You guys know the drill, same as last week. We’ll be chronicling what we feel are some of best cigars you can pick up for between $7-$13. The rundown will be down once again in terms of strength, and we’ll be doing our best to include some of the cigars that we feel don’t get the attention they deserve.
Ashton Classic – Ashton has been putting out some of the most well-rounded and consistent cigars for over twenty years now. The brand has become synonymous with quality products, and that is largely due to its Classic line. Utilizing some of Ashton’s most refined Dominican tobaccos, and sealed with a true Connecticut Shade wrapper, the Ashton Classic series offers one of the best mild smoking experiences available. The Ashton Classic series is probably most well-known for its billowy and creamy texture, complemented by its soft notes of nuts, oak, and buttery sweetness. These can enjoyed at an average 0f $7.50 to $10.00
Ashton Aged Maduro – The Ashton Aged Reserve is probably the most wrongly categorized cigar I’ve come across. With its incredible dark maduro wrapper, the Aged Maduro is often assumed to be a full-bodied palate-crusher, when in fact it is quite the opposite. The Ashton Aged Maduro is rich, smooth, and luscious. A metaphorical chocolate bar, notes of cocoa, mint, earthy soil and a finishing touch of tangy sweetness are what await any smoker who chooses to pony up the $11 to get their hands on one.
Diamond Crown Classic CFW – Out of all the cigars in this category, the Diamond Crown Classic in the CFW wrapper is arguably the most complex. The balance is certainly up to par, although a bit of smoothness has been traded in favor of firmer definition of the flavor. The Diamond Crown CFW vibrantly displays notes of rich vanilla hazelnut, oats, and roasted coffee beans.
Avo Heritage – One thing that has earned Avo respect, at least in my mind, is the fact that you can recognize an Avo product from the second you spark it up. The Avo profile is most commonly characterized by its floral grassy flavors, and its velvet smooth body. Smooth barnyard undertones coat the background of the profile. At the risk of sounding abstract, one might describe the experience of smoking an Avo as refreshing.
Avo Domaine – While still retaining its roots as an Avo, the Domaine series offers a bit more robust of a flavor profile. Notes of cocoa power, nuttiness, and all around bolder taste make up the Domaine line. Don’t fret though, this is still a very smooth and mild cigar.
Zino Platinum Scepter Series – The mark of Henke Kelner strikes again, the Zino Platinum Scepter hits the smoker with a blast of creamy of smoke, that finishes as clean as only a Dominican can. A complex profile but easy to digest profile consisting of butter, hay, and hints of earthy soil undertones.
CyB (formerly known as the Cuenca y Blanco) – Arguably the most criminally underrated cigar on the market. The CyB was a collaboration between Dr. Martinez Cuenca, owner of Joya de Nicaragua, and Jose Blanco; the blender behind the famed La Aurora 100 Anos. Jose is known for his ability to create some of the most balanced and complex blends on around, and the CyB holds true to that. The profile contains a wide array of notes, namely: woods, nuts, floral, and a highly distinctive blueberry sweetness.
Curivari El Gran Rey – Known for their distinctly Cuban profile, the Curivari lines are one of the hottest enthusiast brands on the market. My personal favorite of the lines is the El Gran Rey. Upon sparking up, a wave of lusciously rich buttery smoke tongue sails across the palate. Further analysis of the profile will find you discovering flavors of buttered toast, dry woods, and sharp leather. Everything hits the palate in the typical Cuban fashion of being bold and vibrant, while still remaining incredibly smooth and finishing clean.
La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva – Oh, where to start with this one? This one of the cigars that I first fell in love with when I first was getting into cigars. It’s rich, heavy and full flavored, while not being overpowering in either strength or body. A healthy dose of spice and a host of earthy flavors, along side heavy notes of roasted coffee grounds and espresso.
Aging Room F55 Quattro – Another absolute flavor bomb. Aging Room has knocked it out of the park with damn near every release they’ve done, and the F55 Quattro is no exception. Highlighted by Aging Room’s trademark flavors, the F55 Quattro sends wave after wave of sweetened cedar, black pepper, and cream. All of this is done in such a fashion that each aspect compliments its counterparts, making it one of the most balanced and flavorful cigars on the market.
Herrera Esteli – The Herrera Esteli is an incredibly versatile cigar; depending on size it can be enjoyed as a nice mellow but medium strength smoke, or as a more robust mid-afternoon cigar. It’s base flavors are bold and upfront, while still smooth and sophisticated. The complexity of the Herrera Esteli is near endless; vanilla and maple with a tangy touch cover the spectrum of sweetness, while oak, white pepper, and a mixture of nuts makeup the base of the profile. All of this is done with a near perfect draw that delivers creamy and balanced smoke puff after puff.
L’Atelier Maduro – It should come as no surprise that the L’Atelier Maduro is an excellent cigar; anything that closely tied in with Pete Johnson and Don Pepin Garcia is bound to be good. The L’Atelier Maduro is a medium to full cigar across the board, and surprise surprise – it’s packed full of black pepper and spice. Also present are heavy flavors of woods, most notably that of oak and cedar. Leather, roasted coffee, and sweet chocolate act as the primary undertones. The L’Atelier Maduro is an excellent cross between the classic maduro flavors, and the more modern variations.
A. Flores Serie Privada Natural or Maduro – The A. Flores Serie Privada is mellow cigar that is a great way to wrap up a long day. Another cigar that bares the touch of master blender Abe Flores, the Serie Privada has the typically refined touch of Dominican tobacco – it’s complex and balanced, finishes with clean notes of black pepper and earthy woods, and in the maduro it has the added dimensions of cocoa and leather.
Flor de Las Antillas – Yet another fantastic release from the My Father factory, the Flor de las Antillas features a sun grown Nicaraguan wrapper that yields notes of oak, earthy, creamy chocolate, and a rich molasses sweetness. Pepin’s famous pepper and spice characteristics are showcased, shaping the Flor de las Antillas as a particularly refined and balanced cigar.
Liga Undercrown – Similar to the La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva, the Liga Undercrown is one of the first cigars that I truly fell in love with. It’s one of those cigars that sets the bar for a given profile. It’s rich, robust, chocolaty, earthy, creamy – and that’s just the start. The Undercrown is also filled with little details such as leather, nuts, and roasted coffee. A great cigar at any price point, but it is something truly brilliant in the $7.50-8 range.
Camacho Diploma – Camacho has a number distinct phases in the brands lifespan. The Diploma line has been around through it all, and has evolved notably through each phase. It’s best to disregard the name, and judge the cigar based on its own merits. The new Camacho Diploma is a beefy powerhouse that radiates testosterone. Strength, body, and flavor all unleash themselves with the fury of a raging bull right out of the gate. Notes of salty beef, red and black pepper, black coffee, and dark chocolate sweetness enact a full frontal assault across the palate. While maybe a bit on the steep side in price, it still falls within the boundaries of reason at $11-$12.
Illusione Ultra – Illusione is a brand that has quickly risen to prominence over the past several years. While they haven’t redefined the wheel with their cigars, they have managed to blend a flavor profile that is completely their own. The Ultra is the strongest cigar in the line by a fairly large margin, but it makes absolutely zero comprises in the way of flavor. The flavors are rich and creamy, and filled with notes of red pepper and a wide variety of earthy notes.
Tatuaje Havana VI – It should come as no surprise that this is as spectacular a cigar as it is. With the combined power of Pete Johnson’s blending, and Don Pepin Garcia’s rolling, this cigar was destined to be great. The Tatuaje Havana lines offer sharp spice and black pepper, dry woods, and hefty bold earthy notes. All of this is delivered to the smoker with the finesse that Tatuaje is known for.
Oliva Serie V – Another one of the usual suspects to make this list. Designed to be robust and full-bodied while still maintaining smooth and well-balanced smoking experience, the Oliva Serie V accomplishes this with ease. Dry chocolate, earthy soil, and a bit of salt and pepper are what’s on tap with the Oliva Serie V.
My Father El Centurion – Another Pepin product, what else really needs to be said? Don Pepin Garcia has been knocking it out of the park for years. The El Centurion delivers heavy doses of dry smoke, containing dominant notes of leather, earthy soil, and coffee, as well softer notes of nuts and wood. It’s full bodied, it’s balanced, it’s complex, it’s awesome. ‘Nuff said.