There are so many different options when it comes to cigars, it can be intimidating for a beginner to get started and find something they enjoy. In this series of blog posts, we set out to help our more amateur connoisseurs learn how to pick something they will enjoy and can indulge in.
Many people wonder what the mystique surrounding cigars is, why are they so popular and what is the culture that surrounds them. Many people relate greats cigars with people of great esteem, but what is it about such a simple thing that captivates so many people. Well, one of the main reasons that people enjoy premium cigars is the simple idea of RELAXATION.
Pairing cigars and wine is an undeniably satisfying combination.
Try kicking back after work and relax with a fine cigar with a glass of wine or your favorite whiskey. Personally, I especially enjoy my smokes after a great dinner. Many golfers enjoy cigars while playing. Cigars help you stay relaxed during an exciting match. This is the main reason I built my cigar store in the golf capital, myrtle beach south Carolina. Spring golf is a strong season for myrtle beach and nick’s cigar world.
Another reason for the cigar popularity is SOCIAL INTERACTION. I have a smoking lounge in the front of our store that is extremely popular and busy all day long. Cigar Smokers are a friendly lot. In fact, after 20 years in our lounge area, we have never heard an argument or even heard someone raise their voice. My patrons just sit back enjoy their cigars and the company and discuss sports, politics and fine cigars.
Training Your Pallet
It is quite fascinating how cigars can have so many flavors, blended from one plant, the tobacco plant. The FLAVOR AND AROMA are what keeps cigar folks coming back. This is where a knowledgeable tobacconist is most important to guide that novice smoker along. I had some college students stop in this week and they knew enough to let me know they were beginners. I said they needed to start with a mild strength cigar. I recommend an Ashton, a Nick’s 10 Anniversary, Oliva Gold and a Dominican Mild. I told them the Dominican Mild was probably the mildest smoke on the market. I further said if this cigar is too strong then just give up smoking cigars.
Flavor is something that can mean a lot of different things to cigar smokers and full-bodied is totally misunderstood, to some customers full-bodied means full strength like Camacho, La Flor Dominicana, My Father and Oliva Melanio. To others it means lots of flavors like cocoa, coffee, pepper, creamy, leather (all though since my mud pies making days at 3 years old). I prefer a mild cigar with lots of flavor like Padron 64, Sindicato Maudro and the peppery spice of the Nick’s 10th Anniversary. One thing to remember is everyone has a different palate and tastes buds which can enjoy different flavors.
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When I first started in the cigar business I wanted to try every cigar on the market. Well, one day I am driving down the highway just me and a cigar. I wasn’t paying attention to the Arturo Fuente I was smoking because I was in NJ where everyone travels at 80 miles per hour. About halfway through the cigar, I said out loud, “this is a great cigar! I forgot how good this was!’” I probably hadn’t smoked that particular cigar in a couple of years. For a few weeks, I was telling my customers how great that Arturo Fuente was that day.
Some of the various cigar sizes and shapes
What size cigar are you going to choose Big or Small? SIZE MATTERS? Most manufacturers make 6 or 7 sizes of the same cigar blend. Cigars are measured in two ways, the length is in inches and the diameter in ring gauges. The ring number is based on a 64th of an inch. A 64 ring is 1 inch thick and a 32 is half an inch thick. I know of only one brand that has the same ring gauge on all sizes, the Diamond Crown Line. All sizes are a 54 ring gauge of this super-premium cigar made by Arturo Fuente Cigar Co. The Diamond Crown is another one I enjoy because it is a mild to medium strength cigar with a lot of complex flavors.
A few years back a customer of mine told me a story about his experience at a Big Smoke event in Las Vegas. He went up to the JC Newman booth and asked if they had a Diamond Crown cigars. (Diamond Crown cigars are expensive and exclusive so they were not available at the booth.) The owners of the company were in the booth and Eric Newman said to my customer, where does he find Diamond Crown cigars. The response was Nick’s Cigar World in Myrtle Beach, SC. He then proceeded to take one out of his suit pocket and hand it to my customer.
Alright, back to size matters…The standard sizes are as follows:
- Lancero 7 ½ x 38
- Corona 5 ½ X 44
- Robusto 5 X 50
- Toro 6 X 52
- Churchill 7 x 48
- Torpedo 6 ½ x 54
- Gordo 6 ½ x 60
There is a lot of variation within (see image above), but these are the primary size standards from which all the variations are derived. A lot of beginners think the smaller ring gauge will smoke milder and that is the complete opposite. Small ring gauge cigars burn hotter so as to stay lit. Burning tobacco too hot will result in a harsh taste. Beginners should always choose a larger ring cigar. They burn at a lower temperature and stay lit much longer. I once had a 52 ring Cubana Select Toro stay lit for 10 minutes.
Let’s talk a little about your CIGAR PURCHASE. The first thing is let the tobacconist at your local brick and mortar cigar shop know you are a beginner and ask if he could recommend some mild smokes. I had a customer about a month ago who picked up a Brickhouse cigar and put the cigar up to his nose and start smelling the cellophane. You can’t smell a cigar through a cello wrap. I knew he was either a beginner or just dumb..(never ever do this). There is an exception to this rule and that is flavored and infused cigars. The Tatiana Brand and Acid Brand are two that you will get some aroma from the cello because they are heavily flavored and the aroma gets locked in the box. That is what you are probably smelling.
Some smokers really get involved with what they are smoking. A great way to get to know different cigars is to keep a journal. Write down the brand with some notes and a rating. Then when you visit your local shop show the list to the tobacconist and ask for some more recommendations. I had a customer a few years back who did exactly this. He would come in every month and I would pick out about 15 new cigars to smoke. I would also pick his 5 highest rated cigars so he could remember their flavor and compare the new picks. After about 6 to 8 months he zeroed in on 10-15 favorites. At this point, he would ask what’s the newest cigar. I knew exactly what his preference was so it was easy to recommend smokes he would like.
I have written a lot about knowledgeable tobacconists. A good tobacconist is the most important thing in developing your cigar experience. If the shop you are going to doesn’t have a good tobacconist find another shop. Finally, do not think a female tobacconist doesn’t know what she is talking about. I have two young ladies that would really surprise you.