It is hard not to notice the increasing number of special and/or annual release cigars coming out from numerous boutique companies these days. Crowned Heads has been a constant since 2014 with the Las Calaveras. Tatuaje tantalizes its fans with each year’s allotment of the Skinny Monsters. Even the biggest brands, like Davidoff, are tapping into it with projects like their Chef’s Edition and Chinese New Year Series.
There seems to be a definitive trend among enthusiasts, especially those younger than 40, to seek out these limited blends over anything in the regular production category. Truth be told, I myself get excited by the experimental nature of many of the special releases and eagerly seek them out. To aid anyone looking to venture into the world of highly anticipated annual releases, here are some of my favorite and some lesser-known blends of that category that you can look forward to in each new year!
#1 Stuffed Turkeys (Viaje)
For me, Viaje as a brand is about as perfect of an example of a boutique cigar company as I could hope to find. Founded in 2008 by Andre Farkas, the company focuses primarily on small batch limited releases. One such blend that is released on a near annual basis in time for the autumn holiday season is the Stuffed Turkeys. The blend was started first is 2011 as part of Viaje’s “white label” line, but would eventually be presented as a line all its own. A Nicaraguan puro featuring Aganorsa Leaf tobaccos, and produced at the Fábrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas S. de R.L. in, The Stuffed Turkey is now produced in two versions. The White Meat features a Criollo ’98 natural wrapper, and for the Dark Meat a Mexican San Andres Maduro wrapper. The cigar is presented in just one size, a 5 x 58 Robusto Gordo. Less than 4000 of each expression are produced in any given year, making this a truly rare item for boutique cigar hunters.
#2 Bishops Blend (Black Label Trading Co.)
James and Angela Brown are the husband-and-wife owners of this craft cigar company. Their style at first glance may seem overtly morbid in nature, with depictions of skulls, goth art and themes of death in much of their band and box artwork. However, their spirit of creativity is undeniable in the realm of cigar blending. One could even argue that their affinity for darker art themes is a sign of their fearlessness, and since that sounds pretty cool I’m just gonna stick with that.
Each year the Bishops Blend, produced at the companies very own Fabrica Oveja Negra in Esteli, delivers a smoking experience that is simultaneously full-bodied and nuanced. Supremely bold in flavor character and body, the Bishops Blend has been released for seven consecutive years to much acclaim. Each year the blend is presented in three different blends, most recently a 6.25 x 46 Corona Largo, a 5 x 48 Robusto, and 7 x 42 Lancero.
The blend consists of Nicaraguan, Connecticut Broadleaf, and Pennsylvania Broadleaf fillers, with an Ecuadorian habano binder, and an Ecuadorian maduro wrapper leaf. While not for the beginner or the faint of stomach, the Bishops Blend is sure to impress those who enjoy a dark, strong smoke.
#3 LCA Reserva Vintage (Christian Eiroa)
On the more recent front I submit the LCA Reserva Vintage releases by Christina Eiroa of C.L.E. and Brian Desind of Privada Cigar Club. Debuting in 2021, the LCA vintage is now 2 years deep though many more vintages are expected in the years to come. Christian Eiroa (who also oversees production of Eiroa Cigars, Asylum Cigars, and more) takes great pride in the creation of the blend made in collaboration with Brian Desind.
Both The Vintage 2021 and 2022 consist of all Honduran Corojo tobaccos in a 6 x 44 Lonsdale format. The 2021 vintage features tobaccos harvested from the 2017-2018 year crop, while the 2022 vintage is made from tobaccos harvested from the 2018-2019 year crop. As Desind said in 2021 at launch, “the focus for LCA Reservas will always be on producing the best cigar possible using only one year of crop from a single farming estate.”
#4 Anniversary Series (Room 101)
Matt Booth commands an almost cult-like following in the cigar world. His legions of “Shadow Army” members are always on the watch for latest drop from their esteemed, charming and enigmatic leader. Each year he brings out a new special release blend to commemorate another 12 months of flavor-hole pleasure-making. Booth began the Anniversary Series in 2019 in celebration of 10 years for Room 101 as a cigar brand. The following year, Booth reprised the project with an only too appropriately quirky 11th Anniversary cigar. Each year since that first launch, the cigar is different from the year before, either in blend, vitola or both! This sort of unpredictability is characteristic of Booth himself and makes for ever greater anticipation for cigar lovers and pleasure seekers.
#5 Black Friday (HVC)
This project by the great Renier Lorenzo is one of the best demonstrations of the depth of Nicarguan tobaccos. 2022 saw the 9th iteration of the HVC Black Friday with a 5 ½” x50 robusto extra vitola. Each year the blend and vitola is always different, but always utilizes Nicaraguan tobaccos in the blends. The 2022 Black Friday was the first time that the annual release was produced in the new HVC Boutique Factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. Also notable in this year’s blend, there is zero ligero leaf in the blend. Despite the absence of the ligero, the blend still delivers a robust and balanced flavor experience. Like the previous entry mentioned in this list, HVC fans can always look forward to something complete new, fresh, and innovative from the creative mind of Renier Lorenzo each year.
This is just a start, what special annual releases do you look forward to each year? In the comments below, let me know which ones I missed!