John Dapper’s Cigar Buying Guide

As you drive to the cigar shop you begin to taste and salivate for the pleasures you will unlock in that cigar box. The question you ask yourself is: “what shop should I go to and what is the right cigar for me?” These are two of the most important questions you will need to answer in order for you to find out which cigar is best for you.

There is no problem switching shops or cigars if you are not satisfied, and you should never be intimidated by your tobacco shop, tobacconist, or the cigars. Your tobacconist should be helpful and happy to share all the knowledge they have. In this article I will help you choose both a tobacco shop and cigars.

Tobacco Shop

A tobacco shop should be a place to socialize like your barbershop. You should feel comfortable and wanted. Don’t be afraid to let the tobacconist know you are learning about cigars so they know to help you out. If anyone that works in the tobacco shop is condescending, walk out and take your business elsewhere. Cigars are a hobby anyone can enjoy,  not a special club for some elite people.

Find the whole process from choosing a shop to smoking the cigar pleasurable. Trust when I say that there are many shops like these where they think smoking is just for the elite–where the staff wears suits and are very condescending to the point that many long time cigar aficionados would not step foot in there. A place where it’s not about the cigar, but the money the cigar makes for them and the suits that buy them. You should choose a shop that is very knowledgeable about their products and how to use them. Once you let them know that you are new to cigars they should be very friendly.

After finding a friendly shop, the next important thing is the selection they have and how the cigars are maintained. They should have a good selection of cigars, not just a case of cigars with the rest of the shop selling everything not related to cigars. If you see this, keep moving to the next shop.

Cigars should be displayed in a humidor and not in dry or open air. A humidor is a place where cigars are stored at the appropriate temperature and humidity. It could be a small box for home owners to an actual room filled with cigars. There are many sizes but in a cigar shop it should be a room. Cigars should always be kept in about 70* F. If the cigars are kept out and not in a humidor, they will crack and harden. You want them in good shape so if you see any box left out, do not even consider this shop and head to the next spot.

The Right Cigar

Ultimately, the cigar you will like is up to you. You and nobody else will enjoy your cigar and nobody can tell you what you will like. They can give you ideas of what you will like, but it will be up to you to try a variety of cigars. This is how you will learn about different cigars– by experience. So go out there and experience the variety the earth has to offer. If you only try one,  how can you know the other cigars aren’t for you? If you want anyone to tell you exactly what to smoke, then your not in it to enjoy cigars. Just like you drink different wines for different occasions and with different foods, so do cigars. It’s up to you to figure out what cigar you like with what occasion and food. This is how you’ll know what you’re talking about when it comes up in conversation–experience.

A cigar price is not a good way to know the quality of cigar–the only way to know the quality is by it’s color, shape, size, and technical quality. There are many shades of cigar color, around sixty to be exact. Lets narrow it down to a large grouping of shades.

  • Double Claro ( light colored) is picked before maturity and quickly dried–this gives it the greenish brown color. The lighter the color, the lighter the side. This is because of the immaturity of the leaf and the quickness of the leaf drying leaves little oil in the leaf.
  • Claro (light brown) is normally called Natural. A cigar with this color is normally used as a mild cigar.
  • Colorado (dark brown) is matured well and is aromatic.
  • Colorado Maduro (dark brown) is rich in flavor with a medium strength.
  • Maduro (one shade before black, dark brown) is almost the color of black coffee. This cigar is used by experienced smokers to enjoy and is what Cuban cigars are normally known for.
  • Oscuro (black) is a strong cigar with little aroma.

Because of the oil in darker colored cigars, they tend to be stronger and with a deeper taste. The color of the leaf comes from the exposure to sunlight. The more sunlight, the darker the leaf and the more oil in the leaf.

Shape is nothing anyone can’t learn. The shape of the cigar is straight forward and is your call on what you prefer. The preference of Americans changes just like styles change from time to time. The shape comes down to two main characteristics: Parejos (straight sides) or Figurados (irregular shapes).

Figurados can be  piramides, belicoso, torpedo, or culebra.

  • Piramides are pyramid shaped and pointy at the head (where you smoke the cigar) and are wider at the foot(where you light the cigar).
  • Belicoso is a smaller piramide with a tit-like head.
  • A torpedo looks like a torpedo with both ends closed.
  • Culebra looks like snakes wrapped up together.

Size depends on the time you have because the larger cigars are slow burning and take longer. If you have less time to smoke you need a smaller cigar. A larger cigar would be appropriate if you are hanging out with friends having drinks. It would not be appropriate in a intimate cocktail party because of the proximity of everyone around you. If the setting calls for hanging out while slowly enjoying drinks, a large cigar is the right call. Big cigars also give the impression of wealth, so if you smoke big cigars in small setting you are trying to show (or pretend) your wealth–both bad reasons to smoke cigars.

The diameter of the cigar will give you the flavor. The bigger the diameter, the more full flavor the cigar will have. They are also well-done because experienced rollers make the larger cigars while the newbies take care of the smaller sizes. Cigar rollers graduate to larger cigars with experience.

Smaller cigars are normally for morning or after a light lunch, while a larger cigar might be good for a heavy lunch, a dinner that was filling , or later on in the evening while sitting on the porch looking up at the stars.

The wrapper is the first sign if the cigar is good or not. If the wrapper is cracked and dry, it’s no good. If it begins to break apart when you touch it, it’s definitely not a good cigar. You want a cigar that is not too oily and not too dry. It should be smooth without the leaf stems showing (veins) because this is a sign of improper storage.

Once the wrapper is checked, the next thing is the color of the filler at the foot of the cigar. Once again, the lighter the color, the lighter the strength. The darker the color, the greater the strength. When buying a box, make sure the box is opened before purchasing. There should be no problem with this unless there is something to hide. You want to make sure you are getting the quality in that box. Check that all cigars match in color and quality. A small variance is okay but if one cigar is light colored and the other is black, you know you got an issue. Feel free to smell and touch the cigar. Look for the qualities that we have spoken of before: smooth, right amount of oil, cracks. Touch for hard spots on the cigar and check for cracks. Inspect for bugs in a cigar by checking for holes. Bugs will grow in the moist humidors inso make sure to check before bringing it home and contaminating you cigar collection. If you find just one of theses issues, leave the box and move on. If you find more than one box with issues, move to another shop because your current shop is incompetent.

With all the guidelines in place, you are now ready to make your ultimate choice in taste. Knowledge is here for you, now it’s up to you to start and enjoy your new love: a cigar. This article is only the beginning of knowledge. If you have any questions, visit your local shop and ask questions.

J. Castellanos


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