We tried not to repeat specific cigars here that are already famous and appear on the Cigar Aficionado Top 25 list routinely. You already know that Padrón and Fuente Fuente cigars are fantastic, so we’ll save them in our humidors for another moment. If you see those at $15 or $20 or more, you know they’re probably some of the best smoke the company can put together.
To help people find a couple of luxury cigars they may not have tried, this post is geared around smokes that cost a pretty penny but that also carry Cigar Aficionado ratings of at least a 91 and that deliver where it counts – in the smoke.
Let’s start with a name that should signal you’re in for a treat: Pappy Van Winkle.
Pappy Van Winkle Tradition
For those who don’t know, Pappy Van Winkle is a fine whiskey brand. Anything less than a stellar cigar would be a disrespect and a shameful showing for a company that’s pretty much always projected an image of focusing on quality and doing things the right way. The Pappy Van Winkle Tradition cigar definitely falls in line with this tradition established by other ventures of the Van Winkle family, and so it’s earned a place on our list of good expensive cigars.
This one earned a 92 rating from Cigar Aficionado, who praised its malted chocolate character framed by licorice, wood, and more. It’s got a nice natural look and has a truly intoxicating aroma. We can almost smell the bourbon now…
Oh, wait. That’s the bourbon we just poured. Our mistake.
Anyhow, this blend is truly something special. It’s a mix of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos for the filler, and an Indonesian leaf used as a binder. The wrapper that finishes everything off is a colorful brown Ecuadorian habano leaf. All of these things came together during Willy Herrera’s “audition” blending sessions with Drew Estate, back before he was an international sensation working under the DE name. During those sessions, he created the blend that ultimately was released as Pappy Van Winkle Tradition. Inspiration and artfulness clearly came together just right during Herrera’s tryout, because this blend would fit in with any cigars that took weeks or months to get right.
After you plunk down your money for this luxury smoke, there’s only one thing left to do: a pairing! The Pappy Van Winkle Tradition cigar is crying out for whiskey. We’ll relax the rules and allow you to depart from just bourbon, as the Van Winkle company itself has done. A nice rye would actually be amazing here. Make it Pappy if you can, but that’s also not a requirement. Anything brown will do.
We can’t take it anymore. It’s already drinking time and we’re only one cigar into our list! We’ll just have to tackle both at once, unfortunately. It’s hard serving two masters, but anything is possible when you’re drunk enough.
Onward to the Dominican Republic, where Davidoff is ordering up pure Nicaraguan cigars that give any homegrown cigars in Nicaragua a run for their money.
Davidoff has been rolling up premium handmade cigars in the Dominican Republic for decades. When it comes to making cigars from Dominican tobacco, they’re regarded as masters. But still, the 95-rated Davidoff Nicaragua came out of left field. If you know the company’s history and the skill of blender Hendrik Kelner, you’d know that Davidoff always delivers. It’s an impressive accomplishment to work with a totally different kind of tobacco and still get the same outstanding results, but some people are just too good to produce a bad cigar.
Mr. Kelner is humble about being called a “master” blender, but if the creator of the Puro D’Oro cigar doesn’t deserve the title, it’s going to be hard to find anyone who does.
The 95 rating came in 2013, when Cigar Aficionado named the Davidoff Nicaragua the #3 cigar of the year. The ratings are still coming in strong, with a recent 92 marking this cigar as one of the best around, so we felt comfortable adding it to our list of good expensive cigars that are around $15 or over.
This thing has a serious pedigree. It’s made with all Nicaraguan tobacco, but the variety packed into the cigar may surprise you. The filler blend comes from three different regions in Nicaragua: Ometepe, Condega, and Estelí. And if that isn’t enough, you get a Jalapa binder around that. The wrapper leaf is what really makes this an incredibly exclusive blend, though. It’s a 10-year-aged habano seed rosado leaf that’s a perfect colorado shade of brown, shining with oil.
Smoke this cigar, and you’ll get medium smoke with an absolute banquet of flavors. Salted, roasted hazelnuts… dark espresso… and even stone fruit with aromatic notes on the finish. It’s truly incredible that some cigar makers seem to have a knack for choosing the best leaves around – the ones that deliver smoke that’s head and shoulders above the rest – and Davidoff has it down to an art form.
Pick up the double tapered perfecto, and enjoy the kind of cigar everyone wishes they were smoking, but that can be elusive when lighter actually meets foot.
Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno L'Ambassadeur
If you had to give a cigar as a gift to a dignitary or some other powerful government-connected person, which cigar would you choose? Ambassadors from Nicaragua often went with the Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno, another one of our favorite good expensive cigars. Joya has long been regarded as a cigar that powerful people can trust when they’re meeting for business or pleasure. In fact, it was the Official Cigar of the White House decades ago.
The Jewel of Nicaragua is aptly named.
So, unless you’re a high-ranking official, there’s no reason to wait around for a Número Uno to come to you. With our help, you can get your own and see what people are smoking after a visit from the Nicaraguan delegation. After all, this wasn’t officially available on the market until more recently, when a 92 rating from Cigar Aficionado put the Número Uno on everyone’s radar. After that, Joya released it as part of the Obras Maestras line, which is the designation reserved for ultra-premium cigars that the company thinks are worthy of elevated reputation.
Naturally, the filler and binder are Nicaraguan-grown tobacco. But, to balance things out and provide a classic wrapper leaf flavor, the Joya team chose Ecuadorian Connecticut as the finisher on this cigar. It’s a gorgeous blond leaf that’s tied off with a pigtail cap in traditional style.
The smoke itself has been described as medium strength, and the flavors are truly exquisite. Nothing surprising – just enjoyable flavors done right. The smoke is creamy and toasty, with almond croissant and cinnamon notes that always satisfy. Judges also noted that the texture and body of the smoke are truly luxurious, so the Número Uno is a cigar that’s as fun to feel as it is to taste. That’s just another mark of a luxury smoke that’s worth a few extra dollars.
Now, let’s finish off our list with something good and dark, shall we?
Casa Turrent 1880 Maduro
The Turrent family have been farming tobacco in the Sierra de los Tuxtlas area since 1880. Near the tiny town of Calería, they’ve worked generation after generation to master the art and science of cultivating premium leaf, and now we get to be the beneficiaries.
Their specialty is black tobacco, which takes up about 440 acres of cultivation, but they also grow 300 acres of Sumatra and 25 acres of Habano 2000. The result is that the Turrents are the go-to grower for the maduro leaf now known to the world as San Andrés negro. It’s an incredibly flavorful earthy tobacco that delivers fermented sweetness along with a signature white pepper kick that’s just unmistakable.
If you’re into that, read on.
The maduro is probably the best of the four wrapper varieties when it comes to the Casa Turrent 1880, which commemorates the early days when the first seeds went into the ground on Turrent farms those many years ago. Inside the wrapper, there’s a Mexican habano criollo binder, as well as filler tobacco from both Nicaragua and Mexico for a bit of depth.
Cigar Aficionado gave this full-strength cigar 91 points, earned on the back of the layers of flavor the 1880 offers. This is a good expensive cigar, like the others, because of the lush smoking experience you get from it. Judges notes licorice, wood, pepper spice, and a complex nutty core. If you’re in the mood for dark flavors that are carries on an intriguing array of satisfying core notes, the 1880 will have you nodding your head after a few draws.
It’s a costly stick, to be sure. We haven’t nailed down a price yet, but we’re seeing retailers selling early orders around $20 per cigar. For maduro fans and lovers of San Andrés tobacco alike, this is one to watch and one that’s going to deliver where it counts. Take a moment off from the reigning kings of premium branding and try out some of the finest leaf to ever come out of the soil in Mexico.
The cigars on this list aren’t for everyday consumption, unless you’re loaded or just don’t give a damn about budgeting. They’re great sticks to save for special times when you’re in the mood for a really fine smoke, but don’t want to light up one of your go-to best cigars. These give you a chance to maybe branch out a little and get something new that’s still masterfully blended, uses the best leaves from the field, and is made to impress even the most discriminating smoke hound.
If you want good expensive cigars, you’ve found them.