The final Cigar Aficionado tasting of 2017 yielded dozens of outstanding cigars. Aside from the eight highly-rated smokes that would go on to appear on our annual Top 25 list, the December 2017 tasting, which is now online, featured 19 non-Cuban cigars that scored 90 points or above. (On our 100-point ratings scale, cigars rated 90 to 94 points are considered “outstanding,” while 95 and above are “classic.”) Additionally, six Cuban cigars were rated 90 points or better.
These top-scoring cigars come from every corner of the cigar-making world, however, Nicaragua proved itself to be the dominant force, producing nearly half of the top cigars in this tasting.
In total, 79 cigars were tasted by our panel of editors, who consider four different categories as they determine a cigar's rating: Appearance and structure count 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.
These are the 25 cigars that scored 90 points or above in Cigar Aficionado’s December 2017 tasting:
Flor de Las Antillas Maduro Corona (Nicaragua, 92 points) A darker version of the company's original Flor de las Antillas, which debuted in 2012 and was named Cigar Aficionado's Cigar of the Year, Flor de Las Antillas Maduro shares the same Nicaraguan double binder and filler as the original. The Garcia family, though, slightly altered the blend to accommodate the darker, Ecuadoran Habano wrapper. See full tasting note.
La Flor Dominicana Air Bender Chisel (Dominican Republic, 91 points) Litto Gomez is a creative cigarmaker, and one of his greatest innovations was creating his trademarked Chisel shape in 2003. Seven years later, La Flor added the Chisel to its Air Bender line, which is a blend of Gomez's homegrown Dominican filler and binder tobaccos, including some piloto Cubano, Sumatra and Corojo. The Habano-seed wrapper is from Ecuador. See full tasting note.
Nat Sherman Panamericana Secretos (Nicaragua, 91 points) Panamericana debuted in 2014 as an exclusive cigar sold only at the Nat Sherman Townhouse, the company's flagship store in New York City. Now available through retail members of the Tobacconists' Association of America, Panamericana consists of an Ecuador Sumatra wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and fillers from Costa Rica and Nicaragua. See full tasting note.
La Alianza Natural Sabrosos (Dominican Republic, 91 points) Cigar Aficionado Hall of Famer Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s La Alianza brand is named after his Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. factory in the Dominican Republic. The blend features an Ecuadoran wrapper with binder and filler from the Dominican Republic. See full tasting note.
Surrogates 7th Sam (Nicaragua, 91 points) 7th Sam is named for the number of tobaccos in the cigar (seven different varietals) as well as the fact that it is the seventh blend in the Surrogates line. An attractive perfecto, 7th Sam measures 6 3/4 inches long by 52 ring gauge near the foot and elegantly tapers to 48 ring at the head. See full tasting note.
Padrón Serie 1926 No. 9 (Nicaragua, 91 points) There isn’t much that needs to be said about Padrón’s Serie 1926, as the numbers speak for themselves. The No. 9 size alone, which has been rated eight times in either Cigar Aficionado or Cigar Insider, has never dropped below 91 points, and the brand has been featured in our Top 25 three times, including the No.2 Cigar of 2017. Needless to say, it’s always a solid addition to your humidor. See full tasting note.
Partagás Short (Cuba, 91 points) This petit corona is one of the smaller vitolas in the Cuban Partagás portfolio. The smoke offers a complex core of woody notes ranging from oak rum barrels to hickory and cedar while an earthy, coffee bean quality accentuates each puff. See full tasting note.
New World Almirante (Nicaragua, 91 points) A.J. Fernandez’s New World brand is named in honor of the discovery of tobacco by the Christopher Columbus expedition in 1492. Fernandez collaborated with his father, Ismael, on the cigar, which only uses tobaccos from Nicaragua, including binder from the Jalapa Valley and filler from Ometepe, Condega and Estelí. See full tasting note.
Norteño Belicoso Fino (Nicaragua, 91 points) Norteños come off the tables of La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate and from the mind of Willy Herrera, Drew Estate's master blender. The name, which translates to "northerner" in Spanish, refers to those in Estelí, which is where the Drew Estate factory is located. It's also a nod to Herrera himself, who is from Miami. See full tasting note.
Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Diplomatico (Nicaragua, 91 points) The 1964 Anniversary Series put Padrón on the radars of cigar connoisseurs when it was released in 1994 on the company’s 30th anniversary. Measuring 7 inches by 50 ring gauge, the Churchill-sized Diplomatico is the largest smoke in the 1964 lineup, save for the “A” size, which measures a whopping 8 1/4 inches. See full tasting note.
Fonseca Nicaragua Petit Corona (Nicaragua, 91 points) Fonseca Nicaragua is the first Fonseca cigar to be made in Nicaragua. It’s also a Nicaraguan puro, crafted with tobaccos from Ometepe and Estelí, with an oscuro Criollo ’98 wrapper from Jalapa. The squarely-pressed petit corona is full of rich, earthy tobacco. See full tasting note.
Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial (Cuba, 91 points) The Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial was introduced to the main Cuban cigar portfolio at the Habanos Festival in 2008. We have always been impressed by this smoke, rating it several times between 89 and 94 points. It was named the No. 4 Cigar of 2014. See full tasting note.
Serino Royale Maduro XX Robusto (Nicaragua, 91 points) Anthony Philip Serino, president of APS Distributors, LLC, and his son Carson launched Serino Royale Maduro XX in 2016. The cigars are made at the La Corona factory in Estelí, using wrapper leaf from Ecuador rolled over binder and filler from Nicaragua. See full tasting note.
Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story (Dominican Republic, 90 points) Known for its small size and tapers that are crafted to beautiful scale and symmetry, Fuente’s Short Story is a staple in the company’s Hemingway portfolio. A recent tasting found that the miniature perfecto burns perfectly, showing a sweet and nutty walnut character with underlying earthiness. See full tasting note.
Davidoff Winston Churchill Churchill (Dominican Republic, 90 points) A cigar named for the iconic Winston Churchill, this offering from Davidoff wears a light Ecuadoran wrapper with a Mexican binder and fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The medium-bodied cigar is rolled in the Dominican Republic. See full tasting note.
Punch Gran Puro Nicaragua 5 1/2 x 54 (Honduras, 90 points) This Honduran-made cigar is noted for its toothy Connecticut broadleaf wrapper that produces an even draw and burn. With a price tag of only $6.79, the Punch Gran Puro Nicaragua (named for its Nicaraguan binder and filler) is a fantastic bang-for-your-buck cigar. See full tasting note.
Cain Habano 660 (Nicaragua, 90 points) The Cain Habano is a Nicaraguan puro made by the Oliva family in Nicaragua. The large 660 size, measuring 6 inches by 60 ring gauge, is solidly packed with tobacco, showing a strong cedary core accompanied by notes of leather, white pepper and a floral finish. See full tasting note.
Cohiba Siglo I (Tubo) (Cuba, 90 points) Cohiba was created in the 1960s as a single size for Fidel Castro before becoming commercially available in 1982. By 1992, the Linea 1492, or Siglo Series, was introduced in Havana to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovering Cuba. At 4 inches by 40 ring gauge, the Siglo I is the smallest cigar in the line. See full tasting note.
Rocky Patel Special Edition Sixty (Nicaragua, 90 points) Released in 2016 as a brick-and-mortar exclusive, Rocky Patel Special Edition wears an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. The grande-size Sixty offers leather, nuts and a touch of floral sweetness. See full tasting note.
Gran Habano La Conquista Gran Robusto (Honduras, 90 points) Brand owner George Rico says the name Gran Habano La Conquista is a reference to Christopher Columbus’s colonial journey into the Americas. The band and box artwork depicts a painting of Columbus arriving in the New World, while the blend is noted for its three-country filler (Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia), in addition to its Nicaraguan wrapper and binder. See full tasting note.
Montecristo No. 2 (Cuba, 90 points) The undisputed king of torpedoes is the Montecristo No. 2. The stately smoke with the pointy tip is known the world over and ranks as one of the best-selling cigars in the Cuban cigar portfolio. And unlike some things that sell well, Monte 2s combine commercial success with critical acclaim, earning Cigar Aficionado’s Cigar of the Year in 2013. A second size in the core Montecristo line, the No. 4, also received a score of 90 points in this tasting. See full tasting note.
La Barba Red 46 x 5 3/4 (Dominican Republic, 90 points) La Barba translates to “The Beard,” and the cigar bands for this line are emblazoned with the image of a barber’s straight razor against a red background. The cigars are made with only Dominican tobaccos at Tabacalera William Ventura in the Dominican Republic. See full tasting note.
Hammer + Sickle Trademark Series Maduro Robusto (Dominican Republic, 90 points) The dark Mexican wrapper on Hammer + Sickle’s Trademark Series Maduro gleams with oil and forms a flaky ash as it burns. Inside is an all-Dominican blend of binder and filler, which, combined with the wrapper, offers notes of oak, leather and fruit intonations that build to a finish of coffee and licorice. See full tasting note.Montecristo Open Master Tubo (Cuba, 90 points) The Montecristo Open brand debuted at the Habanos Festival in 2009. The four cigars in the line carry the traditional brown and cream Montecristo band, but they also don a second green band with gold and white lettering. The Master size is a robusto, measuring 4 7/8 by 50 ring gauge. See full tasting note.