Let’s start with something concrete – there is no absolute formula for selecting a great cigar. It’s somewhat a matter of taste, your level of sophistication, budget, how/where your pairing smoking that stick with food, friends and ambiance.
You can’t do a decent cigar review just smoking one stick. You’re just getting a quick hit and even if you draw out the smoke as long as possible you are not getting a great deal of information, as cigars can vary in quality individually in spite of what cigar manufacturers tell you.
How many cigars of a specific brand should you smoke? Hard call but think about testing 3-5 cigars one specific brand to get a real feel for the taste and consistency.
A great cigar review starts with assessing the construction: take a hard look at the construction of the cigar as you assess it. Why is construction so important for assessing a cigar. An under filled cigar with poor construction (the manufacturer skimped on the leaves), will draw easily, give you a hotter smoke which can impart more of a harsher flavor – an under filled cigar has too many air pockets. It’s going to burn very “hot.”
Conversely, an over filled cigar will be hard to draw on and may seem like it is plugged up and a hard to draw cigar will give you much lower volumes of smoke, with less taste and aroma. Great construction really defines a good cigar and any review should start with this assessment.
Other Characteristic Construction Elements for a Cigar Review Include:
- Does it burn evenly all the way down (it should)?
- The ash should be firm and get to at least half an inch with no difficulty; flaky loose ash is not a good thing.
- The cigar should have “good mouth” – you shouldn’t chew the end of a great cigar, it should feel firm in your mouth with some resiliency. Soft and mushy usually means cheap construction and a poorly made cigar.
- A great cigar should look good and feel good to the touch – details reflect quality manufacturing. Look for these. Aesthetics are import.
- Always get a sense for draw and burn when assessing a cigar.
Tobacco Stock and Fermentation Define a Quality Cigar
We’ve talked about the important of construction for a thorough cigar review, now lets focus on the important of tobacco. You want a cigar comprising high quality tobacco and blend, with a manufacturer that either grows or sources high quality tobacco, with sufficient deep pockets to stock up on and source high quality leaf stock that will get them through a “lean year” when weather has negated the quality of tobacco.
- Cheap is never the same as quality and if your manufacturer is scrimping on the actual tobacco used in your cigar it’s going to be obvious.
- A sign of low quality tobacco: harsh, rough smoke experience, must taste with a penetrating aroma that’s offensive to anyone smelling it.
- Fermentation means laying down the leavers in bulk, which develop heat in the center and a manufacturer should not let this temperature exceed 130 degrees. And, the tobacco needs to be rotated properly to ensure proper fermentation.
- If you smoke a box of cigars and the taste is harsh or bitter on the tongue, lips and mouth, the cigar keeps going out too easily you are probably the victim of poor fermentation during the manufacturing process and your humidor is not to blame.
Cigar Wrappers have a Huge Impact on the Overall Quality of Your Cigar
Your Cigar Wrapper should be paired with the right filter and binder. You have to holistically think about all of the ingredients that go into a great cigar, not just the wrapper by itself. The filler and the binders should be from the same seed variety and foliage level – if these are well matched, then the wrapper will impact the overall taste of the cigar, assuming the filler and binders are of good quality. Think about the correlation of the wrapper and the filler and binder – these are critical.
Let’s Talk About Price and a Great Cigar
Is the cost of your cigar indicative of a great cigar? Some think so. But, high priced cigars don’t always taste better than a lower cost cigar.
Remember a high priced cigar is hand made and it’s subject to the same construction idiosyncrasies as a “mass produced” cigar – again, price does not always correlate with quality. You’re paying for the fancy packaging, individual aluminum or glass tubes, fancy cedar or mahogany boxes with exotic linings or materials.
As earlier in this post, the greatest contributors to a great cigar are construction and tobacco – you can find a high quality cigar that does not cost you the proverbial arm and a leg. It’s a caveat emptor world and price does not always correlate with quality.
Cigars are just like fine wine, especially when you think about cost versus enjoyment. Some think a $150 bottle of wine is superior in every way to $25 bottle of wine; but, in blind comparison tests the results are much different from what the experts would tell you.
This holds true for cigars as well – a box of cigars that cost you $125 may taste wonderful and remember you’re subjective analysis of a cigar is just that: “subjective” analysis is often tempered by how you correlate cost with quality.
No one, even those of us who manufacture tobacco products (small plug) can tell you what a great cigar is. Cigar reviews are subjective and quality, price, your experience level and consumption habits define what makes a great cigar!
Yes, you should take a hard look at construction of the cigar; the tobacco used in it and the fermentation process, the cigar wrapper, the feel and most importantly the taste. These are important guidelines for any cigar