The Cigar Merchant' shares his Best Cigar Smoking Tips
First and foremost my fellow aficionados - in New Zealand cigars are a luxury to be savoured and enjoyed; we do not have the benefits of US$2 to US$10 cigars; in-fact we pay on average NZ$60 per Toro (6" by 52) sized cigar; that is made up of an average of NZ$28.15 in excise-duty alone (tobacco tax); let alone buying the cigar, airfreighting it to New Zealand, paying GST; Customs & MPI fees upon importation etc. etc.
As explained to me many years ago by a fellow aficionado; "a good cigar is an hour and a half to three hours of pleasure and enjoyment" (for most of us) - liken it to going to the movies or the bar with friends; it is an investment in your time and the reward should be pleasurable.
So, with that; here are my Best Cigar Smoking Tips for Beginners and Aficionados alike.
Tip #1: Do Not Over-Smoke Your Cigar
This is by far the most crucial tip; over-smoking your cigar means puffing too much (rushing); the faster you smoke your cigar; the hotter it becomes and unfortunately, the more acrid it will taste.
Generally I take a puff of my cigar every 3 to 5 minutes; sometimes longer... you will be amazed how long a new-world cigar will stay alight... try it...
Tip #2: Soft Drink (regular) Is Your Friend
Honestly I cannot repeat this tip enough; smoking a cigar can drop your blood sugar levels dramatically (nicotine does that); a glass of regular (not diet or sugar-free) soft drink will have you feeling a lot better, quickly.
This is also why people enjoy bourbon or rum or port with their cigars, they have a sugar content that helps (a little) with that drop in blood sugar levels (or at least that is what I tell my wife).
Tip #3: Don't Smoke On An Empty Stomach
Following on from Tip #2; have something to eat first!
If you are going to have a substantial cigar (or two) then make sure you have some food first, you will be surprised how much more enjoyable the cigar is when your not feeling woozy!
Tip #4: Do Not Inhale
No I'm being serious, the thing with cigars is, we enjoy the smoke, the mouth feel, the aroma; but we do not inhale.
If you once smoked cigarettes, you are about to smoke a packet worth of cigarettes in a single cigar; the key here; the nice thing here; cigars are 100% natural tobacco leaf.
No chemicals, no additives, nothing; just pure 100% fermented and aged tobacco leaf; but it does still have nicotine...
Tip #5: Take Your Time
Hailing back to Tip #1 (which was the purpose of writing this), take your time!
Cigars are a luxury, they are to be enjoyed, slowly; would you chug a fine bottle of champagne or a top shelf libation? Then why would you want to rush your hand rolled, artisan cigar?
Cigars are about relaxing and enjoyment.
Tip #6: Find A Calm Place
This follows on from Tip #5, your environment and your mood play a big part in your cigar enjoyment; having a bad day, been rushing around all day - find the right cigar to fit your available time and your frame of mind.
Put on your favourite music and find a calm place, sit, enjoy the moment; relax.
One of the stories I tell a lot was of a dear friend of mine (hi MikeR) who phoned me on an Wednesday evening to tell me his Brick House cigar was crap, tasted like oil infact; I asked Mike about his day, it had been fraught with work issues and kids and rushing all day long.
So, I suggested to Mike that he smoke the second Brick House he had on Saturday, after a calmer day; well he phoned me on Saturday and thanked me, his cigar was wonderful, tasted great and was just what he needed.
For me, my days are normally pretty crazy and scattered and after a couple of decades of cigar enjoyment, I know what cigar to select to unwind with; I also know better than to grab a brand new sample from a supplier and try it... if its a fail, it'll just add to the stress and not relieve it...
Tip #7: Enjoy It Alone or With A Friend
This is a big one, I smoke probably 75% of the time alone; but I always enjoy a cigar at least once a week with a friend; thankful to have friends who are always up for a cigar.
The majority of the time I smoke alone, I am still working, but trust me, its always enjoyable - but not quite the same as talking about the wins and the losses and life in general with a mate.
Tip #8: Toast It Not Roast It
One thing I cannot stress enough, toast your cigar, gently; do not roast it!
So many video reviewers out there should just take up welding; they absolutely over torch (scorch) their cigar; it is painful to watch. What was the point of those 200+ hands that went into making your new-world cigar for it to just be nuked within an inch of its life.
Use a Cedar Spill strip or a Soft-flame lighter or a Flat-flame lighter master the art of lighting your cigar with a butane torch; gently toasting it just out of the flame; warm it, nurture it and then enjoy it...
Tip #9: Take Your Time
Like most of my tips, take your time and enjoy the cigar, enjoy the moment.
Again, they're not cheap in New Zealand sadly; so take your time, make it worth your time and energy.
Tip #10: To Ash Or Not To Ash?
Well we had to have some controversy didn't we - To Ash or Not To Ash.
If you are smoking in my cigar cave, you ash your cigar or risk falling foul of my wife and ashing on the carpet or furniture... if you are outside and don't mind some smouldering ash in your lap, see how far you can push that ash.
Honestly, it is a personal choice; yes; some say not ashing is good, protect the face of the cigar (the cherry as its known); but honestly I have seldom had issues arise from ashing a new-world cigar often and not making a mess.
Tip #11: Finished? Put It Down Like A Gentleman
The ONLY WAY to finish your cigar is to simply put it down, never ever crush or stub it out!
By all means drop it into the ashtray as a sign you are finished, but never ever stub it out - it will continue to burn and 9 times out of 10 it actually starts to stink.
Tip #12: Cellophane? On or Off
Another personal-choice question; but from my experience my theory goes like this.
If you take your cigars to a friends house, pub etc. (i.e. you travel with your cigars) then leave the cello ON; if you largely smoke at home, take the cello off.
The reason for the cellophane is totally to protect the cigars; the tradition came about back in the day when you typically purchased a cigar at your local Brick & Mortar cigar shop; walked or drove home and then smoked it - all about protecting the cello.
Tip #13: Buy Cigars in Pairs when Starting Out
If your budget allows, always buy cigars in pairs when you are starting out; for that matter even when your an aficionado.
Why? Cigars are a 100% hand rolled, artisan product; you will get a cigar that doesn't smoke absolutely perfectly; also your mood and environment changes; so you may find the second cigar was absolutely stellar, compared to the first sample.
This happens a LOT for me when I am sampling new cigar brands or lines; I might pick the wrong beverage to have with a cigar and the pairing doesn't work - but I now know the make of the cigar and I'll adjust that for the second sampling.
Tip #14: The Cutter Maketh The Man
Before anything else, if you are really getting into the swing of your new passion; invest in a decent cigar cutter.
The basic plastic guillotine cutter you first get is fine for 10 or so cigars, but honestly the first way to screw up an amazing cigar is with a bad cut.
Tip #15: Think ahead
If you are having more than one cigar, then think ahead.
Liter cigars before darker cigars; medium cigars before heavy cigars; like most things in life - a stronger flavour profile is going to cancel out something with a lesser profile.
There is no point smoking a Connecticut Shade cigar after having just smoked a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro cigar for instance; just like there is no point to drinking a 40% ABV dram after having enjoyed a cask-strength dram - your taste buds have adjusted to the stronger profile for that moment in time.
Tip #16: Cleanse Your Palete
If you are enjoying more than one cigar, have some dark chocolate on hand and enjoy a couple of pieces between cigars to cleanse your palate.
Tip #17: The Re-Cut
This I find myself doing depending on the cigar and how it is burning/tasting; but basically - do not be afraid to cut another 1mm or 2mm off the cigar to "freshen" it up.
Sometimes its as easy as a cigar now drawing properly (tight, hard drawer); a re-cut often changes that (most times thankfully) - other times you may get a cigar that is retaining extra moisture and produces some tar, a good re-cut here will clear that up (and yes, sometimes you might have to do it more than once).
But lastly, I also re-cut my cigar at the halfway mark simply to freshen it up a touch, try it, you might be surprised by the results.
But also, as often as I do do it, I don't...
Got any great tips to share - please email Grant "The Cigar Merchant" and I'll add them!