Blanton’s Red (Japan)

Good afternoon Hawks!!!!!

Sorry for the delay on the next installment of the Blanton’s series. It seems like that of late, I just haven’t had the time to sit down and open my old, slow laptop. My wife and I are in the process of building our forever home and we’ve been quite busy with life in general. Enough about me and my life…… I know you guys and gals don’t come here for my nonsense, y’all come here for the reviews.

In the next installment we take a look at the last Blanton’s that is offered exclusively to the Japanese market. Blanton’s Red or Red Edition.

Blanton’s Red is just like Black in the sense that it’s aged a minimum of eight years. Once again, you won’t find an age statement on any bottle of Blanton’s, but it is known that the Red and Black editions get a minimum of eight years. Master distiller for Buffalo Trace Harlen Wheatley has been quoted as saying “We don’t pick by the age, we pick by the taste”. So even though it may be a minimum of eight years, you may be getting bourbon that is nine, ten, or more years old.

The mash bill on this bourbon is Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #2, which has the higher rye content. However, BT doesn’t disclose the exact mash bill. This is the same with all of the Blanton’s editions.

ABV on this variation of Blanton’s is 93 proof. This is slightly higher than the 80 proof that the Black edition is.

The color of this fine juice is a honey brown. Almost lighter than the Black edition. I would have expected this pour to have been darker than its watered down brother.

This bourbon sits at about 80 dollars USD. However, it can only be found in Japan and on the secondary market. Prices on the secondary market are high. I’ve personally seen these range from 200-350 USD.

The nose on this bourbon is just as nice as the Black. Very sweet smell of cherries, caramel, vanilla, and citrus. Not as much of an oak smell with this one. On the back end notes of plum shine through.

The taste is spicy. Not hot like the burn you get from a high proof bourbon, but nice and warming. Vanilla, oak, and citrus on the front of the tongue, with a cherry leather taste on the back end.

The finish on this bottle was medium at best the same as the Black. It doesn’t linger on the tongue at all. It still makes a great pour, but won’t challenge your tongue with any complexities.

My final thoughts on this bourbon are that it’s better than the Black just because of the higher proof. If you find yourself in Japan and find a bottle for under a hundred bucks, I definitely suggest picking one up. However, if you’re forced to go the secondary route, then I would pass. It’s just not worth the extra cash.

An interesting side note- Blanton’s in the US and Japan comes in the standard 750ml bottles. Blanton’s released to European market only come in 700ml bottles.

I didn’t require ice or water with this bourbon and tasted it using my Glencarin glass.

I paired this dram with a Espinosa Wasabi cigar. These two paired nicely together and neither one overpowered the other.

Blanton’s Black (Japan)

It’s Monday Hawks! We all know what that means! That’s right, an excuse to have a glass of whiskey and a fine smoke to help relax from the beginning of the week. This week we take a look at our second installment of the Blanton’s series. Today is all about taking it Japanese, with Blanton’s Black!

Blanton’s Black and Red are distilled in Kentucky with the rest of the Blanton’s labels, but only distributed to the Japanese market. Even in Japan these two are harder to find. I spent a whole week in Tokyo and was only able to find two bottles of the Black and none of the Red. I got lucky a couple of weeks ago and won a raffle for a bottle of the Red.

So let’s dive right in to this delicious bottle of rare and forbidden juice.

Blanton’s Black comes with a minimum of 8 years aged, unlike the regular Blanton’s the US gets. The regular Blanton’s doesn’t come with any kind of age statement, but it’s speculated that it’s 6 years minimum.

The mash bill on this bourbon is Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #2, which has the higher rye content. However, BT doesn’t disclose the exact mash bill.

ABV on this variation of Blanton’s is 80 proof. The Red is 93 proof, just like the original. The Black, however is slightly watered down to help bourbon drinkers that don’t want the heat of the higher proof pours.

The color of this fine juice is a golden dark brown.

This bourbon is not particularly expensive at about 30-40 dollars USD in Japan. However, on the secondary market these bottles are like gold. Running somewhere between 200-300 dollars.

The nose on this bourbon is stunning. Floral notes with cherry and apple on the front, with caramel, vanilla, and oak on the back end.

The taste is smooth. A very easy drinker. Little to no burn on the tongue. Fruit and sweet on the front of the tongue make way for the oak of the 8 year aged juice. The oak is not overpowering, but it’s definitely noticeable.

The finish on this bottle was medium at best. It doesn’t linger. It’s tasty and makes a great sipping drink.

My final thoughts on this bourbon are that it’s great! One of my favorites! However, for the price on the secondary, it’s just not worth it. If you happen to be in Japan and find it, buy a bunch. I personally wouldn’t pay what people are asking for this bottle.

An interesting side note- Blanton’s in the US and Japan comes in the standard 750ml bottles. Blanton’s released to European market only come in 700ml bottles.

#Blantons #blantonsblack #japanese #bourbon #whiskey #Buffalotracedistillery #Traficante #spirits #cigarhawk

Blanton’s Single Barrel

It’s whiskey Wednesday Hawks, and boy I’m excited for this one. Starting today and for the next few weeks I will be reviewing the Blanton’s bourbon line. A little background on Blanton’s bourbon…It comes from the Buffalo Trace distillery and was made by Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee in honor of Colonel Albert B. Blanton, who was previously a Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace. We will start this week off with the original Blanton’s Single Barrel bourbon, and then continue with the Gold, Special Reserve, Black, and Straight From The Barrel editions. There are obviously a few of the releases that I have left out, however I still haven’t had the luxury of getting my hands on any of these. They include the, Red, Silver, and various France releases.

Each bottle of Blanton’s is noticeable from a distance, due to its grenade shaped bottle, and horse and jockey on top. Each of the toppers has become collectable in its own way, as each of them has a different letter on it that spells B-L-A-N-T-O-N-S once you’ve collected all of them. Specialty companies have even made topper displays, such as the one pictured.

The mash bill on this bourbon is Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #2, which has the higher rye content. However, BT doesn’t disclose the exact mash bill.

ABV on this variation of Blanton’s is 93 proof. More than enough to get the job done, if you know what I mean.

The color sits at a dark amber with hints of red and burgundy.

At 49 to 65 dollars a bottle, Blanton’s is not the cheapest pour on the shelf, but it’s not insane either. The biggest issue you will have with this bourbon is finding a bottle. Not even 10 years ago I remember going in the store outside of Fort Campbell and literally wiping dust off bottles of Blanton’s. You could have found it anywhere at any time. Fast forward to present day and the bourbon boom is in full swing. I have now only been able to find three bottles of regular Blanton’s in two years, and two of those were behind the counter and I had to ask. Thankfully I have built up somewhat of a relationship with my local ABC employees.

The nose on this bourbon is great and one of the best I’ve nosed. Notes of citrus, clove, nutmeg, all spice and raisin. The spicy smell from the rye is not extremely overpowering, but reminds me of the holidays.

The taste is similar to the nose. It’s well balanced with citrus, spice, and vanilla notes. There is a sweeter caramel and toffee taste on the front, and a spicy cinnamon taste on the back.

The finish on this bottle was medium to long. Oak, toasted marshmallow and nutmeg wrap this pour up in a nice package.

My final thoughts on this bourbon are that if you can find a bottle of Blanton’s, give it a try. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite bourbon, but it’s in my top 20 for sure. It’s definitely a great bourbon for parties and conversation starters. The bottle is cool, and I’ve seen a ton of crafty ways to reuse the bottles.

I didn’t require ice or water with this bourbon and tasted it using my Glencarin glass.

#Traficante #Blantons #Buffalotracedistillery #CigarHawkBrand #Zosworld #ZotheBourbonBro #whiskey #bourbon #singlebarrel #Whiskeywednesday

Blanton’s single barrel

It’s thirsty Thursday and it’s about time! This actually started as Whiskey Wednesday, but I tasted too much last night. I’ve been absent the last couple of weeks due to taking a break and trying to find even more new whiskeys to try. The bourbon on the line up for the week is Blanton’s single barrel. I would love to say that Blanton’s is an easy bourbon to find, but here in the great ABC ran state of NC, it is not.

Blanton’s comes from the Buffalo Trace Distillery and they produce several different variations. Some of these variations can only been found overseas in the European and Japanese market. Blanton’s is a non age statement bourbon, but it is rumored to be aged 6-8 years.

The mash bill on this bourbon is Buffalo Trace’s higher rye mash bill #2. Even though Buffalo Trace doesn’t give out specific mash bill information, it is believed that the rye content is about 15%.

ABV on Blanton’s sits right at 93 proof. Not too high, but still a little higher than your standard 80 proof bourbons.

The color sits at a light brown, almost walnut. Beautiful in every way!

At 59.99 in NC for this bourbon. Definitely not cheap, but not the worst either.

The nose on this bourbon is full of clove, allspice, caramel, and nutmeg. On the backend there is a sweet citrus hint. It definitely smells like one of the better bourbons I’ve had.

The taste is super smooth. Very little burn for a 93 proof bourbon. I pick up just about every flavor that I was able to nose, but I also pick up oak and even more sweetness.

The finish on Blanton’s comes in at a medium to long. On exhale I get a toasted nut taste and a slight bit of alcohol.

My final thoughts on this bourbon are that it’s pretty good. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s delicious and smooth. I would definitely recommend it to anyone that can find it for fewer than 65 dollars. Even if you decide you don’t like it, the bottle makes a cool conversation piece with its bronzed horse top and odd shaped bottle. Blanton’s is a single barrel bourbon, so each batch may change slightly. I personally believe that Blanton’s should be a staple of any person’s home bar or collection.

I didn’t add water or Ice to this bourbon, as it was such an easy straight pour.

Southern Draw & Famous Smoke IGNITE

I am very pleased to see that the second release of the Ignite project. Southern Draw Cigars & Famous Smoke Shop to release Rose of Sharon Perfecto as they IGNITE some good! I am a big fan of both of these 2 great companies. Please support this amazing project.

Austin, Texas – APRIL 30, 2018. IGNITE project release #2 will be an exciting new size for the award winning Rose of Sharon. The medium bodied blend that was blessed as the 2017 #1 Cigar of the Year by Stogie Geeks (Joe D.) and Tuesday Night Cigar Club, #2 Cigar of the Year by Phillip Kohn a.k.a. the Katman with a perfect 100 rating, the #8 Cigar of the Year by HalfWheel – the Consensus, and 10 other Top 25 Cigars of the Year will now be offered in a special round format.

Each perfecto is 6×56 and will offer its own custom IGNITE band. The perfectos will be presented in two custom, limited edition humi-jars of 10 cigars each. The exclusive jars were authorized for use by founding sponsor Famous Smoke Shop, the nation’s #1 discount retailer of premium cigars online. The jars display the words “IGNITE SOME GOOD” along with a decal on the top representing the designated charity for the Rose of Sharon Perfecto. Operation Cigars for Warriors was selected by Famous Smoke Shop and Southern Draw Cigars. Inside each jar is an informational brochure about the charity, a coupon for a future order from Famous and a 2-way humidity packet supplied by Boveda, Inc. who is also a sponsor of the IGNITE project.

The official IGNITE Rose of Sharon release event will take place on Saturday, May 12th, 2018 at Leaf Cigar Bar & Restaurant located on the Famous Smoke Shop premises at 90 Mort Drive, Easton, PA 18040. Additionally, the new release will be available for purchase either online or in-store during the May 12 event. Details and a direct link to purchase the perfectos will be posted on event day for those that cannot attend the event and desire to support the charity and the new release.

“IGNITE release #2 holds a very special meaning at Southern Draw, as the Famous Smoke Shop family joins us once again this time to IGNITE some good as we bring another exciting new cigar to the market. Famous is the source of our custom branded IGNITE humi-jars and their dedication to charity and support continues to be a blessing to our growing little brand,” said Robert Holt, Chief Evangelist of Southern Draw Cigars. The Rose of Sharon Perfecto is the 5th new release of 2018 for Southern Draw following the most recent Jacobs Ladder Lancero, Firethorn and Kudzu Perfecto 6×56 box press and the Rose of Sharon Lancero.

Southern Draw Rose of Sharon IGNITE Perfecto

Factory: AJ Fernandez Cigar Co. / Esteli, Nicaragua

Strength: Medium Body / Medium Flavor

Size: 6 x 56 Perfecto

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sun Grown Connecticut

Binder: Nicaraguan Habano

Filler: Nicaraguan Viso/Seco, Dominican Ligero/ Piloto Cubano

Famous prices: $9.99/cigar, $99.99/Humi-Jar (Initially Limited to 500 jars: 250 black/250 white)

Donations: Southern Draw Cigars & Famous Smoke Shop donate $7.50 total per jar produced.


About Southern Draw Cigars. Southern Draw Cigars – A Veteran Owned and Operated premium cigar brand that offers only hand crafted cigars from patiently aged, naturally fermented tobaccos. Produced in Estelí, Nicaragua and distributed from our home state of Texas. More information may be found at or Southern Draw Cigars on Facebook, @sdcigars on Instagram and Twitter.

About the IGNITE project. The IGNITE program is a creative way for Southern Draw Cigars to dedicate new release premium cigars to provide hope, morale and charity to those in need. Both Southern Draw and its partners have voluntarily agreed to support mutually agreed-upon charities and causes. According to Southern Draw Cigars founders, Robert and Sharon Holt, the primary focus of IGNITE will be serving active-duty, deployed, and veteran military personnel and their families, plus the needy, homeless, and hungry, many of whom are military veterans, as well as premium cigar rights and retail associations.

About Famous Smoke Shop. Famous Smoke Shop is the #1 American-owned discount cigar retailer, home to the lowest prices on the largest selection of premium cigars, humidors and cigar accessories in the country. With over one thousand cigar brands in stock, including Southern Draw, Acid, Davidoff, Macanudo, Romeo y Julieta, Ashton, Padron, Oliva and Perdomo cigars, cigar smokers shop at Famous Smoke Shop with confidence: every purchase is backed by the Famous Freshness Guarantee and award-winning customer service.

Please direct all questions, comments and requests about IGNITE or to inquire about our future sponsorship opportunities for retail partners to

For general information about Southern Draw Cigars, a list of retail partners and reviews, please visit us at

This is a great cigar from a great team of companies. Please go out and support this release!

#LongAshesFullGlasses friends. Be sure to post your photos on the CigarHawk Facebook Group. Follow us on social media. Check out our online store and be on the lookout for new merchandise soon.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Southern Draw Cigars to release Jacobs Ladder Lancero – Box Press

Southern Draw Cigars to release Jacobs Ladder Lancero – Box Press

Austin, TX. – Born from the new charitable strategy, IGNITE some good and produced at the A.J. Fernandez Cigar Co. in Esteli, Nicaragua, the Jacobs Ladder Lancero makes its debut in an exclusive box pressed format known as the TOP RUNG at Casa de Montecristo which coincides with the Texas Cigar Festival. The box pressed lancero in this award winning premium cigar blend is a limited exclusive release and will be available in a number of Casa de Montecristo retail locations.

“Blessed with an impressive resume since its 2017 release date, Jacobs Ladder, Lancaster 401 Broadleaf wrapper – double ligero has been honored with a number of Cigar of the Year awards including an impressive #1 Cigar of the Year by Houston’s own Toasted Foot, #2 Cigar of the Year – the Consensus by Half Wheel and #4 Cigar of the Year by Cigar Dojo, we wanted to offer a special size and an incredible representation of this bold but approachable blend as the initial release for our IGNITE charitable strategy. Let’s IGNITE some good!” said Sharon Holt of Southern Draw Cigars.

Southern Draw Cigars arrives in Houston for the Texas Cigar Festival with an announcement of this limited release. With rarity comes quality and consumers will certainly want to burn a few of these beautiful lanceros and experience the complexity and craftsmanship while they directly support the charitable cause, Operation Cigar for Warriors through generous financial and cigar contributions. Available only in the 10 count humidified jars under the IGNITE brand, the TOP RUNG is the first of five special releases scheduled for 2018.

“We are excited to partner with Robert and Sharon Holt and the Southern Draw family on the release of the IGNITE project. As the largest brick and mortar cigar lounge chain in the country and the first retailer to receive and offer these for purchase, we feel that our customers will be just as excited as we are to try these exclusive items. The IGNITE jars will be first available at our Texas Cigar Festival in Houston, TX on April 14th 2018. Shortly after, you’ll be able to purchase these at many of our 20 retail locations, including our newest additions in Tampa, FL. until our limited supply is gone,” stated Ernie R. Watson, Sr. Merchandise Manager, Casa de Montecristo Inc. Ernie also added an important note “We believe this is just the first of many steps in aligning Casa de Montecristo with trends and exciting projects that make this industry so unique.”

Southern Draw Cigars remains committed to providing the highest quality products to the market and just as its done with all cigars in their line, each IGNITE jar will contain a donated 69 – percent RH pack from Boveda. “Boveda is proud to be part of this exciting and innovative IGNITE project that Southern Draw Cigars has orchestrated. Boveda believes in supporting initiatives like these that serve our US military and its veterans, grass roots charities and premium cigar rights. Each of these unique jars will be packaged with Boveda’s 2-way humidity control from the factory, ensuring the customer is provided the best smoking experience by delivering the cigars in ideal smoking condition” added Tim Swail, Executive Vice President of Sales for Boveda, Inc. an IGNITE project sponsor and the global leader in 2-way humidity control.

Southern Draw Cigars, Casa De Montecristo and Boveda Inc. have selected Operation Cigars for Warriors ( as the initial beneficiary of the IGNITE project.


Please direct all questions, comments and requests about IGNITE or to inquire about our future sponsorship opportunities for retail partners to

For general information about Southern Draw Cigars, a list of retail partners and reviews, please visit us at

Soli Deo Gloria!

Southern Draw Cigars launches new charitable strategy.

Southern Draw Cigars launches new charitable strategy.

April 6th, 2018 – Austin, Texas

Teaming up with premium cigar retailers and sponsors to help select charities, Southern Draw Cigars is proud to announce its new charitable strategy as we endeavor to IGNITE some good.

Our Vision.

IGNITE, is a creative way for Southern Draw Cigars to dedicate NEW release cigars to provide hope, morale and charity to those in need. Southern Draw Cigars with its partners will join together by voluntarily assisting in all lawful ways, to support mutually agreed upon charities and causes. The primary focus will be serving:

  1. Active-duty, deployed, military veterans and their families;

  2. Premium cigar rights and cigar retail associations; and

  3. Our community’s needy, homeless and hungry, many of whom are US military veterans.

Our Values.

  1. Ambition – IGNITE partners and sponsors will be demanding of ourselves, providing our first and best cigar offerings and are each committed to increasing annual contributions for every cause we agree to support.

  2. Collaboration – INGITE partners value one another, thrive on our united resources, and will work to leverage our combined strength in making a difference, without placing the financial burden on any single party regardless of their own resources.

  3. Creativity – IGNITE is a new idea, a new approach in overcoming federal, state and local restrictions that have proven somewhat prohibitive for the premium cigar industry, to take a disciplined approach to develop sustainable options to best support our causes.

  4. Accountability – IGNITE partners take responsibility for using our combined resources effectively and efficiently, achieving quantifiable and sustainable results and being accountable to one another, and most of all, to the causes we support.

What is IGNITE?

Southern Draw has initiated the following charitable strategy for 2018:

  1. Produced five NEW cigar offerings with custom IGNITE bands;

  2. Partnered with FIVE different premium cigar retailers;

  3. Produced 5,000 custom “IGNITE some good” jars, ½ black and ½ white each with the charities’ sticker on top and informational brochure insert;

  4. Allocated $3.75 per jar to select charities (x 5,000 jars);

  5. Retail partner commitment of $3.75 per jar to select charities (x 5,000 jars) and optional coupon for future savings;

  6. $37,500 to charities ($3.75 x 5,000 from SDC + $3.75 x 5,000 from retailers) = $37,500).

Southern Draw Cigars will provide complete transparency regarding the identity of each partner, sponsor and the amount of all contributions and the frequency of the offerings.

Current Partners and Sponsors.

Each IGNITE jar has been optimized for delivery with Boveda’s ( patented 2-way humidity control and a freshness seal, each donated by Boveda as they increase their already generous charitable giving program.

Southern Draw Cigars and three retail partners have selected Operation Cigars for Warriors ( as the initial beneficiary. This is a concerted effort to increase the cigar donations and monetary contributions that have seen a significant decrease since the 2016 FDA Regulations. Stockpiles of donated cigars and funds to ship the cigars to our deployed military personnel have diminished to all-time lows.

April 14 – IGNITE release #1 during the Texas Cigar Festival.

Serious Cigars and Casa de Montecristo have partnered with Southern Draw Cigars for the 1st IGNITE release, details on the NEW cigar to be announced on April 9th.

May 12 – IGNITE release #2 at Famous Smoke Shop & Leaf Cigar Bar.

NEW and exciting cigar release in Easton, PA, details to be announced soon.

Date TBD – Cigars International has selected two unique releases under the IGNITE banner, along with scheduling wo exciting events in September and November.

TBD – Q3 – 2018 IGNITE release #4 is available for retail partnership, 1,000 jars and a NEW Southern Draw Cigars release.

TBD – Q4 – 2018 IGNITE release #5 is available for retail partnership, 1,000 jars and a NEW Southern Draw Cigars release.


Please direct all questions, comments and requests about IGNITE or to inquire about our future sponsorship opportunities for retail partners to

For general information about Southern Draw Cigars, a list of retail partners and reviews, please visit us at Soli Deo Gloria!

2017… A look back and looking forward

2017 was a wild and crazy year for my personal life. An unexpected job transfer to a new state, selling our home, and a number of other things that really took me away from doing what I love, cigar reviews. I did not have the time, and now being in an apartment while our new house is being built, I had no place to really do reviews like I wanted. I suspect this summer will be different once we move into the new home and get settled in. For these reasons and a few others, I am not doing a traditional Top Cigar List this year. I think this will probably become a trend for me in the future.

One thing I changed this year was adding a ratings system and scoring cigars. The crazy thing about cigar reviews is that they are highly subjective and no one will ever have the same experience so rating a cigar is a super difficult thing to do. When I started doing reviews, I never scored anything. And now I know why. When you assign a score to cigar and put a number on it, you are setting expectations. Score it too low and people say “Bro, you are crazy” score it too high and people say “Bro, you are crazy”. I have decided to go back to what works for me and that is an honest write up about the cigar, accompanied with quality photos and that’s it. So many cigars consistently score in that 90 – 93 range and many are much more deserving but will never get the score they deserve. With as many scores as I see in that range, what sets any of them apart? Opinions. That’s all that ever sets any product apart from each other. So once and for all I have decided that the rating system will be retired for me and I will leave that up to the trusted sites that have established themselves. I see forums and post in regards to bloggers and reviewers and most people aren’t influenced by the score but they read the content. That is what worked for me and I look forward to getting back to it.

I debated on putting this list out at all this year. I don’t feel that I was able to really contribute enough to the process to do it justice and make it relevant. I decided tonight that I would but I am going to do things a little different.

This was an amazing year for some incredible releases. I have decided to break them down into categories.


I am not a regular Connecticut cigar smoker. I rarely go to them unless it is early morning or the first of a multiple cigar evening. Nothing against them and I know there are some fantastic cigars out there. For me, my palate leans towards heavy, bold flavors. Red wines, bourbons, maduro/oscuro cigars, etc.

This year was a real standout for some great Connecticut’s. (See Top 5 list below)

Kolumbus K-Azul

Kolumbus is new to me and I only recently tried them during the past week. These are only available through SmoothDrawCigars and are made in La Palma, Spain. This Connecticut really impressed me. Not many people know about this brand, but they should. A terrific smoke anytime of the day or night.

Protocol Themis

The Protocol Themis is the first shot at a Connecticut by Cubariqueno Cigar Company and they absolutely crushed it. These guys just don’t miss. 3 releases and 3 incredible cigars. LaZona and Cubariqueno are simply on fire when it comes to producing great cigars. More of a mild plus – medium body, this is a terrific cigar and the price point is below what I would expect from a cigar this good. But I am not complaining about that!

Highclere Castle

The Highclere Castle is an incredible project and wonderful cigar. This is one that I would smoke as a first smoke at any high end event or special occasion. The price point is a bit steep but when you consider what you are smoking, the price fits the quality. Incredible cigar and another terrific project from Foundation Cigars.

All the rest:

Where do I even start on this list? There were so many absolutely incredible releases this year from so many great companies. There is no way possible that I could include all of them on this list otherwise I would be here until tomorrow. While I enjoyed many great cigars this year some really stood out to me.

Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust made a HUGE impact in my humidor. Steve Saka and team released some absolutely incredible projects and as they are aging, I find them getting more complex and better each time I smoke them.

Sobremesa – Incredibly complex. So many flavor profiles all wrapped into one amazing cigar.

Mi Querida – Another one of my favorite sticks this year.

Todos Las Dias – Spicy, unapologetic and down right good.

Umbagog – For the money, you can’t beat this cigar.

I have not had the pleasure of trying the Muestra de Saka, Sin Compromiso, or the Altemose. The Muestra de Saka is high on my must have list and I read that he is releasing the Unicorn. A true master of cigars, there is no wonder that everything he makes is fantastic.

Foundation Cigars is another company that has solidified a spot on my go-to list of cigars. Nick Melillo has created some of the best cigars on the planet. Last years releases scored very high on my list and this year the trend continues. The Tabernacle is still on my favorites list and now add the Highclere Castle and the El Güegüense Maduro.

Wise Man Maduro was a game changer for me. The original release of the El Güegüense was terrific but the maduro is on another level. One of the best cigars I had this year.

The addition of the Highclere Castle this year really rounded out the already impressive portfolio. This is my choice for my personal Cigar of the Year.

Black Label Trading Company / Black Works Studio

What can I say about what’s going on and coming out of Fabrica Oveja Negra? I am so impressed with what James, Angela and crew have done over the past few years. The growth of the company is a tribute to the work being done there. Every year it seems the new releases get better and better. With too many cigars to put on the list I am going to limit myself to just a few.

Boondock Saints – This year was my first year getting these and the hype is real. Not just a cult following for the movie, this cigar has it’s own cult like following. I would smoke them more often if not so hard to come by. A year is a long time to wait.

2017 Bishops Blend – Right from the jump I knew this years release was on another level. I didn’t think it could get any better until I let them rest in the humidor for a few weeks and tried it again. This cigar is just incredible. Clearly one of the best of the year for me.

Last Rites Lancero – The name is certainly fitting of this cigar. If you are on your death bed and can have one last smoke, this one would be a great one to ask for. One fantastic lancero for sure.

I could go on and on about these 2 companies but all I can say is, if you like bold, complex cigars, these are a must try.

Cubariqueno Cigar Company

The new kids on the block (kind of). Last years Cigar of the Year winner on Cigar Federation with the original Protocol, they are back again with 2 more strong showings. Working with La Zona and creating some of the best cigars on the market, people are discovering the Power of the P!

Probable Cause Lancero – Following in the footsteps of the original, this lancero is nothing short of spectacular. Juan, Bill and team have found a recipe for success in this vitola. Easily one of the best cigars I smoked this year.

Themis – See Above

These guys just continue to impress and I look forward to what 2018 brings!

Felix Assouline

I have been smoking these for over a year now and I was impressed with everything he produced. This year more and more people are discovering his great portfolio. I am very happy to see FAC when I walk into Famous and my local lounge. I truly expect more and more people to discover the wonder cigars he produces. This year we saw the release of the Blackcat and something new from the EGO line.

The EGO Black is available in 5 sizes at retailers and is another terrific addition to the already strong EGO portfolio.

The EGO Black Dark Lord. This cigar is simply amazing. I will need to smoke another one and really take my time with it to try and sort through the flavor profiles again but this is unlike anything I have ever gotten my hands on. The price point is up there ($30 each) but once you smoke it, you begin to understand why. I would have a hard time finding another cigar that I could even begin to compare it to flavor wise. I do not think there is anything out there that I have tried that comes close. You have to smoke it to understand. Supplies are limited.

There were many other brands that made an impact on me this year but for the sake of keeping this manageable I will defer and stop here. If you stop and think about that for a second, I hope you realize what an amazing time we live in when it comes to cigars! Anyone that makes a cigar list could easily have a Top 25 and there are legit 50 or more cigars that could end up on it. And that is probably being conservative.

Again, I did not get the opportunity to review as many cigars as I would have liked to. Hopefully that changes soon. I look forward to jumping back in again in 2018 without a rating system and just honest, open reviews.

My favorites for this year:

#12: Serino Royale Maduro XX – Serino Cigars

#11: Neanderthal HS (new size for the blend this year) – Roma Craft

#10: Jacob’s Ladder – Southern Draw

#9: Corojo Oscuro – Mbombay

#8: Umbagog – DTT

#7: Sindustry – BWKS

#6: Todos Las Dias – DTT

#5: Sobremesa – DTT

#4: Last Rites Lancero – BLTC

#3: Protocol Probable Cause Lancero – Cubariqueno

#2: Mi Querida – DTT

#1: El Güegüense Maduro (My personal favorite this year) – Foundation

Top Limited Release Cigars of 2017

#3: Boondock Saints

#2: Bishops Blend 2017 release

#1: Ego Black Dark Lord

Top Connecticut’s for 2017

#5: AVO Syncro South American Ritmo

#4: Kolumbus K- Azul

#3: Southern Draw Rose of Sharon

#2: Protocol Themis

#1: Foundation Highclere Castle

I had a shelf in the humidor of cigars I wanted to review and didn’t get the opportunity. I am sure many of them were deserving of being on the list as well.

I really enjoyed these incredible cigars. Many of them will be staples in my humidor. We are extremely lucky to have so many great cigars available to us. Here’s to a fantastic 2017 and an even better 2018! I cannot wait to see what this years releases bring! Until next time folks…long ashes and full glasses.