Cigars 101

Cigars for beginners

It’s ironic. Every day some anti-smoking group wants to take the cigars out of our mouths by advocating another smoking ban, while at the same time minions of new cigar smokers are getting ready to enjoy their first cigar. If you’re among the latter group you may be asking yourself, “What cigar should I smoke first?”

Fair question. With thousands of premium cigars to choose from, it can be a little intimidating. Just walk into a store with a big walk-in humidor and you’ll know what I mean. If you ask most experienced cigar smokers, or the manager at your local cigar store, they’ll usually suggest something mild like a Macanudo Cafe, a Don Diego, or a Baccarat; all good choices, too. So why start with a mild cigar as opposed to a Camacho Triple Maduro or a Padrón Serie 1926? Look at it this way; if you were learning how to cook, you might want to start by making something simple like an omelet rather than Veal Cordon Bleu. Like any pastime you pursue, you have to start at the beginning, and with practice, climb the rope ladder of experience. The same goes for learning how to smoke premium handmade cigars.

Mild cigars are generally best for newbies because one of the most important aspects of smoking cigars is developing an appreciation for the flavor properties in different tobaccos. A mild cigar won’t overpower you. I can cite a number of instances where first time cigar smokers lost their lunch. Which reminds me; DO NOT INHALE regardless of how mild the smoke tastes. (If you’re a former cigarette smoker, this may take some getting used to.)

Mild doesn’t mean bland

Over the years, cigar smokers tend to drift towards more full-bodied cigars. The reason is, as you develop a taste for premium cigar tobacco you eventually tend to desire more flavor, and the most flavorful (in terms of strength that is) are the full-bodied, or what I call full-flavored cigars. Strength is only one component of the cigar, and in this writer’s humble opinion, flavor trumps strength.

On the other hand, “mild” doesn’t mean bland. Some veteran cigar smokers tend to believe this (often for the reason I just pointed out). However, there are plenty of cigars classified as mild that are light years from bland. Recently, some of the top cigar makers have begun introducing cigars with milder wrappers like U.S. and Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut. Connecticut is one of the most widely used mild wrappers and is also sought for its sweet aroma. Ecuadorian Connecticut is also mild, but with a little more flavor and a shade or two darker in color. So, when searching for that first cigar, browse the cigars with Connecticut wrappers first. Other mild wrappers recommended for new smokers are Sumatra (or Indonesian) and African Cameroon. Keep in mind that many full-bodied cigars are also rolled with these leaves, so be sure the cigar you choose is listed as “mild” in the retailer’s store, catalog, or on their website. I would even add “medium-bodied” cigars to the mix. So also keep in mind that there are plenty of excellent, medium-bodied “first-smoke” candidates available to new cigar smokers.

Suggestions from a “professional cigar smoker” ;-)

Since it would take up too much space, I can’t list every good mild and medium-bodied cigar available. So, without turning this post into a commercial, here’s a line-up of 8 that I’ve recommended to cigars for beginners over the years with a good share of success.

Top Cigars for beginners

  1. Arturo Fuente 858
  2. Carlos Torano 1916
  3. Gispert
  4. Gran Habano #1 Connecticut
  5. Macanudo Estate Reserve
  6. Nirvana by Drew Estate
  7. Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne
  8. Rocky Patel American Market Selection
Arturo Fuente 858 CigarsCarlos Torano 1916GispertGran Habano # 1Macanudo Estate ReserveNirvana by Drew EstatePerdomo 10th Anniversary ChampagneRocky Patel American Market Selection

Seek and ye shall find

You can start with one of the above, or maybe you’ll find something else. If you like your first cigar, you may want to return to it or, more than likely, you’ll want to try something else. For this reason, I would also recommend starting with a sampler that has a mix of mild and medium cigars. Samplers are a great way to discover your first cigar, for one, because of the variety of cigars in the pack, and secondly because you have a better chance at finding the right cigar for you until you’re ready to move on; maybe even more than one in the pack will satisfy you enough to buy a box. Moreover, part of the fun of discovering the wonderful world of premium cigars is trying new and different blends.

A trendy business

As a new cigar smoker you should note that the cigar business is also a trendy one. Recently, plump, extra-wide-body cigars have become all the rage, while about five years ago Lanceros (long, skinny cigars) were in vogue, and for the better part of the last 14 years, manufacturers have been making stronger and more complex cigars. Lately, as I’ve spoken to cigar smokers who have been partaking for decades, I find that many of them have tired of the heavy stuff and are returning to milder cigars. Even the great Don Pepin has just released Don Pepin Connecticut selection, a mild Nicaraguan cigar with an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. I don’t think those cigar smokers are going to give up their Liga Privada No.9’s, Alec Bradley Prensados, Ashton ESG’s, or Oliva Serie V’s anytime soon, but you can be pretty sure the majority of them started out just like you!

Gary Korb

Gary Korb

Executive Editor

Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.

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