Not all cigar products are of equal quality. Are you a cigar smoker? Do you know how to choose the right cigar? There are several key things to look for when considering cigar options.
The following guide will give you cigar tips to help you make your next purchase. Read on to learn how to maximize your cigar smoking experience.
1. Cigar Sizes
Cigar measurements consist of their ring gauge (diameter) and their length. A vast, non-standard naming system specifies the various sizes—or, vitolas—of cigars from the small Cigarillo to the giant Gran Corona.
A cigar's burn time depends on how long and fat it is. The straight-sided Corona is considered an average-sized cigar. It generally has a ring gauge of 42 and measures 5 ½ inches long, but again, the measurement system isn't standardized throughout the industry, so you can see some variation.
When choosing a cigar it's easy to imagine that size is only relevant to how long the cigar will last, but it does have a good deal to do with taste as well. Cigars are made up of filler, binder, and a wrapper. The leaf used and how it is processed is different depending on which of the three roles a give crop is being cultivated for, so the tobaccos for each each function have qualities of their own.
This is why size can affect taste, as the size will determine the ratio between these different tobaccos. In the average cigar, the wrapper will usually account for more than half of the flavor profile, but the thicker the cigar (or the higher the ring gauge), the more binder and filler. This is why popular blends are generally available in an array of vitolas—each will have their own qualities that will and speak to a given smoker's preferences differently.
2. Cigar Shapes
There are two classifications for cigar shapes, Parejos and Figurados.
Parejo is the most common, these are cigars whose shape is straight-sided with a round cap and open foot (that is, the tobacco is exposed if you are looking straight on at the end you light). This is probably the shape most people picture if imagining a cigar. But the Parejo classification is hosts to many sizes. Though the shape is consistent, the ring gauge and length can vary. Such vitolas include the Corona, Churchill, Robusto, and others.
Figurados aren't quite as neat a category as Parejos. In fact, Figurados aren't defined by what shape they are, but what shape they aren't—Parejos. And cigar shape that isn't classified as a Parejo can be called a Figurado. Some shapes include the Pyramid, Torpedo, Perfecto, and Culebra.
3. Cigar Composition
As was mentioned, there are three different components that make up a cigar's construction—the filler, binder, and wrapper. All three components help add to the specific flavor and smoking characteristics of the cigar. Different tobaccos may even be blended to make up just one component as well. For example, you may have a filler that is both Nicaraguan and Dominican leaf.
The wrapper is the biggest flavor factor and most expensive part of a cigar. It makes it easy to determine a cigar's quality with a simple glance if you know what to look for.
Remember that lighter wrappers tend to produce a lighter-bodied smoking experience. In comparison, darker colored wrappers often produce a heavier more robust flavor.
No surprise, the filler is at the core of the barrel, held together by a durable and thick binder. This gives a cigar its basic form.
The tightness of the packed filler greatly affects the length of a cigar's burn time. Fillers packed more densely will smoke longer and add to the quality of a cigar.
4. Cigar Tips For Finding Quality
Uniformity is the first basic thing to look for when determining a cigar's quality. A quality cigar needs to feel consistent all the way around. It shouldn't have any extra soft or hard areas present.
A uniform cigar indicates that it was filled properly and thoroughly. Uniformity also produces a smoother and more satisfying smoke. The color should also be consistent from end to end. This will ensure quality craftsmanship.
(Of course, when it comes to color, we mean to look for irregular inconsistency. This need not apply when color change is an obvious aesthetic decision, such as the Asylum 13 Ogre).
There are other recognizable signs of a good cigar in its appearance. A professionally sealed wrapper is a sign of quality.
The aroma of a cigar is another way to indicate quality. The cigar's smell should give a hint of what its flavor is like before you’ve even tasted it.
A strong smell often leads to a bold flavor. Likewise, if a cigar lacks a distinct smell it’s probably not going to taste great when you smoke it.
5. Cigar Ratings
Cigar ratings operate on a scale of 1 to 100 by independent experts. The scale is very useful for determining a cigar's quality, especially for beginners trying to find their personal taste.
The highest-ranked cigars score between 95 and 100. Cigars between 80 to 94 rank from very good to outstanding.
The scale is based on a cigar's appearance, flavor, smoking performance, and overall impression. Most cigars that appear on top lists score above a 91 on the scale. But of course, taste is subjective and these ratings will vary from reviewer to reviewer. One good way to find new cigars you'll like is, once you already have a few favorites, see if there is anyone doing reviews who seems to share your taste. The things they score high that you haven't tried are likely to work well with your palate.
6. How To Light a Quality Cigar
The best way to light a cigar is with wooden matches or a butane lighter. Avoid paper matches and gas lighters as they contain too many chemicals. Those chemicals negatively affect the flavor of quality cigars.
Run the flame just under the cigar's foot and rotate the cigar a couple of times. Don’t actually touch the flame to the cigar as the purpose is solely to warm up the tobacco. Doing this helps the cigar burn more smoothly.
Next, hold the flame in front of the cigar again without actually touching it directly to the cigar. Inhale while rotating the cigar this time to get it properly lit. It's a good idea to rotate the cigar slightly between draws to keep it burning evenly.
7. Other Tips For Enjoying Cigars
Don’t smoke your cigar on an empty stomach. Smoking too fast or without eating usually leads to lightheadedness. It doesn't have to be a full meal, even an energy bar will suffice.
Nicotine has a delayed effect that often creeps up on novice cigar smokers. Eating before smoking helps your body to synthesize its effects. Also, remember not to stand up too fast after smoking.
Try eating a piece of chocolate or a small amount of sugar if you start feeling slightly nauseous from a cigar. Sugar neutralizes the nicotine in your system and relieves nausea in these situations.
Don’t inhale when smoking a cigar. Subtly bring the cigar smoke into your mouth and then exhale it from your mouth and nasal cavity. Avoid inhaling cigar smoke into your diaphragm.
Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. Smoking cigars tends to dry out your mouth. Sip a glass of water while smoking to avoid a dry mouth and maximize the experience.
8. Other Drink Pairings
Many cigar enthusiasts consider whiskey to be the perfect drink companion. A quality whisky distilled from grain and aged in oak tends to enhance a cigar's flavor and qualities. Good cigars enhance whiskey's flavor the same way.
Beers and wines can also be very complementary to your smoke. Dark, full-bodied porters and red wines complement cigars when paired correctly. Bourbon also pair well with cigars.
Coffee is a great non-alcoholic beverage to pair with cigar smoking. The choice of coffee depends on personal preference, but rich dark coffee and espressos are popular choices.
9. Cigar Smoking Etiquette
Avoid lighting up your cigar with someone else’s lit cigar. It will cause their cigar to burn unevenly and affect their experience. Always ask to borrow a lighter or match instead.
Cigars are not typically meant to be shared with others. Don’t ask someone if you can try a puff of their cigar. Simply make a note of what they're smoking if you're interested in trying the brand later.
Pay attention to where you blow your cigar smoke. Cigars have strong aromas and might be unpleasant for non-smokers. Read the room and consider the people around you before lighting up a cigar.
Don’t stub out a cigar when you're done smoking like you would a cigarette. Cigars burn out on their own after laying them down in an ashtray.
Some people prefer to leave the band on while smoking a cigar while others insist that they're removed. This one is really up to you but you might want to hang on to bands to help remember cigars you've tried and liked.
Ready To Choose the Cigar that's Right for You?
Now you know several cigar tips to help you make a purchase with confidence. You understand the basic components of a cigar and the telltale signs to identify well-crafted cigar products.
You also know the proper way to cut, light, and enjoy your selection. Experts and novices alike can experience quality cigars for reasonable prices. So, all that's left to do is buy a cigar, light up, and enjoy!
Please contact us if you still have any questions about selecting the right cigar products and accessories for you.