Cigar Reviews

The Process of Choosing Cigars

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As a passionate cigar smoker of nearly four years I, at times, find it difficult to select a cigar for a given situation. I believe that my single biggest problem is over-thinking my selection and hitting a proverbial wall when confronted by too many options. It is at this time that I generally take the easy road and select a cigar I am very comfortable with over one that I have limited or no experience with. In addition, I find that I have more difficulty selecting my cigar in some situations than I do in others.

If you are reading this article, chances are good that you find yourself in similar situations. If you are new to the wonderful world of cigars, this article will help guide you in a general direction so that you can make a more informed decision when reaching for your cigar. If you are a veteran cigar smoker, perhaps brushing up on some of the basics will help your decisions come s little easier.

How Do You Choose

Choosing a cigar can be a difficult matter which can be very intimidating for those new to cigars. Whether it be walking into a large humidor stuffed to the brim, or staring into a desktop humidor as a friend tells you to help yourself. In either situation, you may feel overwhelmed by the choices available. As long as you have a little experience under your belt, making these decisions should not be terribly difficult. 

In the event that you are reaching out for your very first cigar, stop what you are doing and ask for help. By making an uneducated decision at this point and selecting a cigar that appears to be a good one, you may very well turn yourself off of cigars and never consider the pastime again. Selecting a cigar by appearance is no different than judging a book by its cover. You need to have a basic understanding of what is going on inside before making a firm decision on whether you should pick it up or pass it over for something better suited for you. 

By having a little experience under your belt, you can more easily navigate the wide variety of cigars available to you. For simplicities sake, it is probably best to break down your potential choices by time of day. While this is a very common practice, it does not always produce the proper choice for your mood. No generalized list can account for something as complex as your mood and what you might feel like smoking.

Morning

Most people suggest that your first cigar of the day be on the milder side of the body scale. It is said that after a long slumber, your palate becomes very sensitive to flavors. It is this increased sensitivity that makes even the mildest cigars seem powerful to some smokers. At the same time, others can roll out of bed and smoke a cigar that would effectively blow another smokers head off. While nicotine tolerance is important, flavor potency is key.

You are probably thinking I am crazy for considering nicotine a secondary issue, but the fact of the matter is that its effects on your body can be managed. In the event that you feel a little woozy from too much nicotine, get some sugar into your system. A can of coke or a sugar cube can go a long way in making you feel better. The same applies to the food you have consumed just before lighting up that morning cigar. It would be safe to assume you would feel fewer effects after eating a few pancakes covered in syrup than you would after eating a bowl of plain oatmeal.

Before reaching for that cigar, give a little thought to what you have eaten for breakfast, or what you will be eating, before reaching for your cigar. Having meal loaded with flavor may desensitize your palate, making a mild cigar taste flavorless. Regardless of the meal, I find that a nice mild cigar with a Connecticut Shade wrapper tends to go great with a morning cup of coffee. For a few morning cigar ideas, take a look at the list of cigars below. Each cigar is commonly found within local cigar shops across the country and carry a fair price.

  • Perdomo Reserve Champaign
  • Camacho Connecticut
  • Oliva Connecticut Reserve

Afternoon

As you progress through your day, it is said that your palate looses some of its sensitivity. By eating certain types of food, your palate becomes more or less weary as the day wears on. In most cases, many people find this the prime time to enjoy a medium bodied cigar. When entering the medium bodied spectrum, your options seem to increase dramatically. You now have access to Maduro wrappers which have a tendency to have a sweeter flavor, as well as a variety of other wrappers that may be a little too spicy or flavorful for earlier on in the day.

Just like your morning cigar, nicotine levels can be managed by watching what you eat or drink around the time you light up. Three of my favorite medium bodied, medium to full flavored, cigars have been listed below. Please be aware that taste is subjective, while these cigars may be great for me in the afternoon, they may be underwhelming or overwhelming for you.

  • Padron x000 Series Maduro
  • J. Fuego 777 Corojo
  • CAO La Traviata

Evening

Just as you would expect from reading along with this article, evening cigars generally pack a little more punch than those smoked earlier on in the day. Taking into account the average persons diet, fuller bodied and fuller flavored cigars have the ability to cut through any weariness your palate may be experiencing. 

In addition to more body and flavor, you can generally handle a higher level of nicotine with fewer effects as the day wears on. It is my opinion that your dinner plays the biggest part in your evening cigar selection. If you had something light, you may want to consider something on the lower end of the full scale. If you had a hearty serving of meat and potatoes, you can probably look into picking up something on the higher end of the scale. 

Just as with my morning and afternoon reccomendations, I have outlined three cigars that I enjoy smoking i the evening. In the event that any of these cigars feel as though they are a bit too full for you, seek out a little sugar to dull any nausea you may encounter. 

  • Oliva Serie V Liga Especial
  • Camacho Corojo
  • Illusione f9

What Inspires Your Choice

Despite the safe recommendations made for certain times in the day, I sometimes just feel like having a certain type of cigar. After having some experience under your belt, you will begin to feel confident in your ability to choose a cigar off the cuff.

Often times I just feel like a full bodied cigar in the early afternoon and at other times I feel like something mild with a cup of coffee in the evening. These feelings make you throw the safe selections out the window and go with your gut. Having an understanding of what you enjoy will greatly increase your ability to select a cigar for the occasion.

To make a good selection in this type of situation, I weigh past experience, current taste preference, and general interest to come up with a cigar which seems best suited for that given moment

Past Experience

Over the past four years, my taste in cigars has changed considerably. I have gone from not wanting to smoke anything containing a Connecticut Shade wrapper or binder, to smoking them routinely as a morning cigar. Perhaps Connecticut Shade was one of those things in life that I needed to learn to like, sort of like an adult learning that broccoli wasn’t quite as bad as they remembered as a child. 

Whatever the reason for this shift in taste, I know I can count on my taste changing from time to time. It is this predictability that requires me to keep in mind past experiences when selecting a cigar. While the type of tobacco is important to remember, the brand of cigar is key. I have learned that most manufacturers blend a cigar their own way. Each cigar within their line is built to their taste and has similarities between them. It is this similarity that gives you an idea on what you may think of the final product.

 I have learned that regardless of how hyped up or popular a Rocky Patel product is, chances are very good that it simply won’t do anything for me. The opposite can be said for the core Oliva brand. Whenever a new Oliva branded product hits the market, chances are very good that I will find it appealing and smoke a number of them.

Equipped with the knowledge of what brands do it for you, as well as the knowledge of what brands do not, you should feel confident that you can at least pick up something that you will find to be a decent smoke. By weighing your past experience with your current preference in taste, you increase your likelihood of finding the right cigar for the occasion. 

Current Taste Preference

After accessing your mental vault of cigar information for past experience with different types of tobacco and manufacturers, you can then begin to weigh your current preference in taste. Just like a I mentioned before, you may like one type of tobacco today that you thought was vile six-months ago. You could also be going through a change in which your favorite type of tobacco from six-months ago simply isn’t doing it for you anymore. 

When selecting a cigar, I like to consider my past experiences with the manufacturer more than the type of tobacco. I find that my opinion of manufactures tends to fluctuate less than my opinions of the tobacco itself. While each manufacturer will process their tobacco in their own way, producing a unique flavor, the base flavor will remain that which is typical of the tobacco. 

For example, if you compare the Corojo tobacco used by J. Fuego and the Corojo tobacco used by Camacho, they will both have a unique taste but the core of that taste is going to be Corojo. The difference could be an aftertaste, added spicy component, or any other number of things but the core flavor will remain the same.

 So what does all that mean? Well, lets say that you have been on a bit of a Habano Sungrown wrapper kick as of late. Looking through your choices, you see that Rocky Patel and Oliva both have a cigar featuring this wrapper. Because of my past experience with the brands, I am going to be more likely to pick up the Oliva Serie V Liga Especial and wait to try the Rocky Patel for a time when I am feeling more adventurous.

General Interest

With all of the new brands hitting the market and the marketing strategies of each new brand, it is inevitable that you are going to have an interest in trying some of these new brands. Because the company is new, it is a little bit of a gamble and you just have to dive in and give it a try.

On occasion these new brands are headed up by a brand owner and not a manufacturer. Two prime examples of this are Sam Leccia with his Nub and Cain lines as well as Matt Booth and his Room 101 line. In the instance of Sam Leccia, you are purchasing an Oliva product. In the instance of Matt Booth, you are purchasing a Camacho product.

Knowing if the manufacturer creates their own cigars versus having someone else make them puts you in a better position to determine if the cigar might be a good fit for you. If that information is unavailable, I take little consideration to my past experiences with the tobacco that makes up the blend and focus on how I feel about that particular tobacco today.

In the end, just remember that any manufacturer can produce both a smash hit and a dud. While I may not care for the vast majority of Rocky Patel product, there are the occasional stellar cigars, such as the Rocky Patel Sungrown and the old Edge Sumatra. The same can be said with Oliva, while I enjoy the vast majority of their product, the Cain is a dud in my eyes.

By weighing your past experiences, your current taste preferences, and your current interest, you greatly increase the chances of selecting a cigar that is right for you. On occasion, you will pick a bad one, take the opportunity to expand your horizons as you live and learn.

Do Ratings Tie In To Your Decision

I think that ratings are an integral part of the cigar industry. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several people at my local tobacconist which buy new products solely based on the ratings found in a popular lifestyle magazine. While there are some that feel all cigars should have a numbered rating associated with them, others have little faith in the practice. 

Shortly after getting into the hobby of cigars, I spent some time reading a book entitled The Idiots Guide to Cigars. The book was loaded with useful information and contained a rating sheet which was meant to be copied and filled out for any cigars smoked. I later morphed that rating sheet into a spreadsheet and began filling it out for each cigar that I smoked. 

Before long I was confused by the end result. You see, this rating sheet broke down a variety of cigar variables and assigned them a point system. When you reached the end of the sheet, you would have effectively given your cigar a score based on a one-hundred point system. On more than one occasion I wondered how a Cigar A outscored Cigar B when I clearly thought Cigar B was the better product. I had the urge to begin tweaking numbers to show my feelings and realized that this rating system was useless to me. If I were to start making adjustments to alter the final score, it was no longer accurate and would trigger me to go through the same process if I found a cigar that was even better than Cigar B.

 I am one of those people that have little faith in a rating system which assigns a score. I have even less faith in a system that uses an arbitrary number to rate a cigar without breaking down each element and taking them into consideration. 

Reviews, on the other hand, are a completely different animal. In my eyes a cigar review is nothing more than the expressed opinion of the reviewer, pointing out the good and the bad of the product. While reviews and ratings are very similar in that they both express an opinion, I feel that the opinion expressed in words is far more important than the one expressed in numerical form. 

Regardless of how you feel about reviews and ratings, they are only meant to be a guide. You are the one that has to make the ultimate decision on whether the purchase should be made, with your hard earned money, or not.

Do The Views Of Others Affect Your Choice

Word of mouth in the cigar industry is extremely important. With the vast number of cigars coming on and off the market, it is difficult for an individual to keep up with everything that is going on. By taking advantage of word of mouth, we, as cigar smokers, can take a short cut and find out if a particular product is worth our time and money.

While you should never just go by the opinion of a random individual, the recommendations of those with similar taste in cigars can be invaluable. Having a smoking buddy, or a virtual friend on the internet, with similar taste in cigars can help you determine if the latest cigar to hit the market might be up your alley or if it should be avoided like the plague.

Because taste is such a personal matter, you are going to find the occasional cigar that you and your smoking buddy strongly disagree on. In any event, keep an open mind and know that just because a stick comes highly recommended, it does not mean that it will be a guaranteed hit for you.

In Closing

Selecting a cigar at any given moment is only complicated if you allow it to be. By using tools such as past experience, current taste preferences, general interest in products, ratings, reviews, and word of mouth recommendations from friends, every moment of your life can have a suitable cigar paired with it.

If you are new to cigars, be adventurous and try something new from time to time. Doing so is the only way to broaden your horizons and provide the type of experience with brands and tobacco that will save you not only time, but money in the future.

If you are a cigar veteran having a little trouble deciding what to pick up, think back to the basics for a moment. Revisiting the things you learned as a new smoker can help speed up the selection process and get you out of any funk you may be in when confronted with making a cigar decision.

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Walt White is an avid cigar smoker residing in Reading, Pennsylvania. In addition to enjoying fine cigars, Walt enjoys writing cigar reviews as well as other cigar related articles as a Co-Founder of www.StogieReview.com. In addition to cigar related content, Walt also blogs about day to day life on his personal blog at www.WaltInPA.com. To converse with Walt, feel free to follow him on Twitter (@waltw) or email him at Walt at StogieReview dot com.

Tony Casas is a 32 year old Creative Managing/Webdesigning/Craft Beer Drinking Cigar smoker from El Paso, Texas. When he isn't loving his wife he is either sleepy, hungry, or suffering from a headache.

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