Every year that we run the Top 25, we watch the page views creep ever closer to a threshold that, for us, is the magic number: ONE MILLION. In previous years, we’ve come so close—oh, so close. But this year, we surpassed it, with room to spare. Today. So, first of all, this is a thank you to all you cigar smokers, and cigar lovers, and folks just interested in the world of cigars—you are the ones who made this possible.
But let me give you an idea of where you are all from. Since we started the top 10 countdown last Wednesday, we have had visitors from more than 160 countries. Yes, the bulk of them, more than 70 percent, come from the United States. But the list includes Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Switzerland, Denmark, Brazil, Ecuador, Luxembourg, Jordan, Israel, Togo, and yes, even Angola and Burkina Faso.
We have always believed that cigar lovers have their own global community. But now the hard evidence is out there. I’m sure you’ve all experienced a moment when you are traveling, with a cigar in your hand, when someone walks up to you and asks, “What are you smoking?” It’s not a question that comes from someone not familiar with cigars. It is a cigar smoker’s question.
We also know that in the United States, the cigar community crosses all kinds of barriers: political, religious, regional, gender and socioeconomic. The Brotherhood of the Leaf (BOTL) that so many of you identify with is a cross-section of America and of the world. At our Big Smokes, for instance, you witness hedge fund guys chatting with police and firemen, women describing their favorite cigar and just plain folks from all walks of life enjoying a great smoke in a setting with like-minded people.
The Top 25 is more than an expression of that community—it is the industry’s Oscars. The first week of January is the moment when the entire cigar world pauses to gauge Cigar Aficionado’s take on the best cigars of the year. Not everyone agrees with us, of course, but that’s part of what makes it interesting. We do take the 700 to 800 cigars we smoke every year (the calendar for the Top 25 runs from October to October); we choose the best scoring cigars that represent a cross-section of brands from different countries and different manufacturers, and then we put them through several rounds of blind-tastings to come up with the final list. We do weigh different factors in choosing that list, but in the end, it is a real playoff among the best cigars of the previous year.
I’d like to say we hope you enjoy the list. But it’s clear from the traffic that you do.