We made it through the tough ride that was 2020 in great shape to proudly deliver to you our ninth annual Top 25 list.
Every 12 months, we compile a list of all the cigars that have scored 91 or better in the calendar year’s ratings sections. Those smokes are then re-evaluated, and our panel of experts collectively decides on the best of the best.
Getting the cigars to our esteemed tasters was more difficult since our direct contact was limited. But we managed and managed well: You can have full faith in this collection.
Remember that we consider the newness of a cigar among other factors, and we also do not include limited-edition runs. You check the list, and ideally, you can get the smoke you want.
You’ll likely notice that the majority of our Top 25 comes from Nicaragua or uses Nicaraguan tobacco and for good reason: The country continues to keep its quality high.
We expect that as 2021 unfolds, some of you who smoked more frequently last year will develop into more avid fans of premium cigars. The Top 25 list is here to help.
So 2020: Just because a 100-year virus struck the world doesn’t mean you have to stop smoking. In fact, many retailers saw record business last year, which will be documented as the Year of the ‘Rona. Locked down, some of us full of media-driven fear and rightfully cautious, we ventured to the local tobacconist for some relief.
That thirst for lighting up during lockdowns allowed the Dominican Republic to post a 6 percent increase in tobacco exports to $1 billion. While some cigars were harder to find, other brands were able to overcome obstacles and grow.
There were more trials in 2020, when back-to-back hurricanes in Central America hit Honduras and Nicaragua in November, the tobacco fields were largely spared and the cigar industry stepped up with relief efforts to help those affected.
It showed a cohesiveness that the cigar industry fosters, the same kind of bonding we crave as people, to help, to talk, to engage. We’re going to start meeting more frequently again in 2021, as the virus ebbs and we get back to where we belong: together.
Our mailbag swells after we publish the Top 25, and we’re glad of it. Let us know your thoughts by writing to us at [email protected] and let’s talk.
1. Espinosa Laranja Reserva Escuro
Manufacturer: San Lotano Factory (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Brazil; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 x 52
The Espinosa Laranja Reserva Escuro is a cigar that unanimously wowed our panel every time we tasted it. This impeccably box-pressed maduro was put through the blind-tasting wringer over and over, and it rose to the top each time. The cigar hits home on every level, delivering a perfectly balanced combination of espresso and dark chocolate notes countered by smooth spice and earth, all held together by a sweet, creamy background flavor. The voluminous smoke output is thick and heavy with rich aromas of cocoa, cedar, and a touch of tanned leather.
We present to you the Espinosa Laranja Reserva Escuro, Cigar Snob Magazine’s Cigar of the Year for 2020.
2. My Father Fonseca
Manufacturer: My Father Cigars (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Cedros; Physical size: 6 1/2 x 54
From the moment My Father Cigars announced the acquisition of the Fonseca brand at the end of 2019, smokers, retailers, and even many of My Father’s competitors eagerly waited to smoke the revamped and re-energized version of the venerated brand. The Garcías didn’t disappoint. They delivered a beautifully produced, medium-bodied blend that instantly became a mainstay in the rotation of many a smoker. It speaks to the García family’s incredible cigar making talent and impressive development in their growing operations that 100 percent of the tobacco in this world-class cigar is cultivated by the Garcías themselves. Bravo!
3. Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro
Manufacturer: Oliva Cigars (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Mexico; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Figurado; Physical size: 5 1/2 x 52
The highest ranking of the three perfectos on this year’s list, the Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Figurado features a lush Mexican San Andres wrapper and impeccable construction. In recent years almost every facet of the Oliva Cigars operation in Nicaragua has been overhauled with multiple groundbreaking technological improvements that earned the company the Cigar Manufacturing Technology Advancement Award in this publication’s All-Decade Awards. The quality and consistency of the cigars coming out of Oliva today rival that of any manufacturer in the business, and no other product highlights that better than the Serie V Melanio Maduro.
4. Aganorsa Leaf Connecticut
Manufacturer: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Robusto; Physical size: 5 1/4 x 50
It’s not often that a Connecticut wrapped cigar reaches these heights on our annual list; these blends typically lack the depth and complexity to duke it out with the heavier, stronger cigars. The reason is that if you pack a lot of flavorful and strong tobacco in the filler blend but cover it with a mild wrapper like Connecticut Shade, most often the wrapper’s flavor gets lost, and in the worst cases the blend goes completely off balance. The team at Aganorsa was able to navigate this dilemma thanks to its enviable stockpile of aged tobacco. Simply put, they’ve taken strong and flavorful tobacco but let it age to the point that it mellows enough to not overpower the delicate Connecticut Shade wrapper. What you end up with is this beautifully balanced and complex smoke, complemented by the nuanced notes of the Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper.
5. Mi Querida Triqui Traca
Manufacturer: Nicaragua American Cigars (Nicaragua)
Wrapper: USA/Connecticut; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua & Dominican Republic
Vitola: No. 648; Physical size: 6 x 48
The Mi Querida Triqui Traca is an offshoot of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust’s original Mi Querida line. You can tell them apart by the band color, as the original Mi Querida is navy and gold while the Triqui Traca is garnet and gold. Brand owner Steve Saka has employed catchy and memorable names for all of his DTT brands, although many are difficult to pronounce for non-Spanish speakers. Mi Querida (pronounced me kay-ree-dah) is a term commonly used to mean “my mistress” while Triqui Traca (pronounced tree-key trah-kah) is Nicaraguan slang for firecrackers or fireworks. Nicaraguan closing ceremonies often involve setting off a string of firecrackers; “triqui traca” is a reference to the sound they make when they pop.