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Cigar Tip: Evaluating New Cigars

6 Aug 2018

After smoking several thousand cigars and reviewing hundreds, I have a pretty good idea of what I do and don’t like. That, of course, doesn’t make my opinions any more valid that yours or anyone else.

But it does mean I have a lot of experience. And some of what I’ve learned might help you in evaluating cigars you’re trying for the first time.

These three tips are among those I consider most important.

— Unless you thoroughly dislike a cigar from the get-go, I recommend you hold off on making a determination from a single sample. Most reviewers smoke several cigars, and there’s good reason for that. Obviously, premium cigars are a handmade product and, therefore, subject to some differences along the production line. A poor burn, for example, could be because the cigar was too wet or because a leaf was improperly placed in the bunch. There’s another reason that can be even more important. The situation in which you smoke can exert a profound influence on how you feel about the cigar. Lighting up a celebratory stick after getting that promotion you wanted? It’s almost certain to go well. Trying to smoke while being interrupted by phone calls, unexpected diversions, or your neighbor jackhammering his patio will invariably make the experience less than ideal. An easy way to see this is to picture yourself lighting up as you watch your favorite sports team. They’re off to an early lead and play superbly to the end. Good cigar, right? Now, imagine that same cigar as your team is down almost immediately and hammered constantly to the end. Not nearly as enjoyable a smoke, is it?

— Beware of confirmation bias, the psychological term for the all-too-human tendency toward wanting something to be true and, therefore, deciding it is without weighing the evidence. With cigars, this occurs most often when one of your favorite manufacturers has a new release. You love their cigars, and you know you’re going to love this one, too. Maybe. But maybe not. The reverse can also happen. You pick up one from a brand you haven’t enjoyed—or maybe have just heard or read negative things about—and you subconsciously conclude beforehand that it isn’t good.

— Concentrate, but don’t go overboard. Not only will this help you deal with confirmation bias, it will also put you in a much better position to reach a reasonable conclusion. Getting in the isolation booth and doing nothing but puffing may help you find a somewhat obscure flavor or two, but that isn’t how most of us smoke cigars. I think that approach can actually diminish your evaluation. Smoking cigars should be about pleasure, not subjecting yourself to a tobacco version of the SAT. Enjoy yourself, enjoy your smoke.

And when you’re done, hopefully you’ll have a good idea of whether you want to smoke more of those cigars or not.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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