Cigar Aficionado has slowly been trickling its top 25 cigars of 2009 on their website for the past five days, crowning the Padron Family Reserve No.45 Maduro as the best of the year. Now it is finally online in its entirety.
I’ll come clear straightaway: I am not a Cigar Aficionado fan, far from it. I find the magazine itself more an excuse for advertisement aimed at rich snobby guys than a real cigar publication, but it is undeniable that through the magazine and the online counterpart Cigar Insider these guys have a lot of influence on consumers (in the US mainly, but not only).It’s amusing (though I appreciate the idea) that a high-life magazine like CA has decided to also put a list of the best budget cigars on its website, though some might argue that 5-6$ is not exactly a bargain price, rather mid of the road instead… still if you live off expensive spirits playing golf all day long 5$ is nothing I guess.
The other thing that annoys me is that the votes that they give on their reviews in the magazine don’t always translate in the ones on the list, which always makes me wonder why that happens. Around cigar forums you can find veild accusation (and some not too veiled) of CA keeping more than a fair eye on the money, i.e. the interests of its main advertisers. While that might be the case, I suspect it is probably more a matter of getting the whole panel to agree on a vote and possibly also that a side to side comparison of these best smokes can put things into a different perspective.
One thing that can be said from looking at the list is that it is hard not to see what CA likes and pushes and essentially what you can expect from them:
– Nicaraguan and Dominican cigars over Cubans: the list has 11 cigars made completely or predominantly with Nicaraguan tobacco and 7 where Dominican tobacco is the main component. Cuba only has 3 cigars on the list. This leaves me and a lot of my fellow European BOTLs shaking heads. Call it Cuban snobbery if you wish, but to my taste there are a few Habanos that are at least on par with the cigars I have tried in that top 25. I am really surprised by the absence of the Cohiba Gran Reserva from the top 25, especially after James Suckling raved about it in his CA blog… but maybe that was even too expensive for CA’s finances! Having said that, if you think that CA is a US publication and that it deals mainly with the US market where Cubans are VERBOTEN! than it becomes less puzzling.
– Makers over brands. One thing I like about the CA top 25 cigars list is that it mentions who makes the cigars, and when you look at that information a nice trend comes up. Three producers (Fuente y Cia, My Father Cigars -i.e. Pepin Garcia- and Raices Cubanas) have four cigars each in the list, making up almost half of the cigars in there. To me this is actually an argument against the accusations of partiality against CA. More simply it seems evident that there is a specific type or style of cigar that the panel likes. This is not uncommon for reviewers. If like me you enjoy wine, you will know that Robert Parker, arguably the most influential ine critic out there, likes concentrated, chocolatey “bomb” wines more than anything else, and this shows in his ratings. These three producers clearly strike a chord with CA… or alternatively you could say that they make their cigars to please CA if you are cynical. Your pick.
On a personal note, I am happy to see the 601 Blue in the list, which I really like (a review I wrote on UK cigar forums is here), intrigued by the Old Worlde Reserve (had one before which tasted great but had terrible construction) and Oliva V (have a few I’ll review soon), and desperately trying to get my hands on one of those Padrons!
What do you think of the list? Let me know!