haggis posted:

Fantastic summary of the show.  Thanks!  Stickman, in his post right before yours, also mentions Southern Draw.  Not familiar with them, but will have to check them out.

Thanks. Yes their Jacob's Ladder & Rose of Sharon were two of the top cigars across many lists in 2017.

mdsphoto posted:

A few observations I did for a cigar site that may be of interest.

The 2018 International Premium Pipe & Cigar Retailers (IPCPR) show took place July 13th-17thin Las Vegas...

While the last few year’s trends have focused on larger ring cigars, this year was all about “aged tobacco”. Many companies were touting cigars made with 10, 15 and 20 year old tobacco...

 Cigars: Below is my annual list of “want to try” sticks from the show.

 Drew Estates Liga Privada 10-Year Anniversario

Tatuaje The Bride

Tatuaje 15th Anniversary

Bespoke Daughters Of The Wind Salomones

Casa Fernandez Anniversario Perfecto

Southern Draw Cedrus Belicoso

Warped Las Relatos...

Thanks for sharing the extensive write-up.  I'm intrigued by the focus on aged tobaccos.  I can't help wondering if that's a necessary reaction to the cigars that got rushed out the last couple years.  I had so many that were unbalanced, harsh, even 'green' (in flavor, not color).  Perhaps producers got enough complaints, that they chose to react with new 'aged' cigars in response.  For my part I welcome the trend, and I look forward to trying them... unless they're part of the >$50 trend.  I would agree, that the few ultra-premium priced sticks I've tried have not lived up to the hype.  

I've edited your "want to try" list down to the ones I also want to try.  I've tried the Bespoke Daughters of the Wind Dahman and Pyramide, but not the Salamone.  Great cigars now, which I expect to improve with aging (smallbatchcigar offered an aged 2013 batch of the Pyramide, but they're gone now.  I've got a handfull resting now.).

In addition to the Tatuajes you listed, I'm also looking forward to this year's TAA, their 50th (a 15th and a 50th in the same year!).  It's a robusto this year, and I've got it on the docket to try this evening; will report back, if I get a clear sense of what it's about.

In addition to the Warped Las Relatos, I'm also looking forward to the Gran Reserva 1988 they announced last year, but just started shipping recently.  They're also releasing another batch of Lirio Rojo, and I'll pounce on them... to age!

Liga Privada's 10-year Anniversario intrigues me with it's CT-grown Criollo wrapper.  Do you know when they arrive in B&Ms (reportedly going only to B&Ms)?  My local guys have heard nothing so far.

mdsphoto posted:
haggis posted:

Fantastic summary of the show.  Thanks!  Stickman, in his post right before yours, also mentions Southern Draw.  Not familiar with them, but will have to check them out.

Thanks. Yes their Jacob's Ladder & Rose of Sharon were two of the top cigars across many lists in 2017.

Yes, I had tried the Rose of Sharon Toro and put it on my 'best of 2017' list (I put Jacob's Ladder even higher), but the lancero was new to me.  Just another masterful creation from the rolling benches at AJ Fernandez.  

stickman2 posted:
mdsphoto posted:

A few observations I did for a cigar site that may be of interest.

The 2018 International Premium Pipe & Cigar Retailers (IPCPR) show took place July 13th-17thin Las Vegas...

While the last few year’s trends have focused on larger ring cigars, this year was all about “aged tobacco”. Many companies were touting cigars made with 10, 15 and 20 year old tobacco...

 Cigars: Below is my annual list of “want to try” sticks from the show.

 Drew Estates Liga Privada 10-Year Anniversario

Tatuaje The Bride

Tatuaje 15th Anniversary

Bespoke Daughters Of The Wind Salomones

Casa Fernandez Anniversario Perfecto

Southern Draw Cedrus Belicoso

Warped Las Relatos...

Thanks for sharing the extensive write-up.  I'm intrigued by the focus on aged tobaccos.  I can't help wondering if that's a necessary reaction to the cigars that got rushed out the last couple years.  I had so many that were unbalanced, harsh, even 'green' (in flavor, not color).  Perhaps producers got enough complaints, that they chose to react with new 'aged' cigars in response.  For my part I welcome the trend, and I look forward to trying them... unless they're part of the >$50 trend.  I would agree, that the few ultra-premium priced sticks I've tried have not lived up to the hype.  

I've edited your "want to try" list down to the ones I also want to try.  I've tried the Bespoke Daughters of the Wind Dahman and Pyramide, but not the Salamone.  Great cigars now, which I expect to improve with aging (smallbatchcigar offered an aged 2013 batch of the Pyramide, but they're gone now.  I've got a handfull resting now.).

In addition to the Tatuajes you listed, I'm also looking forward to this year's TAA, their 50th (a 15th and a 50th in the same year!).  It's a robusto this year, and I've got it on the docket to try this evening; will report back, if I get a clear sense of what it's about.

In addition to the Warped Las Relatos, I'm also looking forward to the Gran Reserva 1988 they announced last year, but just started shipping recently.  They're also releasing another batch of Lirio Rojo, and I'll pounce on them... to age!

Liga Privada's 10-year Anniversario intrigues me with it's CT-grown Criollo wrapper.  Do you know when they arrive in B&Ms (reportedly going only to B&Ms)?  My local guys have heard nothing so far.

Some of the "we found some 10-year old tobacco hidden in our warehouse" is a bunch of BS. That being said, I believe that General has been saving some special tobacco for their lines, though I would never pay $90 for a Nica/Honduran knock off of a CC. 

There have been sightings of the LP 10-year in the Easton, PA area, but in very small quantities. Since there were only 10K made they are sure to go fast once they get into full distribution.

Enjoying an Arturo Fuente short story Maduro here in Hilton Head. Sitting on the patio after watching the Braves win with my dad. I absolutely love this cigar and have such a hard time finding them outside of Christmas time. My local joint here, Peaceful Henry's always seems to have them though. life is good. 

 

Snipes, I dig your taste!  The Short Story Maduro is a phenomenal cigar, and reliably so!  Thumbs way up!

I just learned that Cigar Aficionado just dropped 94 points on the Warped Gran Reserva 1988.  I was waiting to post notes (due to varying experiences), but I'll add my two cents while they're still obtainable. Overall, it's a very smooth, creamy cigar with background notes of nutmeg  and almond throughout and intermittent hints of pepper and clove to keep things interesting.  It's a profile which should have wide appeal, and I think it's a very good cigar (though I did have one that was a total dud), but IMHO 94 points might be a little over-exuberant, and I would advise to purchase soon if you have any interest in them.  I'm a fan of Warped in general (I think Sky Flower and Lirio Rojo are outstanding by any measure, and I had some Maestro del Tiempos which were gorgeous, as well as the Flor del Valle Cristales), but more than a few promising cigars have had lackluster following releases, thus my advice to buy the first release, or... caveat emptor. It's now a top candidate for CA's CotY.

Speaking of CA and Warped, I recently retried the Guardian of the Farm Apollo (the one with the extra blue Selección de Warped band), a former top ten CA awardee.  In essence it was much improved with an additional aging.  Much better balanced and plenty of that unique, Aganorsa, sweet roasted cream and baking spices character.  

And speaking of Aganorsa, they changed their own brand from Casa Fernández to Aganorsa Leaf, and they released a new Signature series.  I've tried the robusto and toro, and I find them to be over-balanced to pepper, cedar, and earthy character, and it is so from the first light to the nub.  IMHO Aganorsa tobacco is outstanding, but I prefer it blended by others.

On a completely different note, I also retried RoMa Craft's Intemperance BA XXI Avarice (the short robusto).  I loved them when they were released, and I love them even more with age.  So much complexity in a small cigar, from BBQ to maple syrup to pepper and clove to chocolate to sarsaparilla... what a cigar!

Lots to cover.  First of all, kudos to Southern Draw for their continued success.  They hit the ground running a few years back with blends like Firethorn and Kudzu, last year they knocked it out of the park IMHO with Rose of Sharon and Jacob's Ladder, and this year they've added Cedrus "The Hogan" and an off-shoot brand 300 Hands/300 Manos - both of which are phenomenal!  

Despite the Cedrus's dark, Indonesian Sumatra wrapper, it's a fairly light-footed, agile cigar, with cedar, mild earthiness, refreshing citrus, and a stevia-like sweetness.  Pepper, a woody oakiness, and toast waft in and out, but nothing ever dominates - what is truly great about this cigar is just that, such exquisite balance that nothing ever truly dominates.  This stick isn't "Cubanesque" (an over-used term, to be sure), but I believe that those with a preference for CC's would enjoy this outstanding cigar.

300 Manos (Trescientos Manos) and 300 Hands pay homage (and 25% of the profits!) to the families of Nicaragua, and are named after the 150 pairs of hands that are estimated to make a cigar.  I've tried the Churchill, Corona Gorda, Coloniales, and the Petit Edmundo of the 300 Manos (Habano), and they all have something unique to offer, but they all begin with a creamy malt, add some sweet cocoa still in the first third, and stay smooth throughout additions of caramel, baking spices, and floral aromas.  The Churchill and Petit Edmundo also feature cream of wheat and a hint of some red-fruit sweetness.  They're described by retailers as medium-full bodied; I'd call it the shy side of medium, but very flavorful!   I'd recommend this cigar at $10/stick; at ~$6 for a Churchill (!), it's easily the best value stick I've encountered all year, and it competes with the best values from any year!  The 300 Hands Maduro seems almost as promising, but I've only had a precious few with likely not enough humidor time to comment yet.

On the other side of the value spectrum, I paid over $17 in Colorado for a One-Off Robusto.  This is a Dion Giolito (Illusione) project, where he bought the brand name to revive it.  I LOVE Dion's blends, so I was excited to try this.  It's so soft and smooth at the beginning, it literally tastes like a semi-sweet cake doughnut.  It goes through phases of greater sweetness, sometimes greater toastiness, adds some nuttiness, but never really hits its stride with anything super interesting IMHO.  The price is the deal-breaker for me.  I'm happy to pay more for something special, but IMO the $6 300 Manos is every bit the cigar this is.

I'm not averse to paying more for a worthy cigar.  Despite the premium price (MSRP $20; I've seen them as low as $16), I don't hesitate to recommend the Tatuaje La Vérité 2013 (Churchill size only).  There was a 2008 (good) and a 2009 (REALLY good), and then it seemed like the marca died.  Boy, am I glad that's not the case!  This is a wow-cigar from beginning to end!  Rich dried wheat, pepper, and raisin start things off, and this cigar seems to be in constant transition, always offering something new, interesting, and delicious... there's some semi-sweet butterscotch, now some star anise, now peanut, now almond, now earthy hay... OMG, grilled pork!  Construction is absolutely top-drawer - long, firm ashes.  I've got precious few (need to get more!), so I've only had two, but they were both on point.  There's also a L'esprit de Vérité 2013 (robusto) I intend to try soon.

I've had lots of varying experiences with several other sticks.  My first Cornelius and Anthony The Gent (Corona Gorda) absolutely blew me away; the second one - where did all the flavor and complexity go?!  An aged Jas Sum Kral Red Knight Toro was distinguished and aristocratic; second stick was dry and woody.  I've had several Warped Gran Reserva 88's that were rich, smooth, well-balanced, and I've had more than a few that were dominated by pepper and otherwise empty.  Some Illusione La Grande Classe Rex's have been paragons of complexity and sophistication; a couple have been just awful - really something went terribly wrong with bitter, stemmy flavors throughout.  I know how much Steve Saka is driven insane with construction issues, so I'd hate to tell him how many of my Sobremesa Short Churchill's have been plugs.  It's due to all these inconsistencies that I've hesitated to post notes.  I hope to be able to stand by the above recommendations.  Thank God, Southern Draw has made it easy to recommend a producer across the board.

Romeo julieta no 2 tubos

Picked up at la casa del habano in cuba.

Medium bodied spicy cigar that was packed nicely and smoked for a good 45min-hour.  This cigar got spicier as it drew towards the end.  I got alot of black pepper and dried nuttiness.  The smoke itself had a nice mouthfeel on first draw, but quickly died in the cool NY night air.

Was a pleasant experience but not one i'd go out of my way for.

After falling in love with the Tatuaje La Vérité 2013 (the Churchill), I bought some of the L'esprit de Vérité 2013 (the robusto).  It's recognizable as being related, but the samples of the robusto I tried were much less evolved than the Churchill.  (?!)  Usually, the more tobacco there is in a vitola, the longer it takes to age.  I can only surmise that the blend is significantly different (possibly just the selection of leaves).  Bottom line: I think this is a wonderful blend of first rate tobacco, but both of these will benefit from significant aging, especially the robusto.  Go figure.

The newest Warped release, La Relatos (which I can't explain why it's not Los Relatos), is only available for now as a petite lancero, 6x38, and I think the vitola fits the blend perfectly.  Its delicate, lightly floral, almost candied character gets things kicked off.  As things progress some sweet vanilla and cinnamon give an almost snickerdoodle impression, and some coffee and nuttiness get added later on.  It's the type of stick I need to be in the mood for, but for those times, it's an elegant, excellent choice.

I'm not usually a fan of Honduran tobacco, but a recent sample of the Alec Bradley Magic Toast robusto impressed me.  It begins very rich and buttery from the first puffs with a healthy dose of pepper and earthiness, with the earthiness growing as the cigar progresses.  Nothing particularly unique, but very well-balanced and tasty.  A solid stick.

I also haven't been crazy about Viaje in the past, but the latest Viaje Exclusivo Reserva gentle-box-pressed robusto has certainly changed that!  This is a complete cigar, and it's frickin' delicious!  Chinese five-spice, leather, and rich wheat start things off, and a deep, rich cream (almost sour cream) joins quickly.  Just a hint of citrus gets added later, along with some rich mocha and pepper.  Pepper increases later, and a welcome eucalyptus note joins into the homestretch.  I've had three: one turned a bit stemmy in the homestretch, instead of eucalyptus, but it was still enjoyable.  In three sticks, I never needed to relight or correct a burn - not once!  Voluminous smoke from gentle puffs on a slightly snug draw.  Perfect!  While balance, complexity, and construction get high marks, what I truly love most about the cigar is simply that it is so delicious!  <$9/stick at smallbatchcigar.  I only pray that the rest are as good as the first three.  Beyond outstanding... exemplary!

While in Scottsdale for some warm weather, and extended family get-together, I shared a couple of cigars with my two sons-in-law; namely,

Herrera Esteli Toro Especial (2013; $9.35).  Fantastic draw, great rich flavors. A bit "dusty," but loved it.  I don't know what more recent "vintages" are like, but this is great and should continue to age well.

H. Upmann Royal Robusto (UPE NOV 12; $15).  Wow.  Glorious.  No notes to share other than to say I'm glad I have a few more left that will sit for at least another year or so.

As the “Cigar of the Year” lists begin to be published (Cigar Aficionado’s is already out), I’ll throw out my list with a big caveat.  I didn’t sample nearly as many new cigars this year as years past, and I found a disturbing trend with way too many cigars that would show well on one occasion but then disappoint on follow-ups (Warped Gran Reserva ’88, Cornelius & Anthony The Gent, Illusione La Grande Classe Rex, Southern Draw 300 Manos Habano, Caldwell Hit and Run II, Jas Sum Kral Red Knight, etc.).  That being said, my favorite cigars of 2018 were…

1. Ezra Zion Blessed Leaf Pesach, 6x52 toro - I love exotic cigars, and this one has that in spades!  The most unique combination of peppermint and cinnamon on a bed of gingerbread and caramel start the cigar, toasted marshmallow gets added, and the profile crescendos to a cinnamon coffee and licorice finale.  God, I loved this cigar!  For the second year in a row, Ezra Zion tops my list, and they’ve both been from the Blessed Leaf series.   Downside: They only made 585 (cigars, not boxes).  Mine are already gone; I just couldn’t stop smoking them!

2. Viaje Exclusivo Reserva, 5x54 box-pressed robusto - Consistently flawless construction served a gently snug draw, highlighting smoothly rich cream of wheat with exotic spices - just delicious!  Pepper increases to a eucalyptus-laden finale that keeps the end refreshing despite the rich palate.  This has rapidly become my go-to cigar to accompany great conversations.   Downside: While the construction is supremely consistent, the palate isn’t quite so consistent, but still way above par for this year!

3. Bespoke Daughters of the Wind, 6x52 pyramide - Still young and somewhat tight, yet surprisingly complex.  Notes of toast with generous honey throughout, while ginger, citrus, tea, and syrupy molasses peak out intermittently in this kaleidoscope of a cigar, accompanied by floral aromas and a long, long aftertaste!  This has been rebranded to be called “Calico.”  TM issues.   Downside: I still think my samples (some from 2013) have their best days still ahead.  I say buy and hold.

4. Ezra Zion Pecan Pie, 6x52 toro - This stick starts out like gang-busters with a blondie (as opposed to brownie) character with lots of brown sugar and vanilla.  The middle and end of the cigar introduce more standard characters of coffee, malt, and powdery chocolate, but it remains a rich, decadent dessert of a cigar throughout!   Downside: Again, they only made 510 of them.  I hate to pepper this list with such small-production sticks, but these are genuinely among the best sticks I’ve had, so here they are.

5. Tatuaje La Vérité 2013, 7x47 Churchill - Another wildly complex cigar, though not as exotic as some of the above.  It features rich wheat and pepper throughout, with moments of raisin, earthiness, nuttiness, butterscotch, and grilled meat flavors.   Downside: This too seems like its best days are ahead; one sample definitely came across as simply young and tight.  Give these time.

6. Bespoke Club Mareva Spalato, 5.5x50 pyramide - Some crazy complexity here that’s hard to describe.  Yes, there’s a general base of just really nice tobacco, but notes of apricot, stinky cheese, and tangy soy sauce keep the smooth creaminess interesting.  In some ways more interesting and intellectual than simply delicious, but its uniqueness makes it stand out in a world of heavy, pepper-driven stogies.   Downside: Maybe not for every palate, and they’re pricey and hard to find.

7. Casa Fernandez ReviveR, 6x5 toro - Cigar Dojo’s collaboration with Casa Fernandez created the closest thing to the original Warped Maestro del Tiempo (current releases are nothing like the originals) I’ve come across - wildly floral, perfumey, and creamy sweet tobacco.  Not as complex as the above, but I adore the smell of them!   Downside: So far a one-time offering of 3,000 cigars.  Here’s to hoping they “revive” it in the future. 

8. Warped La Relatos, 6x38 petit lancero - Soft, sweet, and likable, with lavender aromas (maybe I’m subliminally influenced by the purple band), and a lightly candied character (goes great with sweet tea or cream soda).  My first try didn’t wow me, but the more I try them, the more I enjoy them.   Downside: Maybe just not as much as a stand-out-from-the-crowd stick as above.  Only lovely.

9. Southern Draw Cedrus Hogan, 5.5x52 belicoso fino - Very herbal and cedary, with plenty of earthy hay and citrus character.  This is actually not a sweet-spot for my palate, but the construction, balance, and consistency (thank God!) are so on point, that I believe it deserves a spot on my honors list.   Downside: Only that it lacks some X-factor for me.  Otherwise a solid stick in every way.

10. Southern Draw 300 Manos Habano, 7x47 Churchill - Despite some disappointing samples in other vitolas, these Churchills have been consistently excellent, featuring creamy wheat, malt, and mocha, and even some hints of sweet red fruit.  Just a really tasty, solid cigar with nothing to dislike.  Add the $6 price (!!!) and proceeds benefitting a deserving Nicaraguan community, and I’d feel guilty if I didn’t include it on my list.   Downside: Inconsistency of other vitolas.

Honorable mentions: Ezra Zion Third Dimension, Ezra Zion Oak & Eden Bourbon, Crux Epicure, Ezra Zion Blessed Leaf Tanakh, Ezra Zion No Surrender, Nomad Fin de los Mundos.  Yeah, it's been an Ezra Zion kinda' year.

stickman2 posted:

As the “Cigar of the Year” lists begin to be published (Cigar Aficionado’s is already out), I’ll throw out my list with a big caveat.  I didn’t sample nearly as many new cigars this year as years past, and I found a disturbing trend with way too many cigars that would show well on one occasion but then disappoint on follow-ups (Warped Gran Reserva ’88, Cornelius & Anthony The Gent, Illusione La Grande Classe Rex, Southern Draw 300 Manos Habano, Caldwell Hit and Run II, Jas Sum Kral Red Knight, etc.).  That being said, my favorite cigars of 2018 were…

1. Ezra Zion Blessed Leaf Pesach, 6x52 toro - I love exotic cigars, and this one has that in spades!  The most unique combination of peppermint and cinnamon on a bed of gingerbread and caramel start the cigar, toasted marshmallow gets added, and the profile crescendos to a cinnamon coffee and licorice finale.  God, I loved this cigar!  For the second year in a row, Ezra Zion tops my list, and they’ve both been from the Blessed Leaf series.   Downside: They only made 585 (cigars, not boxes).  Mine are already gone; I just couldn’t stop smoking them!

2. Viaje Exclusivo Reserva, 5x54 box-pressed robusto - Consistently flawless construction served a gently snug draw, highlighting smoothly rich cream of wheat with exotic spices - just delicious!  Pepper increases to a eucalyptus-laden finale that keeps the end refreshing despite the rich palate.  This has rapidly become my go-to cigar to accompany great conversations.   Downside: While the construction is supremely consistent, the palate isn’t quite so consistent, but still way above par for this year!

3. Bespoke Daughters of the Wind, 6x52 pyramide - Still young and somewhat tight, yet surprisingly complex.  Notes of toast with generous honey throughout, while ginger, citrus, tea, and syrupy molasses peak out intermittently in this kaleidoscope of a cigar, accompanied by floral aromas and a long, long aftertaste!  This has been rebranded to be called “Calico.”  TM issues.   Downside: I still think my samples (some from 2013) have their best days still ahead.  I say buy and hold.

4. Ezra Zion Pecan Pie, 6x52 toro - This stick starts out like gang-busters with a blondie (as opposed to brownie) character with lots of brown sugar and vanilla.  The middle and end of the cigar introduce more standard characters of coffee, malt, and powdery chocolate, but it remains a rich, decadent dessert of a cigar throughout!   Downside: Again, they only made 510 of them.  I hate to pepper this list with such small-production sticks, but these are genuinely among the best sticks I’ve had, so here they are.

5. Tatuaje La Vérité 2013, 7x47 Churchill - Another wildly complex cigar, though not as exotic as some of the above.  It features rich wheat and pepper throughout, with moments of raisin, earthiness, nuttiness, butterscotch, and grilled meat flavors.   Downside: This too seems like its best days are ahead; one sample definitely came across as simply young and tight.  Give these time.

6. Bespoke Club Mareva Spalato, 5.5x50 pyramide - Some crazy complexity here that’s hard to describe.  Yes, there’s a general base of just really nice tobacco, but notes of apricot, stinky cheese, and tangy soy sauce keep the smooth creaminess interesting.  In some ways more interesting and intellectual than simply delicious, but its uniqueness makes it stand out in a world of heavy, pepper-driven stogies.   Downside: Maybe not for every palate, and they’re pricey and hard to find.

7. Casa Fernandez ReviveR, 6x5 toro - Cigar Dojo’s collaboration with Casa Fernandez created the closest thing to the original Warped Maestro del Tiempo (current releases are nothing like the originals) I’ve come across - wildly floral, perfumey, and creamy sweet tobacco.  Not as complex as the above, but I adore the smell of them!   Downside: So far a one-time offering of 3,000 cigars.  Here’s to hoping they “revive” it in the future. 

8. Warped La Relatos, 6x38 petit lancero - Soft, sweet, and likable, with lavender aromas (maybe I’m subliminally influenced by the purple band), and a lightly candied character (goes great with sweet tea or cream soda).  My first try didn’t wow me, but the more I try them, the more I enjoy them.   Downside: Maybe just not as much as a stand-out-from-the-crowd stick as above.  Only lovely.

9. Southern Draw Cedrus Hogan, 5.5x52 belicoso fino - Very herbal and cedary, with plenty of earthy hay and citrus character.  This is actually not a sweet-spot for my palate, but the construction, balance, and consistency (thank God!) are so on point, that I believe it deserves a spot on my honors list.   Downside: Only that it lacks some X-factor for me.  Otherwise a solid stick in every way.

10. Southern Draw 300 Manos Habano, 7x47 Churchill - Despite some disappointing samples in other vitolas, these Churchills have been consistently excellent, featuring creamy wheat, malt, and mocha, and even some hints of sweet red fruit.  Just a really tasty, solid cigar with nothing to dislike.  Add the $6 price (!!!) and proceeds benefitting a deserving Nicaraguan community, and I’d feel guilty if I didn’t include it on my list.   Downside: Inconsistency of other vitolas.

Honorable mentions: Ezra Zion Third Dimension, Ezra Zion Oak & Eden Bourbon, Crux Epicure, Ezra Zion Blessed Leaf Tanakh, Ezra Zion No Surrender, Nomad Fin de los Mundos.  Yeah, it's been an Ezra Zion kinda' year.

Currently working on my Consensus Top Cigars of 2018 and a number of your selections have appeared on the various best of lists. 

'Nice to hear that I'm not out in left field on this.    I've since checked out some of the #1's for various publishers.  Cigar Aficianado's EP Carillo Encore Majestic (the robusto) is an excellent stick!  I love the gentle box press (sometimes referred to as a Spanish press) on this stick - very well balanced, an easy draw, and voluminous smoke.  Cigar-Coop's Aladino Corojo Reserva is a very old-school, savory stick... and Coop is a very old-school, savory fellow, from what I understand.   I didn't get the cherry and lemon rind that he wrote about, so maybe mine need more humidor time, but I agree on the coffee, pepper, and cedar.  Kohnhed's #1 is a re-branded version of my #3, the Bespoke Daughters of the Wind pyrimade, so obviously I agree there.  Still waiting on Cigar Dojo's Tabernacle to get some humidor rest, before I dive into that.  Viaje Exclusivo Reserva and La Vérité weren't officially released this year, and small batch sticks (like Ezra Zion and ReviveR) often aren't even considered, so I'll be curious to see what your Consensus comes up with.

I also recently tried a Forbidden X Keeper of the Flame TAA 2018, and I absolutely adored it!  I'll try another before I post notes, but I'd recommend buying any that y'all might see, before they're gone for good.  Mine was ~$27 and worth it!

I'm most excited about the news that Warped is supposedly going to release a Flor del Valle Ghost Orchid.  Having really enjoyed their Cristales and Sky Flower (both from the Flor del Valle series), I'm hopeful!

I like your list.  Your most salient observation IMHO is that, considering the decrease in new releases for 2018, there was remarkably little consensus this year.  Just scanning the handful of lists I pay attention to, I recall thinking to myself, "Wow, these are all over the place."  I was just discussing with a friend recently how 2015 and 2016 were the best years for the quality and depth of great new releases (including some of my all-time favorites: Illusione ~eccj~ 20th and Haut 10, Warped Sky Flower, Lirio Rojo, Maestro del Tiempo, and Black Honey, La Mission du L'Atelier, Tatuaje TAA 2015, LFD La Nox, DTT Sobremesa, Black Label's Bishops Blend, Quesada 40th Corona Clasica, Crux PB5, and Padrón's Family Reserve No.50).  I think it's been downhill since then - fewer new releases and generally not as high quality IMHO... due to the FDA's meddling, poor 'vintages' of tobacco?   The top releases are still very good, but it's certainly a less crowded field.  I can only hope that the trend changes in 2019.  My response so far has been to search further down the rabbit hole with small-batch exclusives. 

Stogiereview just released their list , but I like it, with the #1 spot going to the Forbidden X TAA 2018 Keeper of the Flame.  I've only tried one, but my first impression is that it's as good or better than anything on my list this year.  Despite the $27 price tag, I bought more!  Like the Tabernacle CT 142, Fuente didn't do themselves any favors in terms of 'best of the year' lists by releasing it so late (kinda' like positioning a movie poorly for the Oscars).

I really should try the DTT Sin Compromiso, your consensus #1.  I just got chased off by Steve Saka's most recent Muestra de Sakas; Exclusivo and Nacatamale were not worth the premium $ and effort IMHO, and his $100 Unicorn was just absurd.  I'll eventually get over it and try a Sin Compromiso corona gorda.

As always, MDSPHOTO, thanks for your work on the consensus list!  

Okay, I'm sold: the Forbidden X TAA 2018 Keeper of the Flame is an unqualified success!  Wow-good!  I usually age the 'regular' Opus X's for at least 3 years, but this Forbidden X is rockin' right now!  Very smooth, and great transitions from sweet to savory, laden with cocoa, leather, cedar, and subtle notes of cinnamon and butterscotch.  I will try to save some to age, but it's so good now, I'm not sure it will improve.  I intend to try the Naciemento (petit corona), but I've got precious few.

I also tried the Crowned Heads Court Reserve XVIII, and it has a very similar profile to the above, but some sweet red fruits peak out occasionally of this San Andrés wrapped morsel.  Not quite as smooth or complex, but it makes for a great 'dessert' cigar.

I also really enjoyed recently one of my go-to short smokes, the Illusione Singularé Kadosh - so flavorful and complex for such a short stick (4 1/4 x 48).  This is Aganorsa tobacco at its best, IMHO.

After trying all the different vitolas of the Forbidden X TAA 2018, I'm convinced that the Keeper of the Flame is the best.  The others are not far behind, but I think the Nacimiento actually needs some aging.  Regardless, this is easily the best cigar I've tried so far this year.

I've been pretty hard on the Liga Privada #9 in recent years, but i recently tried the Corona Viva vitola, and it's outstanding.  More chocolate than I recall from previous tries, but very well balanced with coffee nib, black licorice, and some graham cracker.

Another recent favorite is the Gran Habano Black Dahlia STK, especially the Robusto.  It features a Nicaraguan grown shade-grown Corojo wrapper, but it's got more color (and flavor) to it than the vast majority of shade-grown wrappers.  So much complexity and nuance to this excellent cigar.  Black pepper is so ubiquitous in so many sticks, that I sometimes get tired of it, but this stick blends its amalgam of wheat, cream, cured meats, and ginger that it's absolutely delightful. 

I had a AVO Classic 2 tonight; one of the few cigars I have had this summer.  It was not at all to my liking.  Harsh and one-dimensional.  I forced myself to push through it, but snuffed it half way through.  What a disappointment. 

On the other hand, the Ezra Zion Lucille that I had recently (THANK YOU, STICKMAN!) was fantastic!  No formal notes, but left me smiling.

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