I smoke close to 1,000 premium cigars each year, and I like to play the field, so getting exposed to a lot of different flavors is a feature of this cigar writer’s life. When my editor asked me to reflect on five interesting or memorable cigars I tried in 2017, I had quite a time composing the definitive list. Truth is, I could go on forever; most cigars are interesting in some way. But I’ve made five choices that I hope readers will find as interesting as I did, each in its way. They aren’t all new to the market, but they were all new to me this past year.
Curivari Buenaventura BV500
5 1/4 x 50, box-pressed Robusto
Made in Nicaragua
Retail price: $49 for a box of 10
When you write for the public about cigars, sometimes samples come your way, and that’s how I scored these boutique Nicaraguan puro beauties. I admit I’ve only smoked a couple because I am hoarding my small remaining stash for special occasions. To my taste, these are damned good cigars that easily exceed in value the modest $5/stick retail price—which is by way of saying, I will be placing an order soon. The Buenaventura has a reputation for full-bodied flavor, but to me they are just a tad fuller than medium. (Everyone’s body chemistry is unique, after all.) Considering what you get in this cigar, it is an affordable luxury and comes highly recommended.
El Artista Pulita 60 Aniversario Robusto
5 x 50
Made in the Dominican Republic
Retail price: $110 for a box of 10
This is a recent introduction by a 60-year-old Dominican cigar company, using a very old recipe. Soon after the Pulita came to market, I had occasion to write about it in a different magazine (a cigar industry trade journal), and the manufacturer gave me a few to sample. It is simply superb, if a bit full-bodied for my taste. The Pulita was made in celebration of El Artista’s 60th anniversary, and it is something of a deliberate throwback. A company spokesman told me the cigar is “made with six different tobaccos—five countries in one cigar—to the specifications of the original cigar developed by company founder Ramon A. Rodriguez, who was known as Don Pulita.” So this product is actually a historical relic in its way.
A couple points in particular may spark curiosity among cigar adventurers: Its five-nation symphony of tobaccos includes leaf from Colombia, which is a bit unusual and worth checking out in its own right. And the wrapper leaf—Negrito—is unusual as well. Negrito is not very popular with growers, being rather difficult to work with, so consumers don’t very often encounter it. Even so, a Negrito wrapper is used in deference to El Artista’s commitment to a faithful recreation of the cigar that first made the company’s fortune. If you want to know what a fine Dominican handmade tasted like before John F. Kennedy was president, the Pulita belongs in your humidor.
Graycliff 30-Year Vintage PG Robusto
5.2 x 50
Made in the Bahamas
Retail price: $199.99 for a box of 15
Graycliff is a fascinating company—a 20-year-old add-on enterprise to the storied Graycliff Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas. The cigar factory is co-located with the hotel, so interested guests there should ask to take a look. Graycliff clearly has access to some extraordinary leaf, and their 30-year Vintage line is a showstopper. It features a wrapper leaf that has benefitted from fully three decades of aging, and the mellowing influence of all that time shows in the rich and well-rounded flavors that shine through. These cigars can be expensive; it isn’t unusual to find Graycliffs priced well above $20 per stick. The trick is to cruise the online sellers and try to catch them on sale. I managed to score 30 of these Robustos in cellophane packs of five for only $140 total. A triumph of bargain hunting!
Montecristo White Label Casino Connecticut Petite Corona
4 x 30
Made in the Dominican Republic
Retail price: $59.95 for a brick of five tins of 10
Dominican Montecristos need no introduction here. The reason these little gems made the list is because we all have a practical need to keep some small cigars on hand. No one can afford to dedicate an hour every time the hankering for a smoke arises. Petit Coronas are perfect for when you’re just taking a drive to the corner store, or for when you want to duck outside the office for a quick break. So for two years I’ve been trying various Petit Coronas, looking to find just the one for me. This is it. Montecristo Casinos have it all: They are inexpensive but are long-filler; they come in handy, portable tins of 10; and that they happen to be rich, mild and delicious closes the sale. I ordered 100 of these little jewels to start, and I’m looking forward to a long romance with them.
Plasencia Vintage Especial Toro Grande
6 x 54
Made in Nicaragua
Retail price: $142 for a box of 20
The Vintage Especial, developed by cigar maker Nestor Plasencia, contains three kinds of Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers, all aged for three years; a Honduran Habano binder aged for four years; and an Ecuadorean Connecticut wrapper aged for three years. Note the retail price of a box, and then be jealous: On a popular internet auction site, I scored a box for just $33 including shipping—and they arrived in splendid shape. (Everyone deserves to get lucky now and then.) That auction site discourages tobacco sales, so I leave it to the reader to guess where I bought. This is a straight-ahead, mild-to-medium cigar that is rich, tasty, easy on the palate, and thoroughly agreeable. Despite not being a heavy smoke, it is still completely worthy of capping off a satisfying meal. It’s well worth the retail price, so I’ve been hunting, but I can’t seem to find any more—I am not even sure the Vintage Especial line is still in production. The lesson we take, and the reason this fine cigar made the list: everyone interested in exploring cigars should make it a habit of cruising online for bargains. Sharp eyes sometimes get rewarded.
For more of our favorites, check out the Big Papi by El Artista.