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Cigar Guide – Thank You For Smoking

A Guide to Knowing Your Stogies

Cigar smoking is special. Some of us do it every day, others never at all, but even part-time smokers will fire up a stogie on a special occasion. That may be to celebrate the birth of a child, a promotion at work, or your last night as a bachelor. Other activities just naturally lead to cigar smoking, like playing poker or shooting a machinegun for the first or even the 1,001st time.

In a way, cigar culture is a bit like gun culture (and if you keep on reading you’ll see the two intersect in more ways than one). There are protocols, special tools, and a subculture attached to it. We took the liberty of providing an overview of some of our favorite cigars out there.

SOME ETIQUETTE

We mentioned protocols when it comes to stogies, and there are a few. Violate one of these, and you’ll find yourself the brunt of jokes, if not downright hostility by other smokers. This is not unlike pointing out safety violators on Instagram or YouTube, or gun gaffes in movies. New people make mistakes, but we’ll help you avoid a few.

Take your time smoking your cigar; one draw per minute seems right. Smoking a cigar is an experience, not a chore or a race. Hold the cigar between your index finger and your thumb, not between your index finger and middle finger. Never mind what they taught you in the lowlight shooting class about the “cigar hold.” Holding a cigar like this marks you as a novice.

Only smoke a cigar about halfway. Cigars aren’t meant to be smoked down to the foot. This just makes the smoke harsher the closer it gets to your face. Dispose of a dead cigar discreetly and quickly. If you think cigarette butts look nasty, cigar butts look worse.

Never touch the flame directly to the foot of the cigar, simply rotate it around the edge until it begins to burn, and then puff on it lightly. Your goal is not to light the cigar on fire.

Lighting a cigar should be a personal experience; never ask someone else for a light. If you find yourself without a lighter or matches, you can certainly ask to borrow a flame, but asking for a light is like asking someone to load your magazines for you.

Never talk with a cigar in your mouth. Remove it before you speak. Your listeners will thank you for giving them that respect.

Don’t soak your cigar in anything. Winston Churchill may have soaked his stogies in brandy and Bill Clinton may have soaked them in — well, we know where — but you’re not Churchill or Clinton … thank God for that one! Cigar makers have perfected the flavor profiles in their sticks. If you can’t stand the taste of a cigar, then don’t smoke it.

Never smoke while working. Work is stressful and even though cigars are stress relieving, they’re meant to be enjoyed while relaxing. Had a bad day? Wait until you get home or to the bar to unwind with a drink and your favorite smoke. The only possible exception here is the Searson Rule — whereby you can smoke while firing a full-auto machinegun.

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Xikar's Room 101 Collection Cigar Cutter

Xikar’s Room 101 Collection Cigar Cutter

ANATOMY OF A CIGAR

Head: The end of the cigar closest to the band. This goes in your mouth, and because it’s sealed, it needs to be cut. We recommend a guillotine type of cutter, preferably a double blade like Xikar’s ingenious model. This prevents you from crushing the cigar and getting loose tobacco in your mouth. A knife works well for this task, but don’t use your teeth to bite it off!

Foot: As when talking to your boss, don’t put the foot in your mouth.

Filler: This is the inside of the cigar and should be a consistent blend of dried and aged tobacco.

Wrapper: The exterior of the cigar that tells you just about everything you need to know. Varying in color from very light to almost black, most of the flavor of the cigar comes from the leaf in which it’s wrapped.

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CUBAN CIGARS

If you live in the United States, don’t try to buy a Cuban cigar locally. A large counterfeit industry has cropped up in the United States due to the 1962 embargo, which is still in force. If you want to smoke a Cuban, you need to do it outside the United States. Note that this counterfeit industry is strong south of the border, so always make sure the tobacconist is legit before you buy one.

When we started smoking cigars in the ’80s and ’90s, every cigar authority told us that Cubans were all hype and that anyone who knew how to make a cigar left Cuba 20 to 30 years ago. This is much like the guy who claims silencers or full-auto are useless and impractical, mostly because he doesn’t own one and couldn’t afford one, either.

Cuban cigar making is highly regulated by the Cuban government and the standards are some of the highest in the world. They’re full bodied and smoky, and hopefully we’ll see an end to the 1962 embargo in our lifetimes.

LIGHTING A CIGAR

When you light up, try to use a wooden match to keep the taste pure. Most often, smokers are relegated to doing so outside, so butane lighters are the next best solution. Xikar’s Room 101 lighter is a quad flame tabletop lighter that features an oversized push-button ignition, flush against a cylindrical metal body. A ratcheting oversized fuel adjustment wheel makes lighting a breeze, and the camera aperture-inspired lid protects the quad burners.

Down from that we rely on our trusty Zippos with a butane insert and like the ones made by Derrick Obatake at Steel Flame.

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Xikar's Room 101 Colletion Tabletop Lighter

Xikar’s Room 101 Colletion Tabletop Lighter

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO PERSONAL PREFERENCE

Smoking a cigar is a very personal experience. Not everyone has the same tastes, so like we recommend when choosing a handgun or a pocketknife, try to find a local cigar club or tobacconist that offers a large variety.

In a way, it’s like finding your favorite adult beverage — if all you know is one type of beer or one flavor of rum, chances are that you stick with that.

We went through our favorite humidors and consulted with Ben Stone from Liberty Tobacco of San Diego, California, in putting together this buyer’s guide to help you find that perfect smoke and keep you away from the “gas station” cigars that taste like charcoal.

Arturo Fuente Sun Grown Robusto

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If we’re comparing cigars to guns then Arturo Fuente is like Smith & Wesson. They’ve been around since the 19th century, developed the most exquisite types, and are perhaps the best known in their arena. The Ecuadorian Sun Grown wrapper gives these cigars a richer flavor, and it’s shaped like the famous Cuban Belicoso.

A Sun Grown wrapper is exposed to the elements: sun, wind, and inclement weather. These harsh conditions force the plant and leaf to grow stronger, because they draw more nutrients from the soil.

Length:
4.5 inches

Gauge:
0.5 inch

Strength:
Medium

Country of Origin:
Dominican Republic

Price:
$7 to $10

Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story

cigar-guide-arturo-fuente-hemingway-short-story
Of all the Arturo Fuente line, any one of the Hemingway series is our go-to stogie. The late author was a friend of the Fuente family, and they made these cigars to suit his tastes.

This Hemingway Short Story is hands down one of our favorites. Not only because it’s made by the most experienced cigar makers, or that only 75 of these little treasures are made by each maker per day, nor even because it’s aged for six months in a cedar-lined room to fully enhance the flavor and aroma. We like it because the legend goes that Hemingway would smoke one while banging away at his typewriter and when the cigar was finished, so was the short story he was writing. More than one of our RECOIL articles was finished in this manner over the years.

Length:
4 inches

Gauge:
0.49 inch

Strength:
Mild

Country of Origin:
Dominican Republic

Price:
$6 to $8

Arturo Fuente Hemingway Best Seller

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Another favorite of the Arturo Fuente Hemingway line is the Best Seller. This one will take you about an hour to finish. The longer length gives a cooler smoke and a surprising change in taste as you draw in at different lengths of the cigar. It goes perfectly with a glass of Scotch or Irish Connemara Whiskey on the rocks.

Length:
4.5 inches

Gauge:
0.52 inch

Strength:
Mild to Medium

Country of Origin:
Dominican Republic

Price:
$7 to $9

Gispert Robusto

cigar-guide-gispert-robusto
Gispert Robusto cigars are hand rolled in Honduras, with a blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers wrapped in golden Ecuadorian Connecticut shade leaf. A very smooth draw and cedar-like taste make them perfect for any occasion.

Length:
5 inches

Gauge:
0.54 inch

Strength:
Mild

Country of Origin:
Honduras

Price:
$5.50 to $7

Baccarat Maduro

cigar-guide-baccarat-maduro
Baccarat Cigars (or its proper full name Baccarat the Game Cigars) are made by Davidoff, the Rolex of cigar makers. This is a mild and flavorful Honduran cigar with a Maduro wrapper. It’s a great mild stogie. Hints of cedar and coffee make this a sweet tasting cigar and perfect for a new smoker.

Length:
5 inches

Gauge:
0.5 inch

Strength:
Mild

Country of Origin:
Honduras

Price:
$6

Gurkha Spec Ops

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If there was a cigar made specifically for our readers, it was this one. They ship 20 to a box in a humidor that looks like a Pelican pistol case that can hold 60, and come with a challenge coin and knife. The knife was nothing to write home about, but these long Churchill Cigars certainly rate an article of their own!

A smooth burn with lots of flavor that lasts forever; these cigars are said to be favored by U.S. special-operations forces.

Length:
7.5 inches

Gauge:
0.52 inch

Strength:
Medium

Country of Origin:
Nicaragua

Price:
$12 to $20

Oliva Series “V” Su Double Robusto

cigar-guide-oliva-series-v-su-double-robusto
The Oliva is going to be one of the better premium cigars in any humidor. This full-bodied Robusto is made from a special blend of fermented leaves to provide a smooth smoke that is full of flavor. The wrapper yields hints of special flavors like chocolate and coffee. This is our fallback when we run out of Short Stories and so does our tobacco shop.

Length:
5 inches

Gauge:
0.54 inch

Strength:
Mild to Medium

Country of Origin:
Dominican Republic

Price:
$7.50 to $10

Padron 3000 Maduro

cigar-guide-padron-3000-maduro
The Padron 3000 is an affordable cigar that makes a good springboard from medium into a fuller strength stick. The wrapper is cultivated from Cuban seed tobacco, and while not having the taste of a true Cuban cigar, Padron gets pretty close.

Length:
5.5 inches

Gauge:
0.52 inch

Strength:
Medium to full

Country of Origin:
Nicaragua

Price:
$6 to $7

Punch Signature Rothschild

cigar-guide-punch-signature-rothschild
The Punch Signature Rothschild is a bold design from a company which originated in 19th century Cuba. When we began our cigar journey, Punch cigars were part of the regular rotation — and this one has a taste like no other. It’s sheathed in an Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper, grown in the Los Rios Provence of Ecuador between two volcanic mountains.

A Rothschild is a Robusto (short length with a thick gauge) and is named for Leopold de Rothschild, who specified a cigar with the dimensions over 150 years ago.

Length:
5.2 inches

Gauge:
0.54 inch

Strength:
Full

Country of Origin:
Honduras

Price:
$5.50 to $8.50

El Rey Del Mundo Robusto Oscuro

cigar-guide-el-rey-del-mundo-robusto-oscuro
El Rey Del Mundo has been making cigars for nearly 200 years. Handcrafted with a mix of Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan fillers wrapped in rich and oily Oscuro wrappers, this rich, hearty cigar is a great one to draw on while playing cards or after finishing a fine meal.

Length:
5 inches

Gauge:
0.54 inch

Strength:
Full

Country of Origin:
Honduras

Price:
$5 to $7

Illusione 88

cigar-guide-illusione-88
These full-bodied Nicaraguans are a complex choice. They start out light and mildly spicy. Halfway through your smoke, they transition to an earthy peaty type of flavor and end with a cedar- and coffee-type taste. Perfect for having with an after dinner drink, but equally at home clenched in your teeth while firing off your favorite belt-fed!

Length:
5 inches

Gauge:
0.52 inch

Strength:
Full

Country of Origin:
Nicaragua

Price:
$5.50 to $8.50

La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero

cigar-guide-la-flor-domincana-double-ligero
La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero is another complex and robust cigar with a unique flavor akin to espresso. This full-bodied cigar is probably among the strongest on the market. The flat head gives it a unique taste, perfect burn, and firmer draw.

Length:
5.2 inches

Gauge:
0.52 inch

Strength:
Full

Country of Origin:
Dominican Republic

Price:
$7 to $10

My Father Bijou 1922 Petit Robusto

cigar-guide-my-father-bijou-1922-petit-robusto
From Nicaragua comes My Father Bijou 1922 Petit Robusto. This is one we overlooked for a long time until Ben at Liberty Tobacco straightened us out. “Bijou” means “jewel” in French, and this one is faceted in an Ecuadorian Habano Osucuro wrapper. A strong cigar with a flavorful leaf, this is top shelf all the way.

Length:
5.5 inches

Gauge:
0.5 inch

Strength:
Full

Country of Origin:
Nicaragua

Price:
$7.50 to $9


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