Cigars – along with martinis, brown liquor and BBQs – are a staple of manhood.
Whether you’re moving out on your own, joining the military, getting married or having a baby, a cigar is the ultimate way to celebrate.
But how do you choose a good cigar? For the uninitiated, selecting the right cigar for them can be daunting.
Fear not . Like beer, everyone has their own preferences… and in this post we’ll examine how to find that perfect smoke for you.
The 4 Parts of a Cigar
#1. The head: This is the side you put in your mouth. It’s also the side you’ll need to cut (assuming the guy at the shop hasn’t already).
There are three ways to cut it:
- A guillotine: Simple, effective and cheap. Buy one at the cigar shop. It’s worth it.
- A sharp knife: Doable, but not as good as a guillotine.
- Your teeth: This will make you look like a schmuck. Don’t do it.
#2. The foot: This is the side you light. Usually, the foot is already cut for you.
#3. The filler: The inside goodness of the cigar. Filler consists of both dried and fermented tobacco, which helps bring out different flavors and aromas.
#4. The wrapper: The outside of the cigar (duh). Surprisingly, most of a cigar’s flavor comes from the wrapper, which is a major reason why Cuban cigars are held in such high regard (more on Cubans in a minute).
Now let’s talk about…
Choosing the Right Cigar For You
Your first stop should be the local cigar shop. Here you’ll find a variety of well preserved cigars and a professional tobacconist who can help answer your questions.
Once there, you’ll enter the humidor (named for the constant level of humidity) and browse their selection of cigars.
Why the humidity? Simple. Too much moisture will rot cigars, too little will dry them out.
Now it’s time to choose a cigar. As I mentioned before, it’s all a matter of taste. Here’s what you need to consider:
“Body” in this case refers to the strength of flavor. While experienced smokers enjoy full-bodied cigars (usually with dark wrappers), beginners should try a mild or medium bodied cigar to start with (lighter wrappers).
Size refers to two measurements: the length (measured in inches) and ring gauge (circumference), which is represented in 1/64ths of an inch.
For example, a cigar that is 7 x 48 means it is seven inches long and 48/64ths of an inch.
Size does affect flavor. Larger ring gauges allow for a more complex blend of tobaccos, which can enhance the flavor.
Like most good things in life (beer, wine, scotch, etc.) cigars have independent ratings. The most popular rating is from Cigar Aficionado, which ranks cigars on a scale of 1-100.
Here’s how they describe their rankings:
95 – 100: Classic
90 – 94: Outstanding
80 – 89: Very good to excellent
70 – 79: Average to good
Below 70: Forget about it.
How to Inspect a Cigar for Quality
The first thing to inspect is a cigar’s construction. Roll it between your fingers and note any bumps or empty spaces. The more evenly distributed the tobacco, the better.
Why? Because it affects the smoothness of the cigar. Any empty pockets or rough textures will result in a harsher smoke when you puff.
The second thing to consider is the tobacco quality. Unfortunately, it’s near impossible to judge just by looking at it, so this is where the rating system (and a brand’s reputation) comes into play. When in doubt, ask a tobacconist for help on this.
Lighting a Cigar the Right Way
Be sure to use wood matches or a butane lighter. Paper matches or gas lighters produce chemicals which negatively affect the flavor of your cigar – avoid them!
Before you light your cigar, run the flame under the foot (the end you light) and rotate the cigar a few times. Don’t actually touch the flame to the cigar; at this point, you just want to warm up the tobacco first to ensure it will burn smoothly.
Then, hold the flame in front of the cigar (but again, not actually touching it) and gently rotate the cigar while inhaling a few times.
And that’s it!
Now before we close, I’d like to touch on a very important debate which is…
Cuban Cigars: Are They Really That Good?
In a word: yes.
The Cuban government takes cigar making very seriously, and stringent regulations ensure they’re of the highest quality. Plus, Cuban cigar rollers – called “torcedores” – are possibly the best in the world. Many roll cigars for their entire lives.
But if you’r e in the US, the 1962 embargo pretty much prevents you from buying them. And if someone is offering “Cuban” cigars in the US, they’re probably fake (and you’re getting ripped off).
So if you do want to smoke a real Cuban, you’ll need to head to Canada or Mexico first.
Got any extra cigar tips? Let us know in the comments below! Find the perfect cigar accessories for your smoking hobby over at our men’s gifts website GreatGiftsForMen.com.