Editors' Note: The Toughest Test
Photo/David Yellen

Cigar ratings are the bedrock of Cigar Aficionado magazine. In this issue, they take center stage as we name the Top 25—the very best cigars of the year.

It’s the toughest test a cigar will face, and it’s a process that we take very seriously. We begin by assembling a list of the highest-rated cigars of the year from the pages of Cigar Aficionado magazine and Cigar Insider newsletter, cigars that have already proven themselves in one blind taste test conducted by our panel of cigar-smoking editors. We then create a buy list and send our tasting coordinator out to purchase new versions of these cigars for more rounds of testing.

Once again, the cigars are smoked blind, which means they are stripped of their identifying bands, given a code and passed out to the tasting panel for judgment. We rate the cigar’s construction, draw and burn, its appearance (the least important category) and its flavor. The best make our Top 25, and the very best go through an additional round to determine which should be No. 1.

The Top 25 rewards consistency and excellence, and this year’s winner comes to you from a man who has made consistently excellent cigars for more than four decades: Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. His success story has a humble origin, as he originally worked alongside his father in a very small factory in Miami, selling cigars for a dollar or so apiece. One of those brands was named La Gloria Cubana. When Cigar Aficionado was created in 1992, an early rating in the magazine for La Gloria Cubana transformed the brand from an unknown into a megahit, and Perez-Carrillo expanded, opening a much larger factory in the Dominican Republic to meet demand for the cigar.

Perez-Carrillo has traveled quite the long road since those La Gloria Cubana days. He sold his company, worked for a large corporation for some time, then opened a new company with his children by his side. He kept on making great cigars—perhaps none finer than the E.P. Carrillo Encore Majestic, the cigar that we named Cigar of the Year. Turn to page 50 to begin reading about all of our Top 25 cigars. (And don’t forget to visit our website for videos of the editors smoking and discussing the best cigars of the year.) You’ll see why all of these cigars are special, worthy of a spot in your humidor.

This issue is packed with stories for the cigar lover. You’ll read about eSports, the hottest game in Vegas, which has attracted such A-list investors as Michael Jordan, Mark Cuban, Ashton Kutcher and Shaquille O’Neal. You’ll read the incredible story of Jimmy Dunne, a financial man with an incredible roster of golf-club memberships, and how a round of golf literally saved his life. We’ll show you what it takes to stock a perfect home bar, put you in the driver’s seat in the newest cars heading to market and take you into a cigar bar with Dolph Lundgren, the action-movie star who was thrust back into the spotlight this winter. And you’ll read all about a new leaf, grown in Florida by a cigar store megaretailer.

Enjoy the issue, and Happy New Year.