Cigar primer for new smokers

Discussion in 'The Speakeasy' started by mano, Mar 25, 2007.

  1. There are several threads here from people new to cigars asking about what they should try in order to learn more about cigars. Invariably, they receive dozens of suggestions from folks who have their own personal favorites and their simple question quickly yields overwhelming and confusing information. It’s kind of like someone from another country and culture asking “what type of food should I try now that I'm here in the USA?

    In order to make things easier for people interested in taking up cigar smoking, here are a few observations and suggestions in no particular order.

    1. Your introduction to cigars should include primarily mild or mild-medium strength cigars. Most all veteran cigar smokers started this way and as their tastes evolved, many moved on to more complex and stronger cigars.

    2. You’ll want to try a variety of cigars to begin with so don’t even think about buying a box until you have a clear idea about what you really like. It’s no different than buying a sampler pack of DE blades.

    3. Go to your local cigar store and tell them you’re new to cigars and get recommendations for 3-4 or enough cigars you’ll smoke within a week or less. Decide how much you want to spend on each cigar and keep it reasonable. You may not get a decent cigar for $2.00 but you don’t want to spend $10.00 for a cigar you hate. After smoking them, return and buy several more. If you purchase too many they’ll dry out and won’t be a good representation of what that particular cigar actually has to offer.

    4. Go to on-line cigar forums such as Herfers Paradise and Cigar Weekly. These sites are particularly friendly to newbies. Register and go to the buy/trade forums and click on the Newbie Sampler Trade Thread. You’ll be treated extremely well by the FOG’s (F***ing Old Guys) who will sell you a sample pack of cigars usually at a fraction of the retail cost.

    5. Buy/smoke corona and robusto sized cigars that’ll last 30-45 minutes. You’re new to smoking and smoking a large cigar may be too much and make the experience unpleasant.

    6. A cigar someone else likes may not be to your liking. Allow your own tastes to evolve without thinking you should like a particular brand because someone else does.

    7. If you decide to read cigar magazines and their ratings and reviews, use them as a guide only and not as gospel.

    8. Buy a decent cigar cutter and a torch lighter.

    9. Smoking cigars is generally very relaxing, but for new smokers even mild cigars may cause nausea. Take your time between puffs and don’t inhale. Include food and a beverage if you’re so inclined.

    10. Over time you’ll learn about different brands, construction, wrappers, fillers and sizes. Go to and check out jr university to learn more.

    11. After your own personal tastes begin to develop, consider buying a box. Prices on-line are generally less than brick and mortar shops, but there’s something to be said for supporting your local tobacconist.

    No doubt the cigar smokers here at B&B will want to add to this thread so go at it!
  2. Because it cant be said enough: Do not inhale.

    Its best to start out with a bit of something in your stomach, or drink something while you're smoking.

    Butane, the more refined the better. Dont burn the cigar, just lick the heat of the flame over the foot.
  3. Great advice for the cigar newbie. Remember personal taste is the thing, in time taste will evolve. Pairing cigars with food and wine can be an art form, and in my PERSONAL experience, trying cigars for the first time without food works well since you can get a true tast for the cigar. Wine, alcohol and food all can change the taste of a cigar, and vice versa.

  4. This is very good advice when i first started I would puff on em like mad and ended up sick,dizzy and the cigar did not taste very I take my time, I would say I puff about every 30 seconds to a minute, they taste better and last a long time. Also found out that the taste changes and gets better at the end of the stick.
    Also if you decide to buy a humidor do not buy those cheap humidors off of ebay, buy a quality humidor from a cigar shop or a reputable dealer online. I made the mistake of buying a beautiful humidor from a guy on ebay and the damn thing started falling apart before I seasoned it and when I did start using it all the glue would run off and the inside drawers all warped.
    My friend paid a bit more for his plain looking humidor from a local cigar shop and it works just fine. You can also make your own hunmidor, not hard at all if you have the tools or take a woodworking shop at a community college.
  5. Relax and take your time when smoking a cigar --it's not a race.

    I concur with everthing Mano has presented above. I'll add the following:

    If you're a US citizen/resident, forget about Havanas; they have been subject to the US embargo on Cuban goods for 45 years. What you have available to you from your buddies/coworkers as Havanas are counterfeits. Seasoned, serious, veteran cigar smokers have their legitimate sources for the real deal and quietly go about enjoying them. Many (but not all) Havanas can overwhelm a new smoker, and as a new smoker you can't appreciate them anyway, so why seek them out when starting? They really aren't a holy grail or anything. Besides, there are many excellent available cigars from Honduras, Miami, Nicaragua, The Domican Republic that are a great starting point for a new smoker, and are very enjoyable.

    After you've smoked a couple of dozen cigars, don't try to impress anybody else. Just quietly bask in your own enjoyment.

    If you take up Cigars, you'll quickly develop preferences of your own, just as you have with shaving stuff. It, too, is a wonderful hobby. Depending on the depth of your involvement, you can spend far more money on cigars, humidors, lighters, cutters, cases, etc., than you ever would on shaving stuff, although this is hardly necessary.

    The recommendation to visit cigar interest BBS's and websites is certainly worthwhile, and the folks there will certainly welcome you.

    -- John Gehman, FOG.
  6. Good values:

    Arturo Fuente 858 (natural or Maduro. my personal preference is maduro)
    La Gloria Cubana Wavell Maduro
    Padron 2000 or 3000 in maduro (natural is good too)
    CAO Anniversary Cameroon, Maduro, or Extreme in corona or Robusto sizes.

    good places to buy online: (they have good 5 and 10-packs which let you sample cigars without committing to a box, and are a bargain if you live in CA with an immense tobacco tax) (good too)

    on cubans:
    Basically unless you read up on how to detect counterfeit cuban cigar bands (and boxes/stamps/stickers) only trust established cigar-message-board members, or your friends who buy the cigars from duty-free shops.

    my favorite cubans include:
    partagas serie d #4
    partagas shorts
    montecristo #2
    montecristo #3
    bolivar royal corona

    oddly, I've never had a cohiba cuban, and those are among the most (in)famous and often counterfeited.
  7. I'd like to keep this thread focused on trying to help and guide new cigar smokers and maybe later on get into recs for more experienced smokers.

    Generally speaking (and I'm being very general here) new smokers enjoy mild or mild-medium cigars made in the Dominican Republic with Conneticut or EMS wrappers. They find cigars from Nicaragua or Honduras and those with maduro wrappers to be too strong. Below are some brands that have been around for a long time because they're well made reasonably priced cigars that maintain good quality control. This is not intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive list, but just a starting point for new smokers. Although I personally haven't smoked many of these cigars in years, IMO a new smoker can't go too wrong with any of these:

    Montecristo original
    Ashton original
    Avo Classic (relatively expensive)
    CAO gold
    Cuesta Rey
    Dunhill Dominican
    Arturo Fuente (green band)
    Nat Sherman
    Romeo y Julieta Vintage
    Montesino R

    FWIW, Macanudo is the best selling cigar brand in the USA and is considered too mild for many experienced cigar smokers. Macs or Macanoodles are often derided on cigar BB's because they are considered bland. The reality is, they're the cigar many veteran smokers started with because they're consistently well made and have a nice flavor profile.

    For those of you interested in buying a good quality reasonably priced humidor, check out JRCigars. The fellow who makes the humidors for them has put a lot of time and research into giving the best bang for the buck. Sometimes (not as often as they used to :mad: ) JR sells humidors as part of a package deal if you buy a box of cigars. The humidors end up being sold close to cost or even as a loss leader.

    Also check out and give them a call to see if they have any scratch and dent humidors. They're usually the Savoy brand and are often available at deep discounts.
  8. Although I want this thread to be positively toned, new smokers will certainly benefit from justified warnings. Here are two:

    1. Most tobbaconnists know their stuff and will provide good guidance; however there are some that really don't know much about cigars and they'll guide you accordingly and incorrectly. There are some that will knowingly direct you to the most expensive cigars, but I find the ignorant retailer is more prevelant than the unscrupulous. Don't be afraid to walk out.

    2. Don't buy from Thompsons. They are masters at marketing but they usually charge higher prices on widely distributed cigars carried by everyone else. Their own line of cigars or brands that are carried only by them usually suck beyond belief despite the great descriptions in their flyers. Their package deals usually include poorly made humidors.
  9. Good info, so far :cool:

    I'd like to add
    to the mix.
    Between them, JR and Holts
    who needs to shop anywhere else ??
  10. personally, I feel that Fuentes are (gasp) over priced. they are a good cigar and very consistant. it was my 1st hand rolled.

    El Rey del Mundo is a great cigar at a good price. the Robusto Largas are my go to cigar in maduro...

    even though I enjoy a cuban every now and then, the price aint worth it. most of the cubans around the states are counterfit and getting them in Mexico aint any better...
  11. First suggestion, support your local brick & mortar shop! A good relationship with a knowlegable tobacconist is very valuable. Understandably, not everyone lives in an area where this is possible, but if you do, take advantage of it.

    If you must go online, the previous suggestions are all great ones. Samplers and 5 packs are great ways to take advantage of picking up a variety without breaking the bank.

    On Cubans, I wouldn't even bother right away. There are plenty of quality non-Cuban offerings out there these days and the chase and expense are really not worth it. I enjoy them from time to time, but not nearly as much as I used to. Perhaps this is just me. Once you've developed a good taste for cigars and some knowlege as well as reputable connections, then you'll enjoy them more. I wouldn't get serious about spending money on Cubans until you can easily identify fakes by using more than just the bands as indications of authenticity or not.

    Keep in mind that good cigars are handmade items, and there will always be some level of variation, even within the same brand. This is why I usually recommend picking new cigars to try in 2's if possible. Plugs and burn problems do happen. As you move into the upper pricing bracket things like this become less common because of higher grade tobacco and quality control, but now we're talking about $8+ a stick. When you get into these respected high brands you get what you pay for in terms of quality. Of course that doesn't factor in personal tastes...

    As for what to try. Don't be so brand focused in the beggining. Everyone will recommend a variety of reputable brands, most of which are good recommendations. I suggest focusing on trying different types of cigars and finding which offer the characteristics you find appealing. The size and shape makes a huge impact on how the cigar smokes and it's flavor profile. A narrow ring cigar has less filler, therefor more of the flavor is from the wrapper leaf, usually resulting in a more concentrated flavor profile. On the other hand a large ring gauge cigar has more filler leaf content and that typically allows for more flavor range and complexity. This is just a generalization of course, different brands will vary.

    Also make sure you sample different wrapper types (Cameroon, Corojo, Rosado, Maduro, Sungrown, Ecuador, Sumatra, etc). The same filler will taste entirely different depending what what kind of leaf the cigar is wrapped with. Each offer their own characteristics and becoming familiar with those first will help you narrow down your choices real fast. Do some reading up in the various cigar books and online sources, I couldn't possibly go into all the detail in this here. This is also where a good local tobacconist can be a huge help.

    Above all, ask questions! Your fellow cigar smoking brethren love talking about cigars and offering advice and suggestions. I could go on for hours, lol

    Btw, I used to be a tobacconist so this subject is very dear to me :biggrin:
  12. Another excellent resource is You can buy from merchants in an auction-style format, and good deals are plentiful.

    Another mild starter stick is the Dannemann Espada Sumatra. Not too many tobacconists carry them, but you can get them online.
  13. Once you find the cigars that treat you the best try, oh and they have chewgars for your dogs if you have any.


  14. Nice! Thanks guys!
  15. Outstanding post Mano!!! :thumbup:
    A great guide for those new to smoking cigars as well as seasoned aficionados.

    Mike makes some terrific points too.:thumbup1:
    Get to know a knowlegable tobacconist at the B&M. They can make all the difference in your cigar enjoyment. I agree with him about Cubans (sometimes referred to as ISOM). IMHO, many are over rated and almost all of them will need lots of humidor time when you get one. 1-2 years in some cases, because over the last few years Cuban manufactuers have been in a hurry to get product to market. I would also add to his comments about cigar sizes that larger ring sizes can be more complex because they allow for more filler but they usually burn cooler too. The narrower the ring size the hotter it will burn, especially if you power puff. I will take a draw every 30-40 seconds with a robusto, but about every 45-60 seconds with a corona.

    You will find that cigar lovers love to talk about their hobby as much as wet shavers do.

    Just my $01.5
  16. bump in consideration of recent posts re: "I'm a new cigar smoker, what do others suggest?"
  17. Baloosh

    Baloosh Contributor

    One tip I've not seen yet in this thread (sorry if I missed it):

    Don't touch the actual flame of the lighter to any part of the cigar. You want to use only the heat from the area JUST above the flame... never touch the flame directly to the cigar.

    Helps keep that "ashey" taste out of the milder cigars.
  18. Go to your local store- make friends with the tobacconist

    Ask for help. Don't be afraid to say I'm not ready to spend $x yet, better than trying to look pretentious and wandering out with a cheap cigar. (I hang out at my B&M, and see guys ask for the most expensive, and after we tell them we have em, proceed to grab the cheapest thing in the humidor)

    Get a nice tupperware to use as a 'dor

    Ignore the reviews, smoke what you like

    Cutting belicosos, etc- cut so that you keep the belicoso shape, yet enough so you can draw (its painful watching someone try to smoke out of a hole the size of a straw on a Beli, especially after the tar builds up)
  19. When I first started smoking cigars I found that drinking water rather than something that would take away from the taste of the cigar helped. It also cleanses your pallet through out the cigar for its various changes.
  20. Coffee is another great partner to any smoke. One thing to watch out for is the combination tobacco and caffeine jolt. If you're inexperienced it can hit ya pretty hard.

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