I remember where I was when the website was turned on. I was at my parents’ house in Modesto, Calif. It was still very much 2011 because of Pacific Time and we had hoped to launch the site on Eastern Time.

So a little after 9:00 p.m., using both a laptop and an iMac crammed onto a desk that was probably too cluttered for the iMac, I began to run through a checklist in my head of what I needed to do.

Make halfwheel public. 

Make sure this post was published.

Redirect thecigarfeed.com to halfwheel.com.

Redirect smokingstogie.com to halfwheel.com.

Make halfwheel’s various social media public.

Try to figure out what went broken.

We broke a lot in those first few days. It took weeks before the site was rendering the way we intended it to on iPads. Even when it was fixed it was very much a broken system: the site would display different themes for computers, iPads and smartphones. There were a lot of things we thought were the right idea—bolding specific words in the body of review texts remains my favorite—that probably weren’t the right idea. I’m sure a year from now I’ll be able to add some more things to that long list.

As I do every year at this time, I went back and read that first post. Here’s something I don’t think I’ve ever told you about: the first post is largely copied and pasted from a mission statement we created for our media kit for 2012. The interesting part was that we had created a media kit to pitch to companies to get them to advertise, but the site wasn’t public. The site was more than an idea—it existed—but no one was reading it because we wouldn’t let anyone read it. We had a hidden version of the site as we ported over old content and fixed things. And we asked eight companies—one said no, so we ended up asking nine—if they would commit to advertising for a full year on a website that didn’t exist. So we spent a lot of time trying to make sure we could explain what we were doing as best as possible and Brooks and I spent a lot of time working on that seven-page document.

The first page started with:


Every cigar blog starts with the same mantra: (I) know there are a lot of cigar blogs, but this one will be different because…

Some months later, Brooks and I were trying to figure out how to announce halfwheel to the public, namely, the readers who thought they were going to read Smoking Stogie and/or TheCigarFeed, the two predecessors to halfwheel that we each ran. Brooks suggested we just use the media kit’s mantra and so I attempted to make it work for that first post. That post was published 10 years ago today.

A couple of weeks ago it hit me that halfwheel would be celebrating its 10th anniversary. It’s not that I was completely unaware, but I just hadn’t thought about in some time. Even then, a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t really thought about what it would mean.

A few minutes ago, I felt some sense of the meaning. It took one line. A line that I most likely wrote. A line I’ve read probably 50 times. Just 14 words, but it sums up everything.

With halfwheel, we hope to bring blogging to a new place in the industry.

We hope.

For whatever reason, that line stood out and changed how I was going to write this post. I felt something. The words were not we are going to bring…, it wasn’t we know we are going to bring and it wasn’t we will bring The truth of the matter is, we hoped.

But then we did.

I really try to avoid talking about our accomplishments. It’s always a bit awkward and I’ve taken the approach that I’ll know what we did and that’s good enough for me. It’s not just public, I don’t talk to Brooks and Patrick about it very much outside of a toast at the end of the trade show. And it’s not just not talking about what we’ve accomplished, I don’t spend very much time celebrating what we’ve done in my head. But for whatever reason, that line made me stop and think and smile.

There’s not much of a debate, with halfwheel, we brought blogging to a new place in the industry.

That’s happened with a lot of hard work and an immense amount of help. It starts and ends with the team that produces this website. Brooks, Patrick and I spend some part of every day thinking about and working on halfwheel. Since the early days of halfwheel, I’ve told people that the largest thing that’s made halfwheel different is the team we’ve had and the commitment the team has. Since the lights were turned on 10 years ago, only four people have published a review at halfwheel; all four of them have done some work for halfwheel in the last 24 hours. halfwheel, the entityhas been incredibly fortunate to have that kind of consistency.

Beyond the writers, we’ve been fortunate to have a number of people who have gone out of their way to help make the content look the way you see it. We’ve worked with some great designers, first at Solo Pine and now with Matt and his team at Bistro Studios. There was a time when I was regularly having to fix technical issues with this site, but Matt and the team at WPEngine has smoothed out those issues immensely. There have been editors like Rosalie, Heather and Kyle who have made sure our trade show content gets published while the trade show is happening. And while Brooks has edited tens of thousands of photographs for halfwheel, Kim has edited thousands of the photos you’ve seen here.

And while there have been frustrating moments along the way, we’ve also been fortunate to get help from just about everyone in this industry. Whether it’s the news stories you read today or the reviews in the early days—remember when we wouldn’t review regular production cigars once they were on sale, fun times—the people that work in the cigar industry have been willing to give us their thoughts and time at just about every turn. Without that, this website would be so much worse. We’ve gotten tips from consumers, retailers, manufacturers; every once in a while, another member of the cigar media. We’ve had hundreds of people show us around their businesses all over the world and we’ve had hundreds of thousands of conversations with people in mediums ranging from in-person conversations over dinner to sliding into someone’s DMs. Our work is about communicating information and it’s hard to have information to publish without all of the other people who have shared things we didn’t know with us, so that we could one day write about them for you.

But at the end of the day, there’s you. No matter how pretty the pictures were or how many news stories we write, this website wouldn’t exist if no one was reading it. A large part of what keeps the grind going is knowing that there’s an appetite for the content we produce. For everyone that has been here—one time or many times—we are thankful. Thankful for taking the time, thankful for the help, thankful or the kind words, but for me, I’m most thankful for the opportunity.

You’ve given us the opportunity to see if we could live up that 14-word statement on what we hoped to do. Yes, we at halfwheel produced the content, but no one would care about the work if no one was reading it. Part of that “new place” we hoped to bring cigar blogging to included a different kind of audience for a cigar blog. Without readers, we never get to accomplish what we set out to do. For that, I’ll always be thankful.

In the early days we used to mention the mission statement for halfwheel: we want to create the cigar blog we want to read.

Over the years, as halfwheel grew, we made choices to veer slightly further away from an editorial perspective. It was a realization that if we wanted to create the site we would want to read, one that was capable of doing all of the things we’d want it to be, halfwheel was going to need to be larger in its editorial scope than just the things we cared about. And that’s because at the end of the day what we really care about isn’t a specific story or cigar, it’s about covering the industry.

While writing this I’ve stopped to think about various moments since Jan. 1, 2012. I’ve also thought a lot about the five or so months that preceded it, the time when we were building halfwheel. I could keep writing and I’d like to. I’d like this to be more than just a stream of consciousness post, but unfortunately, I’m running late for the one thing on my schedule.

The one thing I have to do today is to try to relive a bit of how halfwheel started. That moment took place sometime in December 2010 at Elite Cigar Cafe in Addison, Texas: Brooks and I met each other for the first time. He was late—this time I’ll be late—and we had a cigar and I watched Brooks attempt to play poker. Given that we each go to a cigar-filled office five days per week, you would think Brooks and I sit down, light up some cigars, and chat. It almost never happens, like, this might be the second time this year it’s happened. Unfortunately, cigars are work and work is cigars.

Fortunately, we’ve done 10 years worth of work, so I feel like we can take the rest of the day off. So it’ll be just Brooks and I, some cigars, probably some espresso, maybe a few pours of this or that, and hopefully lots of reminiscing about the last decade.

Brooks, I’ll see you in a few minutes.

Don’t worry, that wasn’t goodbye. As we have done since this site launched in January 2012, we will kick off the new year with what we call Holy Grail Week. The first review will get published later today.

When we launched halfwheel, we wanted to start off with a bang. So we picked the most coveted cigars in our humidors—mainly Brooks’ humidor—and we lit them up for review. One after another. Since then, we’ve tried to start each year the same way, though, fewer cigars from Brooks’ humidor.

Regular reviews will resume on Jan. 8, 2022 and will continue until the start of our awards week.

  • Jan. 17, 2022 (Monday) — Numbers Review + New Company of the Year
  • Jan. 18, 2022 (Tuesday) — Factory of the Year
  • Jan. 19, 2022 (Wednesday) — Company of the Year
  • Jan. 20, 2022 (Thursday) 12 p.m. CDT — Packaging Awards
  • Jan. 21, 2022 (Friday) 12 p.m. CDT — Top 25 Cigars
  • Jan. 24, 2022 (Monday) 12 p.m. CDT — The Consensus Top 25 Cigars

Since our first anniversary, I’ve asked our readers to do two things each and every year.

First, read that very first post. There’s no better day than today, but while many things have changed, we’ve always tried to stay true to that first post.

Second, do what Brooks and I are about to do. Go into your humidors, find that special cigar, pull it out and smoke it today. There’s no better time than the present because you’ll never know where you might be in 10 years.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.