Selecting a Cigar
Cigar smoking is a journey that appeals to your senses. With so many sizes, shapes, colors, and brands of cigars in the marketplace today, choosing the right cigar can seem overwhelming. When it comes to choosing a cigar, there are several factors to take into consideration, including the five points discussed below. Although these factors may play a part in your decision-making process, there is no right or wrong way when it comes to choosing a cigar. Cigars are about taste and preference.
Deciding what cigar is right for you can be a time consuming and sometimes complicated process, especially if you are just starting to discover the cigar-smoking world and its traditions. To those just starting out, be adventuresome and try different cigars. Maybe start by trying milder cigars and work your palate through to stronger cigars. Through experimentation, you will find a range of taste, flavor, and strength that will appeal to your senses.
Let’s start out by examining the size and shape of cigars. There are many different sizes and shapes of cigars produced in the marketplace. Most manufacturers combine and pair various lengths with a particular ring gauge that will provide optimal smoking qualities. Length is the measurement of your cigar in inches. Ring gauge is the thickness, or girth, of your cigar expressed in 64ths of an inch. Just like jewelry, if you place a ring around a cigar, a 64 ring gauge cigar would translate to be an inch in diameter. Most standard sized cigars fall between a 32- and a 52-ring gauge. The ring gauge, or diameter, of your cigar has to do with how much of the cigar’s burning tip is exposed to the air. Most cigar smokers believe that the coolness of your smoke has more to do with the diameter or width of your cigar than the length. The wider the cigar, the greater the exposure to the air, the slower the burn and the cooler the smoke will be.
Some say that men shouldn’t smoke small cigars, and women shouldn’t smoke large cigars. Contrary to popular belief, there are no hard and fast rules or guidelines for choosing the properly sized cigar. You want to select a cigar that feels both comfortable in your hand and in your mouth. After all, you are going to be spending some time together. If one or the other is uncomfortable, you will not enjoy your smoking experience to its fullest potential.
Because we do not have x-ray vision, we cannot see the filler and binder tobacco which are blended in the interior of our cigar. So the color and appearance of the cigar wrapper become very important because it is our only visual connection and clue to help us select a cigar. Cigar wrappers can fall into over 60 specific formal classifications of color.
For simplicity they are divided into six common categories. The color of the wrapper does not necessarily indicate its strength or let us know what type of tobacco was used for blending. If you are a novice smoker, this would be a good time to gain some great knowledge from your tobacconist. They should be able to help educate you on the different wrapper classifications and how they affect the taste, flavor, and balance of the cigar you might be interested in choosing.
Other factors to look for in appearance include looking for wrappers that have an oily-sheen quality to them. You also want to glance at the cigar to make sure that the wrapper is intact and smoothly wrapped around the cigar with consistent color in the wrapper. You do not want to choose a cigar with a torn or cracked wrapper. Also choose a cigar with minimal veining and very few spots or blemishes on the wrapper.
Your cigar’s construction and freshness is an important factor to take into consideration when choosing a cigar. In addition to the visual appeal of your cigar, it also needs to be well made. The cigar’s construction will help determine how smooth and even the draw is when you go to smoke.
One way of checking the construction and freshness of your cigar is called the pinch test. If you are gentle, most tobacco shops won’t mind or object if you give their cigars a gentle pinch being careful not to squeeze the stuffing out of it. This technique allows you to “lightly pinch” the cigar between your thumb and index finger. The wrapper should have a little elasticity and indent ever so slightly. As you do this, make sure the cigars exterior doesn’t have any lumps or rock-hard spots. Also check the body of the cigar to make sure that it is not too soft, mushy, or void of filling. You want the cigar to have a nice, even consistency. A hard lump or hard spot might indicate that the cigar is not going to draw well. On the other hand, too mushy or soft might indicate that the cigar is not properly rolled or is over-humidified.
The length of your cigar (along with the ring gauge) will determine how long your cigar will smoke. If you have the time, you have the luxury of selecting a longer smoke, such as a churchill or a torpedo size. If you have less time, you may want to consider a smaller format such as a corona or a petite corona. Are you headed out fishing or golfing for the day or are you joining friends for a cocktail?
These may sound like silly questions, however, you want to be able to take the time to enjoy your smoke and not be rushed.
A cigar should be enjoyed in one smoking session from start to finish. Choose a format of cigar that can be enjoyed in the time you have available.
Your final criteria for selecting a cigar may be price. Cigars can range in price from $2.00 to over $30.00 per cigar. That’s a wide variance. So what is the difference between a $2.00 cigar and a $30.00 cigar? Factors affecting price include everything from the origin of the specific tobacco seeds, special blending and lengthy aging techniques, vintage tobaccos, limited edition cigars rolled from small crops of exceptional tobaccos that are in very small supply, and the list goes on.
Premium cigars are generally evaluated using the following six criteria: flavor, strength, aroma, complexity, balance and finish. However, a cigar does not have to be expensive to be enjoyed. You have to make the decision on how little or how much you want to spend.
Hopefully the above information on selecting a cigar will give you some guidelines to use for your cigar purchases. Please remember that there is no right or wrong way to select a cigar. Whether you know very little or know a great deal, take the time to rely on your local tobacconist to help answer any questions you might have or help guide you in your quest and journey for your perfect cigar.