The Art of Cigar Smoking: What Every Beginner Should Know Before Lighting Up
If you’re new to cigars, it’s understandable to feel a little bit overwhelmed. Between the lingo, the techniques, the tools, and the cigars themselves, there’s a lot to learn if you’re new to smoking cigars. The real shame is that too many new smokers let the small learning curve keep them from discovering the incomparable pleasures of enjoying a fine cigar with friends, loved ones, or just by yourself at the end of a long day.
Get your cigar journey off to the right start with our guide to cigars for beginners, written specifically to help new and first-time smokers get the most from their cigars from day one without any of the embarrassing mistakes new smokers fear. Let’s break it down, step-by-step.
How to choose your first cigar
The first time you walk into a fully stocked humidor, you may not know where to start. Like good food and good drink, the best way to find out which kinds of cigars you prefer is to try different sticks and see what you like. That said, you don’t just need to buy one of everything and hope for the best.
Here’s what you should consider when shopping around for your first cigar.
What kind of flavor do you want?
Employees at cigar stores like Stogies World Class Cigars are there to help, and you can help them help you by having at least some idea of what you want in regards to flavor and intensity. Cigars can run the range from light and sociable to spicy and intense depending on the body. A full-bodied cigar will be bold and strong, while light to medium-bodied cigars will be more mellow.
One way to gauge what kind of cigar you might enjoy is to compare it to what you like to drink. Prefer light beers, sweet drinks, and/or white wine? You may want to start with a lighter-bodied cigar. On the other hand, if you enjoy dark beers and liquor like whiskey and scotch, you may enjoy a full-bodied cigar right away. When in doubt, pick up the cigar and give it a whiff to see if you like the pre-light aroma. It won’t tell you exactly how the lit cigar will taste, but it will give you some idea of what to expect.
Picking the right size
Cigar size has almost nothing to do with flavor. Many new smokers make the mistake of thinking that bigger cigars are stronger cigars and vice versa. In reality, the length primarily determines how long your cigar will last and how much smoke you’ll generate.
- Smallest: Petit Coronas are some of the smallest cigars available and are perfect for anyone looking for a quicker smoke.
- Medium: Coronas are medium-sized cigars and are often considered the most universal cigar size. Many cigar manufacturers test new blends as Coronas before moving on to other vitolas.
- Large: Lanceros are long cigars and are perfect for anyone who wants to kick back and relax with a long-burning cigar. Sound interesting? Check out our exclusive line of H-Town Lanceros, available only at Stogies.
Looking for signs of a quality cigar
In some cases, how good a cigar is or isn’t depends on your personal taste. However, there are some objective signs that a cigar is worth your money. Here’s what you need to know to shop for cigars like a pro.
- Check the wrapper: A well-crafted cigar shouldn’t have cracks, gaps, or tears in its wrapper (the outer leaf).
- Look for uniform color: A little variance in color is ok, but cigars should not be spotted or have sections that are significantly darker/lighter than others.
- Test the firmness: Pick up the cigar and give it a light squeeze between your fingers. The tobacco fill should feel consistent throughout without divots or bulges, and the wrapper shouldn’t feel dry.
Want our expert picks? Shop our 5 favorite cigars for beginners.
How to handle a cigar
Believe it or not, you can make rookie cigar mistakes before you even pick up your lighter. Not only can making common beginner cigar mistakes be embarrassing, it can ruin your cigar and compromise the experience.
Here are the tips every beginning smoker should know.
Don’t take off the band
After removing the cigar from the cellophane wrapper, do not take the band off just yet. It’s not just tradition, removing the band can damage the wrapper and compromise the quality of your cigar.
Make sure you cut your cigar properly
Few things will ruin a good hand-rolled cigar faster than a bad cut, and one of them is trying to light the wrong end of the cigar. The sealed end of the cigar is called the cap, and that is what you will need to cut in order to light and smoke your cigar. But you shouldn’t just bust out your pocket knife and hack off the cap — that’s how you end up with a mouthful of loose tobacco and a crumbling stick. You’ll want to purchase a cigar cutter to ensure a proper cut.
To cut the cigar, position the blade just a couple of millimeters from the end of the cap and make a quick, seamless cut. Quicker cuts are likely to be cleaner, meaning less loose tobacco in your mouth and a more enjoyable smoking experience.
Need a cigar cutter? Check out our selection of best-in-class cigar cutters, available online.
Light your cigar properly
Cigars are all about taking the time and savoring the moment, and lighting your cigar is no exception. Here’s how to make sure your cigar is lit for a proper burn, step by step.
- Before putting the cigar in your mouth, spark your flame and put it just below the cigar without making direct contact — just like a marshmallow over a campfire.
- Rotate the cigar over the flame so that its equally heated around its circumference. By the end, you’ll want to see a glowing ring around the tip of the cigar’s foot.
- Put the cut end of the cigar in your mouth and take your first puff. The ember should start burning evenly. If the burn isn’t taking, take the cigar out and gently blow on the ember to better round the ash.
Cigars aren’t like cigarettes. You do not inhale cigar smoke — doing so will not feel pleasant. At best, you’ll cough a lot. At worst, you could start to feel sick. Instead, puff on the cigar and hold the smoke in your mouth for a few seconds before exhaling. This allows you to enjoy the flavor and absorb the nicotine without assaulting your lungs. If you’re more experienced with tobacco, you can also try retrohaling by inhaling through your mouth and exhaling through your nose.
Don’t ash too often
Ashing your cigar too often can cause it to burn unevenly. Maintaining a healthy ash keeps oxygen from reaching the lit end of your cigar, allowing for a slower burn. At worst, ashing too often can cause the burning portion of the cigar (aka the cherry) to fall off, meaning you’ll need to relight the cigar. While you don’t need to leave a full stick of ash, you should always leave at least a small head of ash to keep the cigar burning properly.