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.

This article is part of the Cigars 101 series on EG.

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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34 Responses

  1. Ralphie on

    As another etiquette rule, I would say to always make sure to ask those in the room if they are okay with the smoke. Cigar smoke can be very unpleasant for the uninitiated! Also, when one is done smoking, NEVER stub out a cigar as you would a cigarette. Best to just lay it in the ashtray and allow it to go out on its own.

      • Ldwood on

        I also tend to leave the band on. I am far from snobby but people often tend to ask or state where the cigar was made. I enjoy Cuban cigars and am quite happy to spend my money on them even if it is to hand out to a fellow smoker who has perhaps never tired Cuban cigars. I don’t see this as an issue. As for cutting and lighting I agree that using the right lighter correctly is important, as is asking those near by if they mind you smoking. I was on certain told off whilst in Italy for that very reason. They didn’t have a problem it was just that I didn’t ask. Best thing is just enjoy your cigar. If your not then something is wrong.

    • Rick M on

      I find if I ask a lady next to me at my fav cigar bar if the cigar bothers her, and she says “No”, I find it a good way to start a conversation with her. Sometimes I ask if she enjoys a cigar too, or recommend one, i.e. Acid Kuba Kuba or Drew Estates Java Mint.

  2. Nick P on

    A tip for the cigar that isn’t burning evenly, sometimes called scooping (at least in the group I frequent) is to turn the slower/non-burning side to the top, not the bottom. It seems counter-intuitive, but works quite well.

    Apparently, you are also supposed to leave the band on the cigar (if it has one) until you get to the point that it needs to be taken off. (I break this ‘rule’ most of the time)

      • Joshua Lynd on

        There is an interesting interview somewhere in my memory with a famous cigar maker. In it he indicated that the band should be left on for two reasons:
        a. To keep the outer leaf on the cigar since often tearing the band off early will rip the cigar apart.
        b. Because cigars are expensive because they are handmade from fine aged tobaccos and the makers are proud of what they do and deserve recognition. If you allow the cigar to burn down towards the label it will simply slide off once it is warm.
        In essence don’t if your cigar is better than your buddies you should have brought one for him as well.
        Being a Gent means forking over the good stuff to enjoy with company. Besides smoking a $20 stick around someone smoking a $3 stick is wasteful since your smoke will be blending anyway.

        • Hilto on

          It makes sense that a cigar maker would want you to show off their advertisement for the longest time possible. I can understand his viewpint, and his arguments make sense, however, I lean towards agreeing with Cigar Inspector, that it’s more courteous towards your mates to pop off the band before starting smoke. I also found that leaving the band on makes the cigar more of a conversation peace, even for people who don’t smoke cigars themselves, so I like smoking with the band off.

  3. Gordey Natalenko on

    Sweet, didn’t know about rotating a cigar.

    I’ve only smoked them a few times, but damn they take forever to smoke! I ended sharing mine though since it takes so long. Might do it again soon sometime. Interesting post, thanks for sharing!

  4. Matt Riddell on

    The other thing is to leave the ash on the end of the cigar as long as possible – it will lower the temperature of the ember at the end thereby providing a much smoother taste.

  5. Taylor on

    I like to dip the smoking end into my bourbon from time to time. The sweetness of a nice bourbon paird with the richness of the stogie is a great combo.

  6. calan.reyes on

    I always remove the band before smoking one (unless doing so will damage the outer peel) I find that this avoids such questions as to the brand and type.

    As far as lighting a cigar, I find that butane lighters tend to be finicky and burn much too hot (therefore making the first few draws harsh) which can taint an otherwise mild cigar. Depending on the length of the cigar of course. Lighting with longer cedar matches is preferred.

    Over time a good cigar should change taste and character. Actually smoking a cigar depends on the person. Just don’t inhale (a strong cigar will kick your ass).
    I agree with the others in terms of offending other people with the smoke. Most people have no experience with cigars and equate them as just as bad as cigarettes. Because of this I’ve switched to pipe smoking. Usually meerwood or horn. These kinds of tobaccos smell sweeter than cigar smoke and thus people don’t find the smoke quite as offensive. (Even if the same dangers exist.)

    • Cigar Inspector on

      My lighting ritual – I extensively toast the foot with the torch lighter so that the whole surface is burning, _without_ actually drawing on the cigar. Then I wait a few seconds and start smoking. This way, the first draws are not harsh.
      Thanks for your comment!

      • calan.reyes on

        This is how I got around this as well. My biggest problem with butane lighters however is keeping them going for any about of time. And I’ve had several from $200 Colibri all the way to $3000 Dunhill and Porsche Design ones. It’ll not work when I’m in some place that I can’t get them serviced. I’ll always be in some place like Hong Kong, Manila, or Tokyo where I don’t trust anyone to work on them.
        It’s always the same problem, gaskets seals not working properly and leading to costly replacement o-rings and gaskets. I’ve been told this is due to flying in pressurized cabins, etc. or too high humidity. IMO not worth it considering matches pretty much are available everywhere. Keep in mind that they still work great (althrough I don’t smoke too many cigars anymore) but most I’ve given away because I’ve quit smoking cigarettes as well.

        • Cigar Inspector on

          For a few years now I am using the Z-plus insert that allows you to transfort a Zippo into a butane torch lighter. I find it reliable, long-lasting and cool-looking. I prefer it over matches because it gives you more control over the flame, it’s easier to lit a cigar regularly. But matches are a great choice as well!

          • Eomar on

            Hadn’t seen the z-plus insert before, I have a few zippo’s lying around that are no good for cigars and they’re about to get a new life! cheers.

    • Joshua Lynd on

      If you use a butane torch remember that it is a torch and you need to stay up off the direct flame.

  7. Latter-Day Dude on

    Another option for anyone interested, I have had Zippo lighter for years that was given to me as a gift. I knew you weren’t supposed to use a typical cigarette lighter for cigars, but I didn’t want to get rid of my Zippo… but Amazon, and many other sites, sell butane lighter inserts that are made to fit into Zippo lighters… and they are relatively cheap, I purchased mine for about $11 and it works like a charm.

  8. brockmcgoff on

    Way to clear up the myth about darker being stronger. It’s the same with coffee, when in truth, the dark roasts contain less caffeine.

    This is like a manly PSA… The more you know!

    • Matthew on

      Ok. That isn’t quite true. Darker cigars, maduros and the like, are a fuller flavors. The reason that some people prefer lighter cigars, Connecticuts, is because the overall strength of the cigar is more mild.

      • biffula on

        Not true at all. The filler will overtake a wrapper any day. Some of the strongest I’ve ever smoked had connecticuts and vice versa.

  9. Proc Jewelry on

    When backpacking or camping your teeth do tend to come in handy! The real man behind the suit of course only when appropriate.

  10. Domenik on

    I enjoy a cigar like every evening if my day revealed something good I did. Thats like every 2-3 day. Im proud of my life.
    But I never ever tried it again; Dipping the end of the cigar in a good irish whisky! I did this with 3 different cigars and it was just shitty. Better option: take a draw and then drink some. Else you destroy the cigar and its flavors. Oh no, especially the flavory!
    Dont ruin your drink and cigar. The 5 secs are like no time-difference.