Cigars come in many different styles, shapes and tastes. There are also different quality ratings for cigars. Some are average, others are truly outstanding. How to choose the right one for your tastes, or the occasion can be intimidating, if you don’t have a few facts straight. So before you spend a hundred bucks on a box of cigars, it pays to know something about how they’re made, classified and sold.
Country of Origin
We’ve all heard of the legendary Cuban cigar, which carries with it a certain allure, not just because of the quality, but perhaps also because of the American embargo against Cuban products. Don’t think that Cubans are the only cigars that offer a great smoke, however. When Columbus first encountered tobacco, it was already widespread throughout the Caribbean and North America.
In no time, tobacco made its way to Europe, and even Africa and South East Asia. Did you know that Connecticut produces some of the world’s finest cigars? A wide variety also come from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Brazil. Due to proximity, you are less likely to find cigars from popular regions in the Philippines and Indonesia.
Shapes, Sizes and Such
Take the Gigante. It’s named after its ring gauge of 60 (that’s big) and a length of over 6 inches. A cigar like the Corona doesn’t refer to a particular brand of cigar, but its shape and size. Many companies will produce Corona cigars that have very different tastes. The point is, you don’t want to choose a cigar just because you like the name. It’s better to become familiar with the dimensions of a cigar to find one that suits your needs.
Different Shapes for Different Smokes
The most common shape for a cigar is a cylinder and is referred to as a perejo. Oddly shaped cigars such as those with a cone shaped head are referred to as figurago. Torpedo cigars are completely cone shaped along their entire length. Torpedo cigars provide a different smoking experience than those shaped like a cylinder. This is because cone shaped cigars release smoke and burn much differently than cylinder cigars.
Judging a Cigar by its Cover (wrapper)
The wrapping of a cigar is also an important factor to consider. Cigars that are wrapped with just one tobacco leaf will provide a much smoother taste. However, once a second leaf is placed onto the cigar, it becomes a medium-bodied smoke. The more leaves that are placed over the cigar, the stronger the taste will become.
Cured Tobacco Improves Taste
A cigar’s leaves are not the only factor to consider when evaluating the boldness of a cigar. How the tobacco is cured also plays a big part in a cigar’s taste. Sun-cured tobacco–leaves that are left in the sun to dry naturally–will provide a much fresher taste than tobacco that’s dried in a tobacco machine.
Cigars are often assigned a rating of 0-100, just like wine. And, like wine, you typically don’t want to bother with anything rated below 70. You can like find a lot of good values in the 70-80 range, and when you start to cross 90, be prepared to shell out the big bucks.
Depending on your taste and budget, here are five quality cigars to consider:
CAO Gold. A best-seller, due in large part to it’s widely appealing taste and value, this mild Nicaraguan cigar produces a creamy smoke. It’s rated outstanding and starts at $4.20.
CAO eXtreme. A square shaped, full-bodied cigar, the CAO Extreme is also rated outstanding and starts at $6.80 each.
Sancho Panza. A popular brand from Honduras, this international blend is filled with leaves from plants that come from Cuban stock, and and wrapped in Connecticut Broadleaf. As you might imagine, the aromas are interesting and complex. They’re only $3.75 each.
Camacho Corojo. Rolled in a deep-flavored Corojo leaf from which it gets its name, the Camacho delivers a bold, full taste with a dry and spicy aroma. Single cigars start at $3.95.
Diamond Crown. A rare smoke from the world-renowned Arturo Fuente company which is based in the Dominican Republic, they come in “macho” 54-ring gauges and will set you back from $9.50 to $20 apiece.
If you’re just getting started with cigars, start out smaller and milder. The whole point is to find out what you like– not see how “tough” you are and what you can handle. Tobacco and cigars have been a part of American culture for millennia. The experience of enjoying a leisurely smoke is a time honored tradition; there’s no need to rush it. Take your time in discovering the nuance and pleasure of fine tobacco.
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