Cigar Primer: 101


Cigar smoking has an allure that is commonly associated with gentlemen of a refined posture. While cigar smoking is often found in exclusive, private and/or members only circles, the exclusivity is more about the environment than the actual activity.  Cigars are for everyone’s enjoyment, man and woman. The process of determining your preference is a large part of the cigar experience.  The natural progression of cigar smoking is best started like a wine tasting experience opposed to a regimented orderly protocol.  The cigar experience should be fun. There are no wrong answers, especially when you are just starting.  Have a ball.

Chances are that your journey will begin in a cigar store.  Below are a few pointers on how to maximize your experience.


Pre-determine a desired price range: The sky is the limit when buying cigars, so selecting a budget–per cigar or total–will be a good framework to start within.  While highly regarded cigars can be found in the $9 – $55 range, your experience is not directly related to its cost.  A cigar doesn’t have to be expensive to be enjoyed by the smoker.

Nat 7


Opening up to the qualities of the cigar will get you to the cigar soul mate for you.

Smell. Ask to smell them. The tobacco is very aromatic and part of the experience. Use all of the senses that you have available to connect with what you like.

Sight. If it catches your eye, then pick it up. Trust and use your visual instinct as one of your selection criteria. As you look at the foot (lighting end) of a cigar, make sure that there are no stems in the foot of the cigar. Dry and/or brittle cigars are not smokeable. As you become more familiar, pay attention to the wrapper of your favorite cigars. Read and study them. This is will help you refine your taste.


Cigar selection and smoking can be like picking and wearing an outfit. The context and purpose can contribute strongly to what and when you smoke.

Full-Bodied Cigar. When drinking and eating with a cigar, match body to body. A full-bodied cigar may be best appreciated when coupled with a full-bodied rum and a bitter-sweet chocolate.

Long-Cigar. A longer cigar will be a longer smoke, but it also will be a cooler smoke as the distance from the flame is greater.  Cooler smokes will not mask the flavor with heat.

Large Gauge Cigar. A larger gauge or bigger “ring” cigar will bring more air through it. The pull will be a little easier and come with more smoke.

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Once you’ve decided upon your stick of preference, it’s time to enjoy.


  1. Cut the cigar right at the seam at the top. This makes sure that it doesn’t come unraveled.
  2. Wet the top a little because dry lips plus dry cigars may result in the wrapping becoming undone.



  1. Use a quality match (long wood or cedar), a piece of cedar that comes with your cigar case or a butane lighter. Gasoline lighters tend to affect the taste.
  2. As you begin to light the cigar, candle it. Candling is lighting around the rim to get rid of the little imperfections – cuttings and edges.
  3. Take your time. Soft flame is preferred for inside. Hard torch may be necessary for outside due to wind.
  4. Do this until you see a red glow around it. Rotate while lighting.



  1. “Smoking” a cigar is different than smoking cigarettes. Cigar smoke isn’t inhaled into the lungs. It’s best that you ask for in in-person explanation or demonstration. Well rolled cigars require little effort, a kiss, to smoke, not a hard puff.
  2. Take a nice slow draw so that you can get all of the flavors and not a hot bitter gas taste.
  3. A long ash is a sign of a well-rolled cigar. Instead of tapping the cigar, roll off the ash off into an ashtray, but only do that if you absolutely need too. A long ash keeps the fire and cigar cooler with an even burn.
  4. Finally, if you are done, let the cigar burn out on its own.

These introductory notes should help you move towards getting the most out of your experience.  As you grow in your knowledge and interest, you’ll become more interested in holding cigars, tobacco source, labels, construction and assembly.


Coolty Hunter

Coolty Hunter, B.S.M.E., MA, INCE Coolty {kool-TIE} Hunter is the founder of Balance Computer Aided Engineering; a design evangelism consultancy that helps product developers optimize their product lifecycle management process. Additionally, Coolty is a concierge clothier for men and a photographer. His work can be found using the links below: Refined Clothier: Website: Twitter: @refinedclothier Balance Photography: Website: Instagram: @Coolty1 Twitter: @balancephoto

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