Few things are related to pure manliness than smoking a cigar. Unfortunately, many men also don’t appreciate the art and subtleties that go into a good cigar. They just fire one up and puff away. But to each his own.
There are several reasons and steps to take to ensure you are getting the most out of each cigar. And don’t worry, if you are intimidated to try one on your own or around friends for the first time, we’re here to help you look and act the part of a proper gentleman.
Cigar smoking has been around for centuries. It was first popularized, not invented, by Colombus and the Spaniards after discovering natives smoking fine tobacco in the Americas. The Spaniards perfected the rolling of these tobacco leaves and mobsters and celebrities throughout history have them to thank for making them look cool.
That’s not to say that smoking cigars is all fun and games. We all know the downsides of smoking, and cigars are not immune to these, so smoke them at your own risk. Based on that reasoning, you might as well try to enjoy them as much as possible, right?
Cigar rolling and smoking is an art form. Any good cigar is hand-rolled with precision and care, and the finest cigars are crafted by people with vast knowledge and years of experience in the business. So always try to appreciate the complexity and aromas and flavors with each puff.
Cigar smoking can also be a relaxation or celebration ritual. Whether you light one up on your own with a glass of whiskey to melt the day away, or you partake in the smoke at a wedding or cocktail party for the camaraderie and bonding with friends, smoking a cigar can be a great way to escape.
Types of Cigars
There are dozens of types of cigars out there. Choosing one can be a hazy mess. The first rule to try and abide by is to opt for hand-rolled cigars over machine made. Machine made are usually cheaper, but may also contain undesirable chemicals or preservatives, whereas hand rolled will be made with pure tobacco. If you’re going to take the time to properly smoke and enjoy a cigar, go with hand rolled every time.
The Robusto is one of the most common types and a great cigar for beginners. They’re about 5 inches long and can take about 45 minutes to smoke.
The Belicoso are some of the largest cigars. They’re very thick and anywhere from 5-6.5 inches long. These are the cigars with the pointy, highly tapered ends. They take about an hour to smoke and are not recommended for beginners because of the high concentration of tobacco.
The Corona is also a very popular style due to the wide variety of flavors they can have. They’re really the cigar of all cigars. They’re 5.5-6 inches long and tend to have a light smoke, making them good for beginners.
The Lonsdale is similar to the Corona with their light smoke, but is a little longer at 6.5 inches and are more flavor forward cigars.
The Panetela is the longest of the bunch but much slimmer. They can take up to two hours to smoke so they aren’t for the faint of heart. They can also have different flavors arise throughout the duration of the smoke and are not beginner cigars.
The last of the bunch is the Churchill. The beast. They are long and thick and have a very dense and heavy smoke profile. Do not try one of these if you are new to smoking cigars.
There are also three main color codes to describe the wrapper and shade of the cigar, along with variations between these codes. Claro is the lightest, Colorado is medium, and Maduro is the darkest brown. This does not necessarily mean it is the strongest cigar, but often can.
For a better, more comprehensive breakdown of all the types of cigars, you can check this website out.
Good Cigars for Beginners
The Corona and Robusto are the best options to start with if you’re new. You also want to look for a mild flavor profile in the description of the cigar. But ultimately, the choice is subjective. If you know you can handle deeper and more intense flavors, go with a medium cigar to start. Then move up to the strongest.
General Tips for Choosing Cigars
One of the primary myths surrounding cigars is that Cubans are the best. This is just not true anymore. While many Cuban cigars are still fantastic and world-renowned, places like Honduras and the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua make high quality cigars. You don’t have to opt for the Cuban.
Another tip is to check the quality of the individual cigar before buying it. You can do this by gently rolling the cigar between your fingers to feel for lumps or dents or tightness. You want the cigar to be even rolled and have a slight give when you pinch it. This means it isn’t dried out and old.
You should always try to smoke your cigar within 72 hours of purchasing it. And always keep it in the humidity sealed bag you buy it in. Cigars dry out easily and when this happens, it definitely ruins the flavor or distorts it just enough to make it not taste as the maker intended.
The last general tip is to not buy too many cigars at once. Unless you are buying them for a group of people, just pick one or two out to try at first and see if you like the flavor. Then return to the cigar shop and try something new if you do.
How to Cut a Cigar
The first and most essential tip to cutting a cigar the right way is to buy a cigar cutter! A good enough guillotine style cutter is about four dollars. It’s more than worth it to purchase one to get the proper cut on your cigar. A guillotine cutter is pictured above, used with one finger in each end.
To cut the cigar properly, put the cutter 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch over the cap (closed end) of the cigar and cut with one quick motion to ensure a clean cut. If you cut too low on the cigar, it may unravel. If you cut too high, you won’t get enough smoke on the draw.
In a pinch, you can punch a hole in the end of the cigar without a cutter. This is not optimal but can provide enough passage for smoke to get through.
How to Light a Cigar
Lighting a cigar is every bit as important as cutting and smoking it. To do it right takes patience and a little know-how. Firstly, try to use a butane lighter or a wooden match, with a butane lighter being the preference due to its ability to stay aflame longer.
Start by holding the cigar at a 45-degree angle and lighting the lighter. Always, always hold the cigar above the lighter. Never put it directly in the flame as that will burn the tobacco and change the flavor. Start to rotate and toast the cigar. Don’t puff yet. Once the edges of the paper are crisped a little and lit, you can begin to puff the cigar while keeping the flame on. Keep rotating the cigar while puffing to get an even light.
How to Smoke a Cigar
Now that it’s lit, time to enjoy. The rule of all rules when smoking a cigar is to NEVER INHALE. You don’t want the smoke going into your lungs. It is too strong and could ruin the entire smoking experience. When puffing, think of sucking through a straw. Let the smoke fill your mouth, taste it, and blow it out. That’s all there is to it.
You also want to make sure to pace yourself. Most cigars take more than 30 minutes to smoke, with an hour being the most common time. So don’t keep puffing and puffing away every ten seconds. Take a nice, smooth drag or two every minute or so. This will keep the cigar lit and allow to savor the experience at an optimal rate.
As ash develops at the end of the cigar, you want to remove it. But not too often. A cigar capable of holding a long ash is usually a sign of good quality. But once it gets to about half an inch, roll the ash off the tip into an ashtray and continue smoking.
Cigars are manly. Cigars are a great way to relax or share an experience. Let’s face it, cigars are cool. But to properly appreciate one, you should try to smoke them right. Choose the right type, cut and light it properly, and take your time to savor the flavor. So pour a smooth whiskey or a wonderfully dank IPA and light one up and enjoy the night!