Stuff You Should Know: Smoking a Cigar

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Cigars have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the past decade or so, and for good reason – a quality cigar smoked properly is an experience like no other. But cigar smoking isn’t something you should just dive into blindly. Everything from making the right purchase to the way you light a cigar can make or break the entire deal.

Here are eight things you should know about smoking a cigar…

Choose Wisely

If you don’t remember anything else, at least remember this: All cigars are definitely not made the same. If you’re looking for a quality cigar smoking experience, picking up a two dollar box of Dutch Masters will not do the trick (unless you’re planning to tear them open and fill them with weed, in which case those are exactly what you want).

At the very least, find something handmade. White Owls, Phillies, Dutch Masters and anything else sitting behind the counter at your local bodega are machine rolled trash. If you’re looking for the good stuff, find a tobacconist in your area. They should have their cigars nicely stored and displayed in a humidor, which will likely be a large cabinet with glass doors or, even more awesomely, an actual room. You’ll know it when you see it.

If the place you’re buying your cigar from doesn’t have a humidor, you’re in the wrong place. Pick us up a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and get the hell out of there.

The Colour and the Shape

So you’ve found a humidor. Excellent! Now what?

Cigars come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Instead of bombarding you with information about what differentiates a Churchill from a Lonsdale and such, we’ll try to make this part as basic as possible. If you’re looking for a full-bodied smoke with lots of complex flavors, go for something with a dark wrapper (maduro). If you’re more the born to be mild type, go for a lighter colored wrapper.

The ring gauge of the cigar (exactly what it sounds like, think finger size) also plays into the complexity of the smoke. A larger ring gauge allows for a more complex mix of tobaccos, more smoke, etc.

It’s not a scientific method by any means, but think about how you drink your coffee. Do you order the medium roast or the dark roast? Cream and sugar or black? Your cigar preference probably isn’t too much different. If you find yourself at a loss to decide, ask the tobacconist for help. That’s what they get paid for.

Don’t Hesitate

See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Now that you’ve selected your smoke, by all means, smoke it. Like, right now if possible.

Here’s the thing, cigars are a delicate beast. They have to be stored in ideal conditions or they go right to shit. Unless you have a perfectly calibrated, cedar lined humidor at home to store your cigar in, you want to leave as little delay between purchase and light up as possible. A few hours shouldn’t be a problem, but make sure you keep your cigar sealed in a ziplock bag or something.

Whatever you do, just don’t let the thing dry out, or you’ll ruin it. The contraption pictured above is a water pillow cigar humidor bag. If a few days will pass between purchase and smoke, spend a couple bucks and buy one. You’ll be glad you did.

Drink Up, Johnny

Pairing a cigar with a drink is a great idea, but not mandatory. There really isn’t a firm set of rules for what drinks go best with a particular type of smoke, no matter what your friend with the slick-backed hair and expensive cuff links may claim.

If booze is your thing, most people go for cognac, single malt scotch or rum. If you’re on the wagon, go with coffee, preferably a dark roast or even espresso if you can stomach it.

But honestly, you can drink whatever the hell you want and still enjoy a nice cigar. They don’t need any outside help.

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