I’m often asked what it is I take into consideration when I’m writing up my reviews on a cigar. How do I come up with the critiques I have on any given smoke? What do I look for/want/expect out of any given stick? There’s no real “right or wrong” answer, obviously, as it’s all personal preference. But while I’m smoking, I do like to take note on certain things and that’s what this post is intended for.
The biggest thing I take into account is “Am I Getting Nauseous?” There is nothing worse than the feeling of wanting to (or actually) vomit after smoking a cigar which is too strong for your body. This occurs because our blood-sugar gets out of whack, thanks to the nicotine in the cigar. Don’t forget friends: Cigars can equal an entire pack of cigarettes in regard to nicotine, depending on its size and strength. I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve gotten physically ill from smoking too strong a cigar. It’s taken a fair amount of research to determine what might or might not make me sick. This is part of the reason why I spend a fair amount of blog space telling you, the potential new smoker, how this effected me (if at all). Now, my body is slowly starting to acclimate itself to the nicotine but I don’t smoke daily so if it’s been a few weeks between cigars, I will re-introduce myself to subtle cigars so that a day or two later I can smoke something stronger.
What Does It Taste Like? I hate boring cigars. There are two types of “boring” in my opinion. The first is no taste, the other is what is referred to as “vegetal”. A boring cigar is one that has zero flavor to it, that if you didn’t know better, you’d think you rolled up a newspaper and lit it up. These experiences are far and few between, I’m pleased to share. They do happen, sometimes because they’re so mild they lack any taste but also because they’ve not been properly humidified. Poor humidification comes not from your favorite tobacconists stand-point but because your humidor ruined it. I have smoked a few flavorless cigars thanks to my inattentiveness. That said there are flavorless (and as such: boring) cigars out there.
Vegetal cigars are just as boring, in my humble opinion. A vegetal cigar is one that tastes like you’re rolled up grass clippings from the most recent mowing, presented a butane torch to it and started puffing away. I think vegetal flavored cigars suck. I know within the first 3 minutes of smoking the cigar if it’s going to be a boring smoke. I’m slowly starting to find cigars that I like that don’t have that vegetal flavor to them. I like Davidoff, Rocky Patel, Cuesta Rey and Macanudo specifically because they have some quality tastes in them. These certainly aren’t the end all, be all of good flavored cigars, but in my six months to one year of immersing myself into the world of cigars, these are my favorite brands so far.
I prefer a smoke with some spice to it. A stick with a bit of a peppery taste makes it interesting to smoke and I won’t grow weary of it after a half-hour. Now, I’ll concede that the length of a smoke does make the difference between you spending 20 mins or an hour and a half. I know me. I know a 7” cigar would be a waste of money because I’d get half way through it and be done. However, I digress. There are some very spicy and/or peppery cigars out there. I’ve been told Padrons are spicy but very full flavored. Again, I’m only now getting into medium flavored sticks so I’ll hold off on the spice that a Padron offers. I also enjoy a smoke with a bit of sweetness to it. Primarily because the taste of tobacco is somewhat gross when you get right down to it. A cigar with some sweetness helps alleviate the taste of the tobacco.
What’s The Draw Like? Let me tell you, there is nothing more frustrating than a poorly constructed cigar. I’ve mentioned time and again how a cigar (when not wrapped tight enough) can feel like you’re puffing on the end of a paper towel roll. There’s no resistance, no draw to the stick. All you’re doing it getting a large amount of air coming in through the cigar and there’s no real flavor. Conversely, a cigar wrapped too tightly is going to feel like you’re trying to drink a McDonald’s shake through those tiny straws! Your chest actually starts to hurt because you’re sucking so hard on the cigar, just to try to get it to burn. A good cigar should have just enough resistance when you puff on it that you can feel the draw at the foot of the cigar. This should produce an ample amount of smoke into your mouth but not so much that you’re getting smoked out of the room.
Is It High Maintenance? This aspect is predicated upon how well the draw is on your cigar. While I’m not saying it is always synonymous, there is a correlation between how well the cigar is wrapped and whether the cigar stays lit. I have found that cigars which have been wrapped too tight, and as such have a hard draw, typically go out because the fire can’t stay lit/smoldering within the cigar. When you’re unable to get the fire within the cigar to move closer toward your mouth as you puff, it can’t maintain the burn of tobacco and goes out…frequently. I’m a pretty patient and understanding guy, but if I have to re-light a cigar much more than two times (and it going out wasn’t my fault due to lack of attention to it) then I call it a worthless cigar and I let you readers know about it. I want a cigar that I can leave alone for 60-90 seconds and come back to it and get just as much smoke with each puff as I would if I were continually puffing away on it. (I highly recommend against that, that’s a newbie mistake and will make you ill—fast!)
Would I Recommend It? To Whom? Most of the individuals with whom I smoke cigars are newbies to the amount of nicotine in a cigar. Therefore, I first ask myself would this even be a cigar worth recommending. Recommending a cigar and blogging a review on it are two different animals, in my mind. If I’m willing to recommend a cigar, it means I enjoyed it so much so that it stuck out in my mind as a positive experience. If I didn’t enjoy it, I’ll simply blog my review of the cigar and try to quickly forget about the experience of it all. Ok, so assuming I would recommend it, to whom would I suggest the stick? Well, it depends. Because my friend Jason is the only person I know of (off hand) that smokes cigars with any sort of regularity, he’s someone I would say might enjoy a more powerful (flavorful) cigar. If, on the other hand, I’m talking to one of my guys during our cigar nights, I might suggest a more subtle tasting cigar, because I wouldn’t want to be the root cause of them vomiting profusely. Nonetheless, I will work my willingness into recommending a cigar into my review as whether it’s a good or bad smoke.
Would I Smoke It Again? This is as important as any other question—some might say the most important. I get excited when I ask myself this question and the answer is a resounding, “Holy Hell, YES!!”. I love to find new cigars that make me excited to smoke them again. I’ve smoked a fair number of sticks which were boring and/or make me feel ill, a good reason to never smoke that cigar type again. I’ve smoked cigars which were just awful tasting, or poorly constructed. But then you find your Holy Grail of cigars, and life is exciting once again. I have found that my taste for cigars hasn’t changed much as I’ve experienced more quality cigars. What I mean is, it’s not as though I’m loving every cigar I encounter nor am I hating most of them. I find that I rate one-third of the cigars I try as boring, one-third as poor and one-third as excellent. And that one-third excellent is probably an overstatement. I might be lucky if I rate one-quarter to one-eighth the cigars I smoke as “excellent”. Perhaps I’m a bit too choosy with my “excellent” rating, but at the end of the day, if I rate a cigar as an “A+” you know that’s a damn fine quality cigar I’ve smoked!