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Stogie Commentary: A Reviewer’s Dilemma

17 Jan 2011

The other day I lit up a cigar I was looking forward to: a Los Blancos Nine Torpedo with a dark wrapper that’s said to be used just before turning to a full maduro.

The pre-light aroma was enticing and, when lit, the Nine produced lots of smoke and the six-inch stick burned slowly. From what I’d heard and read, I anticipated a ligero-powered, Nicaraguan sizzler.

Nope. What I found was a bland, one-dimensional cigar about which the only noticeable element I could find was a spicy finish. And therein lies my dilemma, expressed in a simple question with a not-so-simple answer: Do I want to review the Nine? There are any number of issues to consider.

First, I’d have to smoke at least a couple more because it wouldn‘t be fair to judge the cigar by one stick. I might want to seek them out at different shops, since it’s possible the box from which my Nine came had experienced some problem. That means I’d spend about $8.50 each for at least two more Nines and, perhaps more importantly, spend time going through cigars I probably won’t enjoy—two times. Since I rarely smoke more than one cigar a day, that means something to me.

The upshot of all this is that, while I’m always on the lookout for new cigars and a pretty high percentage of those I light up are done so with the idea of a review, in many cases it goes no further than the initial experience.

Here at, we take our reviewing seriously, and we try to be transparent. On the site, you’ll find a clear explanation of our ratings system. And earlier this year, one of my colleagues wrote at length about the nature of reviews.

I hope this sheds a little more light on the process.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

13 Responses to “Stogie Commentary: A Reviewer’s Dilemma”

  1. Foe Monday, January 17, 2011 at 2:01 am #

    It's pretty difficult to overcome the Law of First Impression.

    Besides, the typical cigar enthusiast judges a cigar based on the purchase of that single initial example.

    I think too many reviewers fall into that trap of thinking they have to give a cigar a "chance" via smoking multiple samples of the same size.

    IMO, if one is going to use that methodology, smoking each size in a line once is a far better way to judge a what a brand has to offer.

  2. Christopher Monday, January 17, 2011 at 5:16 am #

    I feel your pain. I picked up a Warlock from Altadis recently and found it to be disgusting. Contrary to many reviews, it tasted overwhelmingly herbal and grassy. Am I judging this cigar unfairly based on one encounter? I honestly don't want to spend another $8 to find out. And like you, my once daily cigar time is too precious to waste.

  3. Danny Principe Monday, January 17, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    That's unfortunate. But it sounds like you just got a dud. The Nine Lancero is a fantastic smoke. The other vitolas are still enjoyable, but don't even come close.

  4. Sticks Monday, January 17, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    I've had a few high priced sticks that were supposed to be the "Wow" cigar of the year and they were so bland, that I tossed them after the half way point. I have decided to go back and give each of these bum sticks another try just to see but then that brings up the matter of inconsistancy in production.

  5. Aaron Monday, January 17, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Great article, my time for smoking is limited, especially now in the midst of winter. If I don't get a decent first impression, I rarely go back.

  6. David A. Blanco Monday, January 17, 2011 at 9:04 am #


    I am disappointed to hear you had a less than desirable experience while smoking the LB NINE. What's more upsetting is that it was your first experience with the cigar. Having said that I understand how one could be apprehensive to try a second one. However, cigars are not all identical, that is to say, they are made by hand and not every one is perfect or the same. Sometimes you get what we call a "dud". Although it pains me to admit it, all manufacturers suffer from this since it is a hand-made product. The difference is the successful ones have fewer consistency issues. We pride ourselves in having great quality tobacco and construction constantly striving to minimize these issues. However, it inevitability happens from time to time. All we can hope is that you do try another from a different location and see if what I am telling you is the case. I wish you all the best and hope any future experience with Los Blancos is a pleasant one. God knows, we work very hard at it. Until we speak again, smoke in good health.


    David A. Blanco

    Vice President

    Los Blancos Cigar Company, Inc.

  7. Brian E Monday, January 17, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    I like to keep a personal journal of what I've smoked and *prefer* to not make decisions based on singles. The flip side of this is that buying pairs and 5 packs has lead to an overflowing humidor, so I have had to stop doing this. It's especially hard giving a cigar a second chance if it is so boring or unpleasant that you just know it's not you having an off day, or the storage, or the weather (I'm an outdoor smoker) or maybe this one stick is a bit mis-blended… As a result I have a fair number of cigars sitting around that I don't know what to do with. Some cigars can be almost literally unsmokable too, where you can see the roll is off-center or too tight around the outside, and sure enough once lit, they don't stay lit. How do you review that? Usually the ones I give the second chance to are the ones where I can detect better flavors lurking in the background or if they pop up once in a while.

    I've found the "more than one cigar" thing to cut both directions too. Occasionally I have given a mediocre cigar (but not a "bad" cigar) another try and found it to be surprisingly good. Once in a while though, I'll smoke the first cigar, judge it to be very good, and then smoke a second one only to be disappointed.

    My personal theory is that many cigars, especially cheaper ones, don't get reviewed (either semi-professionally or on simple user-review sites) because the initial impressions are so awful or bland that they don't make it to that second cigar or the reviewer can't generate enough enthusiasm (or words) to even write about how uninteresting it was.

  8. Dave in Ashburn Monday, January 17, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    I had a similar experience with a Padron Family Blend No. 45. I sat on it for over a year and broke it out over the last Christmas holiday. It was terrible. The taste was nothing like any Padron I've had before so I'm almost certain it was a dud. I'm now in the same boat as so many others – I'd love to try again, but at $26 each I'm somewhat gun shy.

  9. Ethan K Monday, January 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    Stogie Guys serves us quite well. I don't think we need you to risk more disappointment when you don't want to do so.

    You might occasionally post a list of "only-smoked-one" cigars that you did not like. We can discard the list or use it for reference at our own risk. Simple comments, like "bland" or "++tight draw" can be useful.

  10. George E. Monday, January 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    Wow, I'm really impressed with all the responses. Obviously, this topic touched a nerve with quite a few people. I'll definitely smoke at least another Nine before long. And thanks for all the comments.

  11. TriMarkC Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Ethan K has a good idea. A simple list of cigars that you have only smoked one-offs, with maybe 1 or a few words each, might be a nice solution.

  12. Quaker Monday, January 24, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    I try never to judge a particualr cigar based on "just one". I've had bad experiences with some cigars that have received 90+ from CA.

    I have smoked quite a few #9's and they are now up on the top of my favorite list. Better try another one as my friends and I all think the #9 is a full bodied very complex and enjoyable cigar. I just got a box from Famous and save it for special occasions.

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