Every year I have the opportunity and good fortune to taste hundreds of different cigars in order to make my selection for Gauntleys. As the festive season approaches and, as much for my own amusement as anything else, I have selected my top seven. It was going to be six but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave any of the following out!
1 – Partagas Serie du Connoisseur No 3
These are, in my opinion, one of the most outstanding Panatelas produced in Havana. Unlike the Serie D, P & E ranges, the Serie du Connoisseur No3 is a long and complex smoke. Starting off smooth and mellow, the flavours grow in complexity and strength. The finish is rich and powerful and similar to the iconic Serie D No4. Discontinued by Habanos SA in 2010 supplies are beginning to run low.
2 – Padron 5000 (Natural)
My first experience with the Padron range was the smaller 2000 Maduro. That cigar continues to be a cracking smoke. For our first cigar night back in October we opted to give the larger 5000 an outing. With its natural, deep brown wrapper it just blew me away! This powerful and complex smoke is packed full of earthy, spicy and woody notes. A stunning cigar for those of you who enjoy the power and richness of Nicaraguan Ligero leaf.
3 – Oliva Serie V Torpedo
The Oliva Serie V range of cigars is one of the biggest selling and highly rated Nicaraguan smokes. Winning Cigar Aficionado’s ‘Cigar of the Year’ in both 2007 and 2008. It is frequently rated 92 and above. When I want a full yet smooth and powerful smoke from a Torpedo this has been my first choice this year. Hints of coffee, chocolate and exotic spices.
4 – Bolivar Petit Belicosos (2009 Edicion Limitada)
I only recently got round to trying these beautiful cigars and I was instantly smitten. Bolivar are known for their spicy and powerful characteristics, but they do need aging for all the flavours to meld together. This limited edition Belicosos is produced from tobacco no younger than two years old and then aged for a further three years prior to release. It is a classic. Light, but with a sweet beginning – hinting at caramel – the cigar blossoms into a spicy and elegant experience.
5 – Vasco Da Gama Corona (Brazil)
These popular German cigars use a variety of wrappers, however this Corona, which features the Brazilian maduro, is the finest in my opinion. Brazilian maduro usually produce a wonderfully sweet, chocolate flavour. This example is certainly no exception. Along with its earthy, gently spiced flavour and hint of wood (from the filler leaves), this is a superb smoke. Presented in cedar and cellophane and stored in an aluminium tube for freshness.
6 – Trinidad Reyes
I was in Cuba earlier this year tasting and touring the factories. Although the range of cigars to smoke seemed endless, two vitolas (sizes) never seemed to be far from my hand: the new H Upmann Half Corona and the Trinidad Reyes. Of the two cigars, the little Trinidad came out on top with its array of smooth, creamy flavours packed into a handy twenty minute smoke-time. As you would expect from such a prestigious brand, this Trinidad offers complexity and perfect balance, even when young.
7– Brickhouse – Short Torpedo
Produced in America the Brick House cigars where originally made from 100% Cuban tobacco. After the American embargo in the early sixties, production ceased and these cigars where confined to history. However, in 2009 JC Newman resurrected the brand by using Nicaraguan tobacco. Packed full of sweet, wood and oriental spice flavours this is a creamy-smooth smoke. A cigar I have turned to many times this year.
With the exception of the Vasco Da Gama these cigars will mature and improve with age if stored correctly inside a humidor. Many believe that only Cuban cigars improve with age, but all the finest hand-made cigars mature with time.