How to improve your cigar knowledge

This new cigar knowledge guide is for beginners and experienced cigar smokers. In fact, there are always new ways to further learn about cigars and enhance our experience with them. Knowledge makes us love our fine cigars even more and makes our hobby so much more interesting and intriguing.


What is a premium cigar?

premium cigars (jump to "definition") is an agricultural gourmet product, made with natural tobacco leaves rolled together according to a centuries long tradition. It was recognized as intangible cultural heritage in Honduras in 2016. Hear from the voice of Maya Selva the rationale behind her efforts to accomplish such recognition. More countries are working to obtain a similar recognition from their own governments.

How to 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 what you might best enjoy, or if you are a woman and you are recommended a flavored cigar, change advisor until you find a good one.

Here is an article that can guide you further in your choice of new cigars to try.

Define your priorities and preferences

There are many aspects to enjoying a good cigar, like mood, company, place, time available 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 want to buy new cigars and you want to make educated purchases?

Define your priorities and preferences for at least the following criteria:

nicotine strength:

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

gauge

it's easier to start with larger ring gauges, for example 50-54 / 64, as thinner gauges may require more attention

price

even a "wow" cigar can be memorable without being expensive and there are innumerable choices on the market. You may want to choose cigars of different price ranges, based on your budget

wrapper

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 "flavor" 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 to fully enjoy the cigars you'll buy. We also recorded an intense session that discusses different aspects of the sensory approach to cigars.

Ask for advice

We recognize it might be hard to find some fully independent advice, as most sources are not. Most retailers have online recommender capabilities. If you are discerning like us, there are more factors that play a role: accuracydiscovery, transparency, customer respect, personalization, cigar knowledge, privacy. A good brick and mortar retailer will try to understand you before suggesting any cigar you should buy.

Before asking anyone an advice on cigars that you to buy (it's your money!), we highly recommend you ask about the quality of a recommending source and the experience that other users had with such source.  Did they truly enjoy the cigars you bought following their advice? Or did you just conform to the idea that you should be open to try any new cigar? It's a good approach, but not so good if you value the taste of your cigar.

So, in order to get the 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.

On cigar tasting

Everybody has the best taste in the world but only you can fully understand your own taste. If you do, or allow an expert 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. Being able to be understood by experts is very important. Else, you may end up describing a cigar through the popular term "body", has at least 8 different meanings.  There are also a lot of myths and legends in the cigar world. If you'd like to debunk more, here are some other generic cigar myths.

A few initial exercises

There is no need to study the human anatomy. However, our 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:

The knowledge of the tasting itself

Before you even light your loved cigar, it's enjoy a prelude. The raw tasting is a great practice to open the tasting. However, it 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. Many people learn a lot about the cigar construction, this is an area that most manufacturers like to focus on when they educate consumers. It can be important, but let's not fall into myths and traps. In fact, today most producers have excellent quality assurance and control processes, therefore we can expect that almost every cigar draws correctly and looks beautiful.

The nicotine strength is important and its performance adds to quality and balance. A cigar complexity is another interesting topic, just as the evolution of a cigar as it is smoked is.

But do not forget to enjoy them

Connoisseurs like to age cigars or, as they say in French, 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 is 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 offer 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 new cigar knowledge

Quiz No. 1
Quiz No. 2
Quiz No. 3
Quiz No. 4 - The Senses
Quiz No. 5 - The "Raw" Cigar
Quiz No. 6 - Myths, Biases, ...?
Are you a discerning cigar consumer?

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 and, hopefully, find the same sensory characteristics that are evoked in the reviews.

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: sensory science offers many benefits to the cigar industry and, very important, to cigar consumers as well.

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.

Resources for further cigar knowledge

Cigar Sense Podcast
Cigar Sense Parlor
Cigar Lover's Virtual Seminars (paid Members)

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.

Not a member?

 

How to choose a cigar

How to choose your cigar

  Maybe somebody gave you a cigar once and you loved it. This is how most of us started this […]

Cigar Sense Parlor

The Cigar Sense Parlor

  The Cigar Sense Parlor is the place where we discuss uncommon, meaningful topics that are relevant to discerning cigar […]

Constantin Heitkamp in the Cigar Sense Parlor

The science of cigar tasting

  When enjoying a cigar, everything is fair. But the science of cigar tasting becomes important when focusing on a […]