Cigars are rated by a number of objective criteria in addition to personal taste.
Many cigar connoisseurs eventually wonder, "How are cigars rated?" Cigar ratings can be highly subjective. In fact, according to Cigars Magazine, judging a cigar brand and type by smoking one cigar is no real indicator of the cigar brand's and type's quality. For more accurate assessments and cigar ratings, a cigar brand and type can best be judged by smoking a typical box of 25.
For example, an individual cigar may be rolled differently depending on the skill level of an individual cigar roller. A cigar rolled too tight or a wrapper that's overfilled can make drawing smoke too difficult. A cigar with an inconsistent roll can burn unevenly, or can burn too hot. And improper shipping, handling and storage can also affect the quality of even the highest rated cigars. With that said, the current premier source for cigar ratings is Cigar Aficionado magazine. Much like the average filmgoer seeks reviews from Roger Ebert or Richard Schickel, the average or novice cigar smoker seeks cigar ratings from the Cigar Aficionado database.
The Cigar Aficionado judging panel consists of longstanding staff members who judge and determine cigar ratings for several selected cigars in a particular category. Their 100-Point Rating System is separated into four components:
According to Cigars Magazine, a cigar's appearance and construction should feel smooth when you roll it in your fingers. Soft or hard parts can cause inconsistent smoke draw or harsh burning. The quality of a cigar's flavor can be due to the quality of the tobacco leaves themselves as well as the quality of the aging and storage process. For example, a dry cigar can smoke harsh. And cigar's flavors can't be judged on the initial draw because of the complex nature of certain cigars. For example, a cigar that may start off harsh might finish mild. Or other cigars can have a consistent flavor from start to finish. A cigar's smoking characteristics should include an easy draw and a firm and evenly burning ash. The overall experience is a culmination of all of the above-mentioned factors. Another well-known cigar ratings source is the Independent Cigar Rating System.
The ICRS Pre-Smoke Rating takes into account the cigar wrapper appearance, the scent of the wrapper, the feel of the cigar and the flavor of the unlit cigar when determining cigar ratings. The ICRS Smoke Rating includes smoke flavors, flavor changes from start to finish, scent, the amount of cigar heat on fingers and mouth, the smoke draw and finish. Typical smoke flavors include field grass, lilac, plum, clove, cedar, burnt coffee and roasted nuts. The overall ICRS rating system scale goes from 0.1 to 10.0. Smoke Magazine also has a 10-point panelist review.
CigarGroup.com offers a long list of smaller cigar ratings and review Web sites. For example, the Stogie Guys have a Five-Cigar ratings system. They mince no words about what they think of Cigar Aficionado's 100-Point Rating System. The Stogie Guys know that determining cigar ratings is a highly subjective matter.
While many cigar smokers prefer access to quick and easy cigar ratings from popular sources like Cigar Aficionado magazine, other cigar smokers may prefer to compare and choose from a wide variety of cigar ratings as found at online cigar smoker forums such as Top25Cigar.com and Cigars Review.