Cigars 101

How to go from Novice to Experienced Cigar Smoker

You’ve had a few cigars on the golf course, were given one at a bachelor party or wedding, had one at a cigar bar, or just hang out with some folks who enjoy a good cigar now and then. You quickly realize that this is something that you want to do more than just on special occasions: it has to be your new hobby. If this sounds like you, welcome to the club! We’re glad you’re here, and we hope you’ll stay awhile.

Taking this plunge, though, requires a little more than just deciding you want to smoke cigars more often. Like any hobby, it helps to learn a little about what you’re doing to fully experience all it has to offer. And as with other hobbies, you’re not always sure on what the best approach is to go from novice (newbie) to experienced (I dare not say “expert”).

In this day and age, there is an abundance of information available to help you become an experienced smoker. There are numerous publications (online, like this one, and magazines), review and news sites, forums/communities, manufacturer websites, social media outlets, and the “expert” at your local B&M. The problem is, for someone starting out, it can be overwhelming. There is so much to learn, including whose opinions/advice you should trust.

So, where do you start? Well, that depends on where you are now. Have you had a few cigars and found some of them to your liking? Great! Look that cigar up online, find some reviews of it, and see which reviews are similar to what you thought about it. Then, check out a few more reviews on that site and see if there are other cigars they recommend that might be similar. Or, check out different cigar forums and look through the “newbie” threads. They might already have a great list for beginners that will serve as a starting point for what to try. I’m sure they can also point you in the direction of some good deals on what you’re looking for!

Do you prefer human interaction? Take a trip down to your local B&M (Brick and Mortar, i.e. retail shop) and get to know the staff and other patrons. Asking questions is a good habit, but so is coming prepared with some feedback to give the tobacconist. Tell him/her what you’ve had before; what you’ve heard was good, etc. so s/he can make the best possible recommendation for you. If you get the impression that they really don’t know what they’re talking about, it might be a good idea to go elsewhere. Of course, you can probably make an informed decision about that shop from customer reviews online before wasting a trip.

Now the fun part: smoking LOTS of cigars! How many is a lot, you ask? Well, that depends. Maybe you want to save them for the weekend, maybe a few times a month, or maybe all day every day! The frequency is entirely up to you. However, it is hard to develop a palate if you don’t smoke. If you decide on a less-frequent schedule (or need practice for your upcoming review site!), try taking some notes on each cigar you smoke. Write down what you liked, didn’t like, strength, flavors, construction, what you paired with it, etc. This will come in handy when you make your next cigar purchase.

To enhance your experience, share it with others. Find an online forum or community or make friends with the regulars at your local lounge/shop. Share your thoughts on cigars you’ve enjoyed or ask about cigars others seem to like. One great thing about the cigar community is that many are willing to share or trade their cigars with others. I have gotten to try many cigars that I did not have easy access to by setting up trades with other S/BOTLs (Sisters/Brothers of the Leaf) through forums. Despite the usual “don’t trust people you meet online” advice, most groups have verification methods for members that make trading mostly a safe practice where you can feel secure in participating.

Now that you’re an informed and involved member of the cigar community, it might be a good idea to help ensure that this hobby remains the legal right of all to enjoy. In case you hadn’t noticed, there are many who would like to eliminate the smoking of ALL tobacco products completely. At the very least, they want to make it as difficult as possible for adults to enjoy cigars. To help prevent that from happening, be sure to support groups that work to ensure you can keep enjoying cigars. Also, please reach out to your Congressmen/Senators to urge them to support legislation that protects this right.

Though this is not the only path to becoming an experienced cigar smoker, these suggestions can save you a lot of time, money, and headache (if we’re talking about cures for nicotine sickness, then literally). The most important thing to know is that the more homework you do and the more involved you are in the community, the better the chance that you will fully enjoy this hobby. And hell, you might become the next “expert” before it’s all said and done.

For your first assignment; read the rest of the articles in Cigar Advisor!

To help you find the different flavors that your palette is picking up from the cigars take a look at our Cigar flavor wheel.