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Last year rolled up into a banner year for cigars and their smokers. We saw a renewed focus on some classic brands from the past, new hybrid tobaccos and a resurrection of old Cuban cigar shapes. These trends have resulted in some of the best cigars we have ever put a match to. Here are a few of our standout favourites in 2018 that needs to be on your list of cigars to get this year.
1. Hamlet 25th Year Salomon
US$10.50 or RM42.98
Three years ago, cigar impresario Rocky Patel met Cuban cigar maker Hamlet Paredes, who had just immigrated to the United States, and immediately hired him. Hamlet—he usually just goes by his first name professionally—was born and raised in Havana and had spent more than 25 years in the cigar industry, where he perfected his cigar-making skills, including mastering the art of rolling cigars without moulds or presses, a technique known as “free hand." The culmination of all this is Hamlet’s resurrection of an old Cuban shape, a 7 5/8 x 58 Salomon figurado. It is a different, milder blend than his previous Tabaquero Salomon and smokes with a medium-rich, mellow smoothness, thanks to Hamlet’s use of a Mexican maduro wrapper combined with a Nicaraguan and Brazilian filler.
2. Villiger La Flor De Inclan Lancero Especial
US$11 or RM45 each; US$275 or RM1,126 for a box of 25
This old Cuban brand was resurrected over a decade ago but then faded away. However, it was relaunched last year in Torpedo, Robusto, and Churchill variations with a new blend of Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers, along with an Indonesian binder and a 12-year-old Ecuadorian wrapper. It proved an immediate success, but because different shapes bring out different flavours, something new was added this year—a 6 ¾ x 43 lancero. While the medium strength of the original blend is retained, the coffee and leather nuances are intensified. Only 500 boxes of 25 cigars each will be produced annually.
3. Fonseca Vega Magna
US$20.40 to US$21.60 or RM83.50 to RM88.40
Some Fonseca fans may compare its newest addition to the brand’s more intense Casa Magna. But although just as full-bodied, the Vega Magna is a slightly gentler smoke, featuring an Ecuadorian sun-grown wrapper and a filler composed of Dominican seco, viso, and ligero leaves that were aged in air-tight, palm frond tercios, an old Cuban technique that brings out the maximum flavours of these tobaccos, some of which are from the 2001 harvest. Three sizes are produced: 5 ½ x 54 Robusto, 7 x 52 Belicoso, and 6 x 50 Toro. Unique to the Vega Magna is its packaging, for each box of ten cigars encompasses a removable, framed and ready to hang laser-etched art scene by Dominican artist Pragmy Marichal that depicts various activities in the tobacco fields.
4. Hoyo La Amistad Black by A.J. Fernandez
US$7.29 to US$8.49 or RM29.84 to RM34.76
Just call it “Hoyo by Fernandez" for short. This is the third cigar A.J. Fernandez has done in General Cigar’s Amistad series, coming right after the Silver and the Gold, but this is the fullest-flavoured of the three. In fact, the band design is as bold as the strength of this meaty, Nicaraguan smoke, and reflects a new, updated look for the old Hoyo de Monterrey brand. Three sizes are offered: 4 ½ x 50 Rothschild, 6 ½ 52 Toro, and a box pressed 6 x 60 Gigante. Featuring an Ecuadoran Sumatra Oscuro wrapper, Mexican binder, and a Nicaraguan Habano filler, we found notes of cinnamon, leather and even a perceived hint of hot sauce in the first few puffs. This is definitely not a cigar to smoke on an empty stomach.
5. Joya de Nicaragua 50th Anniversary Cinco Décadas
US$19 to $20 or RM77.78 to RM81.87
In 1968, Joya de Nicaragua became the first branded cigar in Nicaragua, so this year they created something special to honour their 50th anniversary. The appropriately-named Cinco Décadas is produced in the company’s two original sizes—7 x 50 El General and 6 x 54 Diadema. These Nicaraguan puros are made with tobaccos that have been aged for over five years, and smoke with the rich earthiness that Nicaraguan tobaccos are known for. “Not only is this a celebration of the brand of Joya de Nicaragua, but it is also a celebration of the cigar industry in Nicaragua," said Joya de Nicaragua’s United States Brand Manager, Daniel Barrios. Produced in a limited edition of 5,000 boxes of ten cigars each.
6. Davidoff Chef’s Cigar – 2nd Edition
US$30 or RM122.81
Following on the success of their first limited edition Chef’s Cigar in 2016, in which Davidoff’s master blenders collaborated with six top European chefs, a second Chef’s Cigar was created this year. For the 2018 limited edition, Davidoff enlisted the talents of celebrity chefs Thomas Keller from The French Laundry, Bouchon and Per Se in the United States; Alvin Leung from Bo Innovation in Hong Kong; Klaus Erfort from Gästehaus in Saarbrucken, Germany; Heiko Nieder from The Restaurant in Zurich; and Shaun Rankin from Ormer Mayfair in London. Combined, these top chefs boast a total of twelve Michelin stars, with Thomas Keller accounting for seven of them. Naturally, the chefs are all cigar smokers. The result was a medium-plus strength 6 x 54 Toro full of creamy chocolate, pepper, and ginger, with a gentle finish. “One of the main things all of us wanted to achieve was a cigar that could be smoked throughout the day and in the evening," said Chef Keller, “because for a chef, there’s no set time when you can sit down and smoke a cigar."
7. Winston Churchill 'The Late Hour'
US$17.50 to US$20.10 or RM71.64 to RM82.28
It is well known that Winston Churchill often did his best thinking at night, long after the rest of Great Britain was asleep. And while the famed “British Bulldog" smoked Romeo y Julieta Cubans and drank gin martinis during the day, scotch whisky was rumored to be his beverage of choice in the wee small hours. These two idiosyncrasies were the inspiration for this medium full-bodied smoke, in which the Dominican Visus filler has been slightly revved up by the addition of Nicaraguan Condega Visus leaves that have been aged for six months in Speyside single malt whisky barrels. A dark, Habano Ecuadorian Oscuro wrapper adds a bit of a mellow kick that we think Sir Winston would have liked. The cigars are available in three sizes, 5 x 52 Robusto, 6 x 54 Toro, and of course, 7 x 48 Churchill.