Each year, our tasting panel members smoke hundreds of cigars in order to give you the results of these blind tastings with the most objective impressions possible through our ratings. At the end of the year, we traditionally use the occasion to select those cigars that have remained in our memory.
As in the previous year, we asked our panelists to name their personal favorites from the year’s tastings. Only the cigars that received a combined score of 90 points or more and those that were initially released less than two years ago were eligible for selection.
#13 | VegaFina Classic Year of the Pig
According to the Chinese zodiac, those born in the year of the pig have a beautiful personality, are blessed with good fortune, love entertainment, and enjoy life. Cigar companies are increasingly releasing cigars based on the Chinese zodiac, and the Year of the Pig characteristics certainly suit a large number of cigar lovers around the world. VegaFina’s Year of the Pig release features a Nicaraguan and Dominican filler, binder and wrapper for good measure, produced in the Tabacalera de García factory in the Dominican Republic.
Tasting notes: Leather aromas, a gentle salty note, the scent of bread, wood aromas and spices … and that’s just the start. This creamy cigar develops floral notes, a pinch of pepper and a subtle chocolate sweetness combined with nut aromas, herbs, and dried fruit.
Owner: Tabacalera SLU
Factory: Tabacalera De Garcia
Origin: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Size: 5 ½ x 56 | 140 x 22,2 mm
#12 | Balmoral Añejo XO Oscuro Rothschild Masivo
The Balmoral brand has developed in leaps and bounds since entering the premium cigar market. Before parting ways with Drew Estate, this partnership amplified the brand’s reach, ensuring that cigar lovers were able to discover the premium-cigar offering of the label. This year, the Balmoral manufacturer, Royal Agio Cigars, introduced two new lines to the Balmoral Anejo XO series, the Connecticut and Oscuro. These recent releases captivated our blind-tasting team, with the Oscuro being a standout in this year’s tastings. Multiple countries have supplied tobacco for this blend, which provides a rich and complex experience.
Tasting notes: This cigar delivers a lot of creamy smoke with an expressive taste and aroma profile; noticeable coffee notes, the delicate sweetness of dark chocolate, roasted aromas and abundant herbal spice, including a pinch of pepper.
Owner: Agio Sigarenfabrieken NV
Factory: Agio Caribbean Tobacco Company LTD
Origin: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic, USA, Brazil
Size: 5 x 55 | 127 x 21.8 mm
#11 | La Galera Habano Supremo
Jochy Blanco, manufacturer of the La Galera brand, presented The Cubes, a limited edition of 333 square-shaped boxes containing 50 cigars rolled in irregular vitolas at this year’s IPCPR and at the subsequent InterTabac trade show. At InterTabac, Blanco told Cigar Journal: “For this limited release, we made a selection of our best tobaccos and rolled it into four totally new formats.” Be quick, as Jochy Blanco declared that these releases won’t be repeated again. Available in four different sizes, our tasting panelists selected this cigar as an illustrious selection in Cigar Journal’s Top 25 cigars of the year.
Tasting notes: The scent of toast blends with cedary, nutty and coffee aromas. Later, an almond taste develops, combined with the sweetness of dates, leather aromas, pepper and spice. A very complex blend.
Owner: Indian Head Cigars
Factory: Tabacalera Palma
Origin: Dominican Republic
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Size: 4 x 56 | 102 x 22,2 mm
#10 | Oscar Valladares Ciserón Edition
From working his way up with Rocky Patel, Oscar Valladares’s rise has been meteoric; he quickly became known for producing cigars of style and substance. Style and substance combine in the Oscar Valladares Ciserón limited edition that honors the work of Honduran artist Elmer Ciserón Bautista. Interestingly, it’s the first time Valladares uses a wrapper that does not consist of Honduran tobacco. Five pieces of Ciserón’s art were selected, with each artwork reproduced on 500 20-count boxes. With no artwork or labels to fall back on, our tasting panelists were drawn to this cigar, and eventually discovered that cigar art, history, and culture are even more tangible in this line of cigars from Oscar Valladares.
Tasting notes: This cigar is perfectly rolled, has a fantastic burn and forms a solid ash. The woody, nutty and coffee aromas are underscored by a honey sweetness, fruity notes, and herbs. At the end, the creamy smoke also develops notes of chili.
Owner: Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co.
Factory: Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co.
Size: 6 x 52 | 152 x 20,6 mm
#9 | Alec Bradley Prensado Lost Art Torpedo
Alec Bradley is a brand name synonymous with the premium cigar industry. Alan Rubin’s Prensado released a few years ago received glowing admiration from the cigar world. The Lost Art name extension tips its hat to the cigar maker’s time-honored craft and skill. The Alec Bradley Prensado Lost Art Torpedo is one of our top 25 cigars of this year and was a standout among our panelists and among the other formats in the range, which include a Robusto, Gran Toro, Churchill, and Double T. Unlike the original Prensado, the Prensado Lost Art blend features an additional binder from Honduras.
Tasting notes: A Figurado with wood and plenty of coffee notes, cacao sweetness and tang. Pepperiness, sweetness and spices provide a match with each other on the palate. A balanced, harmonious and also pretty cigar.
Owner: Alec Bradley Cigar Co.
Factory: Raices Cubanas
Binder: Honduras, Nicaragua
Filler: Honduras, Nicaragua
Size: 6 ½ x 52 | 165 x 20,6 mm
#8 | Villiger La Vencedora Robusto
Best known for machine-made cigars and European cigar distribution, Villiger Cigars has reestablished itself in the North American premium handmade cigar industry. The rebranded La Vencedora (originally a Cuban brand purchased and released on the US market in 2005) is marketed as Villiger Cigars North America’s first “full-bodied” cigar and is made by Joya de Nicaragua. The 2018 La Vencedora, or “The Victor,” also corresponds with the company’s 130th anniversary in the cigar industry.
Tasting notes: Robust earthy, nutty and oaky aromas interchange with coffee and spice. In addition, this Robusto offers subtle citrus freshness and a proper pinch of pepper. Then this creamy cigar becomes cedary and somewhat harsher.
Owner: Villiger Cigars North America
Factory: Joya de Nicaragua
Size: 5 x 50 | 127 x 19,8 mm
Top 25 Cigars of 2018 Release Schedule
Cigars # 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20: December 10
Cigars # 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14: December 11
Cigars # 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8: December 12
Cigars # 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2: December 13
Cigar of the Year 2018: December 14