Humans have been smoking tobacco via various methods since 5000 BC, and cigars boomed in US popularity around the time of the Civil War.
By the year 1880, the only states that didn’t have a cigar factory were Idaho and Montana!
In modern times, celebrations such as a wedding or the birth of a new baby are often heralded with stogies.
In the business world, humidors adorn the desks of powerful men worldwide. Cigar smoking also continues to be a popular solo activity, to unwind after a stressful day or pause and reflect on life’s events.
Understanding the nuances of selecting, cutting, lighting and smoking a great cigar will help you appreciate the fine craftsmanship and delicate flavors all the more.
Two measurements: Length and diameter.
Most popular: Straight cylinder with a rounded “head”.
3. Strength and taste
Five cigar choices: Mild, mild-to-medium, medium, medium-to-full, and full.
Look for: Uniform color, hand rolled, stored in a room or container away from direct sunlight — in a humidor.
Whether you’re being offered your choice from a friend’s humidor or are making a selection at a tobacco shop, knowing a bit about picking out the right cigar for you is essential. Learning about the types of cigars available and what kind of smoking experience they offer is integral to making a good decision.
Cigars come in many different types, but the most common varieties are found in nearly every tobacco shop. While taste and shape is largely up to individual preferences, keep in mind that some general wisdom holds true throughout the world of cigars.
For example, the traditional mobster cigar, known as a Belicoso, is very strong and fast-burning. It’s probably not a good choice for the casual smoker. Likewise, Coronas are prized for their light smoke, which helps avoid irritation and coughing so you can savor the taste in leisure.
As for the quality of the cigar, a high price doesn’t necessary mean better quality or taste. Before you purchase any cigar, roll it gently between your fingers. It should be firm and smooth in your hand. If it’s soft or has lumps in it, choose another. A good cigar should be the same consistency throughout its length.
If you do not smoke at all and are worried about coughing and hacking, choose a longer cigar. Many people new to cigar smoking mistakenly choose the shortest, least-intimidating cigar they can find to start with. This brings the fire closer to your mouth and lungs, which are not used to smoke at all. You’ll also want to avoid heavily spiced aromatics, as they can be very strong and make you feel nauseous if you’re not used to smoking. Keep these things in mind during your selection.
When you’re ready to smoke, you’ll want to cut off the end that goes in your mouth. There is a special tool, shaped like a guillotine, for this purpose. You can also use a pocket knife, but you’ll want to make sure to get an even cut and not unravel the cigar. If you can avoid it, try not to bite off the end with your teeth. Not only is this very ungentlemanly behavior, you will get bits of tobacco in your teeth and mouth.
To cut the cigar, you will want to take off the end in one swift movement. This will stop the cigar from tearing and give you a clean edge to put in your mouth. If you are using a knife, cut the cigar on a table so you can control the blade properly.
You do not light a cigar like a cigarette. You will want to use a wooden match or a torch specifically designed for lighting cigars. Some people say that the fuel from some lighters, especially those like a Zippo, can change the taste of the tobacco. Use the highest point of the flame to light the cigar, and wait until there is are orange embers before you begin puffing.
Cigars are not so much smoked as they are puffed. You want to draw the smoke into your mouth, but not draw it down into your lungs. If you’re a cigarette smoker, this can take some getting used to, so you may want to practice in private before lighting up a stogie in front of others. Once the cigar is well lit, you will only want to take a puff or two at a time.
Cigar smoking is supposed to be leisurely, as some can take hours to burn through. There is no such thing a ‘quick’ cigar, unless you want to try out cigarillos. You also do not need to ash a cigar like a cigarette, by tapping it against the ashtray. You can leave the ash until it is approaching an inch long, then carefully roll the ash to knock it away.
As you smoke the cigar, take the time to enjoy the taste and the aroma. Some are more aromatic than others, so take note of which types and brands you find particularly pleasant.
While you can remove the label if you like, it’s not necessary to do so. If you would like to remove it, wait until you’ve been smoking the cigar for several minutes. This will allow the heat the loosen the adhesive and make the paper slide away easier.
If the cigar starts to burn down one side, hold it so that the burning side is facing down. This will allow the embers to rise and ignite the rest of the tobacco. This can help with an uneven burn and save the cigar.
Should the cigar be wrapped too tightly and you’re having trouble puffing it, try gently rolling and massaging it between your fingers. This will help create some space in the cigar for more airflow.
In order to keep your cigar from going out between puffs, you can take a few quick drags before drawing in a more robust puff to savor. This little trick will help keep the coal hot and stop it from dying out mid-smoke.
Worried that your humidor is not sealing properly? Take it into a dark room and place a flashlight inside it. You will be able to see if any light is escaping. A bad seal can destroy your cigars, so it’s worth it to check your humidor if you have any doubts at all.
Should your cigar go out and you’d like to resume smoking it, get all of the ash from the end. Then, blow through it like a straw. This will remove stale smoke and avoid a nasty taste. Relight it using a proper torch or match, puffing gently to encourage the flame. This method will help keep the taste of the tobacco true and avoid a stale smell and taste.
The cigar is done when there is half to a quarter of it left. Don’t smoke it down to a small nub, as this will taste awful as the smoke becomes more and more harsh.
When you’ve finished smoking you cigar, leave it in the ashtray and allow it to extinguish itself. There is no reason to grind it out like a cigarette, which will split the cigar and make a nasty mess. You cannot store a half-smoked cigar with much success, so choose a cigar that burns for the length of time you’d like to smoke to avoid a lot of waste.
You generally want to hold the cigar between your thumb and index finger. Don’t hold it between your index and middle finger, as this looks like you are a confused cigarette smoker. This will also allow you to keep a good grasp on the cigar and avoid any embarrassing mishaps.
Try not to blow smoke at others. This is rude behavior with any type of smoking material and can make you seem clueless to the comfort of others.
Smoking cigars can be a solitary pursuit or a social grace, depending on the situation. By keeping these tips in mind, you will be prepared the next time cigars are passed around. If you’ve never smoked before, trying it out in private first is a great idea to get a feel for what you like and how to handle a quality stogie like a pro.