Many people have devoted their lives to finding "THE" perfect cigar and will stop at no means to find it. The majority of us just appreciate quality and want to take some time to sit and enjoy the fine flavours that float from the leaves as we watch the world go by. If the later sums up how you feel about cigar smoking then the following pages are for your benefit.
Our aim is to help you find a cigar you can enjoy, and how to enjoy it!
There are literally thousands of cigar brands out there and for each cigar brand there can be in excess of 20 shapes and sizes. Then they change from year to year depending on the crop. Then you have to store them correctly. And if you read the never ending advice on the net by the big wig fanatics it could be a year before you dare take the plunge. Choosing a cigar can be a daunting task but it needn't be just follow the basic rules and keep within your limits.
As long as you are sensible and take into consideration the main points
you cant go far wrong. You are unlikely to find the perfect cigar with your first purchase but you should find something you can enjoy.
And before we begin, RULE No.1 DONT FOLLOW TRENDS. Smoke what you enjoy not what others enjoy!
If you have never smoked before then stick to very small and very low strength/flavour. If you have smoked 40 full strength fags a day for the last year the chances are you will enjoy a medium-strength/flavour cigar.
Never buy a full box without trying one first. You may want to impress your mates with a box full of COHIBA SIGLO V's because they're the best right? Cant go wrong right? Wrong!
They are the most desired! Unless you've been smoking PREMIUM cigars for years a Cohiba will be too strong for you and your more likely to spend the night watching the room spin round your head with the a splitting head than impress your mates.
Cubans are the best right? Wrong! They are the most regarded and famous cigar producing Region. Probably the finest marketing promotion every undertaken. Don't get us wrong Cuba has gained this reputation by producing very very good cigars to a very high standard and they are arguably the best but they do produce some not so good cigars and it doesn't mean they are going to suit you.
Cuban Cigars are an acquired taste they tend to be stronger and bitter than cigars made in other regions. You may grow a strong palette for this flavour but it is unlikely from the start and a large number of experienced Cigar Smokers will opt for a smoother cooler, Dominican or Honduran cigar over a Cuban. Dominican, Nicaraguan and Honduran cigar producing regions have a very strong reputation and the Europeans are making a big come back in the cigar world as they are having to increase their efforts to try overcome the Cubans long established reputation. The only way you will find out is to compare them but don't fall for the trap that they are the best. Read the reviews and ignore the ones that say "Nothing beats a Cuban".
Big Fat Cigars are cool right? Yes they tend to smoke cool but they provide a very intense smoke for a long time. A novice smoker is very unlikely to enjoy a large Gauge cigar as more of the tobacco is burning at the same time and there is a lot of commitment required to smoke it to finish one. And with the amount of premium leaf needed to produce a large cigar it is likely to have cost you a good wedge meaning your going to push yourself to finish it. Start small, wait until you start finishing small cigars WANTING a bit more. Then move up ONE size. Eventually you will be able to toggle with the sizes and strengths as you know where your limits are. And after many years of smoking, when you find a spare couple of hours you can enjoy that Churchill not just claim you have enjoyed it.
The strengths of Premium cigars are well documented so you have no excuses. Remember when you first started drinking and you went straight for your dads poteen, had a bet with your mates as to who could drink the most then ended up with your head down the toilet. The same applies to cigars! Start low and as your pallet develops and your taste buds are asking for more move up ONE grade. And the good news less work/ageing/storing goes into a lower strength cigar so they wont cost you as much.
The more you pay for a cigar the better it is right? Almost! The price of a cigar generally increases according to the amount of time spent producing them. To an extent how rare the leaves are or the desirability of the brand will also affect the price but generally it means more attention has been put into your cigar. If your cigar contains aged leaves this means the leaves have been matured to develop the flavour. These have been stored and monitored over many years, which increases the value of the cigars they go into. Then there are factors such as the type of filler, blend of tobaccos, which all improve the more you pay.
However This does not mean you will enjoy it more.
The more you pay the bigger the cigar and the more complex and diverse the flavours are but some people simply don't like this. I have met millionaires that enjoy nothing more than a Villiger. They could afford a Montecristo A every day of the week but choose to buy a Small, machine made cigar.
If you have never smoked before, we recommend a small, low flavoured cigar and bear in mind if you feel you've had enough put it down and watch the cigar naturally burn. With a well made cigar this can be as satisfying as smoking itself. Never feel forced to finish a cigar, the idea is to enjoy it. If you have smoked 50 full strength fags a day you are more likely to enjoy a mid sized, medium strength cigar. But the same applies if you feel you've had enough put it down. If you've smoked a premium cigar every week for the last year you may want to try a full strength cigar, but ask yourself do you want stronger or are you happy with what you have been smoking?
Our advice is always start low and work up. If you are unsure always choose the a smaller, less expensive, lower strength cigar obviously not too cheap as there is nothing to appreciate. If your still wanting more after you've finished read the above comments and try work out why. Is it the overall quality/flavour, Strength or did it simply not last long enough.
Cigar smoking is a voyage of discovery.
Never put cigars in a fridge! Fridges are drier than you think and premium cigars will take on any potent flavours from the environment!
Premium cigars have generally been aged for a number of years in carefully controlled conditions. Many factors can affect the flavour and characteristics of a cigar. Once the cigars are removed from this environment the cigars begin to change. In the right conditions the flavours will develop and mature but in the wrong conditions the cigar can become un-smokeable.
(Dampness in the air) The un-disputable main consideration is the Humidity. Every cigar has an optimum humidity. Too dry and it will smoke hot and bitter and in extreme conditions can fall apart. Too damp and, erm well it wont burn. If you have the benefit of a humidor with a hygrometer the general recommendation is between 65 and 75% humidity. If you don't have a humidor find a sealed container and place a damp sponge in the container away from the cigars. The idea is to put moisture in the air not force it onto the cigars. The cigars will draw the moisture from the air. If the cigars become spongy you need less water if they become dry and crisp GRADUALLY add more moisture.
Your cigars should be kept in a fairly cool place away from direct sunlight, preferably around 64-70°F (18-21°C) If your cigars are stored below 54°F 12°C the aging process can be impaired. Above 75°F 24°C and you risk Tobacco bugs and your cigars rotting. (and of course damage to your expensive humidor).
Your Cigars are alive!! Ok that's a lie but to develop your cigars need to breath so treat them that way. Make sure there is room for air to move around your humidor and there are air holes.
Over time if your cigars are stored in the correct conditions and allowed to breath the flavour will develop just like a vintage malt. From the moment the cigar leaves the torcedors bench the five leaves that make up a premium cigar start a chemical reaction. While stored in the factory this reaction is controlled to provide a more rounded and balanced flavour. With the correct ageing this flavour can be developed even further. To achieve this remove any Tubes/Wrappers and allow them to sit next to other cigars. Do however take consideration over storing sweet flavoured cigars near non flavoured cigars as sweet flavours can upset the carefully balanced flavours of premium cigars. Like a well seasoned pan, a well seasoned humidor helps the ageing of cigars and encourages the flavour development in your cigars. A good humidor will have a thick cedar lining which, absorbs moisture and flavours. When you first buy your humidor clean the cedar lining with a clean damp cloth. Make sure plenty of water is soaked into the cedar then allow to stand for a couple of days (with no cigars) paying attention to the hygrometer. Make sure the humidor has balanced around the 70% mark. There are plenty of stories of people seasoning their humidors with Rum and Brandy but we do not recommend this. Your cigars have been developed by experts and no matter how good you think you are you do not know more than them!
You get to the bottom of your box and there is a layer of bloom (white/green dusty mould) on your cigars. Don't panic, just brush it off. It is generally considered a good sign that the cigars are being kept in the right conditions and are alive and well. If you get large accumulations of damp mould, mushrooms and pond life you have gone over the top with the water but other than that don't panic.
You see some holes in your cigars that resemble wood worm. Unfortunately this is every cigar smokers worst nightmare. These bugs can destroy your entire collection of cigars within weeks. Every premium cigar bought in the UK is carefully examined and will not contain tobacco bugs. The same cannot be said for cigars bought overseas and this is often the cause of contamination. First, throw out all the cigars that have holes in them. Next, take all the remaining, unharmed cigars (cigars with no bug holes at all) and place them in a clean, sealed, plastic container. Place the container in your freezer and let it sit for 48 hours. This will kill any bugs and/or bug eggs that are inside your cigars. Clean your humidor by brushing and thoroughly vacuuming it. After 48 hours, your cigars should be safe so you can return them to your humidor. Let the cigars re-humidify for a few days before you attempt to smoke them. This is also a sign that the temperature is too hot inside your humidor so move your humidor to a cooler location. This prevents any future cigars (with tobacco beetle eggs) from hatching.
The controlled decay of the leaf, which if done at the correct pace, enhances the complexity of the flavour
Premium Cigars tend to be hand made and have better quality wrappers and leaves. Budget cigars are mass manufactured by machine using inferior tobacco leaves.
Hand Rolled vs Machine/Hand Rolled
Machine rolled cigars are made quickly by a machine using short filler. They often look okay as a machine will roll it to a perfect size and shape every time. A hand rolled cigar will have a medium/long filler and an experienced roller can eliminate tight spots in the cigar ensuring a better draw and distribution of flavour.
Leaves of varying strengths and flavours that, make up the main body of the cigar.
Chopped leaves, stems, and other bits of lesser quality to produce the main body of the cigar generally used in machine made cigars.
larger pieces of better quality leaf than short filler without stems.
One continuous bunch of the finest tobacco leaves down the full length of the cigar, giving un-restricted draw and developing flavours. More manipulation of the flavours can be achieved through careful selection of the leaves in different layers.
BinderRobust leaves used to hold together the bunches of fillers. Binders are often rejected wrappers due to slight imperfections.
A cigar's outermost leaves, or wrapper, from the widest part of the plant. The wrapper determines much of the cigar's character and flavour.
The Diameter of a cigar measured in 64th's of an inch.
A box or room with constant humidity, and ideally temperature, used to store cigars
The act of puffing on a cigar. A good draw is an easy smooth intake.
Cigar band or ring.
Filler leaves rolled together and wrapped with a binder leaf to form a round shaped cigar.
Piles of ferementing tobacco.
The outer wrapper of the cigar.
The layer just under the Capa (wrapper) also know as the binder.
Tobacco Plantation house.
Cigar tasters (quality control)
CervantesAlso known as the Lonsdale this 6.5in x 42 ring gauge cigar is the third in a trilogy of 42 ring gauge cigars.
The Torcedors knife used to cut the wrapper leaf.
Dark brown wrapper.
Cuba's Worldwide distributor (NOW Habanos S.A.).
Spanish for snake, these cigars are made from three panatela cigars twisted together.
The Stripping House where the inner veins and stems are removed from the binder and filler leaves.
A large cool humidor.
A cigar that tapers towards one end.
The strength of a cigar.
A denomination of origin for Cuban cigars, literally translates to Havanas.
Jointly owned by the Cuban and Altadis S.A. Habanos is the Havana based company that controls Cuban cigars internationally. Previously known as Cubatabaco.
Hecho en Cuba
Made in Cuba.
Traditionally, the person who read stories to the cigar rollers throughout the day.
The master blender in a cigar factory.
One of the three fillers of tobacco leaves. The top most leaves of a plant that are richest in flavour and often darkest in colour.
A distinctive, dark, almost black wrapper shade.
Bundle of 50 cigars.
Moisturizing tobacco leaves in preparation for rolling.
A square shaped cigar. Also known as Box Pressed.
A historic group of growing regions in Cuba including Havana, which are renowned for their cultivation of wrapper leaves.
The Spanish word for cigar.
Mid section of the tobacco plant which, adds aroma and mid strength body.
Western area of Cuba known for its cultivation of binder and filler leaves.
Cuban term for Cigar.
Cuban corporation that is in charge of the agricultural and manufacturing aspects of Cuba's tobacco industry.
The muslin cloth which, shade-grown wrapper leaves are grown.
Bales of ageing tobacco leaves wrapped in Plam Bark after they have gone through the fermentation stage.
A Cigar roller.
Totalmente a Mano
Entirely hand made.
The leaf used for the main body of a Cuban Cigar.
Cigars packed individually in protective wooden, Aluminium or glass tubes.
The size and shape of a cigar
A region of Cuba where the majority of tobacco leaves are sourced for Habanos Cigars.
Eastern region of Cuba.
Leaves taken from the base of the plant, which form the filler and help give the cigar an even burn rate.
Wrong, you can pay into the £100's for a cigar cutter and there is a reason why.
We are not suggesting you pay £100's of pounds you can cut your cigar without a specific cigar cutter but take care as a few badly cut cigars and the costs will mount up.
A quality cigar has a cap over the end you smoke, to protect it and prevent it drying out but also to add to the ambience of preparing for an evenings pleasure. The idea is to make a clean break in the closed end where you will smoke it from. The cap can be peeled off (not recommended) punched or cut with a variety of cutting implements. The most recommended is a guillotine style cutter, but punches are popular and often built into lighters for ease of transportation. As long as it is sharp so as not to crush the cigar you should be okay. Hold the cigar with one hand and the guillotine with the other, then insert the head of the cigar into the guillotine and cut into the cap, usually about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch down. If the head of the cigar is shaped like a cone, then cut into the cone, but not quite at the widest part. In any case, do not cut into the body of the cigar. That would cause the wrapper to unravel, and ruin your smoking experience. The majority of cigars will have a slim band of leaf just above the end of the cigar to hold the cigar together. Make the cut inside of this band. When cutting be sure to make one clean cut so as not to leave any rough edges, which will affect your smoking experience.
You make the call, how much have you invested is it worth the risk, if so try one of the following.
NEVER BITE THE CIGAR! Apart from the unsavoury taste of raw tobacco pieces in your teeth you are likely to damage the filler of the cigar and affect the smoking characteristics of your investment.
If you have access to a SHARP knife or SHARP pair of scissors carefully slice a small hole in the cap with a big enough opening to smoke the cigar comfortably but try not to affect the original shape of the cigar.
Punching the end with a sharp pencil can also a provide sufficient opening to smoke the cigar.
After being cut, the cigar is now ready for lighting. Butane lighters or wooden matches are recommended. It is important not to introduce chemicals or other flavours or substances into the cigar as it is being lit (never use a scented candle). Specific cigar matches are available, which do not contain sulphur.
There are many types of lighters on the market, but butane torch lighters work the best outdoors, especially on a breezy day. Just be careful not to burn more down one side of the cigar. You can also get specific cigar lighters, which have a wider flame or two flames in a V shape to make lighting the whole cigar easier. Dunhill Rollagas lighters are available with a Pipe, Cigar or Classic Flame by special order.
AIM TO LIGHT THE WHOLE OF THE CIGAR IN ONE GO. The wider the flame and smaller the cigar the easier this section is to accomplish.
Ignite your lighter with one hand, then grip your cigar around the band (or about an inch or two from the head) using your thumb, and finger, and place in your mouth. Position the end of your cigar just behind the flame, without touching the flame with the cigar (or your hands on that note.) Begin drawing on the cigar, you will see the flame is pulled onto the cigar then slowly rotate the cigar while continuing to draw. Depending on the size of the cigar, you may have to continue puffing while rotating the open end above the flame for up to 30 seconds until the tobacco around the outer rim begins to glow, and the smoke begins to draw easily.
DO NOT INHALE! You will hear wild stories about really hard men in movies inhaling cigars! You are not one of them and if you get past the first draw you are likely to feel light headed and ill. Take a comfortable draw, hold the smoke in your mouth until you loose the flavour or have had enough then release and take a few seconds to watch the dark creamy smoke rise into the clouds while reflecting on the flavour. When (and if) you feel you want to sample the flavour once again take another smooth draw. Do not rush the cigar, over smoking will cause the cigar to overheat, which affects the flavour of the cigar.
Proper etiquette calls for removing the band at some point whilst smoking the cigar. Do not attempt to remove it before lighting as there is a risk the leaf may tear, but once the cigar's lit and has become warm, it should come off easily.
Continue to puff an gradually rotate to ensure the cigar burns evenly to the final draw.
You do not need to tap the ash from the end of your cigar. A good cigar with a long filler should have no breaks down the length of the cigar and the ash will hold revealing the fine inner construction of the cigar. The ash will also protect the cigar from the wind and stop it flaring up. The ash can build up to an inch before it will fall.
Don't go to the bar and order a pint of Fosters unless you have a different image than the recognised you wish to portray and don't like the taste of your cigar. Find a rich, un-sweet drink you enjoy such as port, cognac, bourbon/scotch or wine (preferably Cabarnet Sauvignon or Mourvedre.) The stronger the cigar the richer the drink should be so as not to be over powered by your cigar and vice versa.
The first point to note is if a cigar has been made traditionally the base of the leaf will be closest to your mouth. The further down the leaf the stronger and more intense the flavour.
This is when you decide whether you have chosen the right cigar for you. Take your time and do not rush your cigar. Take note of how you feel. Are you enjoying the flavour, are you feeling light headed or puffing away without any enjoyment making sure you get your moneys worth. If you are still enjoying the flavour of every last intake then carry on. If your feeling light headed rest the cigar on the edge of the ashtray. Take some time to note the extended ash and the construction of the cigar as it smoulders and gives off a lovely bluey smoke. If you've rested enough and want some more pick it up again but DO NOT force yourself to finish it. If your puffing away without enjoying the flavour you may wish to consider a fuller flavoured/stronger or better quality cigar next time.