SELECTING A CIGAR
Today, there are more varieties of cigars than ever before. Selecting a cigar is the first and most important part of the experience. First, decide the level of body you are comfortable with and remember, strength for the sake of strength is overrated. A full body cigar should be felt in your stomach rather than in your throat or on your palate. The thickness of the wrapper leaf is a good measure of the body of a cigar. A thicker wrapper will generally deliver a fuller body, as it has a greater concentration of oils. The thickness of the wrapper can be gauged by looking at the area where the wrapper overlaps in a cigar. Next, you will need to decide on a size. This should be determined by the amount of time you have available for smoking as well as the amount of smoke you enjoy. The large ring gauges (52-60) deliver large amounts of smoke and flavor. The medium ring gauges (43-50) are ideal for most blends as they are a good balance of smoke and flavor.
Proper cigar storage is fundamental. Cigars should be stored without cellophane in a humidor which has an adequate seal. It should be checked often to ensure proper conditions (70% humidity). Contrary to popular belief, cigars should not be stored in a refrigerator or in a freezer. Either of these will affect the natural oils found in the leaf. Always take into consideration that air conditioning as well as heating will affect the humidity in your humidor.
Aging is a complex process which requires special attention. While all cigars show some degree of maturity from additional aging, not all cigars age well. A common misconception is that a cigar which was rolled with “new” tobacco will lose its bite and harshness through humidor aging. No amount of humidor aging will mellow “new” or uncured tobacco. The best cigars for aging are those which are well balanced and enjoyable to begin with.
Proper aging requires a designated humidor which will not be used for daily use. It should have a capacity that exceeds the amount of cigars to be aged by at least 20%. Cigars should be placed in the humidor without cellophane. Allow for space for the head and foot of the cigars evenly. The humidity source should be one that can exceed 70% humidity. Aging cigars should be kept at 70%-79% humidity depending on the thickness of the wrapper. Thicker wrappers require higher levels of humidity. Once desired age is achieved, a cigar should be brought to 70% before smoking.
High Primes (Thicker Wrappers) Maduro/Corojo 2000/Criollo/Sumatra/3-7 years
2-3 Primes (Medium Wrappers) Low Primes/Ecuador Connecticut/2-5 years
1st Cut (Thinner Wrappers) USA Connecticut/Cameroon/1-4 years
CUTTING A CIGAR
Several methods exist for cutting a cigar and is generally a matter of personal preference. A scissors or guillotine cut usually provides a better draw. When cutting a cigar special attention should be given not to cut below the “cap”. The cap holds the wrapper in place, cutting below it can cause the wrapper to loosen. The crown of the cigar should be cut (test the draw then cut accordingly).
LIGHTING A CIGAR
When conditions allow, a cigar match is the preferred lighting source. However, the recent advances in the way of precision torch lighters have almost eclipsed the match and either method is appropriate. Lighting a cigar properly requires one important note: Only apply fire to the exposed leaves at the end of the cigar. Do not burn the edges of the wrapper at the foot of the cigar. Roll the cigar and distribute the fire evenly. Once the exposed tobacco is evenly red your cigar is lit.
SMOKING A CIGAR
How one smokes a cigar will affect the overall flavor. Puffing quickly and often will raise the temperature of the cigar and result in a spicier smoke. One should take slow deliberate draws on the cigar, slowly releasing the smoke and enjoying the taste on your palate. Cigars should not be inhaled. The experience happens at the palate.