The Mad Scientist’s Top Five Maduro Cigars
When someone offers you a Maduro cigar, you probably immediately think “strong” or “full-bodied.” Most of the time you would end up being correct, although the special kind of dark leaf that is “Maduro” doesn’t automatically mean it’s going to be stronger than any other given blend. Today, I’m going to recommend to you 5 Great Maduro Cigars, but first, let’s talk a little about what “Maduro” is.
Firstly, it’s important to know that the word “Maduro” is Spanish for “ripe.” It doesn’t mean dark (that’s “oscuro”…another type of dark leaf) or strong (“fuerte”). The second thing to realize is that not everyone thinks about the appellation in the same way; there is a serious divide among cigar-makers between “Maduro” being a process versus it being a color. I have had discussions with respected manufacturers (with names you would recognize) that fall on either side of the argument.
I am in the “Maduro is a process” camp, myself. Maduro leaves are subjected to a longer and hotter fermentation process which results in the leaves being darker in appearance and brings out more of the leaves’ natural sugars. Cigar tobacco is fermented by stacking it up in piles (“pilonés”) that basically start a composting process, generating heat in the middle of the pile. The pile is systematically turned once it gets to a certain temperature in the center, typically somewhere between 110 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit; Maduro leaves are allowed to get closer to 140 to 150 degrees before turning. Not all tobacco can stand up to that kind of heat without breaking down structurally, so not everything is turned into Maduro.
The most common Maduro leaves tend to be Broadleaf (both Connecticut and Pennsylvania), Mexican San Andres, and Habano (Ecuadorian and Nicaraguan being the most common for Maduro), although Brazil produces several very good Maduro options in Mata Fina, Cubra, and Arapiraca and there are some other more minor players in the Maduro field.
One reason I can’t get behind the “Maduro is a color” argument is that there is far too much color-manipulation possible. I’ve seen (and tasted) leaves that would have been just fine as “real” Maduros except they’ve been cooked, dyed, painted, or otherwise unnaturally altered to be darker in color. To me, this usually results in a pronounced sourness in the blend. True Maduro processing should make a leaf sweeter.
One last thing: people usually think Maduros are automatically stronger. That’s not true, however, it does seem that Maduro leaves do blend better with a stronger filler/binder combination…the stronger cores work better with the sweeter outer leaf. There are some wonderful exceptions to this rule, though, such as Le Careme by Crowned Heads, a true medium-bodied Maduro.
Here are 5 other Maduro-wrapped sticks worth your time:
1. Mi Querida by Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust
This Mi Querida is a fantastic well-balanced Maduro from Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (Steve Saka) that offers a wealth of flavors from Spice and earth to the subtle tones of mocha throughout. I love the simplicity of this. It is not a flashy looking cigar. The packaging is very simple, a dark navy blue band with a gold piping around it. All throughout the cigar, this Mi Querida smoked perfectly. I never had an issue with the draw and the burn line was nearly flawless. I feel like this cigar would stand up to most of my favorite bourbons and offer them an incredible compliment of flavors throughout. If you haven’t had a chance to try the Mi Querida then I highly recommend you go and track some down.
2. 1926 Serie No 90 Maduro by Padron
This is a great cigar, period and end of story. The blend for the Padrón 1926 Serie consists of 100% Nicaraguan tobaccos in both the natural and Maduro blends. The wrapper of the Padrón 1926 Serie No. 90 Maduro has a chocolate-brown color to it. The flavor profile mixed cedar, black cherry, and earth tones. The burn maintained a straight path from start to finish. I liked the flavors produced and I liked out each of the notes complemented each other. The No. 90 Maduro also proves the 1926 Serie blend can work in the rounded format.
3. Herrera Esteli Maduro TAA Exclusive by Drew Estate
This one came from left field. The Tobacconist Association of America (TAA) allows for certain member-only blends and sizes every year, and after trying this, it was an instant classic. The Herrera Esteli TAA Maduro starts out with an absolutely gorgeous, consistent, dark brown wrapper. The Herrera Esteli TAA Maduro starts out with a nice, big cayenne pepper blast along with some really bold, dank, tobacco flavors. As the pepper fades the cigar unleashes some very bold coffee, chocolate, cedar, and musk all with a very sweet overtone to the end. The blend is as close as you can get to a classic Maduro while utilizing modern tobacco
4. Tennessee Waltz by Crowned Heads
The Tennessee Waltz is a medium-to-full-bodied Broadleaf blend that is only sold through Tennessee retailers, and my cousin from Nashville provided me with a sample to try. First looking at the cigar it is flawless on construction and has a nice dark wrapper and Tennessee orange ribbon. The flavors go from black pepper to espresso to chocolate and earth tones. The draw was clean and even. If I ever visit Tennessee, I will make it a point to buy a box.
5. La Nox by La Flor Dominicana
La Flor Dominicana has produced some great Maduro cigars over the years, but my favorite is La Nox, originally released in 2015. It features a dark chocolate very firmly packed oily wrapper with minimal veins, tight invisible seams, double cap, slightly lumpy rustic roll and faint oily sweet earthy aroma. The flavor profile is a smooth sweet bread and softwood, with a kiss of pepper zing on the long finish. This was a truly amazing cigar to have.