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Cigars for Dummies

Updated on October 16, 2018
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Steven is rebel without a cause and a lover of all things NOT bedazzled.

Cigars need not be a mystery, Gents.

Cigars used to be such a mystery to me, one shrouded in a thick haze of lingo, weird-looking tools, and endless variety. I felt very much out of place in a conversation on the subject (not to mention inside a tobacconist shop) like I was a simpleton butting into a conversation among nobles. The fact is, either someone took the time to teach them or they spent time getting to know cigars. If the latter is true, then they too were subjected to the embarrassments of the ignorant at one time or another. Here we will try to save you that awkward initiation, as I also went through it the hard way and see no reason to perpetuate a fear based solely on unawareness that will inevitably lead to a disinterest in cigars completely.

Understanding how you smoke cigars

Let’s get to know them a little. There are really only two basic subjects that help you identify and smoke the cigar of your preference; your draw style and the types of cigars available. The rest is lingo. Your draw is the way in which you pull out the smoke. Some have a powerful intake and therefore have a heavy draw; they would prefer a cigar with a thicker ring size, or diameter. Those individuals with a lighter draw will enjoy a thinner variety, or smaller ring size. If a person with a heavy draw were to smoke a cigarillo, a thin cigarette-shaped cigar, it could potentially burn their mouths and throat with the hot smoke, but the heat that is produced would inevitably scorch the smoke, making it bitter and unsavory to the smoker. Likewise, it would be difficult for someone with a light draw to get any smoke from a thick cigar.

Understanding the types of cigars that are available

The next category defines the cigars themselves. They are placed into ranks according to shapes, and then distinguished by their color, which tells you how much body and flavor the cigar is likely to have. From largest and longest to smallest and thinnest, the following are the names of the shapes:

Name/ Length

Ring Gauge

Presidente- 7-8”


Churchill- 6 ½ -7”


Toro- 6-6 ½”


Torpedo- 5 ½ -6 ½”


Lonsdale- 6 -6 ½”


Panatela- 5 ½ -6 ½”


Corona- 5 ½ -6”


Robusto- 4 ½ -5”


You can forget about the names though. You need only to go to the cigar store and tell your new tobacconist that you are a new cigar enthusiast and you are trying to find the right cigar for you. He or she will make some suggestions in order to figure out your draw style and taste preference. Don’t be worried if the choices seem extreme from each other, they know what they are doing. At first you will not have any idea what your ideal stogie is so there is a necessary trial and error period in which you will smoke some cigars that you do not like, others that you love, and some that will grow on you after repeated tastes. Try to remember that this is a leisure activity and shouldn't be stressful at all. Have a little fun!

Becoming a true connoisseur of the stogie

The color of the leaf, or wrap, will vary depending several factors: the manufacturer, the style of cigar it is and the region it was grown in. This will help you distinguish between the strengths and tastes that each cigar is likely to have. The general rule is: the darker the leaf, the stronger the cigar. It rates like wine on the body and flavor scale. Connoisseurs taste the intake, the exhale, and the after aroma of the tobacco to declare quality, but that kind of ability won’t come right away to most smokers, if it comes at all.

Before you can light your new cigar you have to cut the head, or the mouthpiece. There will be a cap around the end that is both keeping the cigar together and closing off the end. This cap is made from the piece of leaf that is remaining when the cigar was rolled; it is visible upon inspection of the head. Find this cap and be sure that when you cut you do not go above this area or your stogie will annoyingly unravel. There are now cutters that can ensure you never go above the cap, one style punches a small hole in the end of the head and retracts the small core that is ejected. This is aptly named a 'punch' cut. Another cutting style is the 'wedge' or 'V' cut which takes a triangular-ish portion of the head off. Of course, the traditional guillotine cutters and scissors are still available and will produce a strait cut across the tip of the head. The scissors are an elegant option but cumbersome to carry.

How to properly light a cigar

Light the cigar with a butane lighter. There are a dozen different opinions out there concerning whether to use cedar matches or to avoid the fuel taste from the Zippo’s, just wade through all the crap with me and get a butane torch. When you strike the igniter, keep the flame from actually touching the tobacco instead using the heat to light it as you slowly roll the cigar to ensure even burning. Repeat the lighting and rolling process as you puff on it lightly (If you have to really suck on the thing to get it going, you are a light- draw smoking a heavy- draw cigar, or the cigar is plugged due to a rolling error). Pull on it slowly then let it be for 30 seconds to let the burn get steady and consistent. Enjoy.

Your comments are always welcome on my sites. If you have more up to date information, please educate myself and my readers. Thank you.

© 2010 Steven P Kelly


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