The experience of smoking a premium cigar is one of life’s great pleasures.  Premium cigar makers take incredible pride in their craft, with even some manufactures being family owned and operated for over 100 years.  Premium cigars are primarily created from tobacco grown in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, Africa, Indonesia and the United States in most notably Connecticut.  Many different types of tobacco seeds and techniques are used to grow cigars of varying flavor, strength, sizes, and color.  Like fine food, wine and spirits, cigars provide for unique taste experiences which can vary from salty, sweet, harsh, smooth, heavy, light, and spicy, just to name a few characteristics.  The experience can stimulate senses, allow for restoration and relaxation, and provide settings for bringing close friends together to share life’s reflections.

For beginning cigar fans, a few important questions can help at the outset:

  • How much time do you have to enjoy a cigar?
  • Do you prefer stronger or lighter tobacco strength (for most newcomers lighter is better)
  • Do you prefer the feel of a thicker or thinner cigar?
  • Do you prefer a straight cut or a V cut or a punch?
  • Are you going to be enjoying your favorite alcoholic drink with it?

The size of the cigar will determine how long it takes to smoke, along with your natural smoking technique.  Cigars are designed to burn slowly, thus keeping the temperature down and allowing the tobacco not to be charred or get too hot.  Drawing the cigar too frequently will cause the cigar tobacco to burn to hot, and most likely cause uneven burns.

Sizes of cigars are measured in RING GAUGE: a number typically between 40 and 64 which represents 64th of an inch.  For example, a cigar with a 52 ring gauge is 52/64th of an inch thick: (52 ring gauge being thicker than 42)  It’s length is measured in inches.  A 7 x 50 cigar is 7 inches long with a 50 ring gauge, and typically takes an hour to 1 hour 15 minutes to smoke.

If smoking a premium cigar alongside your favorite alcoholic beverage, i.e. single malt whisky, then a general rule of thumb is match a lighter flavor or bodied cigar with a lighter whisky, and a heavier denser cigar with a heavier stronger whisky.

There are three most common types of cuts (cutting the head of the cigar with a blade to allow air to flow)

    •       Straight Cut – which allows for the most air to flow through the cigar
    •       V Cut – A technique that uses a blade that puts a Cat’s Eye incision into the cigar, and allows the cigar to burn cooler while getting ample air
    •       Punch Cut – Which puts a small circular incision into the first centimeter of the cigar.

Try all 3 of them and determine which one works best for you.

There are many different sizes of cigars, but some basic options would include:

    • Churchill – approximately 7 x 50
    • Toro – approximately 6 x 50
    • Robusto – approximately 5 x 50
    • Petite Corona – approximately 5 x 42

After you choose your cigar, you can then keep track of your experience by giving it a rating.  Did the cigar burn well?  Did it go out?  Did it burn evenly?  Was it smooth or harsh?  Was it too spicy or too bland?  Was it too short or too long?  etc.

Rating Guide:  Rank from 1 – 20 on 5 categories:

    • Appearance – Feel
    • Burn Characteristic
    • Flavor
    • Strength
    • And most importantly: Did you enjoy it?

A cigar with your own personal rating of a total of 95 – 100 would be considered a Classic.  90 – 94 is Outstanding.  80 – 89 would be very good.  60 and lower would be:  Let’s try a different one next time.

Keep enjoying cigars: don’t let one bad experience deter you.  Try different brands.  Try different sizes and cuts.  Try different wrapper colors (darker to lighter).  Try cigars from different countries, etc.  Try them with different pairings of single malt and bourbon.  Have a great time!

Come on out to The Chamber at 9900 to experiment and learn along with us.  Join us on Instagram at thechamberat9900 and report which are your favorite cigars.  We great appreciate your partnership, as we are all lucky to enjoy premium cigars:  celebrating making new friendships and treasuring old ones.  See you at The Chamber!