Top 10 Cigars of 2023

Top 10 Cigars of 2023

Dram Ram Jimmy's Top 10 Cigars


Top 10 Cigars of 2023

It’s that time of year, when everyone comes out with their top 10 lists of 2023. Whether its whiskey, movies, tv shows, or cigars, curating a top 10 list has become a staple of our culture. When it comes to top 10 cigar lists, there are multiple platforms that will push theirs out in the coming weeks. You may be
asking yourself, ‘What is the reason that this list is better than all the others?’ The answer is authenticity. I am not beholden to advertising dollars, I am not beholden to friendships and relationships, I am giving you my honest reviews with nothing to gain or lose.

Before we jump in, a disclaimer: The criteria of the top 10 is that the cigar had to be released in the calendar year of 2023. All of the top 10 cigars have been smoked twice, some as recently as a few days ago, to revisit my notes and ensure proper placement. All cigars are either smoked at a cigar shop, or
aged 3-4 weeks in my home humidor before smoking. The cost of the cigar is factored into the ratings tiebreakers, i.e. a really good $20 cigar will edge out a really good $50 cigar, if the only difference is price. Without further ado, let's get started.

10. Artista Midnight Robusto

Artista Midnight Robusto is a 5x54 cigar made in Tabacalera El Artista in the Dominican Republic. The cigar starts with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Ecuadorian Connecticut binder, and Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and United States fillers. This medium to full-bodied cigar carries a price tag of $10.

First impressions: I love the look of this stick; it is beautifully constructed with great color. If the cold draw is a sign of things to come, this is going to be a great stick. Upon the first light, I’m getting peppery notes, cherry, oak, and earthy notes. This cigar definitely starts off very earthy, and not too full bodied.

Halfway through: The earthy notes stay prevalent and are up front. The cigar starts to get a little bitter, which is a disappointment. I am no longer getting cherry but still have the oak and pepper notes. The cigar is burning uneven but so far has not required a touch up.

The final third: I am still getting pepper, oak, and am getting some of the creaminess back that I lost earlier. The bitterness is dissipating and only returns when I am down to the nub. Much of the same notes from the halfway point are prevalent in the final third.

Overall: This cigar had a lot of potential that could be achieved with a more nuanced blend. The cigar went one note after the first third and could have been higher on the list if the flavor profile kept improving. For $10 this isn’t a bad stick, but there are better options this year.

9. Caldwell Long Live the Queen - Queens Club Toro Gordo

Long Live the Queen – Queens Club Toro Gordo is a 6x56 natural toro that consists of a four-country blend, made in the El Maestro Factory in the Dominican Republic. This cigar consists of a Cameroon wrapper, Sumatra binder grown in Indonesia, and a mixed filler of Dominican and Nicaraguan tobaccos.
Queens Club is a medium/full bodied cigar that has a lot to offer, with a $16 price tag, let’s jump in.

First impressions: This is a beautifully constructed cigar, and I love the reddish bronze color of the wrapper. The first third of the cigar pops with black pepper, creaminess, coffee beans, and some sweetness. I will say that each puff had different flavors, and there wasn’t a consistent puff. While this was an adventure, I did grow tired of constantly getting new flavors rather than being able to settle in
with one continuing flavor profile.

Halfway through: I'm starting to get a lot more of a nutty flavor. I was pulling macadamia, almond, and peanuts. The creamy sweetness continued, and I started to get more espresso. Again, the flavor profile wasn’t consistent, but was more refined than the first third.

The final third: This cigar really stepped up into the fuller body range with more sugary sweetness. Getting some jams in addition to the nutty flavors, which makes you feel like you're subtly smoking a PB&J that won't knock you over but may require you to take a seat.

Overall: A great offering from Caldwell cigars. I thoroughly enjoyed the stick, and the only reason this cigar wasn’t higher on the list, was the inconsistency of the flavor profile through the smoke.

8. Partagas Valle Verde Robusto

Partagas Valle Verde Robusto is a 5x50 cigar made in the HATSA factory in Honduras. This cigar starts with a Mexican San Andres wrapper, the first time that Partagas has utilized this leaf as a wrapper. This leaf is from the “Green Valley” along the Gulf of Mexico, where it is grows in volcanic soil, and then is aged for three years. The cigar also has a Cameroon binder, and fillers consisting of Mexican San Andres, Nicaraguan Jalapa, and Estelí ligero. Partagas Valle Verde is a medium/full bodied cigar with a low-price tag of $8, so let’s jump in.

First impressions: It’s very cool seeing a Partagas with a Mexican San Andres wrapper. The first few puffs of the stick were peppery, very strong, and I got earthy notes. This could have been in my head from hearing of the volcanic soil or could be a reflection of the actual leaf. However, I did get the same notes on the second stick, so I'm leaning towards the effects of the Green Valley leaf. I enjoy a strong
cigar, and this stick definitely started that way.

Halfway through: This cigar mellowed out for me in the second half where I got sweetness, caramel, and chocolate, which perfectly blended with the peppery note. I still got the unique earthy notes that presented initially, and definitely enjoyed them.

The final third: The stick started to get more peppery again, but not as strong as the initial puffs. I got more caramel in the final third, but the peppery notes still won out.

Overall: I really enjoyed the uniqueness of the earthy notes in the stick and it was enough to land it on my top 10. For the price point that this is at, it’s a CAN’T miss for those who enjoy medium-to-full bodied cigars.

7. Red Anchor Captain Robusto

Red Anchor Captain is a 5x50 cigar made in the Kelner Boutique Factory located in the Dominican Republic. This cigar has an Ecuadorian wrapper, with Dominican Monte Plata binder, and fillers of San Vicente, Habano, and Pennsylvania Broadleaf. The Red Anchor Captain is an extension of the 250th Anniversary Admiral that launched last year. Red Anchor Captain is a medium body stick with a $20 price tag.

First impressions: A beautiful first few puffs consisting of pepper, cherry, nutmeg, earthy tobacco, and cedar. The cherry sweetness stays prevalent and is absolutely delicious. There’s slight peppering of pepper (I know, I know) throughout, but nothing that overpowers the delicious cherry flavor.

Halfway through: This cigar is buttery goodness. I'm still getting nutmeg, cedar, and cherry, but the cherry is fading away. As we lose the cherry, I'm getting cedar, nutmeg, pepper, and earthiness. Not a bad collection of flavors at all, but losing the cherry was disappointing.

The final third: Still buttery sweet, with the same nutmeg, cedar, cherry, and earthiness notes. A very good finish, from a very good cigar. I smoked this one all the way down, with little to no bitterness, and left me wishing there was more to be smoked.

Overall: This cigar was a top 5 contender and only fell outside for me, due to the loss of the cherry notes pretty abruptly. However, I highlight recommend this cigar. It is a discount, even at a $20 price point. It is awesome seeing a company with such a historic background being brought back with immediate relevance. If you see this on the shelves at your local cigar shop, definitely pick one up.

6. West Tampa Red Gigante

West Tampa Red Gigante is a 6x60 Gordo made in the Garmendia Cigar Co. factory in Nicaragua. This cigar has a Mexican San Andres wrapper, Nicaraguan Condega binder, and Nicaraguan Condega and Estelí filler. West Tampa Tobacco Co. Red Gigante is a medium to full-bodied cigar with a $11 price tag.

First impressions: The first few puffs are a coffee bomb. Notes of espresso, pepper, dark chocolate coffee beans, and mocha. I love all of the notes and they are not subtle. If you love chocolate and coffee pouring out of your cigar, this is the first third for you!

Halfway through: The dark chocolate coffee beans have come to the forefront and there’s now a nuttiness on the back end. It tastes like you’re drinking an espresso martini, and it is delicious. The burn line is flawless, and the construction is holding up beautifully.

The final third: I'm starting to get more notes of leather, and hints of raspberry. The full-bodied impact of the first half of the cigar is subsiding and the cigar is mellowing out without tamping down the flavor. This is an extremely well blended cigar that takes you on a journey from start to finish.

Overall: I feel if this cigar was released in any other year, it would easily be in the top 5, if not the top 3. West Tampa Tobacco Co. has really delivered a successful delicious stick in all of the “Red” offerings. West Tampa is a force to be reckoned with, and I can’t wait to see what gets pumped out in 2024.

5. Kristoff Guardrail Robusto

Kristoff Guardrail Robusto is a 5.5x54 cigar made at the Tabacalera von Eicken factory in the Dominican Republic. This cigar has a Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper, binder from the Dominican Republic, and the filler is from the Dominican Republic and more notably from Burma Valley Zimbabwe(!). This medium-bodied
cigar comes in at a $9 price tag.

First impressions: My first few puffs set the tone for the first third. I'm getting leather, and the flavor of a Terry’s chocolate orange ball. It is a dynamic mix of citrus, chocolate, and pepper. It is an interesting combination that had me very excited to see how the rest of the cigar plays out.

Halfway through: This is not an overly strong cigar, which does throw you off when visually inspecting the cigar. The chocolate orange ball has faded away and is being replaced by coffee, pepper, and creaminess. I do miss the orange chocolate dark notes, but it is still a pleasing transition.

The final third: The leather has reappeared, and with it some strength. Im still getting pepper notes, creaminess, and the coffee is starting to fade away. Even when this cigar attempts to pack a punch, it does so smoothly and subtly. My last few puffs felt like an everything bagel seasoning with salt and pepper.

Overall: This is certainly a cigar worthy of owner Glen Case’s harrowing event in late 2019. Glen was in Oklahoma, riding a motorcycle about 65 mph around a bend and met the wrong end of a guardrail. This near-death experience is memorialized in the Kristoff Guardrail, and it definitely leaves you with a
memory. This was a fantastic cigar, that only missed out on the top 3 because I really wanted more development of the orange chocolate flavors. However, you can’t go wrong if you see this in your local cigar shop!

4. La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Belicoso

La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Belicoso is a 5.5x54 cigar made in the Don Pepin factory in Estelí Nicaragua. This cigar has a Mexican Cuban seed maduro wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and filler from Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan tobacco is from the Garcia family farms, of My Father Cigars fame, and is rolled with two binders. This medium to full-bodied cigar will run you about $9 per cigar.

First impressions: I am getting cherry, chocolate covered almonds, and pepper on the first few puffs. An absolutely beautiful blend of favors that make you want more and more. I had to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the stick. The chocolate is so intermingled you are getting chocolate covered cherries on one taste, and back to chocolate covered almonds on the next.

Halfway through: I am getting different flavors of nuts, and the cherry has dissipated. The chocolate is still prevalent and is like someone melted dark chocolate on a trail mix collection of nuts. The smoke is rich, and the flavor keeps on coming. I'm starting to get a little pepper, and a little bit of strength and we
start to transition into the final third.

The final third: This is a complicated section. The chocolate flavors and nuttiness were still flowing and delicious. As discussed earlier, I smoked 2 cigars to hone my flavors and opinions. Both cigars were fantastic, but the second one did start to get some bitterness as the cigar got to the nub. It was a slightly disappointing end to the second cigar.

Overall: The slight bitterness in the final third of the second cigar may have been the only reason this cigar wasn’t in the top 3 or at the #1 spot. The chocolate flavors and nuttiness flowed throughout the cigar and were delicious. I really think it was purely bad luck and may not have been manufacturer error that led to this amazing stick sitting just outside of the top 3.

3. Atabey Black Ritos

Atabey Black Ritos is a 6 1/8 x 55 Parejo made in the Tabacos de Costa Rica S.A. On April 1, 2021, Atabey Black Ritos was announced as the first ever cigar NFT (non-fungible token). I had zero interest in a cigar NFT, and it fell off my radar very quickly. However, in November this NFT became a reality! This cigar is
only available in 10 stores, and as a disclaimer, I got mine from Two Guys Smoke Shop in Nashua, N.H. This cigar has an Ecuadorian maduro wrapper, has Peruvian ligero in the filler, and the rest of the makeup of this cigar has not been disclosed. These cigars were rolled in 2018 and have been aging in the
Spanish cedar and French oak rooms of the factory. This cigar is medium bodied with a $50 price tag.

First impressions: This is a really flavorful cigar from the jump. I get licorice, which was not a flavor that I was prepared for, and cinnamon. The cigar isn’t packing an immediate punch but has a lot of flavor. My initial instinct says that those who enjoy a medium body smoke will lose their mind over this one.

Halfway through: You start to get very woodsy tastes. I couldn’t delineate between the oaky woodsy flavors, but they were complex and weren’t one note. It was very again a very interesting blend of flavors that I am not accustomed to. A little bit of pepper sneaks in, accompanied by some sweetness, and almost a caramel nose that you would get from a good bourbon. The cedar, oak, woodsy flavors are deliciously complex.

The final third: The caramel blends even more with the cedar, oak, woodsy flavors and just creates a beautiful aroma and light smoking experience.

Overall: This is a very tasty cigar that should be at the top of many Top 10 lists. The only reason that this cigar is not my #1 is because I like a stronger stick and the $50 price point does have to factor in. Let me be clear, it is worth the $50 tag. If you tried it, and you are a medium-bodied cigar fan, I could see you
giving this stick the tag of best cigar of the last 5 years. I wouldn’t blame you. But this is my list, and strength is a factor. All things considered, Atabey Black Ritos is very worthy of its top 3 spot.

2. Drew Estate Blackened Cigars M81 Robusto

Blackened Cigar M81 is a 5x50 cigar made in the La Gran Fabrica factory in Nicaragua. Blackened is a collaboration with James Hetfield lead singer from Metallica, Rob Dietrich Master Distiller and Blender of BLACKENED American Whiskey, and Jonathan Drew founder of Drew Estate. This is no gimmick cigar,
as 2 years of work was given to the creation and quality of this stick. This cigar has a Mexican San Andres wrapper, Connecticut River Valley Broadleaf binder grown in the USA, and the filler is a mix of Nicaraguan tobaccos, and Pennsylvania Green River One Sucker from the USA. This full-bodied cigar
comes in at a surprisingly low $10 per stick, so let’s jump in.

First impressions: I love the presentation of this cigar. From the simple blackened band, the bold foot band with “Maduro to The Core,” and the beautiful chocolate brown wrapper, this cigar looks ready to rock. The first puffs are pepper, spiciness, and earth. This cigar knows exactly what it is, and it’s going to make sure you know too. I love maduros, and this blend is maduro turned up to 100. This is not for the faint of heart, and will definitely overwhelm new smokers, or those who find medium-to-full bodied cigars to be too much.

Halfway through: There is no turning down this stick, and that’s a good thing. However, you do start getting cherry, leather, nuttiness, and pepper. I reminisce about root beer on a fall day while smoking this stick, so take that for what its worth. It is maduro blasting in your face, and it is unapologetic. I, for one, couldn’t be more appreciative of the dedication to the maduro.

The final third: The cigar is still flavored with leather, pepper, however I have lost the nuttiness and cherry and get a little coffee bean. The spiciness doesn’t go away, but either I have gotten used to it, or it has mellowed out.

Overall: Do not try this stick if you have an aversion to maduro or full-bodied cigars. However, if you enjoy spiciness, if you enjoy a full-bodied cigar, or if you enjoy pepper in your face, don’t let the low price tag scare you away. Blackened M81 could be selling for $15-$20 a stick and I wouldn’t bat an eye, but for $10 you’d be silly not grab a box. The best offering from Drew Estate for me this year.

1. Aganorsa Rare Leaf Reserve Maduro Toro

Aganorsa Leaf served up the Rare Leaf Reserve Maduro Toro that is a 6x54 cigar made in Tabacalera Tropical in Estelí, Nicaragua . This cigar has a dark San Andreas wrapper, with Nicaraguan Jalapa and Estelí binders, and Nicaraguan criollo filler. Aganorsa Rare Leaf Maduro is a full-bodied cigar, right up my alley, with a $14 price tag, let’s jump in.

First Impressions: WOW. Coffee, chocolate, creaminess, subtle spiciness all combine to create the feeling of a spicy sweet chocolate decadent dessert. I never want this flavor profile to end. It is so rich and creamy, but that spiciness is always lurking in the background and is blended perfectly.

Halfway through: The strength has knocked down the door. Absolutely awesome. With the strength came the nutty flavor and the spiciness has ticked up with it. I do have to note that this is a slow smoker, which is a beautiful thing. Think of spicy chocolate treats, and that’s what I keep getting, with a handful of almonds thrown in periodically. Constant symphony like battles of spicy and sweet.

The Final Third: We are well over an hour and a half, and have to be encroaching on 2 hours. There are times where you can’t believe the spiciness, and then its washed away with a cafe mocha. This is a cigar that you will smoke down to the (not-so) bitter end, fingertips be damned.

Overall: Definitely make sure you clear your afternoon for this one. And it is so worth clearing your calendar for. Any self -respecting full-bodied cigar lover must try this cigar. You will not be disappointed. Just a fantastic cigar. The absolute best cigar of 2023.



Jimmy McGrath

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