The St. Augustine Tobacco Company
123 St. George Street Suite #9
Saint Augustine, Florida 32084
Cigar smoking is a journey that appeals to your senses. With so many sizes, shapes, colors and brands of cigars in the marketplace today, choosing the right cigar or any cigar for that matter can seem like mission impossible. When it comes to choosing a cigar, there are several factors that you will want to take into consideration, all of which will play a part in your decision making process. One of the first criteria for choosing a cigar should be the size and shape of the cigar. Secondly you should visually examine the color and the appearance of the cigar. Third, you want to check out the construction and freshness of the cigar. Fourth you want to consider the length of your cigar and how much time you have to smoke and enjoy it. And last but not least you want to consider what price range you want to pay for your cigar.
Before I dive a little further into the 5 points you should take into consideration when selecting a cigar I want you to know that there is no right or wrong way when it comes to choosing a cigar. Cigars are about taste and preference. Cigars are also about trial and error with a splash of information and adventure thrown in. We all start off as novice cigar smokers and build our foundation with information and by smoking a wide repertoire of different cigars.
Deciding what cigar is right for you can be a time consuming and sometimes a complicated process especially if you are just starting to discover the cigar smoking world and its traditions. The best piece of advice that I can give to those just starting out is to be adventuresome and try different brands of cigars. Start out by trying milder cigars and work your palate through to stronger cigars. By a little experimenting you will find a range of taste, favor and strength that will appeal to your senses.
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Let’s start out by examining the size and shape of cigars. There are many different sizes and shapes of cigars produced in the marketplace. But most manufacturers will combine and pair various lengths with a particular ring gauge that will provide optimal smoking qualities. Length is the measurement of your cigar in inches. Ring gauge is the thickness or girth of your cigar expressed in 64ths of an inch. Just like in jewelry. If you placed a ring around a cigar a 64 ring gauged cigar would translate to be an inch in diameter. Most standard sized cigars fall between a 32 ring gauge and a 52 ring gauge. The ring gauge or diameter of your cigar has to do with how much of the cigars burning tip is exposed to the air. Most cigar smokers believe that the coolness of your smoke has more to do with the diameter or width of your cigar than the length. The wider the cigar, the greater the exposure to the air, the slower they burn and the cooler the smoke will be. I’ve read some interesting articles on selecting sizes and shapes of cigars.
They say men shouldn’t smoke smaller cigars, women shouldn’t smoke large cigars. Contrary to popular belief, there are no hard and fast rules or guidelines for choosing the proper sized cigar. You want to select a cigar that feels both comfortable in your hand and in your mouth. After all you are going to be spending some time together. If one or the other is uncomfortable you will not enjoy your smoking experience to its fullest potential.
Because we don’t have x-ray vision, we can’t see the filler and binder tobacco’s which are blended in the interior of our cigar. So the color and appearance of the cigar wrapper becomes very important because it is our only visual connection and clue to help us select a cigar. Cigar wrappers can fall into over 60 specific formal classifications of color.
For simplicity they are divided into 6 common categories. I’ll address wrapper classifications in more detail in another segment of the website, but for right now you need to know that the color of the wrapper does not necessary indicate its strength or let us know what type of tobacco was used for blending. If you are a novice smoker, this would be a good time to gain some great knowledge from your tobacconist. They should be able to help educate you on the different wrapper classifications and how they affect the taste, flavor, and balance of the cigar you might be interested in choosing.
Other factors to look for in appearance include looking for wrappers that have an oily sheen quality to them. You also want to glance at the cigar to make sure that the wrapper is intact and smoothly wrapped around the cigar with consistent color in the wrapper. You do not want to choose a cigar whose wrapper is torn or cracked. Also choose a cigar with minimal veining and very few spots or blemishes on the wrapper.
Your cigars construction and freshness is also another factor to take into consideration when choosing a cigar. In addition to the visual appeal of your cigar, it also needs to be well made. The cigar’s construction will help determine how smooth and even the draw is when you go to smoke your cigar. .
One way of checking the construction and freshness of your cigar is called the pinch test. If you are gentle, most tobacco shops won’t mind or object if you give their cigars a gentle pinch. Remember I said a gently pinch not squeeze the stuffing out of it. This technique allows you to “lightly pinch” the cigar between your thumb and index finger. The wrapper should have a little elasticity and indent ever so slightly. As you do this, make sure the cigars exterior doesn’t have any lumps or rock hard spots. Also check the body of the cigar to make sure that it is not too soft, mushy, or void of filling. You want the cigar to have a nice even consistency. A hard lump or hard spot might indicated that the cigar is not going to draw well. Too mushy or soft might indicate that the cigar is not properly rolled or is over humidified.
Two cigar tests that you SHOULD NOT DO include rolling the cigar near your ear or smelling it up close with that big nose of yours. These supposedly sophisticated means of inspecting cigars are not only unsanitary; they are also pretentious and will tell you absolutely nothing about the cigar. Better yet I’m really impressed by those of you who smell cigars through cellophane. I can cut a little slack for a novice but I’ve seen seasoned cigars smokers break the rules as well. Cigars should not be stuck in your ear or up your nose! Be careful not to offend your favorite tobacconist or they’ll find another place for that cigar and it’s not going to be your mouth!
I focused earlier about the size and shape in choosing a cigar, however considering the length of your cigar falls into a slightly different criteria. The length of your cigar (along with the ring gauge) will determine how long your cigar will smoke. If you have the time, you have the luxury of selecting a longer smoke say something in a churchill or a torpedo style. If you don’t have the time, you may want to consider a smaller format say a corona or a petite corona. Are you headed out fishing for the day or are you joining friends for a cocktail at your favorite watering hole that is smoker friendly? These may sound like silly questions however you want to be able to take the time to enjoy your smoke and not be rushed.
A cigar because of the way it is made and designed, should be enjoyed in one smoking session from start to finish. I don’t understand how a cigar smoker can smoke half a churchill, let it snuff itself out, clip it after cools down and turn around and relight the next day. It totally changes the taste, flavor, aroma, strength, and balance of the cigar, and not necessarily in a positive way. The cigar will become very bitter and acid tasting and deliver a very disappointing smoking experience. So choose a format of cigar that can be enjoyed in the time you have made available.
My final criteria for selecting a cigar is price. Cigars can range in price from $2.00 a stick to $30.00 a stick. That’s a wide variance. So what is the difference between a $2.00 smoke and a $30.00 smoke? Well if you just do the math its twenty eight bucks. But there really is more to it than that. So what makes a cigar so special that it has a thirty dollar price tag? There can be a number of reasons. Everything from specific tobacco seeds grown in certain countries, special blending and lengthy aging techniques, vintage tobaccos, limited edition cigars rolled from small crops of exceptional tobaccos that are in very small supply, and the list goes on.
A cigar have to be expensive to be enjoyable. My immediate response to that question is no. Many of the less expensive cigars I’ve smoked over the years have proved to be extremely enjoyable. On the other hand, some of the more expensive cigars I’ve had the pleasure of smoking did not disappoint my palate. I feel that they were worth the extra money that I spent on them. It’s all about balance. You can spend less money on cigars or you can spend more.
Personally for me. 75% of the cigars I smoke are somewhere in the mid-range ($5.00 to $8.00 a stick). This is another one of those situations where there is no right or wrong. Everybody is different, with different incomes, and with different ways of attaching values and worth to a particular item they purchase either for necessity or pleasure. Just like anything else we purchase there’s a wide range of pricing, whether it be cigars, cars, spirits, food, etc. You can choose to go to McDonalds, you can choose to go to Outback or you can choose to go to Ruth Chris‘s. But the bottom line falls with you. You have to make the decision on how little or how much you can afford and are willing to spend. Then you have to be the judge and evaluate your purchase…was it worth it to you?
Hopefully the above information on selecting a cigar will give you some guidelines to use for your cigar purchases. Please remember that there is no right or wrong way to select a cigar and that you don’t have to fly solo on this mission. Whether you know a little or know a lot, take the time to rely on your local tobacconist to help answer any questions you might have or help guide you in your quest and journey for the perfect cigar.