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Special Report: 2021 Year in Review

An analysis of all of the cigars rated by Cigar Insider this year
Dec 20, 2021 | By Gregory Mottola
Special Report: 2021 Year in Review

Now that the Covid era is nearly two years old, the premium cigar industry continues to thrive. More people working from home meant that cigar fans had more time and more opportunity to smoke, sparking an unexpected cigar boom. Logistical troubles in the supply chain on top of high demand has meant that many premium cigars are back ordered and raw materials on the tobacco end are starting to become scarce. Despite these difficulties, the quality of handmade cigars has not decreased. To the contrary, the cigar industry has been able to maintain its high standards of quality, something proven with our blind tastings for 2021.

In this year-end analysis, we look at a year’s worth of ratings from Cigar Insider, the bimonthly newsletter of Cigar Aficionado that focuses on new releases, entire vertical brand tastings and industry mainstays. The annual report is a data-driven compilation that examines performances from different angles, breaking down the ratings by score, by country, size and price. This cross-section of the industry answers a few important questions, such as which country had the highest overall average, which brands turned in the best performances and how well the premium cigar industry did as a whole. 

As has always been the case with Cigar Insider (and Cigar Aficionado) all scores that were used to generate these averages were the result of our blind tasting process, which has always been the basis of our rating system. (Note that this analysis is quite different from Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25, which is a contest among the highest-rated cigars from both Cigar Insider and Cigar Aficionado.)

We rated 273 cigars in Cigar Insider this year, many of which were released in 2021. The brands here represent all the major cigar-producing countries: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua. Minor cigarmaking countries like the United States and Mexico are represented as well. Cigar Insider rated cigars of all stripes ranging from small limited editions to boutique lines to large-scale brands with extensive distribution and recognition. 

While new releases tend to be the focus of each Cigar Insider, the year-end review also includes ratings for older, well-established brands that are regularly produced and still quite relevant in the cigar industry, as they continue to sell in cigar stores across the U.S. and around the world.

90 Points or Higher

Taking the big-picture view, the ratings for 2021 indicate a high level of quality throughout the cigar market, as 114 of the 273 cigars we rated (42 percent) scored 90 points or higher. And 64 cigars scored 91 points or higher, earning our accolade of Humidor Selection. Every major cigar-producing country contributed cigars to that list, though 31 of the cigars in this segment hail from Nicaragua. Currently, Nicaragua exports more premium cigars to the U.S. than any other country, and its proliferation of high ratings speaks to both the high quality of tobacco on the agricultural end as well as meticulous cigar production on the industrial side.

If you’re searching at random for a 90-point cigar, you’re more likely to find it from Cuba than any other country. Cigar Insider rated 22 Cubans this year, and 17 of them (77.3 percent) scored 90 points or higher, a larger percentage of cigars in the 90s than any other country. The Cubans we rated this year are a combination of core brands, new releases, and a few Regional Editions.

Where The Top Scorers Are Made

Country Cigars Rated 90 Points or Higher Percent
Cuba 22 17 77.3%
Honduras 28 13 46.4%
Nicaragua 136 56 41.2%
U.S.A. 11 4 36.4%
Dom. Rep. 72 24 33.3%
Mexico 4 0 0.0%

Honduras came in second, as 13 of the 28 Honduran cigars (46.4 percent) made it to at least 90 points. Nicaragua ranked third, and 56 of the 136 cigars rated from Nicaragua broke the 90-point barrier (a bit more than 41 percent). Four of the 11 American-made smokes we rated scored at least 90 points, which accounted for 36.4 percent. The Dominican Republic ranked fifth, with 24 of its 72 cigars (33.3 percent) reaching or surpassing 90 points. Mexico had the least impressive performance by country, and none of the four cigars we rated made it to 90 points. In today’s premium market, Mexico ships very few cigars to the U.S., and it’s rather rare today to find Mexican cigars on the shelves of a cigar store.

The highest scores this year came from six different brands made in two countries, Nicaragua and Cuba. Five cigars scored 94 points, but only one rose to the lofty level of Classic—the Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Churchill, which scored 95 points. It was Insider’s highest score of 2021 and the only cigar to be designated a Classic on our 100-point scale. 

Oliva

Classic cigars like Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro are rare in our ratings, as 95-pointers do not necessarily turn up every year. This Nicaraguan cigar is powered by a rich blend of Nicaraguan tobacco and enhanced by a Mexican wrapper. The wrapper is what sets apart this maduro from the core Serie V Melanio line. That original is made with a Sumatra-seed wrapper, but Oliva experimented with the blend by switching out the Sumatra for a dark leaf of Mexican San Andrés. It proved to be a success, as the Mexican wrapper unlocked a new dimension of flavor and complexity.

2021 Humidor Selections

Score Brand Price Ring Gauge Length Country
95 Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Churchill $14.40 50 7" Nicaragua
94 Illusione Cruzado Robusto $9.80 50 5 1/4" Nicaragua
94 Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Torpedo $17.80 52 6" Nicaragua
94 Partagás Serie D No. 4 £22.06 50 4 7/8" Cuba
94 Ramon Allones Gigantes £33.16 49 7 5/8" Cuba
94 San Cristobal Quintessence Churchill $9.00 49 7" Nicaragua
93 Arturo Fuente Rare Pink Vintage 1960's Séries Happy Ending $12.80 53 5 1/2" Dom. Rep.
93 Arturo Fuente Rare Pink Vintage 1960's Séries Short Story $8.35 49 4" Dom. Rep.
93 Diplomaticos Reserva Exclusiva Exclusivo Caribe $22.00 54 5 7/8" Cuba
93 H. Upmann Regalias £18.20 42 5 1/8" Cuba
93 Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Nicaragua No. 2 $16.43 52 6 1/8" Nicaragua
93 Montecristo Edmundo £27.80 52 5 3/8" Cuba
93 Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro No. 4 $8.80 46 4 1/2" Nicaragua
93 Padilla 88 Aniversario Robusto $13.00 52 5" Nicaragua
93 Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Monarca $13.00 46 6 1/2" Nicaragua
93 Rocky Patel Sixty Sixty $18.00 60 6" Nicaragua
93 Romeo y Julieta Cedros De Luxe £25.52 50 5 1/2" Cuba
93 Saint Luis Rey Carenas Toro $8.50 52 6" Honduras
92 601 La Bomba Warhead VII $10.50 50 7" Nicaragua
92 Arturo Fuente Rare Pink Vintage 1960's Séries Signature $10.90 46 6" Dom. Rep.
92 Arturo Fuente Rare Pink Vintage 1960's Séries Work of Art $11.30 60 4 7/8" Dom. Rep.
92 Brick House Churchill $7.60 50 7 1/4" Nicaragua
92 Charter Oak Habano Lonsdale $6.00 46 6 1/4" Nicaragua
92 Cohiba Behike BHK 54 £82.20 54 5 3/4" Cuba
92 Cohiba Siglo II £23.48 42 5 1/8" Cuba
92 Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Gran Consul $8.67 60 4 3/4" Nicaragua
92 La Flor Dominicana Air Bender Chisel $10.20 54 6 1/2" Dom. Rep.
92 Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Nicaragua Churchill $17.50 52 7" Nicaragua
92 Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Figurado $15.60 52 6 1/2" Nicaragua
92 Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series No. 4 $21.85 60 6 1/2" Nicaragua
92 Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Superior $12.10 42 6 1/2" Nicaragua
92 Partagás Serie D No. 6 £17.50 50 3 1/2" Cuba
92 Partagás Serie P No. 2 (Tubo) £27.33 52 6 1/8" Cuba
92 Plasencia Alma Fuerte Generacion V $22.00 58 7" Nicaragua
92 Por Larrañaga Galanes £17.59 52 4 3/4" Cuba
92 Ramon Allones Perfectos Exclusivo Mexico £16.68 47 6 1/4" Cuba
92 Ramon Allones Small Club Corona £12.50 42 4 3/8" Cuba
92 Tatuaje Reserva K222 $14.00 52 5 7/8" U.S.A.
92 VegaFina 1998 VF 52 $9.30 52 5" Dom. Rep.
91 Aganorsa Supreme Leaf Torpedo $10.90 54 6" Nicaragua
91 Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Impromptu $12.74 52 6 1/2" Nicaragua
91 Alec & Bradley Kintsugi Corona Gorda $7.25 46 5 5/8" Honduras
91 Ashton Virgin Sun Grown Trés Mystique $11.00 44 4 3/8" Dom. Rep.
91 Black Label Trading Co. Viaticum Toro $15.25 48 6" Nicaragua
91 CLE 25th Anniversary 50x5 $15.86 50 5" Honduras
91 Cohiba Serie M Toro $29.99 52 6" U.S.A.
91 H. Upmann Connossieur No. 2 £26.80 51 5 1/4" Cuba
91 Illusione Cruzado Short Robusto $8.95 48 4 1/4" Nicaragua
91 La Palina Goldie Laguito No. 6 $23.00 56 6 1/2" U.S.A.
91 Macanudo Inspirado Green Toro $7.49 50 6" Dom. Rep.
91 Mil Días Corona Gorda $9.25 46 6" Nicaragua
91 Mil Días Edmundo $10.00 52 5 3/8" Nicaragua
91 Nestor Miranda Private Reserve Lancero $18.00 40 6 3/4" Dom. Rep.
91 Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Double Toro $15.60 60 6" Nicaragua
91 Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Robusto $10.40 52 5" Nicaragua
91 Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Toro $14.00 52 6" Nicaragua
91 Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Torpedo $14.40 52 6 1/2" Nicaragua
91 Ramon Allones Superiores £20.73 46 5 5/8" Cuba
91 Rocky Patel Quarter Century Robusto $12.50 50 5 1/2" Nicaragua
91 Rocky Patel Sixty Robusto $16.00 50  5 1/2" Nicaragua
91 Serino Heritage Taíno Yocahú $9.50 47 6" Dom. Rep.
91 Undercrown 10 Corona Doble $13.50 50 7" Nicaragua
91 Warped Chinchalle Robusto $12.50 50 5" Dom. Rep.
91 Zino Platinum Crown Series 2020 Gran Robusto $25.00 60 5" Honduras

The Cuban Ramon Allones Gigantes, which scored 94 points, is a large smoke made solely from Cuban tobacco. The Gigantes is one of the few double coronas (which are called Prominentes in Cuban cigar factories) left in the Habanos portfolio. Another Cuban smoke, the Partagás Serie D No. 4, scored 94 points as well. It’s the most popular Cuban cigar in the world, as Habanos produces more D4s than any other size. It’s also a fan favorite for those who prefer stronger Cuban smokes that lean earthy rather than floral.

Always at the top-tier of the ratings, the Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series impressed the panel with its Torpedo, a box-pressed smoke that scored 94 points and is part of this elite segment of top performers. The Nicaraguan brand came out in 1994 to mark the company’s 30th anniversary and was the first high-end cigar from Padrón, made with tobaccos that are much older than those found in the core “brown label” line.

San Cristobal

Made for Ashton Distributors Inc. by My Father Cigars, the San Cristobal Quintessence Churchill (94 points) is more full bodied than the San Cristobal Revelation line, but not quite as strong as the core San Cristobal line. It’s produced in Nicaragua. So is the 94-point Illusione Cruzado Robusto. Originally made in Honduras, Cruzado was moved to the Aganorsa Leaf factory in Nicaragua and revamped with a new blend and new packaging. As the scores indicate, the Illusione Cruzado line has never been better.

A dozen cigars scored 93 points this year, and five of them came from Nicaragua. Most of the cigars in this small grouping are bold smokes made with strong tobacco. The Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Nicaragua No. 2 and Padilla 88 Aniversario are both made by A.J. Fernandez, and are both hearty smokes, yet they differ in character. The Montecristo has a core of earth and spice while the Padilla starts with a foundation of toast and wood. Both develop a balancing sweetness. Sweet notes also emerge in another Nicaraguan 93 pointer, the Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Monarca, which imparts the signature cocoa qualities the brand is known for. Oliva continues its winning streak of consistency with the Serie V Melanio Maduro No. 4. Rather than the Sumatra-seed wrapper of the Melanio line, the company wraps the Maduro in a leaf of Mexican San Andrés to a rich, beautiful effect. Since Rocky Patel opened his own factory in Nicaragua, Tavicusa has been producing high-quality cigars of distinction. The Sixty commemorates his 60th birthday.

Partagas

Cuba produced four cigars that scored 93 points in the Insider this year, two of which are fairly new. The Montecristo Edmundo has been a mainstay of the market since its release in 2004. The Romeo y Julieta Cedros de Luxe came out in 2015 as La Casa del Habano shop exclusive, but has been produced regularly ever since. However, the H. Upmann Regalias is part of Cuba’s Línea Retro series, which puts small, corona-sized cigars in retro-style tins. The Regalias started to slowly enter the market late last year, but didn’t get wide global distribution until 2021. It’s an impressive smoke, and it’s in regular production, making the H. Upmann Regalias much easier to obtain than the Diplomaticos Reserva Exclusiva, which is a Regional Edition Cuban cigar made just for the Caribbean.

One of the most anticipated cigar releases of 2021 did not disappoint, and it came from the Dominican Republic. The Arturo Fuente Rare Pink Vintage 1960’s Séries was announced with great fanfare, and more than lived up to the hype with a bold flavor and oily, Ecuadoran wrapper. Two Rare Pinks scored 93 points—the Happy Ending and Short Story. Both of them are figurados; the Short Story is rolled in the same dimensions as the Cameroon-wrapped version found in Fuente’s popular Hemingway series. If pink seems an odd color for cigar packaging, the brand was created to bring awareness to breast cancer.

Saint Luis Rey

Honduras has some representation in this top tier, and it comes by way of the Saint Luis Rey Carenas Toro (93 points). Parent company Altadis brought back its sleepy Saint Luis Rey brand, making it at the company’s Flor de Copan factory out of a blend very heavy on Honduran tobacco, most notably a Honduran broadleaf binder.

Top-Scoring Brands

For a broader perspective, we’ve organized the 273 cigars rated in 2021 by brand. The highest average of any cigar brand with more than one cigar rated during the calendar year came from Arturo Fuente with its Rare Pink Vintage 1960’s Séries. The Dominican brand averaged an impressive 92.5 points for its four cigars.

Rare Pink

Half a point behind is the Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro from Nicaragua, which averaged 92 points over seven cigars—quite a high average for such a large sample size. Half a point behind Oliva was the Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series, which is also from Nicaragua. That sampling of six cigars averaged 91.5 points. These averages are quite telling of the quality and consistency of both brands, as the sample sizes were significant. Models of consistency for many years now, both brands tend to score well in our ratings, and 2021 was no exception.

Average Score By Brand

Brand Rating
San Cristobal Quintessence, Nicaragua (1) 94.0
Diplomaticos, Cuba (1) 93.0
Montecristo, Cuba (1) 93.0
Romeo y Julieta, Cuba (1) 93.0
Arturo Fuente Rare Pink Vintage 1960's Séries, Dom. Rep. (4) 92.5
601 La Bomba, Nicaragua (1) 92.0
Cohiba Behike, Cuba (1) 92.0
Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro, Nicaragua (7) 92.0
Por Larrañaga, Cuba (1) 92.0
Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series, Nicaragua (6) 91.5
Partagás, Cuba (5) 91.4
Rocky Patel Sixty, Nicaragua (3) 91.3
Aganorsa Supreme Leaf, Nicaragua (1) 91.0
Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua, Nicaragua (1) 91.0
Cohiba, Cuba (2) 91.0
Cohiba Serie M, U.S.A. (1) 91.0
H. Upmann, Cuba (3) 91.0
Nestor Miranda Private Reserve, Dom. Rep. (1) 91.0
Padilla 88 Aniversario , Nicaragua (3) 91.0
Warped Chinchalle, Dom. Rep. (1) 91.0
Zino Platinum Crown Series, Honduras (1) 91.0
Illusione Cruzado, Nicaragua (4) 90.8
Ramon Allones, Cuba (5) 90.6
Aladino Cameroon, Honduras (1) 90.0
Camacho Liberty, Honduras (1) 90.0
Davidoff, Dominican Republic (1) 90.0
El Oso Blanco, U.S.A. (1) 90.0
Four Kicks Capa Especial, Dom. Rep. (1) 90.0
HVC Hot Cake, Nicaragua (1) 90.0
La Aurora Puro Vintage 2008, Dom. Rep. (1) 90.0
Maestro del Tiempo, Nicaragua (1) 90.0
Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Nicaragua, Nicaragua (4) 90.0
Pichardo Reserva Familiar Habano, Nicaragua (1) 90.0
Serino Heritage Taíno, Dom. Rep. (3) 90.0
VegaFina 1998, Do. Rep. (3) 90.0
Saint Luis Rey Carenas, Honduras (4) 89.8
Black Label Trading Co. Viaticum, Nicaragua (3) 89.7
New World, Nicaragua (2) 89.5
Alec & Bradley Kintsugi, Honduras (4) 89.3
H. Upmann 1844 Classic, Honduras (4) 89.3
La Palina Goldie, U.S.A. (3) 89.3
Plasencia Alma Fuerte, Nicaragua (4) 89.3
Rocky Patel Winter Collection, Nicaragua (4) 89.3
Brick House, Nicaragua (5) 89.2
La Flor Dominicana Air Bender, Dom. Rep. (6) 89.2
My Father Le Bijou 1922, Nicaragua (5) 89.2
Crowned Heads The Lost Angel, Nicaragua (1) 89.0
E.P. Carrillo TAA 2021, Dom. Rep. (1) 89.0
Ferio Tego, Nicaragua (1) 89.0
La Aurora 107 Nicaragua, Dom. Rep. (3) 89.0
Matilde Limited Exposure No. 1, Dom. Rep. (1) 89.0
New World Connecticut, Nicaragua (1) 89.0
Partagas Limited Reserve Decadas 2020, Dom. Rep. (1) 89.0
Perla Del Mar Corojo, Nicaragua (4) 89.0
CLE 25th Anniversary, Honduras (4) 88.8
Mil Días, Nicaragua (5) 88.8
Tatuaje Reserva, U.S.A. (5) 88.8
Undercrown 10, Nicaragua (4) 88.8
Alec Bradley Project 40 Maduro, Nicaragua (3) 88.7
Don Lino Connecticut, Dom. Rep. (3) 88.7
E.P. Carrillo Short Run Retro 2021, Dom Rep. (3) 88.7
Rocky Patel Quarter Century, Nicaragua (3) 88.7
Saga Solaz, Dom. Rep. (3) 88.7
Marco V Privato Jalapa Reserve, Nicarauga (5) 88.6
7-20-4 Factory 57, Honduras (2) 88.5
Aladino Habano Vintage Selection, Honduras (2) 88.5
Charter Oak Habano, Nicaragua (6) 88.5
Espinosa Laranja Reserva Azueljo, Nicaragua (4) 88.3
La Palina Silver Label, Honduras (3) 88.3
Macanudo Inspirado Green, Dom. Rep. (3) 88.3
Stallone Alazan Corojo, Nicaragua (3) 88.3
Villiger Cuellar Black Forest, Dom. Rep. (4) 88.3
Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970, Nicaragua (6) 88.2
601 Black, Nicaragua (1) 88.0
Alec Bradley Black Market Filthy Hooligan, Honduras (2) 88.0
Avo Improvisation, Dom. Rep. (1) 88.0
CAO Vision, Nicaragua (1) 88.0
Casa Turrent 1880 Claro, Mexico (1) 88.0
Casa Turrent 1880 Maduro, Mexico (1) 88.0
E.P. Carrillo La Historia, Dom. Rep. (1) 88.0
Flor del Valle Sky Flower, Nicaragua (1) 88.0
L'Atelier Selection Spéciale, Nicaragua (3) 88.0
Pichardo Reserva Familiar Connecticut, Nicaragua (1) 88.0
Pichardo Reserva Familiar San Andrés, Nicaragua (1) 88.0
Plasencia Alma Fuerte Colorado Claro, Nicaragua (1) 88.0
Southern Draw Desert Rose, Nicaragua (1) 88.0
Southern Draw Manzanita, Nicaragua (3) 88.0
Villiger, Dom. Rep. (1) 88.0
Ashton Virgin Sun Grown, Dom. Rep. (5) 87.8
Casa Magna Liga F, Dom. Rep. (4) 87.8
Aganorsa Leaf Rare Leaf Reserve, Nicaragua (3) 87.7
Perdomo Inmenso Seventy Sun Grown, Nicaragua (3) 87.7
Fratello Arlequín, Nicaragua (2) 87.5
Casa Cuevas Patrimonio, Dom. Rep. (3) 87.3
Avo Regional, Dom. Rep. (2) 87.0
Brick House Ciento, Nicaragua (1) 87.0
Casa Turrent 1880 Colorado, Mexico (1) 87.0
Davidoff Winston Churchill, Dom. Rep. (1) 87.0
Ferio Tego, Dom. Rep. (1) 87.0
Kristoff 685 Woodlawn, Dom. Rep. (1) 87.0
La Aurora Hors D'Age 2020, Dom. Rep. (1) 87.0
La Gloria Cubana Medio Tiempo, Dom. Rep. (3) 87.0
Micallef Migdalia, Nicargua (1) 87.0
Nat Cicco 1965 Aniversario Liga No. 4, Nicaragua (2) 87.0
San Cristobal de la Habana, Cuba (1) 87.0
The Big Payback Connecticut, Nicaragua (3) 87.0
Trinidad, Cuba (1) 87.0
Casa Turrent 1880 Oscuro, Mexico (1) 86.0
Epic Ten, Nicaragua (1) 86.0
Flores y Rodriguez 10th Anniversary, Dom. Rep. (4) 86.0
Saga Short Tales, Dom. Rep. (1) 86.0
Tabernacle Havana Seed CT No. 142, Nicaragua (2) 86.0
The American, U.S.A. (1) 86.0
Micallef A, Nicaragua (1) 85.0
JFR Lunatic Maduro, Nicaragua (1) 83.0

Rocky Patel’s Sixty is a three-size line that’s also made in Nicaragua, and had a total brand average of 91.3 points. Other notable brand performances include the Padilla 88 Aniversario from Nicaragua, with a brand average of 91 points; the Illusione Cruzado line, with its four sizes averaging to 90.8 points; and the Cuban Ramon Allones brand, whose five sizes averaged 90.6 points.

Analysis By Country

When examining Cigar Insider’s ratings by country, Cuba had the highest overall average of 2021 at 91 points (with 22 cigars rated). Honduras was second with a country average of 89.1 points (28 cigars). Compare that to Nicaragua’s average of 89 points, impressive given that it was for a massive sampling of 136 cigars. This is perhaps the most telling statistic of this entire year-end analysis. For the last four years, Nicaragua has exported more handmade cigars to the U.S. than any other country. And yet, despite the growing numbers, Nicaragua still maintains a steady, consistent streak of high scores and high quality. The explosion of Nicaragua’s popularity has put the country’s cigarmakers to the test. So far, the scores indicate that Nicaragua is producing distinct tobacco on the agricultural side and fantastic, interesting smokes on the industrial side—consistently. As mentioned before, more than 41 percent of the Nicaraguan cigars rated by Insider scored 90 points or higher. If a decrease in quality from market saturation is in the country’s future, it’s showing no signs decline yet.

Average Score By Country

Country Cigars Rated Avg. Score
1. Cuba 22 Cigars 91.0
2. Honduras 28 Cigars 89.1
3. Nicaragua 136 Cigars 89.0
3. U.S.A. 11 Cigars 89.0
5. Dominican Republic 72 Cigars 88.6
6. Mexico 4 Cigars 87.3

The U.S. tied Nicaragua, averaging 89 points, but the small sample size of only 11 cigars carries less weight statistically. As the second-largest supplier of cigars to the U.S., the Dominican Republic had an average score of 88.6 points, with 72 cigars rated. Mexican cigars had an average rating of 87.3.

Analysis By Country

Brand Cigars Average Score Average Price
Cuba
Cohiba 2 91.0 £29.28
Cohiba Behike 1 92.0 £82.20
Diplomaticos 1 93.0 £16.64
H. Upmann 3 91.0 £25.40
Montecristo 1 93.0 £27.80
Partagás 5 91.4 £24.60
Por Larrañaga 1 92.0 £8.61
Ramon Allones 5 90.6 £20.74
Romeo y Julieta 1 93.0 £25.52
San Cristobal de la Habana 1 87.0 £48.70
Trinidad 1 87.0 £37.60
TOTAL 22 91.0 £27.66
Brand Cigars Average Score Average Price
Dominican Republic
Arturo Fuente Rare Pink Vintage 1960's Séries
4 92.5 $10.84
Ashton Virgin Sun Grown 5 87.8 $12.66
Avo Improvisation 1 88.0 $16.00
Avo Regional 2 87.0 $14.00
Casa Cuevas Patrimonio 3 87.3 $11.00
Casa Magna Liga F 4 87.8 $8.50
Davidoff 1 90.0 $40.00
Davidoff Winston Churchill 1 87.0 $32.00
Don Lino Connecticut 3 88.7 $6.23
E.P. Carrillo La Historia 1 88.0 $10.50
E.P. Carrillo Short Run Retro 2021 3 88.7 $8.50
E.P. Carrillo TAA 2021 1 89.0 $9.50
Ferio Tego 1 87.0 $21.00
Flores y Rodriguez 10th Anniversary 4 86.0 $12.68
Four Kicks Capa Especial 1 90.0 $10.95
Kristoff 685 Woodlawn 1 87.0 $12.00
La Aurora 107 Nicaragua 3 89.0 $9.33 
La Aurora Hors D'Age 2020 1 87.0 $26.00
La Aurora Puro Vintage 2008 1 90.0 $26.50
La Flor Dominicana Air Bender 6 89.2 $9.07 
La Gloria Cubana Medio Tiempo 3 87.0 $7.42 
Macanudo Inspirado Green 3 88.3 $7.39
Matilde Limited Exposure No. 1 1 89.0 $10.50
Nestor Miranda Private Reserve 1 91.0 $18.00
Partagas Limited Reserve Decadas 2020 1 89.0 $17.99
Saga Short Tales 1 86.0 $9.30
Saga Solaz 3 88.7 $8.93
Serino Heritage Taíno 3 90.0 $9.48 
VegaFina 1998 3 90.0 $9.17
Villiger 1 88.0 $9.50
Villiger Cuellar Black Forest 4 88.3 $8.25
Warped Chinchalle 1 91.0 $12.50
TOTAL 72 86.10 $11.41
Brand Cigars Average Score Average Price
Honduras
7-20-4 Factory 57 2 88.5 $11.25
Aladino Cameroon 1 90.0 $8.00
Aladino Habano Vintage Selection 2 88.5 $8.60 
Alec & Bradley Kintsugi 4 89.3 $8.46
Alec Bradley Black Market Filthy Hooligan 2 88.0 $12.50
Camacho Liberty 1 90.0 $20.00
CLE 25th Anniversary 4 88.8 $16.86
H. Upmann 1844 Classic 4 89.3 $7.55
La Palina Silver Label 3 88.3 $9.99
Saint Luis Rey Carenas 4 89.8 $8.71
Zino Platinum Crown Series 1 91.0 $25.00
TOTAL 28 89.10 $11.24
Brand Cigars Average Score Average Price
Mexico
Casa Turrent 1880 Claro 1 88.0 $16.80
Casa Turrent 1880 Colorado 1 87.0 $16.80
Casa Turrent 1880 Maduro 1 88.0 $16.80
Casa Turrent 1880 Oscuro 1 86.0 $16.80
TOTAL 4 87.25 $16.80
Brand Cigars Average Score Average Price
Nicaragua
601 Black 1 88.0 $10.00
601 La Bomba 1 92.0 $10.50
Aganorsa Leaf Rare Leaf Reserve 3 87.7 $11.53
Aganorsa Supreme Leaf 1 91.0 $10.90
Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua 1 91.0 $12.75
Alec Bradley Project 40 Maduro 3 88.7 $6.17
Black Label Trading Co. Viaticum 3 89.7 $15.25
Brick House 5 89.2 $6.98
Brick House Ciento 1 87.0 $7.40
CAO Vision 1 88.0 $18.99
Charter Oak Habano 6 88.5 $6.15
Crowned Heads The Lost Angel 1 89.0 $11.75
Epic Ten 1 86.0 $16.00
Espinosa Laranja Reserva Azueljo 4 88.3 $11.84
Ferio Tego 1 89.0 $21.00
Flor del Valle Sky Flower 1 88.0 $16.00
Fratello Arlequín 2 87.5 $10.00
HVC Hot Cake 1 90.0 $11.00
Illusione Cruzado 4 90.8 $10.55
JFR Lunatic Maduro 1 83.0 $9.10
Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 6 88.2 $8.29
L'Atelier Selection Spéciale 3 88.0 $9.00
Maestro del Tiempo 1 90.0 $12.50
Marco V Privato Jalapa Reserve 5 88.6 $8.00 
Micallef A 1 85.0 $9.50
Micallef Migdalia 1 87.0 $12.00
Mil Días 5 88.8 $10.09
Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Nicaragua 4 90.0 $15.07
My Father Le Bijou 1922 5 89.2 $11.02
Nat Cicco 1965 Aniversario Liga No. 4 2 87.0 $6.95
New World 2 89.5 $8.25
New World Connecticut 1 89.0 $7.90
Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro 7 92.0 $13.31
Padilla 88 Aniversario 3 91.0 $14.00
Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series 6 91.5 $15.98
Perdomo Inmenso Seventy Sun Grown 3 87.7 $7.25
Perla Del Mar Corojo 4 89.0 $6.90
Pichardo Reserva Familiar Connecticut 1 88.0 $9.00
Pichardo Reserva Familiar Habano 1 90.0 $9.00
Pichardo Reserva Familiar San Andrés 1 88.0 $9.00
Plasencia Alma Fuerte 4 89.3 $20.41
Plasencia Alma Fuerte Colorado Claro 1 88.0 $21.00
Rocky Patel Quarter Century 3 88.7 $13.50
Rocky Patel Sixty 3 91.3 $17.00
Rocky Patel Winter Collection 4 89.3 $10.75
San Cristobal Quintessence 1 94.0 $9.00
Southern Draw Desert Rose 1 88.0 $9.99
Southern Draw Manzanita 3 88.0 $14.99
Stallone Alazan Corojo 3 88.3 $7.62
Tabernacle Havana Seed CT No. 142 2 86.0 $13.50
The Big Payback Connecticut 3 87.0 $7.00
Undercrown 10 4 88.8 $11.94
TOTAL 136 89.06 $11.16
Brand Cigars Average Score Average Price
U.S.A.
Cohiba Serie M 1 91.0 $29.99
El Oso Blanco 1 90.0 $18.00
La Palina Goldie 3 89.3 $23.00
Tatuaje Reserva 5 88.8 $14.60
The American 1 86.0 $17.50
TOTAL 11 88.99 $18.86

Compared to last year, most country averages hovered in the same numerical vicinity with negligible fluctuations. Cuba rose half a point from 2020, while Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic stayed the same. Honduras rose slightly from 88.4 last year to 89.1 in 2021. Mexico saw the biggest drop, going from 90 points to 87.3.

Bargain Cigars and Where They’re From

From the abundance of cigars scoring more than 90 points this year, (including an extraordinary 95-point blockbuster), there’s obviously no shortage of great cigars on the market. Bargain-priced smokes of great quality aren’t quite as easy to pin down.

Only 14 of the year’s highest-scoring cigars (rating 92 points or higher) have suggested retail prices of less than $10 (generally considered to be the “sweet spot” price of premium cigars). The remainder of 2021’s top-scoring cigars are quite expensive, with some MSRPs exceeding $50.

2021 Best Buys

Score Cigar Price
92 Charter Oak Habano Lonsdale $6.00
90 Alec Bradley Project 40 Maduro 05.50 $5.75
88 Charter Oak Habano Petite Corona $5.50
88 Don Lino Connecticut Robusto $5.50
87 Charter Oak Habano Rothschild $5.69
87 Nat Cicco 1965 Aniversario Liga No. 4 Corona $5.50

To be classified by Cigar Insider as a Best Buy, a cigar must have a suggested retail price of $6 or less and score at least 87 points. This year, that turned out to be a tall order. Of the 273 cigars we smoked, only six qualified as Best Buys. The Charter Oak Habano Lonsdale from Foundation Cigar topped the Best Buy list, scoring 92 points and retailing for only $5.79.

If you’re looking to stretch your dollar, you’d do best by reaching for cigars made in Nicaragua or Honduras. The average suggested retail price of the Nicaraguan cigars we rated was $11.16, and the average price of a Honduran was less than a dime more, $11.24. The Dominican cigars we rated were a bit higher, $11.41 per cigar. As always, Cuban cigars have the highest average retail price at £27.66 on the British market, or about $36.54 at current exchange rates.

The Best-Scoring Sizes

Traditional sizes are getting more and more difficult to find each year, as fewer companies include vitolas like coronas, lonsdales or double coronas in their size charts. Even Churchills have been dwindling. The majority of sizes rated by Cigar Insider were primarily toros, robustos and figurados, which is indicative of the current market. The good news for fans of large double coronas is that they averaged highest in 2021 at 90.7 points, but it’s a small universe, and we only rated three such cigars. Our odd or miscellaneous category consists of cigars that too short, fat or thin to fall into typical classification. The seven rated this year—mostly short, fat robustos—averaged 90.1 points. 

Perfectos
​​Tapered perfectos like the cigars shown here fall under our Figurado category. (Photo: Cigar Aficionado)

Churchills and figurados were quite close in terms of rating. The size made popular by Winston Churchill averaged 89.8 points for 21 cigars. Figurados were only a tenth of a point behind at 89.7, and we rated 33 such cigars. Figurados can be pirámides, belicosos, perfectos or any shaped cigar with a points, curves or tapers.

Average Score By Size

Size Cigars Rated Avg. Score
1. Double Corona 3 Cigars 90.7
2. Odd 7 Cigars 90.1
3. Churchill 21 Cigars 89.8
4. Figurado 33 Cigars 89.7
5. Lonsdale 4 Cigars 89.3
6. Robusto 47 Cigars 89.1
7. Corona 4 Cigars 89.0
8. Petit Corona 7 Cigars 88.9
8. Toro 101 Cigars 88.9
9. Grande 34 Cigars 88.3
10. Panetela 11 Cigars 88.2
11. “A” 1 Cigar 88.0

The sample rate increases precipitously when we get to robustos. We rated 47 robustos, which had an average score of 89.1 points. The toro category was nearly as strong, averaging only 0.2 points behind, especially impressive considering that Insider rated 101 toros, far more than any other size. 

Grandes are defined as any cigar with a minimum thickness of 60 ring gauge. Once dismissed as novelties, grandes are not only accepted on today’s market, but expected. Cigar Insider rated 34 of these behemoths, some of which were 70 ring gauge, and they maintained an average rating of 88.3 points. By contrast, long, thin panetelas were very close behind with an average of 88.2 points, but Insider only rated about a third as many this year on account of thin sizes losing popularity, along with coronas and petit coronas. The four coronas rated in 2021 averaged out to 89 points while the seven petit coronas were only a tenth of a point behind at 88.9. 

The lone “A” size we rated in 2021 turned out to have the lowest average at 88 points. This is currently the most difficult cigar size to find in the market, as interest for these nearly 10-inch-long smokes has always been very niche.

What It All Means

After looking at a year’s worth of Cigar Insider ratings from different angles, the state of the industry becomes clear—quality has been maintained across the board from country to country, despite the adversity of a worldwide pandemic. And Nicaraguan cigarmakers and tobacco growers have been careful to not let their position of market leadership negatively affect their products. Nicaragua’s reputation is only fortified and enhanced, but all the cigar-producing countries have high-scoring smokes to contribute.

While the quality of handmade cigars is high overall, they are also expensive. Relatively few retail for less than $10, and this is not terribly surprising as premium cigars are luxury products, made by hand with aged tobacco. The industry might be in overdrive right now, producing more cigars than it has in decades, but so far, it’s also managed to produce cigars of distinction. There is variety, diversity and stylistic difference from brand to brand, even within the same country. As long as cigarmakers have creative freedom, the industry will continue to advance.

Data compiled by Thomas Pappalardo.

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