Did you just buy your first humidor? Maybe you received a gift of a few fine cigars for a recent birthday, or perhaps you’re a fan of a good cigar while golfing and you want to learn a little more. Whatever your circumstances, I’m happy you’ve chosen to join us in the cigar hobby.
Cigars can be a fantastic way to relax or mark special occasions with family members and friends. But getting started can be quite intimidating! For this article, I’ve rounded up some of my absolute best tips for those wanting to dip their toes into the deep end of the cigar pool.
I’m going to assume here that you have had a cigar or two before, so we’ll skip some of the very basics. However, if you’ve never had a cigar, be sure to check out the following:
Once you’ve got that under your belt, let’s jump into our advice!
Tip #1: Take it Slow
This is the biggest tip I can offer – slow it down! As in, literally, go slow when you’re smoking a cigar. In the excitement and rush to try out new brands, you may be tempted to move through your cigar as quickly as possible. This is a mistake.
When you puff on a cigar too quickly you’re going to introduce more heat than necessary. This will make the cigar harsh, leaving a hot, acrid taste when you take a draw. You’ll also miss many of the subtleties in the blend. But more importantly, cigars are meant to be relaxing!
I personally used to try to sneak in a cigar whenever I could find the time as I got started. I had so many I wanted to try! But I found time and time again that when I tried to enjoy a cigar in a time crunch I enjoyed it way less than when I wasn’t in a rush.
Tip #1A: Take it Slow… Again!
We talked about smoking slow, but this lesson can also be applied to your shopping habits. If you’re anything like me, when you get into a new hobby it can be tempting to go all in. When I started seriously enjoying cigars, I blew through my cigar budget three times over every weekend.
Every shop I visited, every catalog I read through, every person I spoke to about cigars had recommendations. And I wanted them all. If I saw a box on special, I’d buy it. A great deal on a sampler? Better add that to the humidor. A new cutter and lighter? I deserve it!
What happened at the end of six months? I had finally figured out what I liked – and a lot of the cigars that were now taking up space in my home didn’t match my tastes. As you’re getting acclimated, try to avoid getting caught up in the hype or overcommitting to a brand or line until you’re sure you love them. I’d recommend buying no more than 10 cigars at a time, and not investing in a humidor or really nice accessories until you know that cigars are going to be a regular part of your life.
Tip #2: Take Notes
For a few years during college, I worked in a retail store. A lot of college students would come in, looking for cigars to enjoy during football or nice weather outside. And my favorite part of my job was when they’d come back and tell me how much they loved something I recommended.
However, more often than not, someone would come into the store and tell me “Hey man, I loved that M cigar you recommended a few weeks ago!”. What cigar were they talking about? I don’t know! Macanudo, Montecristo, M’Bombay, Man O’ War, Matilde… I’d rack my brain trying to remember exactly what they meant. I’d also get descriptions like “the cigar with the crown,” or, “the one with the blue words!”.
Save yourself from being that guy – take notes on the cigars you like (and the cigars you don’t like!). The easiest way to do this is to simply save the bands. Throw them in your wallet or bag, and next time you go cigar shopping, you’ve got everything you liked right there. Some people will also set up cigar journals, write down their personal ratings, what they paired each stick with, etc!
Whatever style of note taking you want to take is fine, but knowing what you like and don’t will be invaluable to making good decisions with your cigar choices in the future.
Tip #3: Ask Questions
I said it earlier, I’ll say it again: there’s a lot to learn when it comes to cigars. And one of the biggest mistakes you can make is being scared to ask questions. No one started out as a cigar expert – we all had to learn somewhere. So when you have questions, ask them! Use our community here, text your friends that enjoy cigars, visit a local cigar shop and talk to the owner or regulars – there’s a wealth of knowledge out there available to you, and you’re only hurting yourself by being too scared to ask.
Any cigar lover out there worth their salt loves nothing more than talking shop and spreading their knowledge and passion for the hobby to anyone who will listen. So please, ask us questions!
Tip #4: Stay Curious
A related piece of advice to tip #3: stay curious. As you start trying more cigars you’ll quickly find some favorites and some that are not to your liking. Similarly, you’ll likely fall into other habits: you might notice you really like coffee with your cigars, and don’t like scotch. Or maybe you’ve liked every Maduro you’ve had, but not many Connecticuts – or you prefer a v-cut and don’t like a punch.
This is where the advice kicks in. You may try five cigars of a specific brand and dislike them, and then fall in love with the sixth. You may always enjoy full-bodied cigars and suddenly find a Connecticut that you love. Heck, even within the same line, you may have tried a Toro in the past and loved it, and then chose a Corona and found it lacking. No two brands, lines, or cigars are the same. Stay curious, try things, and always re-evaluate – half the fun of the hobby is the exploration, so you don’t want to limit yourself!
Tip #5: Get the Right Equipment
Finally, once you’re sure cigar smoking is something you want to invest in, make sure to get the proper equipment. Sure, you can cut a cigar with your teeth and you can light up with an old Zippo, but where’s the pleasure in that? Having a proper cigar cutter and lighter is going to be key to getting the very most out of the premiums you’re torching, so invest properly in the tools for the job.
Want some recommendations there? Check out some of our popular buying guides!
So there you have it, my top five tips for new cigar smokers! Read them over and let me know what you think. For those vets out there – if there’s anything you feel like I missed, let me know in the comments. And if you have any questions, again, feel free to tap our community of cigar lovers for answers.