2017 marks the sixth year-end evaluation from Cigar Dojo. Much has changed in the industry, with price increases and the beginnings of government regulation being the most apparent. One aspect that has remained constant is our decision to restrict the Top 10 Cigars list to include: (a) cigars that were released in the given year, (b) only cigars sold in the U.S., (c) core-line releases only, and (d) cigars priced reasonably enough for the average smoker to sample.

As with 2016, this year was not without major changes—some positive, some tragic. Among the most significant, the FDA’s deadline for substantial equivalence was extended to Aug. 8, 2021 (signaling a potential resurgence of craft-minded projects in the coming years). But there were losses for the industry as well, including Avo Uvezian (91) in March, José Orlando Padrón (91) in December, and Gilberto Oliva Sr. (86) in December.

As always, Cigar Dojo’s year-end list adheres to a strict and slightly unorthodox set of guidelines—making for the most authentic representation of 2017’s best cigar releases (in our opinion).

Guidelines for Cigar Dojo’s Top 10 Cigars of the Year list are as follows:

  • $15 & Under (average MSRP across cigar line must be $15 and under)
  • Regular Production (no limited editions, shop exclusives, etc.)
  • Sold in the USA
  • Released in 2017

Because of these guidelines, we feel our list best showcases what most cigar enthusiasts are looking for—great cigars that can be smoked on a regular/semi-regular basis. Take our list into your B&M and you’ll be sure to find most, if not all of these cigars.

Note: Cigar Dojo’s year-end list has increased to $15 for 2017 to adapt with market changes. While our list has always been intended for the everyday “Joe 6-pack” smoker, we acknowledge that even “Joe” has been known to splurge on occasion—allow the top-ranked cigars of the year to be that occasion…
  1. Protocol Themis

    Cubariqueño Protocol Themis #10 Cigar of the Year Award 2017

    Cubariqueño continues their slow and calculated expansion of their law-enforcement-themed Protocol brand with Themis, adding a Connecticut Shade offering as the third blend in the series. As with all other cigars from the company, Themis is rolled at Erik Espinosa’s burgeoning La Zona factory in Estelí. And while the factory has long-since perfected the classic Habano (with multiple blends appearing on Cigar Dojo’s year-end lists), Themis may be the first Connecticut-style blend to really click—offering a superb balance of creamy flavors and white pepper spice that gives just enough body to awaken the tastebuds while remaining true to the classic Connecticut style.

    • Manufacturer: Cubariqueño Cigar Co.
    • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
    • Preferred Vitola: Toro (6″ × 52)
    • Price Range: $9.69 – $9.89
    • Full Review: Protocol Themis Toro
  2. All Out Kings

    Caldwell All Out Kings #9 Cigar of the Year Award 2017

    All Out Kings officially debuted at IPCPR 2016, being among the most highly anticipated cigars to appear at the annual trade show due to its star-studded stats as a collaboration between Drew Estate and Caldwell Cigar Company. After multiple delays, the brand eventually made its way to market in March of 2017. With both Caldwell and Drew Estate being known for their unorthodox, artistic approach to cigar marketing, as well as unique flavor experiences, AOK is the metaphorical equivalent of Kanye West and Bon Iver, Queen and David Bowie, or Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. The cigar is also among the only “maduro” experiences in Caldwell’s portfolio, showing a new side of the company by introducing a flavor profile that is surprisingly smooth in texture for the cigar’s dark wrapper. Flavor notes include cream, caramel, powdered sugar, hot chocolate powder mix, red pepper, sweet malt, oak, and brown sugar.

    • Manufacturer: Caldwell Cigar Co.
    • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
    • Preferred Vitola: Give Me Your Lunch Money (5¾” × 46)
    • Price Range: $12.80 – $15.80
    • Full Review: All Out Kings Give Me Your Lunch Money
  3. La Flor de Ynclan

    Villiger La Flor de Ynclan #8 Cigar of the Year Award 2017

    The La Flor de Ynclan name first made its appearance in 2005, reviving an old Cuban brand of the same name. The cigars were short-lived, as Heinrich Villiger deemed the blend unsatisfactory. After years in limbo, Heinrich and Jose Matias Maragoto (Master Blender at ABAM Cigars, S.R.L. factory) have tweaked the blend to better showcase its true potential; including tobaccos that have ben aging since the brand’s original release. While the name may be hard to pronounce (try “ēn·klahn”), the diverse, four-country blend speaks for itself; delivering refined/nuanced notes of vanilla, orange creamsicle, sage, tang, and a sneaky, progressive spice throughout the nostrils.

    • Manufacturer: Villiger Cigars
    • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
    • Preferred Vitola: Torpedo (6″ × 52)
    • Price Range: $11.00 – $12.00
    • Full Review: Villiger La Flor de Ynclan Torpedo
  4. Asylum 13 Medulla Oblongata

    Asylum 13 Medulla Oblongata #7 Cigar of the Year Award 2017

    Despite already housing an Eiroa-grown Honduran puro in the Asylum portfolio (Asylum 13 Corojo), the company proudly introduced a new line sharing the same recipe at IPCPR 2017—Asylum 13 Medulla Oblongata. And while the cigars may look the same on paper, the smoking experience is quite unique in practice, benefitting from higher tobacco primings, more age, and higher discretion when processing/sorting leaves for each cigar. Keeping with the company’s “mental” theme, the cigars are named for the most important part of the human brain—a system that carries out and regulates involuntary functions such as breathing and heart rate. Additionally, each size arrives split into left and right hemispheres in the cigar box, with the left presented in a round vitola (Medulla) and the right in a box-pressed shape (Oblongata). While not as fiery and spicy as many Corojo blends, Medulla Oblongata instead focuses on a bright and lively profile of citrus, cedar, sourdough, and graham cracker sweetness—a medium-bodied and flavor-forward experience that easily outperforms its modest price range.

    • Manufacturer: Asylum Cigars
    • Country of Origin: Honduras
    • Preferred Vitola: 50×5 Robusto “Oblongata” (5″ × 50 box-pressed)
    • Price Range: $7.00 – $11.00
    • Full Review: Asylum 13 Medulla Oblongata 50×5
  5. Négociant

    Tatuaje Négociant #6 Cigar of the Year Award 2017

    Négociant is a French term that details a process in the winemaking world where grapes, must, and/or wine are bought, tweaked, and sold under the purchaser’s own label. Being an ardent wine enthusiast, Tatuaje owner Pete Johnson has borrowed the term and its practice, releasing a blend originally crafted for his other label, L’Atelier Imports. Differing from almost any other blend released from Pete Johnson, Négociant makes use of a Connecticut Shade wrapper (Ecuadorian). This is used in conjunction with a Mexican San Andrés/Nicaraguan dual binder to give the flavor profile the edge that Tatuaje is known for. The cigars provide a generous dose of white pepper kick and a fuller body (at least for a Connecticut) to execute the “modern Connecticut” style flawlessly. Key flavors include white pepper, caramel, butterscotch, soft vanilla on the finish, buttered crackers, black tea, and a wonderful horchata-like complexity.

    • Manufacturer: Tatuaje Cigars
    • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
    • Preferred Vitola: Négociant Monopole No. 3 (6⅛” x 48)
    • Price Range: $8.00 – $12.00
    • Full Review: Négociant Monopole No. 4 (different vitola)
  6. La Gloria Cubana Colección Reserva

    La Gloria Cubana Colección Reserva #5 Cigar of the Year Award 2017

    La Gloria Cubana Colección Reserva is a nostalgic release for those that were among the first to call themselves “boutique enthusiasts.” It was Ernesto Pérez-Carrillo and his family-owned El Credito cigar factory—located in Miami’s famed Little Havana neighborhood—that shocked the cigar world in 1992, receiving rave reviews for the La Gloria Cubana line in the premiere issue of Cigar Aficionado magazine. After selling the company and establishing a new outfit in the Dominican Republic, Ernesto has reconnected with the LGC name 25 years later, crafting a new blend that draws inspiration from a cigar Carrillo created in the ’80s. Colección Reserva delivers aromas and flavors of assorted nuts, berry, cedar, chocolate, coffee, natural tobacco, toast, and spice. It is a profile that feels right at home with the original LGC line and offers balance and complexity at a price nearly any enthusiast can appreciate.

  7. Jacobs Ladder

    Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder #4 Cigar of the Year Award 2017

    Every year, there are one or two cigars that simply refuse to be ignored, forgoing the “natural order” and demanding a spot among the cigar’s upper-class counterparts. For 2017, this was the equivocally-titled Jacobs Ladder, a suspiciously full-bodied blend that has served to springboard the dormant Southern Draw Cigars into the conversation of today’s most exciting blends. As with all SD cigars, Jacobs Ladder is crafted at the esteemed Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua factory, using a double-ligero blend and a bevy of maduro-shade tobaccos in the wrapper/binder (including the cigar’s highlight usage of a Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper) to unleash a deep and intoxicating concoction. Despite being the strongest cigar on our list, Jacobs Ladder is still a flavor-forward blend, showing notes of heavy stone fruits, chocolates, espresso, and the occasional burst of alcohol/liqueur buzz through the nostrils.

    • Manufacturer: Southern Draw Cigars
    • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
    • Preferred Vitola: Robusto (5½” × 54)
    • Price Range: $9.50 – $10.99
    • Full Review: Jacobs Ladder Robusto
  8. AVO Syncro South America Ritmo

    AVO Syncro South America Ritmo #3 Cigar of the Year Award 2017

    For the first time since AVO modernized its brand with the introduction of 2015’s Syncro series, the company has expanded its focus outside Nicaragua. As the name implies, AVO Syncro South America Ritmo turns its focus to South America; showcasing tobaccos of the Peru, Brazil and Ecuador regions. These tobaccos are joined by Mexican, Nicaraguan, Dominican, and Honduran leaves, making for an extremely diverse blend of tobaccos from seven countries. The resulting experience is the most complex and atypical profile from the Syncro series to date, offering a juicy sensation of citrus, dark fruit, banana, freshly grilled belle pepper, and Hawaiian chocolate with macadamia nuts.

  9. The Wise Man Maduro

    Foundation The Wise Man Maduro #2 Cigar of the Year Award 2017

    With its third appearance on our year-end lists over the past three years, industry newcomer Foundation Cigar Co. is off to an impressive start. For the company’s third core-line offering, owner Nicholas Melillo has returned to the Nicaraguan-themed “El Güegüense” project that was debuted as Foundation’s first release in 2015. Where the original El Güegüense cigar featured a Nicaraguan puro draped in a Corojo ’99 wrapper, The Wise Man Maduro showcases a contrasting Mexican San Andrés maduro wrapper leaf. This is not the only reversal though, as the entire project is intended to represent a “yin and yang,” with the cigar’s bands flipping color schemes from El Güegüense and the name itself being the English translation of the original. Once again, the cigars are rolled at the esteemed TABSA factory in Estelí, and the resulting smoking experience is among the best maduro offerings in recent memory. The Wise Man Maduro delivers bold primary flavors of black pepper, dark roast espresso, and cacao—backed by additional complexities of brown sugar, chili powder, cream, dried earth, leather, raisin, and peanuts.

    • Manufacturer: Foundation Cigar Co.
    • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
    • Preferred Vitola: Torpedo (6¼” × 52)
    • Price Range: $9.90 – $12.00
    • Full Review: The Wise Man Maduro Torpedo
  10. Undercrown Sun Grown

    Drew Estate Undercrown Sun Grown #1 Cigar of the Year Award 2017

    Undercrown resided strictly as the “younger sibling” to Drew Estate’s regal Liga Privada line since its introduction in 2011, offering an affordable maduro experience by swapping out some of the more reserved ingredients of Liga Privada for more readily available tobaccos (such as a Mexican San Andrés wrapper). In 2015, the one-size-fits-all strategy opened up to include a new Connecticut Shade-style blend (Undercrown Shade), paving the way for a full suite of Undercrown offerings. And 2017 saw the series bridge the gap between light and dark, introducing a sun-grown variant to sit between the original (now Undercrown Maduro) and the Undercrown Shade. Rather than simply slap the nearest [insert Habano varietal] leaf on an existing blend and call it good, Drew Estate took their time to develop a unique experience from the ground up. Staying true to the Undercrown line’s roots, the Sun Grown makes use of the Stalk Cut/Cured leaf made famous by the Liga Privada T52 (used as the Sun Grown’s binder component). This is balanced by an all-Nicaraguan filler recipe and the cigar’s highlight usage of an Ecuadorian Sumatra Sun Grown wrapper. Undercrown Sun Grown begins smooth and mellow, eventually ramping up to include an assortment of cabinet spices, squash, and mineral (like the smell of rain), brought to a harmonious balance with sweeter flavors of pumpkin spice, cinnamon , graham cracker, and the cigar’s “it factor” flavor concoction of butter/toffee/salt. In our experience, this is easily the most enjoyable blend in the Undercrown line (excluding the legendary DOGMA), as well as perhaps the most unique profile in all of Drew Estate’s impressive portfolio.

    • Manufacturer: Drew Estate
    • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
    • Preferred Vitola: Corona (5⅝” x 46)
    • Price Range: $8.20 – $12.72
    • Full Review: Undercrown Sun Grown Gran Toro (different vitola)
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