Cigars 101: How NOT to look like an idiot when smoking a cigar

March 12, 2013 · 23 comments

in Guest Articles, How To

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Hey gents,

I really enjoy the rare moments I get to have a cigar and a glass of bourbon after a long week, either on my own or with friends. Most of us are so busy, and sometimes, taking the time to slow down, indulge the palette, and have good conversation is a true pleasure.

I know there are a few EG readers who enjoy the same ritual, and a handful of others who are curious about cigars, so I’m happy to have Denis here today.

Denis runs Cigar Inspector, a well-established site filled with cigar reviews and other cigar-related information.

He put together the following article for the beginner cigar enthusiast. Take these tips and apply them the next time you’re about to enjoy a cigar, and if you have further questions, we’d be happy to answer them in the comments.

Enter Denis…

As a man, there may come a time when someone offers you a cigar to share in a celebration – the birth of a child, a new job, successfully moving into a new home, or some other memorable event.

If you are not a smoker, then you politely decline, but if you are a smoker – even a casual one or a pipe enthusiast – then by all means gladly accept the gesture and enthusiastically take part in the celebration.

But if you have never felt comfortable with the art of cigar smoking, what do you do? Don’t flinch.

Now is not the time to simply mimic what your friends are doing. You will make a fool of yourself with an ill-timed cough, or by making a face that everyone will recognize as the mug of an amateur.

The absolute last thing you want when sharing a cigar among friends is to look like an idiot. And while there are a lot of men out there who fit that bill, you are not one of them.

Famous Cigar Smokers

Before I delve into some tips to make you a better cigar smoker, I would like to add some historical perspective.

History is filled with examples of great men who smoked cigars, and you could do worse than look at their examples. Here are some of my all-time favorite cigar smokers you may want to emulate, not just when you light up, but in other manly pursuits.

  1. Sir Winston Churchill. Perhaps the most famous statesman of all time, Churchill was elected British Prime Minister at the height of World War II, and promptly united a divided Europe in its battle against Nazi Germany. An example of manliness, he knew his cigars, becoming famous for flashing the “V” for victory sign with one hand while holding a fine La Aroma de Cuba in the other.
  2. Red Auerbach, legendary coach of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. He enjoyed a cigar after every Celtics victory that he coached – well more than a thousand. He was tough and knew the power of teamwork and camaraderie. And Red’s favorite cigar? The Nicaraguan Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur.
  3. Jack Nicholson. One of the great actors of all time, Nicholson is equally famous for his love of cigars as he is for his other obsession – the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. And even though Jack has had to alter his public smoking habits with recent non-smoking laws kicking in, he has been known to sneak into the men’s room at Lakers games to enjoy a classic Montecristo No. 2.
  4. Bill Clinton, the charismatic 42nd President of the United States. Say what you want about the man’s political legacy, but he certainly enjoyed a good cigar when the time was right – after a hard fought political battle against Newt Gingrich, or a winning putt on the golf course.

Obviously, the best way to smoke a cigar without looking like a noob is to practice, practice, practice. If you want to know how to pick up a 10-pin spare when bowling, you hit the lanes – not Wii Sports.

Besides the simple act of smoking a cigar, here are some tips that all men – beginners or seasoned aficionados – should keep in mind:

Choose the Right Cigar

If you are in a situation when one is offered, accept it. But if you have the option of picking your own, stay away from gas stations or convenience stores. Seriously, you can do better than 7-11 when searching for a premium cigar.

The good thing about real cigar shops (we call them B&M – brick and mortar – as opposed to online sources) is that you can very often count on the personnel to help you out. Tell them that you’re a novice smoker and that you’re looking for a nice, mild and affordable cigar. Chances are the shopkeeper will be able to give you the right stogie.

Remember, the color of the wrapper does not have anything to do about the cigar’s strength (it’s a common myth).

Further reading: Cigar Shapes and Sizes, The Definitive Cigar Wrapper Guide

Cut your Cigar like a Pro

This is something all men who smoke cigars should know how to do, and it does not involve scissors, Swiss Army knife knock-offs, of your own teeth. Lord, especially not your teeth!

Basically, you want to cut the cap on the ‘head’ (the side you’re supposed to light is called ‘foot’) of the cigar to create enough of an opening to smoke it comfortably while not distorting the shape of the cigar. The best cutting option may be the straight cut, with a single bladed cutter to chop off the head in one motion and leave the wrapper intact.

More on: Double Guillotine Cigar Cutters

Lighting a Cigar

I know. In just about every Hollywood movie where someone lights up a cigar, the weapon of choice is a trusty match. But our advice is to forget the match and go with a butane torch lighter.

You should avoid cigarette lighters, because the cigar may take on the flavor of the lighter fluid. This is not to say it will ruin the cigar because it will not, but why muck up the flavor of your cherished smoke even for a few minutes?

More on: Torch cigar lighters

Now the Reward: Smoking It

Obviously, you understand a cigar is so much more than a simple cigarette. It is not about a tobacco fix, it is a way to enjoy the company of friends and relax. But do not take a drag off it like you would a cigarette – and do not inhale.

Hold the smoke in your mouth, enjoy it, and then blow it out. If you inhale, you run the risk of coughing out a lung or blowing chunks. And while smoking, you will want to rotate the cigar to get an even burn.

Etiquette and Other Tips

Now that you know how to smoke a cigar and not look like an idiot, there are a few closing thoughts to keep in mind.

Do not attempt to light up your cigar with someone else’s, it won’t be appreciated.

In fact, cigars are not supposed to be shared, so avoid asking your smoking friend to try the cigar he is smoking. And while men are tough, it is definitely a breach of etiquette to blow cigar smoke in someone’s face.

If you remember all of these tips and exercise a little common sense, smoking a cigar can be an enjoyable experience.

Thanks Denis!

Over to you, the reader. What questions do you have? If you’re a seasoned cigar connoisseur, what suggestions do you have for those interested?


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