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Aging, Tasting, and Rating Cigars


Q: Why does my favorite cigar taste different than described in reviews?

A: The same cigar can taste different to different smokers, and can also taste different to the same smoker at different times. We all have different tastes, so there is no need to explore that question any further. However, many factors can affect how the same cigar (even cigars from the same box) can taste to the same individual during different smoking sessions.

Consistency of Cigar Tobacco and Manufacture

Cigars are made by hand, and not only do different rollers have different skill levels, the same person rolling cigars for eight hours per day will make some cigars better than others. In addition, all tobacco leaves are somewhat unique, even those coming from the same farm (and even from the same plant). And just like wine, every year brings a new crop or harvest, and every harvest is different from the previous year. It is amazing how some brands of cigars can maintain a relatively high level of consistency, year after year. And, it is also understandable why some brands can be somewhat inconsistent.

Storing and Aging Cigars

Proper care of the finished cigars after they leave the factory is also important. Improper shipping, handling, or storage can affect the quality of the cigar before you remove the packaging and put the cigar in your humidor. At this point, it is up to you to maintain the proper conditions inside your humidor. Most premium cigars will improve dramatically by aging them for at least a few months to a year, in a properly maintained humidor.

Rating a Cigar That Is Changing

It is hard to hit a moving target, especially when you are moving, too. It is even harder to consistently rate the same cigar when your palate is changing, and the cigar was manufactured under different conditions and aged for different periods of time. Not only will a cigar smoker's palate develop over time, but other factors, such as what beverage you drink while smoking the cigar, will influence your opinion of that particular smoke. Therefore, it is not unusual to enjoy your favorite cigar to different degrees at different times.

Rating a Single Cigar

This brings us to an interesting conclusion about those of us who rate cigars. Most of us cannot smoke a couple boxes (or more) of the same cigar under different conditions over a period of time before we write a review. Otherwise, we could only write a couple of reviews per year. When judging a single stick, the reviewer should have aged the cigar for at least several months to a year before smoking. However, with a review based on only one smoke, the effect of aging on that particular cigar is missed completely. I have purchased many boxes or bundles of cigars over the years, and have noticed differences between various brands. For example, in my opinion, the Baccarat Luchadores (Compare Prices) and the Roly #2 Maduro (Compare Prices) taste great right out of the box, but seem to lose some of their unique characteristics after aging. This is rare, because most cigars improve after they are aged. My solution was to store these two brands in my humidor inside of the cello tubes.

Cigar Rating Experiment

Despite some inconsistencies, most cigar reviews are worth reading, and can provide valuable guidance in selecting cigars to smoke for the first time. Although there are many variables in the rating process (discussed above), one of the biggest is the effect of aging. Therefore, as an ongoing experiment, I will select a box or bundle of cigars to rate over a period of time right here on cigars.about.com. Periodically, I will smoke one of these cigars and post my experiences for all to read in our free newsletter, and in the blog on our front page. However, the full review and final rating of this cigar will not be made until all cigars in the box or bundle are gone. The cigar selected for this test will taste raw and somewhat harsh right out of the box, but have the potential to improve greatly with age. If you are wondering how this experiment will progress, get our free newsletter and don't miss out on all the updates. In addition, you will receive the latest cigar news, features, and useful cigar info right in your inbox every Thursday afternoon. The results of our test smokes conducted thus far are available here, so check it out!

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