The Gentleman’s Guide to Cigars: A Journey into the World of Tobacco Elegance


Cigars have long held a special place in the world of refined indulgence, offering an experience that goes beyond mere smoking. To many, they represent an art form, a tradition, and a symbol of sophistication. The world of cigars is a diverse one, with a rich history that spans centuries, encompassing different flavours, shapes, and rituals. In this gentleman’s guide to cigars, we will delve into the fascinating world of cigar culture, exploring the origins, etiquette, and the art of savouring these tobacco treasures.


The History of Cigars

Cigars have a storied history that can be traced back to the indigenous people of the Caribbean, specifically the Taino and Arawak tribes, who smoked rolled tobacco leaves. When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492, he encountered this practice and brought tobacco leaves back to Europe. Cigar production took off in the 18th century, primarily in Cuba, which is now famous for its cigars.


The Art of Cigar Making

Cigar making is a meticulous and labor-intensive process, carried out by skilled craftsmen known as torcedores. It all begins with selecting the finest tobacco leaves, which are classified into several categories, such as wrapper, binder, and filler leaves. The wrapper leaf, often the most aesthetically appealing, is selected for its flawless appearance and aromatic qualities. The binder leaf serves as an intermediate layer, holding the filler leaves together. The filler leaves are the heart of the cigar, providing the unique blend of flavours that connoisseurs seek.

Once the leaves are selected, they are sorted, fermented, and aged to perfection. After this, they are rolled into the desired shape, whether it’s a robusto, Churchill, or figurado. Each shape and size imparts distinct characteristics to the cigar, affecting its flavour, burn, and draw. The finished product is then stored in a controlled environment, allowing the flavours to meld and mature.



Choosing Your Cigar

Selecting the right cigar is an art in itself. The first thing to consider is the flavor profile. Cigars can range from mild to full-bodied, with notes of earthiness, spices, leather, or even sweetness. To find the cigar that suits your palate, it’s best to start with milder options and work your way up to stronger blends as your taste evolves. It’s also essential to consider the occasion – a short, mild cigar may be perfect for a quick break, while a robusto or Churchill is ideal for a leisurely evening.

The appearance of the cigar is also important. A well-rolled cigar should be firm to the touch and free of any cracks or blemishes. The wrapper leaf should be smooth and without visible veins. The aroma of the cigar can also provide clues about its flavour – a rich, sweet aroma often hints at a complex and flavourful smoke.


Cutting and Lighting

Before enjoying your cigar, you must prepare it properly. The first step is to cut the cap, which is the closed end of the cigar. This allows for a smooth and even draw. A guillotine cutter, a punch cutter, or a V-cutter can be used for this purpose. It’s crucial to make a clean cut without damaging the wrapper leaf. After cutting, inspect the foot (open end) to ensure it’s not blocked.

Lighting a cigar is a ritual in itself. The use of wooden matches or a butane torch lighter is preferred because they don’t introduce unwanted flavours to the tobacco. To light the cigar, hold the flame at a slight angle and gently toast the foot without directly touching the flame. Rotate the cigar to ensure an even burn. Once the foot is evenly toasted, take a few draws to establish a smooth, even burn. The goal is to create an even cherry at the end of the cigar, which will provide a consistent and enjoyable smoking experience.



The Gentleman’s Etiquette of Cigars

Cigar smoking has a set of etiquettes that adds to its allure and charm. When in the company of fellow cigar enthusiasts, follow these honoured practices:

Never Rush: Cigar smoking is a leisurely activity. Take your time to savor the flavors and enjoy the experience. Smoking a cigar should not be rushed.

Respect the Ash: Allow the ash to form naturally, and it’s a sign of a well-rolled cigar. Gently tap off the ash when it’s about an inch long to prevent it from falling and making a mess.

Don’t Inhale: Unlike cigarettes, cigars are not meant to be inhaled. Draw the smoke into your mouth, savor the flavors, and exhale it slowly.

Avoid Relighting: Cigars are meant to be enjoyed in one sitting. Relighting can alter the flavor and may result in a harsher experience.

Smoking Outdoors: If you’re in a public place, be mindful of those around you. Smoking outdoors is often the best choice to avoid bothering non-smokers.

Cigar Bands: It’s customary to remove the cigar band before smoking. However, some prefer to keep it on until the cigar heats it naturally, making it easier to slide off without damaging the wrapper.

Respect the Smoker’s Parlor: In dedicated cigar lounges, be considerate of other patrons. Engage in polite conversation, and be mindful of the space and ambiance.


Pairing Cigars with Libations

The world of cigars is often intertwined with that of fine spirits, wines, and beverages. Pairing the right drink with your cigar can enhance the experience and create harmonious flavor combinations. Some classic pairings include:

Scotch Whisky: A good single malt or a smoky whisky pairs wonderfully with a full-bodied cigar, enhancing the rich, woody flavours.

Cognac: A fine cognac complements milder cigars with its notes of fruit, vanilla, and spice.

Port Wine: The sweetness and complexity of port wine go hand in hand with a medium-bodied cigar, providing a delightful contrast.

Coffee: A strong, black coffee is an excellent choice for a morning smoke, offering a caffeine kick to complement the flavours of the cigar.

Craft Beers: Certain craft beers, particularly stouts and ales, can complement the flavours of cigars, creating a unique taste experience.

Rum: A quality rum, especially aged or spiced varieties, can be a delightful match for a cigar with its sweet and spicy notes.


Our Final Thoughts

The world of cigars is a realm of timeless elegance and tradition, where aficionados celebrate the art of slow enjoyment and savouring. To become a true gentleman of the leaf, one must appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into each cigar, select the right one for the occasion, and understand the etiquette of cigar smoking. Whether you’re indulging in a mild cigar with a morning coffee or savouring a full-bodied Cuban with a glass of fine whisky, the experience of smoking a cigar transcends the act itself, inviting you into a world of sophistication and camaraderie. So, as you take your seat in the leather armchair, cut the cap of your cigar, and carefully light it, remember to savour the moment.