There are a variety of characteristics you can use to rate cigars. The only thing that is important is that you are consistent in what you are looking for. I recommend that you keep a diary of the different cigars that you smoke. Some purveyors carry great diaries that have a place for you to glue the band, rate the cigar, and write comments.
Once you get enough different ratings, you can refer back to your diary for what cigars you may likely enjoy that you have not yet tried (based on your previous taste ratings).
You can base your rating system from 1-10 or 1-100. When I started rating cigars I quickly discovered that a 1-10 system, although convenient for rating the cigar, proved too limiting as I rated more and more cigars.
I prefer a 100-point rating system as follows:
- Appearance and Presentation of Cigar (20 points max)
- Wrapper color. Packaging. Ease of cutting, etc.
- Lighting and Burning Properties (15 points max)
- Even initial light? Even burn? Burn fast or slow, etc
- Construction (25 points max)
- Draw. Stay intact?, etc
- Taste (40 points max)
- Mild? Full bodied? Aroma? Flavor, etc.
You may find that you want more or less emphasis on a particular category than I have chosen. Just remember that more items make up a great smoke than you may think. Certainly your first inclination may be to make 80% of your rating associated with taste, but in the end, it is the whole package that makes the cigar.
Make sure that you use plenty of comments to describe each of the categories as well as jot down items like size and shape. Lastly, I like to give the cigar a letter grade such as A+, or B-. Although this is very general, I have found this helpful when I am in a hurry.