When I created the Cigar Federation Top New Releases of 2014 list, I didn't include my own list. I wanted to have no bias whatsoever in the creation of the list so I took everyone's list, compiled that into what you've seen, and left mine out. However, now that we've shared our group list, and since I have the platform here to present my list, and most importantly because my list varies greatly from the Cigar Federation 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 2014 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!
Alec Bradley Fine & Rare TA-25A - It is the 2014, and it is massive - very, very large. I'm not a fan of Alec Bradley offerings, but I liked the 2011 Fire & Rare as well as the redux in 2013, but I thought the 2012 was horrendous. This one might be the best of the bunch (though I haven't smoked the 2011 or 2013 in awhile). Starts off very, very peppery with a really nice creamy sweetness, and it just ramps up in strength as it goes while the sweetness disappears. Very, very strong - will probably age nicely. Burn and draw were nearly flawless. My biggest problem is that the price point sucks. Cost me $22+ - not sure its worth that, but still makes me list because its a mighty fine cigar, and the rare Alec Bradley that I really enjoyed.
Balmoral Royal Selection Edicion Especial Anejo 18 Rothschild Masivo - I'm not even sure if this cigar "counts" since its been available for awhile, but is just now available in the US, but its my list so I'm including it. The pre-light draw was very interesting to me and I sat with it for awhile trying to discern what it was and after a bit, it hit me - the pre-light draw tasted like fresh mulch...creamy and sweet earth. Very weird, but its a positive. As I light the cigar, I'm immediately hit with some caramel-y sweetness on the tongue and a spice on the retrohale. Less than half an inch in, and this cigar starts to mellow out into a medium-strength earthiness with a bit of manure and some slight floral flavors. If I didn't know better, with the knowledge that I haven't smoked a lot of CCs, I would have guessed that this cigar was made in Cuba. The flavors and complexity of this are really outstanding and I'm sitting back to enjoy it a bit. The burn and construction are fantastic on this cigar - the draw is fluid and I'm an inch and a half in of "toothy" ash with no signs of it falling anytime soon. I stepped away for a bit to just enjoy this and I think the cigar is actually getting better. The flavors are strong and abundant. I'm getting a pleasing sweetness to go along with some cedar flavors in the middle and towards the end. As I reach the nub, despite taking my time enjoying this, its starting to get a bit bitter. Definitely worth tracking down - they seem to be regularly available now - as I thought it was very good.
Caldwell Eastern Standard Silk Road Lancero - I didn't officially review this when I smoked it, but I still wanted to include it. If I ranked these cigars in order, this would very likely be my #1. I absolutely loved this cigar. A lancero with great flavors at a price point that isn't horrible is almost an automatic for my list, and this cigar covers all those bases. These cigars are getting a LOT of hype, and I think they're worthy of it. I'm not sure exactly what an Ecuadorian Connecticut Hybrid wrapper is, but it works in this cigar.
Debonaire First Degree - This is a cigar that I think represents why my list is unique. I don't know that the First Degree is my favorite new offering from Debonaire - the new Maduros are stellar - but I've smoked an abnormal amount of these. Its a fantastic little smoke. I was herfing with Phil Zanghi when he handed me a bag that included all the Debonaire vitolas to sample. He told me (and the other guys at the table) that he created the First Degree to be a smoke that the working guys could have - cops, guys on a 30-minute lunch break, etc. Its a petit salomon that probably took me over 30 minutes to smoke, but not much more, and that's mainly because I smoked it to the nub. It delivers a nice kick for a short smoke as you get some nice pepper with a bit of wood and the faintest of floral flavors. For a 30-minute smoke, this is at the top of my list, and that's why it makes my list this year.
Herrera Esteli by Drew Estate Edicion Limitada Lancero - My understanding is that I might have been the first person to have bought these as I purchased the first of two boxes that were available at the NJ Cigar Festival where they were first sold. The Herrera Esteli Lancero looks exactly like the other Herrera Estelis, but longer with a beautiful light brown wrapper with some obvious veins and seams. The pre-light draw is heavy on cedar with some leather, and a sniff of the foot gives some chocolate also. Initial draws once I light are much more powerful than the other sizes in the line with a lot of acute white pepper spice on the tongue and retrohale. The cedar is definitely there early along with a subtle sweetness like a butterscotch, but both are a bit overpowered by the strength and spice early in. When I spoke to Willy about this at NJ Cigar Festival, he gave me an indication that I was on to something as I described the smoking experience I was having. Burn is just about perfect and the draw is fantastic - better than most lanceros I can think of - giving off heaping amounts of smoke. As I enter the middle, having acknowledged that this vitola seems like a sharp departure from the flavor profile of the Herrera Estelis I've smoked previously, I sense that the strength and spice is about to scale back a bit. As the spice tones down, it seems like more of a cinnamon flavor to me. The cinnamon takes a back seat as the familiar Herrera Esteli flavors come up - cedar and nuttiness with a slight floral note. As I enter the final third, the sweetness is really ramping up and the cinnamon spice is returning - heavily on the retrohale - with a bit of cedar for good measure. There is no doubt in my mind that this size supplants the Corona and Lonsdale as my favorite vitola for this blend. I absolutely loved this cigar and consider it a box buy. I love Lanceros - I know this - but this is a wonderful example and worth tracking down (if you can find them).
HR Sublime - (Picture taken from Dustin's review) I almost didn't include this, but decided to just to share my thoughts. I smoked a sample from IPCPR in August or so. I was worried when I first heard about this cigar that it wouldn't do justice to the Hirochi Robaina name, and would disappoint a lot of his longtime fans. I was wrong. I thought the cigar was still a little young, and had more room for improvement, but it was still amazing, and made me super excited for the official production release. Now that the official release is hitting stores, the price point seems a bit high, but I'll wait to smoke this again to make that decision. As of now, I thought this cigar was fantastic and will only get better with time.
Ortega Serie D Black - (Picture taken from our Group Review) When I first smoked this coming out of IPCPR, I stated that "this is probably my favorite new cigar that I have smoked coming out of the show". I was really impressed. Earthy and woody with some light spice in the background and the occasional sweetness delivered a perfect blend of flavors that have had me reaching for more ever since. I did find it got a bit bitter at the end, but otherwise, it was a fantastically enjoyable smoking experience.
To see my list from 2013, click here.