I remember when I was little, probably nine or ten, my uncle could always be found out on the back porch during family gatherings. He would often sit with his back to the sliding glass door, looking out across our lawn. His face would of course be hidden from view because of his angle to me but what I could make out was the periodic trail of smoke that would travel above his head as he puffed out thick cigar plumes. I can recall being enraptured by this scene and completely drawn to it; perhaps it was something about the nearly sweet aroma of the smoke or the occasional flare from his cigar that reminded me of the fireflies I would catch in the summer. I eventually mustered up the guts during one of these family get-togethers to walk outside and approach my uncle. I’m not really sure what we discussed but I do recall that at the end of the conversation (and much to my parent’s dismay) he let me take a small puff of his cigar. What followed was probably a little alarming at the time but as now become a pretty hilarious family story.
Not knowing the proper etiquette of smoking, I stupidly inhaled way to much smoke then my little nine year old lungs could handle. I remember thinking that I was probably going to die. Instead, I threw up barbeque ribs and baked beans all over my uncle’s shoes, which was probably a good punishment for giving a child a cigar.
The lesson? Don’t naively stumble into a cigar store, pick the cigar with a pretty label and an accessible price point and go to town. Smoking a cigar takes a little bit of time to master, but once you get it down, you’ll be cutting, lighting and smoking it like the best of them.
The First Steps
Before you waltz on into a cigar shop, you’ll want to take a few moments to figure out what cigar is going to be right for you. Cigars of course come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. All of these varieties directly affect the concentration of tobacco as well as the type of leaves that are used as the filler.
For beginners, I usually suggest going with a cigar that is longer and generally a little thinner. These types of cigars will be less likely to send you into coughing fits as the smoke is lighter and less concentrated than their fatter and stubbier ones.
Once you have chosen the cigar you are going to purchase, you’ll want to make sure it was rolled correctly. To check it for impurities, you’ll want to give it a few squeezes to make sure there are no noticeable lumps. You can also take a close look at the end of the cigar to see if the tobacco appears discolored or if the wrapping seems a little off. If any of these stand out to you, move along and choose another cigar.
If you want the best first time experience, you can also inquire with the store associate to see if the cigar you are interested in is 100% tobacco. Occasionally, cheaper cigars can be full of fillers which can technically still be marketed as a cigar but contains a significantly less amount of pure tobacco.
Don’t try and emulate actors in movies by trying to cut the end of the cigar with your mouth. This rarely works. First off, your teeth are not nearly sharp enough to slice through most cigars and besides mutilating the end of the cigar, spitting out tobacco for the next two or three minutes will leave you looking anything but cool and collected
For beginners, you will want to use a small, single bladed cutter. With this tool (or even a sharp knife if you don’t have access to a cutter) you will want to make a horizontal cut at the head of the cigar. Your goal here is to cut as fast and efficiently as possible in order to reduce the risk of mucking up the cigar wrapper.
Lighting a cigar is not too difficult but there are a few things to keep in mind in order to get the most enjoyment from the stogie.
You should always try to avoid using matches to light your cigar. Matches often use sulfur as a lighting mechanism. While fine for lighting pilot lights, candles and starting a fire in your fireplace, the sulfur form the match is not ideal for lighting a cigar.
The sulfur in matches has the potential to negatively interact with the tobacco in a cigar and alter the texture, taste and the overall experience. Instead, always try to use a lighter. In the event where this is not possible, try instead to use matches that don’t use sulfur as an active ingredient.
Rule number one. Never, under any circumstances, inhale. Now that we have that covered we can move on to the next order of business, the band.
The band of a cigar is used to keep the tobacco in place and from tearing during those first few puffs. After you have taken about 10 to 12 puffs, go ahead and take this band off (if it hasn’t fallen away already on its own).
Want to really enrich your experience? Pick up an inexpensive port wine split or your favorite bourbon. These spirits are usually the best compliment to the perfect cigar.
This is a guest post by Luzzie Normand from Neptune Cigar. Luzzie is a cigar enthusiast and freelance blogger. When she isn’t blogging, Luzzie enjoys writing her own serial comic books and working at the local tattoo parlour.