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A Look Back at Cigar Aficionado’s Past Cigars of the Year

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

In the months of December or January, Cigar Aficionado publishes its annual list of the ‘Top 25 Cigars of the Year.’ The publication has been rating cigars since its debut in the early 1990s but began ranking the top cigars of the year in 2004. Only cigars that have been rated 91 points or higher according to Cigar Aficionado’s 100-point scale are eligible to make the ‘Top 25.’ You may or may not agree with the critics’ choices, but cigar lovers look forward to the rankings.

Today, you can find cigar ratings from a variety of resources, including right here at Holt’s, where our deep library of Clubhouse Staff Reviews is published by our own team of dedicated cigar smokers who have a combined century’s worth of experience buying, selling, marketing, and, of course, smoking premium cigars. We rate cigars in our reviews according to our preferences for taste, construction, finish, price, and more to provide our opinions on the best cigars for customers who shop with us.

We also look forward to Cigar Aficionado’s annual year-end rankings to see how our impressions stack up against those of the critics. Now that the ‘Top 25’ list for 2020 is out, here’s a roundup of the past ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ titleholders going back to 2004 for perspective. While we don’t sell the Cubans mentioned, most of the others are readily available for purchase right here. Which ones do you consider classics?

2020 – E.P. Carrillo Pledge – Prequel (Dominican Republic)

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo is a titan in the cigar industry. His decades-long career began well before the Cigar Boom of the 1990s when he launched La Gloria Cubana. Today, his E.P. Carrillo brand includes many top-rated releases and his second ‘Cigar of the Year’ title with the 98-rated Pledge in a 5 x 50 Robusto called the Prequel. E.P. Carrillo Pledge is crafted from long-filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Ecuador beneath a Cuban-seed wrapper grown in Connecticut.

2019 – Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua – Maestro (Nicaragua)

Aging Room is a brand created by Rafael Nodal but blended and made in a consortium of different cigar factories. Quattro Nicaragua hails from one of Nicaraguan’s hottest new cigar-makers, AJ Fernandez, who is no stranger to blending cigars for other well-known brands. The 96-rated small-batch Quattro Nicaragua is drafted from a blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos from top to bottom. Its medium to full-bodied profile of wood and nuts earned some buzz following its ‘Cigar of the Year’ title.

2018 – E.P. Carrillo Encore – Majestic (Dominican Republic)

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo scored his first ‘Cigar of the Year’ with his eponymous E.P. Carrillo brand in the Encore line. Previously, he cracked the ‘Top 5’ with La Historia, but the 96-rated, medium to full-bodied profile of E.P. Carrillo Encore edged him into the top spot in 2018. Pick up a 10-count box in one of our recurring weekly deals for a big discount.

2017 – Arturo Fuente Don Carlos – Eye of the Shark (Dominican Republic)

Arturo Fuente Don Carlos is a legendary blend created by legendary cigar-maker Carlos Fuente Sr., who debuted the cigar decades ago. His son, Carlito Fuente, created a rare and extraordinary edition of it with Eye of the Shark – a half-box-pressed Torpedo finished in a shimmering Cameroon wrapper leaf. Save this 97-rated gem for a special occasion if you’re lucky enough to find one for sale.

2016 – La Flor Dominicana – Andalusian Bull (Dominican Republic)

Litto Gomez gained a reputation for blending strong small-batch Dominican cigars when he debuted La Flor Dominicana over twenty years ago. His portfolio is full of rich and spicy blends like the top-selling Double Ligero, but the 96-rated Andalusian Bull won the hearts of the critics in 2016 with its unusual Salomon shape and its leathery and silky taste. We get them in regularly, but they sell out fast because only a small number of rollers are qualified to roll this shape at Litto’s factory.

2015 – My Father Le Bijou 1922 – Torpedo Box-Press (Nicaragua)

Renowned father-and-son cigar-makers Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia and Jaime Garcia scored their second ‘Cigar of the Year’ title with the 97-rated My Father Le Bijou 1922 in a sharp box-pressed Torpedo. The Nicaraguan powerhouse resonates with a dark and peppery zest and is best smoked after a filling dinner. The cigar was blended by Pepin as a tribute to his father.

2014 – Oliva Serie V Melanio – Figurado (Nicaragua)

The Oliva brand has grown in prestige and popularity over the past two decades as the company accumulated reserves of premium tobaccos and aged them for top-selling releases like Serie V Melanio. The box-pressed Figurado scored 96 points and a #1 ranking for its luxurious, medium to full-bodied profile of caramel, wood, and spices. 

2013 – Montecristo – No. 2 (Cuba)

Among Cuba’s most iconic cigars is Montecristo No. 2, a caramel-hued Torpedo which traces its heritage back to 1935 when the brand was founded by Alonso Menendez. The cigar’s reputation makes it one of the most knocked-off cigars of all time, so only purchase it from legitimate sources when you’re out of the county. Authentic Montecristo cigars deliver a sweet and citrusy zest with notes of leather and baking spices.

2012 – Flor de las Antillas – Toro  (Nicaragua)

Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia and Jaime Garcia impressed the critics on several occasions before they debuted Flor de las Antillas, a cool-burning Nicaraguan Puro with complex but approachable taste. The 96-rated Toro officially put the Garcias on the map with other top cigar-makers like the Padrons and Fuentes. Flor de las Antillas displays notes of cayenne, cinnamon, cedar, and cocoa.

2011 – Alec Bradley Prensado – Churchill (Honduras)

Alec Bradley Prensado scored 96 points in the Churchill in 2011 and proved Honduras is a cigar-making nation to be reckoned with. Sweet and spicy notes of molasses, hickory, and red peppers arrive in a box-pressed format that burns easy with a consistent profile of Nicaraguan and Honduran long-fillers under a Honduran Corojo wrapper. Add Prensado to your collection for a fraction of the price during one of our big Alec Bradley sales.

2010 – Cohiba Behike – BHK 52 (Cuba)

Cohia Behike is another frequently counterfeited Cuban, and much of that has to do with its status as a former ‘Cigar of the Year.’ The blend is sought after in multiple sizes, especially the BHK 52, but be wary of its price – and authenticity. Behikes can fetch upwards of $50 or $60 for one cigar outside of the US. The 97-rated blend impressed the folks at Cigar Aficionado, but we’re naturally a bit skeptical based on the price. If you’re buying cigars overseas, let us know what you think.

2009 – Padron Family Reserve – No. 45 Maduro (Nicaragua)

Although Padron scored its most recent ‘Cigar of the Year’ title back in 2009, the brand has never missed ranking in the ‘Top 10’ since Cigar Aficionado began publishing its annual list. Most Padron cigars actually make it into the ‘Top 5’ every year. The 95-rated Padron Family Reserve shows why with its oily Nicaraguan Maduro wrapper leaf and a deep profile of dark cocoa, roasted coffee beans, and sweet spices. 

2008 – Casa Magna Colorado – Robusto (Nicaragua)

Blended by Manuel Quesada in Nicaragua, Casa Magna stands out as one of the least expensive cigars to score a ‘Cigar of the Year’ title. Its reddish-brown wrapper covers a hearty blend of Cuban-seed tobaccos grown in Estelí and Jalapa. When it debuted, the 93-rated Robusto cost just over $5 per cigar. We bet you can still find them for a nice price today.

2007 – Padron 1926 Series – No. 9 (Nicaragua)

The 97-rated Padron 1926 Series was blended to commemorate the birth year of brand founder José Orlando Padron, who built his company from scratch after fleeing Cuba in the wake of Castro’s ascent to power. The blend is handcrafted from premium Nicaraguan tobaccos aged for approximately eight-year minimums. Refined notes of cocoa, coffee beans, and cashews reveal luxurious spices in the chunky 5.25 x 56 No. 9.  

2006 – Bolivar – Royal Corona (Cuba)

Cuban Bolivar cigars are known for needing some age after you buy them, but the 94-rated Royal Corona format exceeded the critics’ expectations in 2006. Notes of chocolate, leather, and fresh-ground coffee culminate in a creamy, earthy finish when the construction is decent.

2005 – Fuente Fuente Opus X – Double Corona (Dominican Republic)

In 2005, Carlito Fuente was celebrating a decade of nonstop demand for his ultra-rare Fuente Fuente Opus X cigars. The 95-rated Double Corona earned ‘Cigar of the Year’ honors and reflected the shift in consumers’ preferences for stronger Dominican blends. Opus X delivers an extravagant profile of cedar, coffee beans, figs, baking spices, and leather and redefined the Dominican Republic as a nation where the world’s finest tobaccos are grown.

2004 – Padron 40th Anniversary (Nicaragua)

It’s no surprise Padron 40th Anniversary was the very first ‘Cigar of the Year.’ The Padrons debuted the cigar in 2004 to celebrate their brand’s 40th year in business. The small-batch box-pressed Torpedo was originally only available in limited edition hand-painted humidors containing 40 cigars. Cigar lovers everywhere searched high and low to get their hands on the well-aged Nicaraguan Puros before they sold out. While Padron 40th Anniversary is easier to find today, the blend is no less decadent than it was in 2004.

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