Top Beginner Picks: 10 Ways to Splurge on Your First Cigar
By Fred Lunt
“You’re ruining your palate!” Time and time again, we’ve heard old smokers steer the uninitiated toward the bargain bin for their first cigar. Well I say enough is enough: it’s time greenhorn smokers reclaim the top shelf and experiment for themselves.
At some point in our lives we’ve all been victims of this toxic mentality and it’s not just limited to cigars. My own story goes all the way back to my first beer but has since grown to include various hobbies I’ve thrown myself into, including scotch, craft beer, bourbon, and may others.
Why should I start with the good stuff for my first cigar?
Getting a foothold in a new activity takes a lot of time, patience, and practice. Picking up cigars is much like drinking wine or learning how to camp- it’s all relative. But isn’t it that much better when your first time is a memorable one? Spending a few dollars more on a better smoke is taking one small step toward ensuring your first cigar experience will be a good one. Enjoying a fine cigar is usually a special occasion, no matter if you’re celebrating a wedding or simply surviving the week.
As we redraw the lines of a ‘good’ first cigar, or a first ‘serious’ cigar, we need to keep some of the general rules (more like guidelines really). First, let’s keep the price range comfortable but still in a good quality range – think a reasonable $6, to a self-righteous splurge of about $20. Secondly, try not to max yourself out with an overly complex or strong cigar; you want consistency and flavor to be your key goals.
To get things started, I’ve pieced together a highly flavorful list of great first-time cigars. Smoke them yourself or recommend them to a friend!
Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real
Romeo y Julieta is one of the oldest cigar brands and has a long-standing reputation of making consistently flavorful and quality cigars. While most aficionados may direct newcomers to a House of Capulet or 1875, I suggest kicking it up with a Romeo Reserva Real. A knockout blend of vintage Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers, encapsulated in a Nicaraguan binder and sealed with the luscious kiss of an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper.
Fonseca Vintage Selection
Not to be confused with its Cuban cousin, the Quesada Family has been proudly producing the highly acclaimed Fonseca brand since 1963. While the Serie F and Classic often reign supreme as most popular, the Vintage line holds the same mellow qualities in a special aged blend. Superb in quality and flavor, the Fonseca Vintage Selection entails a high-grade, carefully aged blend of Dominican fillers and binder in an ultra-smooth Ecuadorian wrapper- aged for 5 years before even hitting the shelf. An affordable cigar with top-shelf quality, one first-rate starter cigar.
Macanudo Vintage 2006
While Macanudo is on the move lately with its hit Inspirado line, there’s nothing wrong with starting on a classic. Their Café line brought Macanudo international acclaim, but the Vintage 2006 is its top-shelf cousin. Blessed with a perfect crop of Connecticut Shade wrapper, this ultra-fine crop was sorted into bales wrapped in palm leaves and aged to perfection. With a customer rating of 90, this is a highly sought-after cigar, perfect for a special occasion or a quiet night in.
Drew Estate Java
Many cigar smokers cut their teeth on flavored or infused cigars, ranging anywhere from a Black & Mild to ACID Blondie. The Java offers a chance for flavored smokers to cross over and is often enjoyed by most regular cigar smokers as well. Java features a loaded blend of coffee infused Nicaraguan tobaccos wrapped in a sumptuous Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper. This cigar oozes rich flavors of mocha, cocoa, espresso, earth, and sweet woods- pure aromatherapy for any cigar smoker.
Montecristo White Vintage
Montecristo is, without a doubt, one of the more highly regarded cigar brands. The Monte White is a must-smoke for the newly-initiated, and in itself is a fantastic cigar – but we’re going to the top with the Montecristo White Vintage. A flavor-filled blend of Peruvian, Nicaraguan, and Dominican tobaccos wrapped in a vintage 2008 US grown Connecticut Shade wrapper. While mellow, this cigar delivers on toasty, rich flavors that smokers and collectors alike go gaga over. Expertly made and presented, Monte White Vintage is always the right choice.
San Lotano Connecticut
If you’re just getting your start in cigars now, expect to hear a lot about AJ Fernandez. The Cuban exile, now residing in Nicaragua, has made a huge following for himself by creating full-bodied and hearty cigars. However, this wasn’t the case when he bought back the rights to San Lotano, an original Cuban brand his grandfather created. Considered ‘luxury class’, this premium cigar is brimming with mellow creamy, woody, and toasty notes.
Avo is a world-renowned brand produced by Davidoff and adored by cigar enthusiasts worldwide. Named after owner and musician Avo Uvezian, the Avo XO was his ‘everyday’ cigar. While it’s priced a bit high for most smokers to enjoy daily, it’s affordable enough to have more than every once in a while. The blend is a perfect combination of delicately spicy, aged Dominican grown fillers consummated with an oily Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. 90+ customer rated, Avo XO is an unbridled winner and sure to win over the greenest of cigar smokers.
Crowned Heads Luminosa
Luminosa by Crowned Heads is a surefire hit and way off the beaten of your typical starter cigars. Made at E.P. Carrillo’s Dominican factory, Luminosa stands out as an introductory cigar to one of the brightest boutique cigar companies to date. Owners Jon Huber and Mike Conder, formerly of CAO, blended Luminosa with select Dominican fillers and a silky Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper to cast a warm, creamy smoke with notes of pepper, wood, and coffee.
Davidoff Aniversario No. 3
This may be the most expensive cigar on this list, but it’s for damn good reason. Davidoff is one of the most renowned cigar makers in the world, owing their fantastic blends to Eladio Diaz and Henke Kelner. The Aniversario line is pure cigar nirvana, medium in body but captivatingly aromatic, artfully blended, and robust in flavor. The No.3 is universally loved and holds a perfect 100 rating from customers – why not start at the top?
Fuente 858 or Don Carlos
If you’re new to cigars, Fuente is another brand you’re going to hear a lot about. Aside from the #1 Cigar of the year in 2017, Fuente is renowned for expert blends including the Hemingway line, named after the author and writer. The traditional introductory cigar in their portfolio is typically the 858 or Curly Head due to their affordability; but for a mere few dollars more, the too-often-overlooked Don Carlos line offers much more flavor to a beginner’s palate. Carefully aged vintage and rare tobaccos adorn this premium, which features a delicate, yet flavorful Cameroon wrapper.
My question to the reader: did you dig the bargain bin for your first cigar, or go straight to the top with an ultra-premium? Leave a comment below!