This is always a fun issue for us-the Best Cigars of the Year. The five principle tasters for Cigar Aficionado get to go back and re-taste the top scoring cigars, narrow down the selection again and then have a final taste-off of the best cigars in our special end-of-the year tasting. It's kind of like a world championship track meet; everybody in the race has earned their way into it but in the end, someone wins the top prize.
There are no losers here.
Last year, in the midst of an economic meltdown, we put heavier weight on the special circumstances and gave the prize to the Casa Magna Colorado Robusto, even though it had not received the highest score in our tasting-at around $5 a cigar, it was an appropriate choice and a great cigar. Not everyone agreed with us, but we will always reserve the right to use subjective elements in choosing the best cigars of the year. And everything from price to production numbers to the final score will be considered.
This year, it was easy. One cigar outperformed every other cigar in the tastings during every round. The Padrón Family Reserve No. 45 Maduro. It's the third time a Padrón has captured the No. 1 cigar. And it is a well-deserved recognition for a company that consistently produces some of the greatest smokes in the world. Kudos to José Orlando Padrón, his son George and all the folks who work at Padrón.
A Cuban cigar captured the No. 2 ranking, the Cohiba Siglo V Tubo. It was simply the best Cuban cigar we tasted all year and had a lot of the elements that we associate with great Cuban tobacco: spiciness, earthiness and a full-bodied character.
Our No. 3 cigar signals the ongoing ascendancy of Don Pepin Garcia and all the brands that he is making that have received top scores from Cigar Aficionado. This year, it's his new My Father No. 1, another wonderful benchmark example of a Nicaraguan cigar. In fact, there are two other Pepin Garcia cigars in the Top 25, a 601 Box Press Maduro Toro (No. 6) and an Ambos Mundos No. 2 Robusto (No. 18), the latest creation of the Garcias in conjunction with Pete Johnson. Not bad for a cigarmaker that wasn't even on the radar screen 10 years ago.
The Top 25 represents a great cross section of new brands like My Father and some of the venerable brands that have been at the forefront of the U.S. cigar market for years-a Diamond Crown Maximus Double Corona No. 1 (No. 4), an Oliva Serie V Belicoso (No. 5), an Arturo Fuente Hemingway (No. 7), a Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve (No. 8) and an Ashton Virgin Sun Grown (No. 9). In the next 10, the ranking included a La Aurora Preferidos Maduro Robusto (No. 11), a La Flor Dominicana Salomon (No. 13), a Fuente Fuente OpusX Reserva D'Chateau (No. 14), a C.A.O. Lx2, (No. 23)-all great cigars in their own right. Other newer brands include Benji Menendez's Partagas Master Series Majestuoso (No. 15), a tribute to one of the great cigar men in the business, a Nestor Miranda Special Selection (No. 25), Casa Fernandez Lancero (No. 21) and cigars like the Padilla Signature 1932 Torpedo (No. 22), Illusione Epernay Le Ferme (No. 19), Mi Dominicana (No. 20), Alec Bradley Family Blend (No. 16) and the Xikar HC Habano Colorado Belicoso (No. 24). And Casa Magna Colorado returned to the Top 25 too, at No. 12, with the Extraordinario. Two other Cuban cigars, both Partagas, also earned Top 25 honors: a Serie P No. 2 Tubo (No. 10) and a Partagas Salomon (No. 17).
All in all, it's a great list of cigars. It illustrates just how diverse the global market has become and how excellent the cigars are today. Enjoy.