Since 2004, Cigar Aficionado has selected its Top 25 Cigars, with one cigar claiming the top spot as the definitive Cigar of the Year. It isn’t easy to stand out in today’s premium cigar industry, with hundreds of well-crafted smokes from numerous countries that use tobacco in ways cigarmakers of yesteryear might not have envisioned. However, year after year, Cigar Aficionado’s expert panel of taste testers works its way through the lineup. In the end, the panel’s blind ratings analyze everything from shape and roll quality to flavor profile and draw, all of which combine to determine one winner.

These are the cigars that have impressed our panel the most since the day the awards began. Many come from cigarmakers in the Cigar Aficionado Hall of Fame. Others are from up-and-comers who traveled long distances—both literally and figuratively—to make a name for themselves in a competitive, taste-driven industry that aims to please connoisseurs all over the world. And this is the first and biggest step.

Pledge

E.P. Carrillo Pledge Prequel (Dom. Rep., 98 Points): While it may look like just another dark, box-pressed cigar at first glance, the Pledge Prequel delivers flavor in bold, zesty parcels of spicy oak, licorice, black cherry and black pepper. The highest-scoring Cigar of the Year to date, the Prequel is Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s masterpiece and second Cigar of the Year in a three-year span—following 2018’s Encore Majestic.

Maestro

Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Maestro (Nicaragua, 96 Points): We may be lucky that cigarmaker Rafael Nodal’s New York music career didn’t work out, as it led to this work of art. Envisioned by Nodal and made by A.J. Fernandez in Nicaragua, the cigar imparts heavy and rich notes of dark chocolate and wood, occasionally subtle and understated with hints of fine caramel and toasted almonds.

Majestic

E.P. Carrillo Encore Majestic (Dom. Rep., 96 Points): E.P. Carrillo’s namesake cigarmaker, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, started his career making La Gloria Cubanas in Miami. Since creating EPC Cigar Co. in 2009 (leaving La Gloria and General Cigar behind), Ernesto and his family have crafted fine Dominican cigars and landed two Cigar of the Year titles in just over a decade. This robusto consists of immaculately detailed flavor that ranges from oak and tea to caramel sweetness with tangy citrus pops of candied orange peel.

Shark

Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Eye of the Shark (Dom. Rep., 97 Points): Wrapped in Cameroon with Fuente’s signature Dominican interior tobacco, the Eye of the Shark is one of the best examples of the brand’s unorthodox approach to making cigars. A half-pressed belicoso, the cigar resembles a shark and attacks the palate with baking spices and citrus notes that you don’t want to leave. A suitable tribute to the late Carlos Fuente Sr., made by his son Carlito Fuente Jr..

Bull

La Flor Dominicana Andalusian Bull (Dom. Rep., 96 Points): Born in Spain with no family ties to the cigar industry, Litto Gomez initially made mild cigars before producing stronger blends, many of them rolled in unusual shapes. This Andalusian Bull—a large figurado with beautiful curves—doesn’t stray from this premise, bringing bold and savory notes of hickory and leather from its Corojo-seed Ecuador Habano wrapper and primarily Dominican Criollo ’98 tobacco. It’s a fine smoke that beautifully meshes strength and spice.

Le Bijou

My Father Le Bijou 1922 Torpedo Box Pressed (Nicaragua, 97 Points): Le Bijou–or “the jewel”–is a tribute to José “Pepin” Garcia, the father of Jaime and Janny Garcia and founder of El Rey de Los Habanos (what would flourish into My Father Cigars). When its hearty, complex blend was rolled into a torpedo and box-pressed, the result stood out for its ability to deliver complex notes clearly and harmoniously, leaving uncanny impressions of dark chocolate-covered raisins, savory leather and a sweet-and-salty finish.

Melanio

Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado (Nicaragua, 96 Points): Made by a small group of rollers and blended for strength and style, Oliva’s Serie V line was an immediate hit. When the Melanio line was added, introducing a Sumatra-seed wrapper from Ecuador to the otherwise all-Nicaraguan blend, it was an even larger success and is Oliva’s top-tier product. This figurado in particular has rich, big notes of leather framed by a range of coffee, caramel and woody intonations—a classic smoke.

Monte 2

Montecristo No. 2 (Cuba, 96 Points): The undisputed king of Cuban torpedos is the Montecristo No. 2. It’s a stately smoke with a tapered tip known the world over and ranks as one of the best-selling cigars in the Cuban cigar portfolio. When it debuted 20 years prior in one of Cigar Aficionado’s very first tastings, it scored 94 points. Recent production Monte 2s are extraordinary, teeming with rich but not overwhelming flavors of leather, such sweet spices as cinnamon and nutmeg and a tangy woody note, all of which resonate with regular smokers as well as those who puff less frequently.

Flor

Flor de Las Antillas Toro (Nicaragua, 96 Points): The “Flower of the Antilles Islands” is a symbol of appreciation for Cuba, the island home of the Garcia family. And the tasty cigar lives up to the significance the country has had on the industry. The smokes are delicious from the first puff, with notes of nutmeg, white pepper and just enough strength without being overpowering. It’s also one of the most reasonably priced cigar ever to be named No. 1.

Prensado

Alec Bradley Prensado Churchill (Honduras, 96 Points): The Alec Bradley Prensado Churchill, made at the Raices Cubanas factory in Danlí, Honduras, is as gorgeous a cigar as you’ll ever see, with a picture-perfect head and a stunning wrapper. It’s also the only Honduran cigar ever to be named Cigar of the Year. The Honduran and Nicaraguan tobaccos come together to create leather, chocolate and spice notes that lead to a long, lush finish. This was a monumental achievement for Alan Rubin, who began in the industry making simple cigars intended to be sold at golf courses.

Behike

Cohiba Behike BHK 52 (Cuba, 97 Points): The Behike BHK 52 was unveiled at the Habanos Festival in Cuba in February 2010. Since then, it has become a world-renowned classic that symbolizes extravagance and the very peak of Cuban cigarmaking. This shortish, fat petit robusto, made with an artful pigtail and clad in gorgeous reddish-brown colorado wrapper, is a phenomenally rich, delicious smoke that more than lives up to the reputation as Cohiba’s top of the line.

Padron 45

Padrón Family Reserve No. 45 Maduro (Nicaragua, 95 Points): Company founder José Orlando Padrón, who passed away in 2017, is the embodiment of the American dream, having come to the United States in the early 1960s with nothing more than a few hundred dollars, a solid work ethic and a burning desire to make cigars. Not only that, but this makes his third Cigar of the Year in the first six years of the prestigious award. It’s stronger than typical Padróns and is an intense smoke jammed with rich, hearty, coffee notes and a heady amount of spices. Yet another classic from the revered brand.

Casa Magna

Casa Magna Colorado Robusto (Nicaragua, 93 Points): Manuel Quesada contracted Nicaraguan cigarmaker Nestor Plasencia to create this blend in Plasencia’s Segovia Cigar factory. Standing above the other sizes was the robusto, a stubby cigar with a bold heart of Cuban-seed tobacco, all of it grown in two very different regions of Nicaragua. Estelí (the area where most Nicaraguan cigars are produced) tends to produce strong tobacco, while leaf grown in Jalapa, to the north, is typically more balanced and elegant. Together they combine to create a bold cigar, full of rich coffee notes balanced by a cedary sweetness with a hint of raisin.

1926 No. 9

Padrón Serie 1926 No. 9 (Nicaragua, 97 Points): This classic cigar debuted in 2002, on José Orlando Padrón’s 76th birthday, a year later than originally intended, but it was well worth the wait. It scored an astounding 97 points and blossomed with flavor right from the first puff. It’s a complex smoke with perfect balance, showing flavors of chocolate, coffee and nuts, as well as some black cherry. The cigar has a finish so long it seems to never leave the palate. And we don’t want it to.

Bolivar

Bolivar Royal Corona (Cuba, 94 Points): Bolivar has long been a name close to the hearts of Cuban cigar lovers. Regardless of size, the brand offers rich, powerful cigars that often need a few years of aging to come into their best. The robusto, which measures 4 7/8 inches long by 50 ring gauge, delivers a sophisticated flavor bomb of chocolate, coffee and leather. The finish is long and the Royal Corona should only get better with age.

OpusX

Fuente Fuente OpusX Double Corona (Dom. Rep., 95 Points): Since its debut in 1995, the Fuente Fuente OpusX has been perhaps the most popular cult favorite—which makes it a rare find in many smoke shops. The double corona size is a masterpiece, a classic on our 100-point scale. Like all OpusX cigars, the 7 5/8 inch by 49 ring gauge cigar is impeccably crafted by a small roomful of workers who make only about 75 cigars a day. The cigar is made with only Dominican tobacco and is the pinnacle of full flavor, with complex flavors ranging from leather to creamy coffee and earth.

1926 Anniversary

Padrón Serie 1926 40th Anniversary (Nicaragua, 93 Points): This was the first year that Cigar Aficionado awarded a Cigar of the Year to the industry, and it was given to the Padrón family for this delectable smoke created to celebrate the company’s 40th year in business. Each leaf in the cigar is a minimum of five years old, the wrapper feeling like fine silk. Perfectly box-pressed, this torpedo is superbly crafted with an intensely complex flavor. Slightly stronger than a Padrón Anniversary, it has heavy chocolate character accented by earthy spices, with a luxuriant, long finish. To top it all off, the initial release of the cigars came beautifully presented, in 400 handpainted, hand-carved boxes of 40. An elegant cigar well-deserving of this prestigious honor that made its mark in history.

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