AJ Fernandez

Top 25 Cigars of 2018 (6-15)

After tasting, re-tasting and tasting some more, we’re ready to share our list of the Top 25 Cigars of 2018. We went back into our ratings for the entire calendar year and isolated all the cigars that scored 91 or higher in 2018. Then our panel smoked and smoked until, finally, we arrived at this list of the best, most exciting cigars of the year.

This group of 10 cigars landed spots 6-10 of our rankings. The group includes a couple of brands that are newcomers to the Top 25 list. We were also struck by how many of these cigars feature deep, dark wrappers.

More of our Top 25 list will be released January 9. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts on this group by writing us at feedback@cigarsnobmag.com; we might just publish your letter in an upcoming issue of the print magazine or read it on the Cigar Snob Podcast.

6. AJ Fernandez Bellas Artes Maduro

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacalera Fernandez (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Brazil; Binder: Mexico; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 x 54
MSRP: $10.00
Rating: 93

7. Tatuaje Black Label Private Reserve

 
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Manufacturer: My Father Cigars (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Corona Gorda; Physical size: 5 5/8 x 46
MSRP: $10.00
Rating: 93

8. The Wise Man

 
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Manufacturer: Aganorsa (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Mexico; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Corona Gorda; Physical size: 5 5/8 x 46
MSRP: $9.90
Rating: 93

9. La Flor de las Antillas TAA Exclusive 2018

 
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Manufacturer: My Father Cigars (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: TAA Lancero; Physical size: 7 1/2 x 38
MSRP: $9.50
Rating: 92

10. Rocky Patel Decade

 
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Manufacturer: El Paraíso (Honduras)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 1/2 x 52
MSRP: $11.70
Rating: 92

11. Davidoff Yamasa

 
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Manufacturer: Cigars Davidoff (Dominican Republic)
Wrapper: Dominican Republic; Binder: Dominican Republic; Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic
Vitola: Piramides; Physical size: 6 1/2 x 52
MSRP: $23.00
Rating: 92

12. Mombacho Liga Maestro

 
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Manufacturer: Casa Favilli (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Hermoso; Physical size: 6 x 46
MSRP: $9.96
Rating: 92

13. Liga Privada T52

 
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Manufacturer: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: USA/Connecticut; Binder: Brazil; Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras
Vitola: Robusto; Physical size: 5 x 54
MSRP: $13.10
Rating: 92

14. Illusione Haut 10

 
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Manufacturer: Aganorsa (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Haut 10; Physical size: 5 1/2 x 52
MSRP: $15.95
Rating: 92

15. Balmoral Serie Signaturas Dueto

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacalera La Alianza (Dominican Republic)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Brazil, Nicaragua
Vitola: Gran Toro; Physical size: 6 x 52
MSRP: $10.50
Rating: 92


Check out the rest of our 2018 list

Listen to our Top 25 podcast

Top 25 Cigars of 2018 (16-25)

After tasting, re-tasting and tasting some more, we’re ready to share our list of the Top 25 Cigars of 2018. We went back into our ratings for the entire calendar year and isolated all the cigars that scored 91 or higher in 2018. Then our panel smoked and smoked until, finally, we arrived at this list of the best, most exciting cigars of the year.

In this first chunk of our list, you’ll find the cigars that landed spots 16-25. Among this group are four cigars manufactured in Honduras, including two products from a factory that is making its first ever appearance on our Top 25 list.

In addition, you’ll find two cigars by made by a Nicaraguan factory that has extended its run as arguably the hottest manufacturer in premium cigars.

More of our Top 25 list will be released January 8. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts on this group by writing us at feedback@cigarsnobmag.com; we might just publish your letter in an upcoming issue of the print magazine or read it on the Cigar Snob Podcast.

Scroll to the bottom of this list for links to the rest of our Top 25 rankings.

16. Camacho Ecuador

 
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Manufacturer: Diadema Cigars de Honduras (Honduras)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Brazil; Filler: Honduras, Dominican Republic
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 x 50
MSRP: $8.50
Rating: 92

17. Leaf by Oscar Sumatra

 
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Manufacturer: Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co. (Honduras)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Honduras; Filler: Honduras
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 x 52
MSRP: $9.50
Rating: 92

18. Perdomo 20th Anniversary Maduro

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacalera Perdomo (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Epicure; Physical size: 6 x 56
MSRP: $9.00
Rating: 92

19. Caldwell The T

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacalera Fernandez (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Toro Grande; Physical size: 6 1/2 x 56
MSRP: $12.00
Rating: 92

20. Espinosa Habano

 
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Manufacturer: La Zona Cigar Factory (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: No. 5; Physical size: 6 x 52
MSRP: $7.25
Rating: 91

21. 2012 by Oscar Valladares Maduro

 
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Manufacturer: Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co. (Honduras)
Wrapper: Mexico; Binder: Honduras; Filler: Honduras, Nicaragua
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 x 52
MSRP: $8.50
Rating: 91

22. Romeo y Julieta 1875 Nicaragua

 
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Manufacturer: Plasencia (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 x 50
MSRP: $7.10
Rating: 91

23. La Galera Maduro

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacalera Palma (Dominican Republic)
Wrapper: Mexico; Binder: Dominican Republic; Filler: Dominican Republic
Vitola: Cortador; Physical size: 6 1/4 x 52
MSRP: $6.50
Rating: 91

24. Aladino

 
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Manufacturer: Fabrica de Puros Aladino (Honduras)
Wrapper: Honduras; Binder: Honduras; Filler: Honduras
Vitola: Elegante; Physical size: 7 x 38
MSRP: $7.00
Rating: 91

25. Joya Silver

 
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Manufacturer: Joya de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Mexico; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 x 52
MSRP: $7.80
Rating: 91


Check out the rest of our 2018 list

Listen to our Top 25 podcast

The Top 25 Cigars of 2017 (1-5)

It's the time again! At the start of each year, Cigar Snob puts out its ranking of the best 25 cigars we've rated over the previous year. Below, you'll find the cigars that top our list at spots 1 through 5. Leading the pack are two cigars from families that — despite their cigar making chops — are probably better known as growers of great raw material than as manufacturers of premium cigars. Each family created a cigar that not only highlights its tobacco prowess, but also serves as a reminder that you underestimate their cigar making abilities at your own peril.

So how is the list created? We reviewed all the cigars we rated 91 or higher in the 2017 calendar year, then had our panel smoke and rate them all over again. We used that feedback to create the list you see below.

Let us know your thoughts by writing us at feedback@cigarsnobmag.com; we might just publish your letter in an upcoming issue of the print magazine.

Scroll to the bottom of this list for links to the rest of our Top 25 rankings.

1. Plasencia Alma Fuerte

 
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Manufacturer: Plasencia Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Nestor IV; Physical size: 6 1/4 x 54
MSRP: $20.00
Rating: 94

The Plasencia family has had a central role in the cigar industry for a long time. As one of Central America’s preeminent tobacco growers, their stamp is on a great many of the cigars you come across in practically any American tobacconist’s humidor. The Plasencias have also been behind the manufacture of plenty of critically acclaimed cigars at their factories.

But — for whatever reason — it wasn’t until 2017 that this powerhouse family went all-in on the idea of producing elite-level cigars with their own name on the bands. And so while they’re not the new kids on the block, there is something very new about Plasencia Alma Fuerte. The Plasencias didn’t just enter the discussion of the best cigars of the year; they beat the damn door down with a perfectly executed cigar that’s everything you want out of a quintessentially Nicaraguan smoke. What’s more, they have the experience, the resources, and the stockpiled tobacco to ensure they’re not leaving this discussion a moment sooner than they want to.

2. Casa Fernandez Miami Aniversario Serie 2015

 
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Manufacturer: Casa Fernández Factory (Miami)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Voleur; Physical size: 7 1/2 x 40
MSRP: $12.50
Rating: 94

Nobody in cigars has an ace in the hole quite like Casa Fernandez’s. The Fernandez family, another major tobacco grower, can always lean on its Aganorsa tobacco, which takes the cigars into which it’s blended to a whole other level and gives Casa Fernandez (as well as the other brands lucky enough to score the stuff for their own blends) an unmistakable signature.

That Aganorsa tobacco shines especially brightly as a wrapper on this 7 ½ x 40 Voleur format. Every smoker, but especially any smoker who loves lanceros, should seek these out ASAP.

3. Fuente Fuente OpusX Angel's Share

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia (Dominican Republic)
Wrapper: Dominican Republic; Binder: Dominican Republic; Filler: Dominican Republic
Vitola: Reserva D Chateau; Physical size: 7 x 48
MSRP: $26.66
Rating: 94

If you’ve been following our Top 25 rankings for a while, you might remember that the Angel’s Share (in Corona Gorda) took the top spot in our 2014 list. It’s many of the things you love about the core OpusX line, but toned down a bit on the full strength that’s an Opus hallmark. This brand continues to be a favorite of ours, and we knew as soon as we got feedback from our panel on the Reserva D Chateau that it would occupy one of the top spots on this list.

This doesn’t factor into our ranking, but the  brand also has one of the most compelling backstories in cigars. It’s an allusion to a fire that destroyed two of the Fuente family’s tobacco warehouses in 2011. Carlos Fuente, Sr., the story goes, took solace in the idea that his ancestor’s (his angels) were smoking his best tobacco.

4. Tatuaje TAA 2016

 
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Manufacturer: My Father Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: USA; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 1/4 x 50
MSRP: $11.95
Rating: 93

TAA special editions are available only for limited periods and only at TAA (Tobacconists Association of America) member stores. This cigar will become increasingly hard to come by (only 80,000 of these were made), and should therefore be a high priority for anyone who collects cigars or just enjoys trying rare cigars. Pete Johnson and the Garcías created something truly special in this rich, Connecticut Broadleaf-wrapped cigar that brings the heft and strength that are Tatuaje calling cards while still achieving great balance.

5. AJ Fernandez Enclave Broadleaf

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacalera Fernandez S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: USA/Connecticut; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Robusto; Physical size: 5 1/4 x 54
MSRP: $7.78
Rating: 93

Anyone in the know will tell you: this is is the year of AJ Fernandez. The man is everywhere in retail humidors thanks to his own excellent portfolio and collaborations with companies large and small. This Top 25 features two cigars that bear his name. Several more were rated highly enough to be considered for inclusion here. In the end, though, the Enclave Broadleaf — a great illustration of A.J.’s earthy, peppery signature — performed exceptionally well to round out our top five.


Check out the rest of our 2016 list

Listen to the team talk 2017's Top 25 on the podcast

 
 

The Top 25 Cigars of 2017 (6-15)

It's the time again! At the start of each year, Cigar Snob puts out its ranking of the best 25 cigars we've rated over the previous year. Below, you'll find the cigars that landed spots 6-15. This chunk of the list is dominated by Nicaraguan-made products. Of the two cigars in this group that were not made in Nicaragua, one is a Nicaraguan puro and the other features tobaccos aged in Nicaraguan rum barrels. This reflects the fact that cigar makers are still responding, innovating and making great products to meet smokers' continuing fascination with Nicaragua.

So how is the list created? We reviewed all the cigars we rated 91 or higher in the 2017 calendar year, then had our panel smoke and rate them all over again. We used that feedback to create the list you see below.

Let us know your thoughts by writing us at feedback@cigarsnobmag.com; we might just publish your letter in an upcoming issue of the print magazine.

Scroll to the bottom of this list for links to the rest of our Top 25 rankings.

6. Oliva Serie V Melanio

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacalera Oliva S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Double Toro; Physical size: 6 x 60
MSRP: $15.06
Rating: 93

7. Herrera Esteli

 
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Manufacturer: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Honduras; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Lonsdale Deluxe; Physical size: 6 x 44
MSRP: $9.28
Rating: 93

8. Padrón 1926 Serie

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacos Cubanica S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: No. 47; Physical size: 5 1/2 x 50
MSRP: $18.00
Rating: 93

9. Villiger San'Doro Colorado

 
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Manufacturer: Joya de Nicaragua S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Robusto; Physical size: 5 x 50
MSRP: $8.00
Rating: 92

10. My Father The Judge

 
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Manufacturer: My Father Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: 560; Physical size: 5 x 60
MSRP: $12.40
Rating: 92

11. Hamlet 25th Year

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacalera Villa Cuba S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: USA; Filler: Honduras & Nicaragua
Vitola: Robusto; Physical size: 5 1/2 x 50
MSRP: $8.75
Rating: 92

12. Camacho Nicaragua Barrel-Aged

 
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Manufacturer: Diadema Cigars de Honduras S.A. (Honduras)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Mexico; Filler: Nicaragua & Dominican Republic
Vitola: Robusto; Physical size: 5 x 50
MSRP: $10.00
Rating: 92

13. Monte by Montecristo AJ Fernandez

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacalera Fernandez S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua & Dominican Republic
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 x 55
MSRP: $11.00
Rating: 92

14. Sindicato Miami Edition

 
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Manufacturer: Casa Fernández Factory (Miami)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Perfecto; Physical size: 6 7/8 x 52
MSRP: $12.95
Rating: 92

15. San Isidro by HVC

 
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Manufacturer: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Geniales; Physical size: 6 x 52
MSRP: $10.80
Rating: 92


Check out the rest of our 2016 list

Listen to the team talk 2017's Top 25 on the podcast

 
 

The Top 25 Cigars of 2016 (1-5)

Every January, Cigar Snob releases its rankings of the previous year's 25 best smokes. This year's list comes on the heels of a rollercoaster year for the cigar industry, as the consequences of looming FDA regulation converged with the uncertainty of a tight presidential election to make waves through all 12 months of 2016. There were acquisitions, product releases and all sorts of shakeups at cigar brands big and small.

So how do we put this list together? It starts with a review of all the cigar ratings we released during 2016. Any cigar that scored 91 or higher was smoked one more time by our tasting panel. We used this feedback to create the list you see below.

Let us know your thoughts by writing us at feedback@cigarsnobmag.com; we might just publish your letter in an upcoming issue of the print magazine.

Scroll to the bottom of this list for links to the rest of our Top 25 rankings.

1. La Mission L'Atelier

Manufacturer: My Father Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Mexico; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: 1959; Physical size: 4 3/4 x 52
MSRP: $8.00
Rating: 95

Cigar Snob readers know we’re big fans of wine around here. So when La Mission L’atelier was announced, it piqued our interest. When we got around to tasting it, we knew we had a winner on our hands. Pete Johnson’s love of wine is no secret, so it makes perfect sense that this cigar — inspired by Bordeaux wines — would come from his team.

It’s a cigar that’s huge on flavor, starting out with intense pepper before transitioning to a more leather- and chocolate-forward smoke. It’s also got an undeniable My Father influence, which is owed in part to some of the García family’s Nicaraguan Sancti Spíritus tobacco in the filler. Don't let the 4 3/4-inch length fool you: this cigar is built flawlessly and burns nice and slow; this vitola will last you an hour or more. It’s a different take on the San Andrés-wrapped cigar that appeals to a broad swath of smokers while retaining a distinct identity you'll go back to again and again.

2. A. Fuente Don Carlos Personal Reserve

Manufacturer: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia. (Dominican Republic)
Wrapper: Cameroon; Binder: Dominican Republic; Filler: Dominican Republic
Vitola: Personal Reserve; Physical size: 5 x 50
MSRP: $13.00
Rating: 94

No matter how much change other cigar companies felt in 2016, none took a hit quite like Fuente did when family and company patriarch Carlos Fuente, Sr. died. He was a giant whose shoes can’t be filled, whose absence marks the end of one era and the start of another.

Among the many ways in which his legacy endures: the cigars that bear his name. The Don Carlos Personal Reserve — characterized by sweet cedar, nuts and caramel with balancing elements of pepper and savory spice — gives you the opportunity to smoke the same blend that Don Carlos himself did. You’ll never get a stronger endorsement than that.

3. AVO Syncro Nicaragua Fogata

Manufacturer: O.K. Cigars (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Mexico; Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic
Vitola: Robusto; Physical size: 5 x 50
MSRP: $9.40
Rating: 93

Released just a year after the Avo Syncro Nicaragua, the Fogata expanded on an AVO brand that had recently gotten a visual makeover. Featuring an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and a  Mexican San Andrés binder, this cigar brings a quality smoking experience to match its good looks.

Fogata is the Spanish word for campfire. It’s a name that’s inspired by Avo Uvezian’s preferred smoking setting. Wherever you light yours, the Fogata promises loads of flavor and great balance with a sweet finish.

4. Padrón 1926 Serie Natural

Manufacturer:  Tabacos Cubanica S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: No. 1; Physical size: 6 3/4 x 54
MSRP: $21.70
Rating: 93

Perhaps no cigar company has staked a more solid claim to a reputation for consistency than Padrón. In 2015, the big news from Padrón was the introduction of a Connecticut wrapper. In 2016, people went nuts when news broke that one of the company’s products would be round … and in tubes! TUBES!

Padrón doesn’t have to be exciting. They don’t have to be edgy. They thrive on their perfection and the rich flavor that keeps loyalists (Padrón’s are some of the most unshakable fans around) coming back for more. The 1926 Serie Natural brings that irresistible Padrón signature of pepper, coffee, and chocolate, while balancing it with creamy undertones.

5. AJ Fernandez Bellas Artes

Manufacturer:  Tabacalera Fernandez S.A. (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Brazil, Honduras, Nicaragua
Vitola: Robusto Extra; Physical size: 5 1/2 x 52
MSRP: $8.75
Rating: 93

Over the last few years, AJ Fernandez has been consistently releasing excellent new brands at accessible price points. Bellas Artes  — with its flawless construction and picture-perfect wrapper — is just the latest in the company’s string of top-notch Nicaraguan cigars.

2016 was a big year for AJ Fernandez. The company started the year with a brand new distribution facility in Miami and, to meet increased demand, ended the year by adding a new Nicaraguan factory to its arsenal (this in addition to the already massive and relatively new factory from which AJ has been working). Bellas Artes is further proof that the future is bright for AJ Fernandez.


Check out the rest of our 2016 list