As I mentioned the other month, Stogie Press will be moving to a rating based review system starting at this years IPCPR. I wanted to take a moment and explain some of the critical construction parameters we will be judging cigar samples on. We talk about construction because that is what provides a pleasurable smoking experience beyond the flavor. Don’t get me wrong here, flavor is important, but it is subjective and in another article I will discuss that specific parameter in more detail.
- Ash – The ash is a key component to a quality cigar. A proper ash, one that is at least an inch long before dropping helps to cool and soften the smoke. But the length of the ash is related to the quality of the leaf used in the construction and an indication of a properly rolled cigar. This attention to quality we consider an important component in rating a cigar and it is evident in the length and density of the ash. Also, a flaky ash is a messy ash and that has a direct impact on enjoyment in my mind. So we will pay attention to the ash construction in our rating.
- Burn Cone – When the ash falls or when you tap the ash while smoking you should notice a cone at the foot of the cigar. You have seen me write about that in my reviews. Sometimes that cone is non-existent while other times it is pointy like the tip of a pen or the head of a torpedo. Both of these cone types are not what one should see in a high quality cigar. The best cone is one that has the shape of a strawberry or rose bud. This type of burn cone shows that the combustion is perfect in the cigar and the ligero leaf is properly centered in the bunching. Ligero is a thicker leaf and burns longer than the viso or seco leaf typically used in binders and other filler tobacco. Getting that perfect rose bud shape with a centered nub will score the highest points in this category. You may ask why does it matter if I like the taste? Well, that may be true, but if the bud was proper you would more likely enjoy more consistent flavor, but you would not know that in the cigar you are enjoying.
- Burn Quality – Nothing is more frustrating than having to touch up your cigar because the burn goes off or worse starts to canoe or tunnel in. Once you light your cigar it should never see the heat of a flame again. Each time you hit a flame to it, the cigar leaf charcoals and that has a direct impact on the flavor not to mention the enjoyment of the smoking experience. This is by far one of the major point reductions we will be taking in our judgment rating. You paid good money for a cigar you should expect a pleasant journey for your money.
- Ash Color – This is a tough one. The color of the ash has a direct relation to the soil and nutrient content the plant is grown in. But an ash color also is tied to the combustion of the leaf that makes up the cigar. Here we get into pure science. When an ash is dark it has not burned all the organic components in the leaf. This translates to flavor or better said, minimized flavor. Flavor from a cigar comes for those organic elements in the leaf so if the ash is anything other than white (all organic elements have combusted) then the cigar could have offered more flavor. Once again, if you like the flavor who cares, right? True, but wouldn’t it be better if you got the full flavor the cigar had a potential to deliver? We will be judging the ash color but not a heavily as other construction components.
- Loose Seams – You need to examine your cigar and see how well it is rolled. If the seam along the barrel is not tight, air can get into the cigar through those seams and impact the burn. Most likely the burn will be off centered and you will not be getting the full flavor potential of the cigar.
- Cracked Wrapper – This is one of my pet peeves when smoking a cigar. Everything is going fine and then suddenly the wrapper cracks and the cigar filler expands. This is normally the result of the aging of the cigar (not letting the moisture in the cigar properly expel before shipping) or the cigar was over packed and the wrapper was too thin to hold back the natural expansion of the filler as it burns. Either way, this is something the brand owner should be aware of and properly test in their quality control before releasing the cigar to market. As this is something I see rarely, this judging parameter will weigh heavy in the review rating.
- Plugged – Well what can I say, this is a terrible thing to happen to a premium cigar. I don’t use plug removers as the cigar should speak for itself in a review. So if this happens, major point deductions! Now of course, like many of these other construction parameters they are based on a product that is hand constructed and errors do happen. If I have more than one sample to experience and this issue only happens in one, the deduction would be much less. I also would say when it comes to a plugged cigar, please do a draw test on every cigar you make to improve quality.
- Soft Spots – Before I light a cigar I will check the firmness fo the cigar. It should not be rock hard or spongy. A light spring is fine. Once I ignite it and begin the journey, that firm cigar may develop a spongy feel to it and that is also not good as it tells me the filler was not bunched correctly. Either way, there is normally a burn issue with the cigar.
We welcome any comments or input from consumers and brand owners on these parameters between now and July 1st.
In future articles leading up to the IPCPR I will talk about flavor and aroma while also discussing price to enjoyment. The last article will then explain the overall rating system, Stogie Press will be using to judge cigars based on these parameters.