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Cigar Tips and Tricks

Cigar 101: Vertical Brand Tastings, Explained

When it comes to cigars, size matters. And vertical tastings—where we rate an entire brand at once—will show the best and worst cigars across the line
Nov 4, 2022 | By Garrett Rutledge
Cigar 101: Vertical Brand Tastings, Explained

At Cigar Aficionado, we often reference “vertical brand tastings.” For some, this phrase doesn’t need explaining, but for others, especially those of you newer to cigar smoking, it might not be clear. The following is a primer on the process and why it matters when evaluating cigar lines.

Vertical brand tastings can be seen in each issue of Cigar Insider, our twice-monthly newsletter that offers reviews on the newest releases in the cigar industry. When we conduct a vertical brand tasting, we evaluate every size and shape, or vitola, within a particular cigar brand. Each size and shape is taste-tested and rated to give a score to each cigar in the line. Such tastings are more often done for new cigar brand releases, however, they can also be done as a way to revisit well-established lines already on the market. 

A common misconception among some cigar smokers is the assumption that all cigars in a cigar brand perform at the same level. But even if a blend is identical on paper (for example, Mexican San Andrés wrapper, Ecuadoran binder, Nicaraguan and Dominican filler) the difference in size from one cigar to the next will require slight to severe modifications of the amount of tobaccos in each smoke. Furthermore, changes in ring gauge or the addition of a taper add more influence, even as subtle as how the smoke is directed on the palate. For example, if a Churchill from a new cigar line scores a 93, that doesn’t automatically mean a robusto from the same blend of tobaccos will perform the same. This variation among vitolas with a cigar brand can be seen below, in a vertical brand tasting we did for Cohiba Maduro in our June 7, 2022 edition of Cigar Insider.

Cohiba Maduro Vertical Brand Tasting

Sometimes, the difference between different shapes and sizes in a blend can be stark, other times, not so much. Vertical brand tastings that show high scores across the board reflect a level of consistency and talent we often find from the most talented cigar companies. This is why vertical brand tastings are such a crucial endeavor when it comes to evaluating a line of cigars. 

When the Cigar Aficionado tasting panel conducts a vertical brand tasting, the tastings are done blind, just like every other cigar rating conducted for this magazine or newsletter. 

To see future vertical brand tastings, subscribe to Cigar Insider.

Read Next: The ABCs of Cigars

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