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.