The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Cigar Smoking

Table of Contents

Whether you are a novice or an experienced cigar aficionado, you need a cigar guide. Here you will find all the cigar basics collected and organized. Also, you will find everything you need to choose, enjoy and store a cigar:

What Makes Smoking Cigars So Unique Lifestyle?

The idea behind cigar smoking is relaxed enjoyment of the rich flavor bouquet with all the subtle nuances of the cigar. After getting familiar with the terms of the cigar characteristics, you will be able to enjoy the best cigar for you:

  • Aroma & Flavor
  • Comradeship
  • Relaxation 
  • Ritual
  • Celebration
  • Style & Art

Aroma & Flavor

Many smoke cigars for their taste and aroma. Cigars can contain a whole bouquet of flavors that develops during the smoking session. The most common flavor profiles of cigars are herbs and spices, sweet notes, coffee, nuts, wood and vegetal notes, and earth. If you are a fan of the strong and distinct flavor and aroma, you can try flavored cigars, such as coffee-flavored cigars.


Cigar smoking is more of a social occasion than a solitary custom. Cigars are usually enjoyed along with small talk with like-minded people.


Relaxation begins with preparing the cigar to be smoked and continues throughout the smoking session. There is no rush when smoking cigars. 


Cigars have a long history of accompanying celebrations: Marriages, the birth of a child, business success, etc.

Style & Art

The cigar lifestyle goes hand in hand with the timeless elegance of fine gentlemen and ladies. Cigars inspire many works of art and popular culture. Many famous artists, actors, and writers enjoyed smoking cigars.

cigar style

What is the Brief History of Cigars?

It is believed that Mayans invented the cigar. There are depictions of a Mayan man puffing a cigar on a 10th-century pot. After Christopher Columbus came to the New World in the 15th century, tobacco was imported to Europe. Cigars became popular first in Spain and Portugal and then in France.

Cuba became a leader in the tobacco industry because of the suitable conditions for tobacco cultivation there. Cuban tobacco was sold and shipped from Europe to Asia. 

Demand for tobacco products grew by the mid-19th century. Approximately 300 million cigars were smoked in the United States.

In the 20th century, cigars became a symbol of status and luxury. Cigars were part of popular culture as many celebrities smoked them.

After the U.S. embargo against Cuba in 1962, Cuban cigars became illegal goods in the United States. Still, this positively affected the popularity of Cuban cigars in the rest of the world; to this day, they remain one of the most popular cigars. The negative impact of the U.S. embargo on Cuban cigars is that it allowed the rise of competition for cigar-producing countries. U.S. customers turned to Dominican cigars. Many cigar manufacturers fled to the Dominican Republic with their crops and expertise and began producing high-end cigar brands. A vivid example of such a transition are the Davidoff Château Latour cigar and Montecristo No 3. There are plenty of cigars made in Cuba to this day such as Le Hoyo du Roi and Havana House.

To this day, cigars from the Americas are famous for their quality: Nicaragua, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Cuba. A gem from Honduras is Hoyo de Monterrey.

What is the Cigar Anatomy?

Cigar anatomy is the blend of different tobaccos that defines cigar characteristics. The anatomy consists of a wrapper, a binder, and filler tobacco.

cigar anatomy


The wrapper is the first thing you notice in a cigar. For this reason, the tobacco leaves are carefully selected. They must be in their original state, smooth, without thick veins, uniform in color, and attractive. The wrapper leaf should have a slight oily sheen and a rich aroma. Seco priming tobacco is used for the wrapper leaves. Wrapper leaves contribute a lot to the cigar’s taste.

cigar wrapper color

Candela Wrapper(Also called Clarisimo, Double Claro, American Market Selection) These wrappers are light blond to vivid green in color. During the drying process, they lock in the chlorophyll responsible for the bright green.
Claro Wrapper(Also called Connecticut Shade) These leaves are cultivated early and under cheesecloth to keep the shade lighter.
Colorado Claro Claro wrapper leaves are grown under direct sunlight and allowed to ripen before cultivation. They are medium brown.
Colorado Colorado wrapper leaves are rich in aroma and flavor, which is why they are a popular choice. They are left to mature far longer than the ones listed above.
Colorado Maduro(Also called Spanish Market Selection) Colorado Maduro is a little lighter than the Maduro but has a more aromatic and flavorful profile.
Maduro Maduro leaves come from the highest parts of the tobacco plant, where the leaves receive plenty of sunlight. Maduro is cured and fermented for years before being blended into cigars. These leaves are often thicker. They are oily wrapper leaves with high nicotine content and sweet flavor.
Oscuro (Also called Double Maduro, Negro, Black) Oscuro comes from the highest parts of the plant like the Maduro but is left on the plant longer before cutting. Their fermentation process is also much longer. Oscuro leaves are very dark, almost black.


The wrapper leaves are delicate and fragile, so a coarser leaf is needed to hold the cigar’s content in place. This is the binder. It doesn’t contribute to the cigar taste but has excellent consistent-burning capabilities.


This is the inner part of the cigar. Together with the wrapper, it is responsible for the taste of the cigar. Only the finest Seco and Ligero leaves are selected to be blended into the filler. The quality of the filler tobacco blend is crucial for a high-quality cigar. The filler part provides the slowest burn.

There are two types of filler: long filler and short filler. The longer the filler, the better the quality of the cigar. Handmade premium cigars are rolled with long fillers, while cheap machine-made cigars are made with short fillers.

How to Choose a Cigar?

Choosing a cigar is very important whether you buy it for yourself or as a gift. The most important features when looking for a cigar are the price, the strength, the taste, the tobacco, and the size.

The most important feature is the taste, because no matter how expensive the cigar is if you do not like its taste, you will not like smoking it. The taste also determines the appropriate pairings.

The strength of the cigar should be based on your preferences. The stronger the cigar, the higher the nicotine content.

The size of the cigar determines the burning intensity. Thinner cigars burn faster, while thicker cigars burn slower. So it would be best if you considered the time you have to smoke.

Tobacco from a particular region has specific characteristics in terms of taste and strength.

Shapes and Sizes

There is a plethora of cigar shapes and sizes, also called Vitolas. There is a correlation between the shape of a cigar with the available sizes. There are two main shapes: Parejo, which means “straight,” and Figurado, which means “figurative.”

cigar shapes


Parejo cigars are: Parejo, Box pressed, and Culebra. They are manufactured in specific sizes according to the name of the shape.

Parejo This is the most common shape: a straight barrel with a doomed head.
Box pressed They have a square section. They were invented to save space during shipping.
Culebra The exotic form of Parejo cigars. Three cigars wrapped together.

cigar sizes


Torpedo They have sloped and tapered heads, resembling a torpedo.
Belicoso They look a lot like Torpedos, but the head is less tapered.
Pirámide They are tapered from the head to the foot of the cigar.
Perfecto Perfecto features a symmetric form tapered on both ends.
Chisel This is a rare cigar shape. Its head resembles a hand tool or a flat head screwdriver.

Taste & Aroma

Premium cigars are all natural and contain no artificial flavors. They stimulate the smoker’s sense of smell and palate. The tasting notes change while smoking a cigar. Many culinary terms when defining cigar flavors:

  • Coffee;
  • Herb and Spice;
  • Earth;
  • Wood and Vegetal notes;
  • Nuts;
  • Sweet.
cigar flavor wheel

How is a Cigar Made?

The process of making a cigar is lengthy and requires a lot of expertise and hard work. How a cigar is made determines its quality and characteristics. Each part of the process is equally crucial for the final product.

Tobacco Cultivation

Tobacco seeds are planted indoors, monitored, and watered until plants develop a healthy root system for a month and a half to two months. Then the plants are transplanted outside into the fiends. It takes several months for the tobacco to mature and be harvested. The plants are Sun Grown or Shade Grown. The Sun Grown tobacco is used for the wrapper, binder, and filler. And the Shade Grown only is used for the wrapper.


After harvesting, the tobacco leaves are dried. The tobacco leaves are hung in curing barns until they turn green to yellow and brown. The curing process takes about a month and a half.


Cured leaves are sorted according to their color and size. Then they are stacked and moisture is added for the fermentation process. The fermentation improves the taste of the tobacco.


Stripping is the process of removing the central vein and stems from the leaves. This ensures an even burn of the cigar.

Hand Rolling

High-quality premium cigars are made by hand by torcedors. The filler of handmade cigars must be packed tightly and evenly so that the cigar burns evenly. The filler tobacco is bunched in the binder tobacco. After the filler and binder have adhered together, the wrapper is rolled around the binder.

hands making a cigar

Machine Rolling

Most cigars, especially the cheaper varieties, are rolled by machine. The construction of machine-made cigars is consistent and provides easy lighting and even burning.

Finishing & Packing

Finishing touches to a cigar is branding and boxing it. Cigars are labeled with details about the vitola, manufacturer, and production date.

How Much Should You Pay for a Good Cigar?

This is a common question for novice smokers. Most cigar prices range from $2 to $50, which is a pretty wide range. The price is determined by many factors: the brand, the materials, the labor, the packaging, and the exclusivity of the cigar. So a cigar under $15 each is an excellent price for a nice cigar.

How to Prepare a Cigar for Smoking?

Let’s assume you have purchased a good cigar without lumps and structural inconsistencies. Right before smoking, you should roll the cigar between your fingers. You should feel it firm; this signifies that the moist content is appropriate.

We do not recommend removing a band that is glued, but if you do want to remove it, you should do so a few minutes after lighting the cigar. This will reduce the risk of damaging the wrapper. The band is glued to the cigar with gum adhesive, and if too much of it is used, the wrapper leaf could be damaged when you rush to remove the band.

How to Cut a Cigar?

Before you light the cigar, you need to cut off the cap of the cigar. To do this, you can use a guillotine, scissors, a punch, a V-cut, or a knife. You should not remove the entire cup. Each tool is best suited for different cigar shapes and also has some drawbacks. Whichever cigar cutter you choose, it must be sharp to cut through the leaves properly and not damage the structure of the cigar.

types of cigar cuts

How to Light it?

After you cut your cigar, you are ready to light it. If you know how to light a cigar, this will be an excellent smoking experience for you. Wooden matches or cigar lighters are not enough. You can use cigar matches, butane lighters, torch lighters, and fluid lighters (not recommended as disposable options because they cannot be refilled).

The first part of lighting the cigar is to toast the foot while rolling it between your fingers. In this way, the three layers of the cigar will be heated evenly and begin to burn simultaneously. The cigar should not touch the flame. Overheating the cigar or uneven lighting could affect the taste of the cigar.

After you have heated the cigar, you can now light it. Draw through the cigar while holding it above the flame to light it.

If you forget to puff your cigar and the flame goes out, you can relight the cigar. In this case, it is not recommended to relight the cigar the next day.

How to Put Out a Cigar?

Do not smash the cigar on the ashtray like a cigarette. Put the cigar on the ashtray and the cigar will go out after a few minutes. If you want to put the cigar out quickly, you can dip it in water. Either way, make sure the cigar is out before you leave.

How to Smoke?

Smoke the cigar without inhaling the smoke. Fill your mouth with the smoke and enjoy the aroma and flavor for a few seconds before letting the smoke out. Puff once every thirty to sixty seconds. You can expel the smoke through your nose every few puffs. Do not smoke the cigar too quickly, as this will ruin the cigar’s flavor.

The ash from high-quality cigars can stick to the cigar for about an inch. Yet, do not wait for them to fall off; instead, carefully roll the cigar into the ashtray. You can smoke as long as you like, even to the nub of the cigar.

Cigar smoking etiquette requires you to know how to cut the cigar properly, light it evenly, remove the ash at the proper time, and be prepared if someone you are hanging out with wants to smoke with you. You do not necessarily have to spend a fortune on the latter. There are plenty of options available for even under $10.

How to Develop a Palate for Cigars?

You can do this by defining what you like, not just being a bled devotee of a particular brand. The easiest way to do this is to learn to identify the flavor profile of the cigar. The flavor profile is determined by the cigar’s flavor, body, strength, aroma, and finish. The cigar’s flavor is affected by the strength, wrapper leaf, size, and country of origin.

Until you become a cigar artisan, you can take notes on the cigars you try and write down which characteristics you like and which you do not.

How Do Cigars Age and Dry?

High-quality, well-blended cigars require some aging, but bad cigars will be bad even after aging. Typically, cigars mellow as they rest, while larger ring gauge cigars benefit from aging. Cigars will age well if they are stored well. If you keep your cigars outside, even a premium cigar becomes a dry cigar.  

How to Fix it?

Cigars should be stored in an environment with constant temperature and humidity. They should be stored at about 70 % relative humidity and about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the best way for the cigars to age and have the perfect moisture content for smoking.

How to Store the Cigars?

The best way to store your cigars is in a humidor; the best options are made of Spanish cedar. You should maintain the humidor and calibrate its hygrometer. However, be careful when storing your cigars in the humidor for extended periods of time. Cigars change their flavor profile a little after a few weeks, then after a few months, and noticeably after a year or more.

cigars in a humidor

How to Use a Humidor?

Keep the environment inside constant. Turn over the stored cigars regularly. Place the cigar once a month from the top row to the bottom and vice versa.

Cigar Pairing

According to cigar connoisseurs, the general rule is that the aromatic intensity of the cigar should match that of the beverage. Thus, cigars with a lighter profile should be paired with more delicate beverages such as champagne or wine and full-bodied cigars with hard drinks such as whiskey.

Another criterion for pairing is that the flavor profiles should match and support each other. If you like the particular pairing, you should enjoy it.

cigar on an ashtray

How to Enjoy Smoking the Cigar?

The best thing you can do to be sure you will enjoy a cigar is to choose the right profile cigar according to your preferences. Then prepare it properly for smoking, ash it regularly and let it die out in the end. Do not inhale the smoke! If you pair the cigar with a suitable drink and pleasant conversation, you will have an excellent smoking session.

Other Tips and Tricks

Understanding cigar smoking may seem intimidating, but you will feel confident with your choices as you learn and try. Many cigar professionals, tobacco aficionados, enthusiasts, and other individuals share their knowledge and experience that you could learn from.

Where Can You Learn More?

So, keep yourself updated and well informed. You can find helpful information in:

  • Cigar Shop & Cigar Lounge Employees 
  • Online Resources 
  • Offline Resources
  • Other Smokers

Cigar Shop & Cigar Lounge Employees

Any tobacconist in such an establishment can help you choose a suitable cigar. If you are a beginner, they will give you many recommendations, answer your questions and show you the cigars suitable for beginners.

You can tell if you are being served by cigar experts when they ask you questions about your taste preferences and smoking experience.

Online Resources

You’ll find a wealth of information online on almost every cigar topic imaginable. The biggest plus of online resources is that they are the most up-to-date and usually free.

  • Online forums – you can ask questions and find discussions on various cigar topics. 
  • Websites for reviews and ratings – you can find articles and opinions from cigar experts and tobacco professionals you can trust.
  • Social media – you can see how different cigar brands interact with their customers. Also, you can join cigar lovers groups, where you can find updates and topics and start a discussion.

Offline Resources

You can also get information about cigars offline. Cigar experts write and edit offline sources so that the information is trustworthy.

  • Cigar books – usually cigar guides and catalogs of premium cigars worldwide from leading tobacco experts.
  • Booklets – informative ads or testing journals can help you choose cigars and follow your journey through the cigar world.
  • Documentary – you can watch documentaries about the history of different brands and their manufacturing process.
  • TV shows – cigars have long become part of popular culture, so you can see celebrities enjoying their cigars.

These resources can not only inform you but also entertain you. You can enjoy cigar-related art and beautiful women that match the commercials.

Other Smokers

In cigar lounges, you can learn from experienced smokers. They can give you their unedited opinion about cigars and cigar brands. You can get tips and tricks on cigar smoking and etiquette.


What Kind of Cigar Should a Beginner Use?

In general, if you are a non-smoker, you should try light-profile cigars, and if you are a cigarette smoker, you can try mild-profile cigars.

Do You Wet the End of a Cigar?

You should not do that. If your cigar burns unevenly, you can wet your fingertip and tap the fast-burning part of the cigar.

How Much is an Average Cigar?

Good cigars cost between $2 and $50 each. The price depends on the brand and characteristics of the cigar. Generally, machine-rolled cigars are cheaper than handmade.