With cigars, you get what you pay for. Most of the convenience store cigars that are available are cheap imitations – machine-made and filled with shredded tobacco leaves. I wouldn’t recommend buying any of these to anyone, they taste so awful you’d never forgive me for the rest of your cigar-smoking days. If price is an issue with you (and it better be, it’s easy to blow $100 on a superior cigar), try to find the samplers and clearance sales from reputable cigar houses online. You’d be amazed at how affordable the good cigars are in the range of $1.50 to $5. With $15, you will most certainly be able to find an excellent cigar for your first smoke.
The best cigars are handcrafted works of art. Most of the famous cigar-makers are based in countries like Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and of course, Cuba. Although in recent years, many cigar products coming from these countries are machine-rolled, a lot of reputable houses and families still proudly produce hand-rolled superbly-blended cigars. To many of them, producing a good cigar is a matter of family pride, tradition, and honor. A guide on how to smoke a cigar will not be complete without a rudimentary working knowledge of the cigars coming from these countries. For a complete list of cigar brands, please see “Top cigar brands.”
As you begin your journey into the wonderful world of cigars, it is a sound idea to befriend and work with a reputable tobacconist in your city. Congenial and always eager to welcome new enthusiasts, your tobacconist can share with you expert advice and recommendations (on how to smoke a cigar and how to choose your cigar) and will help you steer clear of low-quality stuff.
We have noted in an earlier post that beginners are best off to begin your cigar-smoking experience with mild cigars. Some people who are unlucky to smoke an ill-chosen cigar the first time around, will find the episode unpleasant and will probably stay away from cigars forever. This is unfortunate since they are poised to embark on an adventure of discovery and pleasure, but for that ill-chosen first cigar. So you want to learn how to smoke a cigar? Choose your first cigar with care.
Cigars come in different sizes and yes, a cigar’s name is indicative of its size. Again cigars are measured by inches in length and ring gauge (1/64th of an inch) in diameter. Remember, the longer and bigger the ring gauge of a cigar, the stronger and full-bodied it probably is. This is because the maker has more room to introduce more and different leaves into the cigar to enhance its taste and texture.
The size of a cigar is written LXRG or length (in inches) x ring gauge. Thus the size of a Churchill is written as 7×50 or 7″ long by 50/64th of an inch thick. Below are the names of cigars that indicate dimensions:
- Presidente (Longer and thick)
- Churchill (long and thick)
- Toro (shorter and thick)
- Robusto (short and thick)
- Rothchild (shorter and medium width)
- Corona(medium length and width)
- Lonsdale (long and thin)
- Panatela (long and thinner)
- Torpedo (long and thick with the cap coming to a point)
- Piramide (long and medium width and gets narrow in the head and ends with a small round cap)
- Triangulo (similar to the Piramide but the cap is pointed)Belicoso (similar to the Torpedo but shorter)
- Perfecto (varies in length and width but both sides of the cigar are closed)
- Diadema (a Perfecto that is at least 8” long)
- Culebra (three panatelas twisted around each other and must be separated before smoking).
The Churchill by the way is in fact named after former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who in his days, was often seen to smoke this type of cigar. The torpedo (which is thick in the middle and tapers off at both ends) and the Piramide (which is thick in one end and tapers off in the other) are the types frequently seen in popular illustrations and portrayals of cigar smokers.
In my very first post on how to smoke a cigar, we have discussed that the most common way to determine a cigar’s strength is by looking at the wrapper. This is the outermost cigar leaf wrapping the filler and the binder and the darker the wrapper is, the stronger the cigar will be. (Read more about the different parts of a cigar). Here’s a quick review of the different wrappers:
- Double Claro – (also called Candela or American Market Select)- has a light green to greenish-brown color and very mild-flavored.
- Claro – has a light tan wrapper and a smooth, mild flavor. Made mostly from shade-grown tobacco leaves, an example of which is the Connecticut Shade wrappers, which are said to be among the finest in the world.
- Natural (also called English Market Select)- light brown to brown. And has fuller-bodied flavor than the Claro.
- Colorado – reddish dark brown, with a robust, rich flavor. Colorado Maduro – a dark brown wrapper with a rich, aromatic flavor.
- Maduro – is very dark brown, and usually has a strong, sweet flavor. More texture and veins than other wrappers
- Oscuro – the darkest Maduro wrapper, Oscuro is almost black and is stronger than the lighter Maduro wrappers
If you are buying the cigar personally from a cigar store, try to examine your cigar of choice before making a purchase. Here, the tobacconist can help you make your choice and will allow you to manually examine the cigar. Try to give the cigar a little squeeze, it must be firm but there should be little give. Too hard and unyielding, the cigar is probably plugged, too densely rolled, and will be difficult to smoke. Most reputable tobacconists and cigar houses, by the way, will gladly replace a plugged cigar. Also, try to feel for very soft and too-yielding spots. These generally will cause the cigar to burn unevenly.