So, you are looking for advice on how to enjoy a cigar? You have come to right place and over the next few minutes I’ll share the knowledge I’ve accumulated on my own journey. Smoking a premium cigar is a rite of passage for most adults and has been a part of many cultures for over 500 years. It is meant to be a relaxing and enjoyable way to unwind alone or socialize with close friends. If you’re not familiar with cigars, it can be tough to know where to start. Here is my step-by-step guide on how to select and enjoy a cigar.
Choosing the right cigar.
Humidors can be overwhelming, hundreds of cigars of various shades all wearing catchy bands, vying for your attention. We’ve been there and you are not alone. Not all cigars are created equal so in cases like this you have an ally in your shop’s tobacconist. Don’t be shy, they are hired to help you choose the perfect cigar and know their inventory well enough to make good recommendations. Let them know your experience level with cigars, the type of occasion and even what you are pairing the cigar within terms of food and drink.
A great starter cigar would be something mild to medium bodied with a lighter color wrapper or outer leaf. If you are looking for something with a little more flavor or spice look for a cigar with a medium to dark colored wrapper. Keep in mind that dark colors do not mean stronger, those are called Maduro, which translates to ripeness in English and could provide a sweeter flavor profile. Your tobacconist will know what is smoking well and be able to recommend a good cigar in your budget. Expensive doesn’t always mean better, most of the cigars I enjoy regularly are between $8 and $12 dollars each.
Cutting the cigar.
If you are new to cigars, this section is important to the overall experience. Cigars come in all shapes and sizes called Vitolas, but they all have a cap that goes in your mouth (not yet!) and a foot which is where you would light it. The cap must be cut open for you to be able to draw smoke through the cigar. There are a few different ways to cut a cigar, you can use a V cut, a punch cut or the most common is to use a guillotine or straight cutter. To use a guillotine cutter, simply hold the cigar in one hand and the cutter in the other. Line up the top of the cutter with the top cap of the cigar and then press down firmly. You will notice several layers to most caps, try to open the very top layer around the shoulder leaving some of the cap in place to avoid cutting to much off, doing so can cause the cigar to unravel.
The goal is to open the wrapping up sufficiently to allow for a smooth and pleasant draw without damaging the cigar. Here again, your tobacconist can help you by cutting the cigars at time of purchase if you plan to enjoy them right away. If you are planning to enjoy them later, leave them uncut and make sure you have a cutter available. I will write about different cutters in a future article.
After you’ve cut the cigar, I recommend a “cold draw” where you can test your cigar to be sure the force needed to pull air through the cigar is comfortable. You will also get a sense of the flavors provided during the smoking experience. Since the cigar has been in your mouth, etiquette says if a fix is needed, you will not use a public cutter to do so.
Lighting the cigar.
It is time to toast and light the cigar. Here, like cutting, you have many options to choose from. Your tobacconist may ask if you need a light and can get you started but cigars do go out so you need to be prepared to relight. A butane torch is the tool of choice but long matches, cedar spills if you are feeling bougie, or a Bic (not recommended) in a pinch will do. Be sure to subscribe to my blog as lighters will be covered in a future story.
You often hear cigar smokers use the term Toasting. They are not talking about bread. Toasting is meant to evenly ignite the tobacco at the foot of the cigar without overdoing it and burning the end of the cigar. To toast the foot of the cigar, hold it about four inches over a flame and rotate it slowly. The goal again is to evenly heat the foot without charring it. You should see whisps of smoke and an even darkening of the foot with a nice mascara line on the wrapper. You are not trying to get a glowing red ember here.
Once the cigar is toasted, put the cigar in your mouth and draw the smoke into your mouth while holding the lighter flame in front of the foot. You should get a burst of flame as you draw the smoke in. Expel the smoke and repeat this step until you have a good amount of smoke produced on each draw. Once the cigar is lit, you can start enjoying it.
Smoking the cigar.
When you’re smoking a cigar, it’s important to take your time and enjoy the process. Remember, the cigar is just a device used to augment the night, it should not be the main event unless you are writing a review for others. Key point, do not inhale the smoke, just let it sit in your mouth and then blow it out slowly.
Enjoy the flavors, the sensations and the aroma of the cigar. It is important to draw on the cigar periodically to keep the foot lit. The smoke should be cool and comfortable in your mouth, if it gets hot then allow for more time between puffs. Try different pairings with your cigars, scotch, whiskey, bourbon and coffee are my favorites. Alternate taking a sip followed by drawing on the cigar vs drawing first and then taking a sip. Be sure to not what pairings you like for future sessions.
Cigars are hand made products and sometimes they may exhibit issues, this is normal and provided they were well cared for should not be a frequent occurrence. A good tobacconist will stand behind their products and should you experience a tight draw or other issue out of your control, let them know as I have seen these issues handled properly at good lounges.
As you smoke the cigar, a length of ash will form on the foot. This ash should be left in place as it shelters the lit end from being extinguished. An inch of ash is generally a good length and should not break off unexpected with a premium cigar. If the ash grows longer you should deposit it in an ashtray before it falls of naturally all over your shirt or lap. To do so, place the foot against the side of the ash tray and roll the cigar gently back and forth to break the ash free.
Putting out the cigar.
Congratulations, you made it to the end. This step is super easy…When you’re finished smoking the cigar, put it in an ashtray. That’s it! Cigars generally go out by themselves within five minutes, never smash the foot into the ashtray like a cigarette.
Tips for Smoking a Cigar
- Choose a cigar that is the right size and shape for you.
- Cut the cigar properly to prevent it from unraveling.
- Toast and light the cigar evenly to prevent it from burning incorrectly.
- Smoke the cigar slowly and savor the flavor.
- Dispose of the cigar properly.
Enjoy Your Cigar!
Smoking a cigar is a relaxing and enjoyable way to unwind and socialize. With a little practice, you’ll be able to smoke a cigar like a pro in no time. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your time with the cigar.
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