The Definitive Cigar Guide
From Arnold Schwarzenegger to James Bond to Jay-Z, smoking good cigars is often a choice pastime. It’s a hobby, a lifestyle, and a great way to enjoy yourself. A lit cigar in your hand adds a bit of class and debonair to your personal brand and style.
While it might not be the most healthy activity out there, and we don’t recommend smoking cigars regularly, an occasional cigar is well worth it. As the saying goes, ‘All things in moderation…”
It should also be noted that there’s really no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to smoke a cigar. The point is really to get the most enjoyment out of your cigar. You may do something your own way, such as cutting or lighting the cigar. And that’s totally fine! Experiment and figure out the techniques that work best for you.
If there’s only one thing you get out of this article, it’s that the cigars should be enjoyed slowly. This is the only way that you’ll be able to truly enjoy the tobacco leaves and the full flavor of your cigar. The smoke should never be bitter or burn your mouth or nose. Again, the main point is to slowly enjoy the cigar.
When starting out, it may seem like a good idea to begin with a smaller, shorter cigar. However, the opposite is true! A larger cigar is easier to handle and the smoke from a shorter cigar is often heated and can cause you to cough unless you’re experienced.
A great analogy here is to compare the usage of a regular straw (larger cigar) verses a smaller, cocktail straw (smaller cigar). With a regular straw, you’ll be able to take in more drink (smoke). Whereas with a cocktail straw, the liquid drink you’re consuming is more concentrated and is taken in short bursts.
So if you’re unexperienced, a long, lighter (more mild tasting) cigar is the way to go. Leave the short cigars to the veterans!
What Is a Cigar?
According to Wikipedia, a cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco leaves. Often a cigar is received in a box and wrapped in cellophane wrapping.
A cigar is different than a cigaret both physically and how you smoke it. A cigar is entirely made up of tobacco leaves, including the casing. Whereas cigarettes are composed of meshed up tobacco and close to 600 other ingredients. These ingredients are then put into a casing (paper or other material) that often has a filter. A pipe is another way to smoke tobacco.
With cigars, most smokers do not inhale the smoke. Whereas with cigarets, the smoke is often inhaled.
Important Cigar Terminology
In order for you to fully enjoy your cigar, you must be educated on some basic terms and lingo:
Band – the colorful ring around the cigar that most often indicates what type, brand, and country of origin of the cigar. Bands are often popular collector’s item
Blend – the makeup of the type of tobacco leaves in the cigar
Cap – the part that is cut off right before lighting the cigar
Foot – the part of the cigar that you light. This often comes pre-cut
Head – the part you put in your mouth (the opposite side that you light)
Humidor – a humidified wooden box that is used to store, preserve, and age cigars
Wrapper – the outer tobacco leave that cases the entire cigar. A wrapper should be perfect; no blemishes, tears, or veins
How To Cut A Cigar
There are a few different ways to cut a cigar’s head. But, the most popular method is the straight cut done by a guillotine cutter. Guillotine cutters are usually made of steel and are very sharp. The guillotine cutters are simply used for a straight cut the cleanly severs the cap from the body of the cigar. Watch out for your fingers!
Other methods include the punch cut and the v cut, each having their own advantages and disadvantages. A punch cut allows for a small hole to be punched into the cap. And a v cut is where you remove a v shaped wedge from the cap. Both these type of cuts allow for a more concentrated stream of smoke to come through the head.
A few words of warning: biting your cigar isn’t a proper cutting method. Not only could biting result in an unravelled cigar, but it can also leave your spitting out tobacco leaves. Not a good look!
How to Light a Cigar
There are two preferred methods when it comes to lighting cigars: matches and butane lighters.
If you are using matches, go for wooden matches. Avoid cheap restaurant matches. Not only do wooden matches smell better, but they’re easier to light and will result in a better initial light for your cigar.
The second type of lighting method is to use a butane lighter. You do not want to use a gasoline lighter (like the Bic ones you’d find at a gas station), because it can change and negatively affect the taste of the cigar.
A third, less popular method is to use cedar to light your cigar. Often times, cigar boxes are made of thin cedar wood. This cedar can then be ignited from a match or lighter and brought to the cigar to light it. The smell from this is amazing.
When you ready to light the cigar, you want to first moisten the head (the part you put in your mouth) of the cigar. This is done so that the cigar won’t become unravelled if both your lips and the cigar are dry and it begins to stick to your mouth.
To do this, simply bring the cigar to your mouth and transfer some (not too much) salvia to the cigar. This should be spread evenly.
After your cigar is properly moistened, you’ll want to begin to light the foot of the cigar. Once you begin to see a red glow, start to rotate the cigar. Rotating your cigar is an important step. It’s important to light the foot of the cigar so that your cigar will burn evenly.
After the cigar is fully combusted, puff lightly. If you see that the cigar is not lit evenly, return to last step and make sure the red glow is distributed evenly.
How to Properly Smoke a Cigar
A question often asked is: should I inhale the smoke from a cigar?
No, you shouldn’t actually inhale the smoke. You can enjoy the taste without unnecessarily putting high alkaline and other undesirable things into your body.
The length of time it takes to smoke your cigar depends. If you have a smaller cigar like a corona, it could be around 30 minutes. Whereas a longer cigar may be enjoyed for close to two hours.
Again, in order to properly smoke a cigar, you want to take it slow…don’t bring excessive heat to the body of the cigar because it can ruin your cigar’s flavor. This is often called ‘stoking’. The main object is to let the smoke fill the cigar and let it sit for a moment. When you draw a puff, you’ll be taking in cool, not hot, smoke. This also allows for the smoke to properly blend with the tobacco.
Holding The Cigar
A cigar should not be held between your pointer an middle fingers like a cigarette is often held. The two general ways of holding the cigar is either between your index and middle and thumb (pictured left), or having the cigar lightly held between your first three fingers and thumb (pictured right).
Ashing Your Cigar
It is important to understand that a nice buildup of ash indicates a quality cigar. The more buildup you see, the nicer the cigar!
When you do get a buildup of ash, don’t just bang your cigar into the ash tray. Rather you should slowly rotate the cigar and slightly touch the ash to the side of the tray, gently releasing the ash.
If you let your cigar sit for a bit and it collects too much ash, it may go out. If that’s the case, simply re-light your cigar and begin enjoying your cigar again.
Should I Leave the Band On?
Most cigars come with a band. This band is usually colorful and indicates the cigars brand, country of origin, and type. Legend has it that Spanish nobles invented cigar bands to protect the whiteness of their gloves.
It’s totally up to you whether or not you want to keep the band on the cigar while you smoke it…some people prefer it on and others like to take it off.
However, if you do decide to take it off, we recommend lighting the cigar and smoking it for a bit before you take it off. The reason for this is that the slight heat from smoking the cigar will warm up the band’s adhesive and will allow for easy removal. This is great because you don’t want to apply pressure when removing the band, as you may end up damaging the cigar.
Popular Cigar Types and Brands
There are many different types of cigars and brands. From coronas (not the beer) to torpedos, there are a wide range of cigar types. See the infographic below. You can click to enlarge:
Some of the top cigar brands include: Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, and Montecristo. You really can’t go wrong choosing a classic brand such as one of these three!
Usually, a lighter cigar wrapper color indicates that it is lighter in taste and not as strong. On the opposite side of the spectrum, a dark cigar generally indicates a more ‘heavy’ taste.
What make a good cigar is its age and the quality of the tobacco leaves. Often times (but not always), price and quality are positively correlated.
Where to Smoke Cigars?
If you’re still in school, you may be banned to smoke cigars on campus property. That being said, going off campus or on private property, you should be fine. Also if you live in an apartment complex or similar situation, think twice before lighting up inside!
Personal favorite spots include cigar lounges (you can check google to see if there are any near you), restaurants, bars, parks, and rooftops.
So next time you’re closing a big deal, receiving a promotion, or simply celebrating life, light one up!
What do you think? When are you planning on smoking your next cigar?