En Fuego: A Beginner’s Guide to Cigars

Nothing says refinement and “Old Boy Charm” like the smooth, silky smoke of a quality cigar. When the boss singles you at out the company picnic don’t be caught off guard.

Know Your Cigar

Cigars come in two basic shapes, figuardos and parejos. The most commonly smoked cigar shape is the parejo – the traditional tube shaped smoke that varies in width and length. Figuardos are classified as “irregular” shapes and look hand rolled. They often fetch a higher price than their more common cousins.

While eight different cigar wrapped shades are recognized, the average smoker could probably make due with only knowing three. Candela is the easiest to spot, being a shade of green. Colorado is reddish in color, and the sign of an aged cigar. Maduro, increasing popular today, is a very dark coffee colored brown. Maduro cigars, the most smoked among first class cigar brands, are easily spotted blowing clouds of smoke inside poker clubs.

Parts of a Cigar

There are only a few parts to a cigar that anyone really needs to know, and they are:

  • The Band: A paper ring near the head of the cigar, often identifying the brand.
  • The Barrel: The main body of the cigar.
  • The Cap: A bit of leaf used to seal the smoking end of a cigar.
  • The Filler: The tobacco that makes up the inside of a cigar. Typically each cigar will hold 3-5 leaves of varied type, finely stripped.
  • The Foot: The end you light.
  • The Head: Where the cap is located, the part that goes in the mouth.

Other Useful Terms:

  • The Draw: How well air is drawn through the cigar, often cited as smooth or not.
  • The Humidor: A humidity controlled unit that stores cigars. Proper humidity level is 70% and proper temperature is about 68degrees.
  • Cigar Cutter: Scissor like razor to snip the cap off of a cigar.
  • Cigar Punch: A hole punch used to penetrate the cap.

Selecting & Smoking Your Cigar

When selecting your, or more importantly, your boss’s cigar, there are a few things to look for. Lightly squeeze the cigar, feeling for bumps or soft spots; if you feel any, discard it and select a new one. The wrapper should fit the cigar well, with no loose tobacco, and the feel should be smooth. Small veins running through the leaves are preferable to large ones. Cigars will have natural color variations to them, but if something looks abrupt, or off, discard it.

Cigar CutterCutting the cigar may be the trickiest part for a novice. Examine the head of the cigar to identify how large the cap is. You should be able to visually differentiate the cap from the barrel. Snip only the cap area, you do not want to cut into the barrel of the cigar. Do not cut along the line of the cap, but rather, as far away from it as you can, while still opening 80% of the head. With a guillotine cutter, the most common, cut quickly. Squeezing too much will crimp and unravel the cigar, making an unpleasant smoking experience. A punch cutter simplifies the job, requiring the user only to quickly push the punch into the cigar and withdrawal it, leaving behind a clean hole.

Lighting the cigar is as much art as it is function, and inspires great debate among smokers. When using a match, let the sulfur burn off completely. If using a gasoline based lighter, such as a Zippo, allow it to burn a second or two as well, to remove any odor that could be drawn into the cigar. Butane lighters are often the lighter of choice, as they burn hot and clean. Select your flame source and gently preheat the foot by rolling the cigar above, not in, the flame. Next, set the cigar in your mouth and draw air in while lighting. Keep the cigar above, not in, the flame, and roll it slowly to establish an even burn. Take in a few strong draws to help the process along, and then take a half minute to allow the burn to set in completely.

The cigar is now yours to enjoy; though remember, do not draw the smoke into your lungs.

Initial Selections

If you’re that eager to jump right into the Cabana Club, try one of these suggestions:

Everyday Smokes (aka Budget)

  • Antonio y Cleopatra: A very modestly priced smoke, don’t offer this to your boss. But if you’re just getting into the habit or you feel like puffing away while floating in the pool, this isn’t a bad brand to go with.
  • Wolf Bros Crookettes: These small cigars are actually quite good. They’re bring back memories of Clint Eastwood in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” while offering up a short, smooth smoke.

The Week Enders (aka Moderate)

  • Iguana Candelas: These fine cigars get style points for their unique green (and now black!) candela wrappers. A cigar of this style was said to be favored by President John F. Kennedy and it’s sure to please at a price that won’t make you weep.
  • Arturo Fuente: These cigars have quickly made a reputation for themselves, but can still be had for around $5 a smoke, depending on the style you select. They’re instantly recognizable to even non-smokers and you can pass them out at the company picnic without worry of handing over a bad cigar or breaking the bank.

The Upper Class (aka Expensive)

  • Cohiba: Odds are you’ve heard of this brand already, as its often mentioned in movies and television. At around $10 a cigar, these can become an expensive habit if you let them, but the rewarding smooth and artistically rolled cigar will please many people.
  • Romeo y Julieta: Another staple of most humidors, these fine cigars are well known and well appreciated. While their price scares off most newcomers, with a good humidor or an intent to light up quickly, buying small bundles for special occasions is a good purchase that’ll impress even the boss.

Price Concerns

You can obviously enjoy a good smoke at a low price and some people love what are considered ‘cheaper’ cigars. Don’t let price dictate what you do or do not smoke. If you wanted to spend $50 on a single cigar, you could, easily. Or you could buy cigars that come 5 for $4. Just find something you like through experimentation, a good place to start is with some of those listed above. None of them are real bank busters, but all of them are great smokes.

Tips & Tricks

If you don’t know much about cigars, avoid commenting on the specifics. It is often wise to comment merely on the draw or flavor of a cigar, or to have a favorite to compare it to. For the beginner, Candela cigars often a unique conversation piece and a smooth, relaxing smoking experience. While price isn’t everything, if the cigars are cheap, don’t serve them to anyone you’d wish to impress.

Robert Fure is a fitness, lifestyle, and entertainment writer living in Los Angeles. He is also a certified Personal Trainer and the Creator/Editor of Fit and Furious, an online outlet dedicated to the pursuit of a fit lifestyle. His entertainment work can be viewed at Film School Rejects.

  • rich

    candelas are a nice sophisticated intro. they make for great conversation pieces.

  • ben

    i wouldn’t normally search for something like this, but im actually pretty interested now that i read it.

  • afcionado

    agreed, candelas are very popular right now.

  • http://midnight.hushedcasket.com Jeff

    I have found that many beginners are often focused on the “proper” way to do things. (Do I leave the band on? Where do I clip it? How often should I ash?) I often emphasize that while there are generally accepted “best” ways of doing things, there is no “right” way. Experiment. Just smoke the cigar and see what you like and dislike about it. Anyone who emphasizes the pomp and circumstance of cigar smoking isn’t really interested in the cigars.

    I have found that Nicaraguan and Honduran maduros are great smokes that come at very reasonable prices from several brands. Padrons come to mind.

  • Lorin

    This makes me think of that wonderful Cohiba I smoked in Akumal on a sultry November evening last year. A good cigar can definitely add a lot to a special occasion…

  • Kumar

    congrats on the site Andy! thats a huge step. I like the spot about tips with cigars hahaha, just to let you know also, to know if your smoking a good cigar, DO NOT ASH if you can keep the ash of the cigar through the whole sitting, then u have yourself a quality cigar, the ones whose ash fall off prematurely, not so much of a great cigar.

  • Kumar

    oh ya, don;t inhale a lot either, unless you like talking to the toilet face to face…

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  • Rico

    I’m thinking of opening a tabacco smoke shop, I don’t know much of tabacco to answer any questions. Where can I go to learn more of this fine life style?

  • http://www.gocubans.com/ Alec patterson

    If someone is new to the cigar world the cigar that he should choose is Arturo Fuente. It comes in 6 inches and 55 ring gauge. The tobacco used in it is aged in cognac barrels for 6-8 months..It has a dark and oily wrapper with a sturdy head. It has a nice draw but don’t produce a lot of smoke. It burns very evenly. It starts out pretty smooth. It tastes of espresso.It is medium-full in body and strength..So one can start with this one.

  • http://electronic-cigarettes.roxer.com e cigarette

    I will site this blog as a reference for my term paper.

  • http://www.humidors4u.com/ Sweton T Fleming

    These cigars totally seem like the cigar which i used to see in my childhood when i used to watch the old bond movies…

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    Nice one.I love your blog.If you want we can make link exchange.Just let me know.

  • http://www.santamatch.com jennifer

    nice post and thanks for the useful info. Good job, keep it up.

    Good online dating tip

  • http://www.your-health-news.net healthygirl

    Hey there,

    Do expensive cigars taste any better? Or that does not make any difference?
    .-= healthygirl´s last blog ..Diet and exercise can keep Diabetes helps to keep diabetes at bay =-.

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  • Beth S


    coming soon! Facebook and Twitter follows from me!
    Thank you!!!

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    I think the most important thing of a cigar its the nobility of the tobacco meaning that the result of the perfect combination between the land, the sun, the rain and the committed and meticulous craft work done by tobacco experts

  • http://celltvphone.blogspot.com/ paul

    Hi nice post like all of you I’m also a cigar lover. alwais searching for good quality. I fail to find many interestin deatail about cigar from main stream media. They shows commerciel with models nothing intersting for a real smoker. coments are also informative. I do not believe in adiction I smoke quiet often. but I enjoy it. Neither I believe in tobacco not good for health slogans be cause I have seen many healthy smokers who crossed the age 80 and still enjoy their cigars.
    .-= paul´s last blog ..Cell TV Phone Is It Fun =-.

  • http://www.dream4rent.net Biffy

    Nice post, I smoke cigars few times a year, but smooth smoke of Montecristo no. 2 is better than heaven, lol.
    .-= Biffy´s last blog ..Bus Tours: Giving You the Ride of Your Life Within Your Budget =-.

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    Awesome post and you make a very good point. I would have never thought of that. Thanks for sharing!

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    Thank you for sharing this great content worth

  • http://www.humidorsandmore.com J Kane

    This is a great article about the basics! Thanks!

  • http://www.hooproll.com [email protected] II kicks

    Woah watta guide I must say, this guide is very unique I haven’t quite seen a guide like this before. Smokers would be very happy to have read this lol as it would make them not smoke for long but this is quite a very nice post It will really help people from realizing what cigars can do to us.

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    Checkout the new Thompson Cigar blog for the latest & greatest news on cigars.

  • http://www.assistirfilmesonline.co Filmes Online

    This is very bad health, not recommend to anyone is like a drug or something.

    • Bea

      Cigars, the sames as other legal “drugs” are meant to be enjoyed in moderation. Of course they are bad for you, but much worse are chips or pop soda, crammed with chemicals.
      A good cigar, like a good drink, is best enjoyed as a rarity or to celebrate something special. A once in a while treat won’t spoil your health that much, especially given that the best products are often as natural as possible

  • Bea

    This is a very well written post, often talking specific about these things alienate the “new guys” but this is simple enough for someone who knows nothing of it and wishes to learn the basics quickly
    Thank you

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