In 2016, Topper Cigars celebrated a 120 years in the cigar industry with a release of a pair of cigars known as the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary. Topper Cigars was founded in 1896 by B.P. Topper in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania – a town located in between Gettysburg and York in the south-central part of that State. Today, the company is run by B.P.’s great-grandson Chris Topper, who is the fourth generation from his family to run the company. While Topper Cigars has primarily been known for making short filler and machine made cigars, Topper decided he wanted to make an ultra-premium hand-made offering to commemorate his company’s 120th anniversary. For this project, Topper teamed up with Phil Zanghi of Debonaire House for the blending and the De Los Reyes factory to handle production. The end result is two cigars – the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural (a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper offering) and the Topper 120th Anniversary Broadleaf (a Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper offering). Today, we take a closer look at the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural. While Topper has garnered a reputation for some outstanding value-priced cigars, with the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural the company succeeds at delivering a great ultra-premium offering.
For many years.Topper Cigars produced handmade cigars utilizing Cuban tobacco and Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. Faced with the Cuban Embargo and rising labor costs during the 1960s, Topper Cigars switched to machine made cigars utilizing 100 percent natural tobacco. In 2013, Chris Topper made the decision to return to handmade production focusing around short-filler offerings. While the company became known for Connecticut Broadleaf offerings, Topper decided to expand his horizons for the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary with the Nicaraguan Habano wrapper on the Natural and the Pennsylvania Broadleaf wrapper on the Broadleaf. In particular, the use of the Pennsylvania Broadleaf pays homage to his company’s roots in Pennsylvania.
Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural and see what this cigar brings to the table.
The blend to the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural and Broadleaf contains similar binder and filler with the one difference being the wrapper. The tobaccos in the blend area are 100% long-filler premium leaves.
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano (Natural), Pennsylvania Broadleaf (Broadleaf)
Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic (De Los Reyes)
The Topper Grande 120th Anniversary is available in one size (for both blends) – a 6 1/4 x 54 perfecto. The blends are both packaged together with each ten count box containing five Natural perfectos and five Broadleaf perfectos. Production of both blends is limited.
The Topper Grande 120th Anniversary contains a medium-brown wrapper with a touch of colorado red mixed in. Upon closer examination, some darker marbling can be seen on the surface. While there are visible veins and visible wrapper seams, this wasn’t a cigar that was toothy or overly rugged looking. Each end of the perfecto is tapered. The tapering toward the closed footer is longer.
The cigar contains two bands. On the center of the primary band is a black colored plate-design with the text “TOPPER” in white font. Above and below the plate-design is a red background with white trim. Sitting on the lower background is the text “GRANDE” in white font. The remainder of the band contains various red, white, black, and gold adornments.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
Prior to lighting up my Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural, I went with my usual choice of a straight cut. I opted to use my Credo Special T cutter using the 36 ring gauge hole to get an ideal cut for this perfecto. Once the tip was removed, I moved on to the pre-light draw. The dry draw provided a mix of natural tobacco, cedar, and floral notes. Overall I considered this to be an very good pre-light draw. At this point, I was ready to light up the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural and see what the cigar experience would have in store.
The Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural started out with a mix of natural tobacco, fruit, and black pepper. Early on, the natural tobacco and fruit notes became primary while the black pepper moved into the background. I also detected a savory beet-like note on the after-draw. Throughout the first third, the natural tobacco and fruit alternated in intensity in the forefront. Meanwhile the beet note gradually increased. As for the retro-hale, it produced a woody note note with a little natural tobacco sweetness mixed in.
By the second third, the beet notes joined the natural tobacco notes in the forefront. The fruit receded into the background. The pepper spice in the background was also accompanied by some notes of black pepper. During this stage, the black pepper also became prominent on the retro-hale.
During the last third, the natural tobacco and beet-like notes remained in the forefront. The baker’s spice increased, but did not become overpowering. By this stage, the fruit notes had dissipated. This is the way the cigar experience of the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural came to a close. The resulting nub was firm to the touch and cool in temperature.
Burn and Draw
Overall I found the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural to be a well-constructed cigar and this was reflected nicely in the burn and draw. The perfecto maintained a relatively straight burn path along with a relatively straight burn line. This was a cigar that did not require frequent touch-ups along the way. The resulting ash was on the firm side with a salt and pepper color. Meanwhile, the burn rate and burn temperature were both ideal.
The draw to the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural performed quite well. In fact, I found it to be near ideal for a perfecto – not too tight, nor too loose. This made this cigar a low maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
In terms of strength, the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural had just enough strength to qualify as medium. For the most part, I found the strength level remained pretty constant throughout the smoking experience. Meanwhile the body of the 120th Anniversary Natural also started out medium, but gradually increased. By the last third, I found the body had progressed into medium to full territory.
One thing that stands out is that the Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Natural was different than anything else I’ve had from Debonaire House and De Los Reyes. Topper Cigars may have taken a risk releasing an ultra-premium offering in the $14.00 price range, but I think this risk pays off. This is a cigar that is going to deliver a unique flavor profile. It is a cigar that is well-constructed and had enough complexity to keep me interested from start to finish. Overall, this is a cigar that I could recommend to an experienced or novice cigar enthusiast. As for myself, this is a cigar I would definitely smoke again – and the Natural alone is worthy of a box purchase.
Key Flavors: Natural Tobacco, Fruit, “Savory Beet”, Baker’s Spice, Pepper
Body: Medium (1st 2/3), Medium to Full (Last Third)
Finish: Very Good
Assessment: 4.0-Box Worthy
News: Topper Grande 120th Anniversary Launched at 2016 IPCPR
Brand Reference: Topper