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Cigar How to Guide

At Stogie Boys, we want you to get the most out of your cigar experience. Whether you’re a novice smoker or a cigar connoisseur, you deserve a quality resource to turn to for all your cigar and smoking needs. Whether you’re shopping for your first cigar or just brushing-up on your knowledge before you and the boys get together, we’ve got you covered.
 
We know that cigars, much like their smokers, are individual and have diverse profiles. Take the information in our guide as a knowledge-base, but don’t be afraid to disagree with our tastes. One of the most rewarding aspects of the cigar-smoking experience is developing your own preferences and opinions to share with friends. Variety after all, is the spice of life.
 

ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS

Before you decide on your first smoke, assessing the quality of a specific cigar is key. Cigars include three main ingredients: (1) the filler tobacco at the center, (2) a binder leaf which holds the filler together and (3) the outer wrapper, which is rolled around the binder.
 
For novice cigar smokers, it’s critical to learn to identify the difference between handmade and machine-made cigars. Cigars which are made by hand generally use “long filler” tobacco: leaves which run the length of a cigar. The filler, binder and wrapper elements in these cigars are combined manually from start to finish.
 
Machine-made cigars utilize high-speed machinery to combine “short filler” tobacco - usually scraps or pieces of tobacco - with a binder and wrapper. Because of the tension placed on the tobacco by the machines, the binders and wrappers are often made of a homogenized tobacco product. This end-product is stronger than natural tobacco leaves and can be produced in a variety of flavors, strengths and textures.
A few brands have combined machine-bunching (using long-filler tobacco) with hand-rolled wrappers. This practice has been very properly dubbed the “hand-rolled” method. Some larger cigars made using this method are filled with both long-filler and short-filler tobaccos.
 
The quality of the tobaccos present in a cigar, and more importantly, how they are blended, determines the quality of the smoking experience. In the filler, “ligero” leaves provide power and are blended with “seco” leaves of a mild flavor and “volado” leaves, which ensure an even burn. Combined with a binder and wrapper, a quality cigar will have a rich and balanced flavor 
 

Tasting a cigar

While it may be in your best interest to learn the flavor profiles of a variety of cigars, your favorite will be the one you enjoy smoking most. While we agree that premium blends are an acquired taste, many cigar smokers agree that their personal favorite has little to do with subtle undertones or distinguishable aromas. We say, find your favorite and make it your own. 
 

 Cigar pricing

Not unlike most luxury items, a good cigar won’t come cheap. This doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to enjoy a good smoke. Consider buying moderately-priced cigars as a learning experience. Once you identify brands you like and flavors you prefer, an expensive cigar is less stressful to shop for, and you’re sure to get one you’ll enjoy. Check out our deals on premium cigars to get a taste of the good life for a price you can afford.
 

Cutting the cigar

Cutting your cigar means creating an ample opening for smoking without damaging the cigar itself. Using guillotine cutters, pierce cutters and V cuts, cigar smokers all have their own preferences for this process. It’s important to remember there are techniques for each tool, and that practice makes perfect. With a guillotine, remember to only cut approximately 1/16 of the cap so you won't damage the cigar or cause it to unravel. Using a Pierce cutter and V cutter are acceptable, but many purists insist that they allow tars to build up on the small opening they create. If you’re thinking about buying a less-expensive cutter, consider the fact that saving a few dollars on a cheaper model may not be worth the cost of ruining a quality cigar. 
 

Lighting the cigar

When lighting a cigar, don’t touch the flame to the cigar itself. Holding the flame ¼ to ½ inch from the cigar, slowly and gently draw in small puffs of air. This allows the cigar to heat, and eventually light without damaging the integrity of the wrapper. Do not use paper matches or a fluid-filled lighter to light a cigar. These often leave a chemical taste, ruining the flavor of your smoke. Wooden matches and gas-filled lighters are the best choice for lighting.

Cheat sheet for beginners

  • The colorful strip of paper encircling the cigar is called the band. This label is the individual signature of the manufacturer.
  • Avoid cigars with split wrappers. This is a clear sign that it’s been mishandled or stored improperly and will not smoke well.
  • Do not keep cigars in the refrigerator. This practice was once rumored to keep the tobacco fresh, but in reality, it dries it out. 
  • Never put a partially-smoked cigar back into your humidor. Use a cigar saver or dispose of it when finished smoking.
  • A Puncture-Cutter is special tool that gets inserted into the head of a cigar to remove a ¼ inch plug. This creates an air hole while and preserves the smooth, rounded head of the cigar.
  • A Guillotine-Cutter is the most common tool for cutting a cigar. In a straight, clean line, the head of the cigar is sliced off, drawing air through. Standard Guillotine-Cutters are modeled with either one or two blades.
  • A Scissors-Cutter looks like its namesake, but has specialized blades for cutting a cigar. It delivers a straight cut.
  • A quality wrapper should be monochromatic and free of blemishes. Be wary of a greenish-tinge, it means the cigar hasn’t been stored properly.
  • Wrappers with an oily sheen are ideal. It’s evidence of a cigar that’s been stored perfectly with close attention to humidity levels.
  • Don't snuff-out your cigar after smoking; this produces a foul smell. Leave your cigar in an ashtray and it will extinguish itself naturally.
  • The thickness of a cigar is expressed in 64th’s of an inch. This is referred to as the Ring Gauge. A “64-Ring Gauge Cigar” would measure one-inch in diameter. A “32-Ring Gauge Cigar” measures ½ inch in diameter, and so on.
  • The temperature of exhaled smoke is a result of the Ring Gauge, not the length. More robust cigars are allowed more air-exposure, and therefore produce a cooler smoke.
  • When lighting a cigar, don’t touch the flame to the cigar itself. Holding the flame ¼ to ½ inch from the cigar, slowly and gently draw in small puffs of air. This allows the cigar to heat, and eventually light without damaging the integrity of the wrapper.
  • Do not use paper matches or a fluid-filled lighter to light a cigar. These often leave a chemical taste, ruining the flavor of your smoke. Wooden matches and gas-filled lighters are the best choice for lighting.
  • Wait 30-60 seconds between puffs to give the cigar a chance to cool. Cigars that get too hot can get a bitter taste.
  • If you’re looking for libations, pare an appropriate wine or liquor with your smoke that won’t be too strong or overpower its flavor. 
  • Be wary of drugstore cigars. They are mostly machine-made and include scraps of tobacco that are low-quality.
  • A dark-colored wrapper does not always indicate a robust cigar. Darker wrappers generally impart a fuller taste, but it may also be a misrepresentation of a light, mild binder and filler inside.

Choosing a cigar

Cigars are as individual as those who enjoy them. Selecting a cigar should be based on personal taste, availability and budget. There are a few different factors in choosing a cigar that’s right for you. Are you smoking at lunch? Perhaps a lighter, milder cigar is a good fit. After dinner? Select a more robust, strongly-flavored smoke. If you’re interested in the country of origin, you’ll want to take that into account as well. Elements like soil quality, sunlight and climate weigh heavily on the end-product of the tobacco. 
 
Shopping at a well-stocked humidor can be overwhelming, and opinions or sales pitches from employees can often muddle the decision-making process. Shopping online through a reputable website appeals to many smokers because it allows you to take your time, chat online with representatives, and save money.  
 
Imported handmade cigars are typically aged about 2 years before being sold to the public. Aging a cigar is a gamble, and although there are no set standards for the process, experts in the industry agree that an average of 6-10 years produces the best quality. Others warn, quite rightly, that even if they are stored under ideal conditions, most cigars will slowly lose their bouquet. If storage conditions are less than ideal, they will also become dry. Again, this is often a game of luck, and even the best-stored cigars can dry out, leaving a diminished bouquet.
 

Humidor Cigar Storage

A humidor is a storage container designed to allow air flow and maintain temperature and humidity. Humidors come in all sizes and styles, but the most crucial characteristic of a humidor is the capacity to provide a consistent environment for your cigars that maintains about 68' to 70' F and 70-72% humidity. Humidors are an investment in the quality of your cigars, and though they aren’t cheap, they protect the integrity of your smokes for extended periods of storage.

Cigars are affected by light, temperature, humidity, and friction. Cigars should never be exposed to ultraviolet light. This will bleach the cigar wrapper, making it less elastic and more likely to tear. Direct light will also raise the temperature of your humidor.

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