Imagine walking into a smoke shop (for argument's sake, let's call it "Leaf"). You're greeted by the friendly folks at the retail counter. You wade past wood shelves neatly lined with humidors, pull open a heavy wooden door, and proceed into the 2,000 square foot humidor.
"Can I help you find anything?" the clerk behind the counter asks.
As you ponder the myriad of cigars before you, how are you feeling? Confident? Confused? Excited? Overwhelmed? There's no right answer; but I'd like to address a couple misconceptions I've noticed.
The first is that many cigar smokers focus too much on wrapper color. Believing that the wrapper color is indicative of the cigar's strength, the tendency is to reach for an extra-pale shade grown wrapper.
While there may be a slight correlation between strength and wrapper color, it's unreliable at best. The color of a wrapper has more to do with the actual flavors of a cigar than with its strength. That comes from the filler blend, and the ligero leaves, in particular. Located at the top of the tobacco plant, these leaves receive the most nutrients and sunlight, and are therefore the strongest and fullest-flavored.
The second is that smaller cigars are less potent. Anyone who has ever smoked a fresh Fuente Fuente OpusX "Power Ranger" can tell you this one is dead wrong. Sure, a smaller vitola may look less imposing, but its diminutive diameter makes for a stronger smoke.
Counterintuitive? Sure, but if you think about it, the smaller ring gauge means that you are smoking a greater ratio of wrapper leaf to filler blend. The result is more concentrated flavors than offered by its larger-ring counterpart. While a Churchill may have more total tobacco than a Lancero, its milder-tasting smoke may be easier on the novice- or occasional-smoker's palate.
One final word: there's no substitute for experience, but good advice goes a long way. Never be afraid or embarrassed to ask for advice from the guy or gal behind the counter. High-quality smoke shops like Leaf take pride in training their staff to cater to your taste preference and experience on a personal basis.