. . . but a good cigar is a smoke.
June 26, 2008 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Okay, it's time to get serious and learn about . . . cigars. Where do I start?

A golden star pinned to your lapel for the following information:

-What brands or cigar types should I sample? (I like darker cigars and hardier smokes.) Likes and dislikes?
-Terminology. What nouns, verbs and adjectives should I add to my vocabulary? (I know there's a "robusto" lurking somewhere.)
-Any books or websites to recommend?
-Say you're a cigar, and I'm my mouth and throat. How many of you can I smoke, say, in a year before contracting cancer? (I know that this is a topic bereft of serious study, so a general rule of thumb is acceptable.)
posted by Gordion Knott to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Alt.smokers.cigars was good back in the day. I'm not sure how it is now, but the archives are searchable through Google.
posted by Jahaza at 3:12 PM on June 26, 2008

Well, to start off, cigars aren't great. They stink, taste bad and make you spit a lot. But I still smoke them. In your greater metropolitan area you will find, more likely than not, a dedicated cigar merchant - not a tobacconist - who will, I suggest, offer "Sampler Packs" of a range of cigars (usually five or six) in certain styles, e.g. robusto (Latin for "big-ass"). Simply approach the friendly and, one hopes, knowledgeable guy or gal behind the counter, present them with your dilemma, and ask for suggestions.

As always for most useless esoterica, Wikipedia is a pretty good starting point and will help you familiarise yourself with some of the terminology. Cigar Aficionado is a pretty good resource and they have a print magazine and everything. Cigars Review might help you find the perfect smoke.

Once you find a cigar you particularly enjoy, stock up on them (splurge on a box if you can because they are simply quite lovely to behold), but continue to experiment. I smoke maybe one a week, usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, but then I'm a cigarette smoker as well. I don't have cancer yet, touch wood, and it's really hard to say how many it would take before you got it. Two a day? One in your entire lifetime? It really depends. George Burns seemed to do okay, and Hugh Hefner is a pretty dedicated cigar smoker too.

Two final tips: NEVER inhale cigar smoke because it will likely make you ill; and, once you settle on a flavour and "burn" (I call it "burn" - basically how long it takes to smoke the fucker) you enjoy, find a good warming beverage (cognac, brandy, neat scotch, etc.) to go with it, to enhance your experience tenfold. Also, go ahead and treat yourself: buy a smoking jacket. Oh, and never stub a cigar out like you would a cigarette - just let it extinguish itself.

Let us know how you go!
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:20 PM on June 26, 2008

Get thee to a smoke/cigar shop and start asking questions and testing them out! A good starting resource may be Cigar Aficionado magazine/online - or what turgid said.

The names (like 'robusto') describe the size/shape basically, comparable to the way Italian pasta is named - its all cigars/pasta, but the shapes have different names. Cigars can be as different as wines so no specific recommendations (although I'll admit my fave is Arturo Fuente). As as turgid also said, cultivate an appreciation for decent brandy/cognac/whiskey (sweeter ones like bourbon, NOT scotch unless its an Islay malt - you'll kill the flavor otherwise). It makes your cigar experience only better. Good luck!
posted by elendil71 at 3:31 PM on June 26, 2008

elendil71: Good point regarding the scotch - you're right, it can be pretty overpowering. But then, I believe I have some kind of mild brain damage since I usually enjoy my Churchills with a tumbler (yes) of The King.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:42 PM on June 26, 2008

I would recommend a maduro, dark and really tasty. Here in the UK we can buy Cubans (that's still not ok stateside, rite?) but to be honest they're often overrated. My favourites are by Padron, but if you can get a good maduro, not too long and quite a heavy gauge you'll be happy. Jus remember, they get spicier and more interesting towards the end so stick with it and take your time smoking.

When it comes to choosing one out of the box, the most important thing is to give them a roll between your fingers. Good ones are very slightly squidgy, meaning they're not too dry and won't smoke too hot and will last a while. At least, that's how i always choose them.

Also it's important to light them well - make sure they're cut well with no splits (at the mouth end) and then char the whole surface of the blunt end so it burns evenly. Then you're good to go!

Enjoy, please. Since the smoking ban here in the UK i've hardly had a chance to smoke a decent cigar, poo.
posted by gangster_computer_god at 3:50 PM on June 26, 2008

Here is an alternative to the usual "it's bad, just don't do it" medical camp advice on cigars. There is no "rule of thumb." If you're smoking once or twice a week and not inhaling (some people do) your risk is probably negligible but as far as I've been able to determine there just isn't any solid data on the occasional (non-daily) cigar smoker: that analysis anyway can put the risk in some perspective. If you're not doing it already consider getting regular oral cancer screening at your dentist. It's actually a decent idea for anyone, it's simple and not that expensive and will give you peace of mind about at least one cancer risk (and in the unlikely event that you got oral cancer, early diagnosis could make a huge difference).

I used to be a heavy cigarette smoker and after I quit I eventually accepted that I had to stop messing around with cigars, they were totally the gateway smoke. Just to add the cautionary note.
posted by nanojath at 8:21 PM on June 26, 2008

Seconding a local fine cigar store (NOT a smoke shop). These are usually run by cigar lovers who will talk your ear off with advice and general knowledge when they learn you are an interested newbie. They may even give you a good deal on a sampler pack, or put one together for you.

A good cigar definitely does NOT taste bad, and is often the perfect thing on a sultry summer evening, preferably post-dinner and with a fine drink. Plus, they tend to keep the mosquitos at bay!
posted by Aquaman at 9:29 PM on June 26, 2008

PS for the darker smokes I like the Cohiba or Onyx brands. For a lighter smoke, I'm liking the Romeo y Julietas. "Real" cigar people may commence scoffing now.
posted by Aquaman at 9:30 PM on June 26, 2008

Cigars are great, but cigars stink. I always wear something I don't mind getting smokey. Cigar ashes tend not to smell, but the butts absolutely reek. You don't want to leave them around. You'll have to find the right size you like to smoke - robusto, corona, etc. The all have their own peculiarities. Some will be brief, and some are major time investments.

Find a drink you prefer to compliment it (for me, an IPA usually is nice). It augments the experience considerably. Most importantly however, find a companion to smoke with, as you sit on the porch on these long summer evenings.
posted by yeti at 7:17 AM on June 27, 2008

My personal favorite is anything from the Arturo Fuente Hemingway line with a tall glass of lightly sweetened ice tea. There are better cigars but not many and Fuentes are very consistent. Port is also great with a good smoke,
posted by Carbolic at 9:36 AM on June 27, 2008

I'm not a cigar expert, but this guide looks fairly helpful.
posted by knile at 11:24 AM on August 2, 2008

« Older How many lacrosse teams?   |   Entertain Me, Hive Mind Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.