Warning: Smoking is not advisory, it is a very dangerous habit that comes with serious health warnings. We do not endorse smoking.
What are cigars?
Cigars are similar to cigarettes, they are rolled using tobacco leaves that have been left to dry and ferment.
Cigars are created in various sizes and shapes. For the purpose of this guide though we are going to be talking about the classic large cigar in general.
History of Cigars
It is often said that Christopher Columbus is responsible for introducing tobacco products to Europe.
In the 1400’s Christopher and his crewmen first experienced tobacco on the island of Haiti, which was known as Hispaniola back then.
Cigars and tobacco were also encountered in Cuba, where Columbus and his crew and had settled for a while. There were reports of the first types of cigar which were fairly primitive and were made by rolling dried tobacco leaves up in a palm leaf.
The popularity of smoking cigars spread rather quickly and soon European and Spanish sailors were smoking. Soon after it spread to Spain, Portugal and France.
Once smoking had hit France Jean Nicot had given his name to nicotine.
Fast forward a little and the use of tobacco had spread to Italy and when Sir Walter Raleigh ventured to the Americas it spread over to Britain. By the mid-16th century, it had spread to most corners of the world and pipe smoking became increasingly popular.
The Spaniards were the first to open up a cigar factory in Cuba in the mid 1500’s.
Some even believed that tobacco was good for you with many medicinal qualities, but Philip the 2nd and James 1st did not believe this and thought it was evil. They denounced smoking.
Israel Putnam allegedly brought back a large amount of Havana cigars during the Seven Years War which contributed to the popularity of cigar smoking in the USA just after the Revolution. He is also believed to have brought back Cuban seeds which were planted in Hartford and thus was born the popular Connecticut Wrapper.
Believe it or not, cigar smoking was much more popular than cigarettes at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th.
To view the full history of cigars then have a read of this.
Beginners Cigar Smoking
Believe it or not, cigar smoking is classed as a hobby and is a lot more popular than you would have thought!
Although I have to stress the dangers of smoking and would not recommend you begin this hobby, it can be very relaxing.
Cigar smoking is also a great way to socialise with others and a traditional way of celebrating.
Parts of a Cigar
Before one can become a true cigar smoker, then one should know more about a cigar! Let’s take a look at what makes up a cigar.
The wrapper is the leaf that is wrapped around the tobacco inside and is the only part of the cigar that should be seen.
The wrapper is arguably one of the most important aspects of flavor and aroma.
It’s also the only leaf that is seen so has to be the right color.
Here’s a very well written Cigar Wrapper Guide, should you want to learn more.
The wrapper is very delicate and thin to ensure the optimum taste this means that it’s not strong enough to hold in place the cigars contents. So they have to use a “Binder” leaf.
The binder leaf is usually stronger and has the sole purpose of holding everything in place.
Binder leaves usually have a very little amount of aroma or flavor and also contribute to the consistency in which the cigar burns.
As the wrapper is both fragile and delicate, it isn’t strong enough to hold the cigar’s contents on its own. Therefore, a coarser leaf is often selected to securely hold everything in place.
The head is the part that you put in your mouth, this is often capped.
The Cigar band is usually made of paper or foil and loops around the cigar.
This is to tell you the brand or variety of cigar.
The part which you cut and light is called the foot.
The space in between the head and foot of the cigar.
What do I need as a beginner cigar smoker?
Check out the websites at the bottom of this article for your quality cigars.
Remember with a lighter to not use a zippo or other petrol fuel lighter, you will ruin the taste. Matches or a butane torch/lighter are perfect.
How to cut a cigar
Cutting a cigar is a very important process, cut it wrong and you will totally ruin the way it smokes and quite possibly it may just fall to pieces.
You may have seen in the movies people biting the ends of the cigar of, trust me you don’t want to do this. It may look cool but if you want to enjoy your cigar then avoid this method.
What we want to do is to ensure that the cigar lets the smoke run smoothly and feely through the end.
If you cut the cigar to far down the body, the wrapper may start to unravel. If you cut the cigar to far up it’s hard to draw the smoke through into your mouth.
As there are a lot of cigar shapes it can be quite difficult to determine, this is something that will come with practice.
As a guide, you usually want to cut approximately 1/16th of an inch from the head of the cigar.
This is why a cigar cutter is highly recommended it ensures the cut is clean and accurate.
The cigar cutter is like a guillotine and can cost as little as a few dollars.
Here’s a video for those who don’t understand what I have wrote:
How to light a cigar
Many people make the mistake of smoking the cigar as they are lighting it. This is wrong. It can leave a chemical taste in your mouth and completely ruin the taste of the cigar.
Most people opt to light the cigar with a standard lighter or match but some will use a butane gas torch.
To light, you simply hold the cigar to the flame, until it starts to burn and glow. Ensure you rotate the cigar and brown the edges barely. Try not to get the flame on the wrapper.
Next, take the cigar to your mouth and draw (puff) if it’s not lit properly or you feel like it needs more then take the cigar back to the flame.
You should repeat the lighting process until you feel the cigar is smoking to its potential.
How to hold a cigar
Yes holding a cigar is a big part of the cigar smoking hobby. Especially if you want to take this seriously.
Let’s discuss two kinds of acceptable ways of holding your cigar, then we will talk about how you should NOT hold your cigar.
Method 1 requires you to take the cigar and hold it gently in your hand, resting it between your thumb and three or four fingers.
Do not grip the cigar too tight, it should be that lightly rested in your grip that you can perform a rolling movement, rolling it back and forth with your thumb and fingers.
The size and length of the cigar will determine how many of your fingers you will need to use. Never use less than two!
Method 2 is what they call a pool cue grip. I personally prefer method 1 however this is completely acceptable in the cigar smoking community. I’ll try to explain but I will include an image to ensure you understand.
Take the cigar and wrap your index finger and thumb around it while it leans across your third finger, kind of like the grip you have when resting a pool cue in it.
How not to hold a cigar:
So now we have the 2 basic acceptable ways that will make you look pretty cool, let’s discuss a commonly made mistake when holding a cigar.
This method not only looks wrong but it’s actually putting your cigar in danger. It’s unsupported and you run the risk of dropping it or the ash.
Holding the cigar between your index and third finger, with the rest of the fingers spread is how many choose to smoke a cigarette but is the most unacceptable way of holding a cigar.
How to smoke a cigar
Who knew that there was so much to learn about cigar smoking right?
To enjoy cigar smoking as a hobby you have to enjoy the different flavors that cigars can bring.
If you want to continue this hobby it’s important that you learn to smoke a cigar in the most enjoyable way without coughing up a lung or giving yourself a bad sore throat.
When I personally enjoy a cigar, I find a relaxing place to sit that is quiet and comfortable. I like to enjoy the cigar, every last draw.
You’re going to want to take a puff on the cigar every minute or so, don’t puff to fast and don’t puff to slow.
You aren’t going to want to inhale the smoke as you would do from a cigarette, you want to taste the smoke in your mouth and not cause damage to the lungs. Savor the flavor then exhale!
Cigar storage is very important, if not stored at the correct humidity and temperature your cigar can potentially be ruined.
I will only loosely touch on this subject as until you know whether you are going to stick at the hobby of cigar smoking then it’s not something you want to invest in.
They are however a necessity if you want to take your cigar smoking hobby seriously and to the next level.
To store your cigars the best way is in a Cigar humidor, they help keep the cigar moist and at the optimal flavor. In a humidor, cigars will mature, without they will rapidly deteriorate.
There are many types of humidor available for many different purposes.
Travel Humidors will allow you to take a selection of cigars with you on vacations, business trips and such like. The travel cigar humidors fit nicely into a briefcase, golf bag, hand luggage and more.
Table Top Cigar Humidors are perfect for home storage, they allow you to store your cigars correctly while in reach. They range in size and can hold from as little as 10 to as many as 100 cigars.
A good cigar humidor will be constructed from the best materials and will be of high quality. Designed for the perfect storage of your cigars.
Be prepared though if you want something of real quality you can pay a lot of money!
That being said there’s a really good one that can be found here it’s made from cedar wood and includes a hygrometer and humidifier for below $50!
What are the best types of Cigar?
Cigars are mainly broken down into 3 types, much like coffee roasts each has its own unique flavor and strength.
Mild Bodied Cigars
Mild bodied cigars tend to have a subtle flavor, one that is soft in taste, not sharp or bitter.
I and others recommend:
Nat Sherman Sterling
Davidoff White Label
Medium Bodied Cigars
The most popular type of cigars, they usually have a rich flavor with the smoke being dense and rich too. A great middle ground cigar that pair well with coffee and a good bourbon whisky.
A couple of popular choices:
Camacho BG Meyer Gigantes
Full Bodied Cigars
The most flavorsome of cigar types is full-bodied. Depending on the cigar brand, full-bodied cigars can almost create a spice flavor. Rich and tasty and go well with a steak dinner!
Here’s a couple I recommend:
Arturo Fuente Anejo
Cigar Smoking Tips
- Avoid using a zippo or petrol lighter to ignite your cigar. You could potentially ruin the taste of your cigar by allowing the chemical taste to enter.
- Get the perfect cut by using a double-bladed guillotine cigar cutter, lay it flat on a hard surface, put your cigar in it straight up, and cut. It will take the correct amount from the head and leave you with a nice straight cut.
- If you feel like your cigar is too tight, then gently massage it while squeezing it. This should loosen the insides. A more intrusive method is if you notice the cigar is tight before lighting take a skewer and poke a hole through it lengthwise.
- Lighting a cigar that has gone out after being left sat can be achieved by tapping off the ash, blow gently through it, this will remove any stale leftover air. Continue to do this as you relight to help get rid of the sour flavors.
- Keep your cigar burning nice and even by rotating the slower burning side of the cigar to the bottom.
- Some people like to remove the label of the cigar, if you are one of these people leave it on when you first light up for a few minutes. This allows the heat to get to the glue from the label and loosen it. You won’t damage the wrap then when you remove it.
- Don’t tap the ash! Roll it in an ashtray to remove. Don’t do this too early, Cigars are not the same as cigarettes. Optimal length is just over an inch. Don’t let the ash get too long or it will restrict airflow.
Useful Cigar Smoking Links & Resources
Simply Cigars – UK Online Cigar Shop
JR Cigars – US Online Cigar Shop
The Ultimate Cigar Book – Take your cigar knowledge to the next level with everything you need to know about Cigars and more.