Smoking cigars has become more popular than ever with the greatest growth segment being among women. With new fans of both genders joining the ranks of cigar aficionados every day, one question that gets asks most frequently is how to properly smoke a cigar. Bianca Melone, an experienced ‘smokestress’ in her own right and the Director of Marketing for Gurkha Cigars, shares some of her favorite tried-and-true rituals.
“Smoking a cigar is all about the experience,” she said. “While we comb the globe to find the finest wrappers, binders and fillers to make our Gurkha Cigars, what we are really doing is creating cigars that are unique and memorable.” Whether you’re a long-time cigar smoker or looking forward to your first time, here are the five smoking rituals explained in detail to make your cigar smoking experience memorable.
Unwrap and Sniff
When you first hold a Gurkha cigar in your hand, admire it. Not only are Gurkhas known for their fine tobacco blends, they are also known for their incredibly artistic packaging. So, by all means, go ahead and admire the beautifully crafted box it came from as well as the artistically designed band around the cigar. A lot of care went into creating them.
Next, remove the cigar from its plastic wrapper or glass tube. Inspect the cigar. Pay particular attention to the tobacco leaf wrapper. Look for any inconsistencies. You may see tiny bumps. This is what is referred to as being toothy and it’s not bad. They’re little pimples on the leaf that are filled with tobacco oils.
Take the foot or smoking end of the cigar and lift it straight up to your nostrils. This is the best way to smell all the different tobaccos. If it’s a very spicy cigar, it may make you sneeze. Smell the cigar wrapper too rolling it up and down under your nostrils. While you’re doing this you can also feel the condition of the cigar between your thumb and forefinger. It should feel soft enough to be slightly pliable, but not too soft, which would mean that it’s too moist. You should also hear a slight crackling if you hold it up to your ear. That means the cigar is maintained at the right temperature and the right humidity, which is 70 degrees Fahrenheit with 70 percent humidity.
When you’re cutting a cigar, there are a variety of options. You can use a single blade called a guillotine cutter or a double blade for a normal straight cut. You can use a punch cut, which will punch into the cap and pull out a small plug or you can use a V-cut. The V-cut makes a cuts in the cap that’s shaped liked a V, hence the name. There is another method that makes a cut into the side of the cigar, but that is less conventional. As far as cutting a cigar, there really is no “proper” way to cut per se. Mostly it’s based on each individual’s personal preference.
However, when you are ready to cut to cigar, you want to cut it on the line of the cap where the wrapper begins. That’s the line where the head of the cigar meets the wrapper. You want to cut enough so that you can take a significant draw from the cigar. While we like to say that all cigars are draw tested, it’s not totally accurate. Perfecto shaped cigars cannot be draw tested and that’s because they have what’s called a little pigtail on the end. Our Cellar Reserve cigars have this shape. On these cigars, you have to cut a little bit deeper. That’s because they’re tightly wrapped to give them that awesome shape. Cut enough into the cap to provide a nice even draw that will continue throughout the duration of the cigar.
Finally, if your still unsure how to cut your cigar, there is an item called a “Perfect Cut.” This cutter has a flat back that measures the perfect size cut every time.
Light it Up
When lighting a cigar, the first thing you do is toast the foot or smoking end. Your goal is to char the end of the cigar. The purpose of toasting the end is to remove any moisture left on the exposed end of the cigar from being in the humidor. You do this before putting the cigar in your mouth and you toast it as if you’re roasting a marshmallow. Hold the cigar slightly above the flame and let the flame do the lighting. You can light the cigar using gas butane, a cedar spill, which is a thin strip of cedar that lights naturally without adding any other toxins or flavors, or any other source of fire you choose. Once you’ve toasted the foot, put the head of the cigar in your mouth and draw, keeping the cigar just above the flame at the foot. Draw and twist to get the entire foot lit. You basically get into a rhythm of puff turn, puff turn until it’s completely lit as evenly as possible.
It’s Time to Smoke
When smoking a cigar, think in terms of thirds. There are three thirds to every cigar. In the first third, you get the draw going. Here’s where you start to taste the flavors and relax into the experience. Sit back and enjoy the cigar with good friends, in a pleasant atmosphere and after good food. Just taste the wrapper, enjoy the flavor profiles and get the cigar moving. In the second third, more flavors start opening up. The smoking experience becomes more complex. As you draw though the cigar, you can visibly see as well as taste the cigar opening up. As the heat comes through the tobacco leaf, it becomes more and more complex. In the final third, you’ll discover the most body the cigar will have. The flavor profiles are enhanced. Finally, as you smoke the cigar, let the ash fall naturally. A longer ash shows that the cigar is better constructed. A cigar with a long ash means the fillers are longer inside. To avoid the ash falling on the floor, you can roll it gently in the ash tray. Never tap or flick.
To properly extinguish a cigar, just let it sit and die on its own in the notch of the ashtray. If you snuff it out, it will give out a stale smelling odor.
Now that you know the five main rituals involved in smoking a cigar, grab your favorite Gurkha or visit a cigar shop near you to find the perfect Gurkha cigar for you. Then choose a special time to savor the moment. After all, that’s what cigar smoking is all about. Fun, family and friends. Moments that make life memorable.