Smoking a cigar involves much more than just stuffing tobacco leaves in your face, lighting and sucking. While it’s likely true that anyone who can walk to the fountain and get a drink of water can also successfully smoke a cigar, there are some techniques that will allow you the greatest enjoyment of the flavors, aromas and other nuances of your smoke.
Unlike a cigarette, a premium cigar contains 100% pure tobacco product. There are no additives, reconstituted or expanded tobacco and neither is there a cellulose acetate filter. The moisture content is between 14-17%. Because of these characteristics, a premium stogie will burn cool and slow and most of the tobacco will burn incompletely. Based on his/her experience with cigars with these essential properties, the seasoned cigar smoker will typically gravitate toward certain techniques for obtaining the greatest pleasure from smoking a choice cigar. Let me list and explain a few of these techniques (these are in no particular order).
- Don’t chew. Granted, there are some people who would rather eat cigars than smoke them (my brother-in-law, as an example), but for optimal smoking enjoyment you shouldn’t chew your cigar. Chewing will crimp the flow within the cigar and swell the tobacco so that the smoke won’t draw as evenly through the cigar. It will also make it easier for the tars of the tobacco to build up causing a nasty taste or delivering too much nicotine to your bloodstream. Instead, after puffing on a cigar, take it out of your mouth and hold it, or better, place it in an ashtray between puffs for safekeeping.
- Smoke slowly. Smoking quickly can cause your cigar to burn too hot, increasing off tastes and increasing the likelihood of a bitter smoke. A hot burning smoke can result in the filler, binder and wrapper leaves burning out of sync with one another, which will negatively affect the burn characteristics and flavor. If you tend to smoke too quickly, try waiting 30-60 seconds between puffs. Try placing your cigar in an ashtray between puffs. Pace yourself while smoking and your cigar will burn better and you’ll likely enjoy it more.
- Allow ash to form. The ash on the end of a burning cigar, besides providing you information about the construction of the cigar and the quality of the tobacco, will help to keep the burn of your cigar even. The ash cap at the foot of your cigar keeps excess oxygen away from the burning coal and helps to keep the smoke cool and the burn slow. I usually allow at least an inch of ash to form before tapping off. True, some people like to see how long an ash they can coax out of a cigar, but this is unnecessary and may lead to a not so desirable “lap dance” if the ash falls unexpectedly.
- Don’t inhale. The flavors and nuances of a cigar will not be experienced in the lungs. Besides the obvious health implications of inhaling, the basic differences in the acid-base balance between cigarette and cigar tobacco favor a better experience without inhaling. The inside of your mouth is very sensitive to flavors, textures and other distinctions. I usually take 2-3 puffs on a cigar and then allow the smoke to remain in my mouth a few seconds before slowly expelling the smoke and savoring the flavors on my palate. Be sure to draw slowly and evenly on the cigar.
- Enjoy. Finally, whatever you do, try to use the time you spend smoking a cigar to enjoy the process. Cigar smoking is full of ritual. The cutting, lighting and smoking process can be meditative. And, the time alone, or with others, can be a very relaxing experience. Put away distractions and problems and allow yourself 45- minutes (or more) to relax, recuperate, regenerate and enjoy the company of others.