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Getting Started With Cigars

This article will give you enough basic information so you can start smoking cigars right away and not make any "newbie" mistakes. I'll cover the essentials on how to choose the right cigar, prepare it and smoke it for maximum enjoyment.

If this is the first time you are smoking a cigar, I recommend going to a specialty cigar retailer so you can see, touch and feel the cigar before you buy it. After you get accustomed to the different varieties and brands, then you can be safe purchasing cigars on the Internet, as well as from brick & mortar stores.

There are hundreds of different cigar brands, and different cigar lines within those brands. There are different cigars within the product lines. How do you make the right selection from the thousands of cigars that are available? Let's consider the aspects of name brand, body or flavor, and construction, and then I will give you some  specific recommendations.

Name Brand
Cigars are an organic, handmade product, just like wine. Tobacco, just like grapes is susceptible to and influenced by soil, climate and weather. Premium cigars are hand-made, which adds another variable into the mix. All of these variables make it challenging to maintain consistency. The successful name brand cigars that have been around for years owe part of their success to maintaining consistency in the quality and flavor of their cigars. This is why it is important for you to choose one of the major name brand cigars to make sure you have a good first experience. You can take risks later.

Body or Flavor
"Body" refers to the taste, and how strong it is. For example, a light-bodied cigar could be compared to drinking tea with cream and sugar. A medium-bodied cigar could be compared to coffee with cream and sugar. A full-bodied cigar would be like black espresso. Keep in mind that these comparisons are to give you a rough idea. Even if you like to drink black espresso, I still recommend that beginners start with a light-bodied cigar.

Since we are looking at well-known name brands, the construction should be good. However, this is a hand-made product and people are not perfect. A cigar roller might have a bad day. When choosing your cigar, hold it in your hand and lightly, carefully squeeze it in different areas to make sure there are no soft spots. A soft spot means it's not rolled correctly and it will not burn properly. 

Some good brands that offer a quality, mild-bodied smoke are Macanudo, Don Diego, Cuesta Rey, Baccarrat, Montesino and Licenciados. Try one or a few of these, and choose a few different sizes to see which you like best. As a newbie, you should not buy a full box of cigars for a while. Even if you buy a single cigar that you like immensely, just buy a few at a time and try some other cigars as you get more experience. As time goes on, your tastes are likely to change. Many people move on to medium-bodied and/or full-bodied cigars. Your first favorite cigar may not remain your favorite.

Now, lets cover the basic anatomy of a cigar. As you can see from the graphic below, a cigar has four different parts, plus the band. I talked about the band and when to remove it in my article on Cigar Etiquette. Anatomy of a Cigar

Let's start at the top.

The "Cap" is the small piece of tobacco that closes off one end of the cigar. It makes the cigar look better, prevents the wrapper from unraveling, and gives the cigar a better feel in your mouth. The first step in preparing your cigar to smoke is to "open" the cap. You will need a cigar cutter or a punch. I recommend buying a cutter as a punch won't work with pointed caps found on some cigars. If you really want to be on the safe side, ask the tobacconist to clip the cigar for you and watch how he does it. When you clip the cap, instead of thinking like you are cutting it off, think that you are "opening" the cigar. You should not cut the entire cap off or the cigar will unravel. You just need to open a little air hole.

The "Head" is the part you put in your mouth to draw the smoke.

The "Foot" is the part you light. Use wooden matches or a regular disposable lighter.

Do not use paper matches or a lighter that uses liquid fuel. Both of these have chemicals that will contaminate the flavor of the cigar.

For a better burn and flavor, you first "toast" the foot. I hold the cigar vertical, just like in the picture above, and hold the flame just far enough away so it does not touch the foot of the cigar. I rotate the cigar and swirl the flame. The heat will start to make the foot have glowing embers. When you have glowing embers and smoke coming off the cigar, remove the flame and gently blow out through the cigar. Then puff the cigar and put the flame back to it to finish lighting. 

Important: You do not inhale the smoke into your lungs like a cigarette. You pull it into your mouth to taste it and then blow the smoke out of your mouth. A cigar is often accompanied by a drink. The top winners in our poll on the subject of drink accompaniments are scotch, coffee and beer. A coffee martini goes well, and rum is one of my personal favorites too.

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More Articles
The History of the Cigar
Getting Started With Cigars
Selecting & Choosing Cigars
Storing Cigars
What is a Humidor?
 - Temperature and Humidity
 - Break It In
 - Charge Your Humidifier
 - Is My Hygrometer Accurate?
 - Final Questions
Humidor Tips
Humidor Advice
Cigar Etiquette
Smoking a Cigar
Do You Age Your Smokes?


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