Cigar Brands A to Z
I say this brand list is “almost complete” because it is the nature of the cigar industry for new brands to appear seemingly overnight, in the hope that we will accept them into our hearts and humidors, while others mysteriously evaporate like a cloud of smoke in the breeze because we did not feel they were worth putting a match to. In addition, the ongoing trend among the cigar companies of issuing “limited editions” and various vintages each year makes it virtually impossible to keep this blog post completely current.
Believe it or not, this was one of the most difficult blog posts to write. Not only because of the virtual plethora of cigar brands currently in existence, but because many of the companies, for reasons best known to themselves, were not forthcoming with information. This, in spite of numerous emails, telephone calls, faxes, and personal pleas. On the other hand, much of the information that I managed to uncover was the direct result of total and absolute cooperation from those companies listed. Of course, since the success of the US and German editions of this book, information is now much easier to obtain.
But even so, I still ventured out into the far regions of the Caribbean, Central America, and Europe to unearth whatever additional treasures I could dig up and bring back, either on paper, on audio recordings, on digital images, or in my head. As a result, this is the first time in the history of cigar smoking that such an exhaustive detailed reference section of brands has been compiled and made available to the aficionado. If you don’t see a particular cigar chronicled within these pages, it is because the information was not provided or simply did not exist at the time of publication. Conversely, the amount of information you now have before you is directly proportional to the amount of information I was able to obtain, either from the companies themselves or from my own research. That is why some brands are covered more fully than others.
Note that some brands are not covered at all. Specifically, I am referring to the gaggle of boutique-style “Don Nobody” brands that emerged during the Great Cigar Boom of 1993–97, many of which have now been permanently snuffed out, to coin an apt phrase. There is a reason for their non-listings; many of these companies have gone out of business before I could even write about them. I found this to be both frustrating and fascinating, because I had continued testing every new cigar—both good and bad—as they came out, making exhaustive notes in the process. But the law of supply and demand being what it is, a great many of these faddish foibles are no longer with us, which is hardly surprising to anyone who has ever smoked them. Thankfully, we are now left with those brands that seem to have staying power. It is my hope that any brands not listed, no matter how obscure, will subsequently come forth into the spotlight, to be included in any future editions of this book. Plus, the ongoing battle cry of tobacconists and their customers alike is, “What’s new?” So you can be sure the list will never be complete, as cigar companies are only too eager to shower us with more products each year.
Adipati—(Jakarta) Relatively thin, non-humidified (i.e., European style) cigars, very mild, made of Sumatra and Java tobaccos, and the most popular cigar in Indonesia.
Agio—(Holland) This world-famous brand includes an extensive array of cigarillos and cigars, all of which are the “dry” European variety, and offered in either Sumatra (light) or Brazil (dark) wrappers. Agio began with a tipped cigar, which soon became a best seller on the Continent. Today their Mehari’s is one of Agio’s most popular cigars worldwide, but especially in Belgium and Germany. Other well-known brands include Mini Mehari’s, Panter, and Red Label small cigars. Of excellent quality, they are all machine made with Java, Sumatra, and Cameroon tobaccos.
Al Capone—(Germany) For the gangster in you. A nice, mild short smoke when on the lam with your moll.
Alec Bradley—(Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua) This is one of the most aggressive new cigar companies in America, even though its cigars are made throughout the Caribbean and Central America through numerous large and small contracted companies. Of its more than a dozen brands, three of the most interesting are: Black Market, with its dark, velvety hybrid Criollo 98 wrapper that is unfortunately all but obscured by a paper sleeve, which of course, must be removed before lighting up; Prensado, which is Spanish for “pressed,” its most full-bodied smoke to date, rolled with a new Corojo 2006 Honduran wrapper from Trojes, near the Nicaraguan border; Tempus, a medium-weight smoke with Honduran wrapper and binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan filler and now also offered in maduro.
Andujar—(Dominican Republic) Wasn’t that the name of a movie with Robin Williams where all the animals in an ancient board game come to life? No, it’s really a full-flavored cigar brought out in 1994 by Oscar Rodriguez, who also made the Oscar cigar. This cigar is named after Captain Rodrigo de Andujar who, some say, was appointed by Columbus to present the first hand-rolled leaves of tobacco to Queen Isabella. These uncello’d cigars contain a Dominican filler and binder with a Connecticut shade wrapper and are blended to an HPH 2.5. Although it has no relationship to the cigar, Andujar is also the name of a limited-edition Armagnac sold only in France.
Antonio & Cleopatra Grenadier—(Puerto Rico) A longtime favorite, this mass-market cigar began life in 1888 as a popular Cuban brand. Today it is made with natural Candela or Indonesian wrapper (a change from the original and now scarce Cameroon), homogenized binder, and Cuban seed short filler. Over 110 million of these machine-made smokes are produced annually.
Arango Sportsman—(Tampa) One of the first flavored cigars to hit the market in modern times, as an answer to people who constantly complain about your cigar smoke. This short-filler cigar is machine-made with tobaccos from Honduras, Dominican, and Ecuador and is heavily laced with vanilla flavoring. Which means you should not store the Arango Sportsman anywhere near your other cigars, or it will start to smell as if someone is baking cookies inside your humidor. To be sure, smoking this mild-tasting cigar actually permeates the air with a very pleasant aroma. Of course, if there happens to be an anti-smoker in the crowd who also hates cookies …
Arango Statesman—(Honduras) A vanilla-flavored, all-tobacco long leaf filler cigar that is machine bunched and hand rolled.
Aromas de San Andrés—(Mexico) Originally called simply “Aromas,” this is one of the oldest brands in all of Mexico. Today, it is also one of the most elegantly wrapped. Each cigar comes encased in an amber glass tube and is cushioned with a pillow of foam against a rubber cap that keeps the cigar secure and humidified for a minimum of six months. But that’s not all. Each tube is then wrapped in gold foil and slipped into a gold box, which is capped off with a red ribbon. For years it was only available as a 61/8x40, but recently four new sizes have been added to the line. Although expensive for a Mexican cigar (due, in part, to all that fancy packaging), the Aromas de San Andrés makes a relatively inexpensive and impressive gift, either for your host or for yourself. As far as smokability is concerned, it is quite mild yet stimulating, and rates a 2 on the Highly Prejudiced HackerScale. Up until the early 1990s these distinctive cigars were available only through the national Tinder Box chain, but now they can be found at tobacconists throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia, although not always in the same packaging.
Arsen—(Dominican Republic) One of the more flavorful of the “new breed” of Dominican cigars, this brand takes its name from Arsen Gasparyan, former founder and publisher of the Russian cigar and lifestyle magazine Hecho A Mano. Now he resides in Miami and focuses all his attention—besides on his beautiful wife and their new baby—on creating premium cigars. The Arsen Connoisseur Selection, introduced in 2010, is made in the Augusto Reyes factory in Santiago. A Dominican puro, it is slightly sweet, yet rich in flavor. Three shapes are available, a Toro, Gordito, and Robusto. Arsen’s newest cigar, Pink for Men, came out in 2012 and is distinctive by having a wide pink band. Also a Dominican puro, it is handrolled from tobaccos grown on the historic Navarette farm in the Dominican Republic, where Carlos Toraño tried to grow some of the first Dominican wrappers in 1962. Available in four sizes—Toro, Belicoso, Robusto, and a Petit Corona—these well-aged cigars provide a muscular smoke, belying the color of their bands. And in case you were wondering about Arsen’s distinctive logo, it is taken from first letter of the Armenian alphabet, which translates to the letter “A” for Arsen.
Arturo Fuente—(Dominican Republic) Headquartered in Santiago, in the heart of the richest tobacco-growing regions of the Dominican Republic, this is the largest family-owned premium cigar company in the world. Tracing the history of this respected cigar-making family is like following the history of the cigar industry itself. Having roots in both Spain and then Cuba, Don Arturo Fuente left Havana in the late 1800s to bring his cigar-making skills to various factories in the United States. Finally, in 1912, he decided to produce clear Havana cigars in Tampa under his own name. His son, Carlos, soon joined him in the family operations. Then, Carlos Jr. (Carlito), and his sister Cynthia joined with their father to continue their grandfather’s tradition. At various times since the Cuban embargo, the Fuente family has had factories in the United States, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, and Honduras. All too often they ended up losing their factories and all of their personal possessions due to the volatile nature of some of these countries. Finally, in 1980, they settled in the Dominican Republic, and opened a small factory that employed a total of seven people; they made their first Dominican cigar on September 4 of that year.
Today, the Arturo Fuente operations encompass four Santiago factories (their second factory, which originally opened in Moca in 1990 in order to keep up with worldwide demand for their cigars has now been relocated to Santiago). Two more new factories have opened in the Santiago area since 1995. In addition, the Fuente family still operates a factory in Tampa with their partners, the J. C. Newman family, where they manufacture a separate line of machine-bunched handrolled cigars (in contrast to their Dominican cigars, which are 100 percent handmade).
It is interesting to note that of their original seven Dominican employees, six are still with the company. Arturo Fuente is one of the very few cigar manufacturers who use as many as four different types of tobacco in their various filler blends.
Ashton—(Dominican Republic) One of the most elegant and richest tasting cigars of what was once one of the “new breed,” but is now an important part of the cigar world. First introduced in 1985, the Ashton name originated with William Ashton Taylor, a celebrated high-grade pipe maker from England. Because his name was so closely associated with the quality workmanship of his Ashton pipes, it was decided to retain that aura with the introduction of a long-filler, handmade premium cigar. Available in a variety of shapes and tobacco blends, these cigars are produced by the most skilled handrollers in the Arturo Fuente factory. The flagship Ashton cigar features a Connecticut wrapper and Cuban seed Dominican binder and filler, blended to give a medium flavor that is deepened by four to six months of aging. Also well worth trying is the very mellow Ashton Aged Maduro, which was brought out in 1990. Only the darkest of the Connecticut broadleaf wrappers are selected for this cigar, which rates a mild 2–2.5 (depending on size) on the Highly Prejudiced HackerScale. It is one of the sweetest, mildest maduros I have ever smoked. Also not to be missed is the Ashton Cabinet Selection Vintage Limited Edition, which has the distinction of having the longest nomenclature of any vintage cigar in this book. This gourmet delight was brought out in 1988, and is among the very best of the vintage cigars. Featuring specially selected Connecticut shade wrapper and aged for a full year, these choice cigars have a slightly heavier blend than the rest of the line, which adds more character to the smoke. All of the Cabinet Selection offerings are shaped cigars; most of the sizes feature a rounded head and a Perfecto-style foot. A semi-Belicoso shape and a 5½-inch Pyramid are also included among the Cabinet Selection. Most spectacular to my taste is the VSG (Virgin Sun Grown), which, like their Cabinet and Maduro ranges, has a tendency to linger on the palate and provide what wine connoisseurs refer to as “a long finish.” Newest in the Ashton lineup include La Aroma de Cuba–Mi Amore Reserva, which has a heavier, richer blend than the regular Mi Amore, and the San Cristobal Elegancia Grandioso, a 6x60 full-bodied smoke. Their newest, La Aroma de Cuba Noblesse, is a limited edition of just 3,000 cigars but is worth mentioning due to its complexity and affinity for aging, should you be able to find a box or two. The Ashton Symmetry, introduced in 2014, is its first new product in four years and is medium full and complex. Ashton cigars are sold in the US, England, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Russia and the Ukraine, and Japan.
Astral—(Honduras) Introduced in 1995, this somewhat dry-tasting HPH 2 cigar has a Honduran-grown Connecticut shade wrapper, a Honduran binder and a Honduran and Nicaraguan filler, giving it a slightly sweet, coated sensation on the palate and making it taste more like a Dominican cigar than the Honduran it actually is.
Avanti—(United States) If you like licorice, you’ll love this dry cigar, which is cured with anisette. Warning: don’t keep a box of these babies in your car on a hot summer day or your vehicle will smell like a candy store. Also made with bourbon flavoring, which, of course, will make your car smell like a saloon—which may not be a good thing.
Avo—(Dominican Republic) This excellent cigar was started in 1986 by Avo Uvezian, a multi-talented entrepreneur who also wrote the classic hit song, “Strangers in the Night,” even though he’s not credited on most releases (it’s a long story). Handmade by the same Tabadom factory that also produces the superb Davidoff, the excellently crafted Avo features a Connecticut shade wrapper, Dominican binder, and four different types of long leaf Dominican filler. Previously only imported to the United States until 1997, when it finally began appearing in tobacco shops in Europe. In addition to its excellent blends, one thing that makes an Avo unique is that it is aged for six to eight months before being shipped to tobacconists. The Avo’s tastes run slightly to the rich side of medium with a strength of HPH 2.5. Four new sizes were introduced in 1995 under the Quartetto baton as part of the XO line. Numerous other variations have been introduced in recent years, including the Avo Limited Edition LE11 in 2011 to celebrate his eighty-fifth birthday and the Avo 25 in 2012 to mark the twenty-fifth year of the cigar’s introduction. Also not to be missed is the Avo Heritage, with its specially fermented Cuban seed Ecuadorian swapper and delicate floral aroma. Like its namesake, an Avo Uvezian cigar is a perfect companion with food or drink, especially if there happens to be a piano nearby.
Baccarat—(Honduras) This brand had its beginning in 1871 with Carl Upmann, brother of the more renowned Herman, whose name is immortalized by the well-known H. Upmann cigars. It seems that Carl was also a cigar maker, having started in New York and then moving to Tampa sometime around the turn of the century. By the late 1960s, the US branch of the Upmann cigar-making family had relocated its operations to Honduras with the intent of creating a C. Upmann cigar for the growing North American market. Meanwhile, the H. Upmann brand was well established, as it had been continuously made in Cuba since 1844. Moreover, the giant Consolidated Cigar Corporation was already importing their excellent Dominican-made H. Upmann cigars into the United States, the same market that was now being targeted by the C. Upmann side of the family tree. Consequently, a lawsuit erupted. When the smoke cleared, Consolidated retained the right to continue marketing the H. Upmann brand and the Upmann family was not permitted to use their name on any cigar that they made. So, in 1978, the Honduran cigar that was to be C. Upmann underwent a name change to Baccarat. Through the years this cigar has only had moderate success and from 1986 to 1988 it seemed to disappear completely. But since 1990, it has been slowly making a comeback, due in part to its affordable pricing in the premium line and a more aggressive approach to marketing. Now made in the Camacho factory, Baccarat cigars feature Havana seed Honduran-grown filler, Mexican binder, and Connecticut shade wrapper. They have also entered the rarified air of the vintage cigar with their La Fontana brand.
Backwoods—(United States) Machine made in Macadoo, Pennsylvania, this small, mass-market cigarillo was introduced in the early 1980s. It has a “wild” filler (ragged on the ends), no binder and a broadleaf wrapper.
Bahia—(Costa Rica) A medium, slightly rough flavored cigar introduced in 1995. The Bahia Gold is slightly heavier in taste.
Bances—(Canada) Most cigar aficionados are not aware that a Havana-leaf Bances still exists, but exist it does. It is machine-made in Toronto by The House of Horvath exclusively for the Canadian market. Utilizing short filler and homogenized binder, this tubed Corona de Luxe provides a very mild and pleasant tasting smoke, producing an HPH 1.5–2.0.
Bances—(Tampa/Honduras) A true dual-nationality cigar, with some of the smaller, machine-bunched sizes being made in Tampa, while the larger shapes, such as the Brevas, Cazadores, Corona Inmensas, Corona Especial, Presidents, and the No. 1 are completely handmade in Honduras. This best-selling cigar started out life in 1840, where it was originally made in Cuba by Francisco G. Bances. By 1886 it was being made by the Bances y Lopez Company. Not especially popular in Havana circles, it eventually faded into obscurity. However, in 1959 it was resurrected in Tampa as a US-made clear Havana cigar. (As a side note, Bances was also the first cigar to feature a double band.) In an effort to keep the cigar alive, the manufacturer began buying up all of the Havana leaf they could find. Then the embargo hit. Suddenly, Bances became one of the few all-Havana cigars that could still be legally purchased in the United States. It was also the first post-embargo cigar to be produced in the US using all Havana tobacco. These prestigious selling points gave Bances an unprecedented marketing edge over all the non-Havana cigars, and Bances soared in both popularity and sales. But as the supply of Havana leaf eventually was consumed, the manufacturers began to look elsewhere for their premium tobacco. They eventually settled on the fertile soil of Honduras. Today, Bances remains a top handmade cigar, which still retains its historic Cuban seed flavor.
Bandi—(Canada) An inexpensive, medium-mild machine-made cigar for the Canadian market.
Barrington House—(Jamaica)—a very mild yet flavorful Jamaican cigar, one of the few still available.
Bauzá—(Dominican Republic) Originally an old Cuban family name and a very popular Havana cigar that was started in 1868. Since 1993 it has been made by the Fuente factory and can be found in the United States and a few other countries, including Venezuela (where it is a totally different cigar that is machine made by another firm). But the Fuente-made Dominican version is handmade with Dominican and Nicaraguan long filler, a Mexican binder and Cameroon wrapper, all of which are very rich and heavily blended. A spicy HPH 2.5.
Beldina—(Portugal) A flagship cigar from the Azore Islands (San Miguel, actually), and handmade by the Fábrica de Tobacco Estrela. The filler is a blend of Brazil, Havana, Java, and Dominican tobaccos, with a Dominican binder and a choice of Java or Nicaraguan wrappers. Heavy tasting (HPH 2.5), available in eleven sizes and moderately priced. It is the most popular cigar in Portugal.
Bering—(Honduras) This popular cigar has been around since 1905, when it was first made in a small wooden-frame factory in Tampa’s famed Ybor City. In the late 1990s the entire Bering cigar-making operation was transferred to Honduras, where the all-natural, long-leaf filler cigars are now completely handmade in the famous Honduras American Tobacco factory. To complement their already popular Natural and Candela wrappers, an excellent Maduro cigar was introduced in 1992. And in ’93 Bering came out with a premium high-grade cigar. Worthy of searching out is their new 8½x52 Grande, which comes in a fifteen-cigar hinged cedar box. The taste is an HPH 2–2.5 medium-heavy flavor. Up until a few years ago the red-banded Berings were those shapes that were often sold in packs and in non-tobacco stores, while the brown bands, the ones most of us were familiar with, were the high grades that were sold through various smokeshops throughout the country. But now all the bands have been consolidated into one bright red design with gold lettering, so that should lessen the confusion. As to their quality, all I can say is that on my father-in-law’s 80th birthday I asked him what he wanted and he said, “A box of Berings!” He got it.
Berger & Argenti—(Nicaragua) Produced by brothers Al and Michael Argenti, their “Entubar” cigars are notable by a dark ligero “fuse,” extending from their foot. A variety of styles are produced in natural and maduro, including the Puddin, more of a rectangular press than a box press.
Bolivar—(Cuba) Named after South American hero Simón Bolívar, who hailed from the central highlands of La Gran Colombia (in what later became Venezuela) and who led the revolt against Spain. However, this cigar’s early history was not as dramatic as its namesake. Started in 1901 by the Rocha family, a lack of marketing kept it from achieving any noteworthy prominence until the 1950s, when it was acquired by Ramon and Rafael Cifuentes. Then things began to change for the better. Today, the Bolivar has become one of the all-time great Havanas, but one that is definitely not for the uninitiated. The smaller, machine-made shapes do not seem to have the taste-fulfilling high-octane flavor that this cigar is capable of giving, and that is found in the larger, handmade Bolivars, which are so eagerly sought out by true cigar connoisseurs who revel in their ultra rich, robust taste. A firm and solid 3 on the HPH and worth every puff. A superb late night, après-banquet smoke. If unsure about your affinity for this heavy a cigar, start out with the 4½x26 Panetela and work your way up, slowly. Bolivar is also one of the few Cuban bands to have a cigar reserved exclusively for the Russian market, the Emperador, which is Spanish for “Emperor.”
Bolivar—(Dominican Republic) This cigar is available only in the United States, due to the Cuban trade embargo, which prohibits Havana products from being sold in that country and also due to international laws that prevent similar-named cigars selling alongside each other in non-US countries. When Ramón Cifuente, whose family owned the Bolivar brand, fled Cuba after Castro’s nationalization of the cigar industry, he eventually settled in the Dominican Republic, where he and another talented cigar maker, Daniel Nuñez, created this hefty version that came close to duplicating the original Bolivar blend. The Dominican Bolivar was one of the first cigars to use tobacco from the Nicaraguan island of Ometepe and features a rich Rosado San Augustine ligero wrapper from Honduras. It is a cigar to be reckoned with.
Brick House—(Nicaragua) Economically priced, these cigars are marketed by J. C. Newman. The Brick House name was inspired by company founder J. C. Newman’s 1895 home (one of the few brick houses in town) and the name of one of his original all-Cuban brands. Today J. C.’s grandsons now use propriety Havana Subido leaf, a rich-tasting, dark tobacco that reflects its Spanish name. In addition, in 2012 they introduced the Mighty Mighty Maduro under the Brick House name, and in 2014 a tubed version of the Brick House came out.
Butera Royal Vintage—(Dominican Republic) Introduced in 1993, these handmade cigars were inspired by Mike Butera, a talented and award-winning high-grade pipe carver who also has a deep appreciation for premium cigars. They are now made by Altadis USA. The filler tobaccos are expertly blended of Cuban Seed Dominican and Olor. A special aged Java binder adds a bit of seasoning to the taste, and the wrapper is a specially selected dark Connecticut shade leaf. The cigars go through four “sweats” or fermentation processes, which rid the raw leaf of all ammonia and enable it to be smoked down almost to the band without producing a rancid taste or odor. They have an elegant meaty flavor—like prime rib rather than porterhouse—and age exceptionally well. The cigars are available in six shapes ranging from the 6½x44 Cedro Fino to the hefty 6x52 Dorado 652. Butera Royal Vintage Cigars are sold in the United States, Europe, and Japan.
Caldwell—(Dominican Republic) Just as Christian Eiroa left Davidoff to start CLE, Robert Caldwell left CLE to start his namesake company, The Caldwell Collection, along with his best friend, Hernando Caicedo. With names like Eastern Standard, The King Is Dead, and Long Live The King, you know this is an atypical brand, but its attractive packaging and cigar blends composed of only Grade A tobaccos (some of which are highly obscure, such as Cuban seed Negrito) are well worth lighting up. Its Junior Varsity line offers lower-priced selections that are not color sorted.
Calixto López—(Philippines) Named after a Spanish general, this was originally a lesser-known Cuban brand that began in 1881. It is now being handmade in the Philippines of long-leaf filler that produces a very satisfying medium-tasting blend. Their “twisted bunch” Culebras and the 8x45 Czar are worth checking out.
Calle Ocho—(United States) Made in Miami, Florida, and named after the famous cigar-making street in the “Little Havana” district. Available in eleven sizes.
Camacho—(Honduras) An excellent, full flavored HPH 2.5 cigar that was named after Simón Camacho, a Nicaraguan patriot. Filler and binder are Honduran, with a Connecticut shade wrapper form the core cigar with many other variations introduced in recent years, including the 2012 reintroduction of their Legend-Ario, a Mexican puro. Also noteworthy is their annual Camacho Liberty, in which each cigar is individually boxed and numbered. In 2011 cigar-making history was made when Davidoff purchased Camacho from company president Christian Eiroa, who since has formed his own CLE cigar company (see below). Under Davidoff’s leadership, Camacho has become a sort of New Age brand, introducing such brands as Double Shock (with two wrappers), Ecuador, budget-priced Payback, and B. G. Meyer Short Churchills for those who favor quick smokes.
CAO—(Honduras/South America) Introduced in 1995 by Cano A. Ozgener, an importer of meerschaum pipes who also began importing cigars, many of which were made by Toraño and Perdomo. A great variety of shapes and blends were produced and the company was eventually purchased by General Cigar in 2011. Now a whole new breed of CAO cigars has been emerging, made under General Cigar auspices, with blends by Rick Rodriquez with the factory being supervised by Hector Vanegas. Its first cigar was the OSA (which stands for Olancho San Augustus, in honor of the Honduran state of Olancho and the San Agustus valley in which the tobacco was grown), and featuring a 2008 vintage wrapper. In 2012 CAO brought out the Concert, a medium-full smoke featuring an Ecuadorian Rosado wrapper and a band shaped like a guitar pick (must be a string quartet). In 2014 they broke new ground—literally—by bringing out a limited edition made of rare Brazilian tobacco from the Amazon rain forest.
Caoba—(Dominican Republic) A faintly harsh-tasting and spicy cigar that began in 1993 and was first imported into the US in 1996. It has a Cuban seed Dominican filler, Dominican binder, and a claro Connecticut shade wrapper. Each box comes packed with a tobacco leaf, a novel twist for those who might like to try rolling their own.
Captain Black—(United States) I put this in only because every once in a while somebody asks me if there is a cigar that tastes and smells like pipe tobacco. Yes, there is! And this is it, a tipped cigar that is made in Jacksonville, Florida, from a pleasantly aromatic and extremely popular pipe tobacco of the same name. Introduced in 1996.
Carat—(Holland) This elegant, high-grade, European-style cigar was introduced in the early 1990s. Manufactured by Schimmelpenninck, these medium tasting Dutch smokes (a 2 on the HackerScale) are machine made of Java, Brazil, Sumatra, and Havana tobaccos. Yes, there is the forbidden “H” word, so you won’t find these on American shores. However, when on the Continent, pick up a box of the Grand Coronas Imperiales; they come in an easy-to-carry cedar box that contains a cigar cutter, in case you left yours back home.
Carlos V—(Philippines) The European brand name for Calixto López.
Casa Blanca—(Dominican Republic) Originally created for use at the White House in Washington, D.C., this was the featured cigar at the Republican inaugural of Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, with “politically correct” no smoking signs being plastered on the White House walls, Casa Blanca (which means “white house” in Spanish) has moved out into the mainstream, where it can now be enjoyed by Democrats and Republicans alike. It boasts Brazil and Dominican filler, Mexican binder, and a Connecticut shade wrapper. The size range of this cigar goes from a 4x30 all the way up to a mammoth Jeroboam that clocks in at 10x66. There is also a Half Jeroboam in case you can’t stay up late.
Casa Blanca—(Mexico) A cigar that used to be made in the Canary Islands, but it is now manufactured in Mexico.
Casadores—(Cuba) An old Havana brand, no longer exported and now relegated strictly for local Cuban consumption.
Century Sam—(Canada) I discovered this inexpensive machine-made cigar during a speaking engagement at the first Great Halifax Smoke in 1995, when an anonymous Canadian admirer of this book fired two of them across my bow as I cruised the buffet table at the Chateaux Halifax hotel. Whatever it’s soaked in, you can taste it even before the cigar touches your lips. Sweet, thick, and unforgettable. Upon lighting up, the full, distinctive taste of homogenized wrapper comes through to the forefront, with essence of Sunday morning Times, and flavors of water, pulp, and dust. An HPH 1. Much maligned but very popular nonetheless, this ubiquitous little cigar was named in honor of British Columbia’s centennial. It originally sold for a (Canadian) nickel apiece.
Chambrair—(Dominican Republic) A special cigar made by the A. Fuente company for restaurants and other establishments in Germany. Eight shapes are offered, including a Churchill, Lonsdale, Double Corona, and a Perfecto. In addition to Connecticut, Maduro wrappers are available in some of the shapes.
Charles the Great—(Honduras) This is an old brand that used to be made in Tampa, and it is still possible to find some of the colorful original labels for sale at antique shows. The cigars will probably not cost as much as the labels however, although they may be just as hard to find unless you live in Texas. The brand is now owned by the Finck Cigar Company of San Antonio. These cigars, although newly made, still utilize the original, pre-World War II vintage bands that were made in Germany. The Charles the Great bands are historic works of art, and add a unique flavor to an already flavorful cigar. Obviously, you get them free with each cigar, unlike the antique label, which doesn’t come with any cigars at all.
Christian of Denmark—See Nobel Cigars.
Churchill—(Switzerland/Dominican Republic) Not only is this a cigar size, it is also a brand, but one that doesn’t often show up outside of Europe. Oddly enough, the first “Churchill” cigars were not anything like the large Double Corona sizes that used to be associated with the shape. Instead, these cigars were small and of the “dry” European style and were made in Switzerland by a tobacconist named Friedrich in the small town of Buelach, near Zurich. However, when the Prime Minister of England made his historic postwar speech in 1946 at the University of Zurich, Winston Churchill graciously consented to having these cigars (which were unlike anything he smoked) christened with his family name. In addition, the flattered Churchill agreed to have his portrait appear on the band. The small Churchill brand cigars were sold exclusively in Switzerland, and then gradually expanded their regions to Germany, France, and Italy. More recently, in keeping with the growing trend toward humidified cigars in Europe, this brand has come out with their Churchill Latinos, which are made in the Dominican Republic by Fuente. An HPH 2, they deepen and smooth out as they are smoked. Since writing the first edition of this book, I have aged some for three years and found them to be a better smoke than when I bought them in Germany in 1992. Medium flavored, they are available in Corona Classica, Gran Corona, Panetela Larga and the largest, a 63/4x44 Double Corona—none of which are a true Churchill. Still, the glowering portrait of Sir Winston Churchill on a box of Latinos can be a friendly face for those Americans in Europe looking for a break from the ever-present dry cigars and cigarillos. In addition, Churchills are sometimes encountered in duty-free shops in airports. I picked up my first box out of curiosity at the well-stocked and super-friendly J. Schwarzenbach & Co. tobacco shop, located in the Zurich railroad station’s underground shopping mall. They make for a very pleasant afternoon smoke while waiting for the train to Munich.
CLE—(Honduras) The initials stand for Christian Luis Eiroa, the young entrepreneurial fourth-generation cigar maker who sold his family’s Honduran Camacho brand to Davidoff in 2008. Now he is going out on his own with some new partners and no less than four cigar factories. His CLE venture was launched in 2012 with two blends. The medium-bodied Cuarenta—which means “40” in Spanish and is in celebration of Christian’s fortieth birthday on July 5, 2012—has a Habano seed wrapper and a Honduran binder and filler. Within the CLE line there is also the Corojo, named after the now-popular leaf Christian’s father introduced some years ago. However, this cigar will be different from the older Camacho Corojo, and will feature a vintage wrapper. Thus, each cigar will be slightly different in complexity from year to year. One of two other cigars being made by Christian and his partners is the Wynwood, named after the up-and-coming artist’s colony in Miami. The Wynwood factory itself is part art gallery and features the top ten rollers from Honduras, who are each being given one-year visas to make these Ecuadorian-Connecticut wrapper cigars in Miami. The other is the Asylum, a fuller blend featuring a maduro binder and tobaccos Christian has never used before. With more cigars on the way, this is a brand to watch—and smoke!
Cohiba—(Cuba) Yes, this is the cigar, the one that was originally reserved only for invited dignitaries to Cuba, and divvied out with great aplomb at select governmental functions. Never was it allowed outside of the Cuban borders, nor was it ever seen at anything other than sanctioned state affairs. Named after the Taino Indian word for “tobacco,” Cohiba was supposedly created by Che Guevara (Cuba’s first Minister of Industry after the revolution) at the express request of Fidel Castro to produce a cigar that would epitomize everything that the new Cuba was capable of achieving. However, Che Guevara died before this cigar officially came out, so that story—which was originally told to me in Cuba—is somewhat suspect.
Another, slightly more plausible story is that shortly after the revolution, Castro was given an exquisite cigar by one of his bodyguards (he always had someone taste his food and “test puff” his cigars, as there was the constant fear of poisoning). Immediately impressed with the flavor and intrigued as to the origin of this particular cigar, which carried no brand name, he was told it was a special blend made and rolled by a man named Avelino Lara. Still another version names Eduardo Ribera as the originator of this blend. In any case, this talented torcedor (whichever of the two it was, for it was definitely one of them and they both admit to it) was contacted and put in charge of making these special cigars for Castro.
And thus, the Cohiba was born. (Another version of this story has a man by the name of Edwardo Rivera being the creator of Cohiba and the personal roller for Castro.) No matter which of these stories is true, the fact remains that only the best tobaccos from the best regions of the Vuelta Abajo are used, and only the most skilled of Cuban artisans (which up until 1995 were only women) are permitted to cut, bunch, and roll its judiciously cured and triple fermented leaves. Part of Cohiba’s uniqueness is due to the fact that, while many of Havana’s best brands are double fermented, only the Cohiba tobacco leaves go through a special third aging process of spending two to three weeks in oak barrels. As a result, the exquisite Cohiba emerged in 1968, one of the very first cigars to be made in the Castro regime.
Its success was instantaneous. Word quickly spread among those fortunate enough to have savored its carefully honed and nurtured full rich taste. Cohiba’s mystique was aided by the fact that only the very privileged were ever allowed to touch a match to this rarified treasure from the Vuelta Abajo. Finally, in 1982, Cuba’s precious Cohiba was permitted to be shipped beyond its isolated shores. The occasion was the Cuban/Spanish Mundial Soccer games. Of course, the cigar was an immediate success, and Cubatabaco eventually realized the monetary potential of their newest native product. In 1984 the Cohiba appeared in Switzerland, no doubt (although nobody will confirm this) in the Davidoff shop in Geneva, which had a two-decades-old relationship with Havana. Initially, three sizes were offered to the public: Panetelas, Lanceros, and Corona Especiales. From there, the cigar went to Belgium, England, and finally to France. In 1989 the Robusto, Esplendido, and Exquisito were introduced. This completed The Classic Line or La Linea Classica. Then, in 1992, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World (and of Cuba), La Linea 1492 was introduced with a milder blend designed to attract newer smokers. This consisted of the Siglos (which means “century” in Spanish) I through V, representing each of the five centuries since Columbus’ discovery. Today, the original 1968 Cohiba blend is still produced in the Lanceros, Panetelas, and Gran Coronas shapes. But a newer, slightly more refined (but still very heady) blend was created in 1988 for the Esplendidos, Corona Especiales, Exquisitos, and Robustos. Thus, there are three different blends for the same brand. Since 1982, Cohibas have been proudly produced in the El Laguito Factory, a former 1910-era mansion resplendent along a palm-tree lined suburb of Havana. Prior to Cohiba, El Laguito had been used as a training school to teach women how to roll cigars. The former tenant of this mini-palace was the Marquesa de Pinar del Rio; for the significance of this name, the Pinar del Rio is one of the top two tobacco-growing sections of the Vuelta Abajo. However, some sizes, such as the Robusto and Esplendido, are now also rolled—under strict supervision—in the Partagás and H. Upmann factories (check the stampings on the bottom of your boxes). And not all Cohibas are made in Cuba; an all-Havana cigarillo is made in France under license to Cubatabaco. But no matter in which factory they are made, for cigar connoisseurs the world over, Cohiba’s well-recognized logo—a black silhouette of a Taino Indian surrounded by an orange and black band with white dots—has come to symbolize the very best that Cuba has to offer. As verification of the Cohiba’s rarity, of a total Havana cigar production of thirty million cigars in 1989, only one and one half million were Cohibas. In 1993, with total cigar production at around forty million, Cohiba production was just a little over two million. It is by far one of the most expensive of all the Havanas offered for public sale, but one that is truly worth the price. It is also the most counterfeited cigar in the world, so cuidado (be careful)!
Cohiba—(Dominican Republic/Nicaragua) In 1993 this cigar was introduced to US cigar smokers via the Alfred Dunhill stores on a limited basis. This marked the first time that the Cohiba brand was made available in the United States (even the Cuban brand was not publicly sold until 1982, well after the embargo). The new version sported a Connecticut shade wrapper, Mexican binder, and Dominican, Jamaican, and Mexican tobaccos in the filler blend. As a result, it remains decidedly heavier in taste than the Macanudo (which is made by the same company), possessing a medium yet full-bodied flavor. The initial run of these cigars was not banded, and the box simply had the brand name stenciled on the cover. The brand has since become one of General Cigar’s most popular, although it is sold only in the US where it cannot compete with the Cuban product, which is illegal in America. Currently there is a Red Dot, Cohiba Black, and a limited edition Edición Diamante consisting of a thirty-two-year-old Cameroon wrapper, and perhaps just as dramatically, a new Nicaraguan version, which was introduced in 2014. That same year there was a limited edition of the Comador—a Jay Z favorite (it is said he helped develop the blend)—and a stunning ten-count box of the limited edition Cohiba Luxury Selection, a 7¼x52 double corona individually sealed in Plexiglas tubes.
Condal—(Canary Islands) A humidified cigar that has been around since 1885. It formerly was sold only in Europe, most notably Germany. But in 1995 this nineteenth-century brand was brought into the US, albeit in small numbers. It is made in twenty individual shapes, ranging from a 20-ring cigarillo all the way up to a 50 ring Churchill. It features Brazilian and Dominican filler, Mexican binder, and a Connecticut shade wrapper. Medium flavored (HPH 2), it is a good daytime cigar.
Coroa—(Portugal) Handmade in the Azores, this corona-sized cigar from the Fábrica de Tobacco Estrela has a tasty filler blend of Havana, Dominican, and Brazilian tobaccos, nestled inside a Dominican binder and wrapped with Connecticut leaf.
Corps Diplomatique—(Belgium) An excellent upscale all-tobacco European cigar. It is of the dry type variety, but many shapes have a thicker ring gauge than most. The Panetela-style International is elegantly wrapped in tissue and blended with Sumatra wrapper and Java and Brazil filler. The smaller After Dinner, Panetela, and Deauville sizes are available in the US.
Credo—(Dominican Republic) If the name seems familiar, it is because this cigar brand is owned by the same French family that also owns the reliable Credo humidifier. Introduced in 1993, the Credo cigar sports a distinctively flavored blending of Dominican and Cuban seed filler, an aged Dominican binder and a smooth Connecticut shade wrapper. I find it a bit on the stronger side of mild (an HPH 2.5) with a pleasantly rich and slightly pungent smoke. Although mild, it asserts its individuality in flavor. In fact, it teeters on the brink of being a strong cigar but doesn’t quite topple over into that category. Some may find it a bit rough around the edges, but I find it consistently enjoyable. It is perfect for an after dinner repast—especially in the larger ring gauges—with a snifter of one of the more muscular Highland malt whiskies. It you are into nouveau-moderne stylings, you will also enjoy its very distinctively shaped blue-gray box.
Creme de Jamaica—(Dominican Republic) In spite of its name, these formerly Jamaican-produced cigars are now made in the General Cigar factory in the Dominican Republic. This mild-tasting cigar features Piloto Cubano-seed Dominican filler, an Indonesian Besuki binder, and a US Connecticut shade-grown wrapper, all of which closely approaches the original blend as far as taste is concerned.
Cubita—(Dominican Republic) Introduced in 1995, with a Dominican filler and binder and a Connecticut shade wrapper. A full, rich cigar, clocking in at HPH 2.5. Actually one of the best in its price range.
Cuesta-Rey—(United States/Dominican Republic) One of the great nineteenth-century cigars that is still very much with us today. The brand was founded in 1884 by Angel LaMadrid Cuesta, a Spanish cigar maker who had apprenticed in Cuba. He eventually took in a partner, Peregrino Rey and thus, the famed Cuesta-Rey brand was born. In 1893, following the trends of the times, the Cuesta-Rey cigar-making operations moved to Ybor City, the famed center of cigar rolling in Tampa. In time, Angel Cuesta’s son Carl entered the firm and eventually assumed responsibility for its operations. In 1958 Carl Cuesta sold the Cuesta-Rey cigar firm to M&N Cigar Manufacturers in Tampa. Today, the well-recognized Cuesta-Rey brand is still being produced, with the short filler cigars being made in Tampa on machines, while the long filler cigars have been made in the Dominican Republic since 1986. The firm has also brought out its Centennial Collection, completely handcrafted cigars of Dominican tobaccos and Connecticut wrapper, which are aged for thirty-five days before being packed in a dress box. These commemorative smokables are specially banded, offered in Natural or Maduro wrappers, and are available in six sizes. The Cuesta-Rey Cabinet Selection, with its Dominican filler and Connecticut binder and wrapper, is aged sixty-five days and comes in a cabinet box; hence the name. The first full cedar cabinet box of cigars I ever bought were a complement of Cuesta-Rey #95s back in the mid-sixties. Those cigars are long gone, but I still have that box.
Dannemann—(Germany) Established in 1873 by Geraldo Dannemann in Brazil. Its wide assortment of cigars is made in Germany, including its Espada and Lights, which were formerly manufactured in Switzerland. Dannemann cigars are made with Brazil and Sumatra tobaccos and are found worldwide. Available in a single cigar aluminum foil humidity pack, in handy tins for cigarillos, and as a twelve-cigar gift pack assortment.
Davidoff—(Dominican Republic) This is the ne plus ultra of cigars, featuring a Rolls Royce quality, with what many feel to be a Rolls Royce price tag. Nonetheless, Davidoff cigars are the embodiment of getting what you pay for. Its quality control is among the highest in the industry and the factory supervisor who oversees its handrolling workmanship once complained to me that Davidoff is the only company that seems to reject more cigars than it accepts. All of this is reflective of the exacting personality of the late Zino Davidoff, who helped set new standards for the cigar industry.
Davidoff was born in 1906 in Kiev, Ukraine, Russia. In 1911 his family moved to Geneva, Switzerland; this was very fortunate for cigar aficionados, for somehow, a Russian Davidoff cigar would probably not be too well received today. Zino’s father specialized in cigarette and pipe tobacco blending and young Davidoff began to learn the trade. But this wasn’t enough for him, so at nineteen he decided to see the world. As fate would have it, he ended up in Cuba and from 1924 to 1929, and became a devoted student of tobacco. Buoyed with this knowledge, Zino returned to Geneva and convinced his father to install a cigar section in his tobacco shop. Then, using the contacts he had made in Cuba, Zino began importing cigars.
The Geneva store proved to be the perfect location for Zino’s new enterprise. High-ranking dignitaries were among his clientele. Precious contacts were made and soon Davidoff was the “in” place to buy cigars. He began shipping cigars all over the world. During WWII, Davidoff was one of the few places in Europe where Havanas could still be obtained. After the war, Zino Davidoff scored a coup that was destined to bring him a sense of immortality among the cigar world; he was given permission to create his own Cuban line of cigars. He hit upon the idea of naming each cigar after a famous French winemaking château, as these names would be instantly familiar to connoisseurs. Thus, in 1946 he introduced Château Latour, and the rest soon followed. Of course, he had neglected to obtain permission from the owners to use their names on his cigars. But in those pre-litigious days, the diplomatic Zino simply sent a gift of cigars to each individual. When they saw their château immortalized on a box of Havanas, all was forgiven. Through the years the Davidoff line continued to grow, necessitating three different moves of the original shop in Geneva. Finally, in 1970, Davidoff cigars were launched worldwide.
Today there are more than sixty “depositaires” selling Davidoff products throughout the globe. The first was in Switzerland, then came Germany and Belgium in 1974, Canada in 1977, Asia, and finally the United States in 1987. Davidoff cigars are currently sold in thirty-five countries worldwide. Following a much-heralded break in relations with Cubatabaco in 1989, Davidoff unveiled its Dominican line in 1990. Interestingly, these cigars were launched in the United States first, because Europe still had a three-year supply of Davidoff Havanas that had to be used up before the new line could be introduced. The Dominican line includes three series: Aniversario—extremely mild, even the large 8 2/3x48 No. 1 size; Grand Cru—my personal favorite, these are full-flavored cigars; Thousand—medium flavored, and designed to fall between the Aniversario and the Grand Cru. Its Special R (a Robusto), Double R (double corona), and Special T (Pyramid) are all perfect after-dinner cigars befitting the most elegant occasion, or can add elegance where there is none. Its Puro d’Oro was its first Dominican puro, launched a few years ago, and their 2012 White Box is a study in elegance in smoke. One of their latest—and some say most successful—ventures is their new Nicaraguan puros, of which the Diademas is the perfect way to end a perfect evening. However, the epitome may have been reached in 2015, when the company announced their limited production Oro Blanco (referring to the gold and white colors of Davidoff’s band), a medium-bodied Dominican puro that sells for $500 a cigar, making it the most expensive smoke Davidoff has ever produced.
Although meticulously handmade in the DR or Nicaragua, all Davidoff cigars are shipped either to Holland (for the European market) or to Connecticut (for the US), where they are reinspected and then aged for one to one and a half years before being sent to stores that are as carefully selected as their cigars; Davidoff is the only company that requires its dealers to sign a written agreement on cigar display and maintenance. Although the flamboyant Zino Davidoff passed away in 1993 at the still-active age of eighty-seven, the company that carries his name lives on. In keeping with its founder’s elegant lifestyle theme, Davidoff has now expanded into fashion accessories, colognes, and other men’s toiletries.
De Nobili—(United States) You might wonder what an Italian dry cigar is doing being manufactured in Scranton, Pennsylvania, but the brand was purchased in 1947 by the Avanti Cigar Company, the same folks who make the Europa cigar. This one is mainly found in the mid-Atlantic states.
Diamond Crown—(Dominican Republic) This is the first super-duper premium cigar made by Cuesta-Rey, which is really made in the Fuente factory. No cigar other than the Opusx has created such excitement. The Diamond Crown was introduced at the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills on April 21, 1995, to honor the Newman family’s 100th anniversary in the cigar business. Only 150,000 cigars were available initially, and anxious purchasers were shocked to find that they were limited to two cigars per person and that there was a limit of ten boxes per store, unheard of stipulations in the cigar business. But it worked. In fact, it was not unusual to find twelve shrewdies hitting a tobacconist at once so they could commandeer a full box. And it was not unusual to see Diamond Crown boxes, in all their colorful Holland-designed glory, picked clean and sitting empty and forlorn on many a dealer’s shelves. Such is the continuing demand for this carefully honed cigar. The wrapper is a double fermented (that means after aging in bulks they are inspected, and fermented again) five-year-old Connecticut shade with a very well balanced Dominican binder and filler blend composed of the top primings—leaf that is picked nearer the uppermost part of the plant. After completion, the cigars are aged for a full year. The cigars are then boxed with a numbered certificate of inspection. There are five sizes, all in 54 ring and ranging in length from 4½ to 8½ inches. This is called the Robusto Series and other ring-gauge inspired series have been forthcoming. The careful selection of leaf and double aging brings out a light, creamy smooth flavor in this cigar. In fact, it is surprisingly mild, an HPH 1.5–2. This is one rarified cigar that can really give you your money’s worth, as it can be smoked practically right on down to the band. Far more robust is the Habano Ecuadorian-wrapped Julius Caesar, named after J. C. Newman (that’s what the J. C. stands for).
Diplomáticos—(Cuba) One of the few Havana cigars in which every shape is handrolled.
Don Diego—(Dominican Republic/Nicaragua) Created by noted Cuban cigar maker Pepe Garcia, one of the first Cuban expatriates to resume his cigar-making skills outside of Cuba. This handmade cigar was created in 1964, to fill the niche left by the embargoed departure of all those great Cuban “Don” cigars, most notably the Don Marcos. Some sizes of the Don Diego, such as their Coronas and Lonsdales, are offered in both AMS and EMS wrappers. With Santo Domingo filler and binder and a Connecticut wrapper, it is a mild to full-bodied cigar (depending on shape) and ages very well. The European version is slightly heavier in taste, an HPH 2.5. Inspired by that, the Don Diego Fuerte is a beefier blend as well. Of special interest is their limited production Don Diego Connoisseur vintage cigar.
Don Juan—(Nicaragua) Made with Nicaraguan and Mexican filler, and a Nicaraguan binder and wrapper.
Don Julian—(Canary Islands) A mild HPH 1.5–2.0 that is quite popular in Spain, although difficult to find in most other countries.
Don Lino—(Honduras) Handmade, with a Havana seed filler, Sumatra binder, and choice of Connecticut, Sumatra, or Maduro wrapper. A variation of the Don Lino, the Don Lino Oro cigar features a Seco filler, Connecticut binder and Cameroon wrapper. Top of the line is the Don Lino Havana Reserve, a mild tasting silky cigar with all Connecticut filler, wrapper and binder. A light to medium taste (1.5–2 on the HackerScale).
Don Marcos—(Dominican Republic) Made in seven sizes.
Don Melo—(Honduran) The first thing I wanted to know about this cigar was who is Don Melo, the elderly gentleman pictured on the namesake band? Turns out he is Don Melo Bueso, the father of the man who currently runs the La Flor de Copan factory where this cigar is made. (See? There is no limit to what you can learn by reading this book! And just like the first edition, pretty soon, other people will begin copying this information and putting it in their articles and books.) It is a brand that has been around since 1896, so it is not surprising that this Honduran puro came out with a centennial edition vintage cigar that was only offered in 1996-97. This limited edition cigar was made with aged tobaccos, featured a specially designed box and band, and came in four large ringed sizes.
Don Pepe—(Brazil) Made by Suerdieck, this short-filler handmade cigar comes in four sizes, a Robusto, Slim Panetela, Double Corona, and a Half Corona. Its filler blend of Brazilian and Dominican tobaccos, plus a Brazilian-grown Bahia-Mata Fina binder and Brazilian-grown Sumatra wrapper all combine to produce a very mild taste. HPH 1.5
Don Ramos—(Honduras) Supposedly the most popular Honduran cigar in Great Britain.
Don Rex—(Honduras) Started in 1987. Handmade.
Don Tomás—(Honduras) Introduced in 1974, this cigar takes its name from the president of the company at that time. The blends and overall makeup of the cigar have changed through the years, but the Don Tomás is currently a medium-strength cigar with Honduran filler and binder and Sumatra wrappers in a choice of Claro/Claro, Natural/Colorado, and Maduro. The Don Tomás Special Edition is a much higher-grade cigar with a Connecticut shade wrapper and hence, a milder and more refined taste. Both cigars fall into the HPH 2 category of strength. There was an International Series brought out in 1996, and one of its latest cigars from 2012 is the Don Tomás Special Edition Corojo, with its Honduran Talanga and Nicaraguan filler, Mexican San Andreas binder, and a rugged Honduran-grown Talanga Corojo wrapper.
Dona Flor—(Brazil) With Mata Fina and Mata Norte tobaccos from the rich black soil of the Recôncavo Basin from Bahia, along with Connecticut shade, all produce some very rich, earthy cigars, ranging from the Rothschild to the Gran Corona to the double corona.
Drew Estate—(Nicaragua) In 1998, riding on the cresting wave of the US cigar boom, Jonathon Drew moved from New York City to Estelí, Nicaragua, and began what many considered an “outlaw” cigar empire. Today his company has not only outlasted the boom, it has prospered, while maintaining its “off-the-wall” persona. Who else could come out with successful cigars like the My Uzi Weighs A Ton, and Big Black Rat? Today Drew Estate’s La Vieja Habana (its first brand), Acid, Natural, Chateau Real, and the highly aromatically infused Ambrosia and Kahlúa cigars abound, along with many others including the broadleaf-wrapped Liga Privada. Its new factory cranks out 70,000 cigars a day,
Ducados—(Spain) A small, Sumatra-wrapped cigarillo manufactured by Tabacalera, the state-owned tobacco agency.
Dunhill—(Canary Islands) These cigars, with the dark brown (formerly black) oval on the band, were originally developed in 1986 for the US market, which was the only country in which they were sold. Tobaccos used were Brazil and Dominican in the filler, with a Dominican binder and a Connecticut shade wrapper. The Canary Islands cigars were well constructed of long filler and are handrolled, but were overshadowed by the wider acceptance among smokers of the Dunhill Aged Cigars. No longer produced, I am leaving them in this Chapter in case you should come across a box. At least you’ll know what they are.
Dunhill 1907—(Dominican Republic) These medium-mild cigars were launched in 2014 to pay homage to the founding year of Dunhill, and reflect a renewed focus on the company’s illustrious history. With a Honduran wrapper and Dominican binder and wrapper, it is available in four sizes: Rothschild, Robusto, Churchill, and a box-pressed Toro.
Dunhill Aged Cigars—(Nicaragua) Originally made in the Dominican Republic, these mild-mannered cigars are now being made in Nicaragua. These cigars have the blue oval on the band. They were first introduced in 1989, following Dunhill’s amiable departure from its Cuban connections. More appropriately identified on the box as the Dunhill Aged Cigar, the first offering was made with vintage 1986 tobaccos. Because there were still some Dunhill Havana cigars left in Europe, the new Dunhill Aged Cigars were launched in the US and have since become overwhelmingly successful. Part of their lure is the fact that each year’s vintage is printed on the box. The 1987 vintage was made available on a worldwide basis in the fall of 1991. Starting in 1996, the vintage years on the boxes were changed much more frequently, which obviously means there are fewer cigars being produced of any given crop. So if you find a year that you like, buy it now!
Today, this superbly constructed cigar is sold throughout Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, and in duty-free shops, although some of the bigger ring gauges are not available in Germany or Switzerland. Every cigar is aged in cedar for a minimum of three months, and sometimes even longer. In 1993, to celebrate the centenary of Alfred Dunhill Ltd., a special Dunhill Aged “Centena” cigar (a 6x50 Torpedo) was brought out. No, it wasn’t aged for 100 years, but it did feature a special 1893–1993 date on the band and each box was individually numbered with a Master Blender’s serial number. The shape was a very smokable 6x50 Belicoso with a curly head. In 2014 a three-compartment piano-hinged box was produced containing vintages 2003, 2006, and the 2009, which only came as part of this three-vintage set. No matter which of the Dominican Dunhills you select, with its extra aging, superb construction, and strict adherence to using only the best vintage years for its tobacco, these are one of the best medium-flavored cigars on today’s market.
Dunhill Signed Cigars—(Nicaragua) Since being purchased by British American Tobacco, this brand has taken on new packaging and an entirely new, spicier taste, all of which were ungraded again in 2014, with a renewed emphasis on the brand’s 1907 origins at 1A St. James’ in London. Each box, which has been redesigned with a new, brown color scheme, is signed by the maker.
Dunhill Small Cigars—(Holland) Introduced in 1986 to European and Far East markets, these “dry” type cigars were not sold in the US until 1991. Made by the famous Schimmelpenninck factory in Wageningen, in the south of Holland, all Dunhill Small Cigars are fashioned of 100 percent tobacco and feature a mild Sumatra sandleaf wrapper with Java binder and natural Brazil Bahia and Java tobacco leaf filler. There are three sizes available: Miniatures, Señoritas, and Slim Panetelas; an after-dinner Corona size was brought out for the Far Eastern market in late 1996. While one might run the risk of an altercation by walking into a bar and asking for a “pack of Señoritas,” I find this size the most practical for a satisfying short smoke.
Dutch Masters—(Puerto Rico) The cigar made famous in the ‘50s by Ernie Kovacs. Produced on machines, of short filler and homogenized binder.
EPC—(Dominican Republic) The initials stand for Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, who, with his son Ernesto “Ernie” III and daughter, Lissette, produce limited-edition cigars each year, along with a line of what the family calls “core” brands in both natural and maduro wrappers. It is sometimes confusing to keep up with all of their limited editions, and one must act quickly if you want to snag a box of favorites, as their output is limited. Ernesto, Sr., who got his start by launching La Gloria Cubana (an old Cuban brand) in the US and built it into a best seller with the help of General Cigar, supervises the cigar making, while his son and daughter engage in the marketing of his highly coveted smokes. Their newest releases include The Inch—a cigar that is one inch in diameter, and surpassing even that, now have a whopping 7x70, called the Inch C-99. In 2014 they introduced a three-cigar series called La Historia that chronicles some of the notable family members. In addition, they have released a medium-strength Fifth Anniversary double robusto celebrating the company’s start in 2009.
Ejecutivos—(Mexico) A powerhouse of a little cigar, with a satisfying although somewhat unrefined finish. Made in the San Andrés Valley and sold in Australia and USA. One of these at a time is enough. Stops just short of being overwhelming.
El Glorioso Dominicano—(Dominican Republic) If there is such as thing as medium full, this cigar is it. One of the most consistent smokes from after lunch until after dinner. Started in 1986, this family-owned brand is completely handmade with a filler blend that is a mixture of Honduran and Dominican leaf, and sports a Dominican binder, all of which, when combined with the Connecticut shade wrapper, creates a pleasant 2.5 on the Highly Prejudiced HackerScale. The fullest taste comes from the 54 ring Pyramid. The El Glorioso name was inspired by Havana’s famed El Cubano Glorioso brand. The El Glorioso cigar started out in New York, but ironically, just as the first edition of this book was published, this excellent cigar became semi-dormant. From 1993 until 1995 it was not to be found, just as the cigar boom was booming. What a mistake, as it was one of the finer, if lesser-known, smokables. Then in 1996 it once again resurfaced, made in a new factory (the same one where the excellent Romeo y Julietas are made) and with a similar medium-full blend. The cigars are uncellophaned and six shapes are offered: Lonsdale, Robusto, Pyramid, Churchill, Corona, and Panetela. A Maduro in three sizes was introduced in 1996. I can attest from experience, this cigar ages extremely well, as some of the original cigars I put down in 1993 are now richer and smoother in flavor and have developed a wonderful oily sheen on the wrappers. These new cigars should be worth trying as well, as long as they don’t disappear from the scene like their predecessors.
El Producto—(Puerto Rico) This mass-market favorite, which was started in the United States in 1916, is now being machine made in Puerto Rico. The El Producto Queens were a favorite of the late George Burns.
El Rey del Mundo—(Cuba) The name literally means, “The King of the World.” Started in 1882 by Antonio Allones, at one time this was the highest-priced Cuban cigar you could buy, and the picturesque Victorian factory turned out from 7,000 to 8,000 cigars a day. It was originally sold in Europe by Tabacalera, the Spanish tobacco consortium. The same factory also made the Rafael Gonzales cigar and produced one of the first (although not the original) Lonsdale shapes. One of most popular cigars in England, it gradually reduced its production but used the very best tobaccos available. This historic Havana brand is surprisingly mild, with an HPH of 1.2—2, and would be a good introductory cigar for anyone who wishes to enter the Cuban realm gently.
El Rey del Mundo—(Honduras) Introduced to US smokers in late 1993, this 100 percent handmade cigar is a puro, being completely made from Honduran-grown tobaccos. It is a heavy, musky, and deep flavored cigar, and is available in a wide variety of forty-seven standard (and some not-so-standard) shapes and sizes, including cello’d and uncello’d cigars and a great number of glass and aluminum tubed variations.
El Rico Habano—(United States) A Cuban brand that started out relatively late—1948 to be exact—and ceased production during the revolution. It is now being made by hand in Miami. It is a pleasant, medium to medium-strong tasting cigar, with a red and white “RH” band that I find personally appealing. Now, if they had only called it Rico Cigaro Habano the band would have had all three of my initials and I could have claimed it as a personalized cigar.
El Sublimado—(Dominican Republic) Although rather pricey, this cigar did make some notable headway from its birth in 1993 until it ceased to legally exist as a brand in 1996, when it changed its named to La Diva. But the origins of this cigar are as follows: In Spanish, El Sublimado means “the sublime.” The name originated when a cigar roller, upon smoking one of the first test cigars in the early 1990s, exclaimed, “Este puro tiene un savor sublimado.” Translated, it simply means, “This cigar has a sublime flavor.” Everyone in the room immediately agreed that the word “sublimado” was an ideal description of the new blend, and thus, in 1993, a cigar was born. El Sublimado owes its claim to fame to a unique and highly guarded manufacturing technique that actually marries the flavor of fifty-year-old “Noces d’Or” Grande Champagne cognac with carefully chosen Dominican filler and binder leaves during the curing process. After aging, the fermented tobaccos are paired with an excellent Connecticut shade wrapper. The handmade cigars are then aged for six months to a year, depending on shape. It is interesting to note that all single cigars (that is, those cigars that were not boxed) were available only in tubes, including a handy five-pack. This, of course, was to keep the pungent cognac fragrance away from the non-El Sublimado cigars. The cigars were available in the most popular US shapes, including Corona, Robusto, Churchill and Pyramid. El Sublimado cigars did indeed have a very light, but distinctive cognac undercurrent of taste and saved precious time for the smoker who was partial to dipping his cigar in cognac, as the El Sublimado was already anointed from the very first puff. They were a bit heady and rated a tasty 2.5 HPH. In 2011 a small stash of these cigars—which had been aging for around ten years at the time, was discovered by two Americans, who purchased the lot and put them on the market. They also discovered that the original cigar maker still had bales of the original tobacco in his warehouse. Thus, the cigars are being made again, albeit on a very small basis. A new variation has the wrappers anointed in single malt whisky as well.
Excalibur—(Honduras) The name given to the Honduran-made Hoyo de Monterrey cigars that are sold in Europe, Great Britain, and Canada. (For a complete description of this excellent cigar, see its listing in this Chapter under Hoyo de Monterrey—Honduras.)
Falstaff—(Austria) A rich-tasting non-humidified cigar with Brazil wrapper. Made in Vienna by Austria Tabak, it is available only in Europe.
- D. Grave & Son—(Honduras) For the first time since 1954, this famous American cigar-making company is once again selling a long leaf handmade cigar. But due to the high cost of labor in the US, its new cigar is being made in Honduras, where it is fashioned of Honduran, Mexican, and Dominican filler, a Cuban seed Honduran binder, and Connecticut broadleaf wrapper. It is a pleasantly meaty cigar that hovers around the HPH 2.5 mark. Well worth investigating.
- D. Grave & Son—(United States) Founded by Frederick D. Grave in 1884, this historic company is one of the last of the old time US cigar manufacturers. However, the company is still very much in business and still produces classic cigars and shapes, including their original cigar, Judge’s Cave (1884), as well as their Muniemaker series (1916), and their glass-tubed, cedar wrapped Bouquet Special (1916), which still proudly boasts it is “the millionaire’s cigar at an average man’s price.” Still owned and operated by the founding family, brothers Richard and Frederick Grave III and Fred’s daughter Dorothy Grave Hoyt have maintained an all tobacco quality with both handrolled and machine-made cigars among the ten shapes they produce. The only concession to modern times has been the change from long filler to short filler in 1964. In 1996 the company brought out its first hand-rolled cigar since the 1950s, but due to the high cost of labor in the US, this new Graves cigar is being made in Honduras (see above). Aside from its offshore cigar, the high-quality Grave cigars are still made with sun-grown Connecticut broadleaf wrappers, selected broadleaf binders and domestically grown filler. Located in New Haven, Connecticut, the factory has occupied the same brick building since 1901. Even its cigar boxes are classics, and the colorful Judge’s Cave label is a nostalgic reminder of the days of the five-cent cigar. The cost of a box of F. D. Graves has risen slightly since those early years, but they are still comfortably affordable and make for a refreshing and nostalgic change-of-pace smoke. All of its machine-made cigars fall easily within the HPH 2 range, but their new Honduran is a robust and feisty 2.5.
Felix Assouline—(Honduras) Although Felix Assouline has been in the retail, distributing, and manufacturing side of the tobacco industry for over two decades, he only started his cigar factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, in 2012. They also grow Honduran tobacco in Jamastran and Jalapa, and manufacture six proprietary brands (most of which are box pressed), including EGO, Something Special, Havana Sunrise Reserve, Ringo, CSB, and 2Saints cigars. The first four are blended with Jalapa Nicaraguan fillers, Indonesian binders, and Habano Criollo ’98 wrappers, and are medium to full in strength. Their CSB and 2Saints Cigars feature tobaccos grown on their farms in Jamastran, Honduras. CSB Cigars are offered with Connecticut and Habano Maduro wrappers. These are medium to full flavored cigars. 2Saints feature a dark ligero wrapper from Jamastran and are full flavored. The company also plans on introducing a non-French tobacco version of Le Navarre cigar from southwestern France, which will be renamed Les Mousquetaires.
Fighting Cock—(Philippines) You probably won’t see many Friends of Animals smoking this cigar, but cock fighting is almost a national sport in the Philippines. And so it is that each of the four shapes is named after a champion rooster who literally had to kill to escape from becoming Sunday dinner. There’s Texas Red (Lonsdale); Smokin’ Lulu (Perfecto), Rooster Arturo (Robusto), and C.O.D. (Churchill). Ingredients are Philippine filler and binder and Java wrapper, which give this otherwise mild cigar a bit of a bite … but nothing like the bite from a real fighting cock.
Fleur de Savane—(France) One of the most popular cigars in France. Made in one of the two government factories owned by SEITA, the French tobacco consortium, Fleur de Savane is a blend of Central African tobaccos with a Cameroon wrapper. A very wide range of cigars is offered, including their petit mini-cigars, cigarillos, and “full sized” cigars, of which the largest is a half Corona with an unfinished foot. This brand is one of the few SEITA-made cigars that is exported, in this case, specifically to Spain.
Felipe Gregorio—(Honduras) A puro cigar, named after its creator, Phillip Gregory Wynne. Available in various sizes and in some very imaginative figurado shapes.
Flor de Cano—(Cuba) Started in Havana by Tomás and José Cano. It is not widely found today. But I found one, so I can report that it is an HPH 2.
Flor de Filipinas—(Philippines) A very mild-tasting and inexpensive “puro.” HPH 1.5.
Flor de Honduras—(Honduras) A cigar with Sumatra wrapper but two different filler blends. A special Havana blend is used for European exports. Non-Havana tobaccos are used for the rich-tasting US imported cigar.
Flor de Jalapa—(Nicaragua) The name translates to “flower of Jalapa,” which is one of the two great tobacco-growing valleys in Nicaragua.
Flor de Machado—(Portugal) Made in the Azore Islands.
Flor de Manila—(Philippines) One of the newest of the handmade cigars to come out of the northernmost Cagayan Valley, with its rich volcanic slopes, this brand was introduced in 1994. Much of the filler is grown from Cuban seed. Available in five different small-ring sizes, the Sumatra wrappers and a unique European-style pyramid are my favorites of the offering, even though they are a mild HPH 1.5.
Flor del Caribe—(Honduras) An early-day Cuban brand that surfaced in Honduras shortly after the embargo. Still completely made by hand.
Flor del Isla—(Philippines) Made by hand, with long leaf filler.
Fonseca—(Cuba) Established in 1891 and named after the brand’s creator, F. E. Fonseca. Not one of the most popular Havana names, the Fonseca nonetheless enjoys a following of cigar smokers who prefer a very mild (in Havana terms) taste. There isn’t a lot to choose from in the Fonseca line, as Cubatabaco makes only two sizes, a Lonsdale-shaped No. 1, measuring 6¼x42, and a smaller Corona sized Cosacos. Not easily found, unless you happen to be in Spain, where most of the production is exported (although I have also encountered the No. 1 in Canada). Each individual cigar is hand wrapped in a thin sheet of tissue paper, which is secured by the band, as a tribute to the old ways of doing things.
Fonseca—(Dominican Republic) Like many of the old Cuban brands, this one is also being made in the Dominican Republic, with a Dominican filler, Mexican binder, and Connecticut shade wrapper. There is also a Connecticut broadleaf maduro. The aged versions of this cigar are called Vintage Vitolas and are available in three sizes. An HPH 2–2.5, it is one of the best of the “new breed” of cigar brands, but then, it is made by the same expert blenders and rollers who used to make the great Romeo y Julieta, so what else could you expect?
The Foundry—(Unknown) This is a sub-brand of General Cigar, and is the brainchild of their Creative Director Michael Giannini. The theme of these annual limited editions is “off-the-wall,” or in the case of the 2014 Hell-ion and Hal-ion offerings, out of this world, for their boxes do truly say, “Made with Martian tobacco.” I wonder if NASA knows about this? Other past offerings paid homage to AC and DC electricity, the elements, and free thinkers like H. G. Wells and Albert Einstein. All are made with proprietary tobaccos that are never identified. Suffice to say, this might very well be what they are smoking at Steampunk conventions.
Fuego Eterno—(Dominican Republic) A strong HPH 2.5 cigar whose name, appropriately enough, means “eternal fire.” Made with a Dominican filler and binder and a Connecticut shade wrapper.
Galiano—(Dominican Republic) A very pleasant and mild cigar (HPH 1.5–2) with Dominican filler and binder and Connecticut shade wrapper. It has been made since 1992 and is quite popular in the Caribbean. This cigar was first imported into the US in 1996 and is made in eight sizes.
Gallaher—(Holland) One of the world’s major manufacturers of European-style non-humidified cigars, utilizing primarily Java, Sumatra, and Cameroon tobaccos.
Garcia y Vega—(United States) Named after the two Cuban families who started the brand in New York during the late nineteenth century. At first it was known only locally, but then, after moving the operation to Tampa, the cigar took off nationally. Today it is made in Alabama by machine, and offers a choice of four different wrappers: Connecticut, Mexican in Candela and Natural, and a Mexican Maduro wrapper that was introduced in 1993. The Garcia y Vega incorporates some of the best Mexican-grown Sumatra in their cigars. It is a difficult cigar to categorize, as it is one of the few that falls in the twilight zone between a mass market and a premium cigar.
Garo—(Dominican Republic) In 1996 Dr. Garo Bouldoukian introduced his first line of cigars. Today Garo Habano produces the smooth Blue, the chocolaty Maduro, the classic, Habana-style Los Lectores, and the full-bodied Aniversario, along with their newest, the Centum and La Preferencia.
Gispert—(Cuba) An old name among Havanas, and one that was noted for its mildness. It was one of the new Havanas in which every shape is completely machine made.
Gispert—(Nicaragua) A Cuban brand once made in Jamaica and now being made in Nicaragua for select tobacconists in the US.
Graycliff—(Bahamas) Named after the famous five-star resort in Nassau, these cigars are the inspiration of Graycliff owner Enrico Garzarolli, and his son Paolo and daughter Roberta. The brand was launched in 1997 when the late Avelino Lara, who originally rolled Cohibas for Castro, defected and began making cigars for the owners of the elegant Graycliff restaurant and their customers. Considering all the rare, centuries-old wine the restaurant has stored in its cellars, these cigars became a perfect after-dinner complement. Sadly, Avelino passed away a few years ago, but a new factory has been built on the resort’s property and there are now more than nine cigars in the line, ranging from the original medium-bodied Red Label to the full-powered Grand Cru and Espresso to one of their newest premiums, the Silver, which comes packaged like a brick of silver bullion. They also produce an occasional thirty-inch long culebra, for those who want to whip out a real conversation starter at the next smoker. There is even a Graycliff chocolate factory to go with its cigars, not to mention Graycliff coffee.
Griffin’s—(Dominican Republic) Exclusively distributed by Davidoff, this premium cigar was named after the famous Geneva nightclub. The owner began achieving a fair amount of fame, not only for his popular establishment, but also for the special cigars he had made for his patrons. Inasmuch as Zino Davidoff was a well-known personality in this beautiful European city, it was only natural that soon the Griffin cigar would transcend the shoreline of Lac Léman. Originally a medium-light taste, the Griffin’s blend was updated in 1995 and improved to appeal to a slightly spicier palate. As a result, the Robusto became one of my favorite “sundown cigars.” There are two to three different tobaccos in the Dominican filler, depending on the size and taste of each individual cigar, and a Dominican binder and Connecticut wrapper are used for the complete line. Two new sizes were subsequently added, a 5x43 No. 500 and the aforementioned 5x50 Robusto. A relatively low-key brand, it was given a slight boost in 2014 with the spicier launch of The Griffin’s 30th Anniversary Edition cigar.
Gurkha—(Dominican Republic/Honduras) Headed by company president Kaizad Hansotia, this brand, known for lofty prices and flamboyant avant garde packaging, produces over four million cigars a year, including Royal Challenge, the Assassin, the 15 Year–aged Cellar Reserve, and the Louis XIII cognac-infused HMR (His Majesty’s Reserve), which sells for $15,000 a box.
- Upmann—(Cuba) In case you’ve always wondered what the H. stood for, this cigar was started in 1844 by Herman Upmann, a European banker who loved Havana cigars so much, he quit his job at the bank, moved to Cuba, and started his own brand. In its heyday, the H. Upmann Cigar Factory produced more than 200 different sizes. During the pre-Castro years of the past century, the H. Upmann brand was owned by the respected Menendez and Garcia families. The original factory was in operation until recently, and additional brands besides H. Upmann were produced there. It was one of the oldest continuously produced cigars in Cuba, but now operations have moved to the Romeo y Julieta factory. Still, the Cuban H. Upmann has retained its deep, earthy flavor that seems to come directly from the richest topsoil of the Vuelta Abajo itself. It remains one of the all-time great Havanas, with a pleasant medium strength HPH reading of 2.
- Upmann—(Dominican Republic) A consistent classic among cigar smokers, even though up until 1985, some cigars were machine bunched (they became totally handmade by 1987). And starting in 1990, the wrapper was gradually switched from Cameroon to Indonesian leaf. Burt Reynolds is no stranger to the Upmann 2000, nor are countless other cigar men who have made it the most popular shape in the line. All H. Upmanns have a very pleasant but definite undertaste of sweetness. For years I had a theory that this was because the cigar was made on the same site where a sugar cane plantation once stood. However, upon personal investigation in La Romana, where the Dominican H. Upmanns are handmade, I found there was no correlation; the Dominican tobaccos used in this cigar are grown elsewhere on the island. So much for theories. It’s a great cigar anyway, a 2 to 2.5 on the HPH. As a final matter of interest, Upmann has one of the largest selections of humidified tubed cigars. And not to be overlooked is one of their newest entries aimed at The Millennials, the medium strength The Banker.
Hamlet—(Great Britain) A popular and mild tasting British small cigar. Easily found in pubs. Does not smoke well when accidentally dropped in beer. I discovered this through personal investigation and observation.
Havana Classico—(United States) Made in Miami.
Havanitos—(Austria) An extremely popular European cigarillo, with a Java wrapper, and a filler blend of Indonesia, Brazil, and Havana leaf. Widely distributed throughout Austria, France, in fact, most of Europe. Easily recognized in its gold-colored tin, it is medium mild in flavor.
Hav-A-Tampa—(United States) This extremely popular little cigar had its beginnings around WWII, when the company started out with Tampa Nuggets and Tampa Straights. They became enormously popular. Then, in the late 1940s, a Tampa fellow by the name of Gene Pride developed that famous wooden tip. The handy shape and unique self-contained wooden mouthpiece made the Hav-a-Tampa an instant hit with smokers. Today, Hav-a-Tampa is manufactured in a fully automated factory.
Henri Winterman—(Holland) This brand helped popularize the affordable small, European-style cigar in most of the world. Their Cafe Creme is one of the most popular sizes.
Henry Clay—(Dominican Republic) Named after the eighteenth century US senator and statesman who dominated the Whig Party from the 1820s through the 1830s, whose platform was to transform the US from an agricultural bartering nation into a country that relied more on economic principles. Who says you can’t learn history from cigars? Like its namesake, this brand is an unsung hero among those who know affordable cigars and like a full, semi-heavy taste. Originally a Cuban brand, the label and band have remained unchanged over the years, except for the obvious omission of “Havana” in both word and contents. Today’s cigar is a tasty combination of long leaf Dominican filler complemented by a Dominican binder. A slightly stronger blend is used for Europe. The Connecticut broadleaf wrapper is not the prettiest in the world, but it is made of choice tobacco, nonetheless. It is purposely made “out of round,” in a style that was popular many years ago. This cigar comes in three sizes, of which the Brevas a la Conserva is my favorite. The HPH 2.5 Henry Clay cigar is well worth investigating for a change-of-pace affordable smoke.
Hirschsprung—(Denmark) A delicious Dutch-type tubed cigar that is both full sized and full-bodied. It incorporates Brazil and Havana tobaccos in its blend, and is made by Nobel.
House of Lords—(Canada) A Havana-blend, short-filler machine-made cigar that is produced for the Canadian market.
Hoja de Oro—(Mexico) Contains both Mexican and Cuban seed San Andrés tobaccos in the filler, a Moron binder and a wonderful Mexican-grown Sumatra wrapper.
Hoyo de Casa—(Mexico) Made in both natural and Maduro wrappers in the San Andrés region of Mexico.
Hoyo de Monterrey—(Cuba) One of the most famous of Cuban brands, Hoyo de Monterrey was originated by José Gener (whose name is still on the box) in either 1865 or 1867—the records vary. Nonetheless, this was one of the first of the “brand name” cigars to be made in Cuba. Prior to that time, most cigars were sold by shape and size, without trademarked names. The name Hoyo (which means valley or low spot) de Monterrey was inspired by the San Juan y Martinez Monterrey valley plantation, which was located in the Vuelta Abajo’s Pinar del Rio region of Cuba, where the cigar’s tobacco was grown. The flavor of today’s Hoyo is quite a bit different than that of the original brand, being lighter and much more subtle in taste. (As an aside, it is a bit ironic that the Honduran version of this brand seems to carry a bit more “meat” in its flavor, while the Cuban brand is now a medium-strength cigar.) The Hoyo de Monterrey brand also carries a sub-brand (much like the Honduran’s Excalibur), simply called “Le Hoyo,” which is listed elsewhere in this chapter. It is a much headier cigar than the regular line, which hovers around the HPH 2—2.5 ranges, depending on size.
Hoyo de Monterrey—(Honduras) The Cuban version of this cigar dropped from sight almost immediately after the Cuban embargo, as all available supplies were quickly snatched up. But by 1963, this hearty cigar resurfaced as a handmade Honduran product that continued to be made with Havana leaf, which had been judiciously stored in the US since before the embargo. The Honduran Hoyo de Monterrey “made with real Havana leaf” boxes and cigars could still be found in tobacconists’ humidors as late as 1971, and I have vivid memories of greedily buying these cigars and squirreling them away for months at a time. It was the closest thing to brand loyalty that I ever knew. Today this richly satisfying cigar is blended with Nicaragua, Honduras, and Santo Domingo Cuban seed filler, flavored with a Connecticut binder, and topped off with a superb Ecuadorian-grown Sumatra wrapper. In addition, the special Excalibur sub-brand of the Hoyo de Monterrey is one of the finest after-dinner cigars on the market, especially the Number 1, which I buy by the box. And for a quick change of pace smoke, try its miniatures, which come packed twenty to a pocket-sized tin.
Hugo Cassar—(Nicaragua) A series of cigars named after the original importer and now marketed by the Ventura Cigar Company. Its tagline is, “If these cigars were any better, they’d be too expensive.” They are, indeed, budget priced.
- Cortès—(Belgium) Made in Belgium in a modern, sprawling blue-and-white factory that matches the colors of their banded and tubed high-end cigars, the J. Cortes brand is made by the Vandermarliere family and is a relatively new entry to the world market, even though the company itself has been making cigars since 1926. Made of 100 percent tobacco, these mild tasting cigars (a pleasant HPH 2) range in size from the Mini cigarillo all the way up to the 140mm x 15.1mm Longfiller. Their tubed High Class is one of my favorites. Up until recently, the Vandermarliere family, one of the few family-operated cigar-making businesses left in Belgium, was only known for its less-expensive machine-made small-sized Neos, Nic, Taf, and Don Carlos cigars. Tobaccos used in their various machine-made cigars (depending on the brand) include leaf from Cuba, Java, Sumatra, Paraguay, Brazil, and Cameroon. Approximately 220 billion cigars are produced annually, of which 75 percent are exported, primarily to Germany and France, as well as approximately eighteen other markets, including America.
John Aylesbury—(Germany) One of the most renowned and widespread brands in Germany. Not really one factory, but a consortium of forty-two tobacconists throughout Germany as well as numerous factories and importers who have assembled a vast array of cigars from Holland, Germany, Honduras, the Dominican—just about anywhere cigars are made, as long as there is quality. Most are made by the various factories under the John Aylesbury name. A few are now being imported into the United States.
José Benito—(Dominican Republic) Basically a Central American Connecticut seed binder with an Indonesian wrapper and a blend of Olor and Cuban seed Dominican fillers. It is right between the Dominican Romeo y Julieta and the Pléiades in taste. A good medium-strength cigar that has its origins with the Cuban tobacco growers of long ago. The Benito family moved from Spain to Cuba in the mid 1800s and soon became one of the largest exporters of Havana tobacco. Eventually they made their way to the Dominican Republic in 1941 and became one of the first cigar makers there. Today the company is run by the namesake’s direct descendants.
José Llopis—(Panama) A long filler cigar made with a unique blend of tobaccos from Honduras, Panama, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. Priced right, this is an excellent cigar for the money. The Llopis Gold is its top of the line, and its gold band and slightly more refined taste sets it apart. Their No. 4 and Robusto are milder. Worth searching out if you’ve never smoked a Panamanian cigar. You can readily find them in the Madrid airport.
José Martí Cubre Libre—(Nicaragua). Since its launch in 1996 to take advantage of the US cigar boom, this cigar has switched from the Dominican to Honduras and now finally to Nicaragua, where it is at last getting some character into its blend. However, in my opinion, it still remains a very light, transparent-tasting HPH 1.5. The band looks like a Punch, but this is definitely not a Punch-tasting cigar.
José Melendi—(United States) José Melendi was a master cigar blender from Cuba who established a factory that handmade clear Havana cigars in New York. Eventually, he decided to create a cigar using his own name. In time, Melendi became a consultant to other cigar manufacturers. Today, this cigar is machine made of imported long filler, with a broadleaf binder and Cameroon wrapper. However, it was discontinued as of 1997 but has resurfaced in the US as a two-dollar cigar.
Joya de Canarias—(Canary Islands) Introduced in August 1990. Shade grown wrapper, long leaf filler.
Joya de Nicaragua—(Nicaragua) This interesting cigar, the oldest brand in Nicaragua, was the direct result of Cuban expatriates emigrating to Nicaragua right after the US embargo. Here, they discovered soil very close to their own back in Cuba. They made their discovery known and consequently, Joya de Nicaragua was created in 1965 by General Anastasio Somoza and his partners. Ever since then, this cigar has experienced tremendous rises and falls in its imagery. Its name means “Jewel of Nicaragua,” and for a great many years, it was one of the most consistently great-tasting cigars on the market, although it has never been as well known as it deserves to be. Part of this problem is with the country of origin. The Nicaraguan revolution of 1979, and its resultant confiscation of the Joya factory did not help much. Nor did a subsequent firebombing of its factory, or the US embargo of 1985–90, during which time the last available supplies of Joya de Nicaraguan cigars were rapidly snatched up. After all, it was a delicious cigar, utilizing tobaccos from Nicaragua’s most fertile valleys, Esteli for the Connecticut seed wrappers and Jalapa for the Havana seed binder and filler.
Unfortunately, after the embargo was lifted in 1990, quality and consistency began to suffer. But then, it must be difficult rolling a cigar with any consistency when bullets are ricocheting off your worktable. Today, there is a delicate balance in Nicaragua between the Sandinistas and the Contras, with President Daniel Ortega heading up the government. The factories have been turned back to the workers and changes are supposedly under way. But tobacco growers still do not get paid until the end of each year and money problems always mean production problems. Whether the Joya de Nicaragua will ever regain its excellent quality on a fulltime basis is still unknown.
However, as a matter of interest, just before the first US edition of this book was published in 1993, I was able to smoke two Joya de Nicaragua cigars, as well as a “Habano Maduro,” that were all made in 1991. They were superb, as was a very dark and rich tasting Costa Rican Maduro that I smoked shortly after the fourth US printing of The Ultimate Cigar Book. And in the summer of 1996 I smoked a current batch of Joyas that were as good as any cigar ever produced by that country. In fact, I immediately went out and bought some boxes to age. These cigars featured a new blend that was not as strong as in the past but were very flavorful and refined. There is also a new Maduro Delux, made with a Costa Rican wrapper in three large ring sizes that are worthy of exploring. So the tobacco and the skill are still there. The brand was purchased a few years ago by Dr. Alejandro Ernesto Martínez Cuenca, who brought out the celebrated Antonio 1970, which seemed to reflect the older taste. Dr. Martínez’s son has now taken over operations and under its current Drew estates umbrella, it is slowly regaining traction.
Juan López—(Cuba) A light, almost aromatic cigar—unusual for a Havana—that is clearly aimed at bringing the non-Havana smoker into the fold. This is a very old brand, whose full name is “Flor de Juan López,” now being made with a decidedly new blend of tobaccos.
KBF Smoking Jacket Cigars—The initials stand for Kelner Boutique Factory, and reflect the fact that Henki Kelner’s son, Hendrik Kelner, Jr., after twenty years of working with his father helping produce Davidoff cigars, has branched off on his own. But the name is a bit confusing because his brand is called Smoking Jacket Cigars, so I didn’t know whether to put it under the “K” or “S” listing, finally deciding to put him further up in the alphabet. Still, Henki, Jr. is quick to point out that, “The logo is not a bird or a ‘V’; it is the lapel of a smoking jacket.” Four sizes have initially been introduced, a 6x46 Favoritos, 5x52 Robusto, 7x50 Toro Magno, and a 4½x56 Short Robusto, running in HPH scale from 3 to 4 in strength.
Kentucky Cheroots—(United States) The name says it all; that’s what these stogies are. Made of 100 percent Kentucky and Tennessee tobacco, so maybe they should be called Kentucky/Tennessee Cheroots. A dark fired-cured dry “seegar” that’s just right for firing up after a hard day plowin’ the back forty.
King Edward—(United States) One of the most popular Christmas gifts you can give in England is a box of King Edward cigars. The brand, of course, pays tribute to Queen Victoria’s son, who first uttered those famous words shortly after his succession to the throne, “Gentlemen, you may smoke.” At one time, this was the best selling mass-market cigar in the world. Still being made, although now by machine, in the American state of Georgia. An identical short-filler cigar is also made in Canada for exclusive distribution in that country.
Knockando—(Dominican Republic) I debated whether or not to put this cigar in this chapter, as it tends to come and go with the seasons. It is named after the peaty malt whisky distilled in the famed Speyside region of Scotland. Like the malt whisky, the cigars (when they are being made and distributed) carry a rich, earthy flavor. With a Connecticut wrapper and Dominican binder and filler (at least, the last time I looked) they are an interesting addition to our cigar compendium. I list them here because I would not be surprised if they resurfaced again, although their composition may have changed.
La Aurora—(Dominican Republic) This was the pioneering Dominican Republic cigar brand, having been started in 1903 by Eduardo León Jimenes. The factory is still family owned, and is now being run by Guillermo León, the founder’s grandson. In fact, it was one of the very few cigars being made in the Dominican Republic before the Cuban embargo. It was named after General Rafael Trujillo’s daughter, Aurora. The quality of the recent cigars is decidedly better than the original blend, although the last ones I smoked were medium strong, with a heavily textured, non-oily wrapper. But their Preferidos double perfectos are classics, especially the black-tubed Diamond. Also, in 2012, we saw the return of the celebrated Cien Años, which was originally released in 2003 to celebrate the 100 years of the La Aurora factory. There is now a Guillermo León double Preferido, a 107 Maduro Family Reserve Preferido, and a complete redesign and reblending of the Nester Miranda Collection. By the way, La Aurora means, “the dawn,” and it was also the name of the first Cuban newspaper written expressly for working-class cigar makers in 1866.
La Corona—(Cuba) A brand that started in Cuba in 1844, and eventually went through several different ownerships. The cigar was discontinued in 1978 and revitalized in 1989. I visited the factory shortly after that but the cigar is no longer made, although the factory is still in operation.
La Corona—(Honduras) An inexpensive medium-bodied cigar made in Santa Rosa de Copán.
La Diligencia—(Honduras) Hand rolled in five shapes. A very mild tasting cigar (HPH 1.5) with Nicaraguan, Dominican, and Honduran filler, Dominican binder, and Ecuadorian wrapper; a Maduro version uses Mexican leaf.
La Escepción—(Cuba) This once-famous old brand was started by José Gener, the same enterprising individual whose name we also find on the Hoyo de Monterrey and whose JG initials can be found on some of the Cuban and Honduran Punch bands. Of all the sizes once made, only a Panetela and a Gran Corona remain in the line. Both shapes use the same blends of tobaccos, which is extremely strong.
La Estancia—(Honduras) To any cigar manufacturer of note, the names of Jeremiah and Joshua Meerappfel are not only respected, but legendary, as their family is the premiere suppliers of West African Cameroon tobaccos. However, La Estancia represents a bold new venture into the cigar world for the Meerappfels, as it is their own brand, and composed of—not Cameroon—but a Nicaraguan wrapper, combined with a Nicaraguan binder. But it is the filler blend that gives La Estancia its bling, for it consists of fifty percent Nicaraguan tobacco, and the other half comprised of their rare, well-aged Cuban leaf, some of it as much as fifty years old. That means of course, that these medium-mild cigars are not available in the US. But it is the European, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European cigar smokers that the Meerappfels are targeting. After all, their family has been trading in and stockpiling some of the best Cuban tobaccos for half a century, waiting for the US embargo to end. But now they have gotten tired of waiting with all of this rare Havana tobacco, which is basically unrealized and very valuable inventory. Thus, La Estancia was born in 2014. Two sizes are currently produced, a corona and a robusto, both priced noticeably below a Cuban puro (which is why the brother didn’t use Cameroon tobacco, as it would have driven the price up; plus, it wasn’t the taste profile they were looking for). I remember Jeremiah rushing up to me at the IPCPR trade show in August 2014 and excitedly exclaiming, “Richard, I have a cigar for you that you’re going to love, because it is Cuban without being Cuban!” He was right of course; it is a pleasant smoke, unlike anything coming out of Havana and, in fact, indicative of what type of cigars we may soon be smoking today if the rules of the embargo are altered.
La Finca—(Nicaragua) A puro handmade cigar with all-Nicaraguan filler, binder and wrapper. Introduced in the winter of 1993. This was one of the very first cigars to be made after the elections, when Violete Chamorro became president of Nicaragua.
La Flor de Cano—(Cuba) A relatively new brand on the market. With its sweet, mild taste, it is a cigar designed to please the new smoker just entering the Havana ranks. Not to be confused with the Nicaraguan rum of a nearly identical name.
La Fontana—(Honduras) A vintage cigar made in the same factory as Baccarat. Introduced in 1992, it has a Connecticut shade wrapper that has been aged for three years, with a Mexican binder and Honduran filler. It is named after Sal Fontana, the importer. Rich and slightly sweetened. The cigar, not Sal.
La Gloria Cubana—(Cuba) One of the most famous of the old-time Cuban brands, seeing its yellow band with the Cubana señorita is always like meeting an old friend. The cigar was not produced for many years, during which time a Tampa cigar, featuring the identical band, was started up and has since made tremendous inroads among American smokers. However, the Havana brand has been resurrected, and the new La Gloria Cubana is now a much mellower, entry-level Havana than its predecessor ever was. In fact, it is one of the few Havanas you can smoke in the morning without the need of a heavy breakfast beforehand.
La Gloria Cubana—(United States/Dominican Republic) Not to be confused with the famous Havana brand of this same name, even though the bands are practically identical (enough to fool a collector at a recent antique show). The cigar is handmade in the “Little Havana” section of Miami, Florida, by the same company that originally brought the brand to the United States after Castro took power. It is also being made in much greater numbers by General Cigar in the Dominican Republic, in a factory with forty-two rollers. These medium-to-full flavored cigars rate a 2 to 2.5 on the Highly Prejudiced HackerScale, with a special affinity toward the pyramid shape, especially in Maduro.
La Invicta—(Honduras) A handmade cigar that was initially made in Jamaica but is now being produced in Honduras. From what I can tell, it concentrates on the larger ring sizes.
La Palina—(Bahamas/Honduras/Dominican Republic/Nicaragua) Before William S. Paley created the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in America in 1928, he worked for his father’s cigar company, helping sell its flagship brand, La Palina, which was named after a favorite nickname for his mother, Goldie Drell Paley. Now their son, William C. Paley, has returned to his family’s roots by reintroducing La Palina. Only instead of being made of Cuban tobaccos in Philadelphia, the cigars are being handrolled by a number of other factories outside the US. The original Family Series consists of four medium-bodied shapes and was made by Graycliff in Nassau. El Diario—which means “The Daily”—is slightly heavier and its seven shapes are handmade in the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras, featuring a Rosado wrapper and a double binder. There is also a Honduran maduro line made in the same factory and featuring a Mexican San Andreas wrapper. The medium-bodied Classic, made at Abe Flores’s factory in the Dominican Republic, consists of four shapes with a Brazilian wrapper. One of its latest cigars, the Black Label, which is made by PDR, has a Brazilian Bahiano wrapper that looks like maduro but isn’t. In fact, it is actually quite full bodied, a first for this company. If you want a milder smoke, try the Mr. Sam, which started out as a limited edition but proved so popular it is now a regular part of the line.
Lamb’s Club—(United States) Started out as a private-label cigar for The Lamb’s Club, a theatrical association in New York during World War II. Still being made by the Finck Cigar Company of San Antonio, Texas.
La Paz—(Holland) Famous for its “Wilde” Cigarillos and small cigar brands; in tobacco trade parlance, wild means a ragged foot of tobacco, as opposed to one that is smoothly trimmed. The tobaccos are from Cuba, Brazil, and Indonesia.
La Plata—(United States) Although its leaf comes from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Ecuador, and Mexico, all cigars are handmade right in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Victor Migenes, Sr. started this “neighborhood” cigar-making shop in 1947. His son, Victor, continues the tradition and has now taken the brand national, although a large portion of sales are still done via a telephone for orders shipped all over the world. Due to its proximity to Hollywood and the fact that the four rollers in the store’s tiny “back room galeria” can roll virtually any size of standard or figurado cigar imaginable, La Plata is often called upon to create customized smokables for flicks such as Naked Gun 2½, Die Hard 2, The Flintstones, and The Quick And The Dead. In fact, it was Victor Sr. who first rolled a “Hacker Special” for me when I was a young advertising executive, newly arrived in L.A. many years ago. Back then, I could afford only one cigar a week, so every Friday, Señor Migenes would gather up all the leftover tobacco and roll me what must have been the world’s first Churchill Gigante. For a special treat from La Plata’s current line, try its 5½x54 Hercules, with its Dominican filler and Connecticut shade wrapper. Because all La Plata cigars are freshly rolled, it is best to let them age for a few weeks before smoking them.
Las Cabrillas—(Honduras) A well-made boxed cigar introduced in 1993. A nice sturdy smoke with an HPH of 2–2.5. Really rich and creamy, like a hot fudge sundae right from the first puff. Definitely a sundown cigar, great with steak or bourbon or … a hot fudge sundae.
Le Hoyo—(Cuba) An offshoot of the Hoyo de Monterrey brand, started in the 1970s to answer the call for a stronger cigar from the all-important (to Cubatabaco) Swiss market. It has now gained a loyal following in other countries as well. An HPH 2.5.
León Jimenes—(Dominican Republic/Honduras) Made with a Dominican filler and binder and a Connecticut wrapper. An HPH 2.
Licenciados—(Dominican Republic) One might wonder at the wisdom of having a cigar with a name that few people can pronounce, but in pre-Castro Cuba, Licenciados was a very popular brand. In Spanish licenciado means “attorney,” and it is a fair guess as to which group of professionals this cigar was originally targeted. Selling for a very affordable fifteen cents apiece in those early years, this cigar was available in Cuba and was never exported. But times—and costs—change. Since 1991, Licenciados has been made in the Dominican Republic. It is currently offered in twelve different shapes, five of which feature a Connecticut broadleaf maduro wrapper. The rest of the line features a Connecticut shade wrapper, with Dominican filler and binder. This produces a rather refined, delicious, and spicy flavor in the HPH 2 range, which, to my tastes, makes it perfect for late morning and early afternoon. In fact, I often make it my designated “daytime cigar” and usually keep some in my car humidor. You’ll find these cigars in the US, Canada, and France. It also makes a “Segundo,” which means “seconds,” and which may sometimes be easier to find than the “firsts,” which are always in great demand.
Lord Beaconsfield—(United States) Was originally made in Havana for the British market. Later, the factory moved to Tampa. Today, it is a competitively priced machine-made cigar, utilizing short filler and a homogenized binder. Its Honduran filler blend gives it a full flavor.
Los Libertadores—(Dominican Republic) A real freedom fighter’s cigar introduced in 1995. Contains a Dominican filler and binder and a Connecticut shade wrapper, blended to encompass the full range of tastes, from medium to heavy: Los Macheteros and Los Exilados are full flavored (HPH 2.5); Los Insurrectos is medium to full (HPH 2–2.5); and Los Mambises are mild to medium (HPH 1.5–2).
Macabi—(United States) Made in Miami by Juan Sosa and available in seven sizes.
Macanudo—(Dominican Republic) One of the most popular cigars in America, the Macanudo started out as a Jamaican cigar in 1868, where it was made by a Cuban-owned factory. In fact, this famous cigar was originally the name of the largest selling size being made by the Havana Punch for British export. The Punch Macanudo gained an identity of its own during World War II, when Cuba was no longer permitted to sell its cigars to England due to a US dollar embargo by Great Britain. Consequently, the five major Havana factories in Jamaica (a British colony) decided to legally make cigars for the U.K. Because the Punch Macanudo was the most popular size in Great Britain, the Cuban/Jamaican factory decided to spin off the name and create a separate Macanudo brand for its Jamaican-made cigar. By the end of the war, Jamaica was selling fifteen million cigars to England.
In 1960, pressure from Castro forced the Cuban owners of Macanudo to divest themselves of their famous cigar-making operations, which were subsequently sold to a Jamaican concern. In 1964 the Macanudo brand was again sold, this time to a company in Tampa, which was eventually acquired by one of the industry leaders, General Cigar Company. Under General’s guidance, the Macanudo soared to new prominence. From the very beginning of its reintroduction to American smokers in the 1970s, Macanudo quickly became the best-selling cigar in the US. It was the first Jamaican cigar introduced to American smokers on a wide scale, and it started the trend away from Canary Islands cigars. Although it has historically been a Jamaican cigar since being spun off as a separate brand, by 1983 a number of Macanudos were being made in the Dominican Republic, in General Cigar’s Santiago factory. Now virtually all the production is in the Dominican Republic. Which is why Macanudo has such a great reputation for consistency.
Macanudo tobaccos go through an aging process of two years, from harvest to finished cigar, and involves transporting the tobaccos from the Dominican Republic to Connecticut for aging (known as the “winter sweats” before it goes back to the D.R. After that, the cigars are aged for another four to eight weeks. Part of the reason for Macanudo’s success is the variety of Connecticut wrappers that this brand offers to the smoker: Jade (Candela) is a greenish-brown wrapper with a very mild taste; Cafe (Natural) is the classic Connecticut, golden brown in color and grown from the Hazelwood variety of Cuban seed; and finally, Maduro, a dark rich brown sweetness derived from Mexican leaf. Ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 on the Highly Prejudiced HackerScale (depending on size and wrapper), the Macanudo is a perfect everyday smoking companion. But for an epicurean’s delight, one of the most flavorful Macanudos of all is their Vintage Cabinet Selection, especially the Number 1 and 8 sizes (a Churchill and Robusto, respectively), which should be reserved for special occasions. Mild and creamy in flavor, they are among the most perfectly constructed of all cigars. Its Vintage Maduro is available in a new Robusto in addition to the pre-existing Toro and Perfecto, while its 2006 Natural Selection maduro comes with a heavy metal Macanudo embossed ring for a band, which you can take off and wear if your fingers are of the right ring gauge.
In 2014, to commemorate the forty-fifth anniversary of Macanudo and its Jamaican heritage, a special run of Macanudo Estate Reserve was produced using Jamaican tobacco in the filler, which was purchased from just one farmer on the island, and featuring ten-year-old Connecticut shade tobacco for the wrapper.
Marsh Wheeling—(United States) These cigars have changed little since they were first made by Mifflin M. Marsh in 1840 for riverboat passengers and overland pioneers heading west. M. Marsh & Sons sold their stogies four for a penny. They were a bargain even back then, and they quickly became popular. The long, thin cigars, which many likened to the spokes of a Conestoga wagon, haven’t changed much today. Originally packed in shoeboxes and later in wooden containers, the factory eventually began making its own distinctive blue-and-gold box, which also hasn’t changed much over the years. In fact, the big Marsh Stogies sign on the side of their five-story brick factory building has been a prominent fixture in Wheeling, West Virginia, since the beginning of this century. About the only thing that has changed is the fact that these famous short-filler stogies used to be handmade; now they are machine made. The company makes thirteen different cigars. Depending on the type, Marsh Wheelings are made with Connecticut or Cameroon wrappers, homogenized leaf for binder, and filler grown in the Miami River Valley of Ohio and in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They are extremely mild in taste. More than half of its sales are in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Basically a mass-market cigar, there’s still nothing wrong with lighting one up in hunting camp or even as an authentic accessory for Western re-enactments. Considering that they haven’t changed much in over 150 years, it isn’t surprising to learn that Marsh Wheeling Stogies appeared in the movie, How the West Was Won. It was a fitting tribute for a piece of American Wild West history that you can still smoke today.
Maya Selva—(Honduras) Named after company owner Maya Selva, this brand has been around since 1995 but is mainly found in Europe. I first discovered their Flor de Selva Honduran puros in Paris. The factory also makes a Nicaraguan blended Cumpay brand and a more economically priced Villa Zamorano. It is now starting to import Flor de Selva cigars into the US, but on a relatively small scale.
Meia-Coroa—(Portugal) Handmade in the Azores, this smallish cigar is packed with a Havana, Dominican, and Brazilian filler, Java binder, and a Connecticut wrapper.
MiCubano—(Nicaragua) A powerhouse of a cigar, first unleashed in 1995. It thunders across your palate and doesn’t let go. It is all Cuban seed Nicaraguan and comes in a stand-up cedar box that makes each MiCubano look like a miniature missile on a launching pad. Wash this HPH 3 cigar down with a beaker of sixteen-year-old Lagavulin malt whisky or 100 proof Knob Creek small batch bourbon. Woof!
Mocambo—(Mexico) A little rough around the edges for American tastes, I find the Maduro version a perfect cigar for a hot summer night and a cold Pacífico cerveza.
Montebello—(Mexico) A fairly new cigar made in the same Tobaccos y Puros de San Andrés factory as the Cruz Real. Features San Andrés filler and binder with a Mexican-grown Sumatra seed wrapper.
Montecristo—(Cuba) A well respected, rich tasting cigar and one of the few Havanas in which all the shapes, even the smallest, is completely made by hand. Because of its widespread recognition and fame, most smokers think the Montecristo brand is much older than it really is. (Actually, along with Cohiba, it is one of the few twentieth-century Cuban cigars that is still being produced.) Montecristo was started in 1934 by Garcia y Menendez, the same families who were then producing the famous H. Upmann cigar. In fact, when originally introduced, the cigar was called the H. Upmann Montecristo, but in 1935 the name was spun off as a separate brand for Great Britain so it would not be confused with the regular line of H. Upmann Havanas. An enterprising fellow by the name of Jack Benham, a nephew of one of the importing company’s directors, actually designed the art-nouveau Montecristo logo, which consists of six crossed swords forming a stylized triangle that was quite a shocking departure from the more traditional Victorian cigar logos still in use at that time. Originally sold exclusively by Dunhill, which gave it tremendous and well-deserved exposure among serious cigar smokers the world over, the Montecristo quickly rose in prominence, partly due to its wonderfully refined taste and also because of the vast array of sizes that this brand offered (with the No. 2 being one of the all-time greats). The Montecristo A, which was first rolled in the 1970s, is still heralded as the most expensive cigar in the world (in Havana-less America that honor was handed over to the Davidoff Aniversario No. 1). By the end of the Cuban revolution, the Montecristo was irrefutably one of the very best thoroughbreds in the Havana stables. Unfortunately, shortly after that, quality and taste began to slip, but thankfully, the cigar has again regained its image of excellence. For many cigar aficionados in Europe, it remains the hallmark by which all other Havanas are judged. Because of this prominence, however, the Montecristo is also widely counterfeited. But for those who have ever smoked a genuine “Monte,” the taste and aroma are unmistakable. Once, while visiting the Partagás Factory in Cuba, I was given an unbanded cigar to smoke. I lit it up; the combination of the smooth, semi-rich taste and HPH 2.5 strength was like a calling card. “A Montecristo!” I immediately exclaimed, but not without some trepidation, as the Montecristo had always been made in the H. Upmann factory. A representative from Cubatabaco nodded in confirmation, and then told me they were making this famed cigar under license. Such is the unmistakable character of this great cigar. Its name, as you might have guessed, is taken from the Alexandre Dumas novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, of whom Dumas wrote of his famous character, “I think he is an excellent host, that he has traveled much, and … he has some excellent cigars.” Indeed, acquaintances may say the very same thing about a man today who chooses to keep this classic brand stocked in his humidor.
Montecristo—(Dominican Republic) In 1993–94, an all-new Dominican-made Montecristo cigar was launched by Consolidated Cigar Corporation (now Altadis) as a continuation of one of the most famous brand names in cigar smoking history. For many years prior to this new cigar’s appearance, a limited number of Dominican-made Montecristos (roughly 10,000 to 15,000 cigars), with a taste identical to the H. Upmann, had been distributed to a few select tobacconists in the United States. This newest incarnation, however, is made with entirely different blends, which initially featured Dominican-grown Cuban seed filler and binder tobaccos matched with a Connecticut shade wrapper, all of which are substantially less heady (but no less full-flavored) than the Cuban version and spiced with a dark Connecticut shade wrapper. Connoisseurs will also appreciate the fact that the Dominican Montecristo is an aged cigar, which adds depth to its rich-tasting complement of tobaccos. Many variations have since been introduced from the La Romana factory on the west side of the Dominican, including the award-winning 75th Anniversary Montecristo, the Montecristo White, and the most recent, the full-bodied Montecristo Epic in 2012, with its Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan blinder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler. It is easily recognized by its bright-red box and comes with a certificate signed by all eight in the Grupo de Maestros who made the cigar. And bowing to public demand, there is also a Nicaraguan puro, called Espana, which appropriately enough, means “sword” in Spanish. The Count would be proud.
Montecruz—(Dominican Republic) This cigar was created in 1964 for the US. Dunhill stores as an elegant alternative to the recently outlawed Cuban Montecristo. Consequently, the similarity of names, logo design, and label colors to the embargoed Havana product was not entirely accidental. Originally produced in Las Palmas of the Canary Islands by the same families (Menendez and Garcia) that had owned the H. Upmann factory in Havana prior to the revolution, the cigar is now handmade in the Dominican Republic. Montecruz was the first imported cigar in the US market to be made with a Cameroon wrapper, which was exceedingly expensive at that time. (For an idea of what it cost to make this cigar, when it was first introduced, Connecticut shade was selling for $8 a pound, while Cameroon was fetching a hefty $23 a pound.) As a result, Montecruz became the most expensive cigar of its day. Currently, Montecruz is offered in no less than twenty-three different shapes with sun-grown wrapper and nine natural Claro shapes, with the most popular being the 210, 220, and 230. True to its heritage, the Dominican-made Montecruz of today remains one of the most refined of the high grades, especially in its newest blends, combining Dominican grown Piloto Cubano and Olor with Brazilian tobaccos plus a Dominican binder. There are now two wrapper choices: an Indonesian wrapper (the original sun-grown Cameroon was changed in 1994 due to a scarcity of this African leaf), and a Natural Claro Connecticut shade. Although the filler ingredients of both cigars are the same, the proportions are changed to complement the different wrappers, with the Claro wrapper being lighter in taste. Either way, the Montecruz provides plenty of flavor in an already flavorful cigar.
Montesino—(Dominican Republic) Originally made in the last century by Don Marino Montesino, today these cigars are manufactured by the Arturo Fuente family in their Moca factory for export to the United States, where it was reintroduced in 1981. This all-tobacco, 100 percent handmade cigar features a shade-grown Connecticut wrapper with a Nicaraguan binder and Dominican and Brazilian filler. It is lighter tasting than the A. Fuente, rating a 1.5 to 2 on the Highly Prejudiced HackerScale. In a way, it might be called a premium bundled cigar that is put in a box, as not all of the wrapper colors will be evenly matched. But then, this cigar costs less than a Fuente. While many of us may prefer the fuller taste and more sophisticated appearance of the regular Fuente line, for a boxed cigar the Montesino is a real sleeper as far as smoking value is concerned.
Moore & Bode—(United States) I hesitate to even mention this cigar, because it is extremely elusive. But then, this is The Ultimate Cigar Book so here goes. Made by Robert Moore and Sharon Bode since 1991 in Miami, two blends are offered, the Miami Blend, which is floral and light, and the Flamboyan (named after the flamboyan tree that is common to both Southern Florida and Cuba), which is heftier in taste. Extremely limited production and distribution, but the cigars are delicious, using aged leaf and keeping production down in order to maintain quality. The cigars are uncello’d and are packed in redwood boxes since Moore & Bode don’t want cedar to affect the taste of their cigars. In 2011 they made a bold move to India, where they told me they were planning to train cigars rollers there, using their older recipes but also adding some newer tobaccos from that country and other locations. However, aside from a brief email from them in 2013, that was the last I had heard of this activity, and as I have yet to smoke any of their newer cigars, for me at least, they shall remain elusive.
Mozart—(Austria) An excellent, high-quality European-style cigar made and distributed by Austria Tabak. Mild and of a sufficient ring size to make Americans feel comfortable, these cigars consist of a Java wrapper, Sumatra binder, and Havana and Brazil filler. Obviously, not available in the US but worth searching for in any of its various sizes when in Austria.
Muniemaker—(United States) Started in 1912 by the F.D. Grave Cigar Company, one of the few original American cigar-manufacturing companies left. Original advertising for this cigar was the height of consciousness, and consisted of billboards that simply said the word, “Muniemaker.” For more information, see F. D. Grave.
My Father Cigar—(Nicaragua) This is the company, owned by famed ex-Cuban cigar roller Jose “Pepin” Garcia, that has achieved such acclaim in so relatively short a time. After first coming to the US, Pepin began making cigars for Tatuaje and was soon discovered by others, such as Ashton. As a result, Pepin built a factory in Esteli and now has a number of farms for growing his own tobaccos. His son Jaime and daughter Janny have joined the company and have become invaluable as blenders. Le Bijou, the Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial Limited Edition, and Flor de Antilles are just a few of their unforgettable smokes. La Antiguedad was launched in 2014 to pay homage to Pepin’s homeland by reviving this old Cuban brand and artwork, and using a Habano Rosado Oscuro wrapper to produce a powerful taste. On the other end of the spectrum, their My Father Connecticut is the mildest cigar the factory has yet produced. The company also makes the limited edition Nestor Miranda Grand Reserve, among others.
My Own Blend—(Honduras) Chances are you won’t find this cigar anywhere else but in Denmark, although it may eventually work its way to a few other European countries. Made with Havana and Mexican leaf, it is currently available in four shapes.
Nat Sherman—(Dominican Republic) First introduced on the national market in 1993. Some have names pertaining to the New York locale, such as Gotham (nothing to do with Batman), Metropolitan, and Timeless, pertaining to the landmark clock over the store entrance. From the mild tasting Gotham to the spicy Host to the rich V.I.P., the Big Apple of Nat Sherman has a smoke for every facet of city life. And now it has added many new blends to its family of cigars, including a special 75th Anniversary 7½x46 to honor Joel Sherman, Nat’s son, who started working for the company when he was twenty-one years old.
New York—(Mexico) Made by Te-Amo, this brand was started in 1989 as a result of the tremendous popularity of the Te-Amo brand in the Big Apple. Each of the sizes is named for a famous boulevard, such as the 6x52 Wall Street, 7¼x48 Broadway, and the 65/8x42 Park Avenue. The 1920’s Art Nouveau designs on the wooden boxes almost make this reason enough for buying the cigars. But no matter what the size, the New York, with its all-Mexican-grown Sumatra wrapper and San Andrés binder and filler, is extremely mild. In fact, it is one of the mildest cigars I have ever smoked, a definite 1 on the Highly Prejudiced HackerScale. The only way it could be milder is if you didn’t light it. But if you are a new cigar smoker, or one who goes through a great number of Coronas in a single day, make an exploratory stop at New York.
Nicarillos—(Switzerland) A European cigar now owned by SEITA in France.
Niñas—(France) A popular machine-made small cigar by SEITA. Very mild, with Java, Dominican, and Havana tobaccos.
Nobel—(Denmark) Makers of the popular European-style “dry” cigars, Nobel is the largest cigar maker in Denmark, with 400 million cigars sold in 1990–91 alone. Extremely well known on the European Continent, its products are not as much in evidence in the United States, although the Nobel Petit and Christian of Denmark brands that are imported are making inroads with those who want a short, twelve to twenty-minute smoke. The company was founded in 1835 by Emilius Nobel and was instrumental in establishing the 100 percent tobacco mini-cigarillo in Europe. Launched in 1898, the Nobel Petit is now the oldest cigarillo brand in Denmark and one of the oldest in the world. In more recent times, 1985 marked the introduction of the Christian of Denmark mini-cigarillos, which feature a Dominican, Java, and Brazil filler, Java binder and Sumatra wrapper. However, the Long Cigarillo and Corona also have a touch of Havana in their otherwise identical filler contents, so it may be a matter of time before you start seeing them on American shores. Likewise with the tubed Hirschprung Apostolado, a delicious full-bodied cigar that incorporates Brazil and Havana in its filler. The Nobel Petit and the Christian of Denmark Mini-Cigarillos are a nice change of pace when you want a quick Continental smoke with your espresso or in between the first and second acts of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.
Nørding—(Honduras) Made by Rocky Patel and named after master Danish pipe craftsman Erik Nørding, who created this brand to augment his pipe smoking and reflect his own love for fine cigars. The Nørding cigar consists of a Dominican and Nicaraguan filler, Nicaraguan binder, and a Connecticut shade wrapper. A number of shapes are available, all within the HPH 2–2.5 range. In 2012 a 50th Anniversary cigar was introduced to honor Erik’s half century in the pipe and cigar business.
Old Port—(Canada) An inexpensive machine-made short-filler cigar with homogenized wrapper. This small, mild cheroot is very popular in the United Kingdom and Canada. It is very sweet tasting and boasts that not only is it rum flavored, but its tobacco leaves have been dipped in wine. I guess you shouldn’t smoke this one while driving!
Oliva—(Nicaragua) Run by Gilberto Oliva and his family. This company is the largest grower of Cuban seed tobaccos in Nicaragua.
Oliveros—(Dominican Republic/Nicaragua) Makers of a variety of cigars, including the aptly named XL for Men, plus flavored cigars.
Onyx Reserve—(Dominican Republic) Introduced in 1992, this cigar gets its name from its dark Mexican Maduro wrapper. It is very mild, with a Java binder and filler of Piloto Cubano, Olor, and Mexican tobaccos.
Optimo—(United States) At one time this cigar was made of all Havana tobacco. It is still a popular, mass-market machine-made cigar, utilizing homogenized tobacco and short filler.
Orient Express—(Honduras) Rather bland for a Honduran but suitable for those entry-level smokers who want to start light and work their way up. The Nicaraguan and Mexican filler is supposedly aged for seven years. It is encompassed by a Dominican binder and an Ecuadorian wrapper, all of which are then aged for three months. With all these great components, you’d think this HPH 1.5–2 cigar, which was introduced in 1995, would pack a little more punch, but it does not. The fleur-de-lis band is elegant but sometimes cumbersome, as its die-cut design is prone to catch on inside coat pockets and cigar cases.
Ornelas—(Mexico) One of the better-known Mexican cigars, made in Guadalajara.
Ortiz—(Mexico) Named after Jorge Ortiz Alvarez of Tabacos San Andrés, one of the cigar world’s great gentlemen. Like him, this cigar is big and refined, without any roughness. An HPH 2–2.5.
Padrón - (Nicaragua) Although its company logo contains a map of Cuba (the homeland of the Padrón family), its current cigars are handrolled in Honduras from tobacco grown on the family farms in Nicaragua. Thus, the geographical interpretation of this rich-tasting cigar can be a little confusing. But technically, it is Nicaraguan. José Orlando Padrón, a Cuban tobacco merchant who fled Cuba during the revolution, began life again in 1964 in Miami. With one roller working full time during the day, José would sell his cigars to various restaurants and cafeterias at night. As word of his quality cigars grew, so did his company. By 1969 the Padrón factory employed forty rollers. In an effort to expand, the family looked toward Nicaragua, and an enlarged factory was started there in 1970. But the Sandinista revolution in 1978 literally burned them out. Later the factory was rebuilt, but just to be on the safe side, a second factory was started in Honduras. It proved to be a smart move, for when the US embargo was enacted against Nicaragua, Padrón cigars could still be made in Honduras. Eventually the embargo ended and the company began to expand its line nationally throughout the United States.
José Padrón has now been joined by his two sons, Orlando and Jorge, to help him run the company he started. In fact, today it is difficult to enter their offices and factories without encountering numerous family members now working for the brand. Their current line contains twelve shapes, ranging from a 46x47/8 Delicias all the way up to a giant 50x9 Magnum. In 1994 they introduced their 30th Anniversary series of limited edition cigars, which are aged for three years. Only five sizes are produced. In 2000 they came out with their limited-edition Millennium series, which included special numbered humidors with individually numbered cigars. This, in turn, lead to special “anti-counterfeiting” bands to prevent bogus cigars being produced (Padrón and Fuente are one of the few non-Cuban companies to have their cigars counterfeited).
Padrón’s 1926 series in 2002 celebrated Jose Padrón’s seventy-fifth birthday, while the No. 85 of their family series in 2011 paid tribute to his eighty-fifth birthday. And in 2014 the company celebrated their fiftieth anniversary with a limited edition humidor filled with limited edition 6½x52 box pressed Toros made with tobaccos that had been aged for ten years. In addition, they introduced a 50th Anniversary box pressed 5x54 Robusto that has become a regular part of the line. Extremely popular, all of these Nicaraguan puros are not widely available due to a relatively low production and the use of aged tobaccos. Delicious, rich, and spicy, with a flavorful oily wrapper, they are an excellent after-dinner smoke, especially in the larger ring sizes. Definitely an HPH 2.5.
Parodi—(United States) A Toscano-styled dry cigar made by the Avanti Cigar Company of Scranton, Pennsylvania, which purchased the brand in 1913. The motto on the side of the red, white, and green (the Italian national colors) box says, “Not strong, not mild, but different.” Actually, for a dry cigar, not bad.
Partagás—(Cuba) Please note the accent over the “a” on the Cuban brand, which is lacking (and hence affects the pronunciation) on the Dominican version. This cigar was “officially” born in 1845 (the years 1843 and 1867 have also cropped up in some nineteenth-century writings, probably because Don Jaime Partagás first christened his very best cigars with his name in 1843; in 1845 he opened his own factory. And you won’t find that dual-year information in any other book, so if you see it elsewhere, you’ll know where it came from—this book). But no matter what the year, we do know the brand was created by Don Jaime. In 1876 Don Ramón Cifuentes and his partners, Cifuentes, Fernandez and Co., became sole owners of the brand. His son, the late Ramón Cifuentes, who was featured in the US Partagas ads, carried on the tradition of this excellent Havana right up to the revolution, at which time he brought his family’s famous cigar to the Dominican Republic. During the 1920s and ’30s, the Cuban Partagás was one of the most fashionable cigars to smoke, especially in Great Britain. It was a favorite of novelist Evelyn Waugh, who thought enough of the Partagás to mention it by brand in his work, Brideshead Revisited. Up until 2011 Partagás was still being made in the same nineteenth century factory on a tree-lined boulevard located at 520 Industria Street in Havana, but sadly, it has since closed for renovation and when it opens again in a few years, the rumor is it will no longer be a cigar factory. It used to be one of the oldest continually operating cigar factories in Cuba; the only time it had previously closed down was from 1987 to 1990 for refurbishing. Nonetheless, the Partagás line continues to offer a rather extensive range of over thirty different shapes. Somewhat strong and harsh, they nonetheless have an equally strong (but not harsh) following. I particularly took a liking to their small Chicos, which are an ideal “carry anywhere” size that can satisfy one’s need for a quick but definitely fulfilling smoke. And their No. 4 Series D Robusto along with the prominent Lusitania (especially in their limited edition double-banded Gran Reserva) are classics among those who want a Havana with staying power. A more-recent favorite of mine is the Serie P No. 2. Depending on size, the strength of a Partagás will range anywhere from a 2.5 to a 3 on the Highly Prejudiced HackerScale.
Partagas—(Dominican Republic) No accent here; for the Dominican version, the emphasis is on the “Par” part of their name. These celebrated cigars, originally introduced through the Dunhill USA stores but now available throughout the country and in Europe, are made of Dominican, Jamaican, and Mexican filler, with a Mexican sun-grown binder and are among the very few cigars still using costly Cameroon wrapper from Africa. Although it incorporates the same tobaccos in the filler as its sister cigar, Macanudo, the different percentages, plus the Cameroon wrapper, make the Partagas a more robust smoke. In fact, it is one of the finest, richest-tasting cigars on the market, from the diminutive Purito to the No. 10, a can’t-go-wrong choice for an after dinner treat. Its vintage Limited Reserve is one of the most handsomely boxed cigars on the market, and comes with a signed certificate noting their exact release date. Thankfully, bigger ring sizes of this great cigar were finally introduced in 1996. Of course, its 150th Anniversary cigar (see the collectable cigar section elsewhere in this book), which was brought out in 1995 and snapped up so quickly hardly anything was left on the dealer’s shelves by 1996, is a classic landmark in taste. Equally as desirable is the limited-edition Cifuentes by Partagas, which was brought out in 1996 to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Don Ramón Cifuentes’ acquisition of the Partagas brand back in Cuba. Only 150,000 of these cigars were made in the Jamaican factory. They were then aged for a full two years before being released, primarily only through the Dunhill stores. These creamy-mild cigars contain a spicy Cameroon flavoring that has obtained wonderful character through the aging process. Five sizes were offered: Petit Corona, Lonsdale, Pyramid, Churchill, and Corona Gorda. In 2012 Partagas reintroduced its “golden eagle” band reminiscent of its original design from the early 1900s. The Partagas Black Label is a spicier version of the regular line. But, as it competes with the Cuban version, you won’t find these cigars outside the US.
Paul Stulac—(Nicaragua/Miami) Gray, black, and gold bands featuring winged skulls aren’t the only thing that attracts one to these gently box-pressed, Gothic-themed cigars. They also happen to be made with a choice of either Ecuador Habana or Brazilian Arapiraca Maduro four-year-old wrapper leaf and are well crafted in the Tabacalera Estelí factory of Enrique “Don Kiki” Berger. The finished cigars are then aged for about one year. Unique in 2014—and perhaps indicative of a mini-trend—was Stulac’s introduction of his “No Dress Code,” a cigar devoid of any band or aging and wrapped twenty to a bundle in newspaper. In other words, they come fresh from the rolling table.
Pedro Iglesias—(United States) Originally created for one wholesaler but now sold nationally. This all-tobacco brand was started in the 1950s and is made in Tampa with a machine-bunched medium filler (neither short nor long). There was never anyone named Pedro Iglesias, but if there had been, no doubt he wouldn’t mind smoking these popularly priced cigars.
Pedroni—(Switzerland) The European factory that makes these dry, Italian-looking small cigars has been in business since 1847. They are full-flavored for their size, using dark, fired-cured and aged tobaccos in their construction, which could be called a mini-pyramid. Rugged looking but great for topping off a morning cup of café au lait with some hard bread.
Petri—(United States) A dry cigar that is mainly found along the West Coast. The San Francisco-based Petri Cigar Company was originally owned by the same folks who made Petri Wine, sponsors of those great old Sherlock Holmes radio shows back in the 1950s. Boy, talk about your trivia! The brand was purchased in 1963 by the Avanti Cigar Company, thus giving them almost total control of the US dry-cured cigar market.
PDR—(Dominican Republic) The initials, of course, stand for Pinar del Rio, and represent the partnership between Abe Flores and Juan Rodriquez, who formed this boutique cigar company over a decade ago. They are known for making value-driven medium strength cigars, including a number of Dominican puros. To celebrate its tenth anniversary, in 2014 PDR came out with an excellent PDR Flores y Rodriguez 10th Anniversary Reserva Limitada, which featured seven-year-old Piloto Cubano leaf in the filler. In addition to its own brand, it makes cigars for companies that include Gurkha, La Palina, and Villiger.
- G.—(Dominican Republic) This cigar was first tested on a limited scale in the fall/winter of 1990 and officially launched on May 1, 1991. The P.G. doesn’t stand for “pretty good,” but rather, are the initials of Paul Garmirian, a cigar hobbyist who decided to get into the business. Paul’s son Kevork is now the second generation in this enterprise. P. G. wrappers are Connecticut shade, with a Dominican binder and filler. There are more than twelve shapes in the line, most of which correspond to the original Cuban sizes and which run the range from the 4½x38 Petite Bouquette all the way up to the 9x50 Celebration. Made in the same factory as the Davidoff and Avo, these are cigars for the experienced smoker. Although they are a bit pricey, they are full of flavor, averaging out to a 2.5 on the Highly Prejudiced HackerScale.
Perdomo—(Nicaragua) This is the second-largest cigar factory in Estelí, and headed by third-generation cigar maker Nick Perdomo Jr., owner of Tabacalera Perdomo. With his Cuban heritage, he now makes a wide variety of cigars, ranging from the Fresco bundle cigar to the single-estate Lot 2 with its three years of bale aging, to the Perdomo Reserve 10-Year Anniversary cigar.
Phillies—(United States) Not surprisingly, this popular mass-market machine-made cigarillo was originally made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is now made in Selma, Alabama.
Picadu—(France) A popular machine-made cigar from SEITA.
Pintor—(Costa Rica) Long filler from Costa Rica, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic.
Playboy—(Dominican Republic) Officially known as the Playboy Cigar by Don Diego, this well-constructed premium smoke was first introduced to the public in my article, “Gentlemen (And Ladies), You May Smoke,” which appeared in the September 1996 issue of Playboy magazine. An HPH 2.5, it is actually Don Diego’s European blend, which is aged. The result is an elegantly flavored upscale cigar that is a personification of the Playboy lifestyle—smooth and rich in taste, with an undercurrent of spice. Playboy by Don Diego is available in five sizes: Double Corona, Robusto, Churchill, Lonsdale, and Gran Corona. A distinctive marbleized band sports Hef’s gold-and-silver embossed monogram and signature. And somewhat indicative of the magazine covers, both box and band are subtly accented with the Playboy Rabbit; you have to look for it, but it’s there. Also introduced in the fall of ‘96 was a sub-brand, the LeRoy Neiman Selection (named after the late well-known artist and creator of many Playboy-inspired paintings), a limited-edition super-premium cigar. Each shape in this line was personally selected by Neiman.
Pléiades—(Dominican Republic) This Caribbean product has the distinction of being the only French cigar that is not made in France. And yet, it is packaged and shipped from there, which is ample tribute by the French marketing agency SEITA to the excellence of Dominican tobacco and workmanship. Pléiades is actually made in two different factories in Santiago, with each factory making up specific sizes. After being handrolled in the Dominican Republic, the cigars are shipped—unboxed, but in protective containers—to France, where they are carefully unpacked and aged for six months (although sometimes this aging period is less, if the demand outweighs the supply). Then they are color sorted, boxed in the SEITA-owned Strasborgen factory, and finally shipped to tobacconists in various countries. The reason for all of this extra care, according to French tobacco officials, is to maintain control over cigar quality and packaging. SEITA prefers to use its own design of cedar boxes, which are made in Holland and include a unique rechargeable Credo humidifier, thus enabling the Pléiades box to be reused again. Indeed, the boxes make an ideal travel humidor and I often take mine on trips, fully stocked, of course. When first introduced, Pléiades were extremely popular, but a series of problems with getting available supplies soon caused many smokers to abandon the brand when they could not find it on dealer’s shelves the second time around. Then the blends were changed, which did not help matters. Today, however, this Dominican/French cigar seems to have left its past behind it (whether in France or the Dominican Republic, it doesn’t matter) and is once again a consistent and very mild cigar, ranging from a 1.5 to a 2 on the Highly Prejudiced HackerScale. The wrapper is Connecticut shade, the binder is Dominican, and the filler is Olor and Piloto Cubano. These cigars can be found in the US, France, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, and Germany, where they are very popular, especially with people who do not own humidors.
Por Larrañaga—(Cuba) One of Cuba’s oldest brands, this famous cigar had its beginnings in 1834 and for a time was one of the most celebrated of all the Havanas. It was a favorite cigar of Rudyard Kipling, and perhaps he was referring to his Por Larrañaga when he wrote, “A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a Smoke.” Production is much reduced today, and many of the smaller shapes are now made by machine. Somewhat difficult to find, the Por Larrañaga is nonetheless a deliciously medium-heavy flavor with just an undertaste of spice. One must work at opening a new box, as the lid is secured by no less than three seals.
Por Larrañaga—(Dominican Republic) Now being made for non-Havana smokers, with Dominican filler and binder and a Connecticut wrapper, blended to give this cigar a medium to full-bodied flavor.
Primo del Rey—(Dominican Republic) A popular cigar that is machine bunched, with a Dominican and Brazilian filler, Dominican binder, and now an Indonesian wrapper.
Punch—(Cuba) Started in 1840 by Manuel Lopez (whose name still appears on some of the historic bands) of J. Valle & Co., this cigar was originally created for a British importer. Its name was derived from the popular British magazine, Punch, whose cartoon mascot was the comical character from the famous Punch and Judy duo. This harlequin appeared prominently on the label and his presence is still there today (not only on Havanas, but also on some of the Honduran varieties as well), unchanged from the original. Not surprisingly, Punch soon became one of the most sought-after cigars in Britain (and America, where it was also imported) and remains popular in the U.K. and Europe to this day. Punch has the little-known distinction of being the first cigar to come out with a half corona size. It is a medium powerful cigar—one of my favorites—and offers a wide assortment of shapes and varying blends to give the connoisseur an ample range from which to choose, from the 4x40 Petit Punch to the 7x47 Churchill, which is a cigar to be reckoned with. The brand was eventually purchased by the owners of the Hoyo de Monterrey factory and the Punch cigar-making operations were subsequently moved there. It is a wonderfully smooth HPH 2.
Punch—(Honduras) If you are a fan of richly cured and expertly rolled Honduran cigars, this is the one to purchase by the box. The filler is of Honduran, Dominican, and Nicaraguan long leaf, tucked into a Connecticut binder and topped off with a smooth, oily Ecuadorian grown Sumatra EMS wrapper. The Maduro versions of this cigar are not overly dark, but rather, a smooth chocolate brown. There are twelve shapes in the regular series, including a Rothschild, double corona and the famous Punch shapes. Then there is the Selección Deluxe, in natural and Maduro, which offer five shapes distinct to this line (otherwise, they have the same tobacco blends as the regular series), including a Corona, the full, rich Chateau L (my personal favorite), and the 8½x44 Raja. Then there is the Premier Grand Cru Selección, a premium, double-banded cigar with four full-bodied shapes in 48 and 50 ring sizes; the largest, a 7½x54 Diademas, is the perfect post-banquet cigar and the Monarcas, at 63/4x48 is one of the largest (ring size) tubed cigars available today. In all, this eminent Punch family is an ideal way to discover what the best Honduran long-leaf premium cigars are all about. Always easy drawing and full flavored (a 2.5 to 3 HPH in the Maduro, a 2 to 2.5 HPH in the EMS wrappers), it doesn’t get much better than this.
Puros Indios—(Honduras) Made by Rolando Reyes, the same skilled roller who started the Cuba Aliados brand. Now ably assisted by his son, Rolando Reyes, Jr. The first cigars hit the humidors in the winter of 1996. With a well-blended filler of Brazil, Dominican, and Nicaragua tobacco, plus a well-fermented Ecuadorian binder and wrapper, these full-flavored cigars have achieved a well-deserved word-of-mouth reputation. HPH 2.5.
Quai D’Orsay—(Cuba) This is the only Cuban cigar that has a French name. So it should not be too surprising to learn that you won’t find this cigar in too many places other than France. It was created in 1970 by SEITA, the French tobacco monopoly. The romantic sounding name, by the way, means “the bridge of D’Orsay.” D’Orsay is a street in Paris, so this area must be a fantastic place to smoke a cigar. But more realistically, it is also the commonly referred-to name of the home office of the French Foreign Office, which thereby gives us a clue as to the brand name’s inspiration. Quai D’Orsay has the distinction (along with Cohiba, Diplomáticos, and Montecristo) of being one of the few Havana cigars in which every single shape is handmade. This French/Cuban cigar has a very hefty and spicy taste and a typical three-hour French lunch, followed by a Quai D’Orsay Churchill, is a sinfully pleasant and self-indulgent way in which to while away most of the afternoon. I suppose the only thing better would be to actually smoke a Quai D’Orsay on the quai d’Orsay. Or within the hallways of the Quai D’Orsay.
Quesada—(Dominican Republic) This is the name of a noted Cuban expatriate family whose fourth generation, Manuel Quesada, has been producing award-winning cigars for decades. He has now been joined by his two daughters Patricia and Raquel, along with other family members, all of which call themselves “The Jovens” (the young ones). Their current top of the line brands include a limited-edition Quesada 40th Anniversary box-pressed Toro and Salomon, their annual full-bodied Oktoberfest, and their Fonseca offshoot, the Cubana Limitado. Also not to be missed is its new Regis of London cigar from Nicaragua, which I discovered in London competing admirably with some of the Cuban brands.
Quintero y Hermanos—(Cuba) A strong-tasting, machine-made cigar that is one of the best selling Havanas in Germany. One shape, the Panetela, however, is machine bunched but it is handrolled, for a different look.
Rafael Gonzalez—(Cuba) Another twentieth century Havana that is still with us. It was started in 1928 by George Samuel and Frank Warwick, who wanted to create a special cigar for the British market. The factory used only the best Cuban tobaccos, and this brand was the originator of the Lonsdale shape, which was made on special order for the Earl of Lonsdale. In fact, the earl’s photograph and signature still adorn the box to this very day. Also worthy of note is the inscription on every box that states, “These cigars should be smoked within one month of shipment or should be carefully matured for one year.” These instructions were originally written on a box of Rafael Gonzales cigars by an English importer back in the 1930s. Never known to take such concern lightly, the Cuban makers have kept this notation on every box produced since. Owing to their light taste, I would opt for the latter part of the instructions. Cubatabaco’s blend for this cigar today is relatively mild (an HPH 1.5–2), but it still manages to make its presence felt with a sweet-and-sour accent and the strength increases to as much as an HPH 2.5 as you smoke it on down toward the band.
Ramón Allones—(Cuba) Made in Havana since 1837, this is the second-oldest Cuban brand in existence, and the year of its birth is proudly printed on the band (not only on the Cuban cigar, but on the Dominican version as well). A very innovative cigar maker, Ramón Allones was the first to utilize full-color labels on his boxes. He also originated the 8-9-8 method of packing cigars in a box, so there would not be a full row of cigars pressuring the row beneath it, a system designed for those who like their cigars “in the round,” (i.e., not squared in shape). This is another of the original Cuban brands that has maintained its strength through the years. It is definitely not a novice’s cigar, even in the smaller ring gauges, but one of the best for a lingering late night repast by the fireside after one has eaten too many servings of smoked roast boar. Expect a rousing HPH 2.5–3. Today, Ramón Allones is made in the Partagás factory.
Ramón Allones—(Dominican Republic) Formerly made in Cuba by the Cifuentes family (yes, the same skilled artisans who also made the Partagas and Macanudo), these excellent cigars are now being made by hand in Santiago. First reintroduced in America as a semiprivate brand in the 1970s, Ramón Allones has now gone national, and is available in the Alfred Dunhill shops as well as other selected tobacconists. The filler blend is a recipe of Jamaican, Dominican, and Mexican tobaccos, with a Mexican binder and a beautiful Cameroon wrapper. To me, it tastes like a mild Partagas. In case you’re wondering, the “Selección Privada” subtitle under the Allones logo simply means, “Private Selection.” The Selección Privada is a pressed cigar; that is, it has been purposely squared in the handmaking process. However, for those of us who like our cigars in the round, the Ramón Allones Trumps feature this elegant cigar in its more natural shape, with a slightly deeper taste in the filler, and packed without band or cellophane in a stylish cedar box that can double as a desktop pencil caddie when you are through smoking the contents. It is a mild 2 HPH cigar that has potential for aging.
Rigoletto—(United States/Dominican Republic) Its Black Arrow and Dominican Lights are now being handmade in the Dominican Republic; other sizes are still being machine made in Tampa.
Ritmeester—(Holland) One of the world’s premier Dutch-type cigar-making companies in which 100 percent tobacco is used. Jochem van Schuppen, who started manufacturing cigars in 1887, introduced the Ritmeester trademark in 1915 and the company has since become a major player in the worldwide manufacturer of quality dry cigars. You can find its Elites, Livardes, and Royal Dutch Panetelas and cigarillos in the US and its tinned Livardes small cigars are especially popular in the British Isles, as well as South Africa and Scandinavia.
Robt. Burns—(United States) An economical cigar that has been around since Teddy Roosevelt was President. The Cigarillo and Panetela were two of the most popular cigars of their day. In those early years, the entire line boasted Havana filler and Connecticut wrappers. Today these are mass-market cigars that utilize HTL and are machine-made in Dotham, Alabama. Only two sizes are made.
Rocky Patel—(Honduras/Nicaragua) One of the most prolific cigar-making concerns of our time, Rocky Patel is a former Hollywood attorney who became infatuated with cigars, starting off with the old Indian brand from the cigar boom years, and is now the figurehead of a huge cigar empire that includes clothes, lighters, a trendy Naples, Florida, cigar bar called Burn, and, of course, cigars—almost too many to list. Latest offerings include Vintage 2003 Cameroon box pressed, Private Cellar (a cigar Rocky envisioned to go with his favorite heavy red Napa Cabernets), and Burn, a cigar inspired by his cigar bar. Plus there is the Super Ligero made with three leaves of ligero in the filler, and a 2014 offering called Prohibition that comes in a glass ball jar, reminiscent of moonshine. Thankfully, the cigars smoke more like an aged bourbon. New cigars, along with variations on older themes, are introduced every year.
Rolando—(Dominican Republic) A handmade cigar available in six shapes.
Romeo y Julieta—(Cuba) This famous cigar started out in 1875, with the company of Alvarez y Garcia making cigars only for the local Havana market. However, like the unknown Hollywood starlet who needs a good agent, it got a boost to stardom when Rodriquez “Pepin” Fernandez, former manager of one of Havana’s largest cigar factories, bought the brand in 1903. At that time Romeo y Julieta was little known outside Cuba, but within two years Pepin had made it into one of the largest-selling premium Havana cigars in the world. A great promoter, he produced a wide range of personalized cigar bands for celebrities of the day and even named his racehorse Julieta. He always referred to his cigars as “my children.” Romeo y Julieta achieved additional fame by being credited as the cigar that originated the Churchill shape, which was really their tubed Clemenceau (named after a highly respected French diplomat of the time). In fact, in later years, this was one of the many cigars that England’s celebrated statesman, Sir Winston Churchill, is said to have smoked on a regular basis, which is how it eventually came to be named after him. Up until recently, cigars continued to be made at the old Alvarez y Garcia factory, where many of the Dunhill Havanas were also manufactured. Today it is made by Cubatabaco in the Partagás factory. It is a full, rich, but not overpowering cigar, with a very pleasing aroma that women seem to like. A 2–2.5 on the Highly Prejudiced HackerScale.
Romeo y Julieta—(Dominican Republic) Up until fairly recently, this had always been a quiet, unassuming cigar, savored by those who liked it and ignored by those who did not. When Castro came into power, the owner of this famous brand left Havana, as did so many other legendary cigar makers, and established his cigar elsewhere in the Caribbean. And that was part of the problem, for at one time it was actually being produced in three countries: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras. This did not cause any problems in Europe, where only the Havanas were available, but it was responsible for a lot of confusion in the US, as Dominican and Honduran cigars are decidedly different in taste. And so it was that the Romeo y Julieta initially violated the first rule of a good cigar: always be consistent. As the Honduran cigar is no longer being made on a national scale, the Dominican-made Romeo y Julieta has made a dramatic comeback. With its Indonesian wrapper, Connecticut broadleaf bunch, and Dominican and Cuban seed filler, it is a mild yet flavorful and aromatic cigar. Moreover, the Romeo y Julieta is now achieving a new pinnacle of excellence and taste with the Vintage series, which features one of the best Connecticut shade wrappers on any cigar, and a pleasant blend of Dominican and Brazilian tobaccos, all of which meld together to produce a wonderfully refined taste that measures a 2 to 2.5 HPH. These cigars can be easily identified by their distinctive wrappers and the gold lining on the otherwise standard red-and-white Romeo y Julieta band. The Vintage series was introduced in 1993 with five shapes, of which the No. III (4½x50) and the No. IV (7x48) are my undisputed winners for a lasting smoke anytime after 5 p.m. In 2012 the brand got a bump up in strength and a redesign of the band and box, which now feature a modernistic stacked red and white styling that reads, “RO-ME-O.” The newer Romeo y Julieta 1875 is a mild and slightly fruity smoke for everyday enjoyment.
Room 101—(Honduras) This is a boutique sub-brand of Camacho, the inspiration of the multi-tattooed and talented Matt Booth, a Hollywood jeweler who has created his own off-the-wall premium brand.
Royal Jamaica—(Dominican Republic) One of the original all-Jamaican cigars made for export, this is another island cigar that is now being made in a different island nation, the Dominican Republic. In 1989, after Hurricane Gilbert devastated the original factory, the company moved to the Dominican Republic, but then, in 1996, it returned to its homeland. Now it has returned to the much more stable cigar-making environment of the Dominican. This mild-tasting cigar (HPH 2) features filler from Jamaica and the Dominican, with a Cameroon binder and up until 1992 it had a Cameroon wrapper, which has now been changed to Indonesian leaf. The Maduro version of this cigar has the same filler blend and binder, but utilizes Mexican leaf for the wrapper. Other variations are now also being offered. It is interesting to note that the Jamaican filler tobacco is still being grown by the same family that founded this cigar.
Saint Luis Rey—(Cuba/Germany) This complete range of cigars and cigarillos is unique in that it has a dual nationality, with some shapes handmade in Havana, while others, such as the Corona and small Panetela, are machine made in Germany by the Villiger company. The cigars from both countries are medium strong in flavor, with a sweet undertaste, which reminds one of Cuban coffee.
Saint Luis Rey—(Honduras) Originally slated to come out in 1993, it took three additional years to finally get everything working right, but the wait was definitely worth it. The taste is milk chocolaty thick, creamy and rich, but like hardened taffy, you sometimes have to pull a bit to get a draw. Which means the first few cigars I smoked in the Spring of ‘96 were rolled perfectly but some later sticks were just a tad too tight. Yet even with a hard pull, it is worth the effort as far as flavor goes. Made of all Cuban-seed Honduran tobaccos, this is not a cigar for the meek; it jump-starts your palate with an HPH 2.5–3. Be sure to smoke this one with a full stomach and you’ll enjoy it even more.
San Angelo—(Dominican Republic) An old Dominican brand that was resurrected in 1996. This new version features a Dominican filler of Cuban seed and Olor, a Dominican binder, and a Connecticut shade wrapper.
San Pedro Sula—(Honduras) The name given to the Honduran-made Punch cigar that is sold in Europe. San Pedro Sula is one of the largest cities in Honduras and is near the factory where the Punch cigars are manufactured.
Sancho Panza—(Cuba) A mild smoke from an old Havana brand that still retains a loyal following.
Santa Clara 1830—(Mexico) Made by Santa Clara S.A. De C.V., the date on this cigar is that of the factory’s founding. These cigars are 100 percent handmade of long leaf filler. After manufacture, the cigars are aged, which results in a surprisingly medium-mild flavor that is endowed with substance. A slightly coarse 2 on the HPH scale, you’ll find these cigars in the US, Australia, and Germany.
Santa Cruz—(Jamaica) Handmade, long filler cigars made with Jamaican, Dominican, and Mexican tobaccos.
Santa Damiana—(Dominican Republic) Introduced in London in January 1992 and brought to the US in September of that same year, this cigar has rapidly become a much-sought-after commodity, even among the Havana smokers of the UK and some parts of Europe. It is an old brand, but has been upgraded for today’s sophisticated tastes with a blend of Dominican filler and binder and a handsome Connecticut shade wrapper. This is an unexpectedly mild, super-premium cigar.
Santa Fe—(United States) Not named for the picturesque town in New Mexico. Chances are more probable that this old-time cigar was named after the highly regarded Menendez y Garcia tobacco farm in pre-revolutionary Cuba. Today it is machine made in Alabama of short filler and homogenized tobacco for the mass market.
Santa Rosa—(Honduras) Introduced in 1984, this medium-flavored cigar is very popular in some areas of the country, due to its attractive Connecticut shade wrapper and competitive pricing. Very pleasantly blended, it comes in at a 2 to 2.5 on the HackerScale. These are the perfect cigars for retired gunfighters, for I have found some of them to be a little slow on the draw.
Santiago Cabana—(United States) Key West, Florida, was one of the first anchoring spots for Cuban refugees just before and shortly after the Spanish American War. They quickly established a cigar-making colony that, although past its prime, still thrives today in many “buckeye” operations. But this cigar is worthy of the best that Key West or any other cigar-making region has ever produced. In fact, it is made in Key Largo. “Pleasant” is the best one-word description of its taste. But it’s more than that. For a medium-tasting cigar, it is one of the best of the “new breeds.” With Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan filler, Ecuador binder and a wonderful Ecuador wrapper, it smoothly sails in as a perfect HPH 2. Eight shapes are offered with the 7 3/4x52 Presidente bringing out the full flavor of this excellent cigar. Definitely worth buying by the box.
Savinelli—(Dominican Republic) Introduced in 1994, this mild-tasting cigar (also called the ELR, for Extremely Limited Reserve) is made by the A. Fuente factory. It is named after the company founded by Achille Savinelli, a master pipemaker in Italy.
Schimmelpenninck—(Holland) Made in Wageningen, Holland, this is one of the most prestigious of the small Dutch-type cigar manufacturers. The company was started in 1924 by two brothers and their uncle, who began making cigars under the Schimmelpenninck name. The brand was derived from the name of one of Holland’s nineteenth-century governors. This has resulted in the longest name in this entire book, and the more one has to drink, the easier it is to pronounce. Nonetheless, the cigars have become extremely popular in over 160 countries, with ninety percent of its production being shipped outside of Holland. In the United States, which is traditionally not a Dutch-type cigar market, the Schimmelpenninck brand nonetheless accounts for fifty percent of “dry” cigars sold in America. Their popular Duet is the world’s best-selling thin Panetela, with a blend of more than twenty different types of short filler tobaccos from Indonesia, Brazil, and Cameroon. And for an unusual shape with a Rothschild-type smoke, try one of their Grand Luxe, a short, squat torpedo-shaped cigar with a full-bodied Cameroon wrapper. The Florina is another full-tasting cigar in a small shape, but that is because it has Havana tobacco blended in with its Brazil and Java tobacco fillers; best to pick these up at the duty-free shops on your next overseas travels. But my all-time favorite is the V.S.O.P. Corona De Luxe, which I find good enough to smoke with a cognac.
Shah-ow-shu-ma—(China) An all-tobacco Chinese cigar first made in the 1940s, and now sold throughout China, as well as Japan. A few were exported to the US in 1992. A variety of tobaccos are grown in China, but the various cigars within this brand are made in different factories located within a specific growing area, so that they each have a distinctive taste, according to the province in which they were made.
Sindicato—(Dominican Republic/Nicaragua/Honduras) Conceived by Florida tobacconist Abe Dababneh and a small but equally influential group of cigar retailers (including company president Jim Colucchi, former executive vice president of sales and marketing for Altadis USA), this is indeed a “syndicate” created to bring new premium cigars to the market with brands they claim will not be discontinued. Affinity, Hex, and Casa Bella were their first three offerings, but their flagship cigar—and the one you are most likely to encounter—is Sindicato, a full-bodied Nicaraguan puro made by Casa Fernandez.
Signet—(Dominican Republic) A high-end cigar introduced in 1996 in three shapes. Components are: Dominican filler and binder with a Connecticut shade wrapper.
Sosa—(Dominican Republic) Arriving from Havana in the last century, the Sosa family eventually set up their own cigar-making operation in Tampa’s Ybor City in 1964. Ten years later Juan Sosa created his own cigar in the Dominican Republic. This was one of the very first mass-produced cigars from the Dominican. Today it is made with Dominican filler and binder and a Connecticut shade wrapper. Its taste is rich and mellow, like chocolate pudding. An HPH 2–2.5 chocolate pudding to be exact.
Tabacalera—(Philippines) A mild-tasting cigar that was discontinued in 1996, but you still may find a few wayward boxes on dealer’s shelves.
Tabantillas—(Spain) Reportedly the best-selling cigar in Spain. Which makes me wonder who’s smoking all those Havanas that are shipped there each year.
Tabaquero—(Dominican Republic) Introduced to the US in 1995.
Tatuaje—(Nicaragua) This company’s name means “tattoo” in Spanish, which makes sense when you meet owner Pete Johnson, whose body is covered with cigar band tattoos, including a great rendition of the Fuente OpusX logo on his shoulder. The cigars are primarily made by Pepin Garcia and invoke a number of old Cuban brands such as Fausto and La Casita Criollo that Pete has brought back from the nineteenth century, in name at least; the non-Cuban blends are entirely different. His Tattoo cigar is budget-priced and comes from Nicaragua’s Tatuba factory, which is owned by Pepin Garcia. Higher up the ladder are Johnson’s L’Atelier and Surrogate cigars, among his many others. All are medium full in flavor. These are boutique cigars that have grabbed a loyal following thanks to their meticulous rolling and great taste, which ranges from medium-smooth to thundering.
Te-Amo—(Mexico) Originally brought out in the 1960s, this brand has become one of the best-selling cigars from South of the Border. It is especially popular in New York. The name means “I love you” in Spanish, and a box of Te-Amos would be an appropriate gift on Valentine’s day. Offered in Mexican-grown wrappers of Natural Sumatra seed and Maduro, they are handmade in the San Andrés Valley. Although already very mild in flavor (a 1.5 on the HPH scale) there is also a Te-Amo Light, which refers to the flavor, rather than what you do to it with a match. And now, linking it to another geographic region other than New York there is a Te-Amo Revolution, which is only sold in Texas.
Temple Hall—(Dominican Republic) This is an old nineteenth century brand that was named after one of the Jamaican tobacco plantations established by Cuban growers in 1876. In fact, the Temple Hall estates still exist, but the cigar is now made in Santiago. It was relatively low key, but was reintroduced in 1992 with an updated image and a new blend, consisting of a Connecticut shade wrapper and Dominican, Jamaican, and Mexican filler.
Tesoros de Copan—(Honduran) With its characteristic green band, this is one ecology-friendly cigar I encourage everyone to buy because the proceeds go to the Ruta Maya Foundation, which was started by former National Geographic editor Bill Garret to help preserve Central America’s rain forests and Mayan culture. Anyone who has walked through the thick forested jungles of Honduras or explored some of the hidden and crumbling Mayan ruins as I have, knows that these irreplaceable entities are in need of all the help they can get. The cigar’s name means Treasure of Copan, and the Mayan frieze from the town of Copan (near some of the recently excavated ruins) stamped on each box helps explain the cigar’s noble purpose. It’s not a bad smoke either, with a spicy-mild HPH 2.
The Ultimate Cigar—(Honduras) Absolutely no relationship to The Ultimate Cigar Book, even though it is one of the best cigars I have smoked in quite a while. Once a private mail-order brand, it is now available nationwide. I first had one of these cigars, in their No. 1 shape (a 7¼x54), when visiting the factory near San Pedro Sula where they are made. At the time, I did not know what they were, as they were unbanded. However, its rich, creamy texture of flavor and faintly sweet undertaste made me return the next day to learn its identity. And to acquire a box. These cigars are all aged for a full year and are handmade of Cuban seed tobaccos grown in Honduras. A 2–2.5 on the HPH, The Ultimate Cigar is available in sixteen sizes, and in almost as great a variety of wrappers: Claro, Double Claro, and variations of EMS and Maduros. In keeping with the well-aged connoisseur quality of this cigar, it comes uncellophaned in cedar boxes.
Tiparillo—(United States) A small, mass-market, plastic-tipped cigar that created a mini-revolution in smoking mores when it was introduced in 1962 with the advertising slogan, “Should a gentleman offer a lady a Tiparillo?” Then, thanks to the Surgeon General’s report (when he said what we already knew about the healthful aspects of cigar smoking), within a few years of its introduction, Tiparillos were selling at the rate of one and one half billion a year. Machine made of homogenized tobacco, it is still selling. Only now the ladies ask if they should offer a Tiparillo to a gentleman.
Topper—(Dominican Republic) Called the Topper Centennial, this cigar was introduced in 1995—one year early—to commemorate the Topper Cigar Company’s 100th anniversary in the cigar-making business. It features Dominican filler, Mexican binder and a Connecticut wrapper. A very pleasant HPH 2. For a history of one of the last of the American cigar companies, see below.
Topper—(Honduras) Known as the Topper Handmade, this cigar was actually a little ahead of its time, coming out before the huge cigar boom of the 1990s. It has Dominican, Mexican, and Honduran filler, and a Honduran binder and wrapper.
Topper—(United States) One of the last of the old-time American cigar making companies. B. P. Topper, after apprenticing at one of the many Pennsylvania cigar companies that were flourishing around the latter part of the nineteenth century, started the Topper Cigar Company in 1896. It has been family owned and run ever since. In fact, the Topper cigar was one of the last of the handmade cigars to be produced in the US; it had a seventy-three-year run, lasting until 1969. By that time the high cost of labor and the fact that most of the experienced cigar rollers were either gone or too old to continue their trade finally caught up with this venerable company. Not willing to sacrifice its commitment to producing a quality cigar, it changed with the times and went to a short filler machine made version, but still keeping it all-tobacco. Topper remained especially strong along the eastern part of the United States. In 1980, under B. P.’s grandson Frank, a Honduran cigar, the company’s first handrolled product in eleven years, was brought out. In 1994, B. P.’s great-grandson Chris joined the firm and one year later, to keep up with the new growth in the cigar business, Topper introduced its second handrolled cigar. Only this time it was made in the Dominican Republic. But Topper’s US production continues, with its line of Connecticut Broadleaf short-filler cigars, thereby keeping alive an American cigar-making legacy that I might not have known about had I not stumbled into Chris’s brother Dave at a cigar dinner I was speaking at a few years ago in New Hampshire.
Top Stone—(United States) Originally manufactured by E. Waegeman & Sons of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1903. In true entrepreneurial fashion, one of Waegeman’s customers liked the cigar so much, he ended up buying the factory from the last surviving heir of the founding family. The operations were moved to Tampa in late ’70s. Prior to the embargo this cigar was made with Broadleaf wrapper and binder with Cuban filler. Later, this was replaced with Dominican and domestic tobaccos. Today, Top Stone remains an all-tobacco cigar, made with Connecticut broadleaf wrapper and binder and machine-bunched long-leaf filler. It is one of the better values on the market for a good, medium-grade American cigar with a wide variety of Claro, Colorado, and Maduro wrappers.
Toraño—(Dominican Republic/Honduras/Nicaragua) Tobacco broker and grower Carlos Toraño has made so many cigars for other people, he finally decided to make one for himself. Now his son, Charlie, has become president of the company. No longer producing their own cigars, they now have others make specialty smokes, usually as limited editions, such as the Single Region Serie Jalapa, one of the first new cigars to be produced by this family-owned company since they sold their Nicaraguan and Honduran factories to Scandinavian Tobacco. Other releases include the Master and the Vault, all of which are handcrafted in small villages and of course, in fairly limited numbers.
Travis Club—(United States) A historic, long-filler Texas-made cigar that is still being produced by the original company. The Travis Club cigar was named after a private club in San Antonio, Texas. Henry William Finck, owner of the Finck Cigar Company in San Antonio, was a charter member of the Travis Club, which was founded in 1909. As this exclusive organization’s only cigar-manufacturing member, it was felt that his club should have its own cigar. And so it came to pass. When World War I rolled around, the patriotic members of the Travis Club opened their doors to the military officers who were stationed in San Antonio. Soon the Texas-based American doughboys were extolling the virtues of Travis Club cigars, and the demand for these homegrown smokes soon changed the Travis Club cigar from a private brand into a public one. In addition to the current Travis Club line of fourteen different shapes (many stemming from the earliest years of the company’s existence), May of 1993 saw the introduction of the Travis Club Centennial Cigar, created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Finck Cigar Company (see Chapter 2), which has now been making Travis Club cigars for over a century. Housed in a commemorative cedar box with its own humidifier, this special cigar is similar to Finck’s turn-of-the-century Senator; only its 67/8x45 size provides a fuller flavor. These all-tobacco cigars are made of Connecticut shade wrapper, Connecticut broadleaf binder, and a blend of Dominican, Piloto, Olor, and Brazil long leaf filler. Today, the Travis Club and the Elks Club building that housed it on the top floor are both long gone, but their image is preserved in the artfully nostalgic label of a cigar that is too good to die.
Trinidad—(Cuba) The phantom cigar of Havana. Trinidad (named after a town in Cuba) has replaced Cohiba as the official government cigar, now that Cohiba is publicly available. But officially, no one in Cuba claims to know anything about the Trinidad, (even though these elusive stogies were given out at a major $1,000-a-plate “Dinner of the Century” in 1995 in Paris, where some entrepreneur paid $250,000 for ten boxes of the non-existent cigars!). High-ranking dignitaries and guests of the government are supposedly the only ones who have ever smoked it. I am happy to say that since the first edition of The Ultimate Cigar Book was published I have finally experienced the Trinidad (they wouldn’t give me another one to take back and photograph; I had to smoke it there!) and found its taste to be rich and vinegary, almost acidic. In short, it is a very carefully honed strength, like a tempered steel blade and easily qualifies for an HPH 2.5 and not as a 3 as some have suggested. However, the intensity of the tobacco can be tamed by smoking it outdoors. But for all its elitist posturing, the Trinidad was originally made in one size, a 7½x38, but now it is available as a Robusto, a short Robusto, and a Fundadores as well.
Trinidad—(Dominican Republic) It had to happen; a non-Cuban version of the Cuban cigar. But this in itself was wrought with intrigue and a tale of the original family fleeing Cuba and holding onto the name and much intense negotiation. But none of that is important. What is important is the fact that Altadis was able to negotiate the use of this much-coveted brand for its own line of non-Cuban premium cigars for countries (including the US) where the Cuban version could not be smoked. The bands are practically identical, except for their newest offering, the Trinidad Paradox, which features a strong-tasting San Andrés wrapper.
Troya—(Cuba) A famous brand whose name was inspired by Helen of Troy.
Tueros—(Canada) A Havana leaf, short filler cigar with homogenized binder that is machine-made in Montreal, Canada, for distribution in that nation only. Only one size, a corona, is made and each cigar is individually packaged in a tube. Extremely mild, rating a 1.5 HPH.
Tulum—(Mexico) A handmade long leaf cigar first brought out in 1994. Rather refined and woodsy in taste. An HPH 2–2.5.
VegaFina—(Dominican Republic) An old Cuban brand that was resurrected in the Dominican Republic as a much milder smoke. The VegaFina Fortaleza 2, introduced in 2012, is a stronger and frankly, much more enjoyable smoke, with its Mexican San Andrés wrapper. And the VegaFina Sumum 2013 is a satisfying medium- to full-strength smoke featuring a Cameroon wrapper and Nicaraguan filler and binder. Unfortunately, it is a limited edition. For something milder (and easier to find) try the VegaFina White.Veracruz—(Mexico) First appearing in 1977, this mild and delicately flavored long filler cigar takes its name from the state in which the famous San Andrés tobacco-growing region is located. The Veracruz cigar is the inspiration of Mexican entrepreneur Oscar J. Franck Terrazas. It
is handmade of tobaccos from San Andrés Tuxtla and Oaxaca. The Veracruz features one of the most elaborate individual packages of any cigar made today. There are two sizes, the 6¼x42 Reserva Especial and a 77/8x50 Magnum. Both come encased in an amber glass tube, which is topped off with a foam spacer and sealed with an airtight rubber cap. The tube is then hand wrapped in tissue and slipped into a thin cedar box. These cigars are sold individually and you don’t have to put them in a humidor, as the importer guarantees them to stay fresh for up to six months. I think Oscar is being judiciously cautious. Don’t try this at home, but I once left a packaged Veracruz cigar on my desk for a full two years before I finally discovered it under a pile of papers (this gives you an insight into the lifestyle I lead when writing a book). Not wishing to wait a moment longer after its excavation, and thrilled at finding a cigar just when I needed it, I immediately uncorked this Latin treasure and smoked it. To my surprise, it was as fresh as if I had just plucked it from my humidor. In fact, if you don’t have a humidor, or plan to be traveling for an extended period of time, this is a perfect cigar to take along with you, as long as you like the limited sizes that are offered and the comparatively subdued flavor. Not readily found because of its somewhat lofty price, it is nonetheless a super-premium smoke that is distributed in the Continental US and Hawaii.
Victor Vitale—An entrepreneurial chap who comes from the sales side of Ashton and struck out on his own to bring out short runs of boutique cigars, among which are the Tortuga, in all its variations. All are of the highest quality.
Villa de Cuba—(United States) In spite of its name, this cigar has been made in Tampa ever since it began in the 1930s. It is now a mass-market cigar, machine bunched, with a homogenized binder.
Villiger—(Nicaragua/Dominican Republic) Although Villiger Söhne AG of Pfeffikon, Switzerland is famous for its machine-made cigars, in 2013 the company decided to expand its reach and enter the premium hand-rolled world of cigars. Their Villiger Colorado and the 125th Anniversary cigars are made by Nestor Plasencia, but its Cabareté, even though it has a Nicaraguan maduro wrapper, is made at Tabacalera La Palma in the Dominican Republic.
Villiger—(Switzerland/Germany) One of the very few European cigar-making firms still owned and operated by the original founding family. The Villiger brand was started in 1888, when Jean Villiger, a Swiss bookkeeper, decided he wanted a better-quality cigar than what was available in his local town of Pfeffikon, and so, he started making cigars for himself. These private cigars were a favorite shape for the region, called Stumpen (which we would call cheroots today) and it wasn’t long before word of his tasty cigars traveled throughout the village and surrounding countryside. Soon Villiger had more than fifty people manufacturing his cigars in a small factory and their reputation gradually spread throughout Switzerland and neighboring Germany. Since those early years, the Villiger family has continued to inherit Jean’s love of tobacco, and the company has managed to survive two world wars and numerous personal obstacles. In 1950, Jean’s grandson Heinrich entered the family business and in 1966 his brother Kaspar joined him, although he had to leave this post in 1989 when he was elected to the Swiss Federal Government. However, Heinrich remains as president of the famous company.
Up until the late 1960s, you rarely saw a Villiger cigar outside Switzerland and Germany. But today, Villiger has factories in Switzerland, Germany, and Ireland and employs about 900 people who produce over 450 million cigars and cigarillos, of which twenty percent are exported to over seventy countries, including all of Europe and the United States. In addition, Villiger cigars are quite prominent in duty-free shops as well as being supplied to the Diplomatic Corps. They were the first company to introduce the now familiar five-pack to the Swiss market. Originally handmade, today the Villiger factories utilize state-of-the-art machine making techniques. Its cigars are made with tobaccos that have been aged from two to three years, from countries such as Brazil, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Java, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Sumatra, and Africa. Havana is also used for many of their cigars that are not exported to the US. Villiger produces a vast array of European-type cheroots, cigars, and cigarillos. Especially notable in Europe are their all-Havana Romeo y Julieta cigarillos and Saint Luis Rey cigars (made under license from Cubatabaco) and its 100 percent tobacco Backgammon cigars. In the US, the most popular brands are Export, a unique square-shaped Swiss cigar with Sumatra wrapper, and Kiel, a long, slender Villiger shape that dates from the early 1900s. This European favorite originally had a built-in goose quill tip, which in German is called “Gänse Kiel”; the “kiel” part stuck, so to speak, and thus begat the name of this popular cigar. Ecological concerns (and no doubt lobbying efforts by the geese) have since dictated that a distinctive yellow plastic mouthpiece be substituted for the goose quill.
Also worth searching out during your travels are the mild Rio and Tobajara small cigars, as well as Braniff which is made from the finest Mexican tobaccos from the San Andrés Valley. Some Villiger cigars are all tobacco while others utilize homogenized leaf so that they can more effectively be made on machines. In addition to its extensive lineup of cigars and cigarillos, Villiger also makes pipe tobacco and has recently diversified into bicycle manufacturing. Perhaps the ideal European vacation would be peddling through the lush Swiss countryside on a Villiger bike while puffing a Villiger cigar, which continues to provide smokers the world over with a variety of very Continental shapes and blends.
White Owl—(United States) This early American brand started out in 1887 as Owl Brand cigars. Then it was changed to Brown Owl. Finally in 1902 it became White Owl. In the earlier part of the twentieth century, an eighteen million dollars a year ad budget made it a best seller nationwide. Today, with its short filler and HTL binder, it remains a popular and affordable mass-market cigar.
Willem II—(Holland) Established in 1916, this is the leading brand in Holland and also one of the more popular small Dutch type cigars in more than 100 countries. It is made of Indonesian and South American tobaccos, with a Sumatra wrapper and homogenized binder. From the small Wee Willems to the short Dutch Wiffs to the lengthy Long Panetelas, they are a comforting and versatile smoke that can usually be found in most metropolitan smokeshops.
Wm. Penn—(United States) A cigar that was born during the Roaring Twenties, it is still being made today, although now it is manufactured by machine, with homogenized leaf. The Perfecto and Panetela are classic shapes that have been in the line since its beginning. Still one of the most popular mass-market cigars in the Midwest and New England.
Zino—(Holland) Known as its Specialty Series of cigars, this Davidoff product is of the dry, European-style variety. Offered in both Indonesian (light) and Brazilian (dark) wrappers, they are made of 100 percent tobacco and are among the mildest of the Davidoff line. Milder yet are the foil-wrapped Zino Relax in light and dark wrappers, and the Zino Classic.
Zino—(Honduras) This is the Honduran line of humidified Davidoff cigars, named after the late Zino Davidoff. The Zinos, which are 100 percent handmade, were introduced in Europe in the late 1970s and were first sold in the US in 1983. There are three categories of Zinos: Mouton Cadet, one of the mildest and the cigars that were specifically selected for Baronne Philippine de Rothschild (the torpedo, which was introduced in 1996, is especially notable in this blend); Honduran Series, a medium blend in a wide range of sizes; and the Connoisseur Series, a full, rich-tasting cigar that was launched in 1987 to celebrate Davidoff’s opening of its New York store but was quietly discontinued until 1997, when it was brought back with an even heavier blend. Their Zino Platinum Z-Class is among the best.