Not one, not two, but three.
For the first time, we have a tie for first place for one of these awards, a three-way tie for first place in fact. Our process for this award—and every award outside of the top 25 itself—is to have our writers nominate products, companies or factories for the respective awards. After that’s done, each writer ranks all of the nominations. We then usually make a cut and have an additional round of voting, which produces the winner.
This year, after the first round of voting, three companies were tied for first. After the first cut, three companies were tied. After the second cut, once again three companies were tied. There certainly was a tiebreaker we could have used, but the staff agreed—if the three companies were tied we should recognize each one of them.
If there is one common theme with all three companies it’s that they put out cigars that required both a commitment to good branding—packaging, stories, etc.—and good blends. Each of these three companies did that more than once in 2018, able to separate themselves from the hundreds of other companies making cigars around the world.
2018 Company(s) of the Year — Crowned Heads, Davidoff of Geneva USA & Joya de Nicaragua
This past year marks the busiest in Crowned Heads’ history. There was a new line, a variety of limited edition extensions and a doubling of the number of factories the company produces cigars at. Crowned Heads also released its collaboration with Altadis U.S.A.
In a crowded world of cigars, Crowned Heads stayed relevant for the entire year, start to finish, in large part due to the quality of the cigars the company was selling, the stories behind them and the company’s approach to finding the small holes its portfolio hadn’t yet filled.
Davidoff of Geneva USA
This year, Davidoff brought back three of the company’s most prized releases: AVO 22, AVO LE05 and the Davidoff Diademas Finas. I argued that if Davidoff was able to make one of these as good as the original, it was mission accomplished. In the end, while none of them seemed to be carbon copies of the original, all three were very good cigars and even better overall releases.
If you had asked me five years ago to imagine how Davidoff will celebrate both the 50th anniversary of its own brand and the 30th anniversary of AVO, I would have guessed a grander affair. However, Davidoff seemed to focus more on the products than the parties and it paid off, perhaps more so for AVO than Davidoff. It wasn’t 2013 and Camacho’s makeover, but it was a notably good year for AVO.
Joya de Nicaragua
This year marked the gold anniversary for Nicaragua’s oldest factory. Unfortunately, a year that started off so promising—with a grand party at the company’s factory during Puro Sabor—quickly turned out to be one of the more challenging years for Nicaragua as a whole.
It’s not clear if Joya de Nicaragua had more planned for 2018 and I imagine we’ll never know what the company might have done in a world where its home was more stable. While there were more important things happening, Joya de Nicaragua made it a point to celebrate its 50th anniversary, while also acknowledging the other companies who have made Nicaragua the cigar producer it is today. Joya’s factory, Fabrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua S.A., also made several very good cigars, both for itself and others in 2018.
In a year full of dozens of anniversaries for a variety of companies, no one celebrated theirs quite the way Joya de Nicaragua did—and as a group of individuals who care about cigars and their history, we appreciate it.
Honorable Mentions: Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, Southern Draw.