packing flavor with notes of dark chocolate cream vanilla and cedar.  It even made our Top 25 list last year when it was first released.  This is a well-deserved rating for an outstanding cigar.

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9. Rocky Patel Number 6 Corona

It wouldn’t be a top 25 list without a Rocky Patel, and this year they chose one of my favorite lines from him.  Also, we have another Honduran cigar in the top 10, which says something about Honduras and the strides they are making.  The Number 6 takes its name from the number of test blends it took to get the cigar exactly as rocky wanted it.

The Number 6 is hand-rolled for Rocky at the legendary Plasencia factory in Honduras.  It uses aged Honduran and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, along with a Honduran binder and wrapper.  It is incredible complexity comes in waves, like a roller coaster, with notes of citrus, chocolate, vanilla and spice.  Along with the ALR, Rocky has been continuing his immense success with some dynamite releases in the past year.

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#8. Oliva Serie V Melanio Churchill

I am trying to think of the last time I saw this list and it didn’t have some iteration of the Oliva Sere V on it.  I am coming up blank.  Along with Padron and Fuente, Oliva is the most rewarded company in terms of ratings and its for good reason.  The Serie V and Serie V Melanio are iconic cigars that have established themselves in the Hall of Fame.  So while its placement on this list varies from year to year, the fact that it is consistently ranked in the list at all is a testament to the consistency of the cigar.

The Melanio, which takes its name from one of the founders of the company, uses rare Nicaraguan tobaccos for the filler and binder.  Its wrapper is a zesty Ecuadorian sun grown leaf that adds in touches of pepper, earth and cedar.  From its flavor profile, to its construction and even its packaging, I expect the Melanio to e in this list for many more years to come.

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7. Alec & Bradley Gatekeeper Toro

I was very happy to see the Rubin brothers make this list and in the top 10 no less.  These guys have been doing some amazing work for the past few years in making their own name for themselves while still working on their father’s brand.  Each of their releases has received critical acclaim and I am very excited to see what they do in the future.  While I think their latest release, the Kintsugi is one of the best Honduran cigars ever crafted, the Gatekeeper is a contender that is up there with the best of them.

For their sophomore release, Alec and Bradley teamed up with Ernest Perez Carrillo to create a full, complex smoke.  It is hand-rolled using aged Dominican and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos along with an oily and flavorful Ecuadorian wrapper.  Notes of pepper combined with touches of caramel spice and wood for a flavorful, nuanced cigar.

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6. Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno L’Ambassadeur

This is one of my favorite cigars that we do not carry on the website.  The Joya Numero Uno was once reserved just for visiting diplomats and dignitaries who would visit Nicaragua.  It was eventually made an event only cigar and then a brick and mortar only. This angers me to no end as I am in love with this smoke and would love to be able to have it on the site.

The Numero Uno is hand-rolled using finely aged Nicaraguan filler and binder tobaccos.  This is followed by the addition of a pristine Ecuadorian Connecticut shade wrapper that doesn’t have a single deep vein or blemish.  The smoking experience is pure joy, with notes of cedar, cream, a little sweetness, and wood creating a complex yet smooth and creamy profile.  For something similar that is readily available, make sure to check out the Joya de Nicaragua Antano Connecticut.  

5. Punch Short de Punch

2019 saw the release of the first new size for the Punch brand in years… at least for regular production.  Now, I am not that in the know when it comes to the Cuban scene, but from what I was able to gather, this was a pretty significant development that created a lot of hype and buzz around the release of this new robusto size.

While I haven’t been able to try it personally, the several reviews I have read have all been overwhelmingly positive.  The construction is on point, which is even more important when it comes to Cubans, and the flavorful profile is jam packed with zesty and sweet notes.  Sounds like something I am going to have to try next time I am traveling, whenever that will be.

4. La Mission L’Atelier 1959

Ranking in at number four this year is the La Mission from Pete Johnson’s alternative brand L’Atelier.  L’Atelier has always been a favorite of the deep cigar nerds, like myself, so it is awesome to see one of its lines ranking so high in this list.  The recognition for these phenomenal cigars is long overdue.

Named after a famed winery, a favorite of Pete, La Mission is a spectacular and well-balanced smoke.  It is crafted with aged Nicaraguan tobaccos, including the special Sancti Spiritus leaf, grown only for Pete Johnson.  It’s San Andres wrapper adds in touches of dark fruit notes and a slight spice, making this an excellent pairing for a full red wine.

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3. Padron 1964 Anniversary Series Hermoso

Anyone who has been smoking cigars for any length of time will not be surprised by this ranking.  In fact, I do not remember the last time a Padron did not make the top 10 of the CA list.  While my preference is for the 1926, the 1964 Anniversary series is also in a class all its own.   It is simultaneously bold and smooth, complex and simple, rich, sweet, and spicy.  It boasts that signature Padron construction and smooth aroma.

Its Nicaraguan blend showcases everything that makes Padron one of the best in the world.  It has tobaccos that have been aged for up to four years.  That’s the perfect amount of time to make the profile incredibly smooth without sacrificing its abundance of flavor.  While the Padron 1926 will always have a special place in my heart, I think my allegiance may have to shift to the 1964.

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2. Fuente Fuente OpusX Double Robusto

Here we have the most critically acclaimed and sought after cigar of all time.  Since it was first launched almost 30 years ago, The Opus X has been seen as the most prestigious and beloved cigar in the industry.  Even all these years later, it continues to garnish high reviews, including making it to #2 on this year’s CA Top 25.

This was one of the first Dominican puros ever created.  It uses aged Dominican filler and binder tobaccos from the Fuente family farms.  The real prize on this cigar, however, is the Dominican Rosado wrapper.  This is the cigar that helps mold the industry to how it is today and deserves every bit of recognition it could get.

1. E.P. Carrillo Pledge

For the second time in two years, Ernesto Perez Carrillo has gained the #1 cigar of the year spot.  This is much deserved as Ernesto is a legend in the industry and has spent decades creating some of the most beloved and highest rated cigar brands on the market.  The La Historia line was the cigar of the year in 2018 and Ernesto has continued his path of success with another brilliant release in the Pledge.

Hand-rolled at the famed Tabacalera La Alianza S.A in the Dominican Republic, the Pledge is a rich and robust box-pressed beauty.  It uses aged Nicaraguan tobaccos for a zesty and complex center.  The Ecuadorian binder adds in touches of coffee, pepper, and leather.  The finishing touch is a luscious and flavorful Connecticut Habano wrapper that throws in touches of sweet spice and wood.

Overall, the Pledge checks all of the boxes.  It is smooth, flavorful, complex, and boasts world-class construction.  Congratulations to Ernesto and his team for achieving this epic milestone.

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