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Like last year, I’m going to start off the Awards Week at halfwheel with a look back at some of the data from 2020. I guess I should also start with a disclosure: for the purposes of this article, last year is a reference to 2019.

This is only the second year I’ve published this data in an article like this, so much of this is to see how things changed particularly given the complications of 2020 forced us to adjust the schedule by which we review cigars. What’s most interesting about this data is how similar much of it is to 2019. But the next most interesting factoid is that despite us modifying our review schedule for a couple months to schedule less cigar reviews, we actually reviewed 36 more cigars in 2020 than in 2019.

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The reason for this improvement is simple: we didn’t travel as much.

In order for us to produce our reviews, it takes one person smoking three samples of the same cigar. That is challenging enough as it is when you are responsible for writing two of those reviews per week and want to try to smoke cigars on a clean palate, but once you start traveling it gets much more complicated. The lack of travel after February meant that Brooks and, particularly I (Charlie) dramatically improved the consistency in which our reviews are published. Furthermore, we also typically take a few weeks off from reviewing around the annual PCA Convention & Trade Show, something that didn’t happen in 2019.

THE BIG PICTURE

In 2020 we published 273 reviews with an average score of 87.22, which is just one-tenth of a point lower than last year.

For a normal review, i.e. the ones published Tuesday-Sunday, we try to smoke three samples per review. For redux reviews and many of our Holy Grail Week reviews, it’s usually only one sample, which oftentimes produces a different distribution of scores.

Here’s the average score for each of those categories:

  • Regular Reviews: 87.01 (87.23 last year)
  • Redux Reviews: 88.41 (88.77)
  • Holy Grail Week Reviews: 86.33 (81.67)

As you can see, there’s remarkable consistency in the regular and redux review numbers compared to 2019. What’s quite different is the Holy Grail Week reviews, which isn’t surprising given the 2019 Holy Grail Week had some pretty low scores, though I imagine 2021 is probably going to be even lower than 2020 on that front.

At halfwheel, the most important score is 91. If a cigar scores 91 or greater and meets some other qualifications, it’s eligible for our Top 25. We had 53 cigars score 91 or above, though many of those were redux reviews or older cigars that would not meet those qualifications.

In 2019 there were only 13 cigars that scored 92 or greater, that number increased to 24 in 2020. What’s interesting about that is it really just a concentrated increase in cigars scoring 92 versus a widespread distribution of scores more than 91 points. For example, there were just seven cigars that scored 93 or above compared to five in 2019.

There wasn’t as stark of an increase in scores at the bottom end of the table. Only 11 cigars—roughly 4 percent—scored below 80. That’s an increase from the eight in 2019, which was roughly 3.3 percent.

REVIEWERS BY NUMBERS

Patrick retains his crown for most reviews published in a year, I retain the crown for being the toughest scorer.

  • Brooks — 87.25 Average (89 Reviews)
  • Charlie — 86.41 Average (90 Reviews)
  • Patrick — 87.98 Average (94 Reviews)

While I might be the toughest grader, I’m responsible for the highest score (97) and one of two instances of the second-highest score (94). Patrick was the only reviewer to score a cigar 93 points, he did it four times. I was also responsible for the two lowest scores—a 65 and a 66—as well as the eight out of the 10 lowest scores.

I’m not particularly thrilled with the lattermost fact as that means I had way more shittier cigar experiences than Brooks and Patrick combined.

Just to reiterate, none of us actually know what the scores are going to be until after the reviews are finished. While we certainly know whether or not the cigar will “do well” or “do poorly,” it’s not as if Patrick was trying to give 93 point ratings.

Country Number of Cigars Reviewed Average Score
Brazil 1 88
Costa Rica 3 76.33
Cuba 21 84.71
Dominican Republic 63 87
Honduras 23 88.26
Italy 1 86
Mexico 1 87
Nicaragua 139 87.63
Undisclosed 10 87.8
USA 11 88.55

BY COUNTRY

Out of all the various conclusions that can be drawn from this data, the most startling to me is the following: in 2019 we reviewed 129 cigars that weren’t from Nicaragua, in 2020 that number was 134. It’s a remarkably consistent number, though it means that the percentage of cigars reviewed from Nicaragua decreased slightly from 52.74 percent to 50.92 percent.

I’m a bit surprised that we reviewed more Honduran cigars in 2020 than 2019, particularly consider how coronavirus restrictions had a much greater impact in Honduras than elsewhere.

As I said last year, I’d like to review more Cuban cigars. We are trying, but it’s tough given how Habanos S.A. seems to be releasing new items these days, i.e. way less supply than demand.

Company Average Count
7-20-4 81 1
A.J. Fernandez 85.67 3
ACE Prime 84 1
ADVentura 90 3
AGANORSA Leaf 87.75 4
Agio 87 1
Alec Bradley 88.5 4
All Saints 91 1
Altadis U.S.A. 88.13 8
Arturo Fuente 84 3
Ashton 85 1
Big Sky 84 1
Black Label Trading Co. 86.33 3
Casa Turrent 87 1
Casdagli 82 2
Cavalier Genève 89.25 4
Cigar Culture 88 1
CLE 90 1
Crowned Heads 88.14 7
Crux 88 1
Cubariqueño 89 1
Curivari 92 1
Daniel Marshall 87 1
Dapper 84.5 2
Davidoff of Geneva USA 89.06 16
De Los Reyes 89 1
Debonaire 91 1
Dissident 88 1
Drew Estate 87.83 6
Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust 89.57 7
E.P. Carrillo 87.4 5
El Artista 89 1
El Septimo 65 1
Emilio 89 2
Epic 88 1
Espinosa 88 2
Esteban Carreras 86 1
Falto 86 1
Foundation 90.33 3
Fratello 83 2
General Cigar Co. 86.82 11
GTO 82 1
Gurkha 87.67 3
Habanos S.A. 84.41 22
Hiram & Solmon 85 1
HVC 85 2
Illusione 90.67 3
Indianhead 79 1
Isabela 87 1
Island Jim 90 1
J.C. Newman 88.5 2
Jake Wyatt 80.5 2
Jas Sum Kral 84 1
Joya de Nicaragua 91.33 6
JRE 88.33 3
Kristoff 89 1
La Aurora 89 3
La Familia Robaina 84 1
La Flor Dominicana 90 5
Lars Tetens 84 1
Miami Cigar & Co. 90 1
Micallef 83 1
Mombacho Cigars S.A. 87.5 2
MoyaRuiz 87 1
My Father 86.8 5
Nat Sherman International 89 2
Oliva 87.5 2
Oscar Valladares 88 2
Padilla 90 1
Padrón 87 2
Patina 90 1
Patoro 89 3
Paul Garmirian 89 1
Paul Stulac 80 1
Perdomo 85.33 3
Plasencia 90 1
Platinum Nova 84 1
Powstanie 89.5 2
Principle 84 1
Quesada 80 3
Rocky Patel 88.67 6
Rojas 89 2
RoMa Craft Tobac 89.63 8
Room101 89 2
Southern Draw 89 1
Tabacalera S.L.U. 86 2
Tarazona 81 1
Tatuaje 88.67 12
Toscano 86 1
Ventura 84.5 2
Viaje 86.17 12
Villiger 87.3333333333 3
Warped 86.14 7

BY Company

If you’ve been paying attention to halfwheel’s annual awards for the last few years, it should come as no surprise that Joya de Nicaragua manages to take the top spot in terms of companies where we reviewed at least two cigars.

Congrats to Joya, Foundation, Illusione and RoMa Craft Tobac for making the top eight again, the consistency is impressive.

  1. Joya de Nicaragua (91.33)
  2. Illusione (90.67)
  3. Foundation (90.33)
  4. ADVentura & McKay (90), La Flor Dominicana (90)
  Average Count
Casa Favilli 87.5 2
Casa Fernandez Miami 90 1
Casa Turrent 87 1
Charles Fairmorn 88.5 2
Cigars Davidoff 90 6
De Los Reyes 89.4 5
Diadema Cigars de Honduras S.A. 88.4 5
El Rey de los Habanos 87.67 3
El Septimo 65 1
El Titan de Bronze 87.67 3
Fabrica de Puros Aladino at Las Lomas Jamastran 88.33 3
Fabrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua S.A. 89.07 14
Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A. 89.6 10
Fabrica Oveja Negra 87.85 7
Flor de Copan S.A. 92 1
General Cigar Dominicana 84 3
J. Fuego Cigar Co. de Nicaragua 84 1
J.C. Newman PENSA 89 1
Kelner Boutique Factory 84 1
La Aurora Cigar Factory 87 5
La Corona 84 1
La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate 87.5 8
La Zona Cigar Factory 88 5
Manifatture Sigaro Toscano S.p.A. 86 1
Micallef Cigars S.A. 83 1
My Father Cigars S.A. 87.8 15
NACSA 88.29 7
O.K. Cigars 88.67 6
Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co. 88 2
Plasencia Cigars S.A. 86.88 8
Quesada Cigars 80 3
Raíces Cubanas 85 2
San Judas Tadeo 89.25 4
San Lotano Factory 87 1
Southern Classic Cigars 81 1
STG Danlí 87.33 3
STG Estelí 86.5 2
Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia 85.4 5
Tabacalera AJ Fernandez 87.67 15
Tabacalera Carreras 86 1
Tabacalera de Aragon S.A. 84 1
Tabacalera de García 86 2
Tabacalera El Artista 89 1
Tabacalera El Puente 88 1
Tabacalera Flor de San Luis S.A. 89 2
Tabacalera GTO Dominicana 82 1
Tabacalera JVM 80.5 2
Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. 87.5 8
Tabacalera La Flor S.A. 89.5 6
Tabacalera La Perla 80 1
Tabacalera Palma 79 1
Tabacalera Perdomo S.A. 85.33 3
Tabacalera Pichardo 88.67 3
Tabacalera William Ventura 88.75 4
Tabacos Cubanica S.A. 87 2
Tabacos de Costa Rica 91 1
Tabacos de la Cordillera 73 1
Tabacos de Oriente 88 2
TABOLISA 87.5 2
TABSA 87.11 19
Tacasa S.A. 84 1
TAVICUSA 89 7
The CLE Factory 90 1
Undisclosed 85.7 33
Villiger do Brasil 88 1

BY FACTORY

Cigars Davidoff, the Dominican factory that makes Davidoff but not AVO, takes the top spot at 90 with six cigars reviewed. Like last year, some of the names on the top five might be surpising. Perhaps more notable is that Fabrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua S.A. didn’t make the top five, missing out by .16 points.

  1. Cigars Davidoff (90)
  2. Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A. (89.6)
  3. Tabacalera La Flor S.A. (89.5)
  4. De Los Reyes (89.4)
  5. San Judas Tadeo (89.25)

You can download the full data here.

Overall Score

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Source