How Do We Review Cigars
No Scores, No Nonsense
Reviewing cigars is an incredibly controversial topic. It’s as simple as that. Every blogger, every magazine, and every influencer has their own rules and guidelines that they go by. And most of them are happy to tell you why the others are wrong.
All these small differences aside, there’s a generally accepted way to do things. The reviewer smokes the cigar (sometimes “blind” and hopefully more than one sample). They break down some tasting notes from the first, second, and final third. They make a few general comments on the more “objective” qualities – construction, burn, draw. Finally, they assign it a score on some sort of scale – maybe five points, maybe ten, maybe 100. Depending on the publication, they may consider that score again towards the end of the year when making their “Best Of” lists.
We intend to do things differently. Let’s put it simply: No Scores. No blind samples. No “objectivity.”
We believe cigars are an incredibly subjective experience. I’ve had blends that I smoked and disliked, only to revisit them a year later and change my mind. I’ve read reviews panning cigars I love, and I’ve read reviews loving cigars I hate. No single person has the same palate, the same experience, or the same likes and dislikes.
Our reviews have one simple goal in mind. We want to share our personal experiences with a cigar and try to tell you what we viewed as the positives and negatives. We’ll let you know if we recommend the blend, but beyond that, it’s up to you and the rest of our community to try the cigar and decide for yourself.
This community can be a powerful tool: a legion of cigar lovers interested in learning, exploring, and sharing their knowledge – if two heads are better than one, than your collective opinions on a cigar are surely worth more than my singular view.
That’s the quick version. If you want more thoughts behind our review process, read on.
Our Review Principles Defined
1. Point Scales Are Broken
Whether a reviewer rates their cigars from 1 to 5, or 1 to 100, the scales share some inconsistencies. To start, most cigar blogs and magazines don’t use the entirety of their scale. For those rating out of 100, you’ll rarely see a score lower than, let’s say, a 75. If that’s the case, why have 100 points available? Furthermore, if the average score on your 100-point scale is an 85, isn’t it inherently broken? The “average” cigar rated between 1 – 100 should be a 50, mathematically, but consumers don’t want to buy a cigar that’s 50-rated, and reviewers don’t want to give scores like that out.
These numbers become even more confusing when you try to compare two cigars. I’ll give $100 to anyone who can tell me the concrete difference between something rated a 92 and a 95 – what does it mean? Can you taste the three points of difference? And, if you smoke three samples and average the score between them to get your “final” doesn’t that just prove how subjective the experience of each individual cigar is?
So, our solution: No scores. We’ll tell you what we liked and what we disliked, and you can score the cigars for yourself if you so choose.
2. Names Matter. So Does Price.
I understand the intention behind a blind review. Removing the band, name, history, and price point of a blend can clear any preconceived notions of a cigar and hopefully allow the cigar smoker to experience the tobacco, taste, and aroma in the “truest” form.
The only problem is, we don’t buy cigars that way. And we never can.
Despite what we’d like to believe, we are constantly influenced in our purchasing decisions by things like brand loyalty, names, colors, and appearance. We eat with our eyes just as much as we do with our mouths. Throwing those aspects aside when considering a cigar is a romantic notion, but not a practical one.
Disregarding price is even worse. Again, I understand the notion that saying “price doesn’t matter” makes a reviewer seem “purer” in their intention of rating the tobacco — but price does matter.
Here’s an example: I drink a lot of Maker’s Mark – it’s a decent whiskey and is available almost everywhere. And I think it tastes good. But I promise you if it were $200 a bottle, I’d like it a lot less.
This can even happen in reverse: what you pay for a cigar affects how you view it. If you found Davidoffs in a $2 bin at the back of a gas station, you probably wouldn’t expect as much out of them as if you bought them in their original packaging in a well-maintained humidor. And those expectations absolutely affect our reality and our smoking experiences.
Our reviews will consider the full experience of the cigar: from price, to packaging, to naming, to actually smoking it.
3. There is No Objectivity
The basis of many point scales includes some “objective” scores – rating cigars on aspects like their construction, burn line, or draw. But let’s not forget that these qualities are not scientific. A cigar’s burn and draw can be highly affected by the relative humidity in the reviewer’s humidor, how you lit it, or how frequently the smoker is puffing on the cigar. Additionally, what someone considers a “tight” draw may be just right for you. The point is, pretending that there is a definable “truth” to the cigar smoking process doesn’t match reality – all a reviewer can do is share their personal experiences and preferences.
This is even truer with taste. Many cigar reviews include detailed tasting notes with tons of descriptors, but what you taste is affected by what you’ve eaten, what other cigars you’ve smoked that day, what you’re drinking at the time, even your mood. If you’re distracted and irritated about work, you’ll likely experience a cigar differently than if you’re watching your favorite team beat their rival on tv.
Instead, we’ll present our experiences for exactly what they are – our experiences. And whether you agree with us or disagree, we want to hear your feedback! The subjectivity of cigars is part of the fun, let’s not ignore it.
There you have it – our review process defined. We’re not here to tell you this is the perfect way to review cigars, but this is how we do it. And hopefully, you’ll come along for the ride. Each staff review we post is an invitation for you to share your feedback, challenge our experiences, and ask and answer questions within the community. So join us! You can find our most recent reviews in the Product Blog – and if you have requests for a cigar you’d like to see us review, feel free to shoot me a message and we’ll try to get it added to the list.