Cigar Sunday

Since we are in some ways starting over, I thought it might be a good idea to truly start at the beginning.

Welcome to Cigar Sundays and how to enjoy a cigar. Think of this post as a sort of Cigar 101 for the new smoker, and, a bit of a brush-up for the more experienced people.

There are those who will tell you that you can only start with one type of cigar and that it had to be rolled on the thigh of a virgin, that you can only light it with cedar, that you can only light it with a special type of match, that you can only light it with a special type of torch lighter, that you have to puff/not puff rapidly, and a lot of other balderdash. Just as with someone telling you you have to rub honey in the bowl of a new pipe and let it dry before smoking, people who tell you these things really don’t know what they are talking about.

First rule of Cigar Club: There are no rules.

There is no one right way to enjoy a good cigar. There is no one right type of cigar. There is no one right way to light it, to smoke it, or anything else. Nor do you have to spend a huge amount of money on either the cigar or on related gear.

First, if you are new, I do recommend starting with something milder. Breaking in gently is not a bad way to go. The only problem is, there are a lot of expensive hot air sticks (cigars with no flavor), so go to a good store and the staff will be glad to help you find something good to start. If you are here in Indianapolis, allow me to recommend The Pipe Puffer on the south side across from Greenwood Mall. Great selection, good prices, and the staff (and many of the regulars) know their stuff.

Once you have your stick, you will need to cut or punch it before smoking. Toasting, the different types of cuts, and punching will be a Cigar 102 post. Get some advice, cut or punch, and then light up.

The key to lighting is simply to evenly apply whatever flame you use so that you get an nice even burn. Use a match, a torch, a regular lighter — whatever works for you. Take your time, get it even, then puff.

Now, the one thing I don’t recommend is inhaling. Most of us just pull the smoke into our mouths and enjoy the flavor. While I do know a couple of people who inhale into their lungs, most people find it very unpleasant. As in it makes them sick. So, just avoid it for now.

Don’t puff too hard or too fast. Take the time to savor the flavors, and note how they change as you work your way down the cigar. Most cigars, or at least good ones, are made so that the flavor changes about every third of the way. A cigar may start out mild and work up; or, it may start strong, then mellow, and come back for a strong finish. Some do maintain a fairly constant flavor, but even there you may notice some of the flavor notes coming and going as you smoke.

The main thing is to enjoy your smoke. If the first one is too mild or too strong, try another. Over time, as you smoke, you will probably find that what you enjoy changes over time. For example, I started on reasonably mild cigars and now very much enjoy fuller-flavored cigars. I particularly like Maduro cigars for the chocolate, leather, and spice notes you can get with them.

Also, don’t smoke it too fast. Yes, you will see videos where people try to smoke various cigars as fast as possible. Know of someone who took one of those challenges, and his reward was running out the door to vomit. Not worth it IMO.

As you try new things, you will find out about the different types of wrapper and the flavors they impart (which are about 90 percent of the flavor in fact). How binder and filler can add (or detract) from the cigar. What makes a good cigar. It all comes with time, with learning and listening, and experience.

Oh, when I said no rules, I do mean it but don’t: try to light a bubble gum cigar; don’t try to light one of the leaf wrapped cigars without removing the leaf; don’t dip the lit end of the cigar into any adult beverage you may have or be offered; and, well, things like that. I really do need to record the tales of the Lurch one day…

So, go forth and enjoy.