The top 25 cigars of 2014 (1-5)

 

Top #1 - 5

At long last, we’ve arrived at the very top of our Top 25 rankings. Figuring out the best order in which to rank these smokes was tough, but we eventually settled on a list we’re proud of.

If you haven’t smoked these, make sure to ask your neighborhood tobacconist for them as soon as possible. Our top 5 selections are a mix of classic cigar making and the stronger, punch-packing style of blending that’s been in vogue for years now.

This chunk of the list will be released one cigar at a time, culminating with our Cigar of the Year pick announcement at 4 p.m. today.

5. Herrera Estelí Norteño

Country of manufacture: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Mexico; Binder: Honduras; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Robusto Grande; Physical size: 5 1/2 x 54
MSRP: $12.00
Rating: 93

After the IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas last summer, we named this the “Best Follow-up Cigar” released at the show. Truth be told, that distinction was cool, but didn’t quite give this cigar all the props it deserved. Willy Herrera made a name for himself with his classic, Cuban-style blending. So when he joined Drew Estate and created Norteño, we were thrown for a loop. Despite being patently Central American—a departure from its creator’s “Cubanesque” wheelhouse—Norteño lives up to the quality standard that Willy set with Herrera Estelí. We can’t wait to see what he’s got in store for 2015.

4. Las Calaveras

Country of manufacture: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: LC550; Physical size: 5 x 50
MSRP: $8.95
Rating: 94

This was a departure for Jon Huber and Mike Conder of Crowned Heads, who are known for more medium-bodied offerings like Headley Grange and Four Kicks. For our No. 4 cigar, they teamed up with My Father to create this knock-you-on-your-ass masterpiece. It’s got about as much punch as anything we’ve smoked this year, but it’s so balanced and beautifully constructed, you just can’t put the thing down.

Aside from being a great smoke, Las Calaveras is also a tribute cigar. The coins on the band commemorate friends and colleagues of the Crowned Heads team who’ve passed away over the last few years. “Not in a macabre or morbid way,” said Jon, “but as a celebration. That’s what Las Calaveras is about.”

Check out this video interview with Jon Huber to learn more about Las Calaveras.

3. Casa Fernandez Aniversario Serie 2014

Country of manufacture: USA/Miami
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Ares; Physical Size: 6 1/4 x 52
MSRP: $12.50
Rating: 94

This impeccably made, slightly pressed cigar got our attention when it was released and we’ve been hoarding them ever since. This cigar is made in Casa Fernandez’s Miami factory where only Cuban tabaqueros who have achieved at least level 9 are employed. The combination of these highly skilled rollers and Aganorsa’s choice raw material resulted in this balanced, complex, and flavorful cigar, which is most deserving of this high ranking.

2. Nat Sherman Epoca

Country of manufacture: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Dominican Republic; Filler: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
Vitola: Prince; Physical size: 6 x 50
MSRP: $11.35
Rating: 94

This is yet another cigar we fell in love with at the IPCPR trade show, after which we named Epoca the Best Brand Resurrection of the event. Epoca became Nat Sherman’s first cigar brand after the company acquired Schwab Bros. and Baer back in 1929. At the time, Epoca was a “Clear Havana” cigar—a blend of Cuban tobaccos manufactured in the States. Last summer, Nat Sherman brought back the long-absent brand, even preserving the original box art.

Epoca is made at the Quesada family’s MATASA factory in the Dominican Republic. Whatever they’re doing down there is working, because this is, without question, our favorite Nat Sherman yet.

1. Fuente Fuente OpusX Angel’s Share

Country of manufacture: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Dominican Republic; Binder:Dominican Republic; Filler: Dominican Republic
Vitola: Corona Gorda; Physical size: 5 5/8 x 46
MSRP: $14.79
Rating: 94

Some of the best things in life are born out of unfortunate circumstances. In 2011, a fire ravaged two of the Fuente family’s tobacco warehouses setting ablaze an untold amount of aging Fuente tobacco. As Carlos Fuente Jr. watched his prized tobacco go up in smoke, he took solace in the idea that his ancestor’s (his angel’s) were smoking his best tobacco. And the idea for the Fuente Fuente Opus X Angel’s Share was born.

As for the cigar itself, imagine an Opus X with a little less power. It’s addition by subtraction as the decrease in strength allows subtle flavors and aromas that struggle to shine in a standard Opus X to take a larger role in this elegantly balanced blend. We fell in love with this cigar from the moment we first tasted it and gave it a 94 rating in our July/August 2014 issue. It’s not surprising that as time goes by, it keeps getting better and better.