Generally, I’m very simple when it comes to judging a cigar, it’s either something i will recommend to my friends, or it isn’t.
But i can understand if such a blunt categorization is insufficient to satisfy the curious mind. That’s why i go into quite a bit of details about how a cigar looks, tastes and finishes.
The construction and appearance of the cigar, unlit, is important because it can offer many clues about how the cigar will smoke once lit. Once you’ve had many, many cigars, you’ll begin to be able to anticipate the performance of a lit cigar just by picking it up for the first time. Also, aesthetically pleasing cigars are nice to hold, nice to admire and therefore, this lends to the overall enjoyment of the cigar.
The taste and flavour is probably the most important factor of considering when judging any cigar. Taste can be subjective, and we all experience flavour differently — it’s all linked to our range of experiences and even our emotions. A cigar tastes like “dark bitter sweet chocolate” because we’ve eaten dark bitter sweet chocolate before and that’s what the cigar reminds us of; and we like that bitter sweet flavour, then we will also like a cigar that reminds us of that sensation. The mind is a mesh of hooks and neurons firing off in relation to each other — how we experience sensation is a unique combination of these interactions as the brain receives information from our taste buds and nose. Cigars that rate highly will be generally those that are able to trigger off the most pleasurable signals, those that rate the highest will be able to draw an emotional reaction as well.
Lastly, the finish. When you walk away from the cigar, smack your lips, lick the upper reaches of your palate (roof of your mouth) and tell yourself what it tastes like. Some cigars taste remarkable during the burn, but have an awful stinking finish. This will detract greatly from the overall experience. Other cigars may be the opposite. The great cigars will be able to do both — be wonderful while you smoke it, and leave you with happy memories (and a desire for more) with a delicious finish. Think of ice cream. Cheap ice cream only gives you flavour when you still have it on your tongue. Great ice cream’s flavours linger on even after you’ve swallowed.
Taking these 3 factors together, i then come up with an arbitrary score ranging from 70-100 (i generally will not bother writing a review for a cigar that rates below 70; a waste of time, server space and usually it means i never want to be reminded of it again!).
Within the range of 70-100, there will be different bands of quality.
70-79: A good distraction, smoke at ease, and enjoy the flavours. Not something you’ll necessarily want to smoke again, nor something you’ll remember tomorrow. Example: Casa Fuente Corona Gorda
80-89: A very good cigar. No major problems in any of the 3 scoring factors, and particularly good in the taste and flavour department. Chances are good you’ll want these cigars again, and will be very happy if you do. A cigar you’ll tell your friends about. Example: Ramon Allones Small Club Corona (SVF MAR 05)
90-100: The creme of the creme. Cigars that i personally stake my reputation on as being great total experience. Not only do they taste wonderful, but are aesthetically pleasing, perfect construction, draw and combustion. These cigars tend to have an amazing finish, and its memory will linger on for days if not longer in the future. Generally, “must-have-if-you-can-whenever-you-can” cigars. Example: Arturo Fuente Anejo #49
What about value for money?
How much the cigar “costs” in relation to the price, i feel, is even more subjective than tastes and flavour so i tend to steer clear of making such judgements. A good cigar is a good cigar, regardless of the cost, the reverse is true as well. Whether or not it’s something we can personally afford differs from person to person, what may be “affordable” to one, could certainly be “expensive” or “not worth it” to another. Since the only person to know which category you fall into is you, i leave this portion of the determination to you.
Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions about the rating system.