The Next Step on Your Cigar Journey
Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s continue to light up the trail to cigar enjoyment: developing your taste. Ultimately, your experiences and enjoyment of cigars will be unique to you. No two people pull the same aromas and flavors from the same stick – everyone’s palate is sensitive to different cigar taste profiles.
It’s key to remember the enjoyment of a cigar goes beyond your taste buds. A cigar is a full sensory experience. Feeling the consistent firmness of a well-rolled cigar and the way the shape of one fits in your hand. Hearing how the wrapper that’s been exposed to the right humidity sounds as you gently roll it between your fingers. Savoring the aromas of an unlit cigar and the various nuances showing up in the smoke. And, of course, the flavor. As you embrace the cigar lifestyle you’ll form preferences for each sense helping you know when you’ve discovered your ideal cigar.
But how to get there?
Start with your sense of smell. Does the aroma call to mind your favorite flavors, such as vanilla, almonds, cocoa or citrus? Chances are, if the aroma appeals to you, the taste of the cigar will as well. Consider starting with a light or medium cigar to get good flavor without being overwhelmed by the power of a full-bodied cigar. Also, consider how much time you have to smoke. Forty-five minutes? Two hours? The time you can carve out to enjoy your cigar can help determine the size and shape of cigar to pick.
Keep Track of What You Smoke
Make notes about what you like, or don’t like, about the cigars you smoke. Record the nuances and dominant characteristics of each cigar. Perhaps you discover you like the leathery notes of a particular cigar but you don’t care for the earthy overtones. Even if you can’t yet decipher the individual flavors, knowing the names of which cigars you’ve enjoyed is important. Understanding those preferences will help you and your tobacconist choose other cigars better suited to you.
Don’t Judge Too Quickly
Cigars are meant to be smoked from beginning to end. That’s because the flavors will evolve depending on the different tobaccos used for the filler and how they are arranged within the cigar. Take your time smoking the cigar because a slow burn will allow the sugars and essential oils in the tobacco to caramelize, and produce more subtle flavors. If a cigar burns too quickly, those oils evaporate, and may remove some of those subtle nuances. Also, the smoke from a rapidly and hot-burning cigar can turn bitter and unpleasant.
Key Characteristics Influencing Your Enjoyment of a Cigar
This can be defined as the intensity of the smoking experience of a cigar.
The richness and complexity of the flavor; the aroma; the volume of smoke; the strength; the weight of the smoke on the palate; and the texture and smoothness of the smoke are all part of what makes up “body.” A full-bodied cigar will feel heavy in the mouth and nose, while a very light-bodied cigar will feel the opposite.
The distinctive tastes of the cigar on the palate and in the nose is the “flavor”.
The flavor is influenced by the soil and growing conditions (where the tobacco was raised) as well as the harvesting, fermenting, blending and aging processes the tobacco leaves are subjected to. Just as different tastes are sensed on different parts of the tongue, different smells and textures are distinguished in different areas of the nose.
A cigar’s level of nicotine and the associated impact it has on your system when smoked.
Nicotine can produce pleasant reactions such as euphoria or a sense of energy, but can also cause dizziness or nausea. Tolerance to the effect of nicotine levels can vary from person to person, but it’s recommended for beginners to start with low-to-medium-strength cigars.
These videos will help you discover more about your flavor profile and palate. They’ll also help refine your cigar knowledge when it comes to taste and strength.
Choosing the Best First Cigar
Key questions to help you pick the first of many cigars on your cigar journey.
Flavored vs. Traditional Cigars
Don’t all cigars have flavor? Of course, but some cigars are infused or given additional flavoring besides the natural tobacco leaves. This video explains the difference.
What Determines Cigar Strength?
The strength of a premium hand rolled cigar is designated as being either mild, medium, or full, and is based on the specific tobaccos used in the cigar's blend. In this video, you’ll learn from an expert about where strength comes from and how it’s used during the cigar blending process.
How to get rid of cigar odor and breath
Cigars can leave a distinct scent on your breath, clothing and your surroundings. Check out these quick tips to get rid of these odors.
Do cigars have nicotine and how much?
The nicotine in a cigar will vary based on a number of different factors, all of which we explain in this video.
How to Clean Your Palate
When smoking multiple cigars in a short time period or if you want to cleanse your palate after a particularly strong cigar, here are some great tips.
Top Cigar Producing Countries
Cuban cigars continue to enjoy a fine reputation. The island nation has always been known for having the ideal tobacco growing soil and weather conditions for making the best premium handmade cigars. However, with the Cuban Revolution having nationalized the farms in 1959 and the impact of the U.S. Trade Embargo of 1961, the Cuban cigar industry changed dramatically as many tobacco-growing families and cigar makers fled to other countries like Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Since then, a lot of cigar smokers in the U.S. have been denied the pleasure of experiencing an authentic Cuban cigar.
During that same time period, the tobacco industry in other countries has exploded. Those master growers and blenders who fled Cuba took their knowledge – and in most cases, Cuban seeds – creating a comparable industry in other countries. Moreover, some would argue the quality of cigars from places like the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua surpasses that of Cuba.
Since different cigar makers create different flavor combinations for their blends, here’s a guide to what flavors you can expect from some of the top cigar-producing countries.
Top Cigar Producing Countries
Mexico has growing regions mainly along the Gulf of Mexico and in the North, with the most popular being the San Andres region. Tobacco grown here is often overlooked, yet the soils and sunny climate can produce a spicy, earthy flavor with creamy notes, creating many hidden gems in the cigar world. Mexican cigars once had a reputation for being cheap, but that is certainly not the case any longer: a lot of world-class tobacco is grown here, especially the highly popular San Andres natural and San Andres Negro wrapper leaf. Their distinct flavors are why many cigars made in other countries use Mexican filler, binder and wrapper leaves today.Shop Mexican Cigars
Honduran cigars are not made in the same quantities as cigars from the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua, yet they are some of the best handmade cigars in the world. This country is blessed with fertile soil and excellent weather conditions allowing many varieties of tobacco to grow there. It is slightly drier in Honduras, which tends to produce dark tobacco with exotic, dark, earthy and spicy notes. You can expect woody, nutty flavors with some malty and occasionally citrusy sweetness from Honduran cigars.Shop Honduran Cigars
The country has rich soil, much of it volcanic, and similar growing conditions to Cuba leading many to claim Nicaraguan cigars rival Cubans in flavor. Depending on where in the four growing regions the tobacco is raised, Estelí, Condega, Jalapa, or Ometepe, the flavors can range from strong, to spicy, to sweet. Cigars made with Nicaraguan tobacco tend to have powerful, bold and spicy/peppery flavors with a bit of earth and leather. Nicaraguan cigars can be made from 100% domestically-grown tobacco or from a blend of both domestic and imported tobaccos.Shop Nicaraguan Cigars
Cuba’s rich soil produces a truly unique tobacco. Cuban cigars are made from only Cuban tobacco - filler, binder and wrapper - and generally have a redolent aroma and rich taste that reflects the soil in which the plants were grown. Cigars are available along the spectrum from light, to medium, to full-bodied. A light-bodied cigar can produce floral or fruity aromas. Medium-bodied cigars can deliver spice, wood and leather aromas, whereas a full-bodied cigar can have intense, even harsh flavors of wood, earth and spice. There is some debate that the various Cuban brands have developed a homogenized flavor as a result of the nationalization of the industry, although many aficionados insist this is not true.Learn More
Some of the best cigars are produced in the Dominican Republic, which is also one of the world’s largest exporters of tobacco. The cigars produced here were once considered mild and light, but the flavor profile has evolved and the country produces excellent cigars across the whole spectrum. Expect complex flavors along with spice, leather, coffee and chocolate aromas, depending on the blend. Few cigars are 100% Dominican Republic tobacco - most include tobaccos from other regions to create specific flavor profiles.Shop Dominican Cigars
What Type of Cigar Smoker are You?
You’re in a hotel in a new town and you’ve just finished dinner. To cap off your night you:
You’ve landscaped your yard to perfection. It has:
As far as physical activity goes, you describe yourself as:
It’s Wednesday and you have no plans for the weekend. You immediately:
When it comes to work, your approach is:
The car you prefer to drive is:
Which invite from a co-worker are you most likely to accept:
Your favorite kind of restaurant is:
The best vacation destination for you is:
The greatest tickets for you to score are:
Question 1 of 10
“Curiosity” is your middle name and your cigar smoking is no exception. Regardless of your flavor profile, you’ll try any cigar shared with you; reason being, you never know when a new favorite might show up.
You love to ask fellow smokers what they’re lighting up and gravitate toward bigger parties and gatherings. Smaller, quiet lounges tend to quickly lose their charm. The more people, the more interesting conversation, and the higher chance you’ll walk away with an awesome cigar.
You’re more likely to engage in an online discussion about cigars than to pour over a lot of reviews and ratings.
Keep the adventure going.
Whether it’s the best new cigars or the coolest leisure activity, you have an instinct for knowing what’s about to be hot and trendy. Let’s face it, you’re often ahead of the curve discovering what others haven’t yet found. Following the herd really isn’t your deal.
Your contact list is overflowing with people who feed you all kinds of information. And you can often be found sharing a stick or two with groups of other smokers from all different stripes. That conversation and collection of eclectic information helps you spot the signs that will set the next trend.
On social media, you’re connected with cigar makers and other industry insiders to get a sense of what they’re thinking and planning. There are several reviewers and rating sites with whom you also stay up-to-date. It’s all research and background for your personal pursuit of that next great discovery.
Stay out on the leading edge.
Once you light a cigar, it’s your time to kick back and savor these first few creamy puffs of smoke. Yeah, you love the taste and the cigar lifestyle, but the big upside for you is those moments when the stresses of life recede just a bit.
You’re happy smoking with friends or chilling on the back deck watching the sunset. You enjoy talking about cigars with fellow smokers, but steer clear of debates about which cigars rule. Everyone has their own preferences, right?
Reviews and ratings are informative and entertaining. Equally important are the recommendations that come from your friends.
Keep calm and smoke on.
Cigar smoking is equal parts ritual and flavor experience for you. In fact, there might be a touch of hedonism in your intense enjoyment and analysis of the cigars you smoke.
Most of your smoking takes place solo or in a quiet lounge where you can focus on the evolving aromas and flavors with each pull. Your appreciation of a cigar requires your full attention.
You study reviews and ratings for recommendations and may even have your own rating system. You like to keep track of the cigars you’ve smoked with a journal or an app, which makes it much easier to buy a favorite again.