Cigar ratings - so what are they all about?

You look at a website full of new world cigars, in big bold (sometimes flashing letters) it says rated xx by a certain publication. But what does that actually mean and should you take any notice of it. Today we’re going to dive into the world of cigar ratings and find out!

If you smoke cigars in the UK you’ve probably heard of Cigar Aficionado magazine, if you haven’t you should check it out, it is after all the biggest selling cigar magazine in the world from the USA. You may not however have heard of Cigar Journal, a European published magazine originally intended for cigar trade only readers, but increasingly gaining traction with the normal cigar smoker in the UK due to it’s in-depth cigar only content. On the web Halfwheel and Blind Man’s Puff are also big players in the cigar rating game. So rating cigars, what’s it all about?!

Firstly let’s be honest, the IPA I love, you may hate, the wine, whisky or rum I love you may love or hate. You see the human palette is subjective, that said, I can taste a beer or wine that I personally don’t like, but still tell it’s good quality, it’s just not to my liking. In new world cigars I will give you a perfect example. The Oliva Serie V Melanio was rated 96 by Cigar Aficionado, it is loved the world over, sells tens of thousands a year and yet I’m in a minority who think it’s a god awful cigar… The cigars construction is flawless, its draw is flawless, it’s burn line is flawless, everything about this cigar is flawless, yet to me it’s like smoking a hot sweaty cowboys leather jock strap after he’s been in the saddle all day… So if all our tastes are so different, should we be interested in a magazine or website’s rating of a cigar? Yes, especially if it has been reviewed by a panel, it could save you a fortune, or kissing a lot of frogs trying to find the next perfect cigar for you!

Why is a panel important? A panel smoothes out personal preferences if the scoring system has several dimensions to it. Back to my Oliva example, if I were on a panel and there were 3 scores (simplified to make the point) build, draw and flavour I would score it 10, 10 and 2 but the next judge may score his 9, 8, 10. Panels remove the element of personal taste by arriving at an average score. So does a high score guarantee you will like a particular cigar? No, it may not be to your personal taste, but it does tell you that it is better or worse than average (and these guys and girls taste a lot of cigars) and that there is a better chance than not, that you will like it. It also tells you if it is a quality product.

In a future blog I will dive a little deeper into the 4 well known reviewers methods to help you understand more. For now though in short hand here’s what the scoring brackets from each mean. Next time you see a new world cigar that has one of these 4 scores against it try it - I won’t guarantee you’ll like it, but there’s a good chance you will. And if you want to test your tastes against some of the cigar world’s leading cigar judges have a look at some of the top rated new world cigars we have in stock - are they right or wrong?!

Cigar Aficionado scores cigars on its 100-point scale as the following: 95-100 = Classic; 90-94 = Outstanding; 80-89 = Very Good to Excellent; 70-79 = Average to Good Commercial Quality; and 0-69 = Don’t Waste Your Money. Scores of 90 points or higher get attention from retailers and consumers.

HALFWHEEL is scored by individuals not a panel but has been producing very well respected cigar reviews for may years, rating scale as follows:

The three points are:

88 — Reviewer can recommend a box purchase.

86 — Reviewer can recommend a purchase of between three and five cigars.

84 — Reviewer can recommend a single cigar purchase.

Cigars scoring 83 and below are not inherently bad cigars, rather, that specific reviewer chooses not to recommend that specific cigar at this time.

Blind Man’s Puff, panel review, rating scale as follows:

99-100 = Epic

96-98 = Extraordinary

94-95 = Excellent

92-93 = Great

90-91 = Very Good

88-89 = Good

84-87 = Fair

82-83 = Subpar

79-81 = Mediocre

75-79 = Poor

70-74 = Bad

below 70 = unsmokable

Rated 95 by Cigar Aficionado, the Aging Room F55 Stretto - check them out!

The Don Lucas Classic Robusto rated 92 by Blind Man's Puff - we've got them here

The Rocky Patel ALRII rated 94 by Cigar Aficonardo and we have them here