As a cigar smoker and a member of the cigar media, I felt spoiled in 2014. It all started with the release of The Collective and snowballed from there. For the purposes of this list (we have more to come) I stuck with cigars that were released in 2014. I'm not sure if this was a conscious decision or not, but I stayed away from line extensions. Had I included them, the 1502 Ruby Lancero and Corona would have been in the running. I really enjoy that blend.
Paring down this list wasn't the easiest thing to do. We were instructed to submit a list of 10, so I had to do some serious pruning. I probably could have done a top 25 or top 30. So, there are some Honorable Mentions that need to be included. So let's start there! These are in no particular order.
Top New Release Cigars of 2014 Honorable Mention
This one was outside of my comfort zone, but I really enjoyed it! I know Fred had a big year due to the success of the Connecticut Fuerte, but this cigar really impressed me. It had everything the modern palate wants (strength and big time flavor) and managed to maintain a delicate balance throughout. Great smoke! Here is our group review.
Tatuaje Monster Series Jekyll
This one surprised me as well. I remember when my box arrived and I thought, "man... I buy these Monsters blind every year and I'm never all that impressed." Well that changed this year. Notes of coffee, nuts, and baking spice in the beginning and caramel and red pepper in the end. It was a lovely balance of sweet and spice. One of the best Tatuaje Monster releases to date! Here is my review.
Warped Flor de Valle
Warped came out of nowhere and really grabbed my attention this year. If you follow my reviews at all, then this isn't a surprise to you. When I posted my review I was convinced that this would crack my Top 10, but that was back in September. I'll grab a quote from my review (seems odd to quite myself) because this really sums it up for me. "It had everything I want in a cigar: complexity and balance of flavor, not overpowering, enough flavor to satisfy the modern palate and enough nuance to thrill the seasoned smoker." Here is my review.
This cigar taught me a lesson. The lesson being that some of the big name companies are still making great smokes. We get a little "boutique-happy" here so it was refreshing to find a great cigar coming from the folks over a General. It started out sweet and gained a bunch of spice as I progressed through the smoke. This is one of those cigars that just keeps getting better (like the Collective). I wish it was a bit cheaper (also like the Collective), but when you smoke it, you won't be too worried about the cash you dropped. If I were to do a redux review of this cigar today, I would give it a 92 rating. Here is my original review.
Sensei's Sensational Sarsaparilla
I wish I would have smoked this cigar sooner. We had already done our lists by the time I fired one up. Had I smoked this cigar when it first hit the shelves, it would have cracked my Top 5. It may have even cracked my Top 3. It's just a fantastic smoke. I've gone through one bundle and have a second and third bundles waiting in the humidor. It features a perfect balance of earth, spice and sweet. You simply have to smoke this cigar. Here is my review.
Here are a few more Honorable Mentions:
Like I said, there was a ton of good stuff released this year. I wish I could have smoked it all! There were some releases that I still want to try. The new stuff from illusione comes to mind, but all that stuff will have to wait for next year's list. Let's get on with the show.
Top New Release Cigars of 2014
#10 - 1502 Nicaragua
The stuff that Enrique blends is right up my alley. Tons of flavor and complexity without all the unnecessary strength. The 1502 Nicaragua features an exceptionally elegant profile that maintains its perfect balance throughout. If I smoked this cigar blind, I would assume its MSRP was in the $10-$12 range. The fact is you can almost get TWO of them for that price. I have gone through a bunch of these and they never let me down. Enrique is a stud! Here is my review.
#9 - Viva Republica Propaganda
What a unique cigar! The Propaganda stars out with some notes of earth, leather and coffee and finishes with creamy notes of coffee, nuts and mild sugar cane. Take all of that, add in a mild white pepper spice, and you've got a winner. I am impressed with what I see from Viva Republica and I really enjoyed talking with Jason Holly on CigarChat. If you want a cigar with a ton of unique flavors that will grab your attention, then you need to grab a Propaganda. Here is my review.
#8 - La Barba Purple
La Barba is another brand that come from nowhere to grab my attention. It features great balance of sweet and spice. Have you noticed that balance became a big deal for me this year? When I first posed my review, I mentioned that this cigar would get better as the year went on. I'm happy to say that I was correct. I have revisited this blend a few times and found that the pepper in the final third has calmed down. My redux rating would probably be in the high "Box Split" to low "Box Buy" range. You all need to check this one out. Here is my review.
#7 - Rocky Patel Prohibition Broadleaf
Remember when I said that some of the big brands made some great cigars this year? Well this is one of them. I smoked this as part of a review with Blind Man's Puff and was completely amazed. It featured a ton of flavor. There was a big black pepper spice that combined nicely with notes of dry cocoa powder and dates. It was an absolute roller coaster of flavor. My scores on BMP ended up totaling a 97, but if I were to use the CigarFederation scoring system, it would fall into the 93-94 range. I'm getting a jar of these soon. Here is the group review on Blind Man's Puff.
#6 - Angel's Anvil - Crowned Heads TAA Exclusive
Now we're getting into the big boys. You all know that I love me some Crowned Heads. This was a big year for them with a ton of releases and a new relationship with the My Father factory. After the Las Calaveras (which I didn't love) I was really hoping the Angel's Anvil would be to my liking. Needless to say, I enjoyed it very much. I'll grab a quote from my review (again) because I feel this sums it up nicely. "I loved the flavor profile and all its changes. The smooth and mild start followed by the uptick in spice and strength was masterfully executed and the uniqueness of flavor was a welcome surprise." If this was released in a Corona Gorda or a Lonsdale size, forgetaboutit. If you can find any, swoop them up. Here is my review.
#5 - Jericho Hill
Another Crowned Heads release. Man, they had a good year! This was the cigar that I had my eye on heading into IPCPR 2014. In fact, i had to be restrained from making a bee line straight to the CH booth as soon as we hit the show floor. This one was named the CigarFederation Cigar of the Year and for good reason. The profile was exceptionally balanced with smooth notes of chocolate souffle with some dried fruit notes and mild spice on the retro. My wheelhouse is full, balanced flavors with medium strength and the JH delivered. Here is our group review.
#4 - CBT Maduro
I had a hard time talking about anything other than the CBT maduro for a few weeks after I smoked it. It received one of the highest ratings I have ever given and it earned every point. It's the perfect triple maduro. "The CBT Maduro is a great maduro in the classic sense. It offers up those chewy maduro flavors that we all know. It is also a great maduro in the modern sense. It offers up the strength that many cigar smokers seek out while also providing complexity of flavor." If you like maduros, then you must smoke this. Here is my review.
#3 - La Colmena No. 44
I bet you thought this was gonna be my #1. And to be honest, it was for a long time. There is nothing I can say about this cigar that I haven't already said. It's damn-near perfect. This cigar showed me what perfect balance is and how glorious it can be. Every time I hear the word glorious, I think of Old School. "I see Blue! He looks GLOOOOOOORIOUS!" Anyway, back to the topic at hand. The balance of sweet, spice and savory is perfect. I love everything about this cigar. It's pricey, but so what? If you want good stuff, you gotta be willing to shell out the cash. Here is my review.
#2 - Quesada 40th Anniversary Corona Clasica
This is cigar that I will stock pile. It's a limited release and its a cigar that I want in my humidor for years to come. The balance of flavor (again with the balance) was amazing. The profile was sweet and creamy with some bold notes that gained my attention. I didn't post a review of this one, but you can check out Seth's review here. I agree with just about every word he wrote.
#1 New Release Cigars of 2014
Flor de Selva No. 15 Maduro
Yeah, you probably saw this coming. Given that I haven't shut up about this cigar, I'm sure you expected this to be my No. 1. I originally scored it a 95 "Box Buy" and after smoking more I might even bump that number up. I'm happy to see that I have turned some of you guys on to this cigar. I see posts in the forums about smoking this one and I'm happy that you guys seem to enjoy it as much as I do. I'll close with my Final Thoughts from my review of the Flor de Selva No 15. Maduro.
"This Flor de Selva No. 15 Maduro is a game changer. It reminded me of the first time I smoked a Liga Privada No. 9. In fact, I might even like the Flor de Selva better. I'm not sure that is a fair comparison since the blends are different, but the experience was similar. The balance and complexity of flavor was nothing short of spectacular ("They're real... and they're spectacular"). This is a big, bold cigar that would be wasted on a beginner. If you are going to smoke the Flor de Selva No. 15 Maduro, take your time. This cigar deserves to be focused on and savored."