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Just like that classic holiday song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” written in 1963 by Edward Pola and George Wyle, we don’t need a calendar to tell us that, with shorter days and colder nights, it’s stogie season once again, when the best hand warmer is a freshly lit Robusto.
This year’s holidays are still feeling the Grinch-like effects of the pandemic, with cigar factory production continuing to be slowed by partial closures and a reduced number of rollers due to the virus, along with the trickle-down effects of disrupted cigar distribution to the United States.
Nonetheless, cigar sales continue to climb this year—following a trend that began in 2020, with more than double the amount of premium cigars imported to the U.S. by May 2021 compared to the same period a year ago. In addition, while some cigar lounges remain closed due to regional Covid restrictions, new ones have opened, such as the Maybourne Beverly Hills Cigar and Whiskey Bar (one of only four places where you can legally smoke cigars in that city) and, as part of the sprawling Resorts World in Las Vegas, the just-completed 7,000 square foot indoor-outdoor Eight Cigar Lounge, with individual cedar lockers, bar and private smoking rooms.
But, as you’ll discover below, you don’t have to travel to Sin City to score one of the rare Casa Fuente cigars—a stogie that up until recently was only available at the Casa Fuente boutique in Caesars Palace. Read on and you’ll also find that one of Cuba’s most coveted brands is now being made in the United States. There’s all this and more as we unbox the best smokes to give and get for the holidays ahead.
J.C. Newman Perla Del Mar Corojo
Originally inspired by the Port of Havana and its azure waters, this 1905 Cuban brand was resurrected by the J.C. Newman Company in 2012 but has recently been updated to be more in keeping with its historic beginnings. The older square box press has been given what the company calls a “Tampa-style” press (i.e., more rectangular) but of even greater significance, a new Ecuador Corojo wrapper has been put around the Nicaraguan binder and filler. The result is a pleasant medium-meaty midday smoke. Four shapes are produced, with the Double Toro being our favorite.
Davidoff Chef’s Cigar
They say never have more than one chef in the kitchen, but in this case four internationally celebrated curators of fine dining were invited to combine their culinary skills into creating one masterful cigar. Naturally, all four chefs—Norbert Niederkofler (co-owner Food Space & Restaurant, AlpiNN, Italy), Juan Amador (Amador Restaurant, Vienna), Masa Takayama (Masa, New York City) and Jorge Vallejo (Quintonil, Mexico City)—are avid cigar smokers. Their collaboration has created a third limited edition in the Davidoff Chef’s Cigar series. A 7 x 48 Churchill, it consists of an Ecuadorian hybrid 238 wrapper, a San Andrés Negro Seco binder and four different Dominican fillers, including a Hybrid 192 Seco leaf. Creamy cedar and floral notes intermingle with cacao and caramel to produce a Michelin-starred, medium-strength smoke. The cigars are presented in a sustainably produced wood and ceramic box that can be separated and used as serving trays. Only 9,700 boxes containing 10 cigars each have been produced, 5,000 of which have been allocated to the United States.
La Aurora Best Sellers Sampler Pack
Experience the taste of the Dominican with La Aurora cigars. The Best Sellers Sampler pack features customer favorites, from the coffee notes of the La Aurora 107 Ecuador Robusto to the sweetness of the La Aurora® Cameroon 1903 Robusto. Get Free shipping in 43 states.
Avo Syncro Caribe
This is the fourth in the musically-inspired Syncro series. A synchronization of tobaccos from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Ecuador, this harmonious blend consists of a sandal leather-hued Dominican wrapper, an Ecuadorian binder and a filler composed of Dominican and Nicaraguan tobaccos. A spicy-medium flavor is the result. Three vitolas are offered: Robusto, Toro and a 6 x 60 Special Toro, which is our choice, due to its lengthier smoking time.
S.T. Dupont Ligne 2 The Perfect Ping
As any serious cigar smoker knows, the iconic S.T. Dupont L2 butane lighter is world renowned for its unfailing performance, which includes the distinctive “ping” sound the lighter makes when its lid is deftly flipped open. In fact, it is a sure sign, even in a darkened cocktail lounge, that someone has just fired up an L2. This “ping” has become so ingrained into the L2’s persona that the entire lighter has now been fine-tuned at S.T. Dupont’s Paris factory to resonate with an even clearer “D” note instead of the usual “High C.” It’s a small but notable point of perfection in a lighter that many already consider the perfect accessory to a premium cigar. Available in a multitude of finishes, including platinum, micro diamond head palladium, blue or black lacquer and gold and yellow or rose gold, this is the sound of the season for the cigar smoker this year.
El Rey Del Mundo
Previously only available through JR Cigars as an exclusive brand, the distribution of this long-time Honduran favorite is now under the auspices of newly-formed The Forged Cigar Company (a General Cigar spinoff), which is focusing exclusively on brick and mortar tobacconists, rather than internet-only sales. Handcrafted at the HATSA factory in Danlí, Honduras, El Rey Del Mundo is a medium-full bodied smoke with rich notes of cocoa, coffee bean and a kick of spice. The Honduran-forward blend is available in a natural version with an Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper and as a Connecticut Broadleaf-wrapped maduro, each featuring a Honduran-grown binder and filler. Of the six shapes offered, the 6 x 54 Robusto Larga OSC (maduro) is our choice with a snifter of Booker’s.
You can thank the disruption in the pandemic-induced distribution chain that, for the first time, this cigar is available—albeit in limited quantities—outside of the Casa Fuente cigar lounge at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Up until now, that was the only place you could purchase this ultra-exclusive cigar (except on the secondary market at inflated prices). But because some of the highly anticipated Arturo Fuente Rare Pink cigars haven’t been shipped, the Fuente family appeased their dealers and fans by releasing a small number of their coveted Casa Fuente cigars. Ten sizes are offered, seven of the original blend with Cameroon wrappers and three Series 5 cigars with Ecuadorian Sumatra wrappers, but all with ultra-secret, full-bodied OpusX-styled Dominican fillers. Quantities are limited, so act fast.
Casa Magna Liga F
Named for the Puerto Vallarta resort where factory el Jefe Manuel Quesada smoked the first Casa Magna cigar (one of our 2009 “Best of the Best” winners) Casa Magna has evolved over the years. This newest entry, the Liga—with “F” standing for “fuerte” (strong)—is, as its name suggests, the strongest Casa Magna yet. Made in the Quesada family’s TABADEX factory in the Dominican Republic, the Liga F boasts an Ecuadorian Sun Grown Corojo wrapper, a Dominican binder and a filler of Dominican and Nicaraguan leaf, with most of the filler coming from the topmost ligero primings, producing a medium-plus smoke perfectly tailored to a snifter of the new Johnnie Walker High Rye Blended Scotch.
OpusX 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Humidor
Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the Fuente Fuente OpusX cigar, but the pandemic delayed that milestone until 2021. To celebrate, Carlos “Carlito” Fuente, Reyns International and designer Manny Iriarte collaborated with the renowned Parisian marquetry artisans of Elie Bleu to create 225 OpusX 25th Anniversary humidors. Each humidor—featuring red gumwood construction, with inlays and rose gold accents—holds approximately 88 cigars. Moreover, every humidor comes with a box of 25 cedar wrapped and specially banded 7 x 50 Opus X 25th Anniversary cigars, which will not be available separately and which feature a new OpusX blend.
Aging Room Rare Collection
Yes, Virginia, there actually is an aging room in every cigar factory, where completed cigars are left to mature to perfection. Taking that purpose to a new level, Rafael Nodal, head of product capability for Tabacalera USA, has once again teamed up with noted Nicaraguan tobacco impresario A.J. Fernandez to create this newest in the Aging Room series. Using tobaccos grown on A.J.’s flagship La Lilia farm and incorporating a unique hybrid Cuban seed wrapper and rare Pelo d’Oro leaf, this cigar’s distinctive fat, pig-tailed cap demands a stout guillotine cut. Reminiscent of a caffè Americano mixed with bittersweet chocolate and mustard seeds, this is indeed a thick, medium rare ribeye of a cigar.
Cohiba Serie M
This storied Cuban brand that found new life under a different company in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua now has a version made in America, harkening back to a time over a century ago, when numerous cigars were being handrolled in factories across the United States. Specifically, the new Serie M is being made by the family-owned El Titán de Bronze Cigar Factory in Miami’s Little Havana district. Moreover, this limited edition of 5,000 boxes is being made by expatriate cigar rollers, with each roller crafting an entire cigar, from start to finish. Featuring a double Nicaraguan binder, closed foot and a triple fan-tailed cap, this medium-to-full bodied smoke, with its lustrous Nicaraguan corojo wrapper and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler, exhibits subtle spice notes and nuances of roasted coffee beans. Only one size, a 6 x 52 Toro, is produced.
La Aroma de Cuba Pasión
This is the first Aroma de Cuba line extension since 2014, when La Aroma de Cuba Noblesse (our “Best of the Best” winner in 2015) was introduced. Made by the noted cigar-making team of José “Pepin” Garcia and his son, Jaime Garcia in their My Father Cigars factory, all of the tobaccos for this cigar have been grown on the family’s Nicaraguan farms in Estelí, Jalapa and in the microclimate of Namanji, where Pasión’s oily shade-grown wrapper was cultivated. All of the tobaccos used in Pasión underwent a meticulous triple fermentation, resulting in a medium-full bodied smoke filled with cashews, leather and molasses-soaked cedar. Five sizes are produced, with the box-pressed 6¼ x 54 Torpedo being our favorite with an after-dinner digestif, such as a Ramos Pinto Quinta do Bom Retiro 20-Year-Old tawny port.
La Gloria Cubana Criollo de Oro
This limited edition series was named after the hybrid varietal tobacco developed by crossing two Cuban seed tobaccos, the versatile Criollo ’98 from the Dominican Republic, with the rare Cuban seed Pelo de Oro, a temperamental tobacco grown on the volcanic Nicaraguan island of Ometepe. A hearty Connecticut Broadleaf binder and a blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran filler tobaccos round out the recipe. The result is a sweet earthy, cedar and citrus mixture of medium strength flavors suitable for afternoon walks and evening cocktails. Only two shapes, a Toro and a Churchill, are produced. A total of only 3,100 boxes of 20 cigars each have been made.
Oliva Serie V Melanio JR 50th Anniversary Series
This is a slightly tweaked version of the regular Oliva Serie V first introduced in 2012. It is named after family patriarch Melanio Oliva, who was the first member of this well-respected cigar family to grow tobacco in Nicaragua during the 19th century. As a JR Cigars exclusive, it is also the first of the Melanio Serie to be made in a rounded parejo format for the United States; the previous versions have all been box pressed, although some rounded versions were produced for the European market. The rounded format mellows out the otherwise full flavors of the Nicaraguan filler and binder, along with the Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, producing notes of dark chocolate, coffee and cedar. Only one shape is produced for this limited edition, a 6×50 Toro.
Mombacho Liga Maestro
First sold in Europe, this Nicaraguan puro has only recently been introduced to the United States. Blended with specially selected primings of ligero and viso tobaccos and finished in a Nicaraguan Sungrown wrapper, the cigars are aged a minimum of six months in vaults made of Cedro Macho, a Nicaraguan cedar. And if you carefully peel off the uppermost band of this double-banded cigar and look at its reverse side, you will see a stamped date indicating when each cigar was boxed. Five sizes are produced in this series, of which the Doble Robusto is our choice for an evening smoke. With a muscular spiciness possessing an underlying nuance of espresso, Mombacho is fittingly named after an ancient Nicaraguan volcano.
CAO Flathead V21
Reminiscent of those smoking hot rods of the 1950s and 60s, here are a couple of “rods” that are really smokin’. Reflecting the current penchant for ever-bigger ring gauges, CAO has put the petal to the metal with their new limited edition V21 series, consisting of the appropriately named 6 x 60 Carb and the 7 x 70 Big Block additions to their Flathead line. These thicker, soft box pressed cigars, with their characteristically flat heads, demand a punch cut, rather than a guillotine slice. With a Mexican San Andres wrapper, Connecticut Broadleaf binder and a bold selection of Nicaraguan and Dominican ligero filler tobaccos, these supercharged cigars rev up to a medium-plus smoke.
HVC Hot Cake
Reinier Lorenzo immigrated to America from Cuba and founded his HVC cigar making company in 2011 as a tribute to his native Havana. Well respected in the industry, his cigars have garnered numerous admirers. So after stating that his cigars are “selling like hot cakes,” he made a cigar to prove it. This is his latest tribute to keeping the memory of Havana—where Lorenzo had spent most of his life—alive. With a Mexican San Andrés maduro wrapper, Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 binder, and a filler that includes three different varieties of a newer tobacco called Corojo 2006 Maduro, this is a medium-full cigar with an underlying blanket of sweetness. Three sizes are produced, a 5 5/8 x 46 Corona Gorda, 4 ½ x 52 Laguito #4, and a 6 x 54 Laguito #5.
Colibri Monaco Triple Flame Carbon Fiber Cigar Lighter
This slick, sleek, easy-to-slip-into-your pocket lighter with slide ignition and fuel window features a wind-resistant triple-jet flame that can easy fire up the largest ring gauge stogie. Altitude tested to 9,000 feet—should you find yourself camping in the Rockies and needing a smoke while you stoke the campfire—it is available in four carbon fiber colors: red, black, silver and blue.
Camacho Liberty 2020
Each year this brand issues a very limited edition of a single boxed cigar, which quickly sells out. This year’s 6 x 60 Gordo is a powerhouse blend of Dominican and Honduran tobaccos bound together with a spicy Corojo leaf and finished off with a Cuban seed Ecuadorian wrapper. These tobaccos come from a single farm and have been aged for four years, providing sweet notes of cedar and walnuts, with a faint hint of cinnamon. Only 2,555 individual boxes have been produced for the United States.
My Father Cigars La Promesa
The inspiration for this cigar came from a promise Jose “Pepín” Garcia made to himself and his family when he left Cuba in 2001: to become successful and to make his family proud of him. This medium- to medium-full-bodied cigar is proof that he has more than achieved that goal. Made in Garcia’s flourishing factory in Estelí and using filler and binder tobaccos harvested from his various Nicaraguan farms, this cigar incorporates some higher primings that have been aged from two to three years. Once rolled, the cigars are aged a minimum of six months, which deepens the already-rich flavors of the reddish-brown Ecuadorian Habano rosado-oscuro wrapper and the Nicaraguan filler and binder. Candied sweet chocolate with a touch of oak predominate. Five sizes are produced, a toro, robusto grande, lancero, corona gorda and a petite.
H. Upmann 175th Anniversary Limited Edition
Named after its founder, 19th-century German banker Hermann Upmann, this cigar began in 1844 as a Cuban brand. It has since joined the ranks of cigars with dual identities, for it is now also being made—by a totally different company—in the Dominican Republic. But to celebrate its anniversary, noted Nicaraguan cigar maker A.J. Fernandez was tapped to use his excellent tobaccos to create a Nicaraguan puro. Using a three-year-old medio tiempo wrapper that has undergone slow fermentation, only one size is produced, a 7 x 50 Churchill. Full of saddle leather and spice, the cigars come in a partitioned box of ten, along with a certificate and a silver commemorative coin. A limited-edition, 50-count H. Upmann 175th Anniversary humidor is available separately for $1,250.
S.T. Dupont Croco Dandy Leather-Embossed 3 Cigar Case
Long celebrated for its Parisian elegance and exquisite craftsmanship, this company has made those same attributes available to today’s stylish cigar smoker, with their Cigar Universe Collection and its accompanying Croco Dandy accessories. As part of this collection, this crocodile pattern-embossed leather case is available in black or brown leather, and features a polished stainless steel base to help protect your most valuable smokes.
Plasencia Alma del Fuego
This is the third in the Alma series from the renowned tobacco grower-blender Nestor Plasencia and his family, coming after their Alma Fuerte and Alma del Campo (which was a 2018 Robb Report Best of Best choice). The unique underlying sweetness of this Nicaraguan puro lies in the fact that over half of its filler blend—which is composed primarily of seven-year-old tobaccos—comes from the volcanic island of Ometepe. In addition, one of its two binders—a seven-year-old leaf—is also from Ometepe, and is topped with a five-year-old sun-grown wrapper from Jalapa. “The name of our newest cigar translates into ‘Soul of Fire,’” explains fifth generation family member Nestor Andrés Plasencia, vice president of Plasencia Tobacco S.A., “because we have fire from the volcanic land of Ometepe as well as fire from the sun in the wrapper.” Three shapes are offered: a 5 x 50 robusto, 6 x 54 toro, and a 6 ½ x 38 panetela (shown here). These medium-plus cigars fall between the previous Alma offerings in flavor and strength. As a bonus, like the prior offerings, the box turns over to become an ashtray.
Whether from its original homeland of Cuba or in its later incarnation as a Dominican cigar—where it had been made for many years by Quesada Cigars—the Fonseca brand has always been a medium-mild smoke. But as with much of the world today, things are changing, and the brand has recently been purchased by My Father Cigars of Estelí, Nicaragua. Thus, the flavors have been revved up a bit, with a changeover to a shade grown Corojo 99 Rosado wrapper and all-Nicaraguan tobaccos for the binder and in the filler blend. Although the cigar still retains some of its mildness with the first few puffs, that medium-full Nicaraguan earthiness quickly kicks in with a soothing smoothness. Six sizes are offered, with the 5 ½ x 54 Belicosos being our favorite.
CAO Session Cigars
Sometimes the most utilitarian-looking boxes and bands yield the most pleasantly surprising cigars. That was our experience with this joint collaboration between CAO’s master blender Rick Rodriguez and General Cigar Dominicana production manager Yuri Guillen. In fact, rather than being produced in Central America as are most CAO cigars, this is the first to be made in the DR in over a decade. With a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper, Dominican binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, it has a slightly rugged yet refined taste, with medium-strength flavors of cedar, nuts and a slight sweetness. Three sizes are produced, each named for a place where Rodriguez envisions Session being enjoyed: a 6 x 60 shop, 6 x 49 bar, and a 5¼ x 55 garage.
Richard Carleton Hacker is the author of The Ultimate Cigar Book, an award-winning 400-page book devoted to virtually every facet of cigar making and cigar smoking.