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.
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|
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.
|Black Label Trading Co.||86.33||3|
|Davidoff of Geneva USA||89.06||16|
|De Los Reyes||89||1|
|Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust||89.57||7|
|General Cigar Co.||86.82||11|
|Hiram & Solmon||85||1|
|Jas Sum Kral||84||1|
|Joya de Nicaragua||91.33||6|
|La Familia Robaina||84||1|
|La Flor Dominicana||90||5|
|Miami Cigar & Co.||90||1|
|Mombacho Cigars S.A.||87.5||2|
|Nat Sherman International||89||2|
|RoMa Craft Tobac||89.63||8|
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.
- Joya de Nicaragua (91.33)
- Illusione (90.67)
- Foundation (90.33)
- ADVentura & McKay (90), La Flor Dominicana (90)
|Casa Fernandez Miami||90||1|
|De Los Reyes||89.4||5|
|Diadema Cigars de Honduras S.A.||88.4||5|
|El Rey de los Habanos||87.67||3|
|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 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|
|Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co.||88||2|
|Plasencia Cigars S.A.||86.88||8|
|San Judas Tadeo||89.25||4|
|San Lotano Factory||87||1|
|Southern Classic Cigars||81||1|
|Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia||85.4||5|
|Tabacalera AJ Fernandez||87.67||15|
|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 La Alianza S.A.||87.5||8|
|Tabacalera La Flor S.A.||89.5||6|
|Tabacalera La Perla||80||1|
|Tabacalera Perdomo S.A.||85.33||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|
|The CLE Factory||90||1|
|Villiger do Brasil||88||1|
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.
- Cigars Davidoff (90)
- Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A. (89.6)
- Tabacalera La Flor S.A. (89.5)
- De Los Reyes (89.4)
- San Judas Tadeo (89.25)
You can download the full data here.