Labor Day Weekend is upon us and everyone is gearing up for barbecues, cocktails and the joy of seeing more of friends and family. While gathered around the grill or the firepit, it’s the perfect time to also break open the cigar boxes. Cigars are often called the affordable luxury as of course, price is not always indicative of quality as we know well at Cigar Aficionado. Here is a list we have compiled of 15 quality cigars that scored 88 points or higher in our blind taste tests, and each one is no more expensive than a beer at the bar.
La Aurora 1903 Cameroon Churchill (Dominican Republic, 91 points, $6)
This slender Churchill gives off the aroma of freshly baked cookies. The 1903 Cameroon line was created to honor the first year La Aurora produced cigars in the Dominican Republic. The Cameroon wrapper is a leaf prized for its sweet and spicy qualities and the medium-bodied smoke is full of cinnamon, graham cracker, almond and wood before the honey-like finish. See full tasting note.
Oliva Serie V No. 4 (Nicaragua, 91 points, $7.10)
This short and slender cigar from Oliva’s signature Serie V line has an open draw and even combustion. Despite its diminutive size, this Nicaraguan puro gives off medium-to-full-bodied smoke that is earthy and spicy full of walnut, espresso bean and briny olives. A black pepper spiciness lingers onto the finish. See full tasting note.
Alec & Bradley Kintsugi Corona Gorda (Honduras, 91 points, $7.95)
When Alan Rubin started Alec Bradley Cigar Co., he named it after his two sons, Alec and Bradley. Today, they work with their father and now they have created a cigar of their own called Kintsugi, named after a fifteenth-century Japanese art form where the cracks in pottery are repaired with gold. Made at the Raices Cubana, Kintsugi is rolled with a Honduran wrapper, a pair of binder leaves from Honduras and Nicaragua and Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. See full tasting note.
E.P. Carrillo Short Run Retro 2021 Short Play (Dominican Republic, 90 points, $7.50)
When cigarmaker Ernesto Perez-Carrillo opened EPC Cigar Co., one of his first brands was Short Run, which utilized smaller batches of tobaccos. For the first time in five years, Short Run Retro 2021 is back and is made with a dark Ecuador Habano wrapper, binder from Nicaragua and a mix of Dominican and Nicaraguan filler. This robusto is full of black and red pepper, wood, toffee and dried date before a finish smacking of vermouth. See full tasting note.
La Flor Dominicana Air Bender Poderoso (Dominican Republic, 90 points, $7.90)
The Air Bender line is named in honor of brand owner Litto Gomez’s love of kung fu movies (air benders are martial artists imbued with superpowers). Made with an Ecuador Habano wrapper, the rest of the cigar is all-Dominican. It burns and draws evenly, creating a dense, chewy smoke full of hickory, brown sugar and a touch of molasses. See full tasting note.
Perla del Mar Corojo Corona Gorda (Nicaragua, 90 points, $6.45)
When the Perla del Mar brand first went on sale in 2012, it was marketed as a bargain. That’s still the case for the new reblended version, which includes the new Corojo-wrapped variety that debuted last year. Measuring 5 1/2 by 46 inches, this box-pressed toro is full of sweet notes of caramel, vanilla and black pepper with a touch of smoky peat before a finish hinting of nougat. See full tasting note.
Alec Bradley Project 40 Maduro 06.60 (Nicaragua, 89 points, $6.50)
Thick cigars with a ring gauge of 60 or more have become increasingly popular in the cigar market in recent years and this list would be incomplete with at least one grande. Both the natural and maduro versions of the line follow the Project 40 motivational principle where an individual is in control of their own happiness. In this case, a premium cigar at a great price makes us quite happy indeed. See full tasting note.
El Galan Reserva Especial Apuestos (Nicaragua, 89 points, $7)
A hefty, box-pressed Nicaraguan puro measuring 5 3/4 inches by 54 ring gauge. The smoke of this toro has a nutty and herbal character balanced by sweeter notes of dark chocolate and wafers before a woody finish. See full tasting note.
La Palina Nicaragua Connecticut Robusto (Nicaragua, 89 points, $7.99)
Typically known for cigars made in the Dominican Republic, La Palina Nicaragua Connecticut was one of two lines that were made in Nicaragua in 2016, a first for the company. Rolled with an Ecuador Connecticut wrapper and Nicaraguan internal tobaccos, this blond robusto has an open draw and even burn that gives off a toasty, bready smoke with hints of citrus. See full tasting note.
MUWAT Bait Fish (Nicaragua, 89 points. $5.50)
The MUWAT brand is named for My Uzi Weighs a Ton, a phrase inspired by a lyric from the band Public Enemy. A collaboration between Drew Estate and Joya de Nicaragua, this diminutive Bait Fish size packs plenty of power with notes of sour cherry, wheaty cereal, chocolate and coffee. See full tasting note.
New World Connecticut Churchill (Nicaragua, 89 points, $7.90)
At 7 inches by 50 ring gauge, this lightly-hued Churchill is one of the biggest cigars on the list. Made by A.J. Fernandez with a shade-grown wrapper from the Connecticut River Valley, the medium-bodied smoke is initially spicy with black, red and white pepper but it settles down for sweeter notes of cream, coconut and lemon zest. The finish is woody. See full tasting note.
Punch Knuckle Buster Toro (Honduras, 89 points. $5.49)
The Honduran cigar with the take-no-prisoners name, Knuckle Buster was created as an inexpensive line of cigars by General Cigar Co., a so-called “hardworking blend for hardworking people.” Carrying both the distinction of being the most full-bodied and most affordable cigar on this list, the Knuckle Buster Toro is strong and earthy with elements of dark chocolate and charred wood before a citrusy finish. See full tasting note.
The Big Payback Connecticut Toro (Nicaragua, 88 points, $7.00)
The mildest offering on this list, the Big Payback Connecticut line has a new blend featuring Ecuador Connecticut wrapper around all-Nicaraguan internals. Made with a golden wrapper, this toro is initially floral followed by cedar, bread and nuts with a sweet brioche finish. See full tasting note.
Cloud Hopper No. 485 (Nicaragua, 88 points, $7.25)
Measuring 5 inches by 48 ring gauge, this robusto from Kyle Gellis of Warped Cigars is rolled with a reddish wrapper. Primarily nutty and earthy, sweeter notes of gingerbread, nutmeg and dried citrus emerge making this Nicaraguan puro a great after-dinner smoke during the dessert course. See full tasting note.
My Father Le Bijou 1922 Petit Robusto (Nicaragua, 88 points, $7.40)
An offshoot of the original My Father line, the Le Bijou 1922 was launched in 2009 as a tribute to brand owner Jose “Pepín” Garcia’s father (1922 is the year he was born). Earthy with a salt-and-pepper character, this short and dark robusto has an even burn and good draw. See full tasting note.