The July/August issue of Cigar Aficionado was full of interesting content, including a cover story on television personality Guy Fieri, but perhaps the even bigger story was the surprising number of high-scoring cigars, including three smokes that scored 95 points or higher—Classic on our 100-point scale. Of the 72 cigars put through their paces in a blind taste-test, 39 of them achieved a rating of 90 points or more (54.2 percent). Of that number, we pulled the very best of the best for this list.
Every cigar rated by Cigar Aficionado is smoked blind by our panel of editors. The tasting coordinator removes the cigars’ identifying bands and replaces them with plain white, numbered labels before handing them out. Members of the tasting panel have no idea what they are smoking and cigars are evaluated without biases such as price, country of origin and brand.
Rocky Patel A.L.R. Second Edition Toro (96 points, $16.25)
This long, box-pressed toro was the No. 5 Cigar of 2019, and still delivered an outstanding performance years after the accolade. The “A.L.R.” stands for “Aged Limited Rare” as Rocky Patel says that the cigars are produced in small quantities and aged for two years after rolling. The smoke leaves a weighty, decadent array of nutmeg, German chocolate cake and shredded coconut impressions for an exceptionally rich smoking experience. See the full tasting note.
Arturo Fuente Hemingway Work of Art (95 points, $10.60)
No stranger to our Top 25 list, Fuente’s Hemingway line consists entirely of shapely perfectos and figurados—long and short—all made with a toothy leaf of Cameroon wrapper over Dominican tobacco. Despite its tapered, bottom-heavy shape, the Work of Art burns beautifully, draws effortlessly and delivers precise notes of chocolate, almond and vanilla. See the full tasting note.
Blackened Cigars “M81” by Drew Estate Corona (95 points, $9.15)
This is a high-wattage, three-way collaboration between James Hetfield of Metallica, Blackened American Whiskey distiller Rob Dietrich and Nicaraguan cigarmaker Drew Estate, and it rocked our tasting panel. The all-maduro “M81” Corona only measures 5 inches by 43 ring gauge, but it delivers big, arena-sized flavor with notes of saffron, baking spices and semi-sweet chocolate leading to an earthy, reverberating finish. See the full tasting note.
Ashton Virgin Sun Grown Illusion (94 points, $14.15)
When Ashton’s Virgin Sun Grown line was first released back in 1999, it was one of the stronger cigars on the market. Today, the VSG line (as it’s commonly known) may have some company in the full-bodied segment, but this lonsdale is still a powerhouse. With its dark, Ecuador Sumatra wrapper and Dominican binder and filler, the Illusion projects a powerful palate of rich earth with savory notes of roasted peanut that linger on the finish. See the full tasting note.
Cohiba Maduro 5 Mágicos (94 points, £69.40)
Though clad in a dark cover leaf, the wrapper of this robusto is neither Connecticut broadleaf nor Mexican San Andrés. Rather, it’s a Cuban leaf grown under shade and harvested from a higher part of the plant where the extra sun exposure results in a darker, thicker leaf. The “5” refers to the number of years Habanos says the wrapper was aged, and the smoke is as bold as the wrapper suggests with a spicy core harmoniously accented by nutmeg and cinnamon. See the full tasting note.
El Pulpo Belicoso Grande (94 points, $17)
Big, bold and box-pressed, this dark, Mexican-wrapped belicoso is from the El Pulpo line, the second brand from Artesano del Tobacco. The name El Pulpo means “the octopus” in Spanish because, according to brand co-owner Billy Fakih, the smoke of this cigar “will completely surround your palate like an octopus. And it won’t let go.” It opens with a note of citrus before long, tasty tendrils of coffee bean, baking spices and dark chocolate take hold. See the full tasting note.
Trinidad Espíritu Series No. 1 Belicoso (94 points, $10.71)
This belicoso is from the original Trinidad Espíritu line, which marked the first time A.J. Fernandez reblended the Trinidad brand for the American market. Made in collaboration with Rafael Nodal of Altadis U.S.A., this Nicaraguan puro offers an assortment of dried fruit notes bolstered by a meaty undercurrent and a jammy finish that reminds us of a California cabernet. See the full tasting note.
E.P. Carrillo Pledge Sojourn (93 points, $13.25)
The slightly bigger sister to the 2020 Cigar of the Year, this box-pressed toro is rolled with a Connecticut Habano cover leaf, an Ecuadoran binder and Nicaraguan filler. Bold impressions of earth and pepper are balanced by more refined notes of leather, coffee and espresso thanks to the blending talents of industry veteran and brand owner Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. See the full tasting note.
Montecristo Línea 1935 Maltés (93 points, £57.50)
Cohiba has Behike, Romeo has Línea de Oro and Montecristo has Línea 1935, a super-premium extension of the core Monty line. It’s supposed to be more full-bodied (and more expensive) then regular Montecristos, and the Maltés size brings a sophisticated, nutty smoke sweetened by elegant layers of nougat, baking spice and orange with a finish that is redolent of both honey and German chocolate cake. See the full tasting note.
Padrón Family Reserve No. 44 Maduro (93 points, $34.85)
At one time, you could only get a Family Reserve if you attended an event hosted by a member of the Padrón family. Today, the Family Reserve is a full line with multiple sizes. According to the company, the tobaccos inside have been aged for 10 years. Rich and satisfying, the No. 44 evokes chocolate and espresso bean accented by woody impressions of oak and cedar. See the full tasting note.
Romeo y Julieta Churchill (Tubo) (93 points, £47.40)
This stately cigar is one of the most famous Cuban Churchills of all time. It was also a favorite of one of the most famous cigar smokers of all time, Winston Churchill, to the point that the vitola was named in his honor. The 7-by-47 cigar has an alluring interplay of sweeter notes such as graham cracker and caramel with more savory tones of leather and salted peanut. See the full tasting note.
Tatuaje Miami Havana Cazadores (93 points, $12)
Cigars made in the United States are relatively rare in today’s market due to the higher cost of labor and tobacco importation. But Tatuaje brand owner Pete Johnson wants to keep the tradition alive. Casually referred to as “Brown Label,” the Tatuaje Miami Havana line (formerly known as Tatuaje Cabinet) is made at the El Rey de los Habanos factory in Miami. Its open draw and even burn provide a bold smoke of earth, black pepper and coffee which finds balance amidst the resonant hints of chocolate and nutmeg. See the full tasting note.