A list of the best cigars in the world was not easy to create…how do I choose 10 cigars out of the thousands available?
Even if I just picked a handful of good cigars, what makes them great? Which ones deserve to make the list?
To begin with, I needed to sort out a set of non-negotiable rules to help determine what to include. Every cigar on the list would have to adhere to every single rule…no exceptions! The rules also had to be fair, so as to not unduly exclude a cigar or a manufacturer from the list.
Qualities that the ‘Best Cigar in the World’ should possess:
- It should smoke well – there should be no draw or burn issues, the construction should be solid with no parts of the wrapper wishing to unravel, and the flavors should be on point.
- It should be reliable – every time you go for this smoke, you should know exactly what you’re going to get. Actually, a lot of cigars were left off the list because they didn’t live up to this standard.
- It should both look and feel good in your hand – I know we don’t necessarily buy them to look at, but if we are talking about the Creme de la Creme of cigars, it really needs to be the total package.
To make things a little easier for the sake of this article, I have also limited myself to cigars that have been released in the last 2 years or are regular production. Although this regrettably left a lot of cigars off the list, with only a little work, you’ll be able to find each and every one of these.
I honestly believe that when you are talking about cigars of this caliber, there is no point in trying to rank them against each other. They all conform to the rules above and so the only thing that will separate them will be your own preferences in taste, which is about as subjective as it gets. Therefore, I will leave that up to you to decide.
Onto the cigars!
1.) Cohiba Behike
Most people think that the legacy of the Cohiba cigar began in 1966, and while it is true that the cigar was named then, its history goes back a little further. In 1963 Avelino Lara, a torcedor (the correct name for a cigar roller), gave one of his own personally rolled cigars (known as Fuma’s) to President Castro who immediately fell in love with the cigar. It was an unnamed Laguito number 1, or Lancero, as we better know it today. Prior to their limited global release in 1982, these cigars were used as diplomatic gifts for visiting heads of state and dignitaries replacing the Trinidad lines that were originally used for that purpose.
It wasn’t for another 24 years that the Behike would be introduced, in very limited quantities, for the 40th anniversary of the Cohiba Brand. Forty humidors of 10 cigars were released, all rolled by a single roller, with individually numbered bands.
The size was remarkably different from the cigars that you see today. At 52 ring gauge by 7.6 inches long, this cigar stands out from everything else Cuba was producing at the time. These are some of the most sought after cigars in the world. I have seen one humidor in person, in a hotel in London, with a price tag of £5000 per cigar.
Worry not, though! In 2010, the release of the 3 different vitolas that we know today made the cigars much more accessible. The Behike 52, 54 and 56 represent the pinnacle of Cuban cigars, using the very rare and valuable Medio Tiempo leaf. This is the top 2 leaves of each tobacco plant grown in the Vuelta Abajo zone, which makes up Cuba’s premier tobacco crop.
The flavors are rich and bold, partially because only the best tobacco that Cuba produces can be used for these cigars. When they run out, they simply stop rolling them! And partially because uniquely among Habanos cigars, some of the tobacco is barrel-aged after fermentation. The look of the cigar is a thing of beauty, with its fantail cap and holographic band. Well worthy of its place on this list.
2.) Davidoff Golden Band Awards
When you think of a list like this, you know there will be a Davidoff on there somewhere. In this case, the cigar in question is a special release cigar, given only to selected retailers in the US.
Davidoff is a company that takes its image very seriously. To ensure that its cigars are cared for correctly and presented properly, it has an awards scheme of sorts for its vendors. Each year nominations are taken for 9 categories, 2 for individuals, 7 for retailers, and are then voted on by the public. The results are given at a black tie dinner hosted by Davidoff, held at the annual IPCPR trade show. The evening finishes with these cigars being handed out, and the winners for each category are allowed to purchase these cigars for a period of one year. So if you see one of these on the shelves of your local tobacconist, then they have certainly earned that distinction.
The cigar is blended by Hendrik “Henke” Kelner, who is the mastermind behind the tobacco that has made the Davidoff brand the success it is, since leaving the fields of Cuba for its tobacco.
The wrapper on the cigar is something that needs special mention. Historically it was believed that you could not grow a good cigar wrapper in the Dominican Republic. The Fuente Family proved that to be wrong with the inception of their Opus X line and Henke wanted to replicate that success for Davidoff.
Starting in 1996, a process that took 10 years was begun to make a new kind of Dominican wrapper leaf, the Davidoff Yamasa. After much cross-breeding of tobacco seeds starting with Criollo, he planted in an untested region of the Dominican Republic, where the rich, red clay-like soil of Yamasa now produces this wonderful, aromatic tobacco leaf.
Prior to the release of this cigar, the wrapper was used only for the Davidoff Puro d’Oro, or Pure Gold, which gives its name in part to this cigar.
Expect a Davidoff like no other with this cigar. This 6 by 50 Dominican puro packs a lot more spice than the regular Davidoff lines, but does it with the usual class of one of their cigars. Expect bready notes, pepper, and perhaps the best spice flavors that you will ever get out of a non-Nicaraguan cigar. All wrapped up in one of the most unique wrapper leaves on the planet.
3.) Tatuaje TAA 2014
From their start in 2003 with the Selección de Cazador line to their multiple 90+ rated cigars, the Tatuaje brand has always done well.
One of my favorite things about the brand is the tradition that it embodies. You know how fans of certain movies get the little “in jokes” that still work in the context, but mean something more to them personally? Well, this brand is a little like that for me.
This cigar is the mixture of 2 of the most beloved blends that the company made, the Barclay Rex – a cigar made for the 100th anniversary of the New York Based store, and the Pork Tenderloin – a cigar wrapped in butcher paper that was a huge success for the company. Both of these blends started life as a variant of the original Selección de Cazador or “Brown Label” line.
The TAA in the name comes from the Tobacconists Association of America, an organization that since 1978 has met annually to discuss the future of the tobacco industry, help further relationships and promote excellence in the industry. To become a member you need to apply and the application process is strict, as well. Last year only 3 out of 60 applicants were successful.
To stock the TAA cigars (of which currently there are 12 manufacturers producing them including Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padron, Drew Estate and La Flor Dominicana), you have to be a member of the TAA. Because of his love for tradition and to drive up the attendance of the annual meeting, Pete Johnson took this a step further. To order the Tatuaje TAA cigars, you have to do so at the meeting, in person.
Why the 14? There have been Tatuaje releases for 5 years running now, so what makes that one special? Per my self-imposed rules, I had keep it to a recent release, which ruled out my actual favorite, the 2012 and frankly, I prefer it to the 2015. While the ‘15 was good, certainly deserving of the praise it was given, it never gave me the same joy as when I smoked the ‘14. For the entire length of the cigar, I was smiling and sighing happily!
Flavor-wise, there will be an immediate blast of pepper and spice when the Connecticut Broadleaf closed foot ignites, followed up by a smooth chocolate and spice that lasts for the whole cigar. Perfect!
4.) Arturo Fuente Opus X BBMF Maduro
What kind of name is that for a cigar? A well abbreviated one, that’s for sure! The Opus X Big Bad Mother Fucker is, believe it or not, one of the less strange names that have been used for their cigars. With a company that makes cigars named “Toymaker,” “Chilli Pepper,” and the even stranger “Pussy Juice,” you can see just how it ends up in their portfolio.
And the name perfectly describes the cigar too. It’s big and bad, but I’m not too sure about the other part. Coming in at 6 and a half inches, this perfecto hits 64 ring gauge at its widest point, a full inch. Shaped in the same style as the Hemingway line, once you get past that widest point, it gets narrower all the way to the cap, meaning that the flavors will constantly evolve as the cigar burns down.
With all that aside though, the most striking thing about this cigar is the addition of the “pom pom” cap. It’s an unmistakable, iconic part of the smoke which you obviously cut off before smoking, rendering it a useless but fantastic part of the cigar.
The wrapper is a wonderful thing. The very first wrapper leaves grown in the Dominican Republic were grown by the Fuente family and are part of how the Opus line got its name. When the intention to grow wrapper leaves was made, it was referred to by a non-believer in the undertaking as “Project X from Planet 9,” meaning that they may as well be planting in space for all the good it would do. Now we can see that the Chateau de la Fuente Sun Grown Rosado wrappers adorn some truly world-class cigars.
5.) Warped Don Reynaldo Coronas de Luxe
Warped is a company that compared to the other names on this list, is very new to the cigar scene. It was started in 2009 by Kyle Gellis, a man that grew up around his father’s cigar smoke. Shortly after its inception, they moved their main base of operations to El Titan de Bronze, a factory based in Miami that exclusively employs former level 9 Cuban rollers – the highest grade one could achieve.
El Titan de Bronze uses a special method called “entubado” to roll their cigars. They take each filler leaf and make it into a straw before they are bunched together, bound and wrapped. This helps aid in the construction, specifically the draw of the cigar, but does take a lot more time to roll each cigar. This, along with the fact that they have some of the very best rollers in the world working for them, means that almost every cigar is perfect.
The Don Reynaldo is named for Kyle’s father, the man who let his son choose what cigar he would smoke, would let him cut it and hold the lighter while he lit it. It’s probably fair to say that without his father’s love for his son and his cigars, there would be no Warped today.
Only 100 boxes of 10 of this particular cigar, the 5 and a half by 42 Coronas de Luxe, were made in 2014. However in 2015, it became a regular production cigar using a slightly different vitola, the 5 by 46 Don Reynaldo Regalos. So for those who don’t mind it in a slightly different size, that will be a lot easier to find.
6.) Ramon Allones, Hunters and Frankau Anniversario 225
Hunters and Frankau are a huge cigar import company that operate worldwide. Founded in 1790, they were responsible for bringing cigars to the UK when cigar smoking was new to the country. Two-hundred years later, they became the exclusive importer of Habanos cigars to Great Britain, Ireland, Gibraltar and the Channel Isles. To celebrate their 225th anniversary, they asked Ramon Allones (a company that they owned from 1911 to 1927, before selling it to the owners of the Partagas factory) to make them a special cigar.
To make these cigars even more special out of the 2,000 boxes of 25 that were made, just under half of them were reserved for some very special cabinet style humidors. Two-hundred twenty-five numbered cabinets were made at the renowned DeART facility in Italy, each containing 4 boxes of cigars, 100 commemorative cedar spills for lighting, 2 Xikar humidification devices and a very special bottle of Havana Club rum, specially blended to pair with this particular cigar. Only 500 bottles were made and none will be sold separately. The cheapest I have seen these humidors for sale is £4000.
Once the blend for the 5 and a half by 50 ring gauge cigar was finalized, the production was undertaken by just 3 top level torcedors at the Partagas factory in Cuba. They were then shipped to the UK to be stored for 2 years prior to the release event so that consumers would be able to sample the cigars after careful ageing.
The cigars themselves feature a “Cabeza Tumbada” or “Dropped Head,” which is how the majority of the cigars that were rolled at the Ramon Allones factory during their 16 year stint as owners were finished. To those of us that have been fortunate enough to smoke one of them, they have earned the nickname “Mini 109’s,” due to the similarities with that vitola. This was the only Cuban cigar that made my personal top 5 last year.
7.) La Palina Goldie Laguito Especial
La Palina is a cigar brand that started in 1896 with Samuel Paley, a Ukrainian immigrant to Chicago, who started the Congress Cigar Company after working as a lector in a local factory. His first cigar line was named La Palina in reference to his wife, Goldie Drell Paley, whose face adorns the bands of the La Palina cigars that we have come to know and love today.
When Sam’s son William was older, he joined the company and in a marketing move, created the CBS network that is still going strong today. Sadly, while he continued that career path, in 1926 the Congress Cigar Company ceased trading.
Bill Paley, Sam’s grandson, brought the company back to life in 2010 under the name La Palina with the mission statement, “To make the best cigar they could without any thought for cost.” With that in mind, Bill decided to honor his family with the La Palina Family Series.
All of the Laguito Especial cigars are rolled by a single woman, a former Level 9 Cuban roller called Maria Sierra. Maria was one of the first female rollers to be trained in Cuba and started her career at 18 years of age at Villa El Laguito, the factory where the Cohiba cigars are rolled, on the 22nd of July 1967. She was trained by both Avelino Lara, who created the Cohiba blend, and Eduardo Rivera Irizarri, who was Fidel Castro’s personal cigar roller, and held the distinction of being one of only 30 women chosen out of thousands of applicants to do this.
The cigars themselves are full of flavor and are easily my favorite lancero. Floral notes and vanilla are backed up by an impressive bready, caramel and spice. Its only downside is the fact that the wrapper leaf used is extremely delicate, so if you manage to get a hold of one, treat it very carefully.
8.) Padrón 50th Anniversary Limited Edition Maduro
Padrón is a company that prides itself on its history and traditions. Anniversaries are celebrated each time with cigars adorning the rich history of this company. Most readers will be familiar with their 1964, made to commemorate the year in which the company was founded, and their 1926, the cigar celebrating the birth of José Orlando Padrón, the company’s founder.
Fans of the brand were eagerly awaiting the unveiling of the 50th anniversary release, and they were not to be disappointed. One-thousand numbered, specially designed humidors were released, each holding 50 cigars. The humidors were designed by Nelson Alfonso and were crafted by artisans at Golden Age. Each contained beautifully wrought hygrometers and thermometers picked out in gold alongside the Padrón crest. All that pales in comparison to something else that was included…a simple piece of paper that stated that the owner of the humidor would be able to order up to 5 refills.
Understating the importance of that document would be a grave mistake. Too often cigar releases like this one go unsmoked and forgotten about in collectors basements, never to see the light of day. That Certificate of Ownership allows the cigars to be smoked as and when the owner wanted, and upon sale or transference of the humidor, it would be given to the new owner.
It’s no small feat for a company to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It’s an even greater achievement when considering the setbacks Padrón has endured. Suffering factory fires, trade embargoes and even more devastating, four separate bombings at factories and offices. Each time the company has recovered, thanks to the strength of its workforce rallying behind the icon that adorns the cigars here. The little hammer that José Padrón used to earn the money to start his company with is proof that with hard work, determination and dedication, you can overcome any obstacle.
9.) Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Destino al Siglio
Ok…now that’s a mouthful! It’s no wonder that people just simply refer to it as the “Blue Opus Churchill.” This is another anniversary cigar. Just like the Padrón above, it celebrates a terrific milestone in a company’s history; 100 years of business. It’s a cigar that was 10 years in the making and was filled with setbacks, too. Like the Padrón, perseverance paid off and one of the best cigars in the world was born.
Founded in 1912 in Tampa, Arturo Fuente and his family rolled cigars in their own home after work using imported Cuban tobacco. After an unfortunate fire and the Cuban embargo, the factory moved around until it eventually settled in the Dominican Republic, under the control of Arturo’s son, Carlos Fuente Sr.
Keeping the business in the family, Carlos Fuente Jr, is now the president of the company. When the company was approaching its 90th birthday, plans for a series of special releases containing 90 tubed candle-shaped cigars were hatched. The series would continue each year with an additional cigar added to the box until the 100th anniversary, when a special cigar would take its place. Unfortunately, the company was too busy to be able to manufacture these cigars, so it missed its 90th birthday celebration.
Originally the 2012 release of the cigar was to be made with four different tobaccos, Dominican Wrapper and Nicaraguan, American and Cuban fillers, using some 40 year old tobacco. However, the setbacks continued. In 2011, a factory fire destroyed two of the barns that the Fuente family kept its tobacco in, which included the 40 year old stock. That fire gave birth to another Opus line, the “Angels Share.” Deciding to wait and not rush their “Destino al Siglio” or “Destiny of the Century,” they missed their 100th birthday as well, but in 2013 these cigars were eventually released.
Released in four different vitolas named for the love of heritage and family that the company represents, the Destino al Pasion is the one that catches my attention the most. The beautiful blue band that represents the original colors put on the cigars rolled by Arturo Fuente himself, to the gorgeous Chateau de la Fuente Sun Grown Rosado wrapper, this is one of the most eye-catching cigars ever made.
10.) Por Larrañaga Sobresalientes, Edición Regional Gran Bretaña
Whether national favoritism on my part or not, this cigar remains one of my favorites. Due to the hefty price tag on cigars in the UK, it is something that I only reach for on special occasions, but it does make those moments well worth it.
Habanos S.A. releases occasional regional editions that usually come from one of the less globally known marcas of Cuban cigars. The UK has been fortunate enough to receive one each year since 2007, and twice have received two. In 2014, the Por Larrañaga Sobresalientes was released making it the third Por Larrañaga regional edition to grace the shelves of cigar stores here.
Taking cues from its usual band that is golden with white writing, the much more ornate band that adorns these cigars is extremely attractive to the eye. Placed adjacent to the bold red and silver regional exclusive band and the slight reddish brown Cuban wrapper, you have a finished product that is quite stunning. Add to that the 6 inch by 53 ring gauge dimensions and it is a beautiful sight, indeed.
As soon as you take your first draw of this cigar, it hits all the right notes. Caramel, coffee, chocolate, the right amount of spice and some gingerbread. It is a phenomenal smoke, with a complex shifting of those flavors, each puff slightly different from the last. Considering you can buy several cigars for the price of this one, it’s definitely a special occasion smoke, but like I said before, it really can make that occasion extra special.
So there we have it…my 10 Best Cigars in the World, as they stand right now.
Of course your favorite may not be on the list, since taste is the most subjective thing in the world and our tastes may certainly differ.
Let me know what differs from your list to mine. What out of this list have you had before? Or better yet, who did I leave off the list?
I would love to hear your feedback!