Cigar Snob Magazine’s Top 25 of 2012

Written by Erik Calviño. Posted in Top 25


The Best Cigars of 2012

Published on January 03, 2013 with 20 Comments

Another year’s worth of cigar ratings is behind us. As a team we smoked well over 2,000 cigars for the purposes of the 2012 cigar ratings! But unlike other years where we just move on to the next year’s ratings, we’ve decided to give you our Top 25 of 2012! Now, before we dive in to the list, let’s define which cigars were candidates for our Top 25 of 2012.

The only cigars that were considered are cigars that we rated in the 2012 publishing year. If our panel did not rate the cigar in a 2012 issue, it was not on our radar for the Top 25. Now we start eliminating. Only the ones with a rating of 91 or above in 2012 were considered candidates. If more than one cigar from the same line was rated, the highest rated in the line was kept and the others were dropped. At this point, the resulting candidate cigars were all re-purchased and re-tasted blind by our panel. This is a key component to the accuracy of the rating since cigars can change slightly from one batch to the next.

NOTE: An overwhelming majority of premium cigar manufacturers have a sincere goal of producing a consistent cigar year in and year out but the truth is that it is no easy task. In fact, it’s quite likely the hardest part of cigar production, and some manufacturers are simply better or better equipped for managing the consistency of their blends for reasons too numerous to recount here.

So even though we typically have plenty of samples left over from the previous tastings, we go back out and re-purchase the cigars, carefully remove the labels, and adhere to an internally numbered label for the blind tasting. The panelists taste again, and submit their reviews, and the resulting scores are then compiled revealing our Top 25 cigars of 2012! We are extremely proud of our list and congratulate every cigar manufacturer on it for their hard work, knowledge, and passion.

1. Oliva Serie V Melanio (Tabacalera Oliva S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar Snob Top 25 Cigars of 2012 - Oliva Serie V Melanio

WRAPPER: Ecuador; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua
VITOLA: Torpedo; PHYSICAL SIZE: 6.5 x 52
MSRP: $13.00

From the day it was released at the August 2012 cigar industry trade show (IPCPR), the Oliva Serie V Melanio caught fire, figuratively and quite literally! Even leading up to the trade show, there was a considerable amount of buzz around the Melanio, as the cigar media picked up stories about the upcoming release. Many times, perhaps even most of the time, that much buzz around a cigar can result in a bit of a letdown, but in the case of the Melanio, the cigar delivered the goods to match the buzz.

From a smoking experience perspective, the Melanio blew away our panelists with a perfectly balanced and flavorful profile highlighted by a level of complexity seldom seen in a production cigar. The multi-layered medium bodied profile has a core of caramel, nuts, and mild spice complemented by floral notes and light cinnamon sweetness.

While the majority of the Oliva portfolio is carried by their ultra-consistent and flavorful filler tobacco, the star of the show for this cigar is the beautiful and flavorful Ecuadorean Sumatra wrapper. If you were a fan of the Oliva Master Blends 2, you may find the Melanio to be right up your alley. It’s the only other time that Oliva has employed this wrapper. We rated the Oliva Serie V Melanio in our November/December 2012 issue and it received a whopping 95 rating, our highest to date.

2. Padron Family Reserve 85 (Tabacos Cubanica S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar Snob Top 25 Cigars of 2012 - Padron Family Reserve 85

WRAPPER: Nicaragua; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua

VITOLA: No. 85; PHYSICAL SIZE: 5.25 x 50
MSRP: $20.00

Continuing the Padrón Family Reserve’s lineage of greatness, the 85th was released in late 2011 but strangely we didn’t rate it until late 2012. Instead we rated the 40th Anniversary and several 1926 Serie throughout the year. When we finally got to the 85th, we absolutely loved it! The cigar produces intense flavors of dark chocolate and pepper right out of the gate, then settles down a bit allowing sweet notes of cedar and leather to show up at the party. The construction of these cigars is always impeccable while the smoke it produces is heavy and highly aromatic. This is truly a superb cigar.

3. Jaime Garcia – Limited Edition (My Father Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar - Jaime Garcia - Limited Edition

WRAPPER: USA/Conneticut; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua
MSRP: $16.00

The García family has had another banner year in our book. Of the Top 25 cigars of 2012, six are made by My Father Cigars. The Jaime García Limited Edition for 2011 is a spectacular cigar with a rich and flavorful profile highlighted by dark chocolate, ripe fruit, and spice. The blend features some of the García family’s Pelo de Oro tobacco, which is reserved for limited editions and affords the cigar a unique spicy sweetness. The Garcías outdid themselves on this blend, which was featured again in the 2012 LE but with a Connecticut Shade wrapper. With the Garcías announcing the upcoming release of the Don Pepín García Limited Edition, it looks like another banner year is in the works.

4. Fuente Fuente Opus X (Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia. in the Dominican Republic)

Cigar - Fuente Fuente Opus X

WRAPPER: Dominican Republic; BINDER: Dominican Republic; FILLER: Dominican Republic
VITOLA: Double Corona; PHYSICAL SIZE: 7 5/8 x 49
MSRP: $27.00

Year in and year out, the Fuente Fuente OpusX endures as one of the best smoking experiences money can buy. The cigar’s ultra-consistent strength, flavor intensity, and superb construction don’t happen by mistake; they are a testament to the Fuente family and their passionate leader Carlos “Carlito” Fuente. The OpusX is smooth but powerful with subtly sweet notes of leather, cedar, and coffee complemented by a healthy dose of spice and an ultra-long finish. The estate grown wrapper on the OpusX is the stuff of legend since it went against conventional thinking at the time and was the key to Fuente’s producing the Opus, the first successful Dominican puro.

5. Padilla Studio Tobac (Tabacalera Oliva S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar - Padilla Studio Tobac

WRAPPER: Nicaragua; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua
VITOLA: Figurado; PHYSICAL SIZE: 6 x 60
MSRP: $14.00

Ernesto Padilla, one of the true eccentrics of the cigar business, joined forces with Studio Tobac to release this special edition in only one size and it was a home run. The blend is rich and flavorful with superb balance and complexity. Studio Tobac, which is Oliva Cigar’s creative blending studio, has had plenty of success with Nub and Cain and oh yeah, they gave away a friggin’ Corvette once! While Oliva and Padilla are collaborating much more now that they’ve entered into a distribution agreement, there has been no news of future Padilla Studio Tobac plans. If they can produce something like this again, we’ll be chomping at the bit!

6. La Flor Dominicana Double Press (Tabacalera La Flor S.A. in the Dominican Republic)

Cigar - La Flor Dominicana Double Press

WRAPPER: Ecuador; BINDER: Dominican Republic; FILLER: Dominican Republic
MSRP: $8.32

While the Double Press is not a new release – in fact it’s hard to find in some markets – we rated it in our November/December issue and scored it a 93. So we resubmitted them and damned if they didn’t kick ass again!

7. Liga Privada T52 (La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar - Liga Privada T52

WRAPPER: USA/Connecticut; BINDER: Brazil; FILLER: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic & Honduras
VITOLA: Belicoso; PHYSICAL SIZE: 6 x 52
MSRP: $12.95

We were fans of the Liga Privada T52 from day one but after visiting the barns in Connecticut where the Stalk-Cut Habano hangs, we love it even more and couldn’t be happier that our panelists felt the same way.

8. San Lotano Oval (Tabacalera Fernandez de Nicaragua S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar - San Lotano Oval

WRAPPER: Ecuador; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua, Honduras & Undisclosed
VITOLA: Petit Robusto; PHYSICAL SIZE: 4.5 x 54
MSRP: $8.30

AJ Fernandez has blended yet another masterpiece for his San Lotano brand. The San Lotano Oval, named for its unique shape, was almost beaten out of the Top 25 by the San Lotano Habano, itself a fantastic smoke.

9. Flor de las Antillas (My Father Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar - Flor de las Antillas

WRAPPER: Nicaragua; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua
VITOLA: Nicaragua; PHYSICAL SIZE: 5 x 50
MSRP: $7.00

Released at Federal Cigar’s 91st Anniversary Event in March 2012, the Flor de las Antillas sold like gangbusters at the trade show in August. It didn’t take us long to notice this one. It scored a 92 in our July/August 2012 issue.

10. Nestor Miranda Grand Reserve 2012 (My Father Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar - Nestor Miranda Grand Reserve 2012

WRAPPER: USA/Connecticut; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua
VITOLA: Torpedo; PHYSICAL SIZE: 6.5 x 52
MSRP: $12.00

The Nestor Miranda Grand Reserve 2012 is the 2nd release under the Grand Reserve brand and was thoroughly enjoyed by our panel, just as the 2011 was. Both received a score of 92 in our ratings!

11. Davidoff Millenium Blend (Tabadom Holding, Inc. in the Dominican Republic)

Cigar - Davidoff Millenium Blend

WRAPPER: USA/Connecticut; BINDER: Dominican Republic; FILLER: Dominican Republic
VITOLA: Robusto; PHYSICAL SIZE: 5.25 x 50
MSRP: $17.90

Bursting with flavor and sporting a gorgeous oily wrapper, every vitola we’ve ever tasted of the Davidoff Millenium Blend has performed well with our panel, but it was the robusto that scored highest, coming in at 92 in our September/October 2012 issue.

12. Tatuaje Cojonu 2012 Broadleaf (My Father Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar - Tatuaje Cojonu 2012 Broadleaf

WRAPPER: USA/Connecticut; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua
MSRP: $7.75

The Tatuaje Cojonu 2012 was released back in March 2012 in three different wrappers: a Broadleaf, a Sumatra, and a Habano. The Broadleaf struck a chord with our panelists, scoring a 92 in our November/December 2012 issue.

13. Quesada Jalapa (Manufactura de Tabacos, S.A in the Dominican Republic)

Cigar - Quesada Jalapa

WRAPPER: Nicaragua; BINDER: Dominican Republic; FILLER: USA/Connecticut, Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
VITOLA: Robusto; PHYSICAL SIZE: 4 7/8 x 50
MSRP: $7.75

This was one of the great surprises of 2012. The Quesada Jalapa has not been marketed much and has not received too much fanfare, but we loved it! The cigar is creamy and smooth with flawless construction and a gorgeous wrapper.

14. Rocky Patel Vintage 2003 Cameroon (El Paraíso in Honduras)

Cigar - Rocky Patel Vintage 2003 Cameroon

WRAPPER: Cameroon; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
MSRP: $10.75

The rich and flavorful Rocky Patel Vintage 2003 Cameroon is the latest installment of the RP Vintage series. The medium bodied cigar was highly rated by our panel in the January/February 2012 issue, in part thanks to the delicious 8-year-old Cameroon wrapper.

15. La Palina – El Diario (Fábrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas in Honduras)

Cigar - La Palina - El Diario

WRAPPER: Honduras; BINDER: Honduras; FILLER: Honduras
VITOLA: Kill Bill; PHYSICAL SIZE: 4.25 x 40
MSRP: $8.75

While the official name is El Diario, smokers typically ask for this particular one by its vitola, the Kill Bill. This petite corona got its name as a result of brand owner Bill Paley’s inability to finish the diminutive cigar during a blending session due to its strength.

16. EP Carrillo Elencos (Tabacalera La Alianza in the Dominican Republic)

Cigar - EP Carrillo Elencos

WRAPPER: Brazil; BINDER: Dominican Republic; FILLER: Nicaragua
VITOLA: Don Rubio; PHYSICAL SIZE: 5.25 x 50
MSRP: $9.50

This masterful blend from Ernesto Perez-Carrillo and his team at Tabacalera La Alianza in Santiago, DR employs the same blend as the highly acclaimed EP Carrillo Edición Limitada 2010, a superb cigar with exceptional balance.

17. 601 Maduro (My Father Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar - 601 Maduro

WRAPPER: Nicaragua; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua
VITOLA: Toro; PHYSICAL SIZE: 6.25 x 54
MSRP: $9.25

In the world of cigars, this brand has been through a lot. It’s had its ups and downs from a distribution and packaging standpoint but has somehow made it through. We think it has something to do with the cigars themselves; they are as good now as they were in 2007.

18. Casa Fernandez – Aganorsa Leaf (Casa Fernandez Miami in the USA)

Cigar - Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf

WRAPPER: Nicaragua; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua
VITOLA: Nicaragua; PHYSICAL SIZE: 6 x 54
MSRP: $7.90

It’s no secret, the easiest way to make a great cigar is to start with excellent raw materials, and the folks at Casa Fernandez have a bit of an inside track (tongue firmly in cheek) on the best of Agricola Ganadera Norteña S.A., more commonly known as Aganorsa.

19. Arturo Fuente Rosado Sungrown Magnum R (Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia. in the Dominican Republic)

No 19 - Arturo Fuente Rosado Gran Reserva Sungrown Magnum R

WRAPPER: Ecuador; BINDER: Dominican Republic; FILLER: Dominican Republic
MSRP: $7.60

Released in late 2009, the Magnum R has impressed every time we’ve tasted it. The cigar is creamy and smooth and superbly balanced. The key to the Magnum R’s subtly sweet and aromatic characteristic is its 10-year-old Ecuadorean Sumatra wrapper.

20. Cain F (Tabacalera Oliva S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar - Cain F

WRAPPER: Nicaragua; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua
MSRP: $9.67

When a cigar is as strong as the Cain F is in a standard size, many smokers would do well to hide from the 6 x 60, but in the case of the Cain F 660, you may proceed. Now don’t get all bold and get after it on an empty stomach; it’s still a Cain F.

21. Camacho Corojo (Tabacos Rancho Jamastran S.A. in Honduras)

Cigar - Camacho Corojo

WRAPPER: Honduras; BINDER: Honduras; FILLER: Honduras
VITOLA: Nacionales; PHYSICAL SIZE: 5.5 x 44
MSRP: $5.80

The Camacho Corojo Nacionales is a wonderfully balanced and flavorful corona that has stood the test of time. Its release in 2000 sent shockwaves throughout the cigar industry for its unprecedented strength, so many years later, it’s still a great cigar.

22. Montecristo Epic (Tabacalera de Garcia Ltd. in the Dominican Republic)

Cigar - Camacho Corojo

WRAPPER: Ecuador; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
MSRP: $14.00

This beautifully produced extension to the Montecristo brand was released in mid-2012 using vintage tobaccos from 2007. The cigar is balanced and ultra-creamy with more body than you’re used to from a Montecristo. That’s a good thing!

23. Merlion by La Sirena (La Aurora S.A. in the Dominican Republic)

Cigar - Merlion by La Sirena

WRAPPER: Ecuador; BINDER: Brazil; FILLER: Dominican Republic
VITOLA: Robusto; PHYSICAL SIZE: 5 x 50
MSRP: $9.00

Named for a mythical sea creature that is half mermaid and half lion, the Merlion was a home run for Miami Cigars and Arielle Ditkowich (the mermaid in all of this). While the La Sirena is made in Nicaragua, the Merlion is a product of the Dominican Republic.

24. Room 101 San Andres (Tabacos Rancho Jamastran S.A. in Honduras)

Cigar - Room 101 San Andres

WRAPPER: Mexico; BINDER: Honduras; FILLER: Honduras & Dominican Republic
MSRP: $7.00

The stories from the road of Room 101 brand owner Matt Booth are quickly becoming legendary in the cigar business, but as long as he continues to release cigars like the Room 101 San Andres, you can keep the stories and the cigars coming!

25. Ortega Serie D Maduro (My Father Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua)

Cigar - Room 101 San Andres

WRAPPER: Mexico; BINDER: Nicaragua; FILLER: Nicaragua
MSRP: $6.50

One of the exciting new releases of 2012, the Ortega Serie D Maduro has been carving out a name for itself in the marketplace. Brand owner Eddie Ortega, formerly of EO Brands, chose My Father Cigars as the manufacturer for his lines and it has paid off in spades.


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There are currently 20 Comments on Cigar Snob Magazine’s Top 25 of 2012. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. Awesome list!

  2. Very nice list and way to go My Father Cigars… 6 of the 25!! I have had 11 of the 25 and could not argue the pics..
    Nice list, now I have more shopping to do… haha

  3. I agree with all of your picks except the San Lotano.
    A few weeks ago a number of us smoked that cigar at a dinner. It truly was one if the worst cigars we had smoked in years . Bad construction, very spongy, poor burn and worst no taste. No complexity at all and equaled that of a cheap giveaway you would expect as a throw in at a festival .
    Way too many better cigars deserved that rank

    • You must have smoked some counterfeits. AJ knocked it out of the park with these.

  4. Pretty good choice. Unfortunately we don`t have all of those cigars here in germany, but the first two places for example, the Melanio and the Family Reserve 85, have been two of the best cigars i had in 2012. Especially the Padron 85 was an outstanding cigar!

    Beside those My Father S.A. obviously does also a pretty good job in the US. Let`s see what happens in 2013.

  5. Erik and the entire Cigar Snob Family,

    We are so honored to have the 601 Blue Label Maduro be in your Top 25 Best Cigars of the 2012! Thank you for all your support throughout the years!

    Erik Espinosa

  6. Just clipped the entire list to my Evernote. Now I can take it with me and work through every one of them in the new year. Great job Cigar Snob!

  7. Much better and a closer/more accurate pic of top 2012 cigars than CA’s list.

    My highlights from this list are the:

    Liga T52 (fav on the list by a long shot!)
    Oliva V Melanio
    Pardon 85
    Cain F
    Tatuaje Cojonu
    Montecristo Epic

    Thank you for what I see (and I’m sure others) as a more honest approach to cigar ratings for the average yet passionate cigar enthusiast.


  8. We are proud to be named your #5 cigar of the year, for the Padilla / Studio-Tobac. There where a lot of great contenders. Thank you for the support. Cigar Snob Magazine is truly leading in our industry. Continued success.

    Ernesto Padilla
    Padilla Cigars

  9. On behalf of the Oliva family and all of our great staff, we thank Cigar Snob for this distinct honor. Congratulations to the entire list of cigars. It makes us very proud to be named among this group.

  10. Great list. #22 should be way higher on the list though. In my opinion the Montecristo (America’s brand) was declining hard. However, this 2012 Montecristo EPIC blend is going to bring them back people. The smoke was so amazing I purchased 4 boxes last year. Just sayin’ Peace.

  11. To Erik and the Cigar Snob Family,

    Thank you for this great complement. My customers at the Cigar Factory Outlet enjoy your magazine and my Oliva distribution partners overseas will certainly read your choice for No.1 Cigar of the Year for 2012.

    All my best

  12. Smoked a good portion of these this year. Some better then others of course but the worst cigar I smoked this year was the padron 85th. Wasn’t worth the time or the money, absolute garbage. If that is what’s to come from padron for its family reserve I’ll stick to 44th,45th, or the 46th. Plenty of great smokes for a lot less

  13. I enjoyed your list; to those who disagreed with some picks, never base an opinion on smoking a particular cigar once or twice. Most of these ratings have been the result of many cigars smoked. Albeit we all our entitled to our opinion.

  14. Great list! Congrats to all who made it, we look forward to 2013…

  15. Dear sirs,
    Good thing It’s ONLY in the U.S.A., Who are you kidding ?
    Amicalement, A REAL cigar smoker,
    Guy Buscema,
    Calvisson, France

  16. This was a great list!

    • Thanks for the kind words! Make sure to check out our new list of the 25 best cigars of 2013! Cigars 11-25 are online, and we’ll be releasing the top 10 over the next two days.

  17. Very nice list, definitely on point and more accurate than other magazines out there. Cigar Snob …. no b.s. magazine !

  18. Such a great list of cigars. All of these are looks really very good. Some of these cigars I have smoked. I want to taste it all. And thanks for the list.

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