As we discussed on the 11/28/18 Edition of the Cigar Industry Report, we eliminated the “Volume/Number” scheme we have been using and moved to sequential numbering. This month we start with #94 for the monthly editorial column, “Editor’s Corner.”

This month, we start “Countdown ’18”, the original Cigar of the Year Countdown. This year, there will not be any changes to what is done, but as we move forward with 2019, we are making a major change – namely to how we define the calendar year. For 2019, cigars eligible for the Countdown will utilize an eligibility release date from a two-year window from June 28, 2017 through June 27, 2019. The following year, the 2020 Countdown will use an eligibility release date for cigars between July 11, 2018 through July 10, 2020 (*)

What is up with the June/July release dates? The idea is to end the cigar year right before the start of IPCPR.

The reason for this change is to give cigars released at IPCPR a more competitive chance.  Right now, most lists utilize a basic calendar year. In that situation, the cigar has to be released in a single calendar year to make the list. With the IPCPR Trade Show taking place in July, and then the releases of many of these cigars staggered throughout the second half, the window to review many of these cigars is often compressed.  Many media sites don’t get a chance to complete these reviews, and in many cases, cigars miss a list simply because of when they are released and when they are reviewed.

I attempted to fix this by using a two-year window. However, the “rush” of IPCPR cigars still was a problem. I

Here is how the new eligibility system will work:

  1. Beginning in 2019, the cigars eligible for the Countdown will use a window of two years from the day before the IPCPR Trade Show.
  2. While the cigar release window is two years, the review must have been written during the past cigar review year period. For 2019, the publication window is considered to be from Black Friday through the day before IPCPR.
  3. Publication of the list will begin still be at the end of the year.

The table below summarizes the eligibility windows from which cigars will be pulled and when the Countdown will be published:

Year IPCPR Trade Show Date Release Start Release End Review Completed Countdown Published
2018 n/a 11/25/16 11/22/18 11/25/16-11/22/18 12/7/18-1/7/18
2019 6/28/19 6/28/17 6/27/19 11/23/18-10/31/19 TBD
2020 (*) 7/11/19 7/11/18 7/10/20 11/1/19-10/31/20 TBD

There will be an obvious defect: IPCPR releases won’t appear on a Countdown for nearly 18 months. However, I believe the compressed window that exists post-IPCPR to when the Cigar of the Year lists come out is worse and ultimately makes for an inaccurate list. It might seem silly to wait until December to publish the Countdown if we are ending the Cigar Year at IPCPR, however publishing the list after IPCPR would be “out of season.” In the end, I feel that has a historical tie to the end of the calendar year.

2019 will be an interesting year because it will have a slightly smaller window of reviews to pull the eligible cigars from. However, in the long run, I think it will make things interesting and in a way more competitive.

Regarding everything else, we are keeping the same criteria. Shop exclusives, regional exclusives, TAA, ultra-limited, and event-only cigars are not eligible. Line extensions remain eligible as long as they fall into the dates above.

As for 2018, it’s still business as usual, and the Countdown begins December 7th, 2018.

Update (*): 2020 dates updated to reflect new IPCPR/PCA Trade Show Dates