The long-awaited annual ranking of Cigar Aficionado magazine is a long and laborious process that lasts the entire year.
Indeed, on every day of the year that passes, the veteran smokers involved in the process—the editors of the magazine and the editors of the newsletter—sample the cigars that the tasting coordinator buys in retail stores. This tasting is done blind since, before the tasting panel, made up of five members, receives the cigar, the original rings have been replaced with a simple number band and a code has been created to identify it.
There are four categories of classification of cigars: appearance, characteristics when being smoked, flavor and general impression. Each category is scored with a maximum of 25 points, which are then added to obtain the final score of the cigar, whose maximum score is 100. In the event that, in the initial round, the score of a cigar reveals variations that exceed a 15 to 20%, the tasting starts again.
This process of evaluating the cigars is done in the most objective way possible, trying to make them stand out on their own merits, without any consideration of the brand, the country of origin, the type of leaves with which they are made, or the prices.
What is the dynamic to select the first 25 cigars of the year?
As the selection process is continuous, to choose the best qualified cigars of the year, several steps are followed.
The cigars that obtained at least 90 points during the tastings of the year are reviewed and with them the first round of a new tasting is assembled.
They are bought again, the band is changed and they are smoked again without the tasters knowing the identity of the cigar.
The highest scoring cigars are smoked against each other over multiple rounds, until the number is reduced to 25 cigars.
Finally, a new list of 25 cigars is drawn up: the cigar of the year and the remaining 24.
Normally, the winner is the cigar with the highest score, although the panel reserves the right to award the highest award to a finalist with other factors that may weigh in their favour. For example, if it is new to the market, if it has an attractive price, if it shows a subjective quality, or if there is something about it that sets it apart from others.
Some interesting facts
Since its inception in 1992, Cigar Aficionado considered it necessary to provide consumers with information that would help them choose their cigars in the vast tobacco market. For this reason, they presented their first tasting in the Fall of that same year.
When the premium cigar market boomed in 1995, they found it necessary to publish a newsletter to broaden coverage. They called it Cigar Insider and it began to circulate in January 1996. The criteria behind it is to complement the work of the magazine by providing different information. For example, it rates entire brands and provides cigar line information size by size, while the magazine rates the cigars on their own.
The Top 25 is made from the highest ranked cigars during the year, both from the magazine and from the newsletter.