Brandon's Top Cigars of 2021
One of the things I really look forward to at the start of every new year is coming up with a list of my favorite cigars of the past year. This time, however, I’m going to take a slightly different approach and break my selections up into several categories. Let me know what you think!
The Best Value Cigars of 2021
Mild: La Galera Connecticut
Another classic cigar from fourth-generation cigar maker Jochy Blanco, the La Galera Connecticut is an Ecuadoran Connecticut wrapper over four types of Dominican tobaccos. It’s a mild cigar that at the same time delivers a rich blend of flavors like mixed nuts, coffee, and cream.
Medium: Flor de las Antillas
This former #1 cigar of the year delivers fantastic flavor without a lot of strength, including notes of cocoa, floral, cedar, and mild spice. The Flor de las Antillas is an all-Nicaraguan blend that has helped keep the lights on at Renegade since the day it came out. One taste will tell you why.
Full Cigar: The Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Sun Grown
This full-bodied Nicaraguan Puro delivers robust flavor and noticeable strength at a great price point. The secret may be the Nicaraguan wrapper, aged for an additional 10 months in a bourbon barrel, and the mix of six-year aged Nicaraguan tobacco. The result is an earthy cigar with a hearty amount of sweetness and strength. While I find it a little strong for my tastes, those who love strong cigars will be amazed at the quality you get for under $10.
The Best Ultra-Premium Cigars of 2021
A cigar celebrating the 60th birthday of one of the cigar industry’s most influential leaders needs to be special, and the Rocky Patel Sixty is. It’s also surprising. At first glance, it looks like it is going to be a big, bold cigar—but the experience of smoking it is quite different. It’s actually surprisingly mild (or medium) in strength, along with a lot of sophistication, and you can tase the age and quality with every puff. Tasting notes include earth, leather, and dark chocolate. It’s best with a fresh palate.
Some of the most sought-after cigars in the industry use broadleaf, but this might just be my favorite. The ADVentura Kings Gold is bold, flavorful, and delivers the perfect amount of strength without being too strong. It’s a cigar jam-packed with rich taste, yet it’s still creamy. This is my go-to cigar when I’m craving the tastes that come with a great broadleaf wrapper (coffee, dark chocolate & cinnamon) along with an even blend of fillers that strike a perfect balance between strength and flavor. I strongly recommend this as an after-dinner cigar.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Corojo that Christian Eiroa’s family grows in Honduras. It’s also no secret that I think Christian employs one of the most talented cigar makers in the world. What may come as a surprise to people familiar with Eiora family cigars is the fact that the CLE Signature uses Honduran-grown Cameroon wrappers, which are typically grown in Africa. The result of this beautiful new-school wrapper over the old-school Corojo is intoxicating. It has the perfect amount of strength and body, and a rewarding balance of sweetness and nuttiness.
My Most-Smoked Cigars of 2021
A big part of my job is keeping my finger on the pulse of the cigar industry. I get this done by smoking a little bit of everything. Tough job, I know, but someone’s got to do it. I also enjoy smoking for pleasure on my own time. When I choose a cigar for enjoyment, a lot of factors go into my decision on what to smoke. Factors like my mood, the time of day, the price of the cigar, and what I’ve had to eat. While I rarely smoke a strong cigar, oftentimes I find that my selection of cigars builds in intensity throughout the day. Additionally, there are a few cigars I reserve for special occasions only. These choices are typically driven by their price, as well as my desire to not let the cigar lose its specialness. Here’s a list of the cigars I smoked the most in 2021, plus a few notes on why.
This is probably the cigar I smoke more than anything else, mainly because it’s got such great flavor and has a near-perfect strength that I can enjoy at just about any time of day.
Herrera Esteli Habano: This is one cigar that, in my opinion, simply doesn’t get as much love as it deserves. I think Willy did a great job of marrying the taste of new-age Nicaraguan cigars with what I remember from Cubans back when you could buy them without having to age them another three years before they could be enjoyed.
Caldwell Savage: What can I say? I love this cigar. It may not be overly complex, but the tastes of aged tobaccos and graham crackers just work for me.
Davidoff Nicaragua: Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you. This is my desert island cigar. While typically I like Dominican tobaccos over Nicaraguan, this Dominican cigar company makes a Nicaraguan cigar this simply checks all the boxes for me.
Aganorsa Guardian of the Farm: Aganorsa is known for growing quality tobacco, but it’s clear they also know how to use it. This cigar has just enough spice that you know it’s Nicaraguan, but it’s also carefully balanced in a way that it can be enjoyed at any time of the day.
CLE Habano: I don’t consider this to be my absolute favorite CLE offering, but it’s got one thing that I find important: a great price. When I’m craving their Corojo but know I will be walking around the lounge, the CLE Habano works every time.
While this seems like a bit of a silly name five years later, it still works. This was a fun project that started with a couple of in-store created cigars, and it’s grown to become a monster. When it comes to value and quality, I just cannot beat a few of these blends. You can find me with one of the following every day.
Hendrix: A creamy, medium-strength blend done in partnership with Aladino using Honduran Corojo.
Winehouse: A floral and nutty medium-strength cigar done in partnership with CLE.
Janis: A mild-medium strength Nicaraguan cigar with a unique leather profile. Typically a great first smoke of the day for me.
Honorable Mentions – Best Cigars of 2021
Finally, in no particular order, here are a few cigars that didn’t make it into the categories above but that I feel are very much worth mentioning when looking back at the past year.
Perfect Time by Rocky Patel and myself: This was my first branded collaboration with RP cigar, and I’m incredibly proud of it. I think it’s a great expression of both of our unique tastes, and it has been a huge hit for cigar smokers of all different preferences. It’s flavorful, yet it has low nicotine levels. These have been selling like crazy, and I’ll be enjoying more for myself after the initial rush calms down.
Renegade XI: The Anniversary cigar is always special to me, and this one is no exception. That said, this cigar wasn’t without its share of headaches when it came to getting here on time and overselling. But, like most good things, the hard work was worth it in the end. I would add this to my favorites list, but I simply didn’t get enough for myself.
AVO Syncro Caribe: The newest release from the Syncro line, the Caribe may be their best yet. While it’s a bit strong for me, it’s also relatively smooth. It has cocoa, leather, and a slight white pepper spice that I enjoy. Although the AVO Syncro Caribe didn’t make my most-enjoyed list, I think I’ll probably be smoking more of them in 2022, so we’ll see how they fare on next year’s list.
Warped Corto: A small cigar with lots of personality, this is one I enjoyed on many occasions when it first came out, but I somehow forgot about it for most of the year. As the weather cooled off at the end of the year, though, I found myself going back to it as a perfect nightcap. It’s big and bold, but small enough that the strength hits just right.
2021 was an incredibly challenging year for everyone. But it was also a great year for cigars. It’s my every hope and intention that 2022 will blow 2021 out of the water, and I and everyone at Renegade Cigars are going to be working hard to make that aim a reality. In the meantime, I encourage you all to explore beyond your typical cigar-smoking habits and try some of the cigars on my list, if you haven’t already. You never know what you might just fall in love with next.