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: CIGAR REVIEWS
The Nomad Signature is definitely on my Top 25 for 2019. Probably #1 in most surprising too! Great list Kat, and I’m happy to see I have so many of them in my humi waiting for the right time… which may very well be anytime.
Twisted minds think alike…
All the best,
Snagged a 5 pack of Kudzu Robustos last night on auction for $21. Gonna bury it in bottom of Humi til 4/20 (love that date). Probably should have gotten more as there were 15 available.
Charles, you nailed a great deal on those Kudzus. I had one last night after nearly 5 months of rest and I grew a third testicle.
Honoured to be listed in the top 25 yet again amoungst great company. Many thanks Katman for all your enthusiasm and humour in your reviews . Happy Christmas to you and all your loyal followers and good smokes to you all in 2020. I am planing on some most interesting releases this next yea … hope you will like them .. Jeremy Casdagli
Thank you so much. It is an honor to be your friend…as thousands of your other friends will attest to.
You are a true gentleman and I count my lucky stars that you put up with me.
Love you bro,
Shit, I wish I had the time to smoke as many cigars as you. My list is coming soon but it will be much shorter. Hope you have a chance to check them out.
Shit, your list is so good. I wish I had the time to smoke as many as you but alas, that’s not going to happen. WIll be getting my list together soon but it is much shorter. Hopefully done before the year ends.
It was like Christmas coming over here today and finding your top 25 list plus an added bonus. I’ve read all these reviews throughout the year, but I’m just a sucker for a good list. Anyway, just wanted you to know how much I appreciate and enjoy the work that you do here. I’ve smoked most of these blends because I trust your tastes. And most important, I trust what you write. I learn things all the time reading your stuff and that makes it fun. Anyway, was curious if you’ve had the chance to smoke the Tabernacle Havana Seed CT #142 yet. In my very humble opinion, it’s right up there with the big boys you have listed here.
I certainly will, Frank.
First, thank you for the kind words.
Second, I have not had the opportunity to smoke the Tabernacle you mentioned. Now, I wish I had. But there are so many blends out there that were released this year, I found it very hard to keep up. Will look for it and snag some if they are still available.
All the best,
The year of reviews and your stories have been anticipated and entertaining. Always a highlight and we are grateful that our blends have been a match for your own palate. There may be no perfect cigar and there is likely not perfect palate BUT there can be an occasion where a great cigar and a receptive palate are perfect for each other. An honor and a priviledge for the Southern Draw Cigars family to share our humble blends with you. Go forth and smoke and tell those great stories. Blessings.
Thank you for the kind words.
You’ve made a huge impact on the cigar industry and the smoking public.
While you consistently produce superb blends, you’ve shown that high premium cigars need not be out of range for smokers on budgets…which pertains to most cigar smokers.
Your future is bright so keep your shades handy.
And lest we not forget, you have made it your mission to help our folks in uniform and vets alike.
Your company is a shiny star in a world of cigar B.S. propagated by manufacturers who do damage to their reputations by their over the top P.R. that makes us cautious and wary and often leave smokers with buyer’s remorse.
I’ve never met or spoken to a single smoker who doesn’t thrive in the simple act of smoking any of your varied blends.
It’s been a thrill to watch your staying power. Over the last 10 years of reviewing, I’ve seen boutique brands come and go due to their inconsistency and greed. You have avoided both.
I wish you and Sharon and your team all the best…while we smokers look forward eagerly to each new release.
You should be proud of what you have accomplished in 5 years.
My best regards,
Great list my friend!
Thank you brother,
KatMan- I cant thank you enough for putting the time in to do such thorough reviews of not only ISABELA, but all the reviews you do…your work is “above and beyond” ,well researched, exciting, unique, You are an Artist That has that rare ability to Paint Pictures with words, and ALL of us are blessed that you paint pictures of us ….You single handedly provide SIZZLE to an otherwise stagnant cigar industry !
Also, THANK YOU for putting ISABELA on your Best of 2019 , along side such great great cigar makers , it is truly an honor to not only be recognized, but understood !! I also personally love relish and cherish the #4, as it is the same number as my all time fave QB Brett Favre,,,,who is some ways mirrors ISABELA Cigar Company, in that he didnt always win….But no one can argue that he played with the highest of excitement and sizzle, and laid it all out there….every time !!!
Love Ya Phil !!
Thank you John. I truly appreciate the kind words. I hope the check clears.
I try my best like all the other cigar reviewers. I just happen to be more twisted than most. And fortunately, or unfortunately, I have a near zero filter in my writing.
You, John, are one of a kind…I’ve met you. And you have the cigar passion gene which shows up in your blending.
All the best and a great 2020 to you and yours,
This is a way better 2019 list than the one Cigar Aficionado has had for the last 8 years.
Just like you, I think Southern Draw gave us some great cigars this year.
Thank you, Luis…
Just a short note to say thank you for the time, energy and thought that go into your reviews. As a UK-based individual I find myself in a slightly different position to your domestic US readers in that I am forced to largely be only a voyeur of the majority of these blends. That said, I tremendously enjoy reading and learning all the same.
Wishing you a healthy and happy new year!
That is so nice. I’m glad you enjoy my drivel.
On the down side, you are unable to get the majority of the cigars I review. I know how expensive cigars are in Britain and Europe. Fuck Brexit. Parliament should put all that energy in making Central American cigar blends available at a reasonable price.
BTW- Why wasn’t I asked to join the 50th anniversary Curved Air tour? Can you ask around please? (lol)
All the best and thanks for your comment,
Yeah I asked about the tour and they said something about not wanting a new catalogue of (borderline) inappropriate backstage anecdotes being liberally published…whatever that means.
All righty then…makes perfect sense.
In all the years I’ve been writing about my time with that band (I know they’ve all read what I’ve written) is that none of them have challenged me or sent their solicitor after me. Why? Because it’s all true no matter how inappropriate. And there are witnesses to confirm. But then they fired me for no reason other than RCA rejected the Midnight Wire album. And Miles had to bring in new producers to do it again. Since camps were formed and I was the outsider looking in trying to keep the camps from killing each other; it was only natural that I was the one to go…it was the bassist that fucked up the album.
No fucking severance. Just get out. So, who better to write inappropriately about…than the fucks who left me penniless 6,000 miles from home.
Plus, I was never into the band. I was in my mid-20’s and got my first break. I was strictly a sideman.
And I would have to hang myself before I had to learn all those songs again.
But my favorite part about my association with Curved Air is that they have managed to cheat me out of every cent of my mechanical royalties for 45 years. I played on albums and there were a lot of compilation albums I appeared on. No money for Philly.
I wish them the best…
Just to clarify, my tongue was firmly in my cheek when I wrote my comment 😉 You must forgive my cliched dry British sense of humour.
Sorry to hear it was a less than amicable end to an interesting (if nothing else) life experience for you! I do enjoy the stories, though.
I knew that, my fine laddie.
You just opened a door that allowed me to vent my spleen.
Sometimes, I just don’t know when to shut up.
And I love the dry Brit sense of humor. I saw Monty Python for the first time when I was in London in ’74 and its influenced me my entire life. You know who the funniest guys are? The Scots. Every Scot I ever met is a hilarious mother fucker.
No harm, no foul…
Besides, for the big anniversary tour, only 3 musicians were chosen. And none of the original members, except for Sonja Kristina who is the soul of the band, are participating. I’m sure their audiences will be in the dozens.
Always enjoy your perspective and look forward to your years end Best of List. As others have commented you have a very educated palate and your reviews are sparked by halarity which always helps. Your history in the music world is rich with anecdotes that shine a light on what it must have been like for those of us on the outside looking in. Wishing you another year filled with cigars and humor. Not necessarily in that order!!
Kind words, indeed.
All the best, Arless,
Checked back in and you’re still reviewing! Was a moment there when it was touch and go. Good list, all the hot names I haven’t tried yet. I can’t keep up. Especially since they hit you over the head in San Fran for smoking tobacco. Barely a cigar lounge in sight, and the housing is smoke free, unless you’re super rich. It’s easier to smoke weed and crack! That you can do lying on the street. On the good side, I’ve run into some rare obscurities I’m dying to try. I’ll hit you up on Facebook.
Yeah, I’m still reviewing. I’m like the Ebola virus.
Thanks to Boston Jimmie and Mike Holmes of Stogie Press for including me in their list of 14 cigar review sites whose choices for top 25 cigars of 2019 being collated and re-listed by proclamation.
Thanks you gentlemen,
How many times can one say thank-you, thank-you, thank-you—-!
Just purchased your Number 1 pick for 2019 at a on-line auction at a bargain price that would spoil anyone buying a quality cigar. Paired it with a (30) yr. old Ballentine Scotch – all this while listing to the Moody Blues.
Keep up the great work – you lift my soul to new levels of enjoyment with your reviews and dialog.
All the best life has to offer,
Thank you Steven.
Kind words and thank you for your comment.
All the best,