Don't be
of the

photos by Jeff Schnorr

Whether or not we'd care to admit it, we all had that admonishment directed towards us as children. While this childhood fear of the unknown was easily remedied through kindly parents and the dull glow of a night light, it stays with us, in different forms, well into adulthood. We encounter it nearly every day: A new job opportunity. Investing in a neighbor-hood dubbed "up-and-coming" by a real estate agent, or in the booming stock market. Trying maduro cigars.

The word "maduro" itself refers to maturity, a pre-requisite for any new venture. In our Winter issue, which celebrates both the ubiquitous Millennium and SMOKE's fourth anniversary, we take a look at the finest maduro cigars available. I personally can't think of a better partner for a pint of dark microbrew in a dark, smoky bar.

SMOKE Cigar Ratings
And if you still can't handle the dark, not to worry; we've got a stash of non-maduros in the review as well. We won't make fun of you.

Standing out amidst the maduros is the El Original Toro, taking top honors with a 4.4 score. Manufactured by Island Smoke Shop in Florida, the El Original wowed our finicky panelists with an exotic blend of filler from five different countries. At just under $5, it's a steal. just behind the El Original were the Habano Primero, robusto and the Hoja Cubana XXO, both clocking in with 4.3’s.

That same score was good enough to run the table among the non-maduros, as the ST Dupont Churchill bested all comers, including a cache of Cuban interlopers. As one panelist said of the ST Dupont, "This is a cigar that says, 'Welcome home. Sit back and relax."' We suggest you do the same.

Doing just that in the new cigar room of her Beverly Hills mansion is the staggeringly sexy Tia Carrere, our Celebrity Panelist. You've seen this exotic Hawaiian beauty, who combines almost as many nationalities as the El Original, in Wayne's World, True Lies, and the new TV program "Relic Hunter," in which she plays a globe-trotting treasure-hunter. Check out what treasures Tia unearths in the Winter review. Thanks for the help, Tia, and thanks also to Scott Smith, of Santa Monica, California. He's the winner of the Winter "Become a Reviewer Contest," which you too can enter by visiting the SMOKE contest page at this site.

Besides the premium cigars, you'll also find a handful of machine-made smokes in our magazine’s Winter review. This dirty dozen offers some tasty selections at affordable prices, giving you, quite literally, some bang for your buck. Because you never know when your up-and-coming neighborhood will put in a nuclear reactor, or the booming stock market will crash to earth.

- Michael Malone


Country: U.S. Wrapper: Mexico Binder: Nicaragua
Manufacturer: Island Smoke Shop Filler: DR/Hon/Nic/Mex/Per Price: $4.95
Panelist #1There are tons of smoke with every draw. It's a good cigar with plenty of kick. Herfers take note:, this one has it all. SCORE: 4.1
Panelist #2This hearty, peppery cigar is better suited for later in the day, perhaps with your favorite drink. It's a guaranteed special moment. SCORE: 4.7
Panelist #3This one is as smooth as a baby's bottom! Consistent throughout ... May I have more? Definitely a humidor selection. SCORE: 4.5
Panelist #4Consistency is the name of the game with this cigar. It's a big hitter with sublime flavor, and it delivered every time. SCORE: 4.3

Country: Honduras Wrapper: Connecticut Binder: U.S.
Manufacturer: Purofino Cigars Filler: DR/Nicaragua Price: $7.49
Panelist #1These boys were a real pleasure to smoke; well-made, with superb flavor. What more can I say? Give me more! SCORE: 4.4
Panelist #2While there were some good points, this robusto generally lacks consistency. At times they were too loose, too tight, or just right. SCORE: 3.4
Panelist #3Next time I'm in the woods, I'll bring along a few of these. It's the kind of cigar to enjoy with the boys. Strong and satisfying. SCORE: 3.3
Panelist #4There's definitely a beginning, middle, and end to this cigar. I liked the end best. Well-made, a good choice. SCORE: 4.2

PETRUS Churchill
Country: Honduras Wrapper: Honduras Binder: Honduras
Manufacturer: Felipe Gregorio Filler: Nicaragua Price: $6.40
Panelist #1It might go well with an after-dinner drink, but it didn't win me over. They tried to make it look oscuro, but it's just plain ugly. SCORE: 3.8
Panelist #2I need to know the name of this baby. This one, you could eat after smoking. Buy them quick, before they sell out. SCORE: 4.6
Panelist #3I'm curious to find out what these are. I can't say I was enamored with them. The wrapper's bitterness worked against it. SCORE: 3.9
Panelist #4This cigar looked great but fell down when it got lit. I'd give them out to friends, because they look great, but that's it. SCORE: 3.7

ARISTOFF Millennium Series
Country: Domincan Republic Wrapper: Brazil Binder: Domincan Republic
Manufacturer: Cigar America Filler: DR/ Brazil Price: $8.00
Panelist #1While they don't make them this dark in Havana, this one still has all the characteristics of a big, bad Cuban. I loved them. SCORE: 4.0
Panelist #2This baby was made by a quality factory that knows how to blend leaves and wrap a cigar. Will be one of my favorites. SCORE: 4.8
Panelist #3Although this is a pretty and well-rolled cigar, the smoke left a little to be desired. The aftertaste and aroma worked against it. SCORE: 3.1
Panelist #4Overall, it's a great cigar that I would purchase in a second. It's not breathtaking, but way better than average. SCORE: 4.4

Country: Honduras Wrapper: Connecticut Binder: Nicaragua
Manufacturer: Indian Tabac Filler: Nic/Hon/CR Price: $6.50
Panelist #1The construction was a wild card, but the cigar smoked consistently well. It would pair well with a cup of mild roast coffee. SCORE: 3.9
Panelist #2The soft texture of the stick really worked against it. Not a bad stick, but not as good a maduro as many on the market. SCORE: 3.3
Panelist #3Not a handsome stick, but it scores high marks in the important categories. I wouldn't go on looks alone. I'd recommend it. SCORE: 3.8
Panelist #4Is this a box pressed Hoyo de Monterrey? An excellent cigar to enjoy with bourbon. I will add these to my humidor.SCORE: 4.3

H. UPMANN Perfecto
Country: Dominican Republic Wrapper: Connecticut Binder: Domincan Republic
Manufacturer: Consolidated Filler: DR/Mexico Price: $7.00
Panelist #1This one busts his butt to be a good cigar, and comes pretty close. Perhaps it needs humidor time. It's OK, not outstanding. SCORE: 3.6
Panelist #2If priced correctly, this would be a good go-to smoke, maybe for quiet evenings instead of celebratory events. A decent stick. SCORE: 3.5
Panelist #3Quite a good cigar … kind of a B+ student. I'd be proud to give these out to friends … especially the ones I like. SCORE: 3.9
Panelist #4This cigar is my New York Mets cigar … impossible to figure. It's alternately very good and so-so. Roll the dice. SCORE: 3.7

ONYX No. 650
Country: Domincan Republic Wrapper: Mexico Binder: Indonesia
Manufacturer: Lane Limited Filler: DR/Mexico Price: $4.25
Panelist #1All samples had remarkable consistency. Good draw and overall feel, but a slightly harsh flavor. A big kick on the back of the throat. SCORE: 3.2
Panelist #2The pre-light smell was intimidating, but the rich taste was enjoyable. The soft aftertaste left my palate wanting more. A good sign! SCORE: 3.2
Panelist #3All samples share the same outstanding construction, burning qualities, and rich flavors. London Broil, aged port, and this cigar. Stellar. SCORE: 4.4
Panelist #4Somewhere between middle of the road and downright classy. Consistent throughout, and finishing on a higher note than the start. SCORE: 3.5

Country: Dominican Republic Wrapper: Brazil Binder: Mexico
Manufacturer: UST Filler: DR/Mexico Price: $4.65
Panelist #1Damn, this was GOOD. I was a bit worried at first, but it kept coming back to surprise me. I worked them down till it hurt. SCORE: 4.6
Panelist #2Reminds me of a Fuente-made maduro with its earthy and spicy-sweet flavors. This is one fine cigar; enjoy it with a single malt. SCORE: 4.6
Panelist #3Please tell me what this is … it's going in my humidor. The best in the review to this point. Just kept getting better. SCORE: 4.8
Panelist #4It's a consistent cigar, but it's also lackluster. Appearance and pre-light construction were better than the taste. SCORE: 3.0

BERING Inmensas
Country: Honduras Wrapper: Costa Rica Binder: Honduras
Manufacturer: Swisher Filler: Mexico/Honduras Price: $2.60
Panelist #1I'm not saying this hefty cigar is not good. There's just not enough flavor for my palate. It tasted dry. Didn't work for me. SCORE: 3.1
Panelist #2This one might catch your eye as it sits in the humidor, due to the color variations in the wrapper. But the fun stops there. SCORE: 3.2
Panelist #3This cigar has its best years ahead of it. For now, it's a rookie with some rough spots to get out in AAA. Needs work. SCORE: 3.5
Panelist #4I saw some of myself in this cigar. It grew more bitter as the cigar burned, and so did I. Needs some humidor time. SCORE: 3.0

MIYARES Torpedo Corto
Country: U.S. Wrapper: Connecticut Binder: Mexico
Manufacturer: Miyares Filler: DR/Indonesia Price: $6.00
Panelist #1Please give me a box of these! My favorite cigar in the tasting. Goes perfectly with a snifter of XO. I will own these soon! SCORE: 4.6
Panelist #2What a distinct pleasure this guy offered! I really hated to finish it. Send more. Please! My kudos to the maker. SCORE: 4.0
Panelist #3A simple, down-to-earth smoke that did the job. It's a BTB stick…Before the Boom, when cigars weren't fancy, just good. SCORE: 3.8
Panelist #4Unfortunately, this cigar was not consistent; nor was it attractive. I expected much from this torpedo and felt let down. SCORE: 3.0

Country: Dominican Republic Wrapper: Dominican Republic Binder: Indonesia
Manufacturer: La Perla Habana Filler: Dominican Republic Price: $6.25
Panelist #1This fine cigar would be a fitting end to a steak and port dinner. I would highly recommend these without hesitation. SCORE: 4.3
Panelist #2What a great cigar! Mild cigar fans need not apply. Slab of beef, Merlot, and one of these, please. Another must-add for the box. SCORE: 4.5
Panelist #3All-around enjoyable. As it progressed, it got more and more like a classic maduro. Mellow, sweet, and relaxing. SCORE: 3.9
Panelist #4This guy tastes and smokes true to the very end. Highly recommended for the seasoned smoker. Very well-rounded. SCORE: 4.1

Country: Dominican Republic Wrapper: Indonesia Binder: Dominican Republic
Manufacturer: Gran Reserve Filler: Dominican Republic Price: $4.50
Panelist #1This cigar was extremely enjoyable because of its consistency in both flavor and construction. I would enjoy this any time. SCORE: 4.3
Panelist #2This is a decent cigar to share with the boys over a couple of dark ales. Those that like light to medium body will like 'em. SCORE: 3.5
Panelist #3This is a great, nutty smoke with sweet undertones. The light- to medium-bodied strength makes it a most useful stick. SCORE: 4.5
Panelist #4Although it's kind of anemic to look at, this cigar gave a good performance. I would smoke it again, if offered. SCORE: 3.5

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