Shopping for cigars is a lot like shopping for wine. You know there are people out there that take this stuff very seriously. You understand there’s a gradient scale of quality among products. But – at least for the novice cigar lover – you can’t seem to discern the subtle differences between cigars in the same way you can, say, tell an overripe banana from a good one at the supermarket. You’re lost, with little more to guide you than the price tags and how cool the labels look.
This article is here to help. Below, let’s explore how to utilize your tobacconist, determine fundamental quality indicators, spot flaws and preserve your cigars for a fresh smoke.
The Indispensable Value of a Trusted Tobacconist
Here’s an overarching tip for cigar shopping: Use your local tobacconist. They’re often a wellspring of specialized knowledge, more than happy to steer you toward a suitable product. Too often, novice cigar smokers order their stogies online (out of convenience, which is understandable), where they don’t get the person-to-person guidance they need. Consider buying in person!
Understand Types and Flavors
Learn the basic types and flavors of cigars before shopping; this will give you the language to convey what you want. In general, cigars are divided by shape, color and size.
Shapes include parejos (classic straight-sided cigars) and figurados (tapered or otherwise alternatively shaped cigars). Colors run the gamut between claros (light and freshly flavored) to colorados (medium-brown and balanced) to maduros and oscuros (dark, richly textured and full flavoured cigars). Finally, a tobacconist might ask you what size you want; consult this size guide to determine your ideal length and gauge.
Meet Your Maker
As with wine, some artisans and makers are more synonymous with quality than others. Spotting a reputable brand can point you toward quality.
While several quality cigar makers exist, here are a few commonly found brands that cigar lovers love: Arturo Fuente, Romeo y Julieta, Davidoff, Cohiba, Ashton and Padron. In general, you can’t go wrong with a cigar from one of these makers.
Eyeing Assembly, Damage or Dryness
Once you’ve selected your type, color and maker, the tobacconist will often hand over the cigar for a close inspection. This is typically a formality, but it’s still a great opportunity to scan for flaws. Look for faulty assembly, as when the seams start coming apart. Inspect the foot and cap for any damage during transport. And feel the cigar for dryness.
Pair Your Cigar with a Humidity Control Pack
Before you hightail it out of the store, leave with some kind of storage container and humidity control device. If you plan on making cigars a hobby, consider investing in a dedicated humidor lined with Spanish cedar. However, a durable plastic cigar storage bag will work in a pinch!
Ask your tobacconist for a Boveda pack to accompany your purchases. These two-way humidity control packs keep your cigar(s) at a precise relative humidity so they don’t dry out or spoil – nearly every connoisseur uses them, and they’re an inexpensive add-on to your purchase.
Don’t blindly choose a cigar based on the label anymore. Follow the guide above to find your perfect cigar and store it correctly.