Finding the right strength cigars for you
Though most cigar smokers start out with mild cigars, as your palate becomes more accustomed to the flavor of tobacco, it's natural to begin searching for cigars with more flavor and strength. So, once you begin to smoke a wider variety of cigars, many of your favorites may be mild-to-medium, or medium-to-full. Again, even though a manufacturer may advertise their cigar as "mild," "medium" or "full," it's all in how YOU perceive the cigar's strength.
Coincidentally, I recently smoked an "Atom" (5¼ x 46) from EO Brands' new 601 La Bomba edition. The company sell sheet lists the strength as "Extreme Full." That's a new one. ;-) It's definitely full-bodied, but it didn't do a number on my head. That said, I still wouldn't recommend it to someone who hasn't at least acquired some taste for full-bodied cigars.
Speaking of which, I have a friend in the business who smokes full-bodied cigars exclusively. When I asked him why, he told me that his first cigar was a Padron Anniversary 1964 Maduro, and that set the standard for him. He may be an exception, but again, every cigar smoker reacts differently to different strengths.
Personally, I tend to enjoy cigars that fall into the medium-to-full category. I've noticed that many older cigar smokers tend to go with milder cigars, whereas younger, more adventurous cigar smokers will go for the heavy stuff. Then you have a cadre of cigar smokers who just can't get enough power; it's like they enjoy pushing themselves to the limit, and the manufacturers sate them by coming out with more full-bodied cigars every year.
Just as water finds its level, so do cigar smokers. If I can't enjoy a cigar because it's too mild or too strong, there's no sense in smoking it. On the other hand, if you lock yourself into one shape and/or strength without experimenting, you may miss out on some really fine cigars.
This latter point leads to another aspect of finding the cigar strength that's most comfortable for you; that is, the size and shape of the cigar. Even in a selection that's classified as medium-bodied, the larger sizes may be stronger since they have more filler tobacco and put out more flavor (and often more strength). On the other hand, thinner cigars may be a little milder due to less filler content, but they will also offer more wrapper flavor. So the blend itself plays a part in determining your choice as well. The best way to find the strength that's right for you is to find the right proportion of tobacco to length and width.
I remember awhile back smoking a CAO Brazilia "Chango" (6½ x 50), and though I normally smoke the "GOL!" (5 x 56) in this full-bodied brand, due to the added length of the cigar, I actually got nauseous. Proportionally, the cigars are probably about the same. But because the Chango smoked longer, more nicotine got into my system and I was smart enough to put it down before I really regretted continuing. The point here is that strength isn't necessarily directly related to how strong the smoke is when you take a puff, but also by the amount of nicotine the cigar delivers. When Rocky Patel originally released The Edge cigars, the box had a label warning you that you should remain seated while smoking it. However, by today's standards, Edge is not all that scary, and would make a good "step-up" cigar for novice smokers looking to move into full-flavored cigars.
Sometimes we cigar smokers suffer from strength overload. I've often heard some of my co-workers who prefer full-bodied fare say they wish they had some milder cigars in their humidor just for a change of pace. Alternately, one of my colleagues, who smokes mild cigars 99% of the time, will smoke a very full-bodied cigar on occasion for the same reason.
Suffice it to say, one of the great pleasures of smoking premium cigars is that we can enjoy a wide variety of blends while still having our safe little comfort zone when it comes to smoking the cigars we enjoy most. Please feel free to share your experiences with strength by leaving a comment.
Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for CigarAdvisor.com 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.Show all Gary Korb's Articles