“Even before there was a Cigar Coop, I wanted to do a Cigar of the Year list. One day it hit me to do it American Top 40 Casey Kasem-style. The rest was history.”

The two things that are the most popular features each year on Cigar Coop are the IPCPR Trade Show Coverage and the annual Cigar of the Year Countdown.

The Cigar of the Year Countdown is something that is older than Cigar Coop itself. It started on my social media feeds back in 2009. I decided to do a daily countdown – à la Casey Kasem American Top 40 style of the Top 20 cigars of the year. Surprisingly the effort generated some interest. When I launched Cigar Coop in 2010, I decided to make the Countdown part of the website.

At the time the Countdown was implemented, the idea was to use the entire month of December to do the Countdown. This led to an expanded list of 30 cigars. To this day, at 30 cigars it’s probably among the longest of the online media lists, but it’s one that works. In order to do a December Countdown, the cigar year calendar was adjusted on my part to go from the day after Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving the following year. We also now announce our #1 Cigar of the Year in January so we don’t conflict with the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.

Like most things on Cigar Coop, the Countdown became an organic evolutionary process. At one time no line extensions were included and no restrictions were put on shop exclusives being included. As time evolved, line extensions would be included, and shop exclusives were dropped. We used to use a one year window, but when the majority of the releases came out in the fourth quarter of the calendar year, it was too difficult to use a one year window and it was lengthened to two years. Eventually, the calendar year was changed to start and end with the IPCPR Trade Show. Over time, the process got much more complicated in selecting a Cigar of the Year.

Back to the 2009 social media Countdown I did – that was a fun process. There were no strict criteria. When the Countdown moved to Cigar Coop in 2010, there were some criteria but it really wasn’t until 2012 when the criteria were documented. Each year, the criteria have evolved and frankly, the process became more complicated. As Cigar Coop has grown, so has the Countdown. Making the Countdown process more mature was a necessary evil to maintain the integrity of the Countdown project. More people were paying attention to it, and manufacturers were taking it seriously. Since they were taking it seriously, I felt the Countdown deserved the same attention.

I field many complaints every year from manufacturers and brand owners who are upset their cigars are not included. But my reasons are simple, either the cigars are not good enough or the cigars failed to meet the criteria.

Everyone knows the only Cigar of the Year list that matters is the Cigar Aficionado list. I’ve always said that any manufacturer would trade a number one cigar of any online media list for a #25 cigar on the Aficionado list. While Cigar Aficionado garners its share of criticism for its list, online media isn’t off the hook either. While some media outlets take it seriously, many do not. Some do it just for fun. Some do it to reward friends in the industry. Some have rules and don’t follow them while others simply do not have criteria. This has led to online media lists being a distant second to Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25. Online media has been lumped into a one size fits all single bucket when it comes to lists. Unfortunately for the media brands that take these lists seriously, we are still lumped into the general bucket.

Originally the Cigar of the Year Countdown was meant to uncover the best cigars on the market. This included finding those “diamonds in the rough.” However, as the concept of the Countdown has evolved, so has what we do. It became more clear that we should not just reward cigars on the market now, but ones we believe have staying power and ones that are not impossible to get. Even with the changes, I still feel we are ranking the best cigars in the world.

Finally, each year I get at least one email or message stating that our Countdown violates the #teaserfree philosophy of Cigar Coop. My response is that while we do unveil the cigars on the list on a near-daily basis, we never have implemented click-bait. The cigar to be discussed is announced in the headline. You don’t need to click on the cigar to find out what it is.  We’re confident enough that the content under that headline is still worth the click.

For reference here is a complete listing of the Cigar of the Year Countdowns: