10 Questions From a Wannabe Cigar Smoker

by Jesse on October 12, 2007

This is a guest post/interview provided by Chris Garrett. Chris is one of the probloggers that I read on a regular basis for new ideas and blogging strategies.

My name is Chris. As of now I have not ever smoked a cigar, well, at least not while sober. Growing up I have always been surrounded by cigar smokers so there is a comforting appeal to the smell. It has always fascinated me but I never took the opportunity, not even when my daughter was born which would have been the traditional thing to do, and now feel in my mid-thirties I think it’s about time I should give it a try.

Thankfully through the magic of the internets I have access to an expert now so I can ask Cigar Jack a bunch of questions I have about cigars and cigar smoking :)

Chris: Cigar smoking doesn’t seem to have the negative connotation cigarette smoking has, why do you think that is?

Cigar Jack: The only purpose of a cigarette is to deliver nicotine. Cigarette smoking is an addictive habit. Having quite five years ago I can attest to their addictive power first hand. Cigars aren’t typically smoked for that reason. They are used as a way to celebrate a special occasion or to relax after a long day. Your typical cigar smoker usually smokes less than five cigars a week and doesn’t have the same physical addiction to cigars as a cigarette smoker does to cigarettes. I fear much of that is going to change soon though as the cigar industry is coming under increasing attack.

Chris: How would you start with cigars? Buy a selection or would you go for a particular cigar?

Cigar Jack: Try and find a good local shop where you can ask some advice and also check out some of the great cigar websites out there for ideas on what to try. I’d definitely buy a selection, and take some notes on what you like and dislike. If you choose to order online most places offer samplers.

Chris: Is it an acquired taste? something you need to practice?

Cigar Jack: Cigars vary in flavor profile and strength so much I believe certain cigars are an acquired taste. Your tastes will change over time, but I’ve liked cigars since the first one I tried. I started out with some milder cigars and now smoke some stuff that are so strong they would have left me green five years ago.

Chris: How do you smoke a cigar? Light it and start sucking on it?

Cigar Jack: Cutting a cigar is the first step. Typically you want to take no more than 1/8 inch off the cap. Matches are the more traditional route, but I prefer using a butane torch lighter. Don’t get the flame too close to the foot, as this will burn the cigar, and your aim is to just lightly toast it. Once the foot is warmed, you want to start lightly puffing on it and rotating it to get a nice even burn. When the cigar is lit you’ll want to go slow. The rule of thumb is take a puff or two about once a minute, as this keeps the cigar from getting too hot and can help subtle flavors become more noticeable.

Chris: Inhale/don’t inhale? People I talk to say that you shouldn’t, but most of them do anyway?

I strongly recommend not inhaling a cigar if you can help it. Inhaling too much will quickly turn you a lovely shade of green. I end up inhaling some especially if I’m trying to exhale the smoke through my nose. Your nose does a better job picking out nuances than just your tongue. I’m still trying to get the hang of this myself.

Chris: Do you get what you pay for, or is it like wine where price isn’t always a great measure of quality?

Cigar Jack: Cigars are exactly like wine in that respect. By looking out for small unknown brands I’ve found $4 cigars that I think are much higher quality than some $10 cigars. Many of those $10 are that price because too many people think price equals quality or the company has spent a large amount of money marketing it.

Chris: What’s the deal with Cuban cigars?

Cigar Jack: Cuban cigars do have a unique flavor you’ll only find in a Cuban cigar. This is often referred to as the Cuban “Twang” and I can recognize it when I smoke one but I can’t describe it. The embargo definitely added to the mystique. Some are better than what you can get in the States and some are worse, most of that comes down to personal preference. Though in my opinion you haven’t had a cigar until you’ve had a Cuban Partagas Serie D No. 4 that’s been aged for a few years.

Chris: There seem to be lots of accessories and fancy gizmos, necessary? Do they add to enjoyment?

Cigar Jack: Depends on your geek factor! :) I love gadgets to begin with so cigar smoking introduced to me to a whole new realm of gadgets. But honestly they don’t really add any enjoyment factor to the experience. Some wooden matches, a cutter or in a pinch a razor blade is all you need. My preferred method of upping the enjoyment factor is some good company or a good book along with a good drink.

Chris: So is it an expensive thing to do?

Cigar Jack: You can get started fairly cheap. A plastic air-tight food container or cooler can work as a humidor if you plan to keep cigars for more than a couple days. Right now my favorite lighter is a Ronson torch lighter you can get at Wal-mart for $3. The only thing that is worth dropping the extra cash on is a good cigar cutter. A bad cutter can destroy your cigar by damaging the wrapper, maybe even rendering the cigar unsmokeable. I learned to set a budget for myself to keep it from getting too expensive. Some of the cheaper bundled cigars can be had for under $2 a cigar. Typically these are short filler and use the scraps from the more expensive cigars.

Chris: Which is your all time favorite?

Cigar Jack: My all time favorite is the Partagas Serie D. No 4 from Cuba. A close friend of mine gave me one that was nearly five years old and I’ve never tasted a cigar that good again. Pair something like that with some really good rum and it can make for a fantastic evening.

Thanks Chris for putting together these questions together. If any readers have some recommendations or additional advice please feel free to post a comment.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

raj October 12, 2007 at 3:10 pm

All I’m going to say is “check out an amazing little lounge across from Churchill’s in downtown Montreal. They have sipping brandies, wines, wall to humidors and smoking jackets. Although that was in 1996-7. And no, I don’t smoke cigarettes.

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Jesse October 12, 2007 at 3:21 pm

I’d love to see Montreal, but I think my next few visits to Canada will all be to Calgary. Nice cigar lounges are getting harder and harder to find. I’ve seen two near me recently go out of business and the new anti-smoking laws will probably force a few more to go under.

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Joe Drinker October 15, 2007 at 5:38 pm

Good tips Jack.

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Jesse October 15, 2007 at 7:05 pm

Thanks Joe! Did you get a chance to try those cigars you won?

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Jeremy November 29, 2007 at 1:01 pm

I just started smoking cigars about two months ago and I was wondering what type of brandy or whiskey would be the best to match with cigar smoking? I’ve been mostly smoking Romeo Y Julieta Vintage, 1875, and Romeo’s Court. Thanks for you time.

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Jesse November 29, 2007 at 1:09 pm

I’m still learning the world of spirits, and don’t know much about brandy. My recommendation is to look for a brand that isn’t intended as a mixer. My current drinks that accompany my cigars are Dalmore Cigar Malt Scotch and Mount Gay Barbados Sugarcane Rum. Both are reasonably price and and great place to start.

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Attila Girl December 1, 2007 at 12:57 am

I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around rum as an accompaniment. Can’t you find good whiskey, or gin?

Wine’s good, too.

I’m not against rum, but any time I spend drinking that could be used on gin, whiskey, or wine. See the problem?

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Jesse December 1, 2007 at 10:19 am

Rum, Scotch, Brandy, Whiskey or Wine it all comes down to personal preference for the most part.

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Jesse December 1, 2007 at 10:19 am

That reminds me though… I haven’t had a martini in awhile.

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Attila Girl December 1, 2007 at 4:22 pm

Twist, or olive?

With decent gin, I take ‘em dirty.

With good gin, I make them “extra dry” (that is, there should be a bottle of vermouth somewhere on the premises, and that does it). And clean, fresh ice.

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Jesse December 2, 2007 at 5:36 am

I’ve been using Beefeater with Almond Stuff Olives. Mmmmmmmm…..

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Damsel nD'Stress December 2, 2007 at 1:18 pm

I so agree with you – the Partagas from Cuba is my favorite! A dear friend gifted me, and as newbie, I have yet to find another that compares. Something about the Cuban cigar. My first puff was with a gentleman friend, Romeo y Julieta at an underground cigar shop which sold Cubans under the table! It was a long time ago, and I doubt the operation is still around. The feds may have shut it down by now! Oh to be young and daring.

Moral of this story – there is none, just a fond memory, and a great cigar!

Damsel

http://www.cigarbar360.com

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Downtown Browns December 4, 2007 at 12:28 pm

Funny to have stumbled onto this site. I am a Cuban cigar dealer from Canada. The Partagas Series D No.4 is also one of my favorites. Other great cigars are the Bolivar Royal Corona, Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2, Hoyo Petite Robusto (had 1 last nite). I’d be happy to answer any questions anyone has.

mike@downtownbrowns.ca

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Jesse December 4, 2007 at 1:09 pm

Welcome to the site Mike, I hope you enjoy it. Where is your store at in Canada?

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Downtown Browns December 4, 2007 at 1:54 pm

108 Mile Ranch, BC About 350 miles north of Vancouver. Thats why I started my business, I live in a very small town with no access to quality smokes. It’s not my main source of income ( I own a retail homecentre,like a small Home Depot), but it is my passion. I’ve been in business just over a year.

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george December 10, 2007 at 2:03 am

Another great cigar to go on the list of favorites is the Fuente Fuente Opus X Forbidden X black label. That is great. So is the Ashton ESG 20 Year best cigar I have ever had my hands on.

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FNA March 8, 2008 at 12:10 pm

“Your typical cigar smoker usually smokes less than five cigars a week”

Have you a source for this claim?

I ask because of my belief that the “typical” cigar smoker is a smoker of machine made brands such as Phillies etc. or bundle brands – mass production cigars of which millions a year are sold.

“The only thing that is worth dropping the extra cash on is a good cigar cutter”

I would note that i smoked premium hand-made cigars for almost 20 years before I purchased/received my first cutter and I never “rendered the cigar unsmokeable”.

I didn’t smoke then like I smoke now, but that includes several hundred cigars.

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FNA March 8, 2008 at 12:20 pm

“The only purpose of a cigarette is to deliver nicotine”

I read this so often from cigar smokers.

If this is true, I wonder why there are so many different cigarettes and why all cigarette smoker’s do not smoke generic cigarettes.

To the best of my knowledge, heroin is an opiate delivery system. Addicts of that drug purchase any heroin they can get. Plainly this is not true for addicts of nicotine.

Personally, in cigarettes, I favor tobacco produced by a company that also produces cigars, Charles Fairmorn.

The tobacco is exported to Germany, where it is cured and dark fired and then imported back into the US as a finished product.

I can get nicotine in much cheaper tobacco, but the smoking of a fresh-rolled cigarette made of flavorful tobaccos is a sensory experience not to be missed (or messed with).

Indeed there is nicotine, but that substance has and serves its purpose, soothing the brain, relaxing and even allowing a greater focus.

Yes, that is a cigarette and not a cigar.

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Mister-M March 27, 2008 at 3:02 pm

I can see why this is one of the top posts on the blog. Bravo! Well explained without a hint of being condescending. A must-read for the newbie.

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Enrique April 13, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Great article! A lot of first-hand extremely useful information from a cigar expert. A must-read for beginners, I’ve added a link to this post in the lead article of my new blog on “How To Smoke A Cigar.” Thanks, CigarJack.

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G.KentDegler October 7, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Read post 22 by FNA.
It is right on the money.
I have smoked cigarettes off and on for 30 years, quitting twice: the first for about 7 years, then about 5 years ago till present. I really enjoyed having a couple of hand rolled cigarettes made from premium Dutch tobacco with a Grolsch. But then, about 5 years ago I traded that routine for a mug of wine and a good cigar per night and, well, when I find something better than that, I’LL LET YOU KNOW !

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Rick June 13, 2010 at 9:33 pm

I’m a newbie and been smoking cigars for about 6 months. I’ve tried a few samplers and one that stands out in the bunch so far is the Rocky Patel Vintage 1990. I love the aroma of this cigar before firing it up.

Can you give me a list of other cigars that would compare to this cigar as far as the aroma when unlite. I also enjoy the aroma after lighting up.

How would you explain the aroma of this particular cigar…..I hear a lot about cigars having the aroma and taste of chocolate, pepper, leather, etc.

Do you think a Rocky Patel Maduro Edge would come close to comparing to the Vintage 1990?

Please help me in making alternate choices.

Best regards,

Rick

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dstz August 20, 2010 at 10:48 am

“Your nose does a better job picking out nuances than just your tongue.”

The tongue plays no role in taste past: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami. Anosmia is the loss of smell (in the nose) and means losing all taste apart from the 5 basic elements of tongue perception listed above. Anosmia sucks.

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