Actually, the smoke ring is pretty much ignored (really and truly - I've judged in FBA and KCBS and most judges will admire a nice ring but don't pay much attention) and the guys and gals that really compete don't worry about "false positives" with smoke ring. Temperature, humidity, type of wood, all play a part in a nice smoke ring -- doesn't do squat for flavor.
It's the challenge of the tender slice.
That I did not know, I honestly thought the smoke ring counted. I have to call you on the ring not doing squat for flavor, But understandably people can and do taste foods in different ways. In my experience the ring is always rich in flavor.. Closer to the center there was less smoky taste. This goes for any meat that I have smoked. I'm happy to have joined this community there's a smorgasbord of information that just today has influenced the smoking I'm going to do tomorrow.