Cigar Aficionado’s Cigars of 2021 - Top Ten

by Juan Panesso
The word "Top 10" written in dirty vintage letterpress type on an aged wooden background.


The Cigar Aficionado judges have smoked themselves silly in one blind trial after the other, and the results are now in. We’ve got the top 25 cigars of the year for 2021 in the books, and there’s actually a few surprises on there. Aside from those, it mostly feels like a stable situation this year with the industry’s luminaries still on top.

Let’s start with a brand that needs absolutely no introduction. With a fourth Cigar of the Year win, they’re the undisputed record-holders now:

 La Casa Padrón. 

#1 Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Torpedo (Natural)

There’s no requirement that we delve into the history here. You can’t smoke history (unless you’re hard up for rolling papers and you tear one from your textbook). But you can smoke an outstanding Nicaraguan cigar, which Padrón gives us each and every time.

 How the hell do they DO it, really? It’s uncanny!

 Those who have lit one up realized something right away—this is a different kind of cigar. We’d put a few other brands in this category, like My Father and Fuente. You always remember the first one you smoke, and you’re always spoiled for other stogies afterward. It seems like they’ve got a different kind of tobacco or something.

 It’s definitely true here. Light up the Padrón 1964, and everything is so smooth and chocolatey that it’s just unreal. That cocoa and nut flavor profile is reliable, excellent, and the real reason we will turn to these any year. If we have to bet our life on one cigar being really good, this is probably the one we would reach for.

97 points. Yowza. This blend is one for the ages.

#2 Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Nicaragua No. 2

The No. 2 is #2. How easy to remember. Montecristo kills it both in the Cuban and non-Cuban versions. Both are sought after all over the world. And this year, people will be clamoring for this delicious 95-point Nicaraguan puro.

 2020 was Montecristo’s 85th birthday, and in the cigar world, commemorating milestones like that means special anniversario blends. Rafael Nodal of Aging Room fame is the head of product capability at Altadis (the parent company of the non-Cuban Montecristo brand). He tapped none other than the ubiquitous A.J. Fernandez to help with this blend.

 A.J. has many fields in Nicaragua, and he wove together a tapestry of flavorful, bold leaves for this one. It’s his best type of blend and what he’s known best for.

 (Well, that and somehow collaborating on 103 blends a month for various companies).

The smoke here was described by Cigar Aficionado in its Top 25 Cigars of 2021 list as having a “spicy, earthy backbone refined by notes of leather, coconut, and malted milk.” Only in the cigar world do we want leather in our coconut and malted milk, but that’s because we have a special gene that allows us to taste the best of everything in whiskies, beers, and tobaccos.

 Montecristo’s 1935 Anniversary blend is just way too good to ignore.

#3 San Cristobal Quintessence Churchill 

You didn’t see this one coming unless you smoked it this past year or read a description that revealed it was made with Garcia family tobacco at the My Father Cigars factory. It’s a stealth Don Pepin blend, somehow flapping its brightly colored parrot wings under the radar.

 The Nicaraguan filler blend is covered with a high-priming Ecuador Habano, a ligero leaf with plenty of strength and flavor. Cigar Aficionado loved the lengthy Churchill for this one and described the flavors as “rich, nutty and complex conveying an earthy foundation of coffee bean character, a mid-palate of baking spices and a charming, cappuccino finish.”

 It’s a whole dessert cart rolled up into a single stogie experience.

 Welcome to one of your new favorite brands!

#4 Partagás Serie D No. 4 (Cuban) 

For the time being, most of us can’t get a hand on this Cubano, but maybe the government will flip the Cuban cigar switch back on for travelers. There was a brief shining moment where people could bring back significant quantities of Cuban cigars after trips to the island, but that window was slammed shut by the Trump administration. We now await the next chapter of the neverending saga of the Cuban Embargo to see if we can get our hands on smokes like this. For the time being, we can only wonder.

#5 Casa Cuba Doble Cuatro

This one has “Cuba” in the name, but it’s not made there, so we’re good. This is actually a Dominican cigar made at a Fuente factory, appearing at the #5 spot on the best cigars of 2021 list.

 The Fuentes weren’t always industry juggernauts setting the standard for top-tier cigars. There was a time when hand-rolling tobacco on the back porch was the extent of company activity. Of course, things grew from there, but the Casa Cuba mark pays homage to those early days.

Our domino players know what a doble cuatro is. For those who don’t, meet us in Ybor City, and we’ll take you to school while we puff on some deliciously spicy and sweet Casa Cubas. Loser buys drinks!

Man in a suit smoking a cigar in a high-backed leather chair.

#6 Illusione Cruzado Robusto

Illusione just doesn’t miss. This Reno-rooted brand knows how to set itself up for a win, and another Nicaraguan puro is just what the house ordered.

The Cruzado used to be made in Honduras, but with Aganorsa Leaf taking over, this blend has a new lease on life. The classic Corojo wrapper ensures that the flavor profile is nice and spicy. Cigar Aficionado called out hickory and black pepper notes. For those who love some kick with their sophisticated layers of nuts and cocoa powder, the #6 entry on the Top 25 Cigars of 2021 list is the place to be.

#7 Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro Churchill

Man, it just never gets old, does it? Another year, another appearance on the Top 25 list for the Oliva Serie V Melanio Maduro. This one was a banger in the original Sumatra wrapped version, but the Maduro seems to really shine the brightest (even though it’s so rich and dark).

This one is another perfect cigar to light up after a meal and enjoy with coffee. Cigar Aficionado described the flavors as “a luxurious procession of rich, regal character starting with notes of German chocolate cake that segue into a smoke of baking spices, malted chocolate, and lively, cedary accents.”

Bakers, chefs, eat your heart out. This is a cigar that takes smokers on a beautiful relaxing ride into the evening.

#8 Cohiba Siglo VI (Cuba)

Is there any cigar smoker alive who hasn’t heard that Cohibas from Cuba are fantastic?

Grab some when you’re in a reputable shop in the islands (fakes are EVERYWHERE, so brush up on signs of a counterfeit) and enjoy them on vacation. If you can get a Siglo VI, that’s even better. But if you’re too drunk to discriminate, just look for the bumblebee checkerboard band and ask for a torch lighter. It’s hell trying to use matches on a cruise ship or windswept beach.

Also, good lord, are these expensive! Watch the price tag before you dive in.

#9 Rocky Patel Grand Reserve Robusto

Rocky Patel brings us the first blend on the list that combines a varied mix of tobaccos for a creative blend. While Nicaraguan puros are obviously ruling the roost right now, the Grand Reserve is bringing flavors from Honduras and Ecuador to create a 93-point smoke that made it into the top ten of the best cigars of 2021.

This one was once a cigar created to suit international tastes, but you know how we Americans are – we don’t want to miss out on anything. This blend had to show up in our shops, and we’re quite glad it did. This thing is a fancy barbeque cigar, in our opinion. As the CA judges described, “each puff is loaded with a savory, leathery quality that sets the stage for subsequent notes of crushed peanut and red meat.”

Delicious – and perfect with a nice cold beer.

#10 Arturo Fuente Rare Pink Vintage 1960’s Séries Happy Ending

A great cause and a great cigar make Fuente’s appearance on the Top 25 list that much more special.

Forget Dominican puros – this one is a modern blend with Nicaraguan leaf included and an Ecuadorian wrapper. These gorgeously made smokes offer a hell of an experience. Each one “starts slowly with layers of earth, hazelnut, and coffee.” As you go along, you’ll get into the real meat of the cigar, where the “smoke bursts… with orange peel, cloves, and gingerbread.”

They’re saving the tatas, one stogie at a time. We’re with them all the way and hope you’ll join the cause. It’s not often you can combine vice with virtue like this.

That rounds out the top ten cigars of 2021. Join us for Part 2, where we discover cigars 11-25!