2017… A look back and looking forward

2017 was a wild and crazy year for my personal life. An unexpected job transfer to a new state, selling our home, and a number of other things that really took me away from doing what I love, cigar reviews. I did not have the time, and now being in an apartment while our new house is being built, I had no place to really do reviews like I wanted. I suspect this summer will be different once we move into the new home and get settled in. For these reasons and a few others, I am not doing a traditional Top Cigar List this year. I think this will probably become a trend for me in the future.

One thing I changed this year was adding a ratings system and scoring cigars. The crazy thing about cigar reviews is that they are highly subjective and no one will ever have the same experience so rating a cigar is a super difficult thing to do. When I started doing reviews, I never scored anything. And now I know why. When you assign a score to cigar and put a number on it, you are setting expectations. Score it too low and people say “Bro, you are crazy” score it too high and people say “Bro, you are crazy”. I have decided to go back to what works for me and that is an honest write up about the cigar, accompanied with quality photos and that’s it. So many cigars consistently score in that 90 – 93 range and many are much more deserving but will never get the score they deserve. With as many scores as I see in that range, what sets any of them apart? Opinions. That’s all that ever sets any product apart from each other. So once and for all I have decided that the rating system will be retired for me and I will leave that up to the trusted sites that have established themselves. I see forums and post in regards to bloggers and reviewers and most people aren’t influenced by the score but they read the content. That is what worked for me and I look forward to getting back to it.

I debated on putting this list out at all this year. I don’t feel that I was able to really contribute enough to the process to do it justice and make it relevant. I decided tonight that I would but I am going to do things a little different.

This was an amazing year for some incredible releases. I have decided to break them down into categories.

Connecticut’s

I am not a regular Connecticut cigar smoker. I rarely go to them unless it is early morning or the first of a multiple cigar evening. Nothing against them and I know there are some fantastic cigars out there. For me, my palate leans towards heavy, bold flavors. Red wines, bourbons, maduro/oscuro cigars, etc.

This year was a real standout for some great Connecticut’s. (See Top 5 list below)

Kolumbus K-Azul

Kolumbus is new to me and I only recently tried them during the past week. These are only available through SmoothDrawCigars and are made in La Palma, Spain. This Connecticut really impressed me. Not many people know about this brand, but they should. A terrific smoke anytime of the day or night.

Protocol Themis

The Protocol Themis is the first shot at a Connecticut by Cubariqueno Cigar Company and they absolutely crushed it. These guys just don’t miss. 3 releases and 3 incredible cigars. LaZona and Cubariqueno are simply on fire when it comes to producing great cigars. More of a mild plus – medium body, this is a terrific cigar and the price point is below what I would expect from a cigar this good. But I am not complaining about that!

Highclere Castle

The Highclere Castle is an incredible project and wonderful cigar. This is one that I would smoke as a first smoke at any high end event or special occasion. The price point is a bit steep but when you consider what you are smoking, the price fits the quality. Incredible cigar and another terrific project from Foundation Cigars.

All the rest:

Where do I even start on this list? There were so many absolutely incredible releases this year from so many great companies. There is no way possible that I could include all of them on this list otherwise I would be here until tomorrow. While I enjoyed many great cigars this year some really stood out to me.

Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust made a HUGE impact in my humidor. Steve Saka and team released some absolutely incredible projects and as they are aging, I find them getting more complex and better each time I smoke them.

Sobremesa – Incredibly complex. So many flavor profiles all wrapped into one amazing cigar.

Mi Querida – Another one of my favorite sticks this year.

Todos Las Dias – Spicy, unapologetic and down right good.

Umbagog – For the money, you can’t beat this cigar.

I have not had the pleasure of trying the Muestra de Saka, Sin Compromiso, or the Altemose. The Muestra de Saka is high on my must have list and I read that he is releasing the Unicorn. A true master of cigars, there is no wonder that everything he makes is fantastic.

Foundation Cigars is another company that has solidified a spot on my go-to list of cigars. Nick Melillo has created some of the best cigars on the planet. Last years releases scored very high on my list and this year the trend continues. The Tabernacle is still on my favorites list and now add the Highclere Castle and the El Güegüense Maduro.

Wise Man Maduro was a game changer for me. The original release of the El Güegüense was terrific but the maduro is on another level. One of the best cigars I had this year.

The addition of the Highclere Castle this year really rounded out the already impressive portfolio. This is my choice for my personal Cigar of the Year.

Black Label Trading Company / Black Works Studio

What can I say about what’s going on and coming out of Fabrica Oveja Negra? I am so impressed with what James, Angela and crew have done over the past few years. The growth of the company is a tribute to the work being done there. Every year it seems the new releases get better and better. With too many cigars to put on the list I am going to limit myself to just a few.

Boondock Saints – This year was my first year getting these and the hype is real. Not just a cult following for the movie, this cigar has it’s own cult like following. I would smoke them more often if not so hard to come by. A year is a long time to wait.

2017 Bishops Blend – Right from the jump I knew this years release was on another level. I didn’t think it could get any better until I let them rest in the humidor for a few weeks and tried it again. This cigar is just incredible. Clearly one of the best of the year for me.

Last Rites Lancero – The name is certainly fitting of this cigar. If you are on your death bed and can have one last smoke, this one would be a great one to ask for. One fantastic lancero for sure.

I could go on and on about these 2 companies but all I can say is, if you like bold, complex cigars, these are a must try.

Cubariqueno Cigar Company

The new kids on the block (kind of). Last years Cigar of the Year winner on Cigar Federation with the original Protocol, they are back again with 2 more strong showings. Working with La Zona and creating some of the best cigars on the market, people are discovering the Power of the P!

Probable Cause Lancero – Following in the footsteps of the original, this lancero is nothing short of spectacular. Juan, Bill and team have found a recipe for success in this vitola. Easily one of the best cigars I smoked this year.

Themis – See Above

These guys just continue to impress and I look forward to what 2018 brings!

Felix Assouline

I have been smoking these for over a year now and I was impressed with everything he produced. This year more and more people are discovering his great portfolio. I am very happy to see FAC when I walk into Famous and my local lounge. I truly expect more and more people to discover the wonder cigars he produces. This year we saw the release of the Blackcat and something new from the EGO line.

The EGO Black is available in 5 sizes at retailers and is another terrific addition to the already strong EGO portfolio.

The EGO Black Dark Lord. This cigar is simply amazing. I will need to smoke another one and really take my time with it to try and sort through the flavor profiles again but this is unlike anything I have ever gotten my hands on. The price point is up there ($30 each) but once you smoke it, you begin to understand why. I would have a hard time finding another cigar that I could even begin to compare it to flavor wise. I do not think there is anything out there that I have tried that comes close. You have to smoke it to understand. Supplies are limited.

There were many other brands that made an impact on me this year but for the sake of keeping this manageable I will defer and stop here. If you stop and think about that for a second, I hope you realize what an amazing time we live in when it comes to cigars! Anyone that makes a cigar list could easily have a Top 25 and there are legit 50 or more cigars that could end up on it. And that is probably being conservative.

Again, I did not get the opportunity to review as many cigars as I would have liked to. Hopefully that changes soon. I look forward to jumping back in again in 2018 without a rating system and just honest, open reviews.

My favorites for this year:

#12: Serino Royale Maduro XX – Serino Cigars

#11: Neanderthal HS (new size for the blend this year) – Roma Craft

#10: Jacob’s Ladder – Southern Draw

#9: Corojo Oscuro – Mbombay

#8: Umbagog – DTT

#7: Sindustry – BWKS

#6: Todos Las Dias – DTT

#5: Sobremesa – DTT

#4: Last Rites Lancero – BLTC

#3: Protocol Probable Cause Lancero – Cubariqueno

#2: Mi Querida – DTT

#1: El Güegüense Maduro (My personal favorite this year) – Foundation

Top Limited Release Cigars of 2017

#3: Boondock Saints

#2: Bishops Blend 2017 release

#1: Ego Black Dark Lord

Top Connecticut’s for 2017

#5: AVO Syncro South American Ritmo

#4: Kolumbus K- Azul

#3: Southern Draw Rose of Sharon

#2: Protocol Themis

#1: Foundation Highclere Castle

I had a shelf in the humidor of cigars I wanted to review and didn’t get the opportunity. I am sure many of them were deserving of being on the list as well.

I really enjoyed these incredible cigars. Many of them will be staples in my humidor. We are extremely lucky to have so many great cigars available to us. Here’s to a fantastic 2017 and an even better 2018! I cannot wait to see what this years releases bring! Until next time folks…long ashes and full glasses.