Box Press Podcast

halfwheel Taste Test | Ep. 10



Oh, those honest halfwheel reviews. Gotta love it when they give it to us straight. How does halfwheel evaluate a cigar? Check it out in person.

EXCLUSIVE! Join in on a smoke-through with Rob and Charlie Minato, co-founder and editor of halfwheel. From the first third until the last, what are these cigar lovers picking up on? Learn how to really evaluate a cigar. And how you could be affecting its flavor. (WHAT?!)

Grab a cigar that’s burning a hole in your humidor and follow along.


“How do you get to the point where you can pick up these things?”

Rob Gagner


Flavors picked up from the cigar being smoked.


What are Rob and Charlie smoking?

Tatuaje H-Town Lancero (1:30)



STEP 1: Hold off on lighting a cigar—first smell the wrapper and foot. (3:29)
STEP 2: Cut a cigar properly. (7:29)
STEP 3: Cold draw a cigar—what to notice. (8:42)
STEP 4: Light a cigar SLOWLY , very slowly. (It isn’t a Bottle Rocket, folks.)(11:13)
STEP 5: Take one long initial single draw. (13:12)
STEP 6: Identify taste nuances in the cigar. (20:00)
STEP 7: Learn when to ash—for better taste (not “likes” on social).  (26:03)
STEP 8: Purge a cigar if it goes out (and that doesn’t mean pitch it).  (31:46)
STEP 9: Retrohale cigar smoke to pick up flavors. (34:56)
STEP 10: Drink or not to drink while taste testing a cigar. (41:41)
STEP 11: Learn halfwheel’s method for scoring cigars. (46:35)
STEP 12: Bring out the complexities of premium cigars by keeping cigars perfectly humidified at the correct RH level with Boveda. (1:07:27)



For the most part, when Charlie Minato reviews a smoke for a cigar blog on halfwheel, the subject is often a limited edition, prerelease or preproduction cigar. And his reviews are thorough—for better or worse. That’s what makes halfwheel, THE online source for cigar news and reviews. Cigar lovers can trust halfwheel—no b.s.

But Charlie admitted that reviewing a cigar is a different ballgame than relaxing with a smoke on your deck.

Taking a page from Gordon Mott, a senior contributing editor for Cigar Aficionado, one of the keys to Charlie’s tasting process is consistency. That means reviewing cigars at the same place, at the same time of day. (In Charlie-world, that’s a few hours after dinner at 9 p.m. on his porch in Texas.) And he repeats the review process three days in a row sampling one release three times.


Get in the mindset of really tasting a cigar with these tips from Charlie at halfwheel:

  1. Strive for a neutral palate. (So no accompanying beverage. Sorry, Scotch.)
  2. Prepare for the intensity of the nicotine—eat a meal a few hours before lighting up.
  3. Taste test a cigar outside where there are fewer competing aromas.
  4. Minimize distractions: no phone, no reading, no buddies.
  5. Bring a notebook to jot down what you notice while you smoke that cigar, such as:
    – Is the cigar well-constructed?
    – Do the flavors evolve?
    – Is the burn uniform?
    – Does the cigar stay lit?


“If you don’t cut your cigar properly, it will affect the flavor. And if you don’t light your cigar properly, it will affect the flavor.”

Charlie Minato


How RH affects a cigar’s taste and burn

Rob added that proper cigar humidity is important to get the most flavor out of any cigar. A cigar that’s too wet will give off a musty, moldy taste. And that soft cigar will also be hard to keep lit.  Dry cigars burn too fast, which doesn’t make for a true review. (Or a pleasant smoke.)


“The flavor of the cigar is going to be impacted by how it’s burning,”

Charlie Minato


What’s the best humidity for cigars?

Depends on your humidor and the cigars you keep. Premium cigars should always be stored with humidity packs. Boveda makes maintaining a stable environment so easy for cigar collectors. With Boveda, there’s no sponge to rewet, no solution to refill. Just toss in Boveda with your cigars. Done.

Charlie shared that cigar reviewers at halfwheel use Boveda in their desktop humidors. At home, he stores the cigars he will be reviewing in a specific desktop model with Boveda 69% RH level.


What Boveda RH level do you need?

WATCH THIS QUICK VIDEO: Which Boveda RH level is right for your humidor?


Curious cigar smoker?

Check out halfwheel’s official rating of Tatuaje’s H-Town Lancero published in 2015, prior to this Box Press episode.*






*This halfwheel cigar review is not affiliated with Boveda. Learn more about how halfwheel’s rating formula.