How to Buy a Cigar Like an Aficionado
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Once considered a sophisticated male pastime, cigar smoking is still quite popular despite all the anti-smoking and cancer campaigns. The last twenty years or so has experienced a notable and continual increase in the prevalence of cigar smoking. With up to fourteen times as many male cigar smokers than female, cigar smoking has remained a distinction of manly pleasure and class. However, for any man new to cigar smoking, it may seem more like a difficult and complex task than a genuine pursuit of enjoyment: there are many rituals to be followed and various pitfalls to be avoided. This doesn't only refer to the act of smoking cigars, but also how to buy a cigar. There are thousands of cigar brands all over the world and quality can vary wildly between them. Therefore, it is important to know what to look for when purchasing a decent cigar.
Lightly squeeze and feel a cigar before purchasing it to test its texture. A decent cigar should give very slightly upon being gently squeezed in addition to having a consistent texture. A cigar with lumps or soft spots is a sign of poor quality and any cigar with such a texture should not be considered for purchase. However, when squeezing and feeling a cigar it is worth remembering that they are fragile and should only be held very lightly to avoid making cracks in the cigar. There are too many broken cigars in stores due to amateur buyers holding them too tightly and cracking them. Gently squeezing or even pinching the cigar is also a good indicator of its freshness: a cigar may be of excellent quality, but if it's been stored out of a humidor for more than 24 hours, it will loose its freshness and go dry. If the wrapper and binder are tender upon being pinched it is fresh, but if the wrapper is hard and it cracks, throw it away.
In the same way as checking the texture, feeling the cigar is a good way of checking its moisture which is an effective indicator of its overall quality. The level of humidity in which cigars are stored significantly alters their taste and the rate at which they burn. If a cigar is too dry, it burns too quickly, while a cigar that is too moist burns unevenly and produces an obnoxious acidic flavour. When buying cigars, they should ideally be stored in a humidor -- a box designed to store cigars and to maintain their optimum level of humidity -- both before and after purchasing: according to Gary Malenski, writer and cigar connoisseur, the ideal humidity of a humidor should be between circa 68-72% of relative humidity.
On a very basic level, the origin of a cigar is a good indicator of quality for a first time buyer. Naturally, quality may vary greatly between cigars produced in a certain country, but as a general rule, if a cigar comes from the likes of Cuba or Honduras the chances are it will be of better quality than something as extreme as a German cigar, for example. Despite the romanticism attached to them due to the difficulty in obtaining them, Cuban cigars are considered a luxury for a reason. Cuba, like most other well-known cigar-producing countries, has such a perfect combination of ideal climate, rich soil and a population consisting of experienced, expert rollers, that creating a great quality cigar is second nature. In fact, Cuban cigar rollers, or 'torcedores' as they are known in their country, and their craft are highly respected both within their homeland and abroad.
When it comes to buying a cigar, size does matter -- at least for men. The length and width of cigars can vary dramatically depending on the brand and it is important to know what size cigar you want to smoke before purchasing. This is complicated further by the fact that cigar sizes are often described not by number but instead by given nicknames, for example: Corona and Panatela. Bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to cigars, but it is important to be aware that certain cigars sizes have different tastes and qualities as well as different amounts of tobacco. Additionally, if you are buying cigars for a situation when you plan on smoking for a long time, a longer cigar with a bigger ring gauge is ideal. As an unwritten rule, the bigger the ring gauge, the cooler you are, although for cigar novices, it wouldn't be wise to start with a great big Presidente: start small and work your way up.
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