As is the case, we kick off our cigar year with a month long retrospective of the best cigars smoked of the year.  This is what has been termed “Epic Encounters”. It is part of our extensive year in review coverage.

First up, we have merged with Stogie Geeks, but this is my personal list.  We might change things up next year, but it was a work in progress when the merger happened, so I felt a need to see this to completeness. We will also have each Stogie Geeks team member Cigar of the Year selections on the podcast.

The Vision

This list is different.  I use the title “Epic Encounters” to describe the theme of this list.  It is meant to describe the best cigars I’ve encountered during the 2013 Cigar Year.   This isn’t about the best selling cigar.  This isn’t about the best cigar for the price, and finally this isn’t about the widest distributed cigar.  A lot of cigars are covered on Cigar Coop, thus it is my vision to use the month of December to reflect on those cigars, quantify them and put them into some sort of a ranking.

The Criteria

This year’s criteria supersedes all criteria in previous years.  It is possible the criteria might change for the 2014 Cigar Year as well.

1. The 2013 Cigar Year: The cigars on this list are in the release range of Black Friday 2012 to Thanksgiving 2013 – or 11/23/12 – 11/28/13.  I try to be as accurate as possible here in terms of a release date, but this is not an exact science.

2. Cigars considered will be new blends only.  If a new vitola comes out or is re-released, it is not eligible.  Vitolas are all tweaked, so unless this is considered a different blend, a new line or a re-blend, I will not include a new vitola.  I will rank the new vitolas in a separate top ten.

3. Pre-Release cigars do not qualify for the list.

4 .Retail exclusive and regional release cigars are eligible, unless deemed “in store only”.  It must allow the consumer access to the cigar via internet or phone sales.  Example: If the only way someone living in New York to obtain the cigar is to walk into a store in Texas to get a retail exclusive (or have someone else walk in the store), it is not eligible.

5 .Event Only cigars are excluded – even if they are available for purchase at the event.

6. Cuban Cigars are excluded, since they are not readily available in the U.S.

7. Scores and Assessment Ratings are thrown out the window here.  Every cigar starts with a clean slate.  Consistency also plays a role here too.

8. I cannot personally smoke every cigar and every frontmark that was released.

9. Eligible cigars that can be considered for the countdown must be smoked during the Cigar Year. This does not necessary correspond to the published date – which could come after the year is over.

10. Cigars selected cover the whole line, not just a single vitola – therefore this is factored into the ranking.  I will select a recommended vitola for each cigar selected.

11. I do personally frown if a manufacturer asks to be on the list.  Much like we have a policy of not asking for samples to review on Cigar Coop, a manufacturer should not ask for placement in the countdown.  This is strictly a merit system.

12. The results of the selections of the list will be locked at 11:59 PM Eastern Time on November 30th.  No adjustments are made are that time.

The Countdown Itself

Each day in the month of December we will count down a cigar.  We start with #30 on December 1st, and continue with one cigar a day.  On December 25th and December 30th, we will not have a countdown selection (although you will still have original content from Cigar Coop on those days).  On December 31st, the #1 and #2 Cigars will be crowned.

What to Expect

Every year, I say this is the most difficult year.  This year, I can say it was the most difficult year by a large margin.  The selections for the Top 30 went right down to the wire, and many big name cigars did not make the cut.   This year I can tell you was a very strong year for limited and retail exclusive cigars.  It was also a strong year at the very beginning of the cigar year, and toward the end.

Since we transitioned to the Stogie Geeks rating system in October, we will update all cigars on this list with an associated Stogie Geeks rating.  The numerical ratings will reflect when we assessed them.

Going into January, we will have our top industry stories for 2013, the Best New Vitola, Best New Aged Cigar, the Honorable Mentions, the Top Manufacturers, and some other surprises.

Final Thoughts

I’ve heard all the arguments positive and negative on Cigar of the Year lists.  Some love it, some think that it is hype, some think there are too many. I personally love this time of the year, and look forward to many lists.

Finally thank you to our readers, and podcast listeners/reviewers for what has been a great 2013. Without you, we could not bring you the content we do.

Let the madness begin…..