Before this goes any further. Take time to remember what halfwheel is when it comes to reviews. We represent a minuscule piece of the pie that in the cigar world. We review rare, hard-to-find, limited edition, prerelease, preproduction or otherwise unavailable cigars. It’s a niche, one that we stick to with a strictness that at times becomes frustrating, but it’s what we do. It was developed prior to halfwheel out of an idea that this segment of the market was not being covered well. While we think it’s an important and vibrant part of the industry, it really is hard to say this segment is representative of the industry as a whole.

That being said, this is a list of the top cigars we reviewed that debuted in 2012. It is not to be misconstrued as anything else. It is by no means with any authority a proclamation that these were the best 25 cigars of the year, or even the best 25 we smoked this past year. The Consensus List, something that does attempt to capture the spirit of a large picture, will be published by halfwheel on Wednesday.

The Process

The halfwheel 25 is made up of cigars that met the following qualifications:

  • Cigar must have been reviewed by halfwheel in 2012.
  • Cigar must have debuted in 2012 in some public capacity. Being given out at IPCPR does not qualify. Cigars distributed at events open to end consumers where prerelease, not preproduction, cigars were distributed are eligible.

The top 25 cigars based off of cigars that met these qualifications, and any cigar that had a score equal to the 25th place cigar, were placed in a pool. The halfwheel staff was asked to independently rank the cigars from one to 25. Based off of these rankings, the cigars were then ranked by their average placing on each of the four lists.

The halfwheel 25

The Numbers


  • 311 — Total Reviews
  • 179 — New Cigars
  • 86.14 — Average Score
  • 115 — From Nicaragua
  • 95 — From Dominican Republic
  • 51 — From Honduras
  • 35 — From Cuba
  • 11 — From USA
  • 3 — Undisclosed
  • 1 — From Bahamas


  • 87.71/88.6 — Nicaragua
  • 85.95/86.12 — Dominican Republic
  • 85.48/85.64 — Honduras
  • 85.71/91 — Cuba
  • 85.82/85.33 — USA


  1. 91.89 — La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
  2. 89.19 — My Father Cigars S.A.
  3. 88.33 — Tabacalera La Alianza S.A.
  4. 87.67 — E. León Jimenes Tabacalera
  5. 87.5 — Tabacalera La Flor S.A.
  6. 87.17 — El Titan de Bronze
  7. 87.14 — Tabacalera Oliva de Nicaragua S.A.
  8. 87 — A. Fuente y Cia
  9. 85.43 — MATASA
  10. 85.07 — Fábrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas S. de R.L.
Minimum four cigars.


  1. 91.89 — Drew Estate
  2. 91 — Habanos S.A.
  3. 90.33 — Crowned Heads
  4. 90.26 — Havana Cellars
  5. 89.33 — RoMa Craft Tobac
  6. 88.5 — My Father Cigars
  7. 88 — Ashton*
  8. 88 — La Flor Dominicana*
  9. 87.9 — Oliva
  10. 87.4 — La Aurora
  11. 87 — Fuente
  12. 86.67 — Miami Cigar & Co.
  13. 86.33 — E.P. Carrillo*
  14. 86.33 — Illusione*
  15. 86.33 — SAG Imports*
  16. 85.33 — Padilla
  17. 84 — General Cigar Co.
  18. 84.85 — Viaje
  19. 83.67 — Rocky Patel
  20. 81.5 — AVO

Minimum three cigars. *Indicates tie.


The following, with the exception of New Brand of the Year, are awarded based on the average halfwheel scores from cigars that debuted in 2012.


A few things. First, please see the above disclaimer about what this is and what it is not. Drew Estate spent much of the year focusing on the $10 premium market, and it succeeded. Ultimately, the company may have not made the best cigar in 2012, but it’s hard to find fault in what it put out. In the midst of a conversation about the year in general a point was brought up, Drew Estate really just put out solid releases this year. There were no gambles outside of the high prices, and as such it’s no surprise that it lands here. Plain and simple, there isn’t a company as hot as Drew Estate. Interestingly, both Drew Estate and Habanos S.A., our top two brands, are also probably the two highest in terms of average price.


Let’s see, an average score for new cigars that was over two points higher than the next closet number. Four of the top five in The halfwheel 25, eight out of the top ten and seventeen of the total list. Nicaragua may or may not dethrone the Dominican Republic in terms of import numbers, but no matter how you slice it, Estelí is the cigar capital of the world as far as 2012 is concerned.


We opted not to base this award off of scores, as we only reviewed a half dozen or so new brands and didn’t sample more than a single release from any of these companies. Eddie Ortega is not new, but Ortega Premium Cigars, which popped up in late 2011 is new. While fellow veteran Christian Eiroa has more brands, the splash Ortega made was the largest of any of the debuting companies in 2012.

If you would like to read our list of top new packaging for 2012, click here.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.