Skip to content

Top 25 Cigars of 2022 (1-5)

We’re back with the 11th annual Top 25 list, smoking, re-smoking, assessing and then writing all about the year’s best. As continues to be the case, the competition is lively and while you will see some of the big, established brands at the top, there is a healthy mix of new and perhaps lesser-known brands throughout the list.

As we smoked our way to the top, we grappled with some nuances. One time, limited-edition cigars are, as a rule, not included in the Top 25. This is a list that, we hope, allows the everyday consumer to buy something special and rewarding. Some brands wisely keep producing limited editions, just in…limited amounts. So you may see something limited in the Top 25, but we’re confident you can get it. 

This year we also noted more fluctuations in quality than usual. Cigars  that earlier in the year scored high marks in the ratings didn’t perform nearly as well during the Top 25 tastings. The opposite was also true; cigars that just barely made the cut to be eligible for the list suddenly scored high marks in the Top 25 tastings. It brought home the fact that cigars are subject to variables – these are man-made products created with raw materials that come from the soil. Achieving consistency is and always has been the most difficult part of cigar making. 

Nicaragua continues to produce a high volume of excellent cigars, hands down. This year, an overwhelming majority of the cigars on the list hail from Nicaragua, a hold that the country has kept since we started putting together this annual list. 

As usual, we leave a tear sheet of the Top 25 for readers of the print magazine to use as a cheat sheet or shopping list. It’s an invaluable help that doubles as a conversation-starter at your local lounge.

 The annual Top 25 list is also a de facto look back at the year that was, and, this year, to check out how the projections made at the start of 2022 went. We talked with several industry folks for a story, “Reading the Tobacco Leaves,” in our Jan./Feb. 2022 issue. 

From the story: “The coming year looks like this: a leveling off of demand, a tobacco farm labor shortage, some price hikes here and there, and a hold on federal regulation of premium cigars.” 

And what do you know? These came mostly, if wholly, true. Don’t ask us to pick your lottery numbers, but we sure don’t mind being able to tap some of those with a hand in the game to predict and project.

We’re thankful for that level of trust from our colleagues. 

Enjoy the Top 25, and here’s to another robust year of smoking the good ones. 

1. Foundation Cigars Olmec Maduro


Manufacturer: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez in Nicaragua
Wrapper: Mexico; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 x 52 
MSRP: $14.50
Rating: 93

Foundation Cigars, led by its founder Nicholas Melillo, isn’t shy about using history in its brand identity, but while English castles and Ethiopian rulers make for great branding, nothing has hit as spot on as Olmec. The Olmecs are widely considered Mesoamerica’s first great civilization and more importantly in this context, they offer the first ancient evidence of cigars. The image on the label of the Cigar of the Year is purportedly the oldest known image of a cigar smoker. On a side note, the Olmecs are also considered the first civilization to make chocolate. If we understand this correctly, the Olmec civilization from the San Andres Valley in Mexico gave us tobacco and chocolate; if they also invented the taco we may just convert to Olmecism! All jokes aside, the Olmec Maduro is covered with a mouth-watering San Andres negro wrapper grown in the region where the civilization thrived.

The Olmec Maduro is so beautifully pressed and the wrapper is so flawless that it looks like a dark chocolate bar in the box. The smoke is a well-choreographed dance between intense flavors and nuanced complexity; there’s just enough cocoa, pepper, and earth but also interesting subtle notes of cedar, molasses, and coffee. It’s all delivered along an excellent smoke output thanks to the consistently perfect draw and burn. We’re pleased to announce Olmec Maduro as the 2022 Cigar of the Year!

2. Padrón 1926 Serie Natural


Manufacturer: Tabacos Cubanica in Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: No. 6; Physical size: 4 3/4 x 50
MSRP: $15.22
Rating: 93

It’s no secret that our tasting panel has a long-standing love affair with Padrón maduros. In the last 10 years there has been a maduro-wrapped Padrón blend in the Top 10 no less than seven times, including two #2’s, a #4, and a Cigar of the Year. However, this year was different. While there were Padrón maduro candidates for the list, they didn’t stand up in the end-of-year tasting round. Instead it was the 1926 Natural No. 6 that shot up the rankings to take the #2 spot. The 1926 Serie, which debuted in 2002, commemorates the late José Orlando Padrón’s birth year and uses five-year-old tobacco to give this box-pressed blend its signature flavor. Unlike its darker, toothier maduro-wrapped sister blend, the natural is finished with an impeccable, milk chocolate colored wrapper, which brings a creamy sweetness to the full-flavored robusto.

3. H. Upmann Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez


Manufacturer: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez in Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua & Dominican Republic
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 x 54
MSRP: $9.30
Rating: 93

The H. Upmann Nicaragua by AJ Fernandez was launched in 2017 to  robust sales and rave reviews. This publication assessed the blend at 93 points in the Sept/Oct 2017 issue; it seemed destined to land a top spot in the following end of year list. Shockingly, it didn’t perform well enough to make the list after the rigorous top 25 round of tastings. The characteristics that gave it such a high score during the year were simply not there in the second tasting. The panel continued tasting the blend in subsequent years, scoring it 91 points in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue, but it wasn’t until the July/Aug 2022 tasting that the original richness of flavor and creamy texture returned along with the smooth pepper, roasted nuts, and cocoa. Now for the real test; how would it score when compared side by side to the best cigars of 2022? The thick toro with the flawless, light brown wrapper soared to the #3 position.

4. AJ Fernandez Bellas Artes Maduro


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

Back in 2010, AJ Fernandez released San Lotano, his first brand. Up to that point he had been making cigars mostly for Cigars International but this brand was close to his heart. San Lotano had been created by AJ’s grandfather in San Luis, Cuba and AJ planned to resurrect it from his startup Nicaraguan factory. The cigar was well received, and even appeared on our very first Top 25 list in 2012, landing in the #8 position. Since then AJ has done nothing but grow his operation into a Nicaraguan powerhouse. In 2016, the original Bellas Artes was released and like many other AJF products it scored extremely well and landed at #5 on our year-end list. This year the Bellas Artes Maduro, which came to market in 2018, outdid its sister brand by taking #4. This box-pressed toro scored a 92 in our Jan/Feb 2022 issue. When we re-tasted it for this list at the end of the year, it was even better. It’s no secret that consistency is the most difficult aspect of premium cigars, but when your inconsistency takes your cigar from ‘excellent’ to ‘even better,’ you’re on another level.

5. My Father La Antiguedad


Manufacturer: My Father Cigars in Nicaragua
Wrapper: Ecuador; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua 
Vitola: Corona Grande; Physical size: 6 3/8 x 47
MSRP: $8.70
Rating: 93

My Father Cigars maintain an exceptional level of quality across its blends year in and year out as well as anybody in the cigar business. You could chalk that up to a number of reasons, not the least of which is Don Pepín and Jaime García’s knowledge and skill in working these tobaccos. But you could argue that without a reliable supply of top shelf raw material, no amount of knowledge or skill could achieve this consistent level of excellence. The importance of their growing operation cannot be overstated, which leads us to this year’s #5 cigar, the My Father La Antiguedad. The cigar’s filler blend as well as the double binder are made up exclusively of tobacco grown by the Garcías on their farms in San Rafael, Las Quebradas, and San Jose in Nicaragua. That blend is pressed and finished off with a beautiful, reddish brown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The La Antiguedad has scored well in every format we’ve tasted but it was in the corona gorda where the blend soared to this lofty spot.

top 25 banner 20222 6 15 1440x875 3.jpg 3
top 25 banner 20222 16 25 1440x875 4.jpg 4
Categories: Top 25



Share On: