Having become a staple accessory for the discerning gentleman, cigars emanate character, class and pleasure. The perfect accompaniment to a fine scotch, the combination makes a most relaxing pastime. But where to find the best? We take a look at the finest cigars of the Americas.
Cohiba Esplendido, Cuba
Reputedly conceived with the help of Fidel Castro, Cohiba cigars are today some of the most sought after in the world. In the 1970s, Castro saw his bodyguard smoking a certain cigar of which the aromas were most pleasing. Learning they were made by a friend of the bodyguard’s, Castro issued instructions that the man must be found.
They then set up a special factory, where the mysterious character covertly produced cigars exclusively for the top Cuban government officials. This production was made even more top-secret by ongoing assassination attempts against Castro and Che Guevera by the CIA.
Today, Cohiba cigars are produced in Cuba and also the Dominican Republic, in order to evade the US ban on Cuban exports. The Cohiba Esplendido is a thick, classy smoke that privileges smoothness and creaminess, while maintaining a perfect balance between strength and flavour.
This one is for the seasoned cigar aficionado, but one will be hard pressed to find many of better quality. Indeed, Forbes’ resident tastemaker, Nick Passmore, labelled it the “best cigar [he has] ever smoked”.
CAO Gold, Nicaragua
A classic cigar blend, CAO Gold is made by master rollers in Nicaragua from aged long leaves. All of these cigars are painstakingly made by hand.
The founder of the company, Aylin Ozgener-Sherman, is actually Turkish, which may not be the nation that first springs to mind when discussing cigars. Yet the success of the brand owes much to the entrepreneurial spirit of what remains a family-run business.
Growing up in Istanbul, Ozgener-Sherman fell in love with smoking pipes. But he was not happy with the quality of Turkish meerschaum. So he would change the stems and modify them, eventually stumbling upon the perfect formula.
With CAO Gold, the blend is a mellow one, with added flavour to compensate for its mild to medium strength. The robust tasting notes give a hint of cocoa and espresso, while every cigar released by the CAO brand has been met with critical acclaim.
Romeo y Julieta 1875 Reserve Maduro, Cuba
Winston Churchill famously chewed on the cigar to aid his methodical process of decision making. And he certainly had some tough ones to make during his premiership. His favourite two cigar brands were La Aroma de Cuba and this masterpiece, Romeo y Julieta. Indeed, the company eventually named one of their brands after the Prime Minister.
A young Churchill wanted to make a name for himself. He believed the best way to do so was to engage in military battle. At the end of the nineteenth century, with no live battle in Europe, he travelled to Cuba.
He and a fellow officer, Reginald Barnes, went to help the Spanish Empire put down the protests in the country. Stood up by the Spanish commandant who was due to meet them, however, the pair spent the next few weeks in Havana’s finest hotels, acquainting themselves with two of the staples of Cuban lifestyle: oranges and cigars.
From then on, Churchill was rarely separated from his cigars, stocking between 3000 and 4000 in his Kent residence. Seldom pictured without one, he would go to some lengths to ensure his love affair could be continued.
One such example came when he hosted a lunch in honour of the King of Saudi Arabia in 1945, before which he was aghast to learn that neither alcohol nor tobacco should be drank or smoked in the king’s presence.
He recorded the difficulty in his memoirs: “I had been told that neither smoking nor alcoholic beverages were allowed in the Royal Presence. As I was the host at the luncheon I raised the matter at once, and said to the interpreter that if it was the religion of His Majesty to deprive himself of smoking and alcohol I must point out that my rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them. The King graciously accepted the position.”
Romeo y Julieta’s 1875 is a full-bodied smoke which lacks nothing in flavour. It features a blackened Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, a tasty Nicaraguan binder, and a bold blend of Nicaraguan, Peruvian, and Dominican long fillers.
Diamond Crown, Dominican Republic
If you’re looking for something truly rare, Diamond Crown fits the bill. A super premium brand of handmade cigars, it is made in the Dominican Republic. Another brand with consistent 90+ ratings, there are very few places where Diamond Crown is available for purchase.
In fact, the cigars are made by the Fuentes family, a bunch steeped in cigar history who are foremost experts in growing and manufacturing.
As part of the brand’s centenary celebrations, in 1995, Stanford Newman joined the company to develop the super premium cigars so sought after today.
Striving to design the richest, most consistent and most complex cigar possible, he created a 54 ring – larger than the largest cigars on the market at the time, 52 ring varieties. This allowed for six to seven individual tobacco leaves to be blended together, providing the full bodied flavour that makes Diamond Crown so coveted.
Unlike almost all other wrappers, Diamond Crown’s Connecticut Fermented Wrapper is fermented twice in order to develop a light, rosado colour and the sweet, smooth and rich flavour.