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Cigar Tip: Be a Good Teacher

3 Oct 2012

Lately I’ve found myself smoking cigars with friends who are very occasional cigar smokers. (By “occasional” I mean barely one cigar per year.) Almost without fail, these fine folks tend to make the same mistakes each time they light up that all-too-rare cigar. In these circumstances I find myself playing the role of teacher.

Without pointing any fingers, and hopefully without coming across as a snobby know-it-all, today I’d like to point out some of the most common cigar mistakes made by newbies for those of us who are seasoned veterans. Why? Because as good cigar smokers, it’s our duty to politely and patiently introduce interested parties to our fine hobby, and that introduction has to include some cigar basics to help our friends get the most out of the experience. So without further ado, here are my top five errors made by infrequent cigar smokers:

Cutting too much cap. The temptation to cut away too much of the cigar is too great for a rookie, especially if you’ve supplied him with a guillotine cutter. Either let him use a V-cutter or, better yet, take the time to show him where the cap should be snipped with a guillotine. Remember to instruct him to position the blade so it will enter the stogie just above the shoulder (where parejo cigars stop being round). If he’s smoking a torpedo or a pyramid, a good rule of thumb is to slice off about a quarter of an inch.

Failing to establish an even light. For starters, make sure he’s using a butane torch or a wooden match. It is inadvisable to light cigars with paper matches, stoves, candles, or lighters that use lighter fluid. Once the proper ignition tool is selected, I find that newbies are really good at lighting the middle of a cigar’s filler, but really bad at toasting its edges thoroughly. This can result in tunneling or uneven burns. So take care to explain that lighting a cigar is a process, almost a ritual, and checking the foot to make sure the cigar is fully lit is a good idea.

Smoking way too quickly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Smoking is not a race, and there’s no prize for finishing first. You may have to say this twice to guys who are accustomed to sucking down cigarettes in a manner of minutes. You can also say that each cigar puff is intended to be savored, not to mention the fact that smoking too quickly can ruin the taste of premium tobacco.

Ashing like a cigarette. Whether your infrequent cigar smoker is a cigarette smoker or not, all rookies tend to ash their cigars like cigarettes. Too often and too carelessly. This over-ashing will only serve to increase a cigar’s heat and harshness, and flicking the cigar to remove the ash may damage the wrapper. On the other hand, leaving the ash on for a while promotes cool smoke because it allows less oxygen to reach the burning tobacco. This is key if you actually want to taste the cigar rather than simply be subjected to its spice and heat.

Assuming cigars are too expensive to smoke more regularly. Time and again my friends are surprised to learn that the cigar I handed them—a cigar they’re really enjoying, no less—costs somewhere in the $6-8 range. This falsehood that cigars are only for the rich is so pervasive that some people think all decent smokes cost upwards of $15 or $20 apiece. These folks are usually pleased to learn that you can buy many, many excellent smokes for less than $10.

Understanding these mistakes and having the proper, patient response ready for those who are seeking knowledge is vital to being an effective representative for the cigar community. Thank you in advance for your service to this noble cause, and feel free to list your own observations in the comments below.

Patrick A

photo credit: N/A

5 Responses to “Cigar Tip: Be a Good Teacher”

  1. cigarphil Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    Patrick I act as Yoda on a regular basis and it is so true that many newbys' butcher their smokes and need to be taken in hand. I'll call myself a careful shopper instead of those other names my smoking friends use but I buy great cigars for 4 bucks. The Stogie sampler from Corona has a Davidoff Gold Band I'd put up against anything in it's class. $4.00… Thank you Corona and Stogie Guys

  2. Gary K Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Patrick, you stole my thunder (sort'a). I've been thinking about writing a similar piece on this topic. Sometimes, when I'm with a newbie or someone who smokes only on occasion, I want to point out what they're doing wrong, or more diplomatically, say: "FYI, the next time you clip your cigar, why not try this…" It's frustrating, because I have a live-and-let-live attitude, and don't want to come off as a snooty know-it-all. On the other hand, some of these habits really make me so crazy I have to look away.
    You hit on all the key points. Great post!

  3. Chris Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 12:35 am #


    A friend just introduced me to cigars, and he explained to me that nobody expects you to smoke a whole cigar in one sitting. It's acceptable to let a foot go out, cut off the last quarter inch or so of the foot (to avoid latent burning tobacco) and save the rest for later. This makes it feasible (time-wise) for cigar smokers to join friends' cigarette breaks and reduces waste for money-conscious smokers.
    Such clipped cigars will obviously lose moisture and will diminish in quality, so smokers who do this should still be careful to finish the cigar as soon as possible.

  4. Travis Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    I typically smoke robusto or toro shaped cigars. Being new a greeting of mine whohas been a cigar smoker for years told me to lay my guillotine cutter on a table stick the cigar thru it till it reston the table then snip. I get a perfect cut every time

  5. Taylor Saturday, August 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    I have only been smoking premiums every week or two for 4 months now, but my friends are finding out and want to smoke too. I am constantly on the lookout for better ways to smoke stogies and this post will help me teach them a lot easier. Thanks!