When selecting a cigar for the first time, it can be seen as a very daunting experience. You’re in a foreign place with many different cigar brands, sizes, names, and colors; you quietly think to yourself what does all of this mean? The best thing to do at this point is taking a breath and let the guiding hand of a tobacconist help you, but in order for him or her to help a bit of information will be needed at first. So let’s start…
So before you take that stroll into your local shop, let’s go over the very basic information you will need to know…
The first question you will be asked is “What strength cigar would you like?”
To start with, you need to know that there are 3 basic strength classifications.
- Full Body (Strong)
Much like the cook on a meat (where the basic cook can be rare, medium or well cooked), these classifications can often be broken down further to incorporate strengths that will bridge the gap between the major classes.
These expanded classifications will now include:
- Mild – Medium
- Medium – Full Bodied (Strong)
- Full Bodied (Strong)
If you never smoked a cigar, or any tobacco product it’s pretty safe to say that you probably would want to start out with a mild cigar. At least that is what I would recommend until we would find out how your enjoyed your first cigar. Here is a great list of beginner cigars that offer a exceptional flavor and a very mild and smooth smoke. Montecristo White is a great beginner cigar, so is Macanudo Café. Another great choice is the Licenciados Toro which received an outstanding 93 rating by Cigar Aficionado magazine. If you’re a bit of a high roller try a Davidoff for a more exquisite cigar.
In my personal opinion if you just enjoy smoking; I believe that there is a cigar for you, we just need to find the right on for you to try. I personally smoked a number of cigars before I got into cigars. It was a Hoya De Monterrey Epicure #1 (a Cuban) what started me on my cigar adventure, but I wouldn’t enjoy it today as a more seasoned smoker. Unless well read the examples below.
If you’re a more seasoned smoker and have enjoyed a couple of cigars, and are able to smoke a medium – full bodied cigar. There are exceptional cigars like Flor De Las Antillas Maduro which is the maker of the #1 cigar of the year blend of 2012, in a maduro wrap. Also a Cohiba Macassar (one of the best tasting cigars outside of Cuba), The Bauza by Arturo Fuente or the Davidoff Yamasa which is amazingly smooth but really full bodied, with a complex smoke.
Another thing we really need to think about is the who, what, when, where of enjoying a fine cigar would entail. I’ll use a few examples.
Example 1: The Golf Course
Let’s say you want a stogie for the golf course and tee time is about 11am, and it’s going to be a pretty warm day even a hot day. I would suggest smoking a mild cigar at most a mild – medium smoke. So the aforementioned Macanudo Café, Monte White, Licenciados or Davidoff would be a great cigar to enjoy while hitting the back 9.
Example 2: Dinner
Now you would like an after dinner smoke, you’re going to eat an amazing steak dinner probably have some wine along with your meal and finish with a coffee or a nice cognac after eating. Anything from a medium – full bodied cigar would be great to compliment a big dinner, especially if ending with a coffee or fine cognac or scotch. This would pair perfectly with the Davidoff Yamasa, Cohiba Macassar, Bauza or Flor De Las Antillas Maduro. The strength and complexity will compliment your evening extremely well.
Choosing a cigar size
Since were dialed into what strength of cigar we would like to smoke lets choose a size that is right for you. Some guys enjoy smoking for hours, others enjoy smoking for 45 mins or even 20 mins and under. Size as well a strength is a matter of personal preference, but no matter your preference your environment will differently play a factor.
Let’s revisit the examples above to gain some clarity.
Let’s say the person at the golf course who we recommended a mild cigar to also said they have a long round of golf and wanted to smoke for a few hours. I would suggest a minimum size of a Churchill, and would even recommend a double corona for an extra-long smoking time. This is something that he can take to the course light up and smoke for about 2 hours or more depending how it’s being smoked. Ensuring a consistent flavor and strength not throwing off our golfer from beating his handicap.
For the after dinner smoke basically you have as much or as little time that you allow yourself or may be what your wife allows you. For argument sake let’s say you have only about 45 mins and you also choose a pretty full bodied cigar we should probably limit your to a robusto size, or at most a Toro size cigar. The size is important. I feel like the last 3rd of the cigar is the best (that up for argument a lot of people agree and disagree) but, we can all agree that wasting a cigar is a sin! So let’s not be over ambitious in our smoking get smoking that you could enjoy right down to the end.
Remember, despite what you may have heard, size matters. Personally, I feel like the last 3rd of the cigar is the best (although that’s up for debate as many people agree and disagree with this statement). But we can all agree that wasting a cigar is a sin! So let’s not be overly ambitious in our smoking and be sure to choose a cigar you can enjoy right down to the very end.
Picking the Actual Cigar
Now that we know the strength and size of the cigar, you should now have the box in front of you to choose from. When selecting the cigar make sure it looks good to you, there can be slight wrapper color variation with in the same box so don’t be alarmed just pick what you like! Ensure that the wrapper looks flawless, if not flawless just make sure you like it (I choose cigar out of my humidor with bad wrappers to smoke first because they won’t last long in the humidor depending on wrapper damage).
Now that you found a cigar that looks good. Take it out gently and hold it firm, but not to firm (you don’t want to press hard on the cigar at all). Feel the cigar gently and give it an ever so slight squeeze, feel up and down the cigar gently to see if you will get a good draw. Your feeling for plugs in the cigar it could be much more firm than any other part of the cigar.
Be careful of the head of the cigar do not press to the top because you can crack the head and ruin a perfectly good cigar. The cigar should have a little spongy feel. Once you found the one to smoke you’re ready to enjoy your cigar.
Congratulations! You have found your perfect choice and are ready to enjoy your cigar!