Cigar Etiquette: Smelling your Cigar

July 15, 2022

Before torching a handmade premium cigar, the knowledgeable aficionado will first look for solid construction, which entails a firm hand feels with no soft spots or divots. Then, they will check to see if the cigar has a flawless evenly colored wrapper for consistent taste, along with no protruding veins, which can greatly affect the burn quality. Lastly comes what industry experts refer to as the “pre-light nose, ” a fancy term for smelling a cigar.

Smelling an unlit cigar is more or less a time-honored tradition that’s a precursor to the toasting and torching process. No matter what the occasion, sniffing a cigar before it’s lit is arguably a sensory pleasure that may play a role in just how much you will enjoy the overall smoking experience.

However, there are always exceptions to the rule because you cannot confidently say that “ this cigar smells great, and I’m going to LOVE it!”

So, should you ever smell a cigar before lighting it, and if so, how should you do it?

When you do smell a cigar, you always smell the foot. If you smell just the outer wrapper or the cap, you aren’t going to get much flavor, because the wrapper tobacco usually provides just one single note. The foot of the cigar exposes all the tobacco used in the blend, thus allowing the cigar’s inherent flavors to mingle.

A cigar with a pre-light aroma that’s somewhat musty, and has nuances of cedar and barnyard hay, almost always denotes perfect aging. When the smell of ammonia is present, that doesn’t mean it’s bad; the cigar just needs a little more time. That said, when you have just paid top dollar for a fine premium cigar, the smell of ammonia is a huge deterrent because you expect it to be perfectly aged and ready to smoke right of the box.

Since we are on the topic of cigar etiquette, when shopping for premium cigars at your favorite shop, don’t let the cigar touch your nose when sniffing it. That’s just bad hygiene, not to mention that any credible sales associate will remove that cigar from the display case or ask you to buy it —whether you want to or not.

In summary, we have outlined all the pros and cons of smelling your cigar before lighting it. Now, it’s entirely up to you whether to sniff it first or just get straight down to business and light that stick up.

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