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Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Succinct Critique Of The Cigar Review Industry

Cigar reviews and ratings attract eyeballs - both on the internet and through magazines.  Furthermore, cigar reviews and ratings drive sales with online cigar vendors and retail tobacconists.  It is indisputable that Cigar Aficionado pioneered the cigar review with their 100 point scale in the early 1990's and in doing so they transformed the premium cigar industry.  Since then, there have been countless consumer and trade magazines following their lead, creating their own versions of ratings and reviews.  The internet has also provided innumerable opportunities for companies and consumers to post their own reviews, both in written and video form.  Today, there are so many review blogs, websites, and social media channels that it can be overwhelming to both newbies and professionals.  Unfortunately, quantity does not equal quality.  There are good and bad reviewers; people who know things and communicate well and those that don't.  On a positive note, if you find reviews that 'speak to you', that you can relate to, that you understand, then you will find your appreciation of premium cigars enhanced.

A good review will expand your product knowledge and enhance your experience - a great accomplishment!  From a business perspective, the rewards of a good review are even better because they drive sales and that is what motivates companies.

Money Bias
Our reference to the "Cigar Review Industry" in the title of this article is important to note.  Many reviewers on the internet and in magazines receive free products and/or advertising money.  This creates an unavoidable conflict of interest.  Money and relationships influence reviews.

Rating System Dissonance
In the wine and cigar industry, the 100 point scale seems contrived because you get 50 to 70 points just for being a wine or cigar - that seems silly.  Other review platforms use a five star system like yelp or amazon, and that too has its limitations.  Simply put, we probably wouldn't smoke a cigar that rated a 70 or 3.5 stars, but that is a shame, because a 7 out of 10 is well above 'middle of the road'.    

Taste & Price Conundrum
Always remember taste is subjective and everyone's palate and preferences are different.  Similarly, price is a relative concept.  One person's everyday twenty dollar cigar is another's unattainable dream.  We all view money differently, so that plays a role in how we value and evaluate a cigar.   

Ecosystem Inclination
Once you start following certain reviews and they have served you well, you will tend to stick with those.  Your favorite facebook group, mail order company, or youtube review channel may be limiting your options or opportunity to learn about other cigars.  They may also be perpetuating misinformation and biases.  The reviews you follow may have limitations that you are not aware of.  They exist in a very narrow bandwidth of a large industry.  Just consider that there are thousands of cigars on the market and one, two or three reviewers couldn't begin to do justice to all those products.  

Educational Perspective
This issue is very much in the TU wheelhouse... you don't know what you don't know!  There are too many reviewers misusing words like strength, body, and spice; many don't know what a maduro is; and still others can't properly cut a cigar.  The improper use of language and words without establishing fundamental definitions destroys the value of a review, but you wouldn't know that if you don't have a fundamental education.

In an effort to be brief, we will let this article come to an end... consider it a breadcrumb foreshadowing a revolution in tasting, reviewing, and cigar ratings... coming soon...