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Best Small-Batch Cigars

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

All true small-batch cigars have one thing in common: they’re rare. While some are easier to attain than others, they are all manufactured in very limited quantities. Often, that’s because the tobaccos used to assemble these sought-after treasures are not easy to come by. They are harvested from select fields where tobacco is exclusively grown for one special blend in many cases. Beyond a finicky cultivation, these tobaccos are aged for many years before a cigar-maker is prepared to work with them.

Makers of the best premium cigars love to experiment with rare tobaccos. Like a high-profile chef laboring over the ingredients for a signature dish – one that will wow customers and critics, cigar-makers thrive on pushing the limits of their creativity to invent something special, something exclusive – a cigar that’s very personal.

We’ve put together our recommendations for the Top 5 Small-Batch Cigars below. Each selection offers a definitive flavor profile and reflects the culmination of a cigar maker’s talent, experience, and allegiance to tradition. Put the following rare handmades on your list of must-haves. 

#1 - San Cristobal Ovation

Celebrated cigar-maker Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia blends the entire San Cristobal brand to an amazing standard. San Cristobal Ovation is the rarest cigar in the brand’s portfolio. The blend was conceived to commemorate San Cristobal’s ascension in the landscape of premium Nicaraguan cigars.

An extensively aged San Andrés Oscuro wrapper leaf rests for nearly three years to achieve optimal taste. It is patiently assembled over a hearty, full-bodied recipe of premium tobaccos. A vibrant interior of binder and filler leaves includes Corojo, Habano, and Criollo tobacco varietals grown on select Garcia family estates in Nicaragua. Notes of sweetened hickory, dark chocolate, and espresso beans reveal an ultra-rich creaminess with a touch of signature Nicaraguan spices. Ovation is available in three classic shapes for $13 to $15 per cigar. Only a few thousand boxes are made every year.

#2 - Fuente Fuente Opus X

Fuente Fuente Opus X flaunts a demand that’s nearly impossible to rival. Cigar lovers from coast to coast emphatically express their devotion to Opus X. They will go to great lengths to get it and often brag that they’ve scored a box for their collection. Others will quietly covet their supply, hiding it from everyone in sight to avoid requests to try one. Fuente Fuente Opus X is hard to come by, but it can be had.

Legendary cigar-maker Carlito Fuente blended a masterpiece and a message to cigar-making naysayers who declared it was impossible to grow a quality wrapper leaf in the Dominican Republic. Opus X truly is the first of its kind – a Dominican Puro – a cigar drafted entirely from Dominican tobaccos, including its very rare and special wrapper leaf. The cigar debuted in 1995 following years of trial and error experimenting with the numerous crops to find the perfect seed varietal for the Opus X wrapper. In the end, Carlito succeeded with a magnificent full-bodied profile that delivers notes of dried fruit, wood, and figs with a tangy, spicy zest.

Fuente Fuente Opus X is only available at premium retailers, typically in allocated quantities. The blend is handcrafted in a wide variety of shapes and sizes that range in price from roughly $15 up to $150 or more per cigar depending on the rarity of the format. The Fuente family’s signature cigar bar, Casa Fuente, in Las Vegas usually carries a nice supply of Fuente Fuente Opus X cigars. The Ashton Cigar Bar in Philadelphia also features a menu of hard-to-find Opus X smokes. If you haven’t had to the pleasure of indulging in a Fuente Fuente Opus X, don’t hesitate the next time you encounter one for sale.

#3 - Ashton ESG

ESG stands for “Estate Sun Grown” in Ashton ESG. The term refers to the exquisite Sun Grown Dominican wrapper that adorns this luscious and highly sought-after cigar. Outside of Fuente Fuente Opus X, Ashton ESG is among the only other premium Dominican Puros available today. World-renowned cigar-maker Carlito Fuente proved he could blend an entirely different and equally impressive flavor profile exclusively with Dominican tobaccos in Ashton ESG. Every leaf is drawn from Fuente family fields prized for their rich, fertile soils. The cigar reflects Carlito Fuente’s insistence on blending with only the finest, oldest tobaccos the family cultivates.

Whereas Opus X exhibits a woody and spicier intensity, Ashton ESG delivers creamier, velvety textures. Notes of graham cracker, cedar, coffee beans, and black pepper accompany luscious caramel-like flavors from beginning to end. The blend debuted in 2005 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Ashton brand. It has been a first choice among fans of Dominican cigars since its premier. Ashton ESG is handmade in five distinctive shapes ranging from $18.25 to $22 apiece. We especially enjoy this cigar with a top-shelf bourbon. Because the tobaccos in Ashton ESG are cured and fermented for such a long period, the cigar is produced in very small batches. Limited quantities of Ashton ESG are available only at select authorized Ashton retailers.

#4 - La Aroma de Cuba Noblesse

In the wake of a full-scale revival in the early 2000s, classic Cuban-legacy brand La Aroma de Cuba returned to its historic roots as a top-shelf premium cigar under the immeasurable talents of blending legend Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia. Originally a favorite brand of Winston Churchill during the late 1800s, La Aroma de Cuba is now home to a number of top-rated Nicaraguan cigars, including Cigar Aficionado’s former ‘#2 Cigar of the Year,’ La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor.

At the summit of the brand’s bestselling portfolio is La Aroma de Cuba Noblesse. Pepin Garcia created an ultra-refined profile of cocoa, toasted cashews, and wood with creamy floral aromas. The blend is handmade from a rare and glimmering Habano Rosado wrapper leaf grown in Ecuador and a distinct interior of binder and filler tobaccos drawn from select Garcia family estates in three of Nicaragua’s key tobacco-growing regions: Estelí, Jalapa, and Namanji. La Aroma de Cuba Noblesse is produced once per year in exceptionally limited quantities. The blend is available in three perfectly balanced formats for $14 to $16 per cigar. Its versatility often impresses fans of both milder and more full-bodied cigars.

#5 - Padron Family Reserve

The iconic Padron brand is home to a number of prestigious Nicaraguan smokes. José Orlando Padron left behind a substantial cigar-making legacy before his passing at the age of 91 in 2017. Today, his son Jorge Padron carries on the family’s tradition with the same passion for premium tobaccos. The brand has scored numerous top ratings and is regularly applauded by cigar lovers and critics.

Padron Family Reserve is one of the brand’s most revered cigars. The blend was originally created for members of the Padron family to smoke. Eventually it was made available in very small quantities at cigar shops hosting Padron events where a member of the Padron family was present. Due to its immediate popularity, the family decided to release Padron Family Reserve to its top-tier accounts. The 95-rated cigar #45 Maduro was named Cigar Aficionado’s ‘Cigar of the Year’ in 2009. Padron Family Reserve has ranked numerous times in the ‘Top 5 Cigars of the Year’ in a handful of sizes.

The blend is handmade exclusively from the family’s oldest stores of premium Nicaraguan tobaccos, many of which have been aged longer than ten years. Because the tobaccos are aged for such a long period, only a limited quantity of Padron Family Reserve is released each year. As a result, the blend sells for just over $21 to over $32 per cigar. However, many are convinced its sophisticated profile of cedar, cocoa, cayenne, and cinnamon is well worth it. Taste the pinnacle of Padron when you have a Family Reserve in your grasp.

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