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Golf Life: Rocky Patel Vintage '92 Cigar

True, you still can't (legally) buy Cuban cigars in the U.S., but now we have something almost as good: premium smokes from other great cigar-making countries at bargain prices. Why?Because the end of the cigar boom has created a battle for a shrinking market, while at the same time product coming from Honduras, the Dominican Republic and elsewhere keeps getting tastier and more consistent. Combine that with the higher import tax in the U.K., for example, and the same superb Honduran Robusto shown here costs twice as much over there as it does at home. As editor of Cigar Buyer magazine, I've sampled hundreds of these great new stogies in the past year; here are the best non-Cubans I've tasted. Fire up, gentlemen.

Rocky Patel Vintage '92
HONDURAS
888-766-5387; indiantabac.com; $6.50*
Specs Size: Robusto
Length: 5.5"
Ring gauge: 50
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua
Comments Wow! An incredible mix of rich, hard-hitting flavors with subtle undercurrents. Quite heavy to smoke, though not exceedingly so. This is bold, complex and packed with after-dinner characteristics—coffee and chocolate most notably. Will taste especially delicious on a special occasion—a hole in one or a best-ever round.
Bottom Line BEST VALUE A rewarding and luxurious smoke for the stylish smoker.

Ashton VSG
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
800-327-4866; ashtoncigar.com; $8.75
Specs Size: Robusto
Length: 5.5"
Ring gauge: 50
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Comments This is a truly fascinating cigar. The wrapper, which is from Ecuador, gives it a distinctive and weighty aroma; the Dominican filler is made up of leaves that are four to five years old, making this the tastiest and most full-bodied of the five choices here. The cigar itself is put together by Carlos Fuente Jr. for Ashton.
Bottom Line A big boys' cigar but still well-balanced. There are some subtle things going on here too.

Arturo Fuente Don Carlos
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
813-248-2124; cigarfamily.com; $10
Specs Size: No. 2 (Torpedo)
Length: 6"
Ring gauge: 55
Wrapper: Cameroon
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Comments The celebrated cigar-making Fuente family took a great deal of time in launching this cigar, and it is said to include Carlos Fuente's favorite tobacco leaves. It's a medium-strength offering with a unique dark and oily wrapper from Cameroon that imparts a taste that is both smooth and sweet.
Bottom Line BEST OVERALL A classic example of just how good Dominican cigars have become, and a worthy investment without doubt.

C.A.O. Gold Label
NICARAGUA
800-237-8226; caocigars.com; $5.20
Specs Size: Churchill
Length: 7"
Ring gauge: 48
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Comments The Nicaraguan style leans toward a creamy and reasonably mild-tasting cigar with some vanilla flavor. Easy to smoke, but mild doesn't mean bland— this is a subtly rewarding stogie with hints of nutmeg and other spices. Great for the lover of handmade cigars who doesn't want anything too challenging.
Bottom Line Of the five cigars here, the best for the less-experienced smoker.

Avo Domaine
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
800-829-2224; avocigars.com; $9.40
Specs Size: Churchill
Length: 6.75"
Ring gauge: 4
Wrapper: Connecticut, Ecuador
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Comments The tobacco used in this cigar has been aged for a minimum of three years, which makes for a smooth and rich taste, though not an unduly heavy one. Nice satiating aroma. Probably best suited for the serious and discerning cigar smoker. Can be smoked both day or night.
Bottom Line Not for the faint-hearted but not super-hefty, either.

*PRICES MAY VARY

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