There’s something new in your most recent Cigar Aficionado magazine. The January/February issue, which hit newsstands this week, has a new and improved tasting section, with more information than ever before.
We’ve added a strength field to our tastings, so now every cigar that we rate not only shows dimensions, price, blend, country of origin and score, but also the power of the cigar. There are five categories of strength, from mild all the way up to full and everything in between.
We made the change to provide a rating that goes beyond the score. I’m the kind of guy who smokes quite a variety of cigars, but my typical smoke ranges from medium bodied all the way up to full. I know plenty of people who only smoke milder cigars, and I have friends who are only interested in powerhouses. This change was meant to help you find the cigar that best suits your palate. For someone who only likes easygoing cigars, an 89-point mild cigar is probably a better fit than a full-bodied 94-pointer.
In addition to adding the strength category, we have replaced the magazine’s tasting index with a more extensive buying guide. The old index simply took all the cigars from the issue, arranged them by country of origin, then ranked them from highest to lowest score. This new buying guide lists the top scores of the issue—regardless of country of origin—then shows standout cigars arranged by strength. You’ll find the top-rated stronger cigars, the highest-rated medium-bodied cigars and the top ratings for those looking for a milder smoke.
We are also taking a closer look at values, based on the strong feedback we get from our Top 25. One of the most popular features of the Top 25 is our Best Buys, so we decided to include it in each issue rather than simply once a year. The buying guide shows you the best values of the issue, and in the February’s Cigar Aficionado you’ll see a list of cigars ranging in score from 88 to 90 points, with prices ranging from $5.20 to $6.59 per cigar, before taxes. That’s a great deal, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to find a great buy in the cigar world. We even added a Best Buy category in the front of the book.
This is only the second major change to our tastings since 2001. In December 2012, we added a new category, Grandes, to reflect the fat cigars that are now a major part of the cigar market. Back in the April 2001 issue we moved from tasting one size of cigar per issue to multiple sizes.
While these things have changed, one very important thing remains the same—the method of rating cigars in Cigar Aficionado and Cigar Insider. The cigars we rate are bought at retail (we spend a tremendous amount of money on cigars), removed of their identifying bands, given a code and a generic, numbered band and passed out to a panel of senior tasters by a tasting coordinator who is not a part of the tasting panel. The cigars are smoked blind, meaning the editors conducting the reviews do not know the brand name, price, country of origin or any other detail about the cigar.
That’s the only way to legitimately rate a cigar. It’s the only way we’ve ever done it, and the only way we will ever do it. While some things may change, that’s one thing that we’ll never change here at Cigar Aficionado magazine.