Each year, our panelists smoke hundreds of cigars in blind tastings so that in our tasting notes we can give you the most objective impressions possible of our smoking experience. For the Top 25 list published at year’s end – that is, the cigars that particularly stood out for us – we asked numerous panelists to nominate their personal favorites from the tastings of 2017.
Only the cigars that received a combined score of 91 or more, and those that were initially released less than two years ago were eligible for selection.
Here are our Top 19 to 14.
#19 | VegaFina Fortaleza 2 Rum Barrel Aged Salomon
The brand VegaFina is now considered one of the global classics. It originates in Spain, where it was first launched in 1998. Now it is available in 45 international markets and, due to its good price-performance ratio, is one of the overall bestsellers. In Spain, VegaFina is the top-selling brand. The Fortaleza 2 line has been on the market since 2011 and is somewhat more robust than the Classic line. It is manufactured in the biggest cigar factory in the world, Tabacalara de Garcia in La Romana, Dom. Rep., under the watchful eyes of Pedro Ventura, a member of the Grupo de Maestros.
Tasting notes: Aromas of chocolate, coffee and earth are pepped up by pepperiness and notes of spice. This is followed by dried fruit, some eucalyptus freshness, nutty aromas, and, toward the end, a mild chili sharpness.
Factory: Tabacalera de García
Origin: Dom. Rep.
Wrapper: Ecuador Sumatra
Binder: Dom. Rep.
Filler: Dom. Rep.
Size: 5 3/4 x 52 | 146 x 20,6 mm
#18 | Don Kiki Platinum Label Limited Selection Grande
Karen Berger is a name to remember. Karen is the widow of Henry “Kiki” Berger, one of the most prominent pioneers in Nicaraguan cigars, who entered the cigar business in 1996, and passed away in 2014. Karen is upholding the legacy of her husband and manages the family business as one of the few women in the industry. She was born in Estelí, Nicaragua, and learned her craft from the bottom up. In the year 2016, in addition to the brand Don Kiki, she launched her label K by Karen Berger. In addition, she manages the Don Kiki Cigar Superstore in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Tasting notes: This large caliber starts off with a dark chocolate and toffee taste in creamy, soft smoke. Then, nut and roasted aromas, light bitter and fruity notes are added. Very harmonious and creamy.
Owner: Don Kiki Cigars
Factory: Estelí Cigar Factory S.A.
Binder, filler: Nicaragua
Size: 6 x 60 | 152 x 23,8 mm
#17 | 2012 by Oscar Corojo Toro
It’s been five years since Oscar Valladares took off on a real campaign of conquest. He began manufacturing cigars and became popular with passionados worldwide in no time at all. To celebrate this success, together with his master blender Byron Duarte, he reissued his first cigar series – the 2012 by Oscar. The new version consists of a Corojo, Maduro and Connecticut line. Each line is available in four formats, respectively: as a Short Robusto, Torpedo, Sixty, and the Toro presented here. All formats are box pressed cigars.
Tasting notes: This box pressed Toro impresses with its creamy smoke, and develops aromas of roasted nuts, earth, grains, and wood. It has spices of pepper, the sweetness of treacle, herbs, and notes of fruit.
Owner: Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co.
Factory: Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co.
Filler: Honduras, Nicaragua
Size: 6 x 52 | 152 x 20,6 mm
#16 | Flor de Selva Colección Aniversario N° 20 Egoísta
In the course of the 20th-year anniversary of her brand Flor de Selva in 2015, Maya Selva launched the Flor de Selva Colección Aniversario Nº 20 line. The first format was a Lancero, which immediately garnered many fans, and made it to 14th place on our Top 25 list of the year 2015. In the meantime, the formats Petit Corona, Robusto, Tempo (Robusto Grande), and our Top 16, the Egoista, a Short Robusto, have also been added.
Tasting notes: In the first few draws, this small, thick cigar is somewhat impetuous. Soon, harmony comes into play: creamy sweetness, notes of hay, herbs and roasted aromas come to the foreground, underscored by a peppery spice.
Owner: Maya Selva Cigars
Factory: Tabacos de Oriente
Wrapper, binder, filer: Honduras
Size: 89 x 22,2 mm | 3 1/2 x 56
#15 | Juan López Eminentes ER 2016 Suiza
This Edición Regional for the Swiss market was released commercially in November last year. It is available in numbered, 10-count boxes for 240 Swiss francs; the entire edition is limited to 6,000 boxes. Previously, the Sublimes format had only been offered in the Edición Limitada 2004 (Cohiba) and 2008 (Montecristo). The Spanish businessman Juan López Díaz founded the brand named after him in the 1870s. For many years, it was one of the best sellers among Cuban cigars. Today it is only found in a few countries. Particularly popular are the Selección No. 1 and No. 2 formats.
Tasting notes: The medium-bodied Sublimes are chocolatey, with delicate pepper, roasted and earthy aromas. Toward the end, there’s a nice competition between nougat sweetness, cedar, and chili spice.
Owner: Habanos S.A.
Wrapper, binder, filler: Cuba
Size: 165 x 21,4 mm | 6 1/2 x 54
Released: November 2016
#14 | La Galera Maduro El Lector
José Arnaldo “Jochy” Blanco is proud of his family history. In the mid-19th century, the Spaniard José Manuel Blanco Lozada emigrated to the Dominican Republic and started working in the tobacco trade. His son became a tobacco farmer; Jochy now represents the fourth generation. In 1995, he founded the free-trade zone La Palma near Santiago, where today his farms and a first-class factory are located. There he produces a number of well-known labels on behalf of other brand owners. La Galera is the first cigar of his own brand and has only existed for two years. It is a tribute to the artful work of the torcedores.
Tasting notes: Following a sweet, creamy start, cedary and roasted aromas, as well as chocolate and nuts, come into play. This Toro cigar develops a lot of spices, some citrus freshness and pepperiness.
Owner: Indian Head Cigars
Factory: Tabacalera Palma
Origin: Dom. Rep.
Binder, filler: Dom. Rep.
Size: 152 x 21,4 mm | 6 x 54
Top 25 Release Schedule
December 11, 2017 (Monday): No. 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20
December 12, 2017 (Tuesday): No. 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14
December 13, 2017 (Wednesday): N0. 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8
December 14, 2017 (Thursday): No. 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2
December 15, 2017 (Friday): Cigar of the Year 2017