and Choosing a Cigar
a cigar can be an overwhelming task when you are confronted with
hundreds and maybe even thousands of choices. What color do you look
for? What size do you want? Are there tell tale signs to watch out
for when buying a cigar? All these questions will be answered.
Without getting into too much detail, let’s look at the most
obvious aspect of a cigar: color. The shade of the wrapper usually
is an indication of the flavor of the cigar. The darker the cigar,
the more likely it will be spicier. This is more of a rule of thumb
than a hard fast rule. Most new cigar smokers will appreciate a
lighter color. These are the general categories of color:
Claro - Known to have a greenish tint on its wrapper. It's a
light cigar that has had limited aging.
Claro - Typically signifies that the
cigar will be mild. It has a light brown color.
Natural - (also called English Market
Select) light brown to brown. These are most often sun grown,
meaning they are not protected by canopies like shade grown leaves.
Fuller bodied flavor than shade grown leaves, but still very smooth.
Colorado Claro - This wrapper
is your standard brown color. Slightly stronger than the Claro but
still considered mild.
Maduro - These wrappers are dark
brown and give off an excellent aroma. They are considered medium to
Oscuro - The Oscuro has a very dark
brown, practically black wrapper and is strong in flavor.
The darker the color, the sweeter and stronger the flavor is likely
to be, and the greater the oil and sugar content of the wrapper.
Darker wrappers will normally have spent longer at the tobacco plant
or come from higher altitudes: the extra exposure to sunlight
produces both oil (as protection) and sugar (through
photosynthesis). They will also have been fermented for longer.
The names of cigar sizes rarely have anything to do with the actual
size of the cigar. There aren't any universal standards to go by, so
the best you can do is keep in mind that the size thing is just a
guideline. And that is no more readily apparent than after you
notice that one manufacturer's churchill is the the same size as
another's double corona.
There are, however, "classic" measurements which will,
when you become more familiar with them, allow to to make some
general assumptions about a cigar's size. For instance, after you
get to know the classic measurements, the next time you see the
words "Double Corona" on the outside of a cigar box you'll
know right away that what's inside is not a collection of short
But then you'll also want to keep in mind that just because the box
says "Churchills" doesn't mean the cigars are going to be
7 inches long with a 48 ring gauge.
All you really need to remember is that cigars, in terms of their
size, are generally listed by length in inches and the ring gauge,
or the cigar's girth, which is in 64ths of an inch. So, a classic
Churchill is 7 inches long and 48/64ths of an inch thick.
When choosing a size, it is important that you remember that the
bigger the cigar, the longer it will take to smoke it. For new cigar
smokers it is a good idea to stick with Coronas and Robustos.
There are 3 warnings for choosing a cigar:
1. The cigar should not be too soft or squishy. When you give it a
little squeeze, it should only “give” a little. If it is too
soft then it is a sign of an over-humidified cigar.
2. The cigar should not be too dry or fragile. This is a sign of an
under-humidified cigar. Some people like them this way, but it is
best to stay away from these until you want to experiment.
3. Moldy cigars should be thrown away. Be sure you do not confuse
mold with plume. Plume is the white ash like residue that can be
brushed off. This is a sign of good aging.
Storing your Cigars **
Cigars are hygroscopic in nature. In lay terms, this means that they
will over time dry out when in a dry climate or absorb moisture in a
humid one. And they will continue to do so until their own moisture
content matches that of the ambient climate around them.
A damp cigar will not burn properly. Not only will it be difficult
to keep lit, but also difficult to draw on. The smoke may become too
dense leaving the smoker with a sour taste and a rank aroma. Also,
over moist cigars will commonly split their wrappers.
A dry cigar will burn too hot. Without the proper level of moisture,
the combustion temperature of your cigar will be too high and the
smoke will be hot and acrid against your palate. The smoke may
become overly aggressive and you will lose many of the subtle
nuances of flavor that a properly humidified cigar would of given
you. Also, dry cigars will lead eventually to the early evaporation
of their essential oils and reduce their overall flavor and aroma.
Typically for the most enjoyable smoking, a cigar should contain
approximately 12 -14% of its total weight in moisture. This
corresponds to 60 - 70% relative humidity, but can be up to 75%.
Relative Humidity (RH) is a measurement of the amount of moisture in
the atmosphere compared with that of complete saturation regardless
of the temperature.
The primary criteria in the proper storage of cigars is to achieve a
stable and ideal relative humidity within this 60% - 70% RH range.
The secondary, but also important requirements are to store them at
temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit and in a darkened
environment. Doing these three simple things will allow your cigars
to not only be stored well, but also age well resulting in cigars
that will draw easily, burn steadily, and share their optimum flavor
and nuances with your palate.
Cutting, Lighting, Smoking and Ashing
Cigars are made with a cap over the head. Most good cigars,
therefore, have only one open end. This is NOT the end that you put
in your mouth - that open end is where the smoke comes out. So you
need to cut the cigar at the head.
Cutters come in different styles, but the most common is the
guillotine. The double-bladed guillotine has a hole in the middle,
two blades, and two notches where your fingers can grip it. You
should absolutely buy a guillotine as your cutter - they're easy,
small, and they make a clean cut with less of a tendency to tear the
tobacco than other styles. You can also use a knife or your teeth,
but cutters are really cheap, and a knife may ruin the cigar.
Here's how to actually make the cut (it's really simple):
1. Cut the cigar on the tapered part (the cap).
2. Try to leave about 1/8th of an inch of the cap.
3. Never cut on or past the cap line - you'll be cutting the wrapper
leaf. All hell will ensue.
This can be tricky for a newbie, but our tips will get you through
1. It's best to light a cigar yourself - lighting a cigar takes
longer than lighting a cigarette, and it's best not to feel rushed
by having a friend reach over with a lit match.
2. Matches or butane lighters are fine, but if you use a match, make
sure the sulfur is burned out first so it doesn't impair the taste
of the cigar.
3. Never use a candle - the wax particles will enter the cigar and
taint its flavor.
4. Hold the cigar in your hand, not your mouth, and rotate it near
5. Do not actually touch the flame with your cigar.
When the entire surface is charred and embers appear, place the
cigar between your lips.
6. Gently puff to blow out any foreign particles or odors that may
have come from the lighter or match. Check to see that the cigar is
This probably goes without saying, but just in case you happen to
have a pompadour with a lot of hairspray: remember to not set your
hair on fire.
Now that the cigar is lit, you should be able to draw smoke gently
1. Draw slowly by pulling in your cheeks. Do not suck or inhale.
2. Do not smoke the cigar too forcefully or quickly - it will make
it taste harsh and burnt. Just puff occasionally, making sure the
cigar stays lit.
3. After a few minutes, you may want to remove the cigar band
(label). Some people think it is obnoxious to keep the band on while
you smoke, and it's not really necessary to keep your fingers from
getting stained. Make sure that you've smoked the cigar for a bit,
though. If you remove the band too early, the glue will not have
softened and you will risk tearing the wrapper.
People smoking good cigars like to keep the ash on for as long as
possible. Indeed, a solid tower of ash is a sign of a well-made
cigar. But don't let the ashy end grow too long - this is both
pretentious and an invitation for a mess on the floor. Every once in
a while, just gently press the ash against an ashtray - the ash
should fall off easily without you having to tap the cigar. If your
cigar goes out, it's okay. This does not mean you are a bad smoker -
just remove the ash and re-light it.
Smoke the cigar for as long as you want - the only time you should
stop smoking is when it stops being enjoyable for you. When that
becomes the case, just set the cigar down in an ashtray and it will
go out on its own. Do not grind it out, as that will produce excess
smoke. Just take one last draw, set it down, take a sip of your
drink, and revel in your smoothness.