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Commentary: Checking the Year-End Cigar Lists

11 Jan 2016

For one cigar company, the biggest gift of the year doesn’t come under the Christmas tree but at the top of Cigar Aficionado’s annual Top 25. This year, the legendary García family scored the win with their My Father Le Bijou 1922 Box-Pressed Torpedo.

Interestingly, My Father also took the top spot on Cigar Snob’s list, but it was the El Centurion H-2K-CT Toro that landed there. Cigar Journal’s number one choice was the Eiroa Classic Prensado, which did not appear on the other two lists.

As sure as winter brings cold weather, year’s end brings a seemingly endless array of rankings of cigars from magazines, blogs, and podcasts. Smokers argue about their value and validity, but you can’t deny the lists can make a difference in sales., by the way, doesn’t do a best-of list. Even with three regular smokers, we know it’s possible to evaluate only so many cigars, so we opt to present, without ranking, what we found to be the best we had during the year, and those that came very close.

Unquestionably, the most discussion of lists centers on the industry’s 800-pound gorilla, Cigar Aficionado. Love it, hate it, follow it, or ignore it, there’s no denying that a top rating by the slick publication moves the market like no other. Just ask Alec Bradley or Oliva. This year, perhaps CA’s most controversial topic of conversation was choosing General’s CAO Flathead V660 Carb at the number three spot.

I spent some time going through a number of the lists, especially those from CA, Snob, and Journal, as well as looking at some past rankings.

The first thing that jumped out at me was CA’s 2013 list. There at number nineteen was that same My Father Le Bijou 1922 Box-Pressed Torpedo that was tops this time. Last year, the highest a Pepín/My Father-branded smoke made it was seventeen. Of course, the My Father crew works with numerous brand owners, such as Tatuaje and Ashton, which often rank highly, and García’s Flor de las Antillas Toro was the top pick of 2012.

A noticeable oddity: Bringing up the rear of both CA and Journal’s Top 25 lists was the same boutique cigar: Sublimes Robusto Extra. Almost as close were the magazines’ rankings for La Boheme Pittore. Journal put it at eleven, CA one notch lower.

One of the most anticipated cigars of 2015—Steve Saka’s Sobremesa—didn’t place on any of the three lists. Another hot debut smoke, El Güegüense, from Saka’s fellow former Drew Estate colleague Nick Melillo, was only on Snob’s list, at twelve.

On the other hand, the blog Blind Man’s Puff had El Güegüense first and Sobremesa second. And Stogie Review’s Ben Lee rated them fourth (Sobremesa) and third (El Güegüense).

But just to show how much cigar preferences are a matter of personal taste, Lee’s top smoke was the Avo Syncro Nicaragua Toro. That same smoke was sixteen on CA’s list and didn’t show at all on the Snob or Journal selections.

Padrón, the brand cited often by many tobacconists as their best seller, had a cigar on each of the three magazine lists. Again, though, the ratings illustrate the variations in taste. CA rated the Padrón Family Reserve 50 Years Natural at five, Journal put the Maduro version at two, and Snob went for the Padrón Damaso No. 8 at fifteen.

Whatever your feelings about year-end lists, they are invariably a good place to start when you’re looking for new smokes. At the least, you know someone thought they were good.

George E

photo credit: N/A

8 Responses to “Commentary: Checking the Year-End Cigar Lists”

  1. LeonH1964 Monday, January 11, 2016 at 9:32 am #

    Interesting perspective, George. One question: You say…

    “, by the way, doesn’t do a best-of list. Even with three regular smokers, we know it’s impossible to evaluate only so many cigars, so we opt to present, without ranking, what we found to be the best we had during the year, and those that came very close.”

    How is presenting the best (and almost best) you had during the year any different than publishing a best-of list? Is it because you don’t rank the cigars, just list them?

    • George E Monday, January 11, 2016 at 11:03 am #

      Leon – I’d say the lack of ranking is a major difference. Our 4.5 and 5 stogies cigars are only the best of what we chose to smoke. And there’s no limit or boundaries on what we smoke during the year. Naturally, we smoke a lot of new cigars so we can inform readers about them, but we also review ones that have been around a long time. In 2014, for example, I gave the Paul Garmirian Reserva Exclusive Churchill 5 stogies. We’d reviewed the robusto in that line seven years earlier.

      • LeonH1964 Monday, January 11, 2016 at 11:12 am #

        Gotcha. Thanks.

  2. Patrick A Monday, January 11, 2016 at 11:15 am #

    This is as good a time as any to recall a piece my colleague wrote years ago about the merits of a cigar review. Keep these truths in mind as you peruse all the best-of lists.

  3. George e Monday, January 11, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    If you want still more lists, Halfwheel published its Consensus Top 25 today:

  4. JMac Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

    Wow, a commentary on consensus. This is a big win for the cigar marketing gurus. They just about have control of the cigar blogosphere. Just hand out a few free cigars and buy some advertising and , voila, you’ve got buzz and recognition. Have you looked at the lists? Have you looked at the website sidebars? Granted, anyone who desires to comment or critique cigars online is a fanboy of one ilk or another. Funny how it all falls in to place come the end of the year. Until the FDA weighs in one way or another, I don’t recommend falling in love with the latest and greatest. Hope your humidors are full of your favorites.

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