[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Recently unearthed some older stuff I had written about cigars.]
One of the hardest things for new cigar smokers to do is to spot the well made cigars. No matter what you like to smoke, there are always things to look for. If you’re going to start stockpiling cigars it’s a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of them so you know if you’re spending your money wisely or just wasting it. My Dad gave me some of the best advice when I started liking cigars. He told me: “Jeff, no one likes smoking a soggy turd.”
All cigars, regardless of wrapper or size, should have a good shine to them and a slight oily texture. This ensures that the leaves used to wrap the cigar are healthy. You can spot unhealthy leaves by looking for cracking or peeling in the wrapper. An oversaturated leaf can also have mold spores growing on it so it’s important to be aware of this as well. A good cigar will feel firm when you give it a soft squeeze between your fingers and it will have a strong tobacco aroma. I joke that my cigar buying motto is: the more it smells like poop, the better it is.
If you take a look at a group of random cigars you’ll most likely notice color differences in all of them. This is because they are wrapped in different types of leaves that help to give the cigar its flavor. Certain wrappers include: Sumatra, Maduro, Connecticut, Cameroon, Sun Grown and Shade Grown. Sumatra wrappers have a mild flavor with a hint of spice in the smoke. The color is usually a dark brown. Maduro wrappers are brown as well and they are well flavored with a very earthy smell. Connecticut wrappers are a light, golden brown and the smoke is considerably milder than a Sumatra wrapper. Cameroon wrappers are a very dark brown and have some of the spiciest flavors and sweetest aromas. The drawback to the Cameroon wrapper is that the African leaf is very fragile and the cigars need to be kept in a stable environment at all times or the wrapper will start to crack. Sun Grown leaves are tougher than regular leaves because they have been conditioned by the sunlight. They are usually more resilient, thicker, and have a sweeter flavor when grown correctly. Shade Grown cigar leaves are purposely grown under shade to create a smoother, thinner leaf.
Another good tip is to always try a cigar before you buy a bundle of them. I made the mistake of buying a bundle of factory seconds from Cohiba when I was trying to stock my humidor. When I got the package home, and tried one out for the first time, they ended up being rubbish. The filler was packed too loosely, they burned too quickly, and the wrapper was very, very mild. It was not my kind of cigar at all. To salvage my purchase, I’ve been passing out the leftovers to friends who don’t have any cigars on them and can’t get out to a shop.
Also remember to be careful buying online. While you may come across a number of good deals, you lose the chance to survey the cigars before you pull the trigger on a purchase. Because of this, it’s a good idea to buy from the reputable websites. Try to stick with well known sites like Famous Smoke Shop, Cigar International, Thompson Cigars, and Holts Cigar Company. I prefer Holt’s because it’s locally based out of Philadelphia and they do free UPS next day ground shipping if you buy before 2PM.
My last tip is this: a lot of the bigger named cigar companies have begun making cheaper, lower end cigars. While the materials may be different, the person who is rolling them all is the same. If it’s a good cigar roller, they will be able to create a good cigar out of whatever materials they use. It’s a good idea to do some research on what companies are subsidiaries of bigger companies before you start buying.
By shopping smart, it ensures that you are buying good cigars and it also trains you to spot the bad cigars and avoid them. Remember, some of the best cigars you can buy will be found in the very affordable $5 to $10 dollar price range.