“Ahhh, horse manure!”
This was one of the first things I heard a friend say after smelling a cigar before he cut, lit, and enjoyed leisurely smoking it. I have to say, it certainly caught my attention! Cigars have been around for a very, very long time (some say as early as the 10th Century). Whether you are looking to get into the hobby or just want to celebrate a moment in life, choosing your cigar and actually enjoying it can be a bit of a challenge. In this article, I will walk you through the overwhelming cigar size and strength options as well as how to properly cut, light, and smoke a cigar so the overall outcome is a leisurely experience rather than a frustrating embarrassing experience.
Picking a Vitola (Size) and Strength
If you walk into a cigar shop or shop online (our favorite online shop is Stogiebird, code "CANYOUHANDLEBAR" will get you 15% off site wide through June 15th 2021 only!) you may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices and if someone asks if you want a Toro, Robosto, Churchill, Corona, Double Corona, or Petite Corona you might just walk away. I’m here to help give you an idea of what these terms mean and how to pick your cigar.
Generally speaking, cigars will either be a large or small ring gauge (that is the term used for the circumference of the cigar) and either short, medium or long in length. This overall size is known as the cigar’s vitola. I would recommend starting out with a smaller ring gauge and a short length cigar for your very first cigar. This will give you an idea of the flavor, experience, and smoke time of a cigar. If you have had a few cigars before and enjoyed the experience, it may be worth trying a new one that is perhaps a bigger ring gauge or longer length. To give you an idea of how many options are out there check out the image below (image from Cigar Affection).
Now that you have an idea of what size (vitola) to start with, let's talk about strength. Typically speaking cigars are going to be either mild, medium or full bodied. The difference in strength comes from the different types of tobacco the cigar is made of. Generally speaking there are three different types of wrappers for a cigar and each one has a different strength. Connecticut wrappers tend to be mild, habano wrappers tend to be medium bodied, and maduro wrappers tend to be full bodied. For your very first cigar, I would recommend starting with a connecticut wrapper and then moving on to habano and then maduro. Of course if you are feeling brave and tend to like more robust flavors, feel free to jump right into habano or maduro.
Cutting and Lighting Your Cigar Properly
Now that you have picked a cigar, it is time to properly cut and light it. There are several options for cutting your cigar and each of them have the same outcome which is to remove the cap of the cigar so as to be able to draw off the end and smoke it without difficulty. Which cutting method you use boils down to personal preference. Traditionally you would just use a straight cutter to remove the cap. Nowadays you can use a straight cut, a V-cut, or a punch. Again, it comes down to personal preference and the goal is to remove just enough of the cap to open up the cigar for an enjoyable smoking experience. If the draw reminds you of drinking an extra thick milkshake through a straw, try to cut just a little more off to open up the draw a bit more.
Once you have the cap cut off, you’ll want to toast the foot (the end you are not smoking from) of the cigar. To toast the foot, you’ll want to use a match or lighter and gently toast the tobacco without actually letting the flame touch the tobacco. Rotate the cigar as you heat it with the flame. Once the entire foot is evenly toasted and black, you’ll be ready to light the cigar. Using the same approach for toasting the foot, place the cigar in your mouth, get the flame close enough to heat the tobacco but not touch it directly. Rotate the cigar with the heat at the foot of the cigar and draw on the cigar gently. You should see a burst of flame as you do this. Rotate the cigar 360 degrees while drawing lightly and then look at the foot of the cigar. You want to have the entire foot red with no black spots. Once you see that, put the flame down and enjoy the cigar!
Actually Smoking the Darn Thing
Now that you have the cigar burning, sit back, relax, and enjoy smoking it. Cigars will typically have some nice transitions in flavor as you smoke through the different sections of the cigar. These are known as thirds. Try to pick out flavors in the first, second, and final third as you enjoy the cigar. If you notice the burn line is uneven, simply set the cigar down with the least burnt part of it facing down and let it correct itself.
Smoke the cigar as long as you are still enjoying it. If the flavor or experience just isn’t for you, don’t try to make yourself suffer through it. Just pitch the cigar the moment it is no longer relaxing or enjoyable.
Clean Up That Beard or Moustache When You Are Done!
One final tip for you: You may enjoy the lingering scent of the smoke in your beard or moustache but when you are ready to clean up definitely use the Shampoo and Face Lotion to wash that scent out. It also is wise to brush your teeth thoroughly to help clear out lingering smoke taste and smell.
What's your cigar experience been like? Comment below and let us know as well as what your favorite cigar so far is. Thanks for reading!
(In case you missed it in the article, you can use code “CANYOUHANDLEBAR“ to receive 15% off site wide over at Stogiebird (through June 15th 2021 only!) Smoke em if you got em!