If you are new to cigars and want to know how to smoke a cigar the right way, then this ultimate beginners’ guide is perfect for you.
In this article, you will learn
- The proper lingo to sound like a cigar aficionado
- Cigar etiquette
- The many different types of cigar wrappers
- Cigar strength
- Cigar shape and sizes
- How to cut a cigar
- How to light a cigar
- How to smoke a cigar properly
- How long does it take to smoke a cigar
- How not to get sick smoking a cigar
- How to store cigars cheaply
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When I started smoking cigars, I had no clue what I was doing. I did not know how to choose a cigar, cut a cigar, or light a cigar, and as intuitive as it may seem, I did not know how to put out a cigar. Yes, believe it or not, there is a proper way to put out a cigar. The short of it, I did not know how to smoke a cigar.
But you don’t have to worry; I will teach you all you need to know to get started on how to smoke a cigar and enjoy the experience. And really that is what smoking a cigar is all about, enjoying the experience. So, it does not matter if you are smoking an expensively fine cigar as done at an exclusive country club or a dog rocket like Lieutenant Columbo would puff on while solving mysteries. It is all about enjoying the experience and how to smoke a cigar properly.
1. Cigar Language
The first step to learning how to smoke a cigar is learning the lingo.
Inside the community of cigar smokers is a language all to themselves. Men and women around the world who enjoy a good cigar have their own vocabulary.
While this is not a prerequisite to joining the community and learning how to smoke a cigar, it is not a bad idea to learn the vocab and begin talking like a cigar aficionado or, at the very least, understand the language.
CigarAficionado.com has a great Glossary of Cigar Terms that you can check out here.
2. Cigar Etiquette
The second step to learning how to smoke a cigar is learning cigar smoking etiquette.
When learning how to smoke a cigar, it is important to know some of the protocols. Cigar etiquette is there to help you and others enjoy your cigar smoking experience. Besides, most of this is common sense.
- When you enter a cigar shop with a walk-in humidor, greet the person at the counter and ask if it is okay to enter the humidor and look at the different brands of cigars. Chances are an employee will want to accompany you into the humidor and provide you with great customer service by answering any questions you may have. They may also provide you with information and insight that you may not have, or perhaps offer you deals that you may not be aware of at the time.
- If you plan to purchase 3 or more cigars, you may want to ask if there is a tray that you can use to carry the cigars. Because cigars can be inadvertently damaged, you don’t want to hold, grip, or carry multiple cigars in your hand. Be sure to treat the cigars with care.
- Cigars are not a loaf of bread, so don’t squeeze them checking for hard spots. It’s okay to check, but don’t overdo it.
- As someone new and learning how to smoke a cigar, you may see people on TV or in the movies sliding a cigar under their nose to smell it. Do not do this and then put it back. That is disgusting! Imagine if someone has stuck the cigar you are purchasing in their nose and now you are about to stick it in your mouth and smoke it. Once you buy it you can do whatever you want with the cigar.
- When smoking outdoors, and if possible, you may want to smoke your cigar downwind of nonsmokers. While you and I may love the smell of a good cigar, others may be sickened by the smell.
- If you need to use someone else’s cigar cutter, do not put your cigar in your mouth before cutting the tip. That is just as bad as sticking a cigar up your nose and putting it back.
- If you are smoking a cigar indoors and trying to stack dimes (an attempt at getting your ash as long as possible), this may not be a great idea, especially if you are new and learning how to smoke a cigar. There is a good chance you will get ash all over you, perhaps others, and defiantly on the floor. Don’t make an ash of yourself.
- A cigar is not like a cigarette, so do not smoke it like one.
- When you finish smoking your cigar, do not crush your cigar like a cigarette, but place it in the ashtray and allow it to naturally go out. If you put your cigar out like a cigarette, it will leave a bad odor.
3. The Different Types of Cigar Wrappers
The third step to learning how to smoke a cigar is learning the different kinds of cigar wrappers.
We’re going to talk about 12 shades of wrappers, and which one might be the best fit for you as someone learning how to smoke a cigar.
The wrapper plays an important role not only in the presentation of the cigar but also in the flavor you take in. That is why knowing the different kinds of wrappers and the one(s) you like is important and will enhance your experience.
While there is a number of cigar wrappers, they all basically originate from four main types – Connecticut, Corojo, Habano, and Maduro.
As its name suggests, Connecticut is homegrown and exported from right here in the good ole US of A. The Connecticut is for light and medium-bodied smokers. Not to go too deep into the weeds, there is the Ecuadorian Connecticut, and as its name suggests is made in Ecuador.
If it turns out that you are a light-bodied smoker, then this could be the perfect wrapper for you. They are typically light to medium-bodied, come with notes of cedar and spice and are smooth.
Type of Connecticut Cigars
- Aston Classic
The Corojo is typically light to medium, to full-bodied and is a slightly darker leaf grown in Honduras and can come spicy and peppery.
Type of Corojo Cigars
- Argyle Dark Corojo
- Nub Corojo
- Punch Rare Corojo
The Habano is a spicy and full-body wrapper that originated in Cuba and is now grown in Nicaragua. If you are new and learning how to smoke a cigar, this may be a bit strong for you out the gate as it is heavy with nicotine and can pack a punch.
Type of Habano Cigars
- Argyle While Glove
- Ashton Symmetry
And the fourth wrapper is the Maduro. The Maduro AKA the dessert smoke is a very dark, chocolate brown leaf that’s full-bodied with a sweet and smooth style. The Maduro has a very long growing and aging process.
Type of Maduro Cigars
- CAO Maduro
- Macanudo Maduro
4. Cigar Strength
Let’s learn about cigar strength and the difference between full strength and full-bodied. Cigars are broken down into a range of mild, medium and full. This can be confusing because the truth is, smoking can be subjective. For example, as someone learning how to smoke a cigar, you may feel as if a cigar is strong but, in reality, the flavors are just intense.
So, let’s look at the difference between strength and body.
Strength – strength is the kick that nicotine provides with the cigar. Milder cigars have less of it, and stronger cigars have more of it. Strength is how intensely you’re sensing the nicotine as you smoke.
Everyone reacts to nicotine differently, and there are certain factors that will influence how your body responds to nicotine at that moment, such as when you last ate, have you been drinking, or are you tired when start to smoke.
These will all figure into how your body responds to nicotine, whether you’ll enjoy a great buzz that tingles your senses or if you begin to sweat, get lightheaded and want to vomit.
Body – When we talk about body, this can be really open for debate for many. Here is how you can think of body as someone learning how to smoke a cigar.
Body is the feel the cigar leaves on your palate, the boldness of flavor and the intensity of the aroma along with the volume and texture of the smoke but not necessarily how strong it is.
While it may be hard to have one without the other, they are different, it really comes down to the blend.
5. Cigar Shapes and Sizes
As someone new to smoking cigars, you should know that cigar shapes and sizes can vary from brand to brand. So, describing a cigar by its size and shape is very important.
Cigars are measured by two factors, length given in inches and ring gauge.
The average length of a cigar is 4 ½ to 7 ½ inches long. A cigar’s diameter is broken up into 64th of an inch. So, for example, a cigar with a diameter of 52 is 52/64ths of an inch in diameter.
When learning how to smoke a cigar, you should know there is no correlation between the size of a cigar and its strength. A 7 ½ inch cigar made with mild tobacco will be mellow, while a thin 4 ½ inch cigar with powerful tobacco will be very full-bodied and put you on your butt.
The cigar strength is determined by the tobacco it’s rolled with: Thin cigars do tend to have a tendency to burn a bit hotter than the fatter ones. It is also important to note that there’s no consistency in strength from brand to brand, so one company’s Robusto is likely to taste very different from another company’s Robusto.
This is the benchmark size against which all other sizes are measured. The traditional dimensions are 5 ½ to 6 inches with a ring gauge of 42 to 44. An example of this would be on Monte Cristo No.3.
A Petit Corona is a miniature Corona and generally measures about 4 ½ inches with a ring gauge of 40 to 42. An example of this would be a Monte Cristo No.4.
A Robusto is a short fat cigar and is generally 4 ¾ to 5 ½ inches with a 48 to 52 ring gauge. An example of this would be a Cohiba Robusto.
Corona Gorda AKA the Toro
The traditional measurements are 5 and 5/8 inches with a ring gauge of 46. An example of this would be an Ashton VSG Corona Gorda.
The Double Corona standard dimensions are 7 ½ to 8 ½ inches with a 49 to 52 ring gauge. An example of this cigar would be an Oil de Monterrey Double Corona.
A long, thin and elegant cigar with a wide length variation of 5 to 7 ½ inches with a ring gauge of 34 to 38. Cigars longer than seven inches in this category are often referred to as Grande penitents. An example of this would be a Padron Panatela cigar.
A Lonsdale is generally longer than a corona but thicker than a Panatela with a classic size of 6 ½ inches by 42 ring gauge. An example would be a Montecristo No. 1.
Named for Sir Winston Churchill, an avid cigar smoker. The Winston Churchill cigar is a large-format Corona with standard dimensions of 7 inches with a 47-ring gauge. An example of this would be a Romeo and Juliet, the Churchill.
6. How to Cut a Cigar
As you are learning how to smoke a cigar, you should know there are a few ways to cut a cigar.
- The first way and a definite no-no and should be a part of the etiquette section of this article, never bite off the tip of the cigar. Do not gnaw on your cigar. Always use a cutter.
- The second kind of cut is called the punch cut or the bullet cut. With this method, you’re going to line the punch at the top of the cigar and in the center of the cap. This is important, you’re going to push down lightly and slowly, and you’re going to pop out a piece of the cigar. You will have a hole that looks like a bullet pierced the cigar, hence the name bullet cut. This cut makes the cigar burn hotter because of the concentration of the small hole. You must keep these blades sharp because as you’re pushing down, you’re putting pressure on the cap of the cigar, which in turn could crack the wrapper. So, you have to be very careful when you’re going to punch your cigar.
- A third way to cut a cigar is with a V cutter. With a V cut, you get a pretty deep surface on the cut. To properly execute a V cut, you will lay your cigar right on the top of the cutter and push through. Because you get a deeper surface V cut, you’re going to be able to get a lot more rounded flavor. You will get consistency with the V cut, and it can smoke cooler.
- The fourth way to cut your cigar is with a double guillotine cutter. The double blade is going to be more precise and you’re going to get a much better cut – much more even and cleaner. What you want to do is cut the cap off the cigar. First, lay the cutter up against the cigar and then cut the cigar. This cut will give the cigar a much cleaner taste because it’s going to smoke much cooler. Another great thing about the guillotine double cut is that you’re going to taste all the flavors and nuances of the cigar.
How to cut a torpedo shape cigar
To cut a torpedo shape cigar properly, you want to use a double guillotine cutter that’s open-ended on both sides. Cut about a quarter inch of the torpedo.
Caution, if you cut a torpedo shape cigar too deep, below the flag line, the cigar may unravel. But cut correctly, you will get a lot of great smoking enjoyment by tasting all the nuances and flavors of that particular torpedo and it will smoke cool.
7. How to Light a Cigar
When learning how to smoke a cigar, you must know the Do’s and Don’ts to lighting a cigar.
Torch lighter – a torch lighter is a great way to light a cigar indoors or outdoors. This particular lighter is great because it has a very accurate flame. But be aware that a torch lighter is just that, a torch. The flame from this lighter is very hot, and if not careful, will singe your cigar.
The key to lighting a cigar with the torch flame lighter is to strike the torch first, and then you want to bring the cigar just above the flame without touching the cigar, because remember, this lighter is crazy hot.
Rotate the outside of the cigar around the flame, working your way towards the middle. As you see the cherry (the burning end of the cigar) start to develop give the lit end a couple blows and you now have a lit cigar.
Soft flame lighter – A soft flame lighter is one of the most common lighters you will see on the market. These are great for lighting a cigar inside with a bit more control. Soft flame lighters can be a bit troublesome outdoors on a windy day or rainy day.
The soft flame is a very controlled and easy way to light your cigar. Simply bring the cigar gently over the flame, slowly rotate the cigar, you want to begin on the outside edges and rotate through.
Then gently move the flame towards the center, and when you see a little gray, you may want to blow on the end and when you have a nice enough cherry, take a pull.
Wooden match – a simple wooden match is old school and creates a nice soft flame and is great for lighting your cigar indoors. Bring your cigar slowly above the flame, and like all the other lighting methods, you want to slowly rotate starting with the edges and rotate your cigar.
It is best to use long wooden matches because it gives you a longer time to light the cigar instead of cheap book matches.
Cedar spills – Cedar spills are great for inside and is a nice, elegant way to light a cigar. Cedar spill is a great option when you have a lighting source that may negatively impact the flavors of the cigar.
First, light the spill and then bring your cigar over to the flame. Again, start with those edges and work your way towards the middle. Don’t be afraid to take a puff, you’ll notice with the cedar spill the flame tends to dance and jump a little bit and it forces you to take your time.
According to Cigaraficionado.com, “It’s better to avoid lighting a cigar with a flame from a source that will alter the essence of your cigar. Examples include a candle, Zippo and oil-fueled lighters, and standard sulfur matches. These lighting implements can add odd flavors to your smoke.”
8. How to Smoke a Cigar Properly
So now we get to how to smoke a cigar properly. There are many minor mistakes that beginners and experienced cigar smokers make. So, let’s learn how to smoke a cigar from start to finish and get the best experience possible.
So, let’s start with the band on your cigar. Whether you remove or leave the band is a personal preference.
If you want to remove the band, you will need to check if the band can move freely because the band itself may be stuck by glue onto the cigar wrapper. Be very gentle and see if you can safely remove the band before you light the cigar because the glue from the band can adhere to the wrapper and damage it if you try and remove it too early.
If the band can move, then you can slide it off. You can also, take the band off with your fingernail. There’s a little seam on the band where you can get your fingernail behind it and remove it. Again, be sure that the band is not stuck to the wrapper.
If the band does not move, then do not force it. Cut and light the cigar, start enjoying, and then perhaps 20 to 25 minutes into the cigar the heat generated should be enough to soften the glue on the band and if there were any bits of glue stuck to the wrapper that should have softened as well.
Controlling the temperature of the cherry is important to a good smoke. You don’t want to let the cherry go out which means you have to smoke fast enough where the cherry stays fully lit.
But at the same time, you don’t want to smoke too fast and get that cherry superheated which will create a lot of smoke and give you a bitter harsh taste.
You want the cherry as cool as possible while still being fully lit, so when you draw you want a slow smooth draw. You want to draw into your mouth, not into your lungs. Note, you don’t inhale cigars.
Draw in the flavor with a four or five count somewhere in that range and then gently allow the smoke to fall out of your mouth, you don’t need to push it out.
There is a pace and rhythm to smoking a cigar, not too fast and not too slow. Think of the pace as puff every 45 seconds to a minute and after a while it becomes natural.
Also, you want to keep the ash on the cigar to control the temperature. One of the reasons why cigars are so relaxing is that they force you into a rhythm where you have to slow down and enjoy the cigar.
Remember, as someone learning how to smoke a cigar, you don’t want to “stack dimes.” So, what do you do when it’s time to ash your cigar? Well, you don’t want to tap it like a cigarette, you simply want to roll it off.
When you have a really fine cigar and you’ve built up a quarter to half an inch of ash the best way to remove your ash is by placing your cigar on the edge of the ashtray and just giving it a small roll. The reason you don’t want to tap your cigar is it will make your ash go everywhere. Also, cigars are delicate, if you tap it a bit too hard, you’re going to crack the wrapper and ruin your smoke.
Parts of the cigar
Generally speaking, there are three main parts of a cigar – first third, middle third, and final third.
- The first third, when you first light a cigar there’s an explosion of flavor right off the bat that fills your palate, and your mouth with a punch of flavor.
- The middle third, is usually what’s considered the best part of the cigar. The middle third is where you have all the richness of all the flavor, but it hasn’t become overpowering and is not too strong.
- The final third is where the cigar will change in flavor again, it’ll be richer, fuller, and stronger. But be careful there is a point near the end of the final third where the cigar will become unpleasant. You want to stop before this point and cherish the wonderful experience you just encountered before moving on to your next cigar.
Relighting a cigar
Learning how to smoke a cigar also means learning how to relight a cigar. There are times when you may not finish a cigar, or it goes out and you want to relight that same cigar. Well, here is how you best do it.
- To relight the cigar do not relight the burnt ash of the cigar. You will need to remove all of the burnt ash (the gray and the white) from the cigar.
- First, roll off the existing ash.
- Next, use the foot of a match or a door key over the ashtray and gently remove all of the ash that you can by gently scraping it out.
- Be sure to gently scrape the black carbon off as well until you get to the tobacco without cracking the wrapper of the cigar.
- Now that you have gotten down to the tobacco you will repeat the steps on how to light a cigar.
9. How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Cigar?
In learning how to smoke a cigar, we have talked about not smoking too fast or too slowly but having a rhythm. But you still may be wondering, how long does it take to smoke a cigar. Well, the answer depends on the cigar, but ultimately it is up to you. If you want to enjoy the entire cigar down to the nub, then go for it. If you only want to smoke half the cigar, then it is your right under the Cigar Constitution (Not a real thing).
Here is a general guideline on three different sizes and how much time you should set aside to smoke a cigar.
Remember, a Robusto averages 4 ¾ to 5 ½ inches with a 48 to 52 ring gauge. To get the optimal enjoyment, you want to set aside at least 45 minutes to an hour. Now, can you smoke it in a shorter time frame? Certainly, but notice I said, for optimal enjoyment.
Corona Gorda AKA the Toro
The traditional measurements are 5 and 5/8 inches with a ring gauge of 46. To get the optimal experience with this beauty, you want to carve out at least an hour and a half. Again, you can smoke it in a shorter time frame, but we are talking about getting the best experience possible. Be sure to take a puff once a minute so the cigar burns nice, slow and even but not too hot.
Lonsdale & Winston Churchill
For the bigger cigars you want 2 hours to enjoy the best flavors of this beast.
10. How Not to Get Sick Smoking a Cigar?
As someone new and learning how to smoke a cigar, here is something that may inevitability happen, you will get sick. Don’t feel bad, even experienced cigar smokers get sick.
Here are some steps to help mitigate your chances of getting sick.
- First, try a milder cigar at the start. We talked about the different wrappers and the impact nicotine has on the cigar and its punch. After reading this article you are more than ready to choose a mild cigar. But you can always ask the cigar shop owner to make recommendations.
- Second, do not smoke a cigar on an empty stomach. Your bloodstream in the morning is going to absorb it all, and with too much nicotine in the bloodstream, you may get sick. Be sure to eat before smoking a cigar, no matter if the cigar is mild or full-bodied.
- The third is something we talked about before but bears repeating. Do not inhale the cigar, it is not a cigarette.
- Fourth is smoking a cigar with alcohol. So, it is well known that cigars and alcohol go great together. What is not known is that drinking and smoking too fast may get you sick. Drinking and smoking too fast will get the room spinning faster than a deejay at a singles party. The pairing of a great cigar and a nice drink is meant to be enjoyed over time. Again, it is about the experience, so please just enjoy it.
11. How to Store Cigars Cheaply
As someone learning how to smoke cigars, you should know that smoking cigars can get pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. As you begin smoking cigars, you will ultimately purchase cigars that are expensive and others that are more reasonably priced. Then you will find that family and friends will gift you with cigars. By the way, cigars are always a great present.
But now that you have built up a collection of great cigars it is time to store them. There are several ways to store cigars such as with a traditional desktop humidifier, wine adores, and travel humidors.
But here is the best and most cost-efficient way to store cigars, the Tupperdor.
The Tupperdor is extremely simple and easy to use and most cost-effective compared to other options. The Tupperdor is airtight and sealed all around.
- Purchase an airtight Tupperware container.
- Place your cigars in the Tupperware.
- Place the cedar on top of the bottom layered cigars and add additional cigars on top of the cedar.
- Maintain humidity by placing a Boveda pack 69% RH inside the Tupperware.
- Put the lid on and now you have a Tupperdor. It’s as easy as that.
Here is a great video by The Humidor: How Do You Smoke a Cigar? | Cigars for Beginners
Q. What if I get sick smoking a cigar?
A. Get sugar into your body. The sugar will raise your blood sugar and help keep your stomach settled. Try sugar packets or a mint. Another option is to drink whole milk.
Q. Should I remove the cigar band?
A. There is no hard and fast rule related to the band. It is a personal preference. It is important to know that if you plan to remove the band, make sure that the band is not stuck to the wrapper with glue as this can destroy the cigar.
Q. Am I supposed to inhale a cigar.
A. No. I cigar is not a cigarette, and you should never inhale a cigar. Draw on the cigar and allow the smoke to fall out of your mouth.
Q. Do you smoke a cigar all the way down?
A. How far you smoke your cigar is a personal preference. Some may only smoke half a cigar and then there are those who will smoke it to the nub. What’s important is that you enjoy the experience.
There you have it, you now know how to smoke a cigar. It is important to know that you do not need to spend a lot of money on cigars or products such as lighters or humidors. Implement the steps above and you are sure to have a great smoke. Cigars are really about good conversations, relaxing, and enjoying the experience.
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