By Michael Aaron Gallagher
When I began smoking cigars it wasn’t to review them or write about my experiences. Fortunately however, I did keep the cigar bands, which allowed me to compile a list of cigars I have smoked over the years. I recently began to jot down notes to help me decide which premium cigars I liked better than the others. Consider them mini cigar reviews.
Here I have put together a continually updated Cigar Guide that I can pull up when I am in a cigar shop’s humidor wondering which brand I preferred and what cigars I haven’t yet smoked.
Hopefully, as I try new cigars and revisit some of the ones I hadn’t made notes about at the time, this will become a more useful look at the current landscape of the premium cigar market. You can also read about my favorite cigar brand Nat Sherman (which is no longer around) by clicking here and my list of Top 10 Favorite Cigars by clicking here.
If I was asking for a cigar as a gift, my top choice would be a Padrón 1964 Anniversary Edition Natural Soberano (Tube). Overall, Padrón cigars are the best of the best in their category. I have tried several different blends and sizes, including the inexpensive Padrón 3000 handmade (Maduro), the 1964 Anniversary Edition (Natural and Soberano Maduro tube and natural Presidente tube and the Principe Maduro sizes). I didn’t know what an even burn looked like until I saw a Padrón cigar. The construction is flawless. The flavors of the aged tobacco are divine. There is a certain insecurity that comes with not being an expert cigar aficionado. When you smoke a particular cigar you can’t help but wonder if the critics at the cigar shop would look down on the cigar you have chosen. But with Padrón, you don’t have any doubt that those who know good cigars, know you have chosen a winner. The only Padrón I did not like was the Damaso, with its Connecticut wrapper. But to be fair, I don’t like that type of Connecticut wrapper, so I will leave the judging of that cigar to someone who specializes in cigars in that category.
- Padrón 3000 handmade maduro – Although this is my most smoked Padrón cigar, it is based on price not preference. It is a good cigar but I would certainly prefer the Partagas Black Label. Still, it is good enough to land at #7 on my Top Ten Favorite Cigars List.
- Padrón 1964 Anniversary Edition Natural Soberano (Tube) – Listed at #2 on my Top Ten Favorite Cigars List.
- Padrón Damaso – My least favorite Padrón cigar. The burn is excellent, flawless construction and draw you would expect from a Padrón, but the flavor is just not my type. It has a serial number on each individual cigar, but it’s not really worthy of counterfeiting. I’d much rather have another one of their lines. In short, I did not like this cigar.
- The Davidoff Nicaragua Toro Genève – Listed at #3 on my Top Ten Favorite Cigars, the Davidoff Nicaragua cigar was an experience. Like Padrón, the construction of the cigar was so flawless and the attention to detail in the blend so great, that you immediately feel like it is in a superior class. That being said, if you cannot afford to smoke Davidoff or Padrón cigars, I wouldn’t recommend trying one because they put all other cigars to shame. Once you’ve had a cigar of this caliber it is difficult to be satisfied with a run-of-the-mill “highly rated” cigar. Still, a Davidoff cigar is one of those cigars you would gift to celebrate the highest achievements and the best occasions. It is classy and elegant. It is a cigar to aspire to (that is if you cannot afford its nearly $30 New York price tag regularly). The wrapper was a work of art. Sitting next to some other highly rated cigars, it just looked like the pricey one. Right away the smell of the cigar before lighting was enticing. The burn was a little off at the beginning because of the sloppy way I lit the cigar, but it corrected itself as if it knew how it was supposed to burn evenly. The draw was perfect. It was not as tightly compacted as the Perdomo 20th Anniversary. This is one cigar I would smoke at a fancy event. I would say the Padrón 1964 Anniversary Edition would be for an elegant small gathering or to enjoy alone and the Davidoff Nicaragua would be the one to smoke in public. I have also tried the box-pressed Nicaragua and in this case I would choose the round instead of box pressed because it feels more elegant. With Padrón, however I love their box pressed cigars because it fits their aesthetic.
- Davidoff The Late Hour – Like the Nicaragua, this cigar feels elegant. The smoothness of the cigar band to the touch wouldn’t seem like a typical selling point but Davidoff has thought of the complete experience of smoking their cigars which is why they are in a different class. The Late Hour is impeccable. I prefer the Nicaraguan cigar slightly better but for all intents and purposes this should be in my Top 10 list as well. At $27 it was a bit more than I am used to paying for a cigar but still well worth it.
What I love about the Te-Amo cigars is they aren’t trying to be something they are not. They are inexpensive, they put out probably more smoke than any other cigar I have tried and the very thing I have heard them criticized for (tasting like dirt) is actually my favorite thing about them. The earthiness and that distinct Mexican tobacco taste reminds me of a hot day in Mexico. It’s the cigar I would definitely take with me on a trip south of the border — to sit back and relax or to walk the streets any day.
- Te-Amo World Collection Series Cuba
Romeo y Julieta
Romeo y Julieta’s 1875 was my first real cigar and although I have found many cigars I like better, the brand has never disappointed me. If I am unsure of what to buy, I know it is a good, predictable cigar. After all, there’s a reason it was one of Sir Winston Churchill’s favorites. I have several Romeo Y Juliet lighters that I light all of my cigars with, as a tribute to the brand that started my cigar journey.
- Romeo y Julieta Reserve
- Romeo y Julieta Nicaragua
- Romeo y Julieta Aniversario – A nice milder cigar, cigar than I am used to but still a nuttiness and well balanced, nicely packed for an even burn. It probably wouldn’t make it into my Top 25 cigars list, but only because there are so many other great cigars out there. I like the classic black and gold cigar band.
- Romeo by Romeo y Julieta – Lands at #9 on the list of my Top Ten Favorite Cigars.
- Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real Verona’s Court (in the metal tube) – Early on, this was one of my top go-to cigars. Over time, I moved to more full bodied cigars, but I wouldn’t hesitate to have this one in my humidor. It is good enough to land at #10 on the list of my Top Ten Favorite Cigars.
- Alec Bradley Black Market – The black market cigar has a memorable licorice flavor, leathery taste and the smoke gives off a nice aroma. It isn’t one of my favorites but it is worth a try.
- Alec Bradley Vice Press
- Alec Bradley Prensado
- Perdomo Reserve Champagne 10th Anniversary
- Perdomo 20th Anniversary Maduro
- Perdomo Inmenso Seventy Maduro – Right away, my first impression of this cigar was to question whether it was a gimmick. The large 70 ring gauge made even the Nub cigar (at 60 ring gauge) look small. But I had a feeling there was more to this cigar than just being an attention getter. I did my best to make sure the humidity was high enough for a couple of days after bringing it home from the cigar shop, but I had a feeling keeping it at the right humidity throughout its life was probably essential to avoid it drying out. As I started to smoke it I realized I was right. The wrapper lightly cracked in a couple of spots. So I knew I wasn’t getting the best stick to review. But even without a perfectly cared for cigar it was clear this was a cigar that deserved repeat visits. The only thing I can compare it to is the Nub because of its filler. For me, there isn’t anything the seventy couldn’t have achieved within the confines of a sixty ring gauge and for that reason it becomes purely a matter of aesthetics, which seems like unnecessary showmanship.
- Perdomo 20th Anniversary– After trying the seventy, which wasn’t a comfortable vitola for me, I knew I wanted to try another Perdomo. This time the 20th Anniversary I found was an even better cigar. Right away the pepper hits you. It had a slightly tighter draw than i am used to but it almost isn’t even worth mentioning. The aroma from the smoke is rich. The cigar band is another almost perfect score for elegance. It feels like a sophisticated cigar should. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this one again.
- Partagas Black Label – Instantly became one of my Top 10 Favorite Cigars, landing at the #4 spot on the list. Slow burning, nice aroma with a hint of licorice. What I thought was a dark Maduro wrapper was actually a Connecticut Medio Tiempo Wrapper. The binder is Dominican and the filler is Dominican and Nicaraguan. The redesigned cigar band is top notch. Right now, I can’t get enough of this cigar and I am glad I discovered it.
- Ashton VSG – Reminded me immediately of my old favorite cigar, the Nat Sherman Timeless Nicaraguan (now produced by Ferio Tego as the Timeless Supreme). Reviewing this one after the Davidoff Nicaragua is interesting. According to some sources, the VSG is one of the top ten rarest cigars in the world. I would have to say if I saved the Davidoff for special occasions the VSG would likely be a replacement for my everyday cigar. The Nat Sherman was a more affordable alternative. The second stick I smoked, from another cigar shop had a notably different flavor to it but it was also a very good cigar. The third was more like the first. Reminds me of green tea but still unique and good. It’s quality and uniqueness has cemented its place at #5 on the list of My Top Ten Favorite Cigars.
- Ashton Aged Maduro #10 – This reminded me of the Padrón Handmade Maduro, but a much more densely packed cigar with a tougher draw. I definitely prefer the Ashton VSG to this one but it was a decent cigar. I don’t want to judge this one based on a single stick, so I may return to this one again at some point to give it another chance to impress me more.
All of the Nub cigars I have tried had great construction and checked all the boxes for a nicely blend of expected flavors based on their individual type of wrapper. I love the fat ring gauge. The smoke output was great. Time to smoke the 4” around 30-45 mins.
- Nub Maduro – The Nub Maduro is just a fun cigar. I keep coming back to it again and again when I am looking for a shorter cigar due to time constraints or just a well-balanced cigar that is affordable and produces a lot of flavor and smoke. It lands at #8 on the list of my Top Ten Favorite Cigars.
- Nub Camaroon – Just OK, which in the Cigar World is forgettable.
- Nub Habano – Of the five blends I tested, the Habano was the second best Nub cigar.
- Nub Connecticut– Mild, and my least favorite nub cigar.
Other Cigars Tested
- Drew Estate Isla del Sol – Right away, I could tell this was an infused cigar. The sweetness on my lips was unlike any cigar I have tried before. I found out it was because the tip of the cigar was dipped in sugar, which is definitely an intriguing way to sweeten the tobacco. One of the reasons I decided to buy it was because it was extremely cheap (in the $6 range) and I am always looking for an affordable everyday cigar. It was loosely packed almost spongy. I thought this may have been the particular stick but the second one started falling apart in the final third. While I was smoking the first one, a guy in a pickup truck pulled up to me and started talking cigars. He had a Tabak (also from Drew Estate), which he highly recommended. Social media star GenXDad later told me in an email that Isla del Sol is his favorite cigar. Despite the construction issues I think it would be a nice beginner cigar if for no other reason than its sugary sweetness.
- Cohiba Weller – As my first cigar of the new year (2022) and my first example from the Cohiba brand, I had fairly high expectations. I really enjoy cigars in a tube. In this case, the maduro Weller comes in a glass tube that gives you a rich aroma when you first open the tube. The wrapper leaf had a rich, dark color and the smoke had a nice aroma. The cigar itself which had an irregular burn that needed touching up was good but not great. There wasn’t a complexity of flavors that I often find in other maduro cigars and I certainly wouldn’t pay more than $25 for it (as i did) when there are many many much better cigars for a better price. I expected the Cohiba to be in the same class as Padrón and Davidoff and instantly catapult into my Top Ten Favorite Cigars and the Weller just couldn’t compete. I’m not even sure if it would make the Top 25.
- La Aroma de Cuba – Nice stick right off the bat. I immediately liked it better than the Aging Room and Kentucky Fire Cured cigars I had recently tried. It was a slightly milder cigar than those. The previous night, I had passed on a sample pack of La Aroma De Cuba cigars at a discount and after trying it that was a mistake. I would have enjoyed those. The cigar band is beautiful. The cigar looks good, is affordable, with an even burn. I would definitely buy it again. It also has well-balanced flavors, nothing competes too strongly with anything else in the blend.
- Kentucky Fire Cured Genuine MUWAT – Interesting concept and reminiscent of barbecue beef jerky, but not special. Not a bad cigar, great construction, would have like a slightly looser draw. Boring cigar band.
- Oilva Serie V Liga Especial – The Oliva Serie V is a solid, full bodied cigar. Well constructed with a nuttiness that would compliment a cup of espresso, I opted for a shorter stick for an outdoor winter smoke. But the draw was very smooth and the smoke output was excellent. At first it started off with a slightly irregular burn but it quickly corrected itself without needing any touching up. The dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with its red tinted leaf gave the cigar a nice leathery look to it. The band was slightly less impressive but not really needing to be showy. The cigar itself would be an affordable everyday smoke.
- Aging Room Quattro Nicaraguan Maestro Torpedo – Undoubtedly a very good cigar. Cigar Aficionado rated it the #1 cigar of 2019. The particular cigar I bought was not in perfect condition, which I would attribute to the cigar shop not the manufacturer. I’m not a fan of torpedo style or the cigar band design. I also would have liked some more aftertaste. Although, I did like the cigar better as it went along. I just would have preferred a stronger flavor profile.
- Perla del Mar (J.C. Newman Cigar Co.) – With its roots tracing back to Cuba and its Floridian influence found in the Tampa-style box press, this affordable cigar is a perfect entry level cigar. It’s milder maduro Connecticut wrapper isn’t stingy on the filler tobacco, densely packed peppery flavor.
- Playboy – Nothing special to see here. I just bought it for the bunny cigar band.
- Camacho corojo (red)
- Joya de Nicaragua cuatro cinco
- Plasencia Alma Fuerte
- AJ Fernandez San Lotano
- Onyx handmade reserve
- La Gloria Cubana
- Cuvée No. 151
- Don Pepín Garcia Series JJ
- Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial
- Rocky Patel Freedom
- Rocky Patel Vintage 1992
- Joya de Havana
- Natural Drew Estate
- My Father La Antcuedad
- My Father Flor de las antillas
- Macanudo maduro
- Macanudo 1968
- El Baton
- EP Carrillo
- La Gloria Cubana Serie R Estelí
- Montecristo Platinum Series
- Montecristo White Series
- Montecristo M&G
- Montecristo Monte
- Montecristo Reserva Negra
- Casa Magna Colorado
- Oceano La Sirena
- Nica Rustica
- Zahi mango cigarillo
- Tatiana cherry and chocolate cigarillos
- Gurkha Ninja
- Gurkha Nicaragua Series
- Saint Luis Rey Reserva Especial
- Cusano Signature Blend
- La Traviata
- Room 101 Serie SA Mexico
- CAO Gold
- Nat Sherman Metropolitan Habano
Because this is an evolving list of mini-reviews, feel free to make suggestions, corrections and recommendations.