Cigars 101 — How to smoke your first cigar
If you are reading this, it is pretty much obvious that you purchased your first cigar. Congratulations, you are entering a community that will surprise you every day that goes by. Forget about the old image of a fat capitalist figure holding a bag of money and smoking a cigar. It no longer exists. With the exponential growth of social networks (mainly Instagram) that image couldn’t be further from the truth.
With that stereotype out of your head, we can now begin on the simple and humble experience that is smoking a cigar for the first time. Here are some steps that we wish someone told us when we began:
Step 1: Find a calm place.
Believe it or not, the place where you smoke your cigar can make or break your first cigar experience. Usually, a cigar lounge is a great place because it is a calm environment and people are very respectful of each other's space. If you feel like talking, you talk. If you don’t, you don’t. Just say hello, we are all humans here. The main objective is for you to find a relaxed environment to appreciate your first cigar. Another option is to smoke at home, this way you will always be 100% focused on smoking your cigar. The downside is that if you want to ask something, you’re just going to have to google it.
Step 2: Find the right cigar for you.
Finding a great cigar is essential for your first experience. Don’t worry about having the biggest, darkest and more powerful looking cigar in the room. You will have time to experiment all of that when your palette evolves in the future. For now, just worry about having a smooth and tasty cigar without overpowering your mouth and nose. Ask the person behind the counter to help you with that, they will do it with a smile on their face.
Step 3: Cut your cigar the right way.
Cutting your cigar might seem a bit simplistic and not even worthy of some lines but it can make a big difference in your cigar smoking experience. Premium cigars usually have three caps, never less than two. The cap is what holds the foot of the cigar together, closing up the tobacco leaves when they are rolled. It is very important that you cut your cigar with a very sharp cutter and that your cut is just enough for the first cap to come off. Remember, you can always cut a bit further, but you can never undo it. Once it is cut, it’s cut forever. If you cut your cigar too far, you run the risk of the wrapper leaf starting to open up and you’ll end up with a ruined cigar and a mouth full of bits of tobacco. And that is never a pleasant thing. Cut it with confidence so the blade doesn’t jam and destroy the leaves. One hard squeeze on the cutter and you are good to go. If you are using someone else’s cutter, blow on it to get rid of any excess tobacco that might be left in the cutter. It is a gesture of respect to the person that is using it next.
Step 4: Toast it!
Chances are, your first instinct is to get the lighter and put the flame directly on your cigar and puff on it until it is lit. Please, don’t do that. Instead, what you should do is to hold the cigar in an angle and ignite your lighter without the flame ever touching the leaves. The heat from the lighter is more than enough to start producing some smoke. Keep rotating the cigar until it is evenly lit up. Don’t worry about being perfect, this is your first cigar after all. And if you feel like you are not up to the job, ask for help from anyone around you (assuming you are at a lounge). The most important piece of advice is to never burn your cigar too much as the taste of it will become very unpleasant.
Step 5: Blow out and not in. Whaaaaaat?
Yes. The very first thing you should do before puffing in the smoke is to blow the “old” smoke out. Put the cigar in your mouth and gently blow out the accumulated smoke inside of it. Aficionados do this because a lot of ammonia and other bitter substances (we’ll get nerdy on other articles, not this one) will accumulate on the foot of the cigar and the will force them inside. Once you blow this first smoke out, they will leave the cigar and you will get a very enjoyable first draw. The first draw should be controlled, with the smoke slowly entering your mouth forming the first flavor notes of your cigar. There is no recommended time for a puff, just do what feels more comfortable to you.
Step 6: Don’t inhale!
Forget about the way you smoked that cigarette pack when you stole it from your uncle. Yeah, we all did it. You inhaled the smoke straight to your lungs and coughed like crazy. Let’s put it this way: if you do that with your cigar, it will be ten times worse and you will put down your cigar immediately, never smoke again and you’re going to tell everyone that cigars suck. So let’s avoid it. The right way to smoke your cigar is to suck the air gently and fill your mouth with that tasty smoke. Let the smoke stay in your mouth for a couple of seconds and then blow it away gently. Try to concentrate on the aromas that the smoke produces on your mouth and on the air surrounding you. For now, it will only smell like a cigar but with time you will be able to identify flavors like vanilla, coffee beans, chocolate, leather, pepper and much more. If you feel confident enough try a technique called “retrohale”. Retrohale simply means that you will blow the last bits of smoke out from your nose.
Step 7: take your time.
Cigars are meant to be enjoyed and appreciated along the smoking session so please take your time between puffs. Usually, we recommend a puff a minute for beginners. This will ensure that your cigar burns at a consistent pace, developing the expected flavors and, most importantly, it prevents cigar nausea. If you are new to nicotine, your body has to adapt and the only way you can do it is to slowly introduce him to it. Cigar nausea can cause shivers, a slight headache, cold sweats and, in more severe cases, throwing up. Have a glass of water near you to keep hydrated at all times on your first cigars, take your time and you will be just fine.
Step 8: do not tap that ash.
Have you ever seen those Instagram pics where the ash is almost the same size as the entire cigar? That’s actually a good thing. The long ash protects your cigar from over-heating and prevents that over-heating reaction to create a bitter taste on your draw. Let the ash fall gracefully where it wants to fall and don’t worry if it falls on your lap (where it always does. Always. Every. Single. Time.) Don’t worry if it happens, a gentle shake and the ash is gone. Plus, you will have a funny Instagram Story to share with your friends. You can also tap very gently with your cigar against the ashtray if you fell the ash is getting uncomfortably big, just don’t tap too hard because you could end up with a broken wrapper.
Step 9: Smoke your cigar until it feels good.
Does it feel great? Keep smoking. Doesn’t feel that great anymore? Leave the cigar on the ashtray and leave. That's is. Do not let everyone else tell you that you should keep smoking it. It is your cigar and you should enjoy it until the moment that you feel like it. Some say you should smoke until the ash hits the band. Others say you should smoke it until you burn your fingers. We say: smoke your cigar and enjoy it. The moment that cigars stop being enjoyable for any reason, just stop. We have had tons of cigars so far and some we enjoy until our fingers are burnt and other we put down on the first puffs because they are just terrible. While you are smoking it, try to divide it into three thirds as some cigars are built to evolve in flavor in each one of the thirds.
Step 10: Put it down like a gentleman.
When you are ready to put down your cigar, place it in the center of the ashtray and let it go out by itself. Don’t smash your cigar against the ashtray as it will create a very intense (and frankly, quite bad) smell in the room. If you just put it down it will gently go out on an odorless and very elegant fashion. Stand up, say goodbye to your new friends at the lounge and get on with your life.
Once you have smoked a bunch of cigars you will see that eventually you will create your own rules and rituals and that’s ok. Cigar smoking is celebratory and it is a personal thing and it should remain this way. The most important thing is that you enjoy it and feel good with yourself while doing it.
Do you feel like we missed something on this article? Feel free to drop us a comment. The point of this read is to improve the chances of you feeling good about your first cigar and to create an experience that is worth repeating.
Have a great smoke!