There’s a real art to making a good $2 cigar—the U.S.-based Topper Cigar Company, which has been around since 1896, has had plenty of time to perfect that art. Headed by Chris Topper, the company’s fourth-generation president, the Topper Cigar Company has earned a reputation for making affordable handmade stogies that don’t skimp on taste or construction. Today I was fortunate enough to smoke a Topper Danli Toro.
Regardless of the Topper Cigar Company’s extensive history, though, I’m always wary about smoking budget stogies, especially ones that fall below $2 or $3, and especially ones that are made with mixed filler. But after inspecting the roll and giving the cigar a good whiff I realized that I should give the Topper Danli Toro the benefit of the doubt.
Right away I notice the wrapper on this stogie—it’s a very sturdy looking Connecticut Broadleaf with a deep slightly reddish-brown hue and a good amount of toothiness to it. There’s some color inconsistency, which is a good sign—this let me know that the tobacco wasn’t dyed. The binder is from Pennsylvania, whose flavorful tobacco is something of a hidden gem in the cigar world, and the filler blend is made up of American, Honduran, and Dominican tobaccos, which make for a smooth and easy pre-light draw with some red pepper spice and a little bit of aged woodiness.
After toasting the foot with a couple of wooden matches, this thing was ready to go. I haven’t seen many stogies that lit as easily as this one did, and while the burn started a little rocky, it evened out perfectly around a half inch into the cigar and stayed that way all the way through. On the first few draws I got a lot of pepper and cedar notes, along with a pleasant fruity sweetness. I’d describe it as “black cherry sweetness” but I don’t want to be misleading—this was not the typical candy-like, subtle sweetness that is usually associated with black cherry, but rather a very recognizable taste of fresh cherries. This flavor stayed with the cigar all the way to the nub.
Further into the smoke I tasted a really nice bitter cocoa flavor along with strong coffee on the retrohale. A word to the wise—retrohale this one very slowly, as the smoke is pretty spicy and can get a little overwhelming on the sinuses. About a third of the way in, I was surprised to notice that the ash was still hanging on. Two inches of ash is generally unheard of for a mixed-filler cigar, but this stogie delivered. The ash was a very light grey with nice black stripes, and was very tight and tidy with no flaking.
On the final third, the woody flavors were in full force. It tasted very oaky, in the same way that good bourbon or scotch tastes oaky. The combination of the woodiness, the pepper, the lingering cherry sweetness, and the cocoa and coffee notes would have been good for a $10 cigar, let alone a $2 cigar.
My favorite thing by far about the Topper Danli Toro was the draw, which stayed effortless throughout the cigar and provided a huge volume of smoke every time. It also never got hot, harsh, or bitter—the smoke stayed smooth all the way down to the 1-inch nub. If you haven’t tried anything from the Topper Danli line, you should stock up on a few. The price makes it a good yard work cigar but the quality of the flavors, construction, and burn would be enough even for a special occasion. And at under $2 per stick, there’s really no reason not to try ‘em.