Smoked a lot of cigars this year, and this may be perhaps my greatest year of discovering the cigar world. I smoked cigars from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, Philippines, Bahamas, and Cuba. All in all, I probably smoked close to 40-50 cigars this year and have produced a list of my personal top 10 favorites. I'm not even going to pretend that my list is objective or close to it. I have a preference for certain cigar blenders and tobacco origins. I will go out and say that my favorite cigar blender and maker is Don Pepin Garcia and Pete Johnson. My preference is evident by this list, and is made up of mostly Don Pepin products. For origin of tobacco, I prefer Nicaraguan tobacco to all other tobacco. I do go out of the way to try cigars from other producers and companies when someone recommends them, and smoked some spectacular cigars from the Dominican, Honduras, and Cuba. So here is my personal favorites with some commentary as why I picked it for this list.
#10 Cigar of the Year: Oliva Serie V Belicoso
For $5 cigars this may be the best cigar you can buy and always find plenty of them in the cigar shops. This cigar brings load of flavors, especially deep leather flavors. Full bodied smoke, powerful, and not for the novice.
#9 Cigar of the Year: Ramon Allones Special Selection Robusto
This was a very complex cigar with some great construction. One of the few cubans that I haven't had construction problems with. Not the most beautiful thing to look at, but neither are Padrons. Smokes like a Padron Serie 1964, but much more flavorful. Medium bodied smoke. Too bad I had to shell out close to $20 to burn one.
#8 Cigar of the Year: Mi Dominicana Lancero by Jose Seijas
The best lancero I had all year. I love smoking lanceros because it gives you so much of the wrapper flavor. But this stick was more than just the wrapper, it had some excellent filler flavor and good complexity. Coffee bean, black tea, and leather flavors dominate this slender beauty.
#7 Cigar of the Year: Tatuaje La Seleccion de Cazador Petite Cazadores Reserva by Pete Johnson
This is a pure firecracker of a stick. Full of black and red pepper spice, it smacks you right in the face and on your palate. For such a small little stick it is complex and delicious. Last about 45 minutes, but keeps you guessing all the way to the end with what flavors you will taste next. Definitely will stock up on plenty of these. Should age beautifully in the humidor. This one will knock you on your ass!
#6 Cigar of the Year: Tatuaje La Seleccion de Cazador Regio by Pete Johnson
This size threads the fine line between smooth and powerful. It has excellent spice on the first third of the cigar and mellows out to be a smooth and earthy cigar. Got to love the classic robusto shape. Can't go wrong with any of the shapes of the La Seleccion de Cazadore Tat's from Pete Johnson.
#5 Cigar of the Year: Casa Magna Colorado Robusto by Manuel Quesada
The best cigar period in its price range ($4-$6). 2008 Cigar of the Year by Cigar Aficionado. Need I say more. This is just down right complex. Full of leather, nutmeg, and black tea flavors. Perfect construction and razor sharp burn; not a single touch up. What's so awesome is that it is so easy to find as well.
#4 Cigar of the Year: Cabaiguan Guapo by Pete Johnson
A very hard to find cigar. My favorite cigar shop, Habana House in Austin, keeps a heavy stock of them thankfully. If you like deep flavored, slightly sweet cigars; this is the cigar for you. This bring loads of cocoa flavors. Like a leather stick dipped in chocolate. Beautiful Don Pepin construction with the signature pigtail cap. Only the best cigar rollers make this cigar at Pepin's factory.You better have some time set aside for this one, it's a big cigar.
#3 Cigar of the Year: My Father No.1 by Pepin/Jaime Garcia
Surprise! Another Don Pepin smoke. This cigar is just the epitome of greatness. The unique floral aroma and flavors make this one a winner in my book. This smoke does not seem full bodied and powerful until you get half way through it and figure out you need to sit down or this smoking session may turn ugly. The cigar evolves in flavor almost every inch. The #3 cigar of 2009 per Cigar Aficionado. My go to cigar whenever I can't decide what to smoke. Luckily I got a lot of them.
#2 Cigar of the Year: La Riqueza No.2 Belicoso by Pete Johnson
Yep, Don Pepin makes his appearance here again. I like to call this stick "Crystal Meth". It is so good and addicting and has a sparkly aged wrapper that looks as if the wrapper is studded with crystals when put under a light. Not a beautiful cigar, but what it lacks in looks it makes up in kick ass flavor. Toasty wood notes dominate and intermingle with nutmeg and coffee bean flavors. Solid burn and construction with just a hint of tightness on the draw. Pete Johnson's best cigar I think. I heard it is even one of Don Pepin's favorites.
#1 Cigar of the Year: Montecristo Habana No.2
I have just a small amount of these beautiful extensively aged Monte No.2's from Habana, Cuba. I finally smoked one that had the tip slightly ravaged by a tobacco beetle that hatched in my box of cubans (Unfortunately let the humidity in my humidor get over >80% for too long). The cigar even had a stain on the bottom of the cigar from the cedar box from the extensive aging. This was a very solid cigar, tightly packed, and had a pretty tight draw after cutting. After being difficult to light, and some concern for a $23 stick, the initial draws put all worries to rest. Super complex with that textbook Cuban earthiness. The draw loosened up after an 1.5 inches in and smoked like a charm holding the ash for over 2-3 inches all the way through this awesome experience. Doesn't get much better than this. Pair with Topo Chico orange soda, seriously!
There were a lot of cigars I wished I could have had the opportunity to have smoked and evaluated. My top 10 list only contains those that I have smoked myself in the last year. Some of the other cigars that have received high praise from other bloggers and cigar reviewers that I wished I could have tried myself are the My Father Limited Edition, La Flor Dominicana Salomon, Viaje 2009 Holiday Blend, Tatuaje SW Reserva, Tatuaje Barclay Rex 100th Anniversary, Tatuaje Pork Tenderloin, El Triunfador Lancero Original, and Viaje Skull and Bones. Hopefully I can get a hold of old stock and be able to include them in next years top ten list.