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Common Cigar Mistakes to Avoid

Apr 1st, 2023

The world of cigars is a complex one that can take years to master.

From cigar shapes to cigar sizes and the dozens of cigar wrapper types out there, there are a lot of factors to consider. Even if you’re a cigar aficionado, you might still be constantly learning new things about the art of the stogie, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Along with getting the hang of techniques like how to smoke a cigar or how to cut a cigar without a cutter, there are common mistakes to avoid when smoking. Many novices learn from their mistakes the hard way. If you want to avoid experiencing those accidents first-hand and eliminate the guesswork, read below for the ultimate cigar no-nos.

  • Smelling cellophane at the shop

When you walk into a tobacconist, there’s only so much you can learn from the look of a cigar. The smell is one of the first things that tell you about the flavor and essence of your stogie, and a rookie mistake is to sniff the stick when it’s still fully in the cellophane. Scent doesn’t pass through that plastic covering, so you’ll want to gently slip the cigar’s foot out of the cellophane to get a good sniff.

  • Picking a cigar based on the wrapper

Over 50 cigar wrapper types exist, but be warned: appearances aren’t everything. Many newbies pick up a light shade wrapper, assuming it will have a more mellow flavor when that’s not the case. Many strong and intense cigars have light-toned Connecticut wrappers but are not at all mild in taste. Rather than going off appearances, do some research first or ask your local tobacconist for help choosing.

  • Lighting your cigar with sulfur matches

Doing this will bring a sulfur flavor to your cigar, ruining the most expensive stogies. As an alternative, you can use non-sulfur matches. Extra-long matches are also ideal since your cigar shouldn’t sit directly in the flame. While torch lighters or other butane lighters are commonly used, a seasoned cigar aficionado dictating how to properly smoke a cigar might tell you to instead opt for a cedar spill, which won’t bring any foreign tastes or odors into the mix.

  • Clipping too much of the cap or not clipping it at all

Without cutting the cap, your cigar won’t draw. Some people think it looks cool to cut a cigar with a pocket knife. Still, instead of trying to figure out how to cut a cigar without a cutter, you should know that cigar cutters are a smart accessory for anyone from a beginner to a cigar aficionado. However, a common mistake people make, even with a cutter, is clipping off too much of the cap. Be sure to note where the cap ends and only use the cutter above that line, slicing off a very small amount. If using a punch cutter, twist rather than push in since this can crack the cap.

  • Inhaling the smoke

Cigars are all about the puff, not the inhale. When you inhale, the smoke should be in your mouth, not your lungs. Pull in enough smoke to fill your mouth and let the flavor spread before blowing it out. Repeat this several times until you start getting some opaque white smoke. Based on cigar aficionado advice, you might want to rotate the cigar while smoking it to get a more even burn.

  • Stubbing a cigar out in the ashtray

You might think that a cigar is similar enough to a cigarette because you stub it out when you want to stop smoking, right? Wrong. Instead, rest it on the ashtray and it’ll stop burning after a few minutes. Smashing it into the ashtray will also create a terrible, long-lasting odor. If you save an already-lit cigar for later, snip it approximately half an inch behind the ash line, place it in an airtight container, and, most importantly, never put it back in the humidor.

  • Burning the end

Knowing how to smoke a cigar requires a proper lighter. However, when some people toast the foot, or the end of the cigar, they overburn it. This can result from placing your cigar directly in the flame or toasting it for too long. Instead, you want to heat it gently and indirectly, holding it parallel to the floor. Once you get a thin, black ring surrounding the wrapper, you’re good to go! No matter what cigar types you’re interested in, they’ll all be affected in flavor if you heat your stogie carelessly. Avoid these mishaps with a lighter designed specifically for cigars - many of them even contain built-in cigar cutters.

  • Not trying sampler packs

If you don’t know what cigar types you enjoy, it’s smart to try out a sampler pack. Some places even offer custom packs, so you can pick out whichever ones look appealing to you. Along with letting you try different flavors, these packs offer some of the best cigar prices when compared to individual stogies. They’re a great way to broaden your palate and avoid getting stuck with multiple cigars that you don’t like. You can even start out with a cigar quiz to determine your preferences.

  • Smoking too quickly

It’s not a competition, so why are you trying to finish your cigar as quickly as possible? Cigars are supposed to be enjoyed slowly. The slower you experience the cigar, the more you’ll enjoy the flavor. The slower you smoke, the more you’ll be able to observe subtle notes within the tobacco, like creaminess or nuttiness. Smoking fast is also a waste of expensive cigars. Consider taking a puff every 30 seconds or every 60 seconds if that feels overwhelming.

  • Smoking on an empty stomach

Nausea can get the best of us when we smoke cigars. This usually happens to beginners on an empty stomach. Ensure you’ve had a small meal (nothing heartburn-inducing) before smoking your cigar. If you do feel nauseous or have an upset stomach, consider keeping a high-sugar drink nearby. The sugar will replace the nicotine in your bloodstream, making you feel better. Ginger ale is a popular choice.

  • Not storing cigars in a humidor

Not keeping cigars in a humidor is the fastest way to a moldy cigar or a cracked wrapper. It’s actually the most common reason that cigars don’t burn well or taste the way they should. A humidor is a box that maintains a certain humidity level for optimal cigar quality. Rather than wasting your money, keep your cigars in tip-top shape with one of these. No matter what cigar types you enjoy, this storage system is key.

  • Ashing too frequently

A major part of learning how to smoke a cigar properly is knowing ash etiquette. Unlike a cigarette, a cigar should not be ashed after every puff. If a cigar is high-quality and rolled well, it should be able to hold the ash for quite some time. Instead of flicking or scraping it, collect it as long as possible for a better burn. Just be sure to knock it gently before it has a chance to fall into your lap.