Many cigar aficionados will tell you it’s not worth deliberating over the chemical analysis of cigar smoke or the leaf compounds of tobacco – what seasoned experts and green novices alike are mostly interested in is if it tastes good or not. Cigar smoking is deemed a romantic pastime, and while it might be best to come equipped with a general grasp on smoking etiquette, it is not always conducive to enjoying the overall experience.
Your first encounter with a cigar will be by sight, smell, and touch. A good cigar can often be determined by rolling it between the fingers. The best wrappers are silky to the touch, without blemishes, and can possess an elastic quality. Cheap cigars are typically not consistent in their colour, are rough in complexion, and won’t emit a fresh aroma.
Premium cigars often come out of the box with a closed head, requiring it to be cut before it may be smoked. How you do this is up to you, though the cleaner the cut the less likely you are to ruin the cigar, so a single edged cutter is the best method. In terms of where to cut, aim for the ‘shoulder’ – the part where the end of the cigar begins to close. Removing this section from the end allows a large, flat, and even surface without removing the glue that keeps the filler leaves compact. Generally, it’s difficult to go wrong with a sharp cutter and a steady pair of hands.
It’s best to avoid conventional cigarette lighters as they taint the end of the cigar and leave an unpleasant aroma. The good old fashioned matchstick, a butane lighter, or even better a cigar lighter, are generally the preferred ways to go. To avoid overheating the cigar, make sure the flame does not go too near it. Simply hold the cigar over the flame, rotate gently to maintain a glowing ring around the tip, and draw until the cigar is well lit. Note the colour of the ash – a white drop of ash indicates a better quality of tobacco, while a grey one would suggest the soil in which the tobacco was grown was lacking the right nutrients.
It’s good to note that no two cigars will taste the same. Farmers have good crops and bad ones, and tobacco growers are no different. Ingredients might be incorporated into the blend to compensate for a bad crop, but only to improve the overall taste. However, a balance in flavour is often achieved to get as close to a taste that the smoker is familiar with. In terms of etiquette, ash should fall naturally from the cigar end, so knocking or flicking them off is not always required. When finishing the cigar, it’s best to leave a nub of two inches unsmoked, as even the finest cigars will taste bitter if smoked in their entirety.
5. Relax & Enjoy
If there’s only one thing to remember it’s that, like a fine wine or rare whisky, a cigar should always be savoured. That said, it’s important to note cigars aren’t designed to be inhaled like cigarettes. For one it won’t do your lungs much good, and neither will it improve the taste of the cigar at all. While a cigar is often well enjoyed in a group, it’s usually considered good etiquette to smoke in the company of other cigar smokers, especially if you want to avoid making new enemies.
Whether it’s for the first time or the hundredth time, one of the best ways to enjoy a cigar in London is, known to many as a cigar smoker’s paradise, at No. Ten Manchester Street.