By improving our cigar knowledge, we get to love our fine cigars even more. It makes our hobby so much more interesting and intriguing.
There is a lot of cigar information out there. Most of it is sponsored by companies selling cigars. If you are tired of marketing and sales driven messages and want to get into the real world of cigars, this place is for you.
Becoming a cigar lover is not for everyone and becoming cigar savvy is for even less people. Cigar savvy people might not be able to see their tobacconist the same again. Luckily there are open-minded and savvy tobacconists too, and we are honored to know they like what we do.
What is a premium cigar?
A premium cigar is an agricultural gourmet product, made with natural dry tobacco leaves rolled together according to a centuries long tradition. It was recognized as intangible cultural heritage in Honduras in 2016. More countries are working to obtain a similar recognition from their own governments.
In this page, and in virtually all the rest of our website, we focus on premium cigars. Therefore, when we write “cigar” please understand we refer to a “premium cigar”, unless we specify otherwise.
Change the way you choose your cigars
First, if you are a beginner, it’s not because you are that you should smoke cheap and light strength cigars. We met spirits professionals starting to enjoy cigars, or people who eat spicy food very regularly. If you are shopping for your first cigars and nobody asks you questions to understand how your palate could receive your first cigars, or if you are a woman and you are recommended a flavored cigar, change advisor until you find one with cigar knowledge.
Define your priorities and preferences
There are many aspects to enjoying a good cigar, like mood, company, place, time and so on. But those are for later, when you decide you are going to smoke the cigar(s) that you have already procured. What do you do when you have not purchased your cigars yet and you want to make educated purchases?
Define your priorities and preferences for at least the following criteria:
there is no need to start with the lightest cigars. Try the different nicotine levels, so you can make sure you understand what your choice means to you
it’s easier to start with larger ring gauges, for example 50-54 / 64, as thinner gauges may require more attention
not very important when you are starting, best is to try different wrappers, but pay attention to not inherit the most common bias
flavors and tastes
87% of cigar lovers consider “flavors” as the most important criterion when choosing a cigar, welcome to our tribe! This is probably the most difficult part when you are approaching cigars unless you already have some sensory knowledge of other gourmet products. This is why you will find below the guidance you need to start fully enjoying the cigars you’ll buy.
Ask for advice
The best advice you can get is fully independent. We recognize it might be hard to find, as most sources available today are not independent, so we also identified other factors that we highly recommend consumers to take into consideration before accepting advice on cigars to buy: accuracy, discovery, transparency, customer respect, personalization, cigar knowledge in recommendation engines, privacy.
In order to get full pleasure from your cigars, look for professionals, they are not numerous but they exist. We also offer a free membership that gets you started with personalized cigar recommendations.
Change the way you taste cigars
Everybody has the best taste in the world but only you can fully understand your own taste. If you do, or allow your independent advisor to help you, you will enjoy all the cigars you’ll buy. Because when you’ll start to gain awareness of what you like and do not like, you’ll be able to ask for the best cigars for you. First, in order to be understood by others, there is a taxonomy that we highly encourage you to start using.
Your olfactory and gustatory senses are extremely important to enjoy cigars. The recognition of tastes and tactile perceptions is rather easy (here is also an easy exercise you can do), but aromas are much more complex to identify. You can do different things to help you in that:
- use the aromas wheel
- develop your nose
- apply tasting methods that will make it easier to differentiate your sensations. One of them is comparative tasting
The knowledge of the tasting itself
Before you even light your loved cigar, it’s good to know that the raw tasting is a prelude that does not necessarily give us a reliable prediction of the actual aromas we will encounter after we light our Caribbean (flue-cured tobacco) cigar. Some considerations on the observations of a cigar when it’s lit extend to the mechanics. Btw, when talking about the cigar construction, let’s not fall into myths and traps of the popular cigar knowledge. Talking about misconceptions, there is one that is noteworthy: did you know that the term “body” has at least 7 different meanings? Here are some other generic cigar myths.
But do not forget to enjoy them
Connoisseurs like to age cigar, ou bien les laisser vieillir. They also like to experiment different pairings. Here are a few ideas: champagne and sake.
But if you like to be off the beaten track, you could experience music (Strauss or Chopin), perfumes (and here how to create your own pairings with perfumes) or balsamic vinegar.
There is a professional role in the industry, called cigar sommelier, who takes pairings to the next level. We recorded an audio seminar which is a master class with strategies and tips on gourmet pairings (paid Members).
It’s all about the experience, but also about the culture
Experience and culture determine our taste, but also the way we go about our loved hobby. Many aficionados love the networking and the friendship that cigars inspire. Some want to undertake a true career and apply a commonly adopted language. Among them there are very experienced cigar lovers, like the Habanos world challenge champions, or the Hombres Habanos. You can meet them at certain events, or read about them in certain books. One of the books that offers a good analysis of the social and cultural aspects of the cigar is this one.
Consumers get smarter, unfortunately regulators do not follow that trend. This is why it is very important to fight for our rights to enjoy our cigars and understand what’s behind the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness (for people’s health) of today’s anti-tobacco measures applied to premium cigars. You can listen to educative audio seminars on this and many other topics here (paid Members).
And when giving cigars to our loved friends, best is to put them (and not us) into the main scene of the gift.
Challenge your cigar knowledge
Dedicated to cigar reviewers, but not only
Paying attention to our biases is extremely important, especially if we want to share what we think of a cigar with a larger group of people. In fact, whoever reviews cigars has responsibilities towards the rest of the community. Many people read and listen for entertainment. However, this does not exonerate us to respect the persons who are supposed to buy that cigar.
We owe respect to the cigar consumer, even if it’s not consumers who pay our bills. Well, in the case of Cigar Sense, they are, although we also serve retailers and manufacturers/distributors. In short, independence and objectivity are possible, even when working with cigar companies. If professionalism in cigar testing is important, there is a path that we at Cigar Sense wish many other reviewers would follow, so the industry could embrace consumer needs on more fair and solid grounds. Objectivity is the keyword, we explain this in a podcast episode, as well as in audio seminars: what is sensory science, what benefits does it offer to the cigar industry and why is it important for cigar consumers?
Consumers are very exposed to the new cigars hype, especially when it’s top cigars time. We are excluded from consensus lists because of our principles. Our top cigars lists, in fact, are totally different from those of sponsored media: they reflect what consumers like.
Looking for practical tips such as cutting and lighting your cigar? Here is a rather complete article. If you are looking for basic knowledge or other topics we haven’t covered yet, let us know. You can also check the Cigar Journal knowledge page.
Cigar Sense predicts which cigars best fit your personal taste.
We are committed to preserve the highest objectivity, integrity and independence in the creation and dissemination of our analyses. This is why we do not sell cigars, nor cigar ads.
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