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Cigar 101

How & Why Cigars Are Rated

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Every December, Cigar Aficionado releases the holy grail of cigar rankings in its list of the ‘Top 25 Cigars of the Year.’ The list is officially published in the January issue. Consumers and retailers eagerly await the results and rush out to buy the featured cigars, especially those in the top ten.

How does Cigar Aficionado Rate Cigars?

In order to be considered for the ‘Top 25,’ the cigars on the list have been vetted several times over the course of the year in a series of blind tastings. In a blind tasting, Cigar Aficionado’s tasting panel smokes the cigars anonymously, meaning the bands have been removed and the members of the tasting panel are unaware of what they’re smoking. The cigars are rated on a 100-point scale based on specific criteria: appearance, smoking performance, flavor, and overall impression.

To make the ‘Top 25,’ the panel only revisits cigars that have scored 91 points or higher earlier in the year. Cigar Aficionado’s the scores 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.

Celebrated cigars with “Classic” status include the 97-rated My Father Le Bijou 1922 Torpedo Box Press, 97-rated Padron 1926 Series No. 9, 96-rated Oliva Serie V Melanio, 95-rated La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor, 94-rated Ashton ESG, and many more. Back in 1992, a cigar called a Penamil No. 57 earned one of the lowest all-time ratings in Cigar Aficionado with 69 points.

At the end, the editors consider other factors like country of origin and production quantities as well as less tangible details that are more personal. The process can be subjective just like our tastes, so why do we place such emphasis on what others tell us?  

Why We Rank Things

We rank everything from restaurants to movies to cars to schools to states. According to an article in Forbes by Steve Cooper, rankings are a critical way for people to categorize significant amounts of data into digestible portions. Ratings can offer immediate context, but they can also be misleading when they’re exploited, even for cigars.

Rating Cigars at Holt's

We regularly highlight the cigar ratings published in Cigar Aficionado as a reference for consumers, but we also offer our own perspective. At Holt’s, we rate a wide variety of cigars in our Staff Reviews utilizing a 100-point scale similar to Cigar Aficionado. Consumers are familiar with the 100-point scale. It has become the de facto measuring stick for cigars, wine, spirits, and more.

We view cigar ratings and as an opportunity to publish an honest appraisal of the cigars we love as well as those we find less intriguing. Not everyone’s palate is the same, therefore personal taste plays a definitive role. Because the members of our team at Holt’s are pivotal in deciding what brands to carry, we love to offer our readers and our customers a personal account of the cigars that stand out.

You can discover our take on a wide variety of cigars through the personal tastes of Zack D. who rarely smokes anything less intense than an Oliva Serie V, Tom O. who sticks with the classics like Arturo Fuente Don Carlos, Grant T. who, as a bona fide value hound, loves Old Henry, or my own obsession with rarities like Ashton ESG. We dig into details like the brand’s backstory, where it’s made, what makes it unique, and especially what a cigar tastes like and its overall quality. We also deliver the best recommendations based on occasions, time of year, gift ideas, and more in our menu of Top Lists.

Learn More from Our Cigar of the Month Club

We also rate cigars for members of our popular Cigar of the Month Club which includes an annual ‘Year in Review’ issue where the top cigars are ranked. We rely on our own panel of seasoned cigar tasters who compile our Cigar of the Month Club ratings throughout the year. It’s great to consult authoritative sources like Cigar Aficionado due to the extensive coverage and informed opinions the editors offer, but it’s equally valuable to get perspective from the cigar lovers you trust enough to shop with. For many, simply checking out other customers’ reviews is enough to seal the deal when deciding what cigars to buy next.

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