Cigar Lifestyle

The Rookie Cigar Smoker: Here’s How Not to Look Like One

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The Rookie Cigar Smoker: Here’s How NOT to Look Like One

By Tommy Zman Zarzecki

I hear it all the time – guys who are either new to cigar smoking or smoke occasionally (golf, poker, camping, what have you) are intimidated by veteran lovers of the leaf and just don’t want to smoke with us because they think they’ll look foolish. NONSENSE I say! We cigar guys love nothing more than helping out a rookie cigar smoker, showing him or her the ins and outs of what this wonderful pastime is all about. Ask any of us long time puro pounders for advice and we’ll be more than glad to lend a hand. Wait… what’s a puro, you ask? Okay, maybe you do need a little help here so read on…

Yeah, I get it… we all want to fit in, it’s just human nature to want to be accepted by the cool kids. Nobody wants to look like a neophyte, especially when lighting up with a bunch of accomplished cigar smokers. There’s been times when at a barbecue or a gathering with friends where I’ve broken out a box of some super fine smokes and when passing them around, you can tell the noob from a mile away… sometimes it’s the look of terror on his face like Jason Voorhees was standing behind me while revving a blood-soaked chainsaw. Then there’s the guy who says, “I wouldn’t know a good cigar from a bad one” then grabs a stick from the box like he’s shucking corn. Guys, please… you may as well draw a giant L on your head with an extra-large Sharpie.

While proper, hoity-toity etiquette can get a bit overdone with some cigar snobs, there certainly are proper ways to partake in the act of a premium hand rolled cigar, and yes, you don’t want to look like a grade-A dumb ass. There are indeed proper ways to choose a good cigar… how to cut one… how to light one… how to smoke one for optimal pleasure… and even how to put one out when you’re done.

You’ll also want to know about the proper ways to utilize the paraphernalia that every cigar smoker needs, such as desktop humidors, travel humidors, lighters, the different types of cutters and humidification devices. Oh yeah, you’re going to want to learn a little bit about the aged and delicious tobacco you’ll be smoking grown and rolled in different parts of the world like the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, etc.

While premium tobacco, proper techniques and the right equipment is important to learn about, cigar jargon (ci-jargon) is vitally important for the rookie cigar smoker to know as well. When hanging with the smoky crowd, you’ll hear words or terms used that may be foreign to the average citizen, but important to know if you’re going to dive head first into the hobby, i.e: herf, retro-hale, vitola, canoeing, figurado and draw poker. Just like any hobby, lifestyle or sub-culture has its own terminology, using the correct vernacular will indeed move you up from the newbie ranks. So if you think that canoeing is something you do with friends on a river or that draw poker is a friendly game of cards, please do yourself a favor and read on – because you need to.

While this sounds like it might be a ton of stuff to learn, well, it’s not like you get tossed from college and your old man is gonna kick your ass. And while it takes time to learn anything new, it’ll be enjoyable during the entire leaning process – that is for sure. Now, I really can’t go through every term and every damned thing you need to know about cigars because this would be one hell of a long-ash piece and quite frankly, I have an appointment with a scotch and a Maduro in a few minutes.

So the first and best thing I highly suggest you do is to use Al Goreknob’s amazing internet as there is a plethora of excellent information about cigars crawling the World Wide Web as we speak. And the very first place I’ll send you is to the Cigar Advisor site and to Cigar Advisor’s YouTube page. Not only is there basically everything you’ll need to know from myself and my fellow editors Gary Korb, Jon Detore and John Pullo (see our Cigar 101’s on Youtube and you’ll be a pro in no time), there are a load of valuable tips and info from industry greats like Nick Perdomo of Tabacalera Perdomo, Rafael Nodal of Aging Room, Sam Leccia of Leccia Tobacco, Michael Giannini of General Cigars, Kurt Van Keppel of Xikar, Kurt Kendal of 7-20-4 and Yadi Gonzalez-Vargas of Flor de Gonzalez.

MUST WATCH Videos: Here are a few quick videos I highly recommend every rookie cigar smoker should watch to learn some great stuff fast!

Yadi Gonzales-Vargas (90 Miles Cigars) has Advice for First Time Smokers…

Here’s How to Light a Cigar with Nick Perdomo, from Perdomo Cigars…

Michael Giannini of La Gloria Cubana Cigars Teaches About Proper Cigar Humidification…

Yours Truly Answers “What’s the Difference Between Natural and Maduro?”

Ever Wonder How the Taste of Tobaccos Vary From Country to Country?

There Are a Few Basic Tools a Rookie Cigar Smoker Needs…

Humidors Can Be Confusing. What is the Proper Humidity for Storing Cigars?

MUST READ Articles: Here’s a few Cigar Advisor articles that will definitely help a rookie cigar smoker like you learn about enjoying the leaf we love…


If you want to know what some of the terms and words cigar smokers use, here’s A Primer on Cigar Terms:

terms a rookie cigar smoker should know


Since you’re enjoying a a hand made product, cigar noobs should see these “5 Things You Need to Know About How a Cigar is Rolled”:

how-a-cigar-is-rolled info for rookie cigar smoker


Like I said, humidors can be confusing to the rookie cigar smoker – so here are “5 Things You NEED to Know About Humidors”:

5-things about humidors for rookie cigar smoker


You’re a rookie, but understand that there is some etiquette to cigar smoking…so here are “5 Things a Cigar smoker Should Never EVER Do”:

rookie cigar smoker cigar etiquette


If you’re lucky enough to have nice weather, having a smoke outdoors is nice. Here are “5 Ways to enjoy Smoking Cigars Outside”:

rookie cigar smoker outside


And if you want to know what some of the fancier words to talk about these fantastic handmades, here are some “Spanish Cigar Words: Do You Speak Stogie?”

spanish cigar words rookie cigar smoker


Now, the very last piece of advice I want to give you is one you should take to heart. PLEASE, whatever you do, talk to us – by us, I mean the guys who have been smoking for years and have made cigars a part of our very lifestyle. Ask us questions and pick our brains and we’ll be more than glad to share the wealth of knowledge that has filled our smoke encrusted brains. Don’t be intimidated, honest – we’re here to help and we’d love to see you join the ranks of Lovers of the Leaf. Now smoke ‘em cuz ya got’ tem.


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Richard J. Lipuma
7 years ago

I would add to the list of things rookie cigar smokers shouldn’t do: Buy a cigar that’s way too big and strong for you. We had an incident about a year ago in Harrisburg where a whole group of 19-22 year olds came in with Texas Lanceros and couldn’t even get the things lit. And then as we tried to help them, they were refusing our help. Finally, after about 20 minutes, and all of them green in the gills, they gave up and left, smashing their cigars in the ash tray.

Joe Perry
7 years ago

When I started getting more into it after I stopped drinking last spring, my mistake was to try and buy the biggest dogs I could find. Now I am only buying petit figurados just to balance out my humidor.

Nelson Cordero
7 years ago

I recommend to try different cigars, best way is to get sampler packs and make notes or save the bands with little notes. Start with mild to medium body, then dive into the full bodies. This way you will have an idea as to what you like and enjoy. Remember a good cigar is that one that you enjoy. Long ashes my friends!!!

Walter Ellsworth III
4 years ago

Cigars are disgusting. And you all look foolsih smoking them. I always figured cigar smokers,especially those that like to smoke the really big,fat ones, have an oral fixation, and the cigar is a stand-in for the large cock you’d rather have in your mouth.

4 years ago

Obvious troll is obvious.

Tommy Zman Zarzecki

Tommy Zman Zarzecki


Tommy Zman, is an obsessive enjoyer of life’s leafy pleasures. Growing up in the bowels of northern New Jersey, parented by an eccentric Polish father and a neurotic Italian mother, what else could this man possibly be other than a humorist? ZMan’s a real throwback to a time when men were kings of the castle and smoking a cigar in public didn’t label you an outcast and a pariah. He’s an old–school down to earth guy - but when it comes to p.c. tyranny and nanny-state legislature, he’ll draw his sword and swing for the fences. Tommy gathered a faithful following as a longtime feature writer at Cigar Magazine, and his testosterone laden FaceBook community, CROMAG NATION™ is truly the last great bastion for Men’s Men.

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