Cigars are a universe unto themselves. And even though a quick stop at the cigar store might seem endlessly confusing for a beginner, there is a lot to look forward to when one begins studying cigars. Every experienced cigar enthusiast was once a beginner, so there’s no reason to fret when you begin your journey into the exciting, ancient, wonderful world of cigars.
Anyone who wants to learn about cigars should begin by understanding the basic concepts of color, size, shape and how to choose from among the hundreds of choices typically on display at the tobacconist’s shop. Indeed, this basic knowledge is often called “Cigars 101,” because it’s the initial learning a person has to take in before purchasing their first cigar.
For a beginner, it helps to learn about the four “core” concepts of cigars: color, shape/size, how to select a cigar, and how to choose the right accessories.
There are six basic colors of cigar wrappings (which are leaves). The color gives some indication of taste. Here are the six essential colors and their related taste profiles:
Double Claro: Sometimes called Candela, this yellow and/or light green wrapper undergoes heat drying during processing. The double claro usually carries a mildly sweet taste.
Claro: These cigars typically arrive in a light brown or tan wrapper and are quite mild due to the fact that the wrapper’s leaves are grown in the shade and picked before maturity.
Natural: Brown or light brown naturals are traditionally grown in the sunlight and offer a full-bodied taste.
Colorado: These dark brown, medium brown and reddish selections are also grown in the shade, as is the claro, but have a robust flavor.
Maduro: Nearly black, or sometimes dark-reddish brown, the maduro’s have been cooked in a special chamber. This very sweet wrapper has a powerful flavor.
Oscuro: This nearly black wrapper’s leaves have been fermented because they remained on the plant for a long time. They offer a full-bodied flavor and often originate in Brazil, Mexico or Nicaragua.
There are dozens of cigar shapes, but the following six are the most common:
Pyramid: The pyramid has a pointed and closed head (the end that goes into your mouth), and gradually gets wider toward the foot (the part you light).
Belicoso: This rounded-head cigar also features a pyramid shape.
Torpedo: Like a real torpedo, this cigar has a closed foot, a middle bulge, and a pointed head.
Perfecto: Both ends are closed and round, but the middle features a bulge.
Culebras: These unusual-looking cigars consist of three panatelas (very thing cigars about 5 inches long) braided together.
Diademas: A very large cigar that is about 8 inches in length and has either an open or closed foot.
Selecting Your First Cigar
Don’t choose your first cigar without help from an experienced tobacconist. Explain what types of flavors interest you, what you are willing to spend, and whether you’ve ever smoked any kind of cigar.
Finding the Right Accessories
Beginners in the Cigars 101 stage should not worry about having to purchase many accessories until they develop a feel for the type of cigars they will be most attracted to. However, it is usually a good idea to acquire a clipper and learn how to use it properly.
Cigar smoking is one life’s most tasteful pleasures and has been around for hundreds of years. Those who are just starting to learn about this historically rich form of human activity are about to encounter a rewarding pleasure that has no equal.