The Novice’s Guide to the World of Cigars: Tradition, Symbolism, and Savoir-Faire
Etiquette3 Minutes Read

The Novice’s Guide to the World of Cigars: Tradition, Symbolism, and Savoir-Faire

February 19, 2024 Share

Explore the rich world of cigars: a symbol of sophistication and history. This guide delves into the allure, varieties, rituals, and cultural significance of cigar smoking for aficionados.

Embarking on the journey into the world of cigars unlocks a treasure chest of rich history, nuanced customs, and an emblematic symbol of sophistication and masculinity. This guide offers a portal into understanding the allure of cigars, from their storied past to the rituals surrounding their enjoyment.

Whether you’re drawn to cigars for their cultural cachet or simply curious about this timeless hobby, read on to discover the essentials every aspiring aficionado should know.

Image courtesy of Vinicius Löw

A Brief History of Cigars

The story of cigars dates back to the indigenous tribes of the Americas, with the earliest recorded instances of cigar smoking traced to the ancient Mayans. Their word for smoking, “sikar,” is believed to be the etymological root of the modern “cigar.” The practice flourished throughout the Caribbean and Mesoamerica, with Columbus and his crew being among the first Europeans to encounter tobacco in its smoked form during their voyages to the New World.

The cigar’s journey from indigenous ritual to global phenomenon is a tale of colonial trade routes, where it was embraced by European aristocracy, symbolizing wealth and status. The 19th century saw the rise of cigar manufacturing in Cuba, which quickly became synonymous with the world’s finest tobacco, a reputation it holds to this day.

The Cigar as a Symbol of Masculinity

The cigar’s ascent as a symbol of masculinity is intertwined with its historical association with power, leisure, and deliberation. In the smoke-filled rooms of the past, where political and business decisions were made, cigars were often present, lending an air of authority and contemplation to the proceedings. Icons of masculinity, from Winston Churchill to modern-day celebrities, have often been pictured with a cigar in hand, further cementing its status as a marker of male sophistication and success.

Understanding Cigar Varieties

Cigars are categorized by their size and shape (vitola), country of origin, and the tobacco blends used. The three main components of a cigar are the filler, the binder leaf that holds the filler together, and the wrapper leaf, which influences much of the cigar’s character and flavor.

  • Robustos, Panetelas, Churchills: These terms refer to various sizes and shapes, affecting the smoking time and flavor concentration.
  • Cuban, Nicaraguan, Dominican Republic: The country of origin denotes distinct tobacco flavors, from the robust and complex Cuban cigars to the smooth and mild offerings from the Dominican Republic.

The Rituals and Customs

Cigar smoking is as much about the ritual as it is about taste. From choosing the right cigar to cutting, lighting, and smoking it, each step contributes to the overall experience.

  • Cutting: Use a quality cutter to ensure a clean cut, avoiding damage to the cigar.
  • Lighting: Light your cigar with a butane lighter or wooden match, toasting the foot (the end you’ll light) before taking your first draw.
  • Smoking: Unlike cigarettes, cigars are not meant to be inhaled. Savor the smoke in your mouth, enjoying the flavor notes, and exhale.

The Costs Involved

The price of cigars can vary widely, from a few dollars to upwards of $50 per cigar for premium or rare editions. For beginners, it’s advisable to start with mid-range priced cigars to explore different tastes and preferences without breaking the bank. Remember, the price is often a reflection of the quality of tobacco and the craftsmanship involved in the cigar’s production.

Choosing Your First Cigar

For those new to cigars, selecting a mild to medium-bodied cigar is generally recommended. This will offer a pleasant introduction without the intensity that might come from fuller-bodied varieties. Visiting a reputable tobacconist can provide personalized recommendations and the opportunity to explore a curated selection.

Etiquette and Enjoyment

Cigar smoking is a leisurely activity, meant to be enjoyed over time. Whether alone or in the company of fellow aficionados, respecting the space and preferences of others is paramount. Sharing insights about the flavors and experiences each cigar offers can enrich the enjoyment and deepen your appreciation for this age-old hobby.

Storage: Keeping Your Cigars Fresh

Proper storage is crucial to maintaining your cigars in optimal condition. A humidor, which regulates humidity and temperature, is essential for anyone looking to collect or store cigars for extended periods. Keeping cigars too dry or too moist can adversely affect their flavor and smoking quality.

Beyond the Smoke: Cigars and Culture

The world of cigars extends beyond the act of smoking, encompassing a rich cultural tapestry that includes literature, film, and the arts. Cigars have been immortalized in the works of Mark Twain, celebrated in the classic films of the golden age of Hollywood, and remain a staple in discussions of luxury and lifestyle in contemporary culture.

Embracing the Cigar Lifestyle

For those drawn to the cigar lifestyle, it’s a journey of continuous discovery. Attending tastings, visiting cigar lounges, and exploring cigar-centric publications can deepen your knowledge and appreciation. The camaraderie found within the cigar community is also a significant part of the appeal, offering connections with individuals who share your newfound passion.

Conclusion

Stepping into the world of cigars opens the door to a realm where tradition, taste, and camaraderie converge. As you embark on this journey, remember that the essence of cigar smoking is to slow down and savor the moment. Whether you’re drawn to the ritual, the rich history, or the deep flavors, cigars offer a unique pathway to enjoyment and relaxation. Welcome to the illustrious world of cigars, where every puff is a story waiting to be told.

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Author: Laura Scalco
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