It’s Stog o’Clock. That’s how every review starts. My name is Noah Gayer, and I’m a cigar reviewer. I co-own iROBUSTO (www.irobusto.com) and use the moniker CutLightSmoke on my website as well as YouTube and social media. I’ve been in the business of reviewing cigars for around three years now, but I’ve been in love with cigars for far longer.
It all started as a teenager smoking Swisher Sweets in the woods with friends. My parents were always asking why I smelled like smoke. Thank God for the bonfires – a strategic cover. I quickly fell in love with the flavors of tobacco, but I didn’t know a whole lot about cigars. That changed quickly.
Now, Swishers aren’t real cigars. We all know that. I’ll never forget the time I lit up my first premium hand-made cigar, though. It was a Rocky Patel Vintage 1999 Connecticut in the Toro size, and when the last puff wisped away into the night sky, my imaginary humidor started to fill up. Fast forward to today, and that humidor is very real and contains around 4,000 premium smokes – a thing my wife probably resents.
As I slowly crept into the cigar world, I set out to try anything I could get my hands on. I obsessively researched cigars. The different flavors and characteristics of cigars intrigued me. For years, I followed a number of cigar reviewers primarily on YouTube.
One day, I decided to give the review game the old college try. My first reviews were horrible. I decided I’d start with video reviews, and my camera work was simply a shitty laptop webcam that bounced around in my lap as I spoke. I gave my best descriptions of the cigars I smoked, but I can’t imagine many people cared to listen. It pains me to watch those old videos, but I keep them to remind me of how far I’ve come.
As with anything in life, you only fail if you give up. I continued making my sub-par reviews and slowly but surely, the quality improved. I was then approached by the founder of iROBUSTO, Mark Swanson, about joining his team. I had seen some of their content and loved everyone’s personalities. I eagerly hopped on board and started pumping out content.
I set a goal that I would attend and cover the IPCPR trade show within five years. About six months later, I was in Las Vegas walking around like a kid in a candy store among all the cigar industry greats at that legendary trade show.
Over the last few years, we’ve shared our successes and failures, but we’ve always loved what we do. We all put in the time to share our love for cigars, and I was eventually offered ownership in the company.
Now, we produce reviews and news weekly as well as a show every Sunday called Meet In The Middle where three reviewers smoke the same cigar and compare notes throughout each third in the cigar.
Cigar reviewing is a challenging thing. It challenges your biases. It challenges your taste buds. It challenges your patience (especially with those god-awful 7x70s!) It challenges many things, but it also challenges manufacturers to produce great cigars.
When I review a cigar, it’s all about my own tastes. This is one point many people don’t quite grasp. Cigars are a subjective thing. Every person experiences them differently, but I always try to give an accurate representation of my own experience. In reviewing cigars, you find many people will disagree with you, and they’re not shy about letting you know. On the flip side, you’ll find even more people agree with you.
You’ll also find people who think you’re crazy for tasting “leather” and “earth,” asking “when did you last eat that?” With reviewing a cigar, you give flavor descriptors closest to what you think that flavor might be. Sometimes, this includes things you may not actually eat. When it comes to those flavors, the “taste” is actually what you imagine those things might taste like based on how they smell.
People also often ask me how I can pick up on so many flavors in a single cigar. My response is this: a cigar is typically split into thirds for review. In each third, you can potentially pick up different flavors on the draw, through your nose (retro-haling,) and on the finish. This is all explored over the course of an hour or two on most cigars. It’s a very in-depth experience.
For my own reviews, I solely pair cigars with a glass of water and refuse to put any food or gum in my mouth during the review. I do this to avoid introducing foreign flavors into the experience. I also try to smoke as slowly as possible. When smoking a cigar, the cooler the smoke, the more flavors you will find. If you smoke slow, this translates to cooler smoke.
Another thing that can impact flavor is how the cigar was humidified. I personally keep my humidor between 60% Rh and 65% Rh at a temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people often talk about keeping their cigars at 70/70….while everything is personal preference, I find this to be a bad idea.
The more moist a cigar, the more harsh it will be. Think of a highly humidified cigar as a smoke that will almost “steam” instead of “smoke” which will produce those hot, bitter flavors. Dry it out a bit, and it cools down. Don’t go below 60%Rh, though, as you will begin to lose the oils in your cigars which is where all the flavor comes from.
I always try to store my cigars in optimal conditions so when it comes time to review, I won’t be the cause of a bad experience, and the cigar and its manufacturer gets a fair shake. I also have to put aside personal biases and advertising dollars to offer a truthful review of each smoke. This is not always the case in the industry, but at iROBUSTO, we always try to walk into a review with an open mind.
Reviewing cigars is a lot of work. There’s often less reward than many believe, but to be able to share my thoughts on all sorts of wonderful cigars and hear what other people think is a beautiful thing. I get to meet so many great people in this amazing industry, and that’s the greatest reward of all. There is no better community than the cigar community, and I know every cigar lover reading this agrees.