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CA Quick Guide: 5 Tips for Finding a Cigar You’ll Enjoy
Avid cigar smokers tend to smoke what they enjoy just about all the time; otherwise, why would they continue to pay good money for them, right? Well, maybe you’re a new cigar smoker, or you’re bored with the cigars you’re smoking now. You’d think that between the major labels and the boutique cigar brands, it would be easy to find some really enjoyable cigars. Sure, they’re out there, but with the sheer volume of choices these days, you may have to work a little harder to find a new cigar that’s different from your usual fare. So, how do you dig through all of those cigars without wasting a lot of time and money? Although I can’t promise every new cigar you try will live up to its advertising, what I’ve tried to do here is give you a road map that will help you make a better-informed decision on your journey to better cigar enjoyment.
Know What You Want From Your Cigar
Whether you’re just getting into cigars or are a veteran cigar smoker looking for something to break the chain of monotony, you need to know what you want – or at least what you think you want. For the new cigar smoker, knowing will come with time.
Start with size, strength, and flavor. Do you want a big cigar like a Toro or a Churchill, or something smaller like a Corona or a Rothschild? Note that a cigar’s size will affect the character of the blend. (Sometimes just switching to a different cigar shape is all you need.) Do you want a cigar that’s more on the mellow side, or are your tastes suited to something with a little more kick to it? Think about the foods you enjoy, too. If you like spicy dishes, you may also like spicy cigars. Maybe you want a cigar with a nutty, woody, or sweet flavor profile; or a complex cigar with lots of different flavors swimming around as it smokes.
Here’s the rub: You can’t tell any of these things just by looking at a cigar. You have to smoke it. But you also have to start somewhere, and once you have at least those first three criteria, you’re on your way.
Talk to Other Cigar Smokers
Another good way to get a handle on finding a cigar that you’ll enjoy is to talk to your cigar-smoking friends and others who are knowledgeable about cigars. Cigar smokers love talking about the cigars they smoke, especially when they can turn a friend on to a cigar they enjoy. Friends will be honest with you, too. They may not have smoked a cigar you’re interested in, but they may have smoked something else that meets your description.
If you buy cigars at a local cigar retail store, talk to the manager or the associates. Odds are one of them may have smoked some of the cigars you’re interested in; even if they haven’t, they’ll know more about them, or, here again, may suggest something similar. Moreover, they’re up to date on the new releases, so something that just arrived may be a good match based on your criteria.
Research Ratings, Reviews, and Articles
Reading cigar magazines, both in print and online are excellent resources, as well as watching video cigar reviews. Check the cigar rating scores, and any accompanying descriptions to see if a particular cigar appeals to you. Three reviews is usually enough to tell you if that cigar is in your ballpark. Also check reviews and comments by other consumers. They don’t always cite the details you’ll find in a journalist’s review, but they’re more often the most candid.
Cigar advice websites like CigarAdvisor.com have tackled practically every topic in the world of premium handmade cigars. If there’s a subject you’re curious about, such as how much flavor the wrapper contributes to a blend, the difference between natural and maduro cigars, or what drink to pair with your cigar, among hundreds of other topics, you’ll find these sites to be extremely beneficial as you delve further into the premium cigar lifestyle.
Look for Great Cigar Deals
Money is always an object, and most cigar smokers don’t want to spend more than a certain amount on their cigars. The fact is, pricier cigars like Padron Anniversary, Davidoff, and Fuente-Fuente OpusX, for example, are rolled with the highest quality tobaccos and feature top-draw construction. It doesn’t mean the flavor will be exactly what you’re looking for, but if you did your homework, odds are an upmarket cigar will be very enjoyable, so spend wisely.
Cigars in the $5.00-$8.00 range tend to be pretty well-made and offer good consistency. If you’re just starting out, don’t go with a cheapie. The construction isn’t going to be consistent, and if the cigar fails on you, you’ll just be disappointed. It usually pays to spend a few dollars more for quality. That’s not to say there aren’t some really enjoyable cigars under $5, because there are, but that’s an entirely different subject.
The point is, don’t be cheap, but also look at how often you smoke cigars. If it’s only once or twice a week, a $10 cigar could be just the thing, especially if you really enjoy it.
Always look for cigar deals. You’d be surprised at how many excellent cigars are on sale on any given day in just about every online cigar store. Depending on the deal, you might score a $10 cigar for $7.00, or a $5.00 cigar for $3.00; even free shipping could make the sale worthwhile.
Once you find cigars that you enjoy, it shouldn’t be too hard to find them at a decent price. Note that boxes and 5-packs offer the best price-per-cigar in the long run, and not all stores sell singles for every brand they stock. Knowing that you got a good cigar at a better price may even help make it that more enjoyable.
Expand Your Horizons
How much you enjoy our cigars comes down to the flavors you get from them, and eventually you’ll devote your loyalty to several brands. But try not to stop there. I’ve met a couple of cigar smokers over the years who smoke one brand exclusively and that’s it. Sometimes I wonder about all the other great cigars they’re missing. Then, who knows, maybe they smoked hundreds of cigars before deciding on that one brand. But they’re the exception.
One of the joys of cigar smoking is the almost limitless variety of cigars worth trying. For those who say, “There are way too many cigars on the market,” one manufacturer I know had an excellent response to that: “Everybody likes to try new things.” And he’s right.
Once you’re comfortable with the cigars you already enjoy, try to find other cigars that have something different about them. It could be a cigar that’s spicier, or if you’re tired of full-bodied cigars, something a little lighter. It could be an all-Nicaraguan leaf blend as opposed to a multi-nation blend, or a dark Corojo wrapper instead of a Broadleaf maduro. You may even want to try some different shapes. You’d be surprised how often cigar smokers who only smoked one shape discovered another they liked just as much, or even more so.
Now That You’ve Found Your Cigar…Find Your Comfort Zone
Once you’ve found the cigars you enjoy, the best way to experience them is under the most relaxing conditions. Some cigars can take up to two hours to smoke. Be sure you can set aside enough time to enjoy it, and if at all possible, avoid interruptions. You may even dare to set your phone on “Do not disturb.” You want to be able to enjoy every aspect of your cigar. As Sir Winston Churchill once said: “Smoking cigars is like falling in love. First, you are attracted by its shape; you stay for its flavour, and you must always remember never, never to let the flame go out!”
If you have a room in your home like a study, an office, or a man cave, that’s a big plus, especially if you also have a comfy chair to settle into. Play one of your favorite albums, read or listen to a good book. Inviting a friend or two to join you in a smoke also makes for a more convivial atmosphere.
If you can’t smoke inside, a deck, patio, or porch will suffice as long as the weather cooperates. And speaking of outdoor activities, a lot of cigar smokers enjoy their cigars most while playing golf, fishing, or relaxing in front of a campfire.
A cigar store with a lounge area, or bar where smoking is permitted is always a good locale for relaxing with your favorite cigar. It’s also a good place to meet other cigars smokers. One gentleman I know told me how much he enjoys kicking back in one of the lounge’s recliners and chatting with the other cigar smokers. He said, “It’s my escape from the pressures of work and home.”
Once you’ve caught the cigar-smoking bug, cigars have a way of sparking your curiosity. Whether it’s made by a manufacturer you like, a new cigar brand, or a cigar that just received a 93-point score, its siren song will beckon you. And when you find a cigar you really love. . . under the right conditions, it doesn’t get much more enjoyable than that.
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