Jan 13th, 2023
Whether you’re new to smoking cigars or you’re a growing cigar aficionado, knowing how to pick the perfect cigar for your specific needs can be tough. While we have plenty of information on how to master all the different steps of being a cigar smoker (how to cut it, toast it, and enjoy it properly), finding out how to select your cigar is the very first step.
Walking into a cigar shop with so many options can be daunting for any consumer, especially if you're nervous about asking the staff questions. For instance, what’s the difference in taste between a mild and intense smoke? Or why is a cigar’s size so important to consider?
Certain factors can help you filter your choices, including cigar sizes, cigar shapes, and flavors. Nailing those initial criteria can be a bit confusing, so if you’re feeling a bit lost, read our guide below on how to pick out the ultimate stogie for your preferences.
Factors to Consider When Picking the Perfect Cigar
The main components in a cigar are a filler, binder, and wrapper. Typically, the wrapper leaves are the most premium part of a cigar, and it’s why many connoisseurs opt for a smaller ring gauge, because the wrapper’s flavors are more pronounced. If you’re not an expert, figuring out how to choose a cigar isn’t easy. However, if we look at a breakdown of the cigar’s anatomy, it can help us understand better.
Wrapper: the wrapper is the first part of the cigar that you lay eyes on, and it's responsible for balancing out the blend within. It’s why the price of some cigars is so high. Cigar wrapper types are broken into two different categories: Natural wrappers and Maduro wrappers. Common Natural wrapper varieties are Connecticut and Ecuador Connecticut cigars. They give the cigar a tan or light golden hue and have notes of cedar, chews, and almonds with a toasty and spiced finish. Maduro wrappers are fermented to achieve a dark brown, sometimes even black color, and sweet flavor packed with richness. Look for wrappers that are smooth and clean without signs of gaps, tears, or cracks.
Binder: A cigar binder is what holds together the filler and keeps the wrapper leaf on, providing a cigar with its shape. Forming the middle ring of the tube, the binder needs to be strong enough to keep the filler cohesive, but its taste must also be compatible with the wrapper and filler. Additionally, the leaves need to burn properly and evenly. Binder leaves need to be strong and elastic, allowing for good ventilation throughout the cigar. After being applied to the filler, vegetable gum is used to seal it.
Filler: Although most of a cigar’s flavor is attributed to the wrapper, the filler uses the highest number of tobacco leaves and is generally named after its place of origin. While blends from different countries are popular due to the complex and unique flavors they provide, a cigar made with tobacco from just one country is dubbed a “pure cigar.” The construction is key here since leaves pressed too tightly will stop air from passing through the cigar. High-end cigars only use long filler, or whole leaves, whereas cheaper cigars are made with short filler or remnants of chopped-up leaves. Still, short-filler cigars can be filled with flavor.
There are some warning signs that a cigar is low-quality, over or under-humidified, or moldy. The proper level of moisture is essential; too-moist cigars have the potential to split and are hard to keep lit, whereas dry cigars create an acrid smoke and remove the subtle flavor nuances. For reference, 60-75% humidity is an ideal range.