The Reviewing Process

Well, the natural thing that one might want to know when reading a review is how the review has been conducted.

When I review a cigar it is very much a smoking experience. I review the cigar so that I enjoy the smoke all the more – I find that I appreciate the flavours and characteristics of a cigar more than usual if I’m jotting down my notes (I do get some funny looks though…)

A lot of my scoring is anything but scientific, it is largely done by the gut – this is quite substantial in my case. I try to be objective, but that’s not always possible: anyone that tells you that the same cigar isn’t more enjoyable on a scorching hot day by the water than it is in a cold and rainy field is flat out lying to you…

Anyway, onto the categories by which I rate the cigars. I have outlined what I am looking for in each category, and the score available for each:

Appearance – this is marked out of 15. It is not vital to the smoking experience, so it is marked lowly. That said, it sets the tempo for the whole cigar and is a visible mark of the care that went into making it. Colour, smoothness, lustre and cap application are all important when considering the wrapper. I also include the feel of the cigar in this category (I store all of my cigars at a fairly constant 67/68% RH, so they should be comparable).

Smoking Characteristics – this is marked out of 25. The way a cigar draws and burns can make or break the smoking experience. Those are the two key elements of this category. The score represents a quarter of the total because, no matter how palatable the cigar, if it’s too tight it will be a poor experience. There are also a couple of side concerns for this category. Firstly, the quantity of smoke is considered (after all, there’s nothing more satisfying than huge plumes of smoke from a cigar). Secondly, the aroma, both pre-light and during the smoke, are also considered. However, these ‘side concerns’ have negligible bearing on the score.

Flavour – this is marked out of 25. It would be fair to say that this category needs little explanation. The flavour is the cigar to many people, that’s why it gets 25 points to itself. Now… I say flavour, note the singular, however, one of the key requirements for a good score is the development of flavours through the cigar. In my opinion, pretty much all but the tiniest cigars should go through at least three flavour phases. If it’s a one-dimensional stick then it lacks a degree of interest for me, so will not score as highly as it might if there were developments as time went on…

Overall Impression – this is marked out of 35. The big daddy of the scoring world – what did I actually think of the cigar!? After all, that’s the most important part about smoking a stogie, how did you enjoy it, what did you think as you put the remenants in the ashtray? Have you just burnt your fingers through smoking it almost beyond the nub, trying to extract every last bit of excellence, or have you just hurled two-thirds of it into the lake?

All of the categories combine to make a possible grand-total of 100 points! It’s hard to split this down into neat quality divisions, but it would be fair to say that anything over about 80 is a decent cigar, and anything over about 87 is definitely one you should be smoking. Mid to high 90s is stogie-heaven.

Thank you to Cigar Aficionado magazine who developed the framework of this scoring system (the categories and score distribution). I’m sure I go about the marking process in a slightly different manner – placing emphasis on different aspects of the cigar – but the basic ideas are the same. Unlike CA, I don’t smoke the cigars blind, and I may only have a couple of examples to work with.

Here are two very interesting videos from CA’s excellent video archive in which the editorial team outline how they go about tasting cigars:

Part One

Part Two

If you have any questions or comments on my reviewing process, feel free to add a comment below.

If you want to review a cigar using the ‘template’ laid out here, and have it published on The Cigar Monologues, then give it a whirl. Write up your review and email it to me and I’ll add it to a ‘guest review’ page. I’d be especially interested in non-Cuban cigar reviews, as those available to me are a little limited. (However, if you’d like to donate a cigar for review, that would be even better… 😉 ).

7 thoughts on “The Reviewing Process

  1. I must say i find this site most incredible, a one off in fact! There is nothing i love more than a good stogie when Im down wathcing the boys play rugger. Although for me, the bulk of the experience is ‘pre light’. I love to devour the stogie before any other greedy arabs manage to get their hands on it so i don’t really get much time to appreciate it once its been lit!

    odds are, the site will gain little interest, but good luck to you along the way with that. The only advise I would give to budding cigar lovers out there is to pass the stogie more often……. “greedy arabs”!

  2. I look forward to reading your reviews as I do find it interesting to read what others think of a cigar, for me they are like wine. The taste can be different depending on the time of day, the mood and environment, etc etc.

    I’d be interested in knowing a) what is your preference in a cigar, i.e. do you prefer a strong, dominant smoke or a softer milder affair and b) do you intend reviewing the same cigar after a period of time to see if your opinion changes? and finally c) what do you tend to drink with your stogie? Do you have the same drink each time or do you vary it and do you think that affects your tasting?

    Sterling work!

  3. Hello Mr Fotheringham. Thank you for the kind comments – I have to agree with the similarities between cigars and wines, both far more interesting than one might first imagine. Now, let me deal with you questions one at a time.

    a) I think that the preference very much depends upon the situation, though as a rule I’m a fan of a good medium-medium smoke – nice medium flavours with decent development and medium strength (as a rule I’m not the biggest fan of the big hitters).

    b) Indeed, I do intend to revisit cigars from time to time. There may not always be a full review on subsequent visits, but I would certainly plan on an ‘update’ entry to comment on how the experience differed or how age has changed the profile of the cigar.

    c) What I drink changes – for the cigars reviewed so far it’s ranged from real ale and lager to cream soda! I do try to make a mention of what I was drinking within the report, and if I think that it has either enhanced the smoking experience and worked well with that particular cigar (or, indeed, been detrimental to the flavours) – by that, you could certainly infer that I believe a drink can affect the flavours.

  4. Greetings,

    I know that is an extremely busy time of the year but I am trying to get an early jump on one of my New Years Resolutions, which is to write and contribute more articles on sites like Cigar Monologues.

    I am an avid blogger who enjoys writing about and smoking a fine cigar when the opportunity presents itself. I feel that I could contribute some valuable content on your site if you accept Guest Posts.

    And if you are not willing to accept Guest Posts, I can establish an arrangement where you will be paid for publishing articles I write or paid to insert a link into an existing or upcoming article that you write.

    If either of these options interests you, I will be more than happy to provide you with more details.

    Thanks for consideration my offer and I hope we can find a way to work together in 2012.

    Happy New Years

    Respectfully,

    Sam Peters

  5. Hey Simon, you remind me the saying: “Happiness? A good cigar, a good meal, a good cigar and a good woman – or a bad woman; it depends on how much happiness you can handle.” 🙂

    Anyway, great website. What would you say if we offer you an Alec Bradley or a La Aroma de Cuba for review? Let me know if you are interested: tomcigar-club.com

  6. HI Tom – I think I’d bite your hand off to try one of those – neither of which I’ve had an opportunity to review for the site before. I’ll drop you an email via your website. Cheers.

    Sam – sorry it’s been over a year to reply, I’ve been quite bad at keeping on top of comments over the last year or so… If you’re still keen to write up a review, or generally just some thoughts, then I’d be delighted to post it up as guest content. I’d love for the Cigar Monologues to become a top resource with input from lots of people – which, I appreciate would make it more of a dialogue than a monologue. Haha.

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