It's been said by many that there is no better time than now to be a cigar lover, and with 30 cigars scoring 90 points or higher in our April tasting, which is now live on our website, it's hard to argue against this sentiment.
In total, 81 cigars were tasted by our panel of editors, and 14 of those were non-Cuban cigars that scored 91 points or higher, which is considered outstanding on our 100-point scale.
Like all Cigar Aficionado tastings, the editors consider four different categories as they determine a cigar's rating: Appearance and structure counts for a maximum of 15 points; flavor and smoking characteristics (quality of draw, texture of smoke, etc.) count for 25 points each; and the remaining 35 points are allotted to the overall impression, or level of enjoyment, of the cigar.
To help save you time when you're searching for your next cigar at your local brick-and-mortar tobacconist, we've chosen to highlight the top non-Cuban cigars below:
Joya de Nicaragua Black Nocturno (93 points) Joya Black debuted last year as a follow-up to the company's Joya Red line. In its debut Cigar Insider vertical tasting, each of the four Joya Black vitolas received a score of 91 points or higher. Nocturno, a corona gorda, received the most praise with 93 points. See full tasting note.
Padrón 6000 Maduro (93 points) This shortish, fat torpedo measures 5 inches by 52 ring and shows an amazing amount of flavor and that rare combination of value and quality. The Padrón 6000 Maduro is part of the company's core line of smokes, but this size was not produced until 2004. The vitola quickly gained critical acclaim, earning a spot of Cigar Aficionado's Top 25 list later that year. See full tasting note.
Ashton Virgin Sun Grown Belicoso No. 1 (92 points) The Ashton Virgin Sun Grown brand has established itself as a benchmark smoke among full-bodied enthusiasts. Its launch in 1999 brought a newfound interest to Ecuador Sumatra wrapper. The Belicoso No. 1 is crafted with a blunted tip and showcases notes of spicy leather, chocolate-covered raisins and sweet tea. See full tasting note.
C.A.O. Italia Ciao (92 points) Named for the Italian tobacco used in the filler (along with tobacco from Nicaragua and Peru), this robusto offers creamy smoke lush with fruity, ripe apple notes, molasses and brown sugar. The dark wrapper used for C.A.O.'s Italia is grown in Honduras, where the cigar is produced, and has an intriguing colorado-maduro gleam. See full tasting note.
E.P. Carrillo Maduro Churchill (91 points) Cigarmaker Ernesto Perez-Carrillo uses a dark and oily Connecticut broadleaf wrapper on this cigar. Together with an Ecuadoran binder and filler from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, the blend produces a toasty, oaky smoke that resonates with sweet vanilla-bean notes and a touch of toffee on the finish. See full tasting note.
Cohiba Nicaragua N54 (91 points) The Nicaraguan version of Cuba's storied Cohiba brand uses all tobaccos from its namesake country, save for the wrapper, which is grown in Honduras. The N54 vitola, a corona gorda that measures 5 1/2 inches by 54 ring gauge, is a complex cigar that offers notes of white pepper and cumin, leading to a bold, coffee-bean character before the sweet, fruity finish. See full tasting note.
Espinosa Habano No. 5 (91 points) First launched in the fall of 2012, Espinosa Habano brand owner Erik Espinosa relaunched the line in 2015 with new packaging, new sizes and a slightly modified blend that includes Ecuador Habano wrapper. The No. 5 vitola is a well-made corona gorda with a lush draw that offers sweet notes and a salty, mineral finish. See full tasting note.
Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real Lonsdale (91 points) Deceptively complex for a cigar with such a tan wrapper, this Dominican Romeo y Julieta is a medium-bodied cigar packed with flavor. The long-and-thin lonsdale format imparts a rich, nutty smoke overlaid with spicy cinnamon, crushed walnuts and a creamy café au lait finish. See full tasting note.
My Father No. 4 Lancero (91 points) My Father's Jose "Pepin" Garcia knows his lanceros, as he's been rolling award-winning smokes of this size since his days at El Rey de los Habanos in Miami. Now Pepin makes cigars in Nicaragua, among them the No. 4 Lancero, which tied for the highest-rated panetela in the April issue. See full tasting note.
La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Lancero (91 points) It's no secret La Flor Dominicana prides itself on its full-flavored smokes. The Double Ligero Lancero is bracingly spicy from the first puff, but this strong smoke balances its piquancy with leather and coffee notes. See full tasting note.
La Palina Illumination Lancero (91 points) La Palina debuted Illumination last year as a value-priced alternative to the company's popular Goldie cigar. The cigars are made at the El Titan de Bronze factory in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami using wrapper and binder tobaccos from Ecuador and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. See full tasting note.
601 La Bomba Warhead III (91 points) This smoke uses dark, Connecticut broadleaf tobacco draped over Nicaraguan binder and filler. The lancero size is slightly pressed with a pigtail cap and draws beautifully, offering an earthy, nutty smoke balanced by graham cracker and vanilla bean sweetness. See full tasting note.
L'Atelier LAT Lancero (91 points) Pete Johnson's L'Atelier brand is made by the Garcia family at My Father Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua. Though the draw is a bit firm on the LAT Lancero, the cigar imparts plenty of earthy, semi-sweet chocolate notes along with heavy almond elements and a prominent mineral finish. See full tasting note.
Aging Room Bin No. 1 D Minor (91 points) Aging Room Bin No. 1 is based around the first crop of Cuban-seed tobaccos grown in the Dominican Republic by José "Jochy" Blanco, owner of Tabacalera La Palma and grower of Dominican tobacco. All of the sizes are named with a musical theme, include the D Minor panetela, whose draw is full and zesty with spicy, strong first puffs that smack red and black pepper. See full tasting note.