How to Choose a Cigar

Since cigars have gained a resurgence in popularity, the market has been flooded. Older, more prominent family brands now share their shelf space with newer brands hoping to lure away smokers from some of the more established favorites. With so many choices it may seem daunting and yet it does not have to be. So, how do you choose a cigar? Believe it or not there is no “right or wrong” when it comes to choosing a favorite cigar. Cigars are about taste and preference.



Do not be color blind and judge a cigar by it’s cover. Now, this is going to apply to the novice more than the experienced smoker, who probably has found their brand. The shade of the wrapper is an indication of the “flavor” of the cigar. Although this is more of a guide than a hard fast rule, the darker the cigar, the more likely it will be “spicier” and stronger. The lighter the wrapper, the “milder “ the cigar. Please keep in mind that the darker wrapper results in the cigar being sweeter and stronger in flavor as it produces the greater content of oil and sugar in the wrapper. This is due to the fact that darker wrappers will normally have spent longer at the tobacco plant or come from higher altitudes and through extra exposure to the sunlight creates oil and sugar. See attached color chart, provided by Columbia University for reference and terminology. Obviously you want a cigar that will satisfy your particular tastes, so experiment with all of these strengths and find the one that is more suitable for you. Start mild and work you way to the stronger cigars. Many smokers prefer a milder cigar during the day and a stronger one in the evening, especially after a fine meal with a glass of brandy or burgundy.


Select a size (length) but do not base it on size. Find one that fits in comfortably in your hand. Now, although, it is very tempting to get the biggest cigar to show off, it is not the smart way to go, especially if you are new to this. After all, a cigar is a luxury item and if you spend money and are not comfortable holding the cigar, or it does not fit properly in your mouth when smoking you will not enjoy the experience and you have wasted your money. There is no set standard for the names that express various cigar shapes. A Corona might have a length of 5 1/2 inches and a ring size of 42 in one brand, and a length of 5 3/4 inches with a ring size of 44 in another, or anywhere in between.


Choose a cigar based on the ring gauge (diameter) or thickness you think you may enjoy. Ring gauge is expressed in 64th’s of an inch. Therefore a ring size of 32 would be a half inch in diameter. The thicker cigars have a smoother draw, the thinner cigars have less than a smooth draw. The reason for this is that the thicker cigars tend to be cooler and slower burning than their thinner counterparts.


Check the construction of the cigar. In addition to the necessity for a cigar to be pleasing to the sight, it must be well made. The cigar you choose should be evenly colored and smoothly wrapped. Although small blemishes and or spots are somewhat normal, the cigar should have discoloration. If it does, choose another. Whatever you do, do not chose cigars who’s wrappers are torn or cracked.


Check the freshness. A cigar should be fresh. When checking it’s freshness, the cigar should not be dry to the touch, but have a mild oily sheen to it. You will find this true more so for the cigars with the darker wraps. In addition, you should be able to notice the veins on the wrapper. The rule of thumb here is the finer, the better.


Choose based on price. Again, the cigar is a luxury item and this is really going to depend on how much you are willing to spend. A good cigar can range from $7 to $22 depending on maker and size. So before you get a big head, check your bank balance because you may find yourself spending more than you bargained for simple experimentation.

Tips & Warnings

  1. The cigar should not be too soft or squishy. When you give it a little squeeze, it should only “give” a little. If it is too soft then it is a sign of an over-humidified cigar.
  2. The cigar should not be too dry or fragile. This is a sign of an under-humidified cigar. Some people like them this way, but it is best to stay away from these until you want to experiment.
  3. Do not be fooled by regional snobbery. There are many fine makers of cigars from countries other than Cuba.
  4. Watch being pushed into an expensive cigar based on marquee name value. Do not be intimidated by the more experienced smoker.
  5. Moldy cigars should be thrown away. Be sure you do not confuse mold with plume. Plume is the white ash like residue that can be brushed off. This is a sign of good aging.

By Scott Nicholas Amendolare
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