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Top 25 Cigars of 2023 (1-5)

Top 25

The day we’ve all been waiting for and in our case, smoking towards, is finally here. Weeks and weeks of tasting and re-tasting have resulted in these five outstanding smokes which we are proud to proclaim as the Top 5 Cigars of 2023. 

Congratulations to everyone involved in producing the 25 cigars that make up this list, but especially these five. The blends in these specific sizes stood out among the over 300 cigars tasted throughout the year. It’s a testament to the vision, dedication, and passion of the brand owners, cigar factories, tobacco growers, and the armies of artisans that work to make these wonderful cigars.

Enjoy the list, smoke through it, discuss it in stores, share it on social media, and be sure to let us know your thoughts on the list. We always love to hear from you.


1. Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Sonata

Manufacturer: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez In Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Concerto; Physical size: 7 x 50
MSRP: $13.37
Rating: 93

The Aging Room line started back in 2011 to bring small batch cigars to market. The “small batch” designation referred to blends of select tobaccos only available in limited quantities. The blends were differentiated by a numbering scheme based on the day of the week and the Gregorian calendar. A cigar blended on a Monday on the 356th day of the year, for example, would get M356. A Friday on the 55th day of the year would get F55. While that numbering scheme was thankfully done away with, what has remained and become more prominent is the use of musical terms in the brands. Terms such as “concerto,” vibrato,” and “espressivo” were cleverly employed to denote the size and shape of the cigar. The 2023 release of the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Sonata went with “sonata.” It’s a loaded name to be sure, but the cigar behind the label is far and away the star of the show.

This cigar is a shining example of how a blend can differ from one size to another. While our panel enjoyed the other sizes of the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Sonata, they were blown away by the Churchill or “concerto” size. The complex and balanced combination of cocoa powder, caramel, roasted nuts, and hazelnut along with smooth pepper in the background make this masterpiece the 2023 Cigar of the Year.

Watch the call to inform Rafael Nodal of Aging Room Cigars that the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Sonata had been crowned the Cigar of the Year for 2023.

2. Red Meat Lovers

Manufacturer: Nicaragua American Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua
Wrapper: USA / Connecticut; Binder: Mexico; Filler: Nicaragua & USA
Vitola: Filet Mignon; Physical size: 5 x 54
MSRP: $14.95
Rating: 93

It’s not often that a cigar that was originally created to support a charity as a store exclusive grows up to be a regular production line. It’s even more rare for that blend to make its way to a Top 25. And for it to reach #2 is downright legendary. The name Red Meat Lovers refers to the club, started by Evan Darnell, that regularly hosts dinners, which they call “Meatings” and always feature cigars. The cigar was blended by Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, manufactured at Nicaraguan American Cigars in Estelí, Nicaragua, and originally released as a store-exclusive for Smoke Inn’s Microblend Series. It was such a successful store exclusive that Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust decided to make it available to all its retailers. The cigar was blended for the purposes of being enjoyed alongside a steak but our panel’s praise for this cigar should be proof enough that you don’t need the steak to enjoy it.

Read our story on Red Meat Lover’s Club and their back-to-back “meatings”.

3. Aganorsa Leaf Aniversario Connecticut

Manufacturer: Agricola Ganadera Norteña (Aganorsa) in Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaragua; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Toro; Physical size: 6 x 54
MSRP: $13.75
Rating: 93

It’s difficult for a Connecticut shade covered cigar to climb into the Top 5. In fact, it has happened just twice in the history of our list and one of them was the predecessor to this blend, the Aganorsa Connecticut. That cigar took our panel by surprise in 2020 and scored 93 points, placing 4th in the Top 25. This year the Aganorsa Leaf Aniversario Connecticut matched that score but jumped to 3rd with its impeccably balanced combination of sweet cedar, toasted cashews, smooth pepper, and cinnamon. The blend first made an impression on us when it was unveiled at the annual PCA trade show and it marched right into our ratings section in the September/October 2023 issue. Produced in a strikingly beautiful box-press, the cigar’s consistently flawless construction has undoubtedly contributed to its high scores.

Get to know the history of Aganorsa and the man who made it all happen. 

4. Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro

Manufacturer: Oliva Cigars in Nicaragua
Wrapper: Mexico; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Robusto; Physical size: 5 x 52
MSRP: $14.00
Rating: 93

No other brand has made more appearances in this magazine’s Top 5 list than the Oliva Serie V Melanio. It is the only brand to win Cigar of the Year twice, with the natural in 2012 and the maduro in 2021. This year, as in 2021, it was the Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro that caught our attention. This cigar has reached a mythical level of consistency in delivering its trademark combination of dark chocolate, roasted almonds, and smooth pepper complemented by a rich note of caramel. Such high-level consistency is rare in a cigar of this production quantity, and it only comes about as the result of wise leadership and a heartfelt passion for making the best cigars possible. These values are seen from Oliva Cigars’ tobacco growing operations to its tobacco processing and extending to the blenders and cigar makers tasked with executing the crucial last step of rolling the cigars.

Peek inside the Oliva Cigar factory’s technology transformation.

5. Artesano del Tobacco El Pulpo

Manufacturer: San Lotano Factory in Nicaragua
Wrapper: Mexico; Binder: Nicaragua; Filler: Nicaragua
Vitola: Toro Grande; Physical size: 6 x 56
MSRP: $16.00
Rating: 93

Artesano del Tobacco’s latest hit, El Pulpo, burst onto the scene in May 2023 after brand owners Billy and Gus Fakih reportedly spent five years developing the blend with AJ Fernandez. By the time the annual PCA trade show kicked off in July, there was already a buzz about the company’s second regular production release, the first being Viva La Vida. As for the name El Pulpo, which translates to “The Octopus,” Artesano del Tobacco stated, “We wanted a blend that fits people’s palate the way an octopus fits in different shapes, spaces, and becomes that shape, we wanted a blend that becomes hard for any smoker to put down once they light up, like an octopus that doesn’t let go of its prey.” The cigar seemed to get better as the year went along; our panel scored the Toro Grande a 92 in the July/August 2023 issue and an even loftier 93 in the tastings leading up to the Top 25 announcement.

Check out how we captured El Pulpo in all of its smoky glory.


Top 25
Top 25
Categories: Cigars, Top 25

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