2019 was a good year for cigars…and cigar smokers.
Southern Draw continues putting out immaculate cigars. Yes, I’m a fanboy of Southern Draw. Robert Holt just nails what my palate loves. It is uncanny how the Holts have been able to maintain such a high level of quality over the last 5 years in business. I don’t know of any other boutique brand that is so prolific. I reviewed 8 of their blends this year (17 reviews total in 4 years) and all cigars received my deep respect and admiration. I could have easily put them all in the top 25. Instead, I picked two blends. Not an easy choice.
And for the first time, I am adding a secondary tier of 10 great cigars that could have easily been in the top 25. Those decisions were agonizing.
I also tried not to include the very limited-edition productions. There were some great cigars in that category but so few people had a chance to buy them that it doesn’t seem fair to include them in the top 25.
As usual, Casdagli Cigars is on top as well. Jeremy Casdagli is a machine when it comes to putting out the only $20+ cigars worth more than their price points. Jeremy is a true master at the art of blending and picking the right people to associate himself with in order to put out some of the best sticks on the planet. He is a worldwide phenomenon. And if you ever have the fortune to meet him, you’ll find out he is also the coolest guy in the cigar industry. Vlada (The Impaler) Stojanov ain’t so bad either.
Newcomer, Stolen Throne, was a welcome addition to the world of boutique brands. J.R. Cannon and Lee Marsh put out a monster of a blend with their Crook of the Crown which was only available online through Cigar Federation. At the time of this writing, they are still available. I look forward to their next outing. I don’t envy the pressure they must be feeling.
The stalwart, always reliable, Isabela Cigars was a big winner as well. John Piette doesn’t know how to make a blend short of stunning. Each year, he puts out a blend so beautifully aged that it can take your breath away. They always sell out quickly. And he is totally hands-on. It takes him 3-4 years of aging before he is ready to share his creations each year.
Cigars #26-#35 on my list were all great cigars that my palate loved. In this secondary list, I included the re-birth of the Cigars International BlendLab series with an AJ Fernandez blend that was only available through their stores in Pennsylvania and Texas. I hope that they bring this amazing cigar back in regular production in 2020. I look forward to their renewed venture.
A bit of commentary…This list is solely my opinion based on my palate. I have been smoking cigars since 1968. Over the last 52 years, I’ve seen the change and growth of my palate and it’s been a wondrous affair.
I remember the first box of cigars I bought. I paid $40 for Fuente panatelas from the B&M my dad got his cigars. I had just started college and would smoke them on the grassy knoll of Cal State Long Beach’s common area. It was a crazy time…the height of the Viet Nam war…civil rights, sit ins, love ins, marches, and burning of draft cards. I found solace in my cigars…just like I do today.
There is only one constant in life: Change. And while times are now very different, the need for a calmative time in our lives continues. Mine has always been family, music, and cigars. That is a constant.
I’m sure that if you are reading this, you have a love of good cigars and a passion for great cigars. While we are all different, the one thing that binds us is the commonality of our passion.
In two months, I turn 70. If someone had asked me when I was 50 if I knew that I’d be writing about cigars for 10 years, I’d have said you were nuts. I love what John Lennon said 40 years ago: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2020 and that you have the love of your family and friends. God bless you all for sticking with me this last decade. With God’s good grace, I hope to be with you another 10 years.
So, here they are:
1. Southern Draw Kudzu Lustrum
2. Daughters of the Wind Dahman by Casdagli Cigars
3. Stolen Throne Crook of the Crown
4. Isabela Cigars PepperHead 2019 Ltd. Edition
5. Diamond Crown Black Diamond
6. Protocol Probable Cause
7. Protocol Sir Robert Peel Natural
8. Southern Draw Desert Rose
9. Alec Bradley Magic Toast
10. CAO Flathead V19
11. Crowned Heads Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2019
12. Sinistro Last Cowboy Maduro Scala LE
13. Viaje Hamaki Omakase
14. Partagas Limited Reserve Decadas 2019
15. H. Upmann Hispaniola by Jose Menendez
16. Man O’ War Ruination 10th Anniversary
17. Viaje Exclusivo Nicaragua Leaded
18. AJ Fernandez Dias De Gloria
19. Crowned Heads Le Careme Belicosos Finos LE 2019
20. Hiram & Solomon Fellow Craft
21. Menelik by Foundation Cigar Co.
22. Trinidad Espiritu
23. FQ Proper Toro Gordo
24. Diesel Whiskey Row Sherry Cask
25. Aging Room Solera Corojo
The Second Tier of Top Cigars of 2019 (I feel no shame for glutting the list with 2019 Southern Draw blends):
26. Isabela Cigar Co. Fire-Crackers
27. Nomad Signature Toro
28. Southern Draw Jacob’s Ladder Brimstone
29. Southern Draw Cedrus
30. Southern Draw Fraternal Order ‘White’
31. Southern Draw Private Blend #3 Habano
32. New BlendLab YY-4550 by AJ Fernandez from Cigars International
33. Southern Draw Private Blend Connecticut #1
34. Southern Draw Fraternal Order ‘Black’
35. Viaje Scotch Bonnet
Categories: Katman's Top 25 Cigars for 2019