Cigar basics 101
Ok, so you’ve been offered a cigar at a party or celebration, but you have no idea how to smoke it without looking like an idiot. Not to worry, this basic guide will let you know some of the do’s and don’ts of cigar smoking, instantly elevating you to the very height of gentlemanly sophistication.
First, the cut. A good quality cigar will require cutting before you light it, either at both ends or, as is more usual, at the end you put in your mouth.
For this, you will need a cigar cutter. Knives, scissors and teeth are not acceptable as they will tear the wrapper and leave a ragged cut, and it’s very hard to look suave and debonair whilst constantly spitting shreds of tobacco onto your host’s shagpile carpet.
Single-bladed cigar cutters can be picked up at most tobbaconist’s, while the double-bladed variety are a little more expensive and may require you to visit a specialist cigar store or website.
To cut your cigar, a general rule of thumb is to take ⅛ of an inch off the closed end. This will create an opening large enough to draw smoke through, but not so large as to cut the wrapper of the cigar, which will then unravel and your precious (and possibly expensive) stogie will fall apart before your eyes.
Now you need to light the cigar. Don’t, for the love of God, use an ordinary cigarette lighter, as the butane flame will affect the flavor and you’ll look like an ignorant buffoon. A specialized cigar lighter is nowadays considered the best choice, but if you’re a bluff old traditionalist, then a long match is the way to go.
If you do use a match, wait for the sulphurous head to burn away, as a cigar that tastes of Sulphur is quite disgusting and anathema to the very idea of cigar smoking.
Place the end of the cigar in your mouth and, holding the end above but not touching the flame, slowly rotate it while taking gentle puffs. The rotation is to ensure an even burn, and if you’ve done it right the cigar should be fully lit after around thirty seconds, depending the thickness.
So you’ve cut and lit your cigar. You’ve taken an almighty puff and are now coughing, spluttering and desperately wiping the tears from your eyes. Hardly the manly Churchill-esque image you were hoping for.
Here’s the secret: cigars are never inhaled. It’s not a cigarette you’re smoking there, it’s a premium hand-rolled stick of flavor heaven. Cigars are smoked for their flavor, not their nicotine content, and unless you have the lungs of a demi-god, inhaling the smoke is always going to end badly. Alcohol (technically) should be thought of in the same way.
Instead, draw on the cigar, hold the smoke in your mouth and savour the flavor and aroma, then release it. That’s really all there is to it, although there a few little pieces of etiquette to be observed, such as don’t share your cigar. This is equivalent to sharing a glass of bourbon, and therefore just not done.
Blowing cigar smoke in someone’s face is also considered extremely rude, so you should definitely refrain from doing so.
And finally, never help yourself to someone else’s cigars; always wait for them to offer as they are likely to be rather upset if they discover you rooting through their humidor.
So now you’re all set, and the next time someone offers you a celebratory stogie there’s no reason why you can’t impress them with your knowledge and expertise.