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How are Cigars Rated from 1-100?

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While many of us choose cigars based on our palates and preferences, or the reputation of a brand, a good number of enthusiasts are constantly looking at the numerical rating of a cigar to determine whether or not it’s worth trying.  The most popular rating system used for cigars is the one developed by Cigar Aficionado, which rates cigars from 1-100.

Of course, a cigar with a high rating is likely going to give us a quality smoke.  Still, it’s important to know how they come up with this number, in terms of which criteria they’re looking for.

What is the Cigar Rating System?

Cigar Aficionado is the leading cigar magazine, which was first published in 1992.  The magazine has earned the reputation as being an authority on fine cigars, and enthusiasts eagerly reference them to see how certain cigars have been rated.  They came up with their 1-100 rating system when they launched their annual top-25 list of cigars, which involves a lengthy blind-vetting process that is done repeatedly to ensure consistency in the results.  It is important to know that the rating process employed by Cigar Aficionado is taken so seriously because of the extremely thorough process of assigning these ratings in the first place.

The top 25 list that many of you are familiar with only shows you a small sliver of the actual work involved in developing it.  Throughout the year, a seemingly excessive number of cigars are tested by the trusted panel, and only cigars that earn a rating of at least 91 are considered for contention in the list.

So, what do the ratings indicate?  Let’s break it down.

  • 95-100: Classic
  • 90-94: Outstanding
  • 80-89: Very Good to Excellent
  • 70-79: Average to Good Commercial Quality
  • 0-69: Poor

This rating system has become so trusted over the years that it’s utilized by more than just cigar enthusiasts.  Retailers rely on it to determine which cigars they should stock more of, knowing that there will be a huge, sudden increase in demand with cigars that end up on the list.  The companies that produce the cigars that do end up on the list also know to keep specific products in high production as sales on these cigars will inevitably soar.

What is Taken into Consideration When Rating a Cigar?

Now you know the distinctive rating process employed by Cigar Aficionado to determine the top 25 cigars of each year.  But, what are the actual individual factors that are being looked for during this process?  The 1-100 score is based on a unique allocation of point values according to different qualities, which we will go over now.

#1: Appearance/Construction (15 Points)

Appearance and construction get the least number of points – 15 – but still, make up a big chunk of the overall score, showing you just how important these two factors matter.  First, the cigar is looked at thoroughly.  The assembly is carefully looked over, as the craftsmanship should indicate that it was constructed carefully and thoughtfully.  The tobacco is looked at to identify its color, its consistency, and its uniformity.  The cigar is handled to determine if it’s properly filled, and if it has a mushy texture to it, or if it feels too solid.

With the growing mass production of cigars, even by traditional houses, many parts of the process have become somewhat automated, including the construction.  Looking at the appearance and construction of a cigar gives the testing panel a great idea of how much effort goes into crafting each one.

#2: Flavor (25 Points)

Not really surprising that flavor makes up a quarter of the score – it’s an enormously important factor to every cigar enthusiast.  The flavor aspect of a cigar is taken very seriously, by a team of panelists who know their palates.  The process of rating the flavor encompasses a number of qualities, including how fresh the flavor is, how complex it is and even how unique it is, as cigars that have a very distinctive flavor profile can dazzle even the most jaded of judges.  Of course, the strength of the flavor is considered as well, as this has a lot to do with the quality and the age of the tobacco.

#3: Smoking Characteristics (25 Points)

The characteristics of the cigar are also given a generous 25 points.  Characteristics include the tightness of the draw, the rate of burn and how well the cigar stays lit.  This is an especially important factor as even the tastiest cigar can disappoint avid smokers if it performs poorly.  Further, these characteristics represent a larger component of quality pertaining to how the cigar was made, and the quality of the materials including the wrapper.

#4: Overall Smoking Experience (35 Points)

The largest point allocation goes to the overall smoking experience, which is also the most subjective factor on the list.  For instance, a person may give a full 35 points to a full-bodied cigar, because they like full-bodied cigars, while another judge may prefer something far milder and therefore knock several points off, which isn’t the cigar’s fault.  However, those who supply these ratings do as good of a job as possible not projecting their distinctive preferences onto the rating they provide.

How Much Should You Pay Attention to the Number Rating of a Cigar by Cigar Aficionado?

Well, this up to you.  Ultimately, cigars are a highly personal hobby, which means that your favorite cigar may not earn a high rating, and that the top-rated cigar is disappointing to your palate.  That being said, exploring the annual top 25 can be fun, and introduce you to cigars that you wouldn’t have otherwise known existed, while offering a great reference point based on the analysis of true cigar experts.

BnB Tobacco offers a wide array of top-quality cigars including many high earners.  So, if you’re enticed by ratings, you will be delighted by our selection.

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