How to Rate a Cigar Like a Pro

Reading reviews on cigar blog sites, online cigar forums, cigar magazines such as Cigar Aficionado or Cigar Journal, or reviews on cigar websites such as our Staff Picks, can seem overwhelming. How do these reviewers know so much? However, rating or reviewing a cigar is not as complicated as it seems.

Keep in mind these reviewers have been doing this for a while. It has taken them years to develop their sense of smell and taste so they can detect the rich flavors and aromas found in premium cigars. Learning how to pick up on these flavors is a skill that can be developed but it will require both practice (the fun part!) and patience. 

Remember: everyone’s ability to perceive flavors and scents is not the same. When smoking the same cigar as your favorite reviewer, don’t get discouraged if you cannot detect the flavor of the “buttered blueberry muffins your grandmother used to bake on Sunday mornings.”  

To help you get started on how to rate or review a cigar like a pro we prepared these five basic tips. Bonus tip number six: remember to have fun with it. Every time you smoke a cigar try to discern a new flavor or aroma. Think of it as a scavenger hunt. 

Appearance: Physically inspect the cigar. Does the wrapper have a stem? Are there any holes in the wrapper? Does the wrapper have a grainy pattern (they resemble tiny goosebumps)? This means the wrapper is toothy, which is a good thing. The teeth (bumps) are pockets of oil and considered a source of flavor.  Is the head or foot misshapen? 

Aroma: Hold the cigar close to your nose (prior to lighting). Take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Do this at the foot and along the length of the cigar’s body. Do you detect any aromas? What are they? What do they remind you of? 

Draw: There are two types of draws. The cold draw is done after you cut the cigar. An effortless cold draw means the cigar’s smoke will flow easily. However, it should not be loose like sucking through a straw. With some cigars, you might feel a little resistance. You should be able to pick up some flavor notes when performing a cold draw. Once lit, you can test the cigar’s draw with each puff. Usually, the smoke will flow easier as the heat from the foot starts opening the cigar.  If the draw feels too tight, try gently massaging the body. This should help loosen it up. 

Taste: As you puff on the cigar, focus on picking up the cigar’s various flavors and aromas. The more notes you can identify the more complexity the cigar has. Also look for transitions. This is when a cigar starts out spicy and slowly changes to sweetness. Does the flavor(s) and aroma evoke a memory? For example: does it remind you of a freshly mowed lawn? This could mean the cigar has a grassy profile. Keep in mind that this is a skill that takes time to develop.

Burn: If your cigar does not burn evenly and requires touch ups, it usually means it was not cut or lit properly. Refer to our video on how to light a cigar. 

In summary, learning how to rate a cigar is not as hard as it seems. To get you started remember these basic points: Appearance, Aroma, Draw, Taste, Burn, and Fun. And, of course, patience and lots of practice! 

Published on June 30, 2023.
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