18 October 2016

Eight Great Alternatives to the Cigar Aficionado’s Eight Great Cuban Cigars to Buy Now

Recently, the United States eliminated the restrictions on bringing Cuban cigars and rum into the United States when returning to the country from international destinations.  Cuban cigars, are among the best cigars in the world.  Arguably, they, along with Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras produce the majority of Premium Cigars enjoyed by cigar enthusiasts around the world.  Cigar Aficionado reviews cigars blind, giving ratings and tasting notes to each.   CA’s staff has put together a list of “Eight Great Cuban Cigars to Buy Now”.   Of course, only those fortunate enough to live or travel internationally (or those willing to risk purchasing online and shipping to the US Illegally) are able to try these eight cigars.  So, using Cigar Aficionado’s Ratings and Review database, I’ve compiled a list of alternatives, trying to match size, flavor and score as best I can.  Here are my:

Eight Great Alternatives to the Cigar Aficionado’s Eight Great Cuban Cigars to Buy Now

CA: Bolivar Corona Gigante (93 points): Cuba's Bolivar brand is not for the faint of palate, as this smallish brand is known for some of Cuba's stronger cigars. The Corona Gigante is one of few Churchill-sized smokes still rolled in Cuba. Tasting Note: Topped with an attractive mounted head, this well-made Churchill exhibits richness with every puff, showing an earthy palate of coffee, walnut and cedar notes that all harmonize for a complex finish. (£22.86)

MH: Ashton Symmetry Prestige (93 Points) Tasting Note: Dark and imposing with an oily wrapper, this cedary-tasting Churchill has a bold, meaty underpinning with notes of bittersweet chocolate and an earthy finish. A medium- to full-bodied smoke. ($12.75)


CA: Partagás Corona Gorda Añejados (91 points): When Cuba's cigar gurus looked at how connoisseurs age cigars, they figured why not do the aging for them? That's the idea behind the Añejado program, where cigars are rolled and left to age in the box before being released. The time certainly works on this Partagás, which is medium bodied and rich.  Tasting Note: A subtly box-pressed cigar with an excellent three-seam cap. The firm draw shows notes of dried fruit and sweet nuts before leading to a warm, bready finish. (£21.60)

MH: Padron Serie 1926 No. 90 (94 points) Tasting Note: Nearly flawless in appearance, this richly-hued cigar showcases a nuanced mix of walnut, cedar and toast interwoven with stronger notes of leather and pepper. (19.50)


CA: Punch Punch (91 points): One of the longtime go-to sizes in the Cuban cigar world, the Punch Punch is true to its namesake, with a medium to full body and notes of leather and butterscotch. It's an old size, and one that has long been prized by cigar smokers in the know. Tasting Note: Well made with an impeccable three-seam cap. The smoke maintains a warm, toasty quality while imparting sweet molasses notes, a touch of baker's chocolate and a rich almond finish. (£17.33)

MH: Quesada Reserva Privada 6 ½ x 56 (92 Points) Tasting Note: This blonde corona gorda has a great draw and a wavy burn that corrects itself. Rich, creamy smoke blossoms on the palate to show orange peel and toasted almond. ($14.95)


CA: H. Upmann Petit Corona (91 points): Living up to the big things come in small packages saying, this little H. Upmann, a mere 5 1/8 inches long by 42 ring gauge, is pleasantly sweet, with a medium body. Ideal for cigar smokers with only a half hour or so to spare for a fine cigar. Tasting Note: A softly pressed corona with rounded edges and tapered shoulders. The burn is notably firm, but delivers a chewy smoke full of brown sugar notes and baking spices balanced by cedar and a marzipan finish. (£11.69)

MH: Davidoff Winston Churchill Petit Corona (92 Points) Tasting Note: The sweet aroma of molasses cookies that emanates from this cigar as it burns recurs on the palate, along with notes of espresso and savory wood. ($9.90)


CA: Cohiba Siglo I (90 points): Another small smoke, and one with a considerably powerful character. The Siglo I is only 4-inches long, but packs a kick, brimming with notes of walnut and chocolate. (£12.80)

MH: Nat Sherman Sterling Perla (85 Points) Tasting Note: The dense smoke of this cigar starts out rich and fruity with plenty of raisin notes ($9.00)


CA: Juan Lopez Selección No. 1 (90 points): The casual cigar smoker may have never heard of Juan Lopez, as it's one of Cuba's smaller cigar brands. The Selección No. 1, a medium- to full-bodied corona gorda, is often superb, having earned multiple scores of 90 points or more in our publications.  Tasting Note: The prominent graham cracker notes of this corona gorda intermingle with a sweet nuttiness and an elegant salty finish. The draw and burn remain even throughout. (£17.20)

MH: La Flor Dominicana Coronado Corona Especial (92 PointsTasting Note: With a lush draw and even burn, this cigar starts spicy with a backbone of sweet nuts, developing heady notes of roasted coffee bean and minerals. A bold smoke. ($8.80)


CA: Montecristo Petit No. 2 (90 points): One of Cuba's newer cigars is also one of its best. A shortened version of the superb and legendary Montecristo No. 2, this short figurado is medium bodied, bold and earthy, packing quite a bit of flavor into less than 5 inches of cigar. Tasting Note: This tan, mini-belicoso is bold and earthy, but at the same time creamy and floral with some almond notes and a tangy orange peel finish. (£18.22)

MH: Nat Sherman Panamericana Belicoso Fino (NYR) Though this vitola has not been rated, the Churchill format for this blend scored 90 points. Tasting Note: The initial flinty and tangy notes of this Churchill settle down to show a dried fruit and licorice character that recurs on the finish along with touches of leather. ($11.00)


CA: Partagás Salomon (90 points): If you have a long, long time to enjoy a cigar, this intricately shaped figurado is for you. Curvy and voluptuous, measuring more than 7-inches long, it's consistently rich and superb, never scoring lower than 90 points in our blind tastings.  Tasting Note: Picture-perfect with fine tapers and an alluring wrapper. The cigar's firm draw eventually opens to show notes of salted caramel, spices and a graham-cracker finish. (£26.59)

MH: Tabaquero Hamlet Paredes Salomon (90 Points)  Tasting Note: This large and imposing Salomon has intricate curves. The first puffs offer copious amounts of earthy, charry smoke with elements of licorice and fruit. ($9.80)

Should you find yourself abroad, I do encourage cigar enthusiasts to try Cuban cigars… experience the flavor of their tobacco, the style of the blending, the craftsmanship of their construction.  But, I also encourage you to visit your local tobacconist, and try these recommendations above.  Or, better yet, ask your local tobacconist what they would recommend as alternatives.  

11 October 2016

Oktoberfest 2016 at Nat Sherman