In light of a recent review from another cigar media brand and the response from a brand stakeholder, I thought I would share our thoughts on cigar reviews and how much weight should be given to them. I am speaking on behalf of the team here at Developing Palates but not for any other reviewer or media brand. We’re simply sharing our opinion on cigar reviews, the media in general and the relationship between brands and the media from our experiences.
Most of the references here are in general terms as there are always outliers, one-offs, etc. A big thing to keep in mind is that, in most cases, a review is the point of view of one person. In the case of flavor, a person cannot represent the palate of the majority. They can only represent the people that have similar palates or fringes of things for other people. If they portray themselves as the voice of many, they are kidding themselves and if you see them as the voice of many you are kidding yourself.
When a cigar is released, there are going to be many reactions from those who love it, like it, could take it or leave it, don’t care for it or really hate it. Sometimes those people that hate it are on the media side. For all the inflated scores cigars receive that are rarely questioned, very few are given the lower scores that draw the attention of the brand stakeholders, and in our opinion more cigars should see this side of the scale.
Not many cigar media brands are going to give you honest feedback, at least publicly. This can occur because they are just nice guys, because they don’t want to affect real or perceived friendships, don’t want to lose access to the brand for news/samples or any other number of reasons. There are a fair number of cigars that they don’t like that they just won’t share publicly. Sometimes, it’s the “I could see how someone else would like this” excuse or some other way of validating to themselves that they aren’t going to pan a cigar, when they are just hurting their reputation as a straight shooter and doing a disservice to their readers that are coming to them for their opinion, not the opinion of what they think others may like. In other cases, they’ve actually received angry phone calls from brand stakeholders, admonishing them for their opinion and actually have lost access to brands.
When you release a new cigar and it gets a bad review, even if it’s the first one, just understand it’s the point of view of one person. There’s not a person that I could think of that I would say “well, if this person likes it, it’s going to be a hit and everyone will like it.” That just doesn’t exist. With the variance of palates and the sheer number of cigars in the market, you just have to find your audience. If you start racking up the bad reviews, then it might be time to look at things a little differently, but even then, theres something to be said for marketing, as a bad cigar marketed well will typically do better than a good cigar marketed poorly.
Real cigar reviews should not consist of personal attacks or gushing over a brand like a fanboy. If they do contain these elements, then there is a problem and the reviewer should be called out. It’s hard to take a review seriously when such obvious bias is displayed and it paints a negative light on the rest of the media that is able to provide professional content. We call each other out when we see it as it really has no place in our portion of the industry.
A difference to keep in mind in how a reviewer perceives a cigar and how a consumer perceives a cigar is that all of the history, effort, artwork, marketing, etc. has no place in a cigar review. It is only the end product that matters to a reviewer. Your consumer cares or should care about those things along with the final product. That’s where the marketing comes in.
Editorial: An Open Letter to Brand Stakeholders in Regards to Cigar Reviews