There are plenty of high-octane cigars loaded with ligero tobacco on the market today, but power strictly for power’s sake isn’t enough. To truly stand out, a cigar must also have balance and grace to harness its strength. We’re all for full-bodied smokes at Cigar Aficionado, however we value clarity of flavor as much as we value boldness. So, we combed through the past year of ratings to provide a comprehensive list of highly-rated cigars that are not only strong, but also remain complex enough to ensure a premium smoking experience. These cigars prove that elegance and power can co-exist in the same puff.
Fuente Fuente OpusX PerfecXion A (94 points, $32.30)
Made with a distinctively eye-catching reddish cover leaf, the all-Dominican Fuente Fuente OpusX has been one of the most sought-after brands since its release in late 1995. At the time, there weren’t many full-bodied Dominican cigars on the market, so brand owner Carlos Fuente Jr. saw an opportunity. Here, the unusual “A” size—a massive cigar, at 9 1/4 inches by 47 ring gauge—is characterized by nuts, coffee, nutmeg, dried fig and ginger molasses cookies. It’s hard to find but worth the hunt. See full tasting note.
La Flor Dominicana Oro Chisel (93 points, $15.80)
Litto Gomez created the Oro line in dedication to his former profession as a jeweler, packaging them in gleaming gold tubes. The blend is similar to his Coronado line but uses higher-priming leaves for added strength. As if the tobacco wasn’t strong enough, power is further enhanced by the cigar’s chisel head, which concentrates the smoke for higher impact. It’s leathery and toasty with an underlying spiciness, cashew notes and a graham cracker finish. See full tasting note.
Liga Privada No. 9 Short Panetela (92 points, $10)
At 4 1/2 by 40, this is the smallest cigar on the list, but Drew Estate’s power brand is big on flavor with a bracing assortment of spices such as cardamom, cumin and clove all atop the woody, earthy base brightened by hints of orange peel and black tea. See full tasting note.
Padrón Serie 1926 No. 2 (92 points, $19.70)
Stronger and earthier than Padrón’s predecessors, the Serie 1926 line is a box-pressed brand of Nicaraguan puros named for the birth year of company founder, the late José Orlando Padrón. Cigars from this series are known for a consistent balance of strength and richness, and this belicoso is bold and hearty with elements of earth, coffee and semisweet chocolate. It was even the No. 2 Cigar of 2017. See full tasting note.
San Cristobal Clasico (92 points, $9.50)
All-Nicaraguan save for its dark Ecuadoran wrapper, this robusto from the core San Cristobal line is made for Ashton Distributors Inc. by the Garcia family in Estelí, Nicaragua. There are a few different blends within the San Cristobal series, but this one is the strongest, and it shows in the robusto-sized Clasico, which delivers a powerful smoke full of earth, spice and a cinnamon sweetness. See full tasting note.
Allegria Corona (91 points, $9.80)
Considered the stronger sister line of the OneOff brand, Allegria was originally released in 2004 by Andrea Molinari. In 2017, the OneOff trademark was acquired by Illusione Cigars, the Reno, Nevada-based company that also resurrected Allegria this year. The original version was made by the Plasencias in Nicaragua; now it's made by Aganorsa Leaf and the blend is more powerful than before. The blend has Corojo ’98 and Corojo ’99 Nicaraguan tobaccos. similar to those of OneOff, but these are made with higher-priming leaves for added body. See full tasting note.
Bellas Artes Maduro Lancero (91 points, $10)
Thicker cigars are often perceived as being stronger, but that’s not always the case. Despite its skinny dimensions, this box-pressed panetela from A.J. Fernandez is just as bold and full-bodied as its inky Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper suggests with impressions of dark toast, chocolate and black pepper all leading to a black licorice finish. See full tasting note.
E.P. Carrillo Dusk Solidos (91 points, $10.50)
Named the No. 18 Cigar of 2017, the Dusk line was introduced in 2016 and pays tribute to two things: cigar industry veteran Silvio Perez, a tobacco grower and broker who once headed A.S.P. Enterprises Inc., and the preferred time of day that brand owner Ernesto Perez-Carrillo likes to smoke. Clad in a dark, Connecticut broadleaf wrapper, the Solidos is brawny and toasty with leathery, nutty notes of macadamia and plenty of red pepper spice on the finish. See full tasting note.
Alec Bradley Tempus Natural Churchill (90 points, $10)
Formerly called the Tempus Natural Centuria, the re-named Churchill is a spicy smoke of red, white and black pepper. The wrapper comes from the Trojés region of Honduras, and Honduran leaves makes up most of the blend, aside from a second binder leaf grown in Indonesia and a bit of Nicaraguan filler. See full tasting note.
H. Upmann Nicaragua AJ Fernandez Heritage Corona (90 points, $9.72)
Produced in Nicaragua as a collaboration between cigarmaker A.J. Fernandez and Rafael Nodal of Altadis U.S.A., this corona is all-Nicaraguan, save for the Brazilian Mata Fina cover leaf, which the company claims has been “triple-fermented.” The smoke is full of spicy notes of pepper, red meat and leather with a finish of cinnamon and nutmeg. See full tasting note.
Punch Clásico Double Corona EMS (90 points, $7.59)
With a retail price just under $8, this Churchill is the most affordable smoke on this list. It’s made with a five-country blend consisting of an Ecuadoran wrapper, Connecticut broadleaf binder, and filler from Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Every puff loads the palate with notes of coffee, cocoa and wood, but there are also spicy secondary notes of anise and leather. See full tasting note.
Tabernacle Havana Seed CT No. 142 Lancero (90 points, $13.83)
When it comes to thinner cigars, the wrapper tends to dominate. In this case, it’s a hearty leaf of Havana seed grown in the micro climate of the Connecticut River Valley. The original Tabernacle was released in 2016, followed by the Havana Seed CT No. 142 line in 2018, named for the wrapper’s seed varietal. It shows an interesting mix of coffee, cola and vanilla before going into a more powerful gear with a spicy, smoky finish reminiscent of a peated Scotch. See full tasting note.
Trinidad Espiritu Series No. 2 Fundador (90 points, $10.90)
It’s all about Brazilian tobacco with this hearty, spicy lancero. The Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper plays a major part in the cigar’s character, and is supported by the Brazilian and Nicaragua tobaccos within. Made in Nicaragua by A.J. Fernandez for Altadis U.S.A., this is the second release in the Trinidad Espiritu series (the first was all Nicaraguan). The smoke here makes quite an impact, hitting the palate squarely before developing notes of espresso and licorice. See full tasting note.