Cigar smoking…it’s not for everyone. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground when it comes to cigars, as people seem to either love them or hate them. But if you’re interested in taking up cigar smoking as a hobby, it’s hard to describe how enjoyable it can be to relax with a good, tasty cigar and (perhaps) a glass of woody, smoky whisky. Here’s a little overview of what you should know before you get started.
Best Cigars for Beginners
One of the main objections you hear from people who don’t care for cigars is that the taste is too strong. With that in mind, we should point out that a milder cigar is a perfect cigar for beginners. A strong cigar can be so overpowering that it ruins the whole experience, while a mild-flavored cigar is not only more palatable but is often quite a bit cheaper. That’s great in that you don’t have to worry about cutting too much off of the cap or an expensive cigar, lighting a pricey cigar incorrectly or just giving up if you don’t like it.
So now that you have your hands on the cigar, here are a couple of things to check for:
- Check the wrapper for any discolored spots or cracks.
- Squeeze the cigar gently to find any hard spots or soft spots. A soft spot might mean that the cigar isn’t packed evenly, or may have less tobacco in it than you’d like. A hard spot, on the other hand, can mean that it was packed too tightly and may not burn or draw evenly. If that’s the case, “massaging” or rolling the cigar a little can break up this hard spot.
- Consider starting out with an assortment of less-expensive cigars, so that you can sample different types and flavors.
- Buy from a reputable tobacconist who can give you some solid advice. People who know their cigars can offer great tips and can answer the question, “what’s a good cigar for beginners?”
Beginner Cigar Kit
Part of the attraction of cigars and cigar smoking is in the ritual and ceremony that goes along with enjoying a good smoke. For beginners, it’s a good idea to have a little “kit” that can get you started. A kit might include:
- Humidor: Humidors are a must, to ensure that your cigars don’t dry out and stay nice and flavorful. Dried-out cigars will burn quicker, lose their flavor and can peel or crack and come apart. Of course, you also shouldn’t be buying more cigars than you feel that you can smoke in a reasonable amount of time. If you don’t feel like ponying up $50 to $200 for a good humidor, consider a humi-pouch. Humi-pouches are plastic bags that have a humidified lining and can seal up the cigar well enough to keep it fresh for up to three months at a time. Don’t store cigars in the refrigerator. At one time, this became a trend, but in actuality refrigerating a cigar will dry it out.
- Guillotine-style cutter: Knowing the proper way to cut the tip off a cigar and open it up for smoking is important. A purpose-built cigar cutter can ensure a proper, even, sharp cut and a cigar that will burn and draw properly. The idea is to provide a passage between the end of the cigar and your mouth, but not to let the cigar unravel or begin to come apart.
- Lighter: It’s important to use either wooden matches or a butane lighter to get that cigar going. Anything else, such as a candle, can ruin the flavor of the cigar. Puff and rotate the cigar as you light it, and don’t let the flame touch the tobacco. Instead, let the heat from the flame do the work. Continue until you see the tobacco at the end and the outer rim of the cigar glow from the heat.
A Few Do’s and Don’ts
- Avoid any cigar that has a split in the wrapper. A split cigar has been mishandled and is probably dried out, and will not smoke well. Imagine slitting the side of a drinking straw, then trying to drink through it.
- Never put a partly-smoked cigar back in the humidor. Either use a cigar saver or just get rid of what’s left of the cigar.
- A wrapper should ideally be one consistent color, without any tinge or blemishes.
- The ideal cigar will have a slightly oily appearance to the wrapper. This means that the cigar has been properly stored and humidified, and should have exceptionally good leaf and flavor.
- Never snuff out a cigar. Leave the cigar burning in the ashtray and let it go out on its own, avoiding the nasty smell of a snuffed-out cigar.
Ready to take on cigars? We hope this helps!