How to Pick a Cigar

By Shawn M. Tomlinson
This artist's interpretation, a variety, cigars
Carole Anne Tomlinson, Shawn M. Tomlinson, historic photos

Despite the anti-smoking hysteria that has swept the nation, there is nothing like an occasional good cigar. There’s sensuous pleasure to sniffing, then lighting, then savoring the tobacco that has been grown, aged and hand-rolled with a cordial or brandy.But picking that cigar for that special occasion may daunt the uninitiated. There are at least a couple dozen cigars available at most stores. There are many more at a cigar store. Where does one begin?Right here, actually.

Groucho Marx, a famous cigar smoker, screen, he

Do a little research. There are websites and several magazines that rate cigars. They also will have general information about types and tastes. While you may not like every cigar the editors recommend, these sources are a good place to start for a little cigar education.

Legend, it, President John F. Kennedy, 1,000 Cuban cigars

Walk into a tobacconist's shop. Only continue if the store has a walk-in—or at least glass-encased—humidor. The humidor is designed to keep cigars at the optimal humidity, around 70 percent. A tobacconist who doesn’t know this or have one probably isn’t the best bet for purchases.

Walk into the humidor. Stop and savor the aroma of the mix of rich tobaccos. Then start looking around. Pick up and sniff any cigar that appeals to you. You might like the dark, rich texture of a maduro (dark colored) cigar. You might like the light beige color of another. You might just like the box the cigars sit in or the color of the labels. It’s all up to taste.

Pick a selection of several cigars you get a good feeling about, or those that smell good. That really is how to pick a cigar: go with your instinct.

Sir Winston Churchill, another famous cigar smoker

Don’t pick a cigar based on price alone. Just because a cigar has a high price doesn’t mean you’ll like it. Some cigars considered excellent like Arturo Fuente and Partagas aren’t necessarily the ones you’ll like. Partagas, for example, tends to have a dry taste. Arturo Fuente can taste bitter. Dunhill cigars, enjoyed by Groucho Marx in particular, are high-class cigars that may or may not fit your taste.

Che Geuvara, the label, he

Remove the label, snip off the end and light the cigar with a wooden match for best flavor. Try each cigar on a different day. Try each one with your favorite drink. You will begin to discover the kind of tastes you like and those you don’t. Enjoy the experience. Don’t smoke a cigar when you don’t have the time to relax.

Find a cigar you really like and stick with it. At the same time, don’t be afraid to wander the tobacconist’s humidor from time to time to try others. Cigar companies introduce new variations occasionally, and it can be fun to try them.

About the Author

Shawn M. Tomlinson has been a newspaper and magazine writer for more than 28 years. He has written for a variety of publications, from "MacWEEK" and "Macintosh-Aided Design" to "Boys' Life," "Antique Week" and numerous websites. He attended several colleges, majoring in English, writing and theater, and has taught college classes about writing.