Stuff You Should Know: Smoking a Cigar

cigar main

Cigars have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the past decade or so, and for good reason — a quality cigar smoked properly is an experience like no other. But cigar smoking isn’t something you should just dive into blindly. Everything from making the right purchase to the way you light a cigar can make or break the entire deal.

Here are eight things you should know about smoking a cigar…

Choose Wisely


If you don’t remember anything else, at least remember this: All cigars are definitely not made the same. If you’re looking for a quality cigar smoking experience, picking up a two dollar box of Dutch Masters will not do the trick (unless you’re planning to tear them open and fill them with weed, in which case those are exactly what you want).

At the very least, find something handmade. White Owls, Phillies, Dutch Masters and anything else sitting behind the counter at your local bodega are machine rolled trash. If you’re looking for the good stuff, find a tobacconist in your area. They should have their cigars nicely stored and displayed in a humidor, which will likely be a large cabinet with glass doors or, even more awesomely, an actual room. You’ll know it when you see it.

If the place you’re buying your cigar from doesn’t have a humidor, you’re in the wrong place. Pick us up a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and get the hell out of there.

The Colour and the Shape


So you’ve found a humidor. Excellent! Now what?

Cigars come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Instead of bombarding you with information about what differentiates a Churchill from a Lonsdale and such, we’ll try to make this part as basic as possible. If you’re looking for a full-bodied smoke with lots of complex flavors, go for something with a dark wrapper (maduro). If you’re more the born to be mild type, go for a lighter colored wrapper.

The ring gauge of the cigar (exactly what it sounds like, think finger size) also plays into the complexity of the smoke. A larger ring gauge allows for a more complex mix of tobaccos, more smoke, etc.

It’s not a scientific method by any means, but think about how you drink your coffee. Do you order the medium roast or the dark roast? Cream and sugar or black? Your cigar preference probably isn’t too much different. If you find yourself at a loss to decide, ask the tobacconist for help. That’s what they get paid for.

Don’t Hesitate


See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Now that you’ve selected your smoke, by all means, smoke it. Like, right now if possible.

Here’s the thing, cigars are a delicate beast. They have to be stored in ideal conditions or they go right to shit. Unless you have a perfectly calibrated, cedar lined humidor at home to store your cigar in, you want to leave as little delay between purchase and light up as possible. A few hours shouldn’t be a problem, but make sure you keep your cigar sealed in a ziplock bag or something.

Whatever you do, just don’t let the thing dry out, or you’ll ruin it. The contraption pictured above is a water pillow cigar humidor bag. If a few days will pass between purchase and smoke, spend a couple bucks and buy one. You’ll be glad you did.

Drink Up, Johnny

classic cognac bottle

Pairing a cigar with a drink is a great idea, but not mandatory. There really isn’t a firm set of rules for what drinks go best with a particular type of smoke, no matter what your friend with the slick-backed hair and expensive cuff links may claim.

If booze is your thing, most people go for cognac, single malt scotch or rum. If you’re on the wagon, go with coffee, preferably a dark roast or even espresso if you can stomach it.

But honestly, you can drink whatever the hell you want and still enjoy a nice cigar. They don’t need any outside help.

Cut With Care


You’ve got your smoke, you’ve got your drink, you’ve surrounded yourself with a group of people you hope to deceive into thinking you’re wealthy because you have a Cohiba dangling from your mouth…it’s time to begin the process. Before you can fire up, you’re going to have to cut the end off. Some people refer to this as “creating an aperture.” Those people are pretentious dickfaces.

There are all sorts of fancy implements that will do the job, but those in the know stick with the reliable old guillotine. There’s one pictured above, you can buy them literally anywhere that fine cigars are sold. They’re cheap. Buy one.

Cut right above the cap line just before the curved end of the cigar.

Don’t use scissors and, for the love of God, don’t just chomp the end off like Boss Hogg. That’s amateur shit and you run the risk of damaging the cigar before you even get to enjoy it.

Light It Up


Lighting your cigar is a bit more complex than you might imagine. It’s not like a cigarette. Lighting it like one will have dire consequences for your smoking enjoyment.

First of all, use wood matches or a butane lighter. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, just steer clear of paper matches or gas lighters. They contain chemicals that will alter the flavor of your smoke for the worst. Once you’ve settled on your fire of choice, do this:

  • Before actually lighting the cigar, warm the tobacco in the foot of the cigar (the part you light) by holding the flame underneath the foot, but not actually touching it, and rotating the cigar a few times. This will soften the tobacco up and make it more available to your warming flame. It’s like liquoring up your date, sort of.
  • Next, hold the flame (use a new match if needed) in front of the cigar, but not actually touching it. Inhale softly and rotate the cigar to ensure an even light.
  • If necessary, lightly blow on the foot of the cigar to get everything burning evenly.

That’s it! Trust us, it reads a lot more complex than it actually is. The gist is that you don’t want to get the flame too close to the cigar while lighting it. The excessive heat will make for an overall less pleasurable smoke.

Blaze Up!


Finally, we’ve come to the good part. It’s time to smoke. There’s not much to know here. The most important thing to remember is DON’T INHALE. Just let the smoke waft around in your pie hole for a bit so you can savor the various flavors and aromas, and then open up and lightly push it out with a small exhale. Very small. Feel free to make a few smoke rings if you’d like everyone to hate you.

If you’re among a huge group of experienced smokers, you’ll probably want to remove the cigar label. Leaving it in place so everyone can see what brand you’re smoking is considered showboating. If you’re just sitting on your deck with a couple friends, it shouldn’t be an issue, unless your friends are total jerks.

DO Half-Ass It


Again, we can’t stress this enough, you aren’t smoking a cigarette. Cigars aren’t meant to be smoked to the point that you can barely hold them without burning your fingers. Once you hit the halfway point, you’ll begin to notice that things are getting progressively less pleasant on the smoking front. That means it’s time to let it die.

When that time comes, let it die is exactly what you do. No need to bash its face into the ashtray or throw water on it like some kind of out of control inferno. Just set it down and will go out on its own.

Repeat steps 1-8 as needed.