Select a size suitable for the available smoking time. Examine the cigar, assessing the smell, condition and feel. Obviously if you are unsure during purchase make another selection. If it is one of your own cigars, reassess your storage conditions and check humidity levels etc. You will gradually develop a sense for this with time and experience.
The cigar should be cut just below the cap. Leaving enough cap on to prevent the wrapper from unravelling, again this comes with experience and varies based on the cigar and shape of cap prior to cutting. One of the easiest and often cleanest methods, especially for beginners is a single or double guillotine cutter, a good quality one from a reputable brand often has sharper better quality blades, thus a cleaner cut with less chance of damaging your cigar. Some prefer a punch to simply make a hole in the end of the cigar, we have used these with good results, but care must be taken. In Cuba they are sometimes bitten off, we don’t recommend this, but you have to admit it looks cool.
To light the cigar, a gas butane lighter with an odourless flame is recommended, DuPont, Dunhill, Xikar all do good lighters specifically made for this purpose. Liquid fuel lighters, wax candles and matches are not recommended. It is recommended to char the lighting end of the cigar evenly, then place the cigar in your mouth and slowly draw-in until the cigar is well lit, rotating the cigar as you do so. Take your time, but if relighting is necessary, this is not a problem if carried out immediately. If a cigar is left for any period, it can lose flavour and become bitter.
We suggest you enjoy your cigar and do not rush things. For many a large part of the smoking pleasure is taking the time to enjoy the cigar. Obviously, cigars aren’t meant to be inhaled. Cigars are typically smoked for the flavour and aromas. Cigars are commonly discarded around the three-quarter mark. Really this is up to the smokers, it is down to your personal preference and enjoyment.
Shapes and Sizes
Straight cigars are known as Parejos. Examples are Robusto, Churchill, Corona, Lonsdale, Panetela and Cigarillo. Parejos can have round, conical or pigtail heads.
Most have an open foot for lighting and need to be cut before smoking. They may be either round or box-pressed, meaning that the sides of the cigar were pressed square prior to packing or, in some cases, by pressure in the box.
This is the benchmark size which all other sizes are measured. The traditional dimensions are 5 1/2 to 6 inches with a ring gauge of 42 to 44. i.e. Montecristo No.3
Basically, a miniature corona. This cigar generally measures about 4 1/2 inches, with a ring gauge of 40 to 42. i.e. Montecristo No. 4
Come in a large corona format. The standard dimensions are 7 inches by 47 ring gauge. i.e. Romeo y Julieta’s Churchill
A short, fat cigar that has become the most popular cigar size in America. The size is generally 4 3/4 to 5 1/2 inches by 48 to 52 ring gauge. i.e. Cohiba’s Robusto
Also called a Toro, this cigar is steadily growing in popularity. The traditional measurements are 5 5/8 inches by 46 ring gauge, but cigars of 6 inches by 50 ring gauge have also become popular. i.e. Punch’s Punch
The standard dimensions are 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 inches by a 49 to 52 ring gauge. i.e. Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona
Long, thin and stylish, this size's popularity has decreased in recent years. Still, it is an elegant size, with a wide length variation of 5 to 7 1/2 inches with a ring gauge of 34 to 38. Cigars longer than 7 inches in this category are often referred to as "Gran Panetelas." i.e. Cohiba’s Lancero
A Lonsdale is generally longer than a Corona but thicker than a Panetela, with a classic size of 6 1/2 inches by 42 ring. i.e. Montecristo No.1
Although the majority of cigars are Parejos, a growing number of cigar brands are expanding their portfolios with more creatively shaped cigars. These cigars referred to as Figurados, they typically include any cigar that is not a straight-sided cylinder.
Although cigar-makers' interpretations of the shapes vary as widely as the flavours inside their cigars, the basic categories of Figurados are Perfecto, Pyramid and Culebra.
Pyramids are cigars with cut feet, like Parejos, but with heads tapered to a point. Generally, the cigars measure from 6 to 7 inches in length, with ring gauges of about 40 at the head widening to 52 to 54 at the foot. The pyramid is a treasured because the tapered head allows the complex flavors of the cigar to meld in the mouth. i.e. Montecristo No.2
Traditional Belicosos are short pyramids, often with a slightly rounded pyramid head. Most commonly measure from 5 to 5 1/2 inches, with ring gauges of about 50. Today's Belicosos, however, are often Coronas or Corona Gordas with tapered heads. Recent years have also seen the production of mini-Belicosos, short cigars with small ring gauges and tapered heads. i.e. Bolivar’s Belicoso Finos
Although many cigar brands offer cigars labelled Torpedos the cigars are often Pyramids. A true Torpedo is a rare find nowadays, it would have a closed foot, a head tapered to a point, and a bulge in the middle. i.e. Cuaba’s Millennium
Like a Torpedo, a Perfecto has a closed foot and a bulge in the middle. Unlike Torpedos though, the head of a Perfecto is rounded like the head of a Parejo. Perfectos differ greatly in lengths, ranging from 4 1/2 inches to sizeable 9-inch cigars, with ring gauges from 38 to 48. i.e. Partagas’ Presidente
A popular cigar in the past was a Culebra, considered by some as the most exotic shape of cigar in production. This cigar compromises of three Panetelas braided together and tied with string, sold as a single cigar. The three parts are then unbraided and smoked separately. Normally 5 to 6 inches in length, with a 38 ring gauge. These cigars are great to share with friend and add to a special occasion i.e. Partagas’ Culebra
Diademas are big it’s that simple. 8 1/2 inches or longer, with a tapered head, though not open to a complete point, normally with a 40 ring gauge. The cigar tapers down to a foot that can be open like a Parejo or closed like a Perfecto, normally with a ring gauge of 52 or more. This is a cigar to be enjoyed when time is no object. i.e. Hoyo de Monterrey’s Diadema.
The ideal construction material or lining for humidors is Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata). Spanish Cedar is not from Spain but from South American Countries and is also therefore referred to as South American Cedar or sometimes Cigar Box Cedar. Other woods which are also used are American (or Canadian) red cedar (Thuja plicata) or Honduran mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). Spanish Cedar has a high absorption capacity (while remaining stable at high moisture levels) and is generally credited with a positive effect on the cigar aging process and in adding flavour to the cigars. It is argued by some that the aromatic fragrance of the cedar helps suppress tobacco beetles.
Storing cigars in their original boxes is recommended, rather than on open display shelves. This protects the cigars from light and it is widely regarded that confinement in boxes results in better aging. A humidor should never be subject to direct sunlight because of temperature fluctuations. In humidification devices only distilled water should be used. The use of demineralised or deionised water is not a suitable alternative as deionisation does not significantly remove uncharged organic molecules, viruses or bacteria, except by incidental trapping in the resin.
Storing cigars in their cellophane sleeves is an ongoing argument within the Cuban cigar community. For older cigars, the current consensus is that cellophane is probably best left on for disease and pest control if your storage conditions are less than ideal. It has been suggested that it may also improve aging. Some vendors distribute single cigars in cellophane to protect them during transport. Some cigar enthusiasts use sleeves for single cigars in order as to prevent transfer of oils between different cigars altering the cigars flavours and properties.
Temperature and Humidity
Temperature should be controlled within the recommended range of 16ºC to 18ºC (61ºF to 64ºF). Temperatures above 18ºC (64ºF) will allow any dormant tobacco beetles to hatch and become active. Sustained temperatures above 25ºC (77ºF) can be considered critical. Low temperature can delay the aging process. Sustained temperatures below 15ºC (59ºF) should be considered undesirable for normal aging.
Humidity should be controlled within the recommended range of 65% to 70% RH. High humidity can cause the growth of damaging blue mould or cracked wrapper. Ongoing humidity above 75% is typically considered critical.
Low humidity will likely allow cigars to dry out. Ongoing humidity below 60% is typically considered critical.
Individual cigar brands have an accepted strength flavour rating, strengths and blends of individual cigars vary by brand.
Habanos rate their cigars using a single term, which encompasses flavour, body and strength. Their current strength ratings are as follows-
Mild: Hoyo de Monterrey, Fonseca, Quai d'Orsay, Rafael Gonzalez, Montecristo – Open,
Mild to Medium: H. Upmann, Por Larrañaga, San Cristobal, El Rey del Mundo,
Medium: Flor de Cano, La Gloria Cubana, Romeo y Julieta, Punch, Quintero, Sancho Panza, Trinidad, Cohiba – Siglo, Vegueros – new
Medium to Full: Cuaba, Diplomaticos, Jose L Piedra, Juan Lopez, Montecristo, Vegas Robaina, Cohiba – Classic, Cohiba – Maduro,
Full: Bolivar, Partagás, Ramon Allones, Saint Luis Rey, Cohiba – Behike, Vegueros - old
Cigar connoisseurs have been known to separate characteristics in the below categories
- Flavour - intensity of taste or aroma - nose
- Body - heaviness or lightness - mouth
- Strength (i.e. nicotine) - head
Obviously, this is just a guide and general consensus, we are sure opinions will differ in this regard.
Some of the most common flavours often described while smoking a cigar include but aren’t limited to, spice, cocoa / chocolate, peat, moss, earth, coffee, leather, grass, bean, nuts, wood, and berries.
Cigar wrappers are available in a wide range of colors. From pale green, yellows, various shades of brown to dark black.
There are seven basic color distinctions among wrappers, with an infinite number of shades between each color. The color "Colorado" comes in the middle of the colour range. Wrapper leaves vary in colour due to the many methods for processing tobacco and the variety of tobacco strains utilised. Obviously sunlight can play a factor, for example, a wrapper grown in sunlight is typically darker than a shade-grown wrapper of an equivalent seed strain.
From lightest to darkest, the seven commonly used wrapper color descriptions are:
Double Claro (also called Candela)
This wrapper is light green, a colour created by a quick-drying process using heat which traps the green chlorophyll of the tobacco. This wrapper was tremendously popular in the United States, the Europeans and others found this somewhat entertaining…..we are not judging.
A light tan colour, most commonly achieved by growing in shade normally under cheese cloth tents, picking the plants early and air-drying the leaves. These wrappers have little to offer re flavor and allow the flavours of the filler tobaccos to dominate the taste of the cigar.
Light reddish-brown; often grown in direct sunlight and given longer to mature before picking.
The middle of the colour range, normally medium-brown to brownish-red and full flavored, yet with a soft subtle aroma. Often shade grown.
Darker than Colorado, lighter than Maduro.
This shade ranges from a deep reddish-brown to almost black. Maduro means "mature" in Spanish, which refers to longer time needed to cure this colour wrapper than lighter wrappers. For Maduros, leaves are either toasted in a pressure chamber or fermented longer in above-average heat. A Maduro wrapper adds significant flavor to a cigar, it often has a mild aroma and a robust yet sweet flavor.
This black-as-night wrapper shade is achieved by leaving the leaves on the plant as long as possible, by using only the leaves from the top of the plant and by fermenting them for an especially long time. Most often Brazilian or Mexican in origin, Oscuro wrappers are often very rough, a result of the extra fermentation. This category is sometimes referred to as "black," "negro" or "double maduro."