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Top 10 Hand-Rolled Cigars

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

There’s nothing like smoking a premium hand-rolled cigar. It takes years to master the art of rolling a cigar and decades to learn the growing, harvesting, aging, and blending techniques that make premium tobacco taste amazing. It’s no surprise that cigar-makers with the greatest passion, patience, and commitment make the best cigars. Here are the top ten best hand-rolled cigar brands produced today.

1. Ashton

For more than thirty-five years, Ashton cigars have occupied the shelves in premium cigar stores around the world. The Ashton portfolio is blended by prominent cigar-maker Carlito Fuente in the Dominican Republic where the brand is handmade from the finest tobaccos. Ashton cigars account for some of the highest-rated and highest-ranked cigars ever produced according to the critics in Cigar Aficionado. Creamy and mild bestsellers include Ashton Classic, Cabinet Selection, and Aged Maduro. The 94-rated Ashton VSG, 94-rated ESG, 94-rated Heritage, and 94-rated Symmetry deliver impeccably complex taste and aroma. Every leaf of tobacco is matured to achieve optimal flavor before a skilled cigar-roller crafts it into a premium Ashton cigar. 

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2. Arturo Fuente

The Fuente family is among the world’s premier premium cigar-makers thanks to a legacy built over three generations by brand founder Arturo Fuente, his son, Carlos Fuente, and Carlos’ son, Carlito Fuente. The family has persisted in the face of numerous catastrophes, including fires, hurricanes, political and civil unrest, and naysayers who said they would never succeed. One glance at the illustrious Arturo Fuente portfolio makes it tough to comprehend the Fuentes were ever destined for anything but success. The ultra-rare, 97-rated Fuente Fuente Opus X, 97-rated Don Carlos Eye of the Shark, and 94-rated Añejo comprise a collection of classics with the 94-rated Arturo Fuente Hemingway, Chateau Fuente, Gran Reserva, and many more. Arturo Fuente cigars have earned multiple ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ titles from Cigar Aficionado, and the finest shops in the world eagerly carry as many Fuente cigars as they can get their hands on.

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3. Padrón

The Padrón portfolio is stacked with toothy, box-pressed cigars the critics routinely fawn over. Dozens of top-ranked Padrón cigars include no less than four ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ winners: Padrón 40th Anniversary, 1926 Series, Family Reserve, and 1964 Anniversary. Brand founder José Orlando Padrón started Padrón Cigars in 1964 after fleeing his native Cuba to escape Castro’s oppressive regime. Today, his youngest son, Jorge, runs the operation. Elaborate profiles of cocoa, cayenne pepper, cedar, baking spices, and leather characterize the brand’s finest cigars. The original Padrón blend starts about $5 to $7 per cigar, while many of the brand’s coveted and rarest cigars stretch to over $20 apiece.

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4. La Aroma de Cuba

Demand for La Aroma de Cuba cigars has exploded over the past twenty years, since this historic brand was revived by the Levin family, owners of the Ashton brand. They turned to Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia, a master blender from Cuba, to produce La Aroma de Cuba Cigars in Estel, Nicaragua, and they haven’t looked back. La Aroma de Cuba is considered one of the best cigars for the money, starting at just over $5 per cigar for the original 93-rated La Aroma de Cuba blend. There are dozens of versatile and award-winning cigars to smoke from La Aroma de Cuba, including the 95-rated Mi Amor, 94-rated Reserva, 94-rated Edicion Especial, and the recently released La Aroma de Cuba Pasión. Taste a classic Nicaraguan brand born in Cuba where, once upon a time, it was one of Winston Churchill’s favorite cigars.

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5. My Father

Esteemed cigar-maker Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia, known as “Pepin,” began making cigars in Cuba at the age of eleven. When he left in the early 2000s to join his family in the States, he was considered a master of his craft, but his determination to continue making cigars beyond Cuba set the stage for his greatest work. My Father cigars is the culmination of a dream Pepin achieved with his son, Jaime Garcia, and his daughter, Janny Garcia. The family’s portfolio includes a pair of past ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ titles from Cigar Aficionado for the 96-rated Flor de las Antillas and the 97-rated My Father Le Bijou 1922. Other top-selling My Father brands include Don Pepin Garcia Original, Jaime Garcia Reserva, La Opulencia, The Judge, La Promesa, and the original My Father blend. My Father cigars are bold, spicy, and full of intricate flavor.

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6. Oliva

Oliva has grown into one of Nicaragua’s biggest cigar manufacturers over the past twenty years. The Oliva family got their start producing value-based bundles but steadily built a big audience for its cigars, and their fan base expanded exponentially as critics and cigar lovers became enamored with bold and spicy smokes like the 95-rated Oliva Serie V, 92-rated Master Blends 3, and the 96-rated, former ‘#1 Cigar of the Year,’ Serie V Melanio. The company was sold to Belgium-based J. Cortès N.V. in 2016, and the new owners have increased production with substantial investments in their Nicaraguan factories and farms. Oliva cigars is also home to the Nub and Cain brands. Regardless of your tastes, it’s not hard to find a favorite in the Oliva portfolio.  

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7. San Cristobal

San Cristobal began in 2007 as a small-batch line blended by Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia and has blossomed into one of Nicaragua’s hottest cigar brands. Succulent, meaty, and ultra-smooth profiles include the original 93-rated San Cristobal, 93-rated Revelation, 91-rated Elegancia, and the 95-rated Quintessence. The finest binder and filler tobaccos grown on Garcia family estates are blended under a phenomenal array of wrapper varietals grown in Ecuador. Savor luscious profiles of cocoa, pepper, cedar, molasses, and hickory in a profound collection perfect for after dinner. In 2021, Cigar Aficionado awarded San Cristobal Quintessence ‘#3 Cigar of the Year’ honors.  

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8. Perdomo

Brand founder Nick Perdomo built his reputation on blending consistent, high-quality cigars for affordable prices, and you’ll find no shortage of hand-rolled Perdomo gems to suit your taste and your budget. Perdomo cigars are handcrafted in Estel, Nicaragua, in several bestselling lines like the 10th Anniversary Champagne and Habano Maduro. Nick sticks to a flawless formula, blending most of his core lines in a Natural, Maduro, and Sun Grown wrapper leaf to accommodate cigar lovers who prefer milder, sweeter, and spicier cigars. Discover a ton of well-made and popular Nicaraguan profiles from Perdomo that meet the sweet spot for price and flavor.

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9. AJ Fernandez

AJ Fernandez attributes his meteoric rise as a premium cigar-maker to a nonstop work ethic and his desire to build a substantial portfolio in the span of a decade. AJ began producing house cigars for big online distributors as well as handling side projects for brands like Rocky Patel before establishing his eponymous AJ Fernandez label. Red-hot blends like New World and Bellas Artes Maduro continue to win applause from critics and cigar lovers who prefer brawny Nicaraguan handmades for a great price. AJ Fernandez cigars are known for their robust flavor, but you’ll find a nice balance of sweet and zesty cigars to smoke that don’t cost a fortune. AJ’s brand is handmade in Estelí, Nicaragua, where he continues to expand his farms and factories to keep up with demand.

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10. Montecristo

Of all the historic Cuban-legacy brands you can smoke, Montecristo casts the biggest shadow. The Montecristo cigars made in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua are well regarded for their creamy and complex flavor. The original Montecristo blend is mellow and grassy with hints of cedar, coffee bean, and nuts. The 95-rated Montecristo 1935 Anniversary is the reigning ‘#2 Cigar of the Year’ for 2021 in Cigar Aficionado, and it’s fuller in body. Spicy, earthy notes of leather and wood accompany a bracing aroma. Explore a wide range of profiles that are perfectly approachable for beginners as well as beefier cigars best enjoyed after a full meal.

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