|Choosing a cigar
Choosing a cigar is an individual thing. It depends on personal taste, availability and budget. When one walks into a well-stocked humidor it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of different brands and facings that line the walls. If you are fortunate to be in the shop of a reputable retailer then you can count on receiving some sound advice in choosing the perfect cigar to fit the occasion or mood. If not, then these suggestions may help you find a great cigar anyway.
Choosing a cigar Step by step
Squeeze the cigar gently. It should "give" but not be too soft. Don't roll it in your fingers, as some suggest - this can damage the wrapper. Squeeze gently up and down the body to look for lumps or soft spots. A good cigar should have neither. Remember to be gently. Even if you don't buy that cigar somebody else might - don't damage it!
Inspect the wrapper for "odd" discolorations, looseness, or cracks. The wrapper should be smooth and tight, and not damaged on either end. Smaller veins are good to watch for, as these often smoke smoother, but compare your single to other cigars with the same wrapper! Veins appear differently in different wrapper types.
Look at the tobacco in the exposed end. Some variation of color is normal, as most cigars are made from a blend of tobaccos. What you're watching for is extreme or abrupt color changes. This sometimes means an inferior leaf was used, or the leaves weren't laid together properly in the bunching process. Off tastes and uneven burns will often be the result.
Choose a Cigar by Ring gauges
Cigars with larger ring gauges tend to be fuller flavored (there is normally more ligero and less Volado in the blend), smoke more smoothly and slowly, and heat up slower than those with small ring gauges. They also tend to be better made than the smaller ones (which are the sizes recently qualified apprentices start on). Cigars with small ring gauges often have little or no ligero tobacco in the filler blend. If there is no hurry, large ring gauge cigars are almost always the preferred choice of connoisseurs or experienced cigar smokers.
Choose a Cigar by Cigar size
The beginner is advised to choose a relatively small cigar, say a minuto or carolina, and then move up to the bigger sizes of a mild brand (see The Cigar Directory). Jamaican cigars, such as Macanudo (also made in the Dominican Republic), tend to be mild, or try H. Upmann among Havanas. A cervante is probably the best cigar above the corona size to move up to when you feel you have gone beyond the beginner stage.
Choose a Cigar by Time of Day
There is a case to be made about what sort of cigar to smoke at what time of day. Most smokers prefer milder, smaller cigars in the morning, or after a light lunch. The seasoned smoker, however, might go for something like a robusto after a heavy lunch; a lot of flavor packed into a reasonably short smoke. Certainly, most experienced smokers prefer a big, full-bodied cigar after a heavy meal or late at night, partly because a thin cigar will not last very long, but also because a mild one isn't so satisfying on a full stomach. So they will select a belicoso, Churchill, or double corona. By the same token, smoking a heavy cigar before dinner is likely to spoil your appetite and play havoc with your taste buds. Much the same consideration applies when people have strong drinks like port or brandy after dinner, rather than something lighter, which they will take before or during dinner. If you want to compare cigars, it is best to smoke them at similar times of day, taking meals and location into account, too.
Choose cigar by the country of origin
Because tobacco gets its flavor from the soil and climate from which they are grown, other cigars from that country of origin are more likely to appeal to your tastes. This is of course not always the case but when you are playing percentages you are more likely to enjoy a different Honduran verses a new Jamaican.
Choose a cigar by the rating
Ignore number ratings; In general, number ratings can be misleading. If you enjoy lighter cigars and you see that the Bahia Trinidad is rated a 91 and you try it, you will find that you may give it a completely different number! Stick to reviews that describe flavor, strength, and characteristics. This will help you make more informed choices.
Choose cigar by the price
A moderately priced cigar from an established manufacturer is probably the best guide to use in determining price/quality when experimenting with different cigars. Find a good source with a good selection and try different brands.
Chose a cigar by the Taste
Perhaps the best way to explain the taste of a cigar and how it is to be interpreted by an inexperienced smoker is to say, a negative taste impression is a valuable experience. If the taste you’re experiencing is pleasurable and relaxing, then that is a good cigar. Forget about the undertones and complexities of flavor for now, just try lots of different cigars, perhaps starting with milder, bigger cigars as thinner cigars have more binder and filler and won’t contribute as much to your education.
Choose a cigar by the wrapper color
The color of a cigar's wrapper, the capa, is generally the key to its flavor. The darker the wrapper, the more full-bodied and sweeter a cigar is likely to be, although the true determinant is the color of the filler. A few important variables affect the final flavor and quality of wrapper leaves: their location on the plant; when they are harvested; and how they are fermented or dried. The longer a leaf stays on the plant and the more sunlight it receives, the darker it will be. Cigar wrappers can be classified into seven basic colors, although there are dozens of possible shades. The basic colors of wrappers range from Claro (pale brown) to Oscuro (black).
Choosing a cigar by aging
Most importers of fine handmade cigars take care to age them a little before releasing them to the public (about two years for Havana cigars taken into Britain). There are no hard and fast rules about how long cigars should be left to mature (it can often be a matter of luck), but some experts state that cigars aged for six to ten years will be in the peak of condition. 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. Even if properly stored, it's probably sensible not to keep cigars for more than 10 years. By that time, they're unlikely to get any better, and almost certainly will have lost some of their bouquet.
A few warning signs of a bad cigar:
1. The cigar wrapper is cracked, usually means it is dry.
2. A whitish mold on the cigar.
3. The wrapper has green blotches all over it.
4. The cigar feels very hard or spongy during the pinch test.
5. There are little pinhead size holes or trails running through it.
If a cigar has holes or trails running through the cigar this is the sign of a tobacco beetle infestation. Don't smoke this cigar or place it in your humidor.
Pick a Cigar right now!