With its spicy Sumatran binder and Honduran and Panamanian filler, Alec Bradley Black Market (www.alecbradley.com, $7.40 to $8) provides a smooth, creamy smoke that immediately grabs your attention. But it is the Black Market’s dark, velvety-sheened hybrid Criollo 98 wrapper that brought the cigar galloping into the winner’s circle.
"We knew of this proprietary wrapper being grown on a small farm in Nicaragua," says Alan Rubin, president of Alec Bradley, "but we never knew where it was being used. We just knew that it wasn’t being used for any cigars that were being imported into the United States. We loved this wrapper and wanted to build a cigar around it, so we bought the entire year’s crop. If next year’s crop proves equally as good, we’ll buy that also and repeat the brand."
We hope they do. The only regret is that half of the Black Market’s exceptional wrapper is obscured by a paper sleeve, which of course—along with a mid-band underneath—must be removed before smoking. The rugged-looking box adds to the mystique. Of the five sizes, the 6 x 60 gordo is our favorite.