When I created the Cigar Federation Consolidated List of Top Cigars of 2013, I didn't include my own list. First, I wanted to have no bias whatsoever in the creation of the list. More importantly, I don't consider myself a reviewer so why should anyone care about my favorite cigars of the year?! Well, apparently some of you do because I got a few requests for my list and since it varies greatly from the Consolidated List and because I have the platform here to present my list, I figured I would.
I haven't taken the time to rank them (they're listed in alphabetical order). I think for me to do that properly, I'd have to smoke them all again since it has been quite some time since I smoked some of these, and I just don't have the time (or, in some cases, ability) to do that. Instead, this is a list of 2013 releases that I found memorable and suggest to all of you to track down as they are cigars I am eager to smoke again. As with any list you see this year, take it for what it is - one cigar smoker's list!
AJ Fernandez Mayimbe - Even before these were announced, my buddy Craig (Midwest Rep for AJF) has been telling me how awesome these were going to be - he even named his Cigar Federation Fantasy Football team after this cigar! While I think the price on these is a little steep - even for a limited edition cigar - Craig was definitely right to hype these up as they're pretty darn good. These are full in every sense of the word - body, flavor and strength. At one point, even though I often praise myself for liking fuller-bodied cigars, I even found myself looking for some sugar water to "level me off" a bit. Started out with some moderate spice, but really mellowed out as it headed into the second third with a nutty chocolate-ness taking over. The best compliment I can give this cigar is that I started off smoking it thinking of how great this cigar would need to be to warrant the $17+ I paid for it in my local NJ B&M, and, yet, a couple of days later I was back in my local shop and actually considered pulling another off the shelf. This cigar is that good!
Herrera Esteli - I had a bit of a dilemma on including this cigar. As I wrote when I initially reviewed it, I consider it a 2013 release because official production came to shops in the winter months of 2013 though I believe it actually was making its way around in late 2012. Either way, count it if you want, don't if you don't - for me, its a damn fine cigar and could make a case for Cigar of the Year. I've probably smoked 30 or so of these at this point, and I've smoked all of the vitolas, and the cigar continues to grow on me more and more with each experience, and I think the Lonsdale Club is my favorite size. The nuttiness and complexity in flavors is prevalent throughout the smoke and it is an absolutely phenomenal smoking experience.
La Palina The Palina Collection: Mr. Sam - The benefits of traveling for work. One of my favorite locations to travel for work is Springfield, Missouri solely due to Just For Him - a fantastic B&M and tobacco shop. I've grown friendly with Tank & Jess over the years and make it my duty to always stop in and try new things. On a trip in October, that new thing was the La Palina Mr.Sam. I've heard great things about La Palina cigars and I struggle to find them locally so when I saw this - a limited edition offering nonetheless, I immediately picked it up. A dark, reddish-brown wrapper adorns this cigar. Burn and draw are excellent, but are overshadowed by the amazing flavors. Earth and cedar with a bit of underlying spice meet me off the initial draws. A nuttiness comes on towards the second third. I think I was giddy at this point about how flavorful this cigar was and how much I was enjoying it. Some pepper came back in the end as I nubbed it - the cigar was that enjoyable and the construction that perfect. La Palina is the brand I'm most eager to experience more of in 2014!
Leccia Black - Back in May, I was lucky enough to try the MUWAT KFC Fat Molly and I stated in my thoughts on that cigar that I was eager to see "how [fire-cured tobacco] would taste in different blends and when used outside of just the wrapper and a little filler". Unlike the Fat Molly, my understanding is that the Leccia Black just includes a bit of the fire-cured tobacco in the filler (amongst a myriad of other tobaccos) so I couldn't wait to try it. The Leccia Black has a scent of the fire-cured tobacco but it isn't so utterly dominant as much as it accentuated the woodsy scent of the cigar. Lighting up the cigar, I got more of the same - wood and leather with that familiar fire-cured flavoring on the finish and in the back of my throat. Here the fire-cured tobacco is not the whole story - its just an interwoven theme to the story - and one that adds a bit of intrigue and novelty to this smoke. I really enjoyed this smoke and will definitely keep more in my humidor to see how the flavors continue to work with each other as these age.
Liga Privada Unico Serie UF-13 Dark - Another cigar from Drew Estate that I contemplated whether I should add. Technically, official production release was 2013, but I smoked this cigar for the first time a few years ago. Coincidentally, this is the only cigar on my list that I didn't "review" this year so I apologize for using Robby's picture and review for context for anyone who hasn't smoked it yet. Full-flavored, full-bodied and producing tons of smoke, this cigar is, arguably, the best Drew Estate cigar to date. I'll always be partial to the L40 and Dirty Rat, but the UF-13 is special! I think the best compliment I can give this cigar is this: Most Ligas I think are better fresh as a lot of the power and flavor I think gets muted with age, but the UF-13 is such a flavor bomb that I might actually prefer it with a year-plus on it! That'd be, of course, if I could keep them in my humidor for that long!
Ortega Serie D Maduro Lancero - I was lucky enough to track some of these down through Robby, and I am glad I made him send me some! I thought the Serie Ds were good to begin with, but the Lancero is fantastic - I absolutely love the cigar in this vitola. First, I've smoked many Lanceros in my time, and construction and burn is often a problem, but not with the Serie D - absolutely flawless. Not once in the entire cigar did I have to correct the burn or relight - a rarity for Lanceros. Flavor-wise this was similar to the No.8 Maduro, but seemed more refined. In both, I noticed mild pepper at first that really dissipated as an earthiness took over with the No.8 providing a bit more complexity, but this Lancero really hitting the mark. Definitely a Lancero I'll keep in my humidor for regular smoking!
Smoking Jacket Favoritos - Coming out of IPCPR this year, I heard about a lot of good cigars and cigars to keep my eyes open for, but I'd guess that no cigar received such universal buzz from all my different trusted sources as the Smoking Jacket created at Kelner Boutique Factory. It literally seemed like everyone I spoke to suggested I track it down. Only 60 accounts in the US from what I understand, and my local shop, Barrister Cigars in Union, NJ, is one of them. I can tell you that from my experience, and from the response of the other patrons in the shop, this cigar is one to track down. A solid medium cigar with really complex and solid flavors. Subtle spice notes throughout married with cedar and coffee to produce a fantastic smoke. Each vitola is a slightly different blend, but the Favoritos works best for me (and the size is ideal as well).
And, that is my short breakdown of my Top Cigars of 2013. Only one - the Ortega Serie D Lancero - also appeared on the Cigar Federation Consolidated List so I felt compelled to share my thoughts because I think these cigars deserve your interest. Each one of them is a cigar I thoroughly enjoy and suggest to all of you! Whether its a cigar I've smoked many of (Herrera Esteli) or only one of (Mr. Sam), whether its a bit on the milder side (Smoking Jacket) or full-bodied (Mayimbe), or whether it was a new twist on old favorites (UF-13) or something completely new that surprised me (Leccia Black), all of these cigars were memorable to me this year! Have you enjoyed these cigars? Would they make your list?