Cigars for Beginners
One of the most common forms of written content in the cigar industry is the how-to genre. Cigars are an intricate hobby, and so it can seem overwhelming when you are starting to understand the ins and outs.
Most websites and blogs do a decent job, but even they can seem a bit too complicated. So, we decided to do a basic beginners guide. Here we will explain all the initial steps and information you will need to begin your journey into the world of cigars. Alongside this,
we’ve included several cigar samples in different strengths to help you increase your palette.
How to Pick Cigars
You may be wondering, how do I pick a cigar? This is normally the first question you will have, and while it seems straight forward, there is a lot of information required to make sure you pick the best cigar for you.
In a true cigar guide, we need to start with the simple aspects of how you choose a cigar. When picking cigars, you can select them by strength, shape, ring, length, wrappers, binders, fillers, and origin, which we’ll explore in-depth below.
What Cigar Strength Should I Start With?
A cigars strength is based on intensity, not shape or size, and it is individual to your particular tastes. The strength is essentially the amount of nicotine, similar to the alcohol content of a beer. For strength, cigars are basically broken down into three main categories: mellow, medium, and full. For a beginner, it is a smart choice, to begin with something on the more mellow side, and then increase as your palate gets more experienced.
Flavor Profiles and Strengths
Just like wine drinkers detect flavor components like flowers or fruit in the wine, cigar smokers pick up flavor components. Flavor preference is probably the most important characteristic to look for in a cigar.
Cigar flavor notes vary from rich, chocolate profiles, to zesty and spicy. Very similar to wine, they can sometimes have more floral flavors with fruit notes. The term ‘body’ is used to describe the overall amount of flavor you will find, and it is also broken down by mellow, medium, and full.
This is where it can get confusing. You can have a cigar that has a full body, but a mellow strength. The two are not mutually exclusive.
For example, if you really like chocolate and coffee flavors, but don’t want a cigar that is too strong, you should pick a medium to full-bodied cigar that is mellow in strength.
Below, I have listed some examples of cigars in each body category to give you an idea of what you should look for.
Mellow-Bodied Cigars: Recommended for new cigar smokers and aren't overpowering.
Medium-Bodied Cigars: Cigars may have more flavor but don't overpower your palate.
Full-Bodied Cigars: Cigars will have the most flavor, generally more intense.
Understanding Cigar Shapes
Cigars come in different shapes and can be fat, skinny, long, or short. The shape doesn’t usually play into strength or flavor, but it can play into construction and overall experience.
The three basic shapes are classified as Parejo (rounded cigar that is straight), Figurado (rounded cigar with a taper), or box press (a cigar pressed into a rectangular shape).
How to Choose the Cigar Ring Gauge
A cigar’s ring gauge is the distance around the circular part of the cigar (its diameter), which is 64ths of an inch. Cigars in the U.S. and U.K. are measured in inches.
In other parts of the world, they use centimeters. To measure a cigar, a 42-ring gauge means its diameter is 42/64. Ring gauge is where you can discover some flavor and strength differences.
A thinner cigar has a different ratio of wrapper tobacco to filler tobacco. A thinner cigar will have more flavor but less strength. A thicker cigar, which contains more filler tobacco, will have more strength but less distinct flavors.
A Look at Different Cigar Lengths
Cigar lengths can include Parejos which are straight-sided and can include:
- Coronas 5.5-6″
- Petit Coronas 4.5″
- Churchills 7″
- Robustos 4.75-5.5″
- Corona Gordas 5.5-8.6″
- Double Coronas 7.5-8.5″
- Pantelas 5-7.5″
- Lonsdales 6.5″
Figurados aren’t straight in shape and can include:
- Pyramids 6-7″
- Belicosos 5-5.5″
- Torpedos 6-7″
- Perfectos 4.5-9″
- Culebras 5-6″
- Diademas 8.5″+
Looking at Wrappers, Binders, and Fillers
Examine a cigar’s wrapper. This isn’t the label, but the leaves which range from the palest green color to a dark brown or black. The darker the wrapper, the more flavor it will have. Again, remember that strength and flavor are different. A darker cigar will have the most intense flavor but might also have a more mellow strength.
Wrapper colors can be:
- Double Claro or Candela (green)
- Claro (tan)
- Colorado Claro (light brown/red)
- Colorado (medium brown)
- Colorado Maduro (dark brown)
- Maduro (red brown/black)
- Oscuro (black)
In addition to wrappers, cigars include fillers (inner portion) and binders (course layers to hold moisture content). These can include leaves from different countries.
What a Cigar’s Origin Means to a Cigar
Cigars are made from tobacco leaves. While cigar tobacco can be grown around the world, in the U.S. and Italy for example, the most prized tobaccos come from Central and South America.
The leading producers of premium cigar tobacco are Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico.
A Cigar's Freshness
Cigars should be firm, but not crackling when squeezed, which means they’re stale and dried out—store cigars in a humidor to keep them fresh.