The tasting from February's Cigar Aficionado, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger on the cover, is now live on our website. It was impressive to say the least, with 34 cigars scoring 90 points or higher.
In total, 83 cigars (not including the separate Top 25 of 2016 tasting) were tasted by our panel of editors, who consider four different categories as they determine a cigar's rating. Like all Cigar Aficionado tastings, 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.
Breaking down the February 2017 tasting further, 14 non-Cuban cigars scored 91 points or higher, which is considered outstanding on our 100-point scale.
To help save you time (and money) when you're searching for the perfect cigar at your local brick-and-mortar tobacconist, we've chosen to highlight the top non-Cuban cigars below:
Ashton Symmetry Belicoso (Dominican Republic, 93 points) Blended by Carlos "Carlito" Fuente Jr. for the Levins, who own the Ashton brand, this cigar sports an Ecuadoran wrapper, Dominican binder and a combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobacco in the filler. See full tasting note.
Joya de Nicaragua Cuatro Cinco Reserva Especial Torpedo (Nicaragua, 92 points) This softly box-pressed smoke, which debuted in 2015, uses all Nicaraguan tobaccos, save for the Dominican binder. The filler tobaccos have been aged in old oak casks for a period of time before being rolled. See full tasting note.
CLE Prieto 50x5 (Nicaragua, 92 points) Released last year, this cigar wears a dark, Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper that's grown under the open sunlight in the United States, covering Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. It's the first CLE brand to be rolled in Nicaragua. See full tasting note.
Arturo Fuente Rosado Sungrown Magnum R Vitola "Fifty-Eight" (Dominican Republic, 92 points) Carlos Fuente Jr. is best known for making powerhouse smokes, but for this more mellow blend, he looked to his warehouses of well-aged Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper, taking leaves that grow lower on the plant. The binder and filler tobaccos are from Fuente's farm in the Dominican Republic. See full tasting note.
Padrón Serie 1926 No. 35 Maduro (Nicaragua, 92 points) This brand was first released in 2002 to commemorate the 75th birthday of company patriarch José Orlando Padrón. Each leaf has been aged for a minimum of five years, and while it's the smallest size in the line, the No. 35 Maduro still packs an elegant punch. See full tasting note.
Espinosa Habano No. 4 (Nicaragua, 92 points) In 2015, brand owner Erik Espinosa rebranded this line with new band artwork, new packaging, and a tweaked blend, while also reducing the number of vitolas. The cigar features Nicaraguan filler and binder tobaccos covered by an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper. See full tasting note.
Sublimes Torpedo (Nicaragua, 91 points) Although this cigar is produced by A.J. Fernandez in Nicaragua, only 90,000 sticks are rolled per year. The blend is a combination of Ecuador Habano wrapper, a Corojo-seed binder and Criollo filler. See full tasting note.
Nat Sherman Metropolitan Selection Habano Gordo (Nicaragua, 91 points) Nat Sherman released a bolder version of its mainstay Metropolitan line last year. Rolled at the Plasencia Cigars S.A. factory in Nicaragua, the brand consists of a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper with Nicaraguan binder and fillers. See full tasting note.
Foundry Time Flies 54725 (Nicaragua, 91 points) Foundry Tobacco Co., a subsidiary of General Cigar Co., worked with Nicaragua's A.J. Fernandez to create this bold cigar that comes packaged in boxes emblazoned with skulls. Covered in Ecuadoran Habano 2000 wrapper, the smoke is made up of Nicaraguan tobaccos straight from Fernandez's farms. See full tasting note.
Illusione Garagiste Robusto (Nicaragua, 91 points) This brand's name is a nod to the garagistes, a group of winemakers in Bordeaux, France known for cult wines that defy the famed region's traditional style. The cigar is blended around two filler tobaccos, viso Corojo and viso Criollo, and is covered by a Cuban-seed wrapper grown in Ecuador. See full tasting note.
Undercrown Shade Gordito (Nicaragua, 91 points) This line extension to Drew Estate's original Undercrown is made with a combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobacco that's held together by an Ecuador Sumatra binder and cloaked in a tawny-brown leaf of Connecticut-seed wrapper grown in Ecuador. See full tasting note.
Punch Signature Gigante (Honduras, 91 points) Development of this blend started in 2012 when Agustin Garcia, master blender at General Cigar's Honduran factory, began cultivating a special Cuban-seed Corojo wrapper grown in Ecuador. Released three years later, the blend features a proprietary Connecticut Habano binder and filler tobaccos of various ages from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. See full tasting note.
Montecristo White Churchill (Dominican Republic, 91 points) This mild smoke still offers plenty of flavor thanks to a Connecticut wrapper grown in Ecuador, Nicaraguan binder, and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. See full tasting note.
La Galera Habano Pilones (Dominican Republic, 91 points) For this cigar, Dominican cigarmaker José "Jochy" Blanco uses an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper, Dominican Corojo binder, and a filler combination of Piloto Cubano, Criollo '98 and rare Pelo de Oro tobacco. Save for the wrapper, all of the tobaccos are from Blanco's farms. See full tasting note.