Nick and Chris’ Top 25 Cigars of 2023

December 6, 2023

Nick and Chris' Top 25 Cigars of 2023

Another year is in the books as 2023 comes to a close, and the time has come to look back over the past year and determine the Top 25 Cigars of 2023!

We’e seen some excellent cigars released throughout the year, but only the best can make it on the top-25 list. The team here at JR has tried hundreds of different cigars in 2023 and the following have left a lasting impression on us.

To the companies and brands that made the list, we give our deepest praise and congratulations for their creativity, attention to detail, and hard work that goes into creating a top-rated cigar. Without any further ado, let’s start looking at the top 25 cigars of 2023!

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25. Oliva Serie V Melanio JR 50th Round Toro

A unique offering unlike anything else in the Oliva Serie V Melanio lineup, the Oliva Serie V Melanio JR 50th Round Toro has a more rounded shape compared to the rest of the line’s box-pressed format.

These 6×50 rounded treats offer a completely different smoking experience compared to the rest of the Oliva Serie V Melanio line, earning this new expression of the top-rated brand the first spot on our list.

Like the rest of the Serie V Melanio line, the JR 50th Round Toro features masterfully aged Nicaraguan long-fillers and a binder covered by a luscious Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper. The rounded, non-pressed shape allows for a more open draw allowing rich medium to full-bodied flavors of pepper, leather, cinnamon, toast, and sweet spices to expand on the palate.

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24. Punch Golden Era Robusto

Blended to capture the flavors of Punch during its golden age in the 1970s, Punch Golden Era Robusto cigars have won over our palates with their exceptionally rich flavors. Part of what makes them so special is that the cigars are made by the famous Eiroa family at Fabrica de Puros Aladino in Jamastran, Honduras. The Golden Era also features Corojo and Habano tobaccos grown by the Eiroa family.

The Eiroa’s top-shelf Honduran Corojo serves as the wrapper, binder, and some of the fillers along with some Habano leaf for the body. Earth, cinnamon, leather, spices, and tobacco sweetness presented with a balanced medium-bodied profile made the Punch Golden Era Robusto one of our favorite cigars of the year. We recommend it to any aficionado who wants to enjoy the quintessential Honduran smoke.


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23. Aganorsa La Validacion Connecticut Gran Robusto

Part of a rebranding of Aganorsa Leaf’s core lineup, the Aganorsa Leaf la Validacion Series Gran Robusto Box Pressed Connecticut has everything a cigar-smoker could want from a Connecticut-style blend. The name for these smooth, savory treats comes from Aganorsa Leaf president Paul Palmer, who instead of smoking or testing Aganorsa’s blends “validates” them as worthy of production.

All the folks at Aganorsa Leaf should feel validated with just how good these 5×54 box-pressed beauties turned out. An Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper cloaks a balanced Nicaraguan filler blend, providing a flavorful yet smooth medium-bodied medley of baking spices, cedar, leather, cream, and hints of pepper.

Aganorsa Leaf la Validacion Series Gran Robusto Box Pressed Connecticut cigars are the perfect smoke for any palate, and the affordable price for a box of 15 made these gems a real crowd-pleaser.


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22. Joya de Nicaragua Cinco Decadas El Doctor

Named after Dr. Alejandro Cuenca, who revitalized the brand in the 1990s, the Joya de Nicaragua Cinco Decadas El Doctor is the latest addition to a line that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Nicaragua’s oldest cigar brand. Without the influence of Dr. Cuenca and his purchasing of the brand, Joya de Nicaragua might not even exist today.

To make this celebratory 6×52 torpedo, Joya de Nicaragua used only the finest tobaccos in its vast library of aged tobaccos, but the exact ingredients are a mystery. However, its robust and refined medium to full bodied flavors of earth, peppery spices, sweetness, and cedar coupled with flawless construction will make the most discerning palates savor every puff.

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21. Ozgener Family Cigars Aramas A52

Next on our list, we have Ozgener Family Cigars Aramas A52, the second full-time blend from Tim Ozgener, who reentered the world of premium cigars in 2022 after over a decade away. Drawing inspiration from his Turkish and Armenian heritage, Aramas is a portmanteau of Ararat and Masis, which are the Turkish and Armenian names, respectively, for the famous mountain on each country’s border.

Tim Ozgener turned to none other than Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr. to make these 5×52 beauties. Ozgener and Carrillo selected a top-quality San Andres Mexican wrapper over a Sumatra binder and aged Dominican, Nicaraguan, and US long-fillers. A bold full-bodied tapestry of chocolate, leather, espresso, pepper, and earth completely coats the palate, earning the Aramas A52 the 21st spot on our list.

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Nick and Chris' Top 25 Cigars of 2023_FTR

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Top 25 Cigars of 2023 Part 2

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20. Crafted by JR: Crowned Heads

The JR team worked incredibly closely with Crowned Heads every step of the way in developing Crafted by JR: Crowned Heads cigars and we could not be more pleased with how the cigars turned out.

We wanted to have complete control over every aspect of the release, from the blend and size to the packaging, to show off who we are in a cigar.

We worked with Crowned Heads to develop a 5.5×52 gem with a pigtail cap brimming with Nicaraguan tobaccos from Ometepe, Jalapa, and Condega. These are joined by a thick Connecticut Broadleaf binder and dressed in a spicy Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The blend delivers a balanced and complex medium-bodied medley of spices, leather, roasted nuts, cocoa, and tobacco sweetness earning 20th on our list.


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19. CLE 25th Anniversary 6x54

Christian Eiroa has been making some of Honduras’ finest cigars for 25 years. The CLE 25th Anniversary 6×54 celebrates his momentous achievement with a top-shelf blend worthy of the 19th spot on our list.

Eiroa first got his start working in his father Julio Eiroa’s tobacco fields at 10 years old, later going on to work with him on the famous Camacho brand. For the CLE 25th Anniversary 6×54, the blend features only the finest aged Honduran Corojo tobaccos grown by the Eiroa family for the long fillers, binder, and wrapper.

With its box-pressed shape, this slow-burning treat delivers a full-bodied tapestry of rich spices, leather, coffee, earth, cedar, and hints of chocolate. If you want to enjoy the quintessential Honduran cigar, this is the one to smoke.

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18. Camacho Broadleaf Toro

Most broadleaf tobaccos come from the Connecticut River Valley or Pennsylvania, but the Camacho Broadleaf Toro uses a unique and rare broadleaf wrapper grown in the fertile soils of Honduras. Camacho’s team of talented agronomists and farmers worked for years to perfect Honduran broadleaf, and the blenders did a fantastic job making it into a delectably good cigar.

Joining the top-shelf Honduran Broadleaf wrapper is a thick Honduran binder and a blend of long-fillers from the Dominican Republic and Honduras, all flawlessly hand-rolled into a classic 6×50 size. Its bold and balanced medium to full-bodied flavors of dark chocolate, pepper, earth, espresso, roasted nuts, and tobacco sweetness have earned the Camacho Broadleaf Toro the 18th spot on our list.

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17. Diesel Vintage Series Toro

Delivering the complex, refined flavors of vintage tobaccos at an affordable price, the Diesel Vintage Series Toro impressed us with its quality and craftsmanship. This stick was developed by Justin Andrews of the Scandinavian Tobacco Group along with the legendary cigar maker AJ Fernandez. They are a dynamic duo who have come up with the best addition to the Diesel lineup yet.

The blend features Nicaraguan tobaccos that have been aged for 5-8 years, including the Jalapa Habano fillers and the Esteli Habano binder. The finishing touch for these 6×52 treats is a dusky San Andres Mexican wrapper. It’s a powerful wrapper that offers a bold full-bodied profile with balanced and refined notes of peppery spices, earth, cocoa, tobacco sweetness, and creamy leather.

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16. Alec Bradley Double Broadleaf Robusto

As science progresses and tastes change, blends with experimental tobaccos are becoming more popular, and nothing captures that more than the Alec Bradley Experimental Double Broadleaf Robusto. The blending prowess of Alec Bradley Cigars and former brand owner Alan Rubin truly shines with this mouthwateringly good 5×50 cigar and its proprietary tobaccos.

Surrounding a core of Nicaraguan and Honduran long-fillers lies two broadleaf binders, one grown in Honduras and the other in Nicaragua. They’re encased by a top-quality Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper grown in Honduras’ rich and fertile soils. The result of this broadleaf-forward blend is a complex and bold medium to full-bodied smoke with dark flavors of chocolate, pepper, roasted nuts, earth, and spices.

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Top 25 Cigars of 2023 Part 3

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15. JR Pure Origin Terra de Andes Toro

Our JR Pure Origin series explores rare, top-quality tobaccos grown harmoniously with nature from various countries. The JR Pure Origin Terra de Andes Toro is a beautiful expression of tobacco from the Andes mountains. For this rich 6×50 treat, we tapped the shoulder of AJ Fernandez to roll cigars unlike anything else on the market.

Zesty Peruvian tobaccos are joined by Nicaraguan long-fillers and an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder with a top-shelf Ecuadorian Habano wrapper completing the blend. Its decadent and bold flavors of chocolate, pepper, leather, and roasted nuts, combined with its stellar construction, earned JR Pure Origin Terra de Andes Toro cigars the 15th spot on our list.

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14. Muestra de Saka Krakatoa

The seventh release under the Muestra de Saka line lands at our Number 14 spot on our Top 25 Cigars of 2023 list. The Mueastra de Saka Krakatoa was aimed for a 2020 release, but took a little more time to age and develop a delicious profile.

With the Krakatoa releasing in September 2023, it was one of many all-star lines that Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust released this year for all of us to enjoy. It’s named after the famous volcano that erupted off the coast of Indonesia in 1883 that killed over 35,000 people. This full-bodied cigar is an eruption of flavor and complexity, hence why Steve Saka went with the famous volcano for the name and box design.

Meticulously handcrafted with a top-quality Ecuador Habano Seed wrapper leaf, the Muestra de Saka Krakatoa is bounded by Nicaraguan-grown tobaccos and features Nicaraguan-grown Broadleaf tobaccos with Cuban seed varietals. Flavors you’ll detect while smoking this 6 x 48 gem are black pepper, cocoa, coffee, and wood.

Packed in its cedar coffin in a 7-count box, the Muestra de Saka Krakatoa LE 2023 is truly a work of art. Made in extremely limited quantities, we highly recommend that you order yours today so that you don’t miss out on the ultimate smoking experience which is the Muestra de Saka Krakatoa. 

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13. AJ Fernandez New World Dorado Figurado

AJ Fernandez is famous for his unrivaled blending skills, and AJ Fernandez New World Dorado Figurado cigars are some of the best yet to come from the legendary cigar maker.

What makes the New World Dorado Figurado unique is that each leaf in this pudgy 6×56 figurado comes from AJ Fernandez’s Dorado farm in Nicaragua.

It takes immense skill to blend tobacco from a single farm, but Fernandez knocked it out of the park with this balanced Nicaraguan blend. Highlighted by a gorgeous Sun-Grown Habano wrapper, New World Dorado Figurado delivers medium-bodied notes of pepper, charred wood, earth, chocolate, and hints of dried fruit. This is a can’t-miss cigar that fans of every experience level can appreciate.

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12. Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial Corona Grande

First introduced in 2009 by Jaime Garcia, son of famous cigar maker Jose “Pepin” Garcia, the Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial Corona Grande is the most recent addition to this popular blend. Initially introduced as just a single size, it now has nine different vitolas. We found the 6.25×48 Corona Grande to be the best.

Finely aged binder and long filler tobaccos grown on Garcia family farms in Nicaragua lie at the core of these cigars with a dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper completing the blend. Its thinner 48 ring-gauge accentuates the deep flavors from the Maduro wrapper, providing medium to full-bodied flavors of chocolate, roasted nuts, earth, leather, and dashes of cream.

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11. Pledge by E.P. Carrillo Apogee

E.P. Carrillo Cigars has earned a ranking on top-25 lists across the industry for years, and the streak keeps going with Pledge by E.P. Carrillo Apogee cigars. Pledge by E.P. Carrillo won Cigar of the Year from Cigar Aficionado in the Prequel size. We felt the stocky 6.25 x 58 Apogee was worthy of recognition as one of the best cigars of the year for 2023.

Inspired by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr.’s pledge to never stop making exceptional cigars, the Pledge Apogee features a hearty Nicaraguan core packed into an Ecuadorian binder with a rare and top-shelf Connecticut Habano wrapper dressing the bunch. A magnificent medium to full bodied smoke pours from the cap to deliver a tapestry of espresso, black pepper, leather, chocolate, and fruit-like sweetness.


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Top 25 of 2023_25 through 11

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Top 25 Cigars of 2023 Part 4

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10. Blackened by Drew Estate M81 Toro

As we break into our top 10 cigars of 2023, we are getting to the ones that wowed us.

The Blackened by Drew Estate M81 Toro truly blew us away with its exceptionally rich, dark flavors. Jonathan Drew worked closely with two others to create Blackened cigars —famous musician James Hetfield of the band Metallica and BLACKENED American Whiskey master distiller Rob Dietrich.

The story of this Drew Estate stick is an intriguing one. BLACKENED American Whiskey was first born from a friendship between Hetfield and the late master distiller Dave Pickerell, who was replaced by Rob Dietrich after Pickerell’s passing. Dietrich and Jonathan Drew were also friends, and the three of them would enjoy cigars together. They eventually decided to create a blend together.

Over two years with Dietrich and Hetfield tasting countless samples, the trio came up with an all-Maduro blend featuring a zesty San Andres Mexican wrapper over a Connecticut Broadleaf binder. The Maduro long-fillers are from Nicaragua and Pennsylvania, and we found the 6×52 size was the best expression of the blend.

Its bold, full-bodied flavors of dark chocolate, cinnamon, leather, and espresso along with incredible construction will make the Blackened M81 Toro a top-10 on anyone’s list.

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9. Espinosa Knuckle Sandwich Robusto Connecticut

Erik Espinosa and celebrity chef and restauranteur, Guy Fieri, made waves with the Espinosa Knuckle Sandwich Robusto Connecticut. This 5×52 cigar took us on a trip to Flavor Town we will not soon forget!

For over 18 months, Fieri and Espinosa worked closely to create a Connecticut blend that is both smooth and welcoming yet generous with flavor. They created a blend of masterfully aged Nicaraguan long filler and binder tobaccos dressed in a silky Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, with construction handled by the legendary San Lotano Factory in Nicaragua.

We were beyond impressed by the Knuckle Sandwich Robusto Connecticut’s captivating and smooth mellow to medium-bodied notes of roasted nuts, leather, cream, and earth. But it was the hints of black pepper and sweetness on the finish that won us over. Whether you enjoy smooth, easy-going blends or in-your-face flavor, we believe the Espinosa Knuckle Sandwich Robusto Connecticut deserves a spot in every humidor.


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8. Davidoff Nicaragua 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Gran Toro

The exceptionally popular Davidoff Nicaragua blend was released 10 years ago in 2013. The Davidoff Nicaragua 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Gran Toro cigars take the blend to new heights of luxury and complexity to celebrate that milestone.

This was the first time a Davidoff cigar has worn a black band, kicking off Davidoff’s popular Black Band Collection, which also includes the top-rated Yamasa and Escurio.

For Davidoff Nicaragua 10th Anniversary Limited Edition cigars to further elevate the already top-shelf Davidoff Nicaragua, Davidoff’s master blenders had to pull out all the stops. They developed a blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos that have a combined age of over 45 years, with nine-year-aged Esteli leaf also aged in rum barrels. The finishing touch for these 6×56 gems is a stunning Ecuadorian wrapper.

Once lit, a bevy of rich flavors flooded our palates. Each puff offers a bold and complex medium to full-bodied smoke that starts with notes of coffee, pepper, and toast before developing flavors of nuts, leather, and spices as the burn progresses. Its complexity, flawless construction, and decadent flavors earned this cigar 8th place on our list, and with only 3,300 boxes being made, this is a fleeting, cannot-miss treat.

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7. Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Edicion Diamante Toro

When famous cigar blenders Rafael Nodal and AJ Fernandez were working on the Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Nicaragua (which we ranked the 3rd best cigar of 2021), they developed several blends. Only one blend would go on to become the 1935 Anniversary Nicaragua. But there was another the duo was quite enamored with, yet they agreed the tobaccos needed more time to age.

After patiently waiting, the blend was ready to become Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Edicion Diamante Toro cigars. They provide a more refined, luxurious experience than their predecessors. Crafted at the San Lotano Factory in Nicaragua into a thicker 6×55 box-pressed size, the 1935 Anniversary Edicion Diamante Toro is made with only the finest Nicaraguan tobaccos.

Long fillers from Esteli are joined by a savory Ometepe Criollo binder with a sweet and low-priming Jalapa wrapper completing the blend. This cigar delivered a smooth yet complex and rich medium to full-bodied smoke with notes of spices, earth, cocoa, roasted nuts, oak, and sweet cream, making it one of the most complex Montecristo blends yet.

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6. RoMa Craft Intemperance Volstead 1920 George Remus

When it comes to boutique cigar-makers, few do it better than RoMa Craft Tobac. Its Intemperance series, first introduced in 2012, evokes the prohibition of alcohol following World War I. It also ties the temperance movement of the last century with the anti-tobacco sentiments of today.

Prohibition went into full effect in the US in 1920 after the passing of the Volstead Act, which turned everyone in the alcohol industry into a criminal overnight. This infamous act of Congress is the inspiration behind RoMa Craft Intemperance Volstead 1920 George Remus cigars. Each size of the line is named after prohibition-era figures, and George Remus was a bootlegger in the early Prohibition days.

For this fourth entry into the Intemperance Series, these stocky 5×56 gems feature Nicaraguan tobaccos from Condega, Pueblo Nuevo, and Jalapa along with Dominican Corojo long-fillers all bunched into a Mexican San Andres binder. The cigars are finished with a unique Ecuadorian Sumatra hybrid wrapper with remarkable similarities to Cameroon tobaccos.

With the Volstead 1920 George Remus, we experienced a bold and robust medium full-bodied smoke. It delivered an intriguing flavor profile driven by the hybrid wrapper, summing up a tapestry of roasted nuts, cocoa, cinnamon, leather, creamy cedar, and hints of pepper.

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5. Ferio Tego Summa Corona Gorda

Breaking into the top five, we are getting to the crème de la crème of 2023’s cigars.

We found the Ferio Tego Summa Corona Gorda to be the centerpiece of Tego’s growing portfolio. While Ferio Tego itself has only been around for a couple of years, brand owner Michael Herklots has been working in the cigar industry for decades, and Summa is a culmination of everything he has learned.

Michael Herklots first earned his stripes in the cigar world over 20 years ago as the manager for multiple Davidoff stores in New York City. His talents eventually took him to work with Nat Sherman International, where he was a driving force behind several modern Nat Sherman brands from the Timeless and Metropolitan lines.

When Nat Sherman closed its doors in 2019, Herklots could have done any job he wanted within the cigar industry, but his passion for cigars and blending led him to take a big risk. He teamed up with his former coworker, Brendan Scott, bought the rights to the Timeless and Metropolitan lines and formed Ferio Tego cigars.

Summa features an extensively aged core of Dominican and Nicaraguan long-fillers bunched into an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder. The cigars are then covered with a top-quality Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper all flawlessly rolled by the Quesada family at their Dominican factory.

The thinner 5.75 x 46 size of the Corona Gorda allowed for a more prominent expression of the wrapper. It delivers a full-bodied, complex, and rich yet decidedly smooth profile with flavors of toasted bread, nuts, charred wood, pepper, and hints of creaminess that strike the perfect balance between flavor, body, and intensity.

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4. Aganorsa Rare Leaf Maduro Toro

Since Aganorsa Leaf was founded in 1998 by Eduardo Fernandez, the company has grown to provide top-shelf tobaccos for its own brands and for some of the most famous brands in the world. Aganorsa Leaf is known throughout the world for its Cuban-seed tobaccos, and nothing shows them off better than the Aganorsa Rare Leaf Reserve Maduro Toro.

In Aganorsa Leaf’s 20+ years, the brand has undergone many changes. At the same time, the farming side of the business was always Aganorsa, the cigar-making side used to go by Casa Fernandez and was far less notable than it is today. Casa Fernandez had a solid foundation, and the addition of Terence Reilly in late 2017 and the subsequent rebrand to Aganorsa Leaf brought the brand to new heights.

The Aganorsa name had long been a household name among industry insiders who knew just how good Aganorsa Leaf’s vintage Criollo and Corojo tobaccos were. The rebrand from Casa Fernandez to Aganorsa Leaf opened the door to show the market at large what Aganorsa is all about. In recent years, we have been particularly taken with Aganorsa Leaf, and the Rare Leaf Reserve Maduro Toro impressed us immensely.

The Rare Leaf Reserve Maduro Toro is hand rolled into a classic 6×52 size with the finest Criollo ‘98 and Corojo ‘99 Cuban-seed tobaccos Aganorsa grows on its Nicaraguan farms. The cigars are then covered by a dark and luscious San Andres Mexican Maduro wrapper that adds a rich, chocolatey dimension to the profile.

This delightful Toro delivers a vibrant full-bodied smoke with every puff. It starts with peppery earth in the first few draws soon joined by a tapestry of chocolate, roasted nuts, leather, coffee, and a floral sweetness. This is without a doubt the finest expression of Aganorsa Leaf tobacco to date and is the perfect cigar for a seasoned connoisseur.

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3. Dunbarton Mi Querida Black Papa Saka

Steve Saka and his Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust are no strangers to ‘Cigar of the Year’ lists. Every year, there are one or more Dunbarton blends given the honors of being named one of the top 25 cigars of the year by several publications, and for good reason. Steve Saka has decades of experience in the industry, starting right here at JR before leading Drew Estate to be the massive cigar maker it is today.

While we loved the Red Meat Lovers enough for it to make 14th on our list, we were completely enamored with the Dunbarton Mi Querida Black Papa Saka. The blend for Mi Querida Black made its first appearance as part of our 50th-anniversary celebration, giving loyal JR shoppers a first look at what would become one of Dunbarton’s best blends in the Mi Querida Black SakaKhan.

Mi Querida Black is the third expression of the Mi Querida line, which is Steve Saka’s love letter to broadleaf tobaccos, and with several entries on our Top 25 lists, we love them too. Blended by Saka and handcrafted at the NACSA factory into a 5.63×48 size, the cigars feature Honduran, Dominican, and Nicaraguan long-fillers bunched into a hearty San Andres Negro binder.

What makes the Mi Querida Black Papa Saka a cut above the rest is its incredibly top-quality Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. Saka secures only the absolute finest Connecticut Broadleaf No. 1 Dark wrappers with special attention given to their quality and craftsmanship.

The result is a full-bodied, rich, and robust yet refined and nuanced smoke that will have the most discerning palates watering. Flavors of dark chocolate, pepper, leather, baking spices, earth, tobacco sweetness, and a surprising amount of creaminess pour from the cap one after the other. We think this the best broadleaf cigar of 2023.

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2. Crowned Heads La Vereda No. 52

We have enjoyed many blends from Jon Huber and Crowned Heads in the past, and for each year we have been putting together a Top 25 list, Crowned Heads has made an appearance. But the Crowned Heads La Vereda No. 52 is something truly special. With extensively aged tobaccos and larger ring gauges, La Vereda marks a significant change in what to expect from Crowned Heads going forward.

Since Crowned Heads was founded in 2011, it has become a popular boutique brand with a lineup of bold, musically-themed blends like Four Kicks, Jericho Hill, and Headley Grange. Crowned Heads continued to grow with top-rated brands like Mil Dias and coveted limited editions like Las Calaveras.

In the early days, the cigars were made by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr. at his Tabacalera La Alianza in the Dominican Republic, and Carrillo remains good friends with Huber to this day. This friendship lies at the foundation of La Vereda’s development.

Huber worked closely with Carrillo for well over a year trying to push the boundaries of what a Crowned Heads cigar could be. La Vereda comes in bigger sizes, a change-up from most Crowned Heads blends with thinner sizes.  The blend became more nuanced, complex, and refined. In the final blend, each leaf ended and was aged for over three years until they were perfect.

The La Vereda No. 52 has a 6.5×52 size and features a shade-grown Nicaraguan Jalapa wrapper over another Nicaraguan Jalapa leaf for the binder. It also boasts a core of long-fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. We were blown away by the luxurious complexity and balance La Vereda No. 52 showed, delivering a medium-bodied mosaic of roasted nuts, leather, coffee, pepper, and sweet cream.

While the La Vereda No. 52 may be the priciest Crowned Heads offering to date, it is well worth the price of admission and will win over your palate just as it won over ours.

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1. Foundation Metapa Maduro Toro

When it comes to boutique cigar brands, none does it like the Foundation Cigar Company.

Its founder, Nick Melillo, has a rare passion for tobacco, cigar making, and culture that captures the palates of aficionados across the country. It wouldn’t be a JR top-25 list without Foundation making the list, and this year, we are pleased to name the Foundation Metapa Maduro Toro our best cigar of 2023.

Whenever Nick Melillo develops a new cigar line, it’s more than just a new cigar blend. Melillo crafts a story behind each new cigar, often inspired by the diverse cultures he has come across on his worldly travels.

Nick Melillo’s first line, El Gueguense, is inspired by a culturally significant Nicaraguan play to pay homage to his adopted home, using only Nicaraguan tobaccos. Another example is Charter Oak, a love letter to his home state of Connecticut, which uses shade and broadleaf tobaccos grown in the Connecticut River Valley.

Melillo’s fascination with history, culture, and cigars has made Foundation Cigar Company one of the world’s most sought-after boutique brands, and the Foundation Metapa Maduro Toro continues the trend with one of Foundation’s best cigars yet.

Like El Gueguense, Foundation Metapa cigars are a celebration of Nicaraguan culture, this time paying homage to the famous Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario. Dario’s poetry was beloved throughout the Spanish-speaking world, so much so that Dario’s hometown of Metapa, Nicaragua, renamed itself Ciudad Dario in his honor.

Foundation Metapa Maduro Toro cigars pay homage to Dario and his hometown and celebrate his contributions to Nicaraguan culture. These exceptionally good treats are rolled into a 6×52 size at the legendary Tabacalera AJ Fernandez in Nicaragua with masterfully aged Nicaraguan long-fillers and a chocolatey Connecticut Broadleaf binder.

In a first for Melillo and Foundation Cigars, the Foundation Metapa Maduro Toro wears a dusky and top-shelf Ecuadorian Sumatra Maduro wrapper. The incredibly rich, balanced, and complex medium-bodied flavors of chocolate, earth, pepper, coffee, roasted nuts, and tobacco sweetness have us smoking to the nub every time and savoring each puff.

These decadent flavors, combined with their flawless construction and cohesive backstory, set a standard for just how good a cigar should be, and we feel it deserves the honors of #1 Cigar of 2023.

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Top 25 of 2023_10-1_FTR


One response to “Nick and Chris’ Top 25 Cigars of 2023”

  1. Kirk Gautreau Sr says:

    Love the Aganorsa Brand. Great validation.

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