Stylish guides on how to smoke have been understandably low in publication in recent decades. However, there is a timeless allure to the art of the cigar. Like a fine wine, it is important to know how to pick a cigar. If you’ve just begun to dabble or have been putting up with mediocre cigars at black-tie events for too long, this introductory guide will point you in the right direction
What to Look For
Knowing the fine signs of perfection in a cigar is relatively simple. Much like picking out a nice ripe avocado, we are mainly looking for a solid colour and shape, along with a size that suits our needs. Let’s extrapolate some of the intricacies to pay attention to when choosing a cigar that suits the individual.
Country of Origin
Successful tobacco growth is similar to coffee in that most of the value around the world will be found close to the equator. For the uninitiated, Cuba may immediately come to mind as the premium supplier of cigars. For once, popular culture is correct.
Cuba – along with other Central and South American nations such as Honduras, Nicaragua, and The Dominican Republic – is the chief exporter of the best cigars. Some African and even European countries offer some competitive leaves also.
The most obvious sign to look for – visual appearance. Just like fresh fruits, we are looking for a smooth, unruptured surface. The leaf, in its nature, will be veiny but we want this to be minimalised. Consistent colour should cover the cigar. These colours can range from greens to browns to blacks.
Do not be alarmed by the odd dark patch. This simply means that some of the sugar did not convert during the drying of the leaf. The result of this abnormality can actually be a refreshing taste.
It’s worth knowing the difference between ‘plume’ and mould on cigars. Aged cigars may develop plume which is a consistent layer of fine white fuzz/dust that shows the cigar has been aged properly – it can be dusted off easily with a brush (often stored in close proximity to a humidor). Poorly stored cigars may contract mould, which will appear similar to mould on bread, spotted inconsistently around the cigar.
The size of the cigar is determined by two factors. The first is length, which is self-explanatory and influences the length of time in which the cigar will last. However, ring gauge is not so clear.
The gauge of a cigar refers to its thickness. Cigars are often associated with tradition and ring gauge is a very traditional unit of measurement. For example, 1/64th of an inch is equal to 1 ring gauge. Therefore, a 64 ring gauge cigar is equal to a 1-inch width – a considerably sizable girth.
A Petite Corona measures at 38 ring gauge, equating to a thinner cigar. Alternatively, a Toro reaches a measure of 50 ring gauge – a larger inclusion in the market.
Time & Rules
The size of the cigar will determine the amount of time required to smoke it. This makes sense. This time can range from just 10 minutes to well over 3 hours.
For example Entreactos average about 15 minutes, Coronas can last about 30 minutes, and Churchill’s can sit around the 1-hour mark. Diademas will extend beyond 90 minutes.
Most veterans and professionals will advise you to select a cigar that can be smoked in one sitting, negating the need to cut it and ‘save it for later.’
Generally, leaving the branded band on the cigar while smoking it is seen as ostentatious. As the general act of lighting up a cigar is often seen as ostentatious itself, consider removing it prior to indulging. In saying that, bands can be hard to remove so if it means avoiding damaging the cigar, leave the band on. You should always let your cigar ash itself – a long ash suggests a quality cigar and keeps the cigar burning regularly and from becoming too hot.
This is the gateway into your smoking pleasure, and therefore must be done delicately. If you want it done right then buy an appropriate, specialised cigar cutter. The two main types are the single blade and double blade guillotines.
Single blade guillotines are portable and easy to use but are weak in their cutting pressure. The Colibri S Cut offers a sleek and safe design and is a cheap entry into the cigar-cutting market. About $55 AUD.
Double blade guillotines are perhaps the most common cutter and therefore quality will fluctuate with value. The Xixar Xi Cigar Cutter is a powerful tool and is easy to use for beginners. Going for around $70 AUD.
Locating the cigar’s end (the part where you put your mouth), you will see the cap – a round piece of tobacco that ensures the cigar stays in one piece. This cap will be defined and ended by a definite line. Cut just before this line to avoid tearing the delicate wrapper. Aim for one precise and swift cut.
Shopping for the Perfect Cigar
The tobacco business is not as booming as it once was, thus good shops are a rare find. You can fulfil most of your cigar needs by ordering online but nothing beats the in-store experience, speaking with real experts who are paid to match your needs. Small businesses like Havana Express Sydney are appropriately niche and offer premium cigar products and accessories.