Cigars 101

The Worst Cigar Advice I’ve Ever Received

We’ve all received bad advice. It can be something as simple as being told “Just do it. What’s the worst that can happen?” or as major as “Don’t worry, just tell her you want to bring another girl into the bedroom. What’s the worst that can happen?” Notice both situations end with “What’s the worst that can happen?” Both usually end up in disaster and leave you with a few battle scars, if not a missing limb by the end of the day. Bad advice travels as fast as lightning and spreads as easily as the plague in medieval times. We’ve all been struck at some point in our lives with bad advice no matter what aspect of our lives it was in. Well, I refuse to let it continue happening in the cigar industry. Sure, I’m an “Advisor” now, but I was at one time a young whippersnapper just learning what a cutter was, and it was at that time I received some of the worst cigar advice I could ever ask for.

Smoke this cigar.

Don’t blindly listen to your cigar smoking friends. I know, I know – you want their cigar advice because they have been there and done that in every aspect of the smoking world, but think about it…Most seasoned cigar smokers have moved on to stronger blends that would make a new smoker hug a toilet harder than his mother on her birthday. Hardly any experienced cigar smoker puffs on a decent mild cigar any longer, yet they will always lead you to mild cigars that they most likely have never smoked, which begs the question “why would you smoke something your friend never smoked?” Instead of waiting for a blind recommendation from your buddies, ask them up front what mild bodied cigar you should try that they still smoke. If it’s been a while since they smoked a mild bodied cigar and blindly offer a cigar they heard is good instead of knowing is good, avoid the recommendation and ask a shop owner or employee who is trained to help new cigar smokers pick the perfect stick for you. It sort of follows what my grandmother always says: “Don’t trust a skinny chef. They don’t eat their own food.” In other words, don’t smoke something your friends won’t smoke.

Age your cigars- They’ll get better over time

This is a common piece of advice I got when I first started smoking cigars, and I was caught hook, line, and sinker. The promise of getting a cigar and then letting it sit for a few months to make it silky smooth is so tempting. I started aging everything I bought, the first cigar being the Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne. I was told to age it at least two months and it would be even more amazing than it already is. Thinking back on it, what the hell is two months going to make? It takes longer than two months for the cigars to be shipped from Central America to the United States sometimes. Let me break down this myth for you: cigars are already aged before you get them. Take the Davidoff Nicaragua for example. It has a 10 year aged wrapper and at minimum an 8 year aged filler and binder. Do you think another 2 months in your humidor will make or break the cigar? Absolutely not. Pete Johnson from Tatuaje gave me the best cigar advice on this topic: “Dude, just smoke it. It’s a cigar.”

Drink _______ with your cigar. It’ll open up the flavors of the cigar.

Cigar smokers around the world usually sit back with their cigar and sip some sort of drink, whether it’s a soda, mixed drink, or glass of wine. Just like every cigar though, every drink has its own flavor profile, so whenever I hear someone say they only drink Jameson or some other whiskey or scotch with their cigar, I get a little frustrated. I was told to only drink this or that to help enhance the flavors, but the reality is some drinks can inhibit the true flavors of the cigar thus decreasing the enjoyment you get from the cigar itself. Whenever you get any advice on what to drink with any cigar, it’s a sure-fired blow-it-out-your-ass moment. A good rule of thumb is, with drinks that are lighter, smoke lighter cigars; heavier drinks, stronger cigars. Also, the drink pairings are endless with beer, wine, and any liquor or mixed drink being perfectly acceptable. You should only make your own pairings with your cigar based on what cigar you have, and what you like to drink.

Keep your ash going for as long as possible

There are many reasons people keep the ash on their cigars and I’ve heard them all: from keeping your ash to prevent your cigar from going out by using the ash as insulation, to keeping the burn straight. Again, this is some pretty terrible cigar advice and simply put, is often seen as a bad show of cigar etiquette to keep it going as long as possible. Cigar ash simply shows the quality of the construction. If the ash is hard to knock off, you have a well constructed cigar that most likely is a longfiller. An ash that is super-flakey means you most likely have a pretty poorly constructed short filler cigar. Other than that, your cigar won’t go out and the burn will not go haywire if you knock the ash off too early. Many burn issues are the product of poor construction or low quality tobacco, not the timing of your ash. Plus, by keeping your ash on, you could break a major cigar etiquette rule – don’t ash anywhere but the ash tray! Keeping the ash on and swinging your arms around while you talk with your buddies like Tony Soprano is a sure-fire way to ash all over your 2,000 year old Persian rug.

The Slam Dunk

Dunking cigars in your drink is something the old school smokers do more than anyone else and they claim it makes it better, essentially making their own “infused” cigar. I got this piece of cigar advice at Leaf, my regular cigar bar in Easton, PA where a regular told me to “try it out.” Sure enough, my poor Hennessy XO had chunks of tobacco floating in it. It looked more like a bowl of oatmeal than a smooth drink. Maybe the old-schoolers do this because the cigars back in the olden days were pretty bad compared to today’s “super cigars,” which are blended to perfection. Honestly, I really couldn’t tell you why they do it, but I can certainly tell you this is a practice you should avoid. Dunking your cigar not only water-logs it so it goes out on you, but it distracts your taste buds away from the natural flavor of the cigar which, you know, is why we bought the cigar in the first place. For me, this is a “Duh!” situation. It’s a cigar, not an Oreo.

Warming your cigar

We all love our cigars. For some people, it gets to the point where they want to wrap it up in a blanket, give it a bottle, and read it bedtime stories. Don’t think this is that farfetched – I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Scott was a good employee – which made it hard for us to watch him get dragged off to the loony bin. But seriously, I was told by another old timer to warm my cigar before I lit it up, dragging a flame up and down the entire length of the cigar while rotating it. Apparently this is supposed to improve the aroma and smoothness of the cigar. The only thing it did for me was burn a hole in the side of it. This myth had some merit back in the day, though: cigars used to be glued together with gum tragacanth dyed with chicory, which gave a flimsy hold and foul taste. To counter this, it was recommended to warm the cigar before lighting to stiffen the glue and balance the taste. But because we don’t live in the 1800s anymore, warming a cigar can only lead to burning a hole in your cigar and ruining it altogether.

Now just because I’ve gotten my fair share of bad cigar advice doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten good info from experienced smokers. You just need to learn how to pick and choose the advice you take. Isn’t it exciting pairing your own drinks and cigars so you can pick out your favorite pairings? What about choosing new cigars? I love going to a cigar shop and picking out a new cigar I’ve never heard of. I don’t want to be told to smoke this and that unless I ask someone specifically about the cigar. Let me look at the cigars, choose the one I want to smoke, and enjoy it without having someone ask me a million times “How’s that cigar treating you?” Ultimately, this is your journey into the wonderful world of premium cigars; choose your own road and try to avoid terrible advice.

Jonathan DeTore

Jonathan DeTore

My job here is pretty simple - I write stuff, I post stuff to Facebook, and I take it to the house consistently at the weekly slam drunk contest. I do it all while sipping on a fine glass of cognac at my desk (don’t tell my boss), and wearing cashmere slippers. Let’s just say "The Hef" has nothing on me.

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