Ask any B&M cigar store owner how many times someone’s asked the question “What’s your best cigar?” and I bet you’ll hear a wide variety of answers that boil down to this: A LOT. They’d probably be able to throw in some other subjective adjectives that can be substituted for best like favorite, strongest, or mildest that are commonly asked as well. I witnessed this very exchange happen last week and it got me to thinking. I know, that’s probably not a good thing, but oh well…
As a cigar blogger (albeit not a regular one lately), I take my cigar smoking seriously. I try to thoroughly evaluate any cigar I smoke so that I can properly transcribe my evaluations and observations to you my readers. I give you my opinion on cigars based on the experiences I’ve had with the cigars I’m reviewing. And the truth of the matter is that my opinion is just that, an opinion. I try to remain as objective as possible and tell you about objective characteristics like burn, construction, wrapper appearance and the like.
But, does it taste good? What is the aroma like? Is this the best cigar I’ve had or is it just so-so? I can answer those questions for myself and describe them to you, but can’t answer for you. I like full-bodied cigars. You might not. I think that thinner ring gauges hold more flavor. You might disagree. I might like woody flavors whereas you like more spice.
So, if you ask me what my best cigar is, I’m going to give you my opinion. If you ask me what my favorite cigar is, you’ll get my favorite answer for that day/week/month; however long my current favorite remains my favorite. And, if you tell me what you like, I can guide you to things I think you might enjoy based on my experience and knowledge.
But, if you’re looking for the best cigar, you’re going to have to find that one for yourself.
If you already know, tell me what your best cigar is and why… Maybe it’ll help others find theirs.
Choosing your cigar carefully is important for pleasurable cigar smoking experience.
There’s a cigar and there’s a cigar. There are excellent handcrafted cigars and there are cheap garbage imitations out there. Before you try and learn the proper way on how to smoke a cigar, it would be helpful to have some basic ideas on how to choose a good cigar.
With cigars, you get what you pay for. Most of the convenience store cigars that are available are cheap imitations – machine-made and filled with shredded tobacco leaves. I wouldn’t recommend buying any of these to anyone, they taste so awful you’d never forgive me for the rest of your cigar-smoking days. If price is an issue with you (and it better be, it’s easy to blow $100 on a superior cigar), try to find the samplers and clearance sales from reputable cigar houses online. You’d be amazed at how affordable the good cigars are in the range of $2 to $7. With $15, you will most certainly be able to find an excellent cigar for your first smoke.
The best cigars are handcrafted works of art. Most of the famous cigar-makers are based in countries like Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and of course, Cuba.
Although in recent years, many cigar products coming from these countries are machine-rolled, a lot of reputable houses and families still proudly produce hand-rolled superbly-blended cigars. To many of them, producing a good cigar is a matter of family pride, tradition, and honor. A guide on how to smoke a cigar will not be complete without a rudimentary working knowledge of the cigars coming from these countries.
As you begin your journey into the wonderful world of cigars, it is sound idea to befriend and work with a reputable tobacconist in your city. Congenial and always eager to welcome new enthusiasts, your tobacconist can share with you expert advice and recommendations (on how to smoke a cigar and how to choose your cigar) and will help you steer clear of low-quality stuff.
We have noted in an earlier post that beginners are best off to begin your cigar-smoking experience with mild cigars. Some people who are unlucky to smoke an ill-chosen cigar the first time around, will find the episode unpleasant and will probably stay away from cigars forever. This is unfortunate since they are poised to embark on an adventure of discovery and pleasure, but for that ill-chosen first cigar. So you want to learn how to smoke a cigar? Choose your first cigar with care.
Cigars come in different sizes and yes, a cigar’s name is indicative of its size. Again cigars are measured by inches in length and ring gauge (1/64th of an inch) in diameter. Remember, the longer and bigger the ring gauge of a cigar, the stronger and full-bodied it probably is. This is because the maker has more room to introduce more and different leaves into the cigar to enhance its taste and texture.
The size of a cigar is written LXRG or length (in inches) x ring gauge. Thus the size of a Churchill is written as 7×50 or 7″ long by 50/64th of an inch thick. Below are the names of cigars that indicate dimensions:
The Churchill by the way, is in fact named after former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who in his days, was often seen to smoke this type of cigar. The torpedo (which is thick in the middle and tapers off at both ends) and the piramide (which is thick in one end and tapers of in the other) are the types frequently seen in popular illustrations and portrayals of cigar smokers.
In my very first post on how to smoke a cigar, we have discussed that the most common way to determine a cigar’s strength is by looking at the wrapper. This is the outermost cigar leaf wrapping the filler and the binder and the darker the wrapper is, the stronger the cigar will be.
- Double Claro – (also called Candela or American Market Select)- has a light green to greenish brown color and very mild-flavored.
Claro – has a light tan wrapper and a smooth, mild flavor. Made mostly from shade-grown tobacco leaves, an example of which is the Connecticut Shade wrappers, which are said to be among the finest in the world.
Colorado – reddish dark brown, with a robust, rich flavor. Colorado Maduro – a dark brown wrapper with a rich, aromatic flavor.
Oscuro – the darkest maduro wrapper, oscuro is almost black and is stronger than the lighter
If you are buying the cigar personally from a cigar store, try to examine your cigar of choice before making a purchase. Here, the tobacconist can help you make your choice and will allow you to manually examine the cigar. Try to give the cigar a little squeeze, it must be firm but there should be little give. Too hard and unyielding, the cigar is probably plugged, too densely rolled and will be difficult to smoke. Most reputable tobacconists and cigar houses by the way, will gladly replace a plugged cigar. Also, try to feel for very soft and too-yielding spots. These generally will cause the cigar to burn unevenly.Doing it properly will definitely add to the pleasure you’re going to get from the experience.
My name is Chris. As of now I have not ever smoked a cigar, well, at least not while sober. Growing up I have always been surrounded by cigar smokers so there is a comforting appeal to the smell. It has always fascinated me but I never took the opportunity, not even when my daughter was born which would have been the traditional thing to do, and now feel in my mid-thirties I think it’s about time I should give it a try.
Thankfully through the magic of the internets I have access to an expert now so I can ask Cigar Choice a bunch of questions I have about cigars and cigar smoking 🙂
Chris: Cigar smoking doesn’t seem to have the negative connotation cigarette smoking has, why do you think that is?
Cigar Choice: The only purpose of a cigarette is to deliver nicotine. Cigarette smoking is an addictive habit. Having quite five years ago I can attest to their addictive power first hand. Cigars aren’t typically smoked for that reason. They are used as a way to celebrate a special occasion or to relax after a long day. Your typical cigar smoker usually smokes less than five cigars a week and doesn’t have the same physical addiction to cigars as a cigarette smoker does to cigarettes. I fear much of that is going to change soon though as the cigar industry is coming under increasing attack.
Chris: How would you start with cigars? Buy a selection or would you go for a particular cigar?
Cigar Choice: Try and find a good local shop where you can ask some advice and also check out some of the great cigar websites out there for ideas on what to try. I’d definitely buy a selection, and take some notes on what you like and dislike. If you choose to order online most places offer samplers.
Chris: Is it an acquired taste? something you need to practice?
Cigar Choice: Cigars vary in flavor profile and strength so much I believe certain cigars are an acquired taste. Your tastes will change over time, but I’ve liked cigars since the first one I tried. I started out with some milder cigars and now smoke some stuff that are so strong they would have left me green five years ago.
Chris: How do you smoke a cigar? Light it and start sucking on it?
Cigar Choice: Cutting a cigar is the first step. Typically you want to take no more than 1/8 inch off the cap. Matches are the more traditional route, but I prefer using a butane torch lighter. Don’t get the flame too close to the foot, as this will burn the cigar, and your aim is to just lightly toast it. Once the foot is warmed, you want to start lightly puffing on it and rotating it to get a nice even burn. When the cigar is lit you’ll want to go slow. The rule of thumb is take a puff or two about once a minute, as this keeps the cigar from getting too hot and can help subtle flavors become more noticeable.
Chris: Inhale/don’t inhale? People I talk to say that you shouldn’t, but most of them do anyway?
Cigar Choice: I strongly recommend not inhaling a cigar if you can help it. Inhaling too much will quickly turn you a lovely shade of green. I end up inhaling some especially if I’m trying to exhale the smoke through my nose. Your nose does a better job picking out nuances than just your tongue. I’m still trying to get the hang of this myself.
Chris: Do you get what you pay for, or is it like wine where price isn’t always a great measure of quality?
Cigar Choice: Cigars are exactly like wine in that respect. By looking out for small unknown brands I’ve found $4 cigars that I think are much higher quality than some $10 cigars. Many of those $10 are that price because too many people think price equals quality or the company has spent a large amount of money marketing it.
Chris: What’s the deal with Cuban cigars?
Cigar Choice: Cuban cigars do have a unique flavor you’ll only find in a Cuban cigar. This is often referred to as the Cuban “Twang” and I can recognize it when I smoke one but I can’t describe it. The embargo definitely added to the mystique. Some are better than what you can get in the States and some are worse, most of that comes down to personal preference. Though in my opinion you haven’t had a cigar until you’ve had a Cuban Partagas Serie D No. 4 that’s been aged for a few years.
Chris: There seem to be lots of accessories and fancy gizmos, necessary? Do they add to enjoyment?
Cigar Choice: Depends on your geek factor! 🙂 I love gadgets to begin with so cigar smoking introduced to me to a whole new realm of gadgets. But honestly they don’t really add any enjoyment factor to the experience. Some wooden matches, a cutter or in a pinch a razor blade is all you need. My preferred method of upping the enjoyment factor is some good company or a good book along with a good drink.
Chris: So is it an expensive thing to do?
Cigar Choice: You can get started fairly cheap. A plastic air-tight food container or cooler can work as a humidor if you plan to keep cigars for more than a couple days. Right now my favorite lighter is a Ronson torch lighter- one of the best cigar lighter. The only thing that is worth dropping the extra cash on is a good cigar cutter. A bad cutter can destroy your cigar by damaging the wrapper, maybe even rendering the cigar unsmokeable. I learned to set a budget for myself to keep it from getting too expensive. Some of the cheaper bundled cigars can be had for under $2 a cigar. Typically these are short filler and use the scraps from the more expensive cigars.
Chris: Which is your all time favorite?
Cigar Choice: My all time favorite is the Partagas Serie D. No 4 from Cuba. A close friend of mine gave me one that was nearly five years old and I’ve never tasted a cigar that good again. Pair something like that with some really good rum and it can make for a fantastic evening.
Thanks Chris for putting together these questions together. If any readers have some recommendations or additional advice please feel free to post a comment.
This is a guest post/interview provided by Chris Garrett. Chris is one of the pro bloggers that I read on a regular basis for new ideas and blogging strategies.
As you may know, Gurkha releases a ton of cigars each year in limited batches with absurdly high MSRPs that somehow always get discounted from online cigar stores. Unfortunately many of Gurkha’s brands are in and out of stock just as quickly as they are produced, thus it is hard to find a great smoke and be able to get it consistently. One exception for Gurkha is the Master Select Perfecto. It is a great cigar that is a reliable smoke and even more reliably available when you want it.
Like the name implies, the Master Select Perfecto lights perfectly. As designed, lighting the perfecto is no challenge. I bought a five pack of this cigar and never had an issue with an inconsistent burn. Every opportunity was so refreshing. When toasting the perfecto, a couple of short puffs was enough to bring the cigar to a full light. No burning taste and nothing overpowering. What a joy.
The Master Select brand is a great opportunity to experience a cigar that is designed to change strength and taste throughout the smoking experience, again due to the perfecto shape. Upon starting the first third of the cigar, the taste is rather mild. Once you get half way through the cigar takes on a medium to strong taste. Finally, on the final third, the cigar goes back to a mild taste.
Throughout the smoking experience I tasted some spice, common to Gurkha medium bodied blends. There were also hints of vinegar and cider. Nothing too complex, this is a great casual smoke and finished in under 45 minutes. The smoke was a heavy gray and quite pleasing to look at.
Finally, I really relished the feel of the cigar in my hand. The oily wrapper was well constructed and never threatened to come off. In fact, the humidity I was keeping the cigar at gave it a great feeling on my hands and could have easily been smoked doing some intense physical activity like the typical golf or fishing cigar smokers enjoy.
For the most part, Gurkha Master Select is a middle of the road smoke for the price. You likely won’t find it as a clearance option like so many limited run Gurkha’s that are available online. Instead, the price is fair and rarely discounted. It is also a shorter smoke for most people and that could play into the value for what you are getting.