Cigar smoking is truly a hobby and like most hobbies, there are lots of products one can purchase to enhance their experience. While the array of products can be overwhelming, we have taken our 15+ years experience as a retailer in the cigar industry and distilled it down into the basics one needs to know to get started, what products you need, and how to make the best purchasing decisions.
There are basically five essential areas we will cover in this buying guide – these include, the cigar itself, where to store the cigar, what to cut the cigar with, what to light the cigar with and where to put the cigar ashes. This should provide you with all the tools needed to make an informed purchasing decision.
Cigars come in a variety of shapes, sizes, flavors and strengths. It is hard to tell somebody what the perfect cigar for them will be since it is based strictly on personal preference. If you’re not familiar with what your gift recipient prefers, we recommend a cigar sampler that will provide an array of different tastes and strengths. As a rule of thumb, people who are just getting into the hobby prefer cigars that are more on the mild side, not too harsh. As their taste progresses, they tend to move to the medium and even bolder cigars. However some people never prefer anything stronger than a mild cigar. The length and ring gauge (diameter) of a cigar will affect the flavor and taste profile as well. The most common and popular sizes of cigars are Robustos and Corona cigars. Giving cigars as a gift can be a challenge since it really is a personal preference. If you know what they already like you can match profiles with other brands.
Cigars should be stored in a humidor. Humidors are basically a box that is lined in Spanish cedar and helps maintain humidity in the 60-75% range. The reason we use Spanish cedar in humidors is because it works well with water and won’t warp like other woods will.
When looking at a humidor to purchase you want to make sure you choose the right size, it has a good seal and it is constructed well. It doesn’t matter much if it is a wood top vs. a glass top, if it has handles or trays or a lock and key, etc. Those might be factors that affect your product choice, but they won’t make much of a difference in how the humidor works.
In terms of size, you want to make sure you are buying a humidor that is large enough to accommodate the cigars you smoke, and allow you to adequately store cigars you might accumulate along the way. A rule of thumb is to go at least two times as large as you think you will need. It is never bad storing fewer cigars in a large box, but it can be detrimental storing more cigars than a box can accommodate. Keep in mind that the sizes of humidors are based on the number of cigars the manufacturer thinks the box can hold. They can use a variety of cigar sizes to get to that number. Always look at the dimensions to see if it looks like it will meet your needs.
A humidor is only as good as the seal it has. Basically, you want to make sure that the humidity stays put and doesn’t fluctuate too much. This is the purpose of the seal. You aren’t looking for a hermetically sealed box, just something that closes nice and tight. The best test for a humidors seal is to gently close it from about 1 inch and listen for a puff of air not a bang. This works 99% of the time. Some of the larger humidors or ones with heavy lids won’t apply to this method.
You want a humidor that is constructed well. If it is a glass top humidor, make sure it has thick tempered glass with adequate seals around the glass to prevent humidity loss. Make sure the wood used inside is kiln dried Spanish cedar, make sure the hinges are appropriate for the box and that the unit has a nice solid look and feel.
Hygrometers & Humidifiers
For a humidor to work properly, it needs a source of humidity. This is where humidifiers comes in. This device’s sole purpose is to give off humidity inside the humidor. Humidifiers come in all shapes and sizes with a variety of materials inside of them. The most common humidifier will be a foam based unit. These units have green florist foam inside that you saturate with distilled water or activator solution. Other common humidifiers contain a polymer gel or beads. These humidifiers all typically work the same way and the major difference among them is how long you can go between refilling with water. The other classes of humidifiers are electronic units. These units sometimes work via battery, but more often are plugged into a wall. They are much more complex and will turn themselves on and off to regulate humidity levels.
The hygrometer is a device that tells you what level of humidity your humidor is at. Similar to how the speedometer in your car tells you how fast you are going. A hygrometers reading will change when the humidity in your humidor changes. Hygrometers come in two basic versions, analog and digital. The analog hygrometers are included in most humidors. They contain a needle and a piece of metal that bends when humidity changes. They are OK for general readings, but due to the limit of their technology, they tend to be off several percent and slow to react to humidity changes. Digital hygrometers on the other hand use circuits that measure humidity levels several times a second and are extremely accurate. A humidor will work perfectly fine without a hygrometer, just as your car will work without a speedometer. However to accurately know your humidity level, it is a useful tool.
Every cigar needs to be cut before you smoke it. The three common cigar cutters are straight (guillotine), hole (punch) and V-cut. The type of cut you perform on your cigar is personal preference and neither is better or worse than the other. You can to make sure whichever cut you are going to do, that the cutter is sharp and easy to use. You want nice clean cuts on your cigars.
After you have cut your cigar, you want to light it up to enjoy. Traditionalists will light a piece of cedar and use that to light their cigars. This is not a very common practice as most people prefer to just use a pocket lighter. You want to avoid lighting your cigar with a Zippo lighter, or any lighter that uses oil based fuel as this will impart a bad flavor to the cigar. You want a good butane lighter that is strong and has enough fuel to light several cigars. It doesn’t matter if you have a single, double, triple flame lighter – this is all personal preference.
A well made cigar will produce a beautiful long ash that falls off neatly. While you can technically put your cigar ash anywhere you want, a nice ashtray is a good addition to any smoker’s arsenal. You want to look for an ashtray that has a nice deep bowl that will accommodate a few cigars before it needs to be cleaned. You also want to make sure you have enough cigar rests on the ashtray so if you smoke with friends; they have a place to put their cigar.Cigar Humidor and Accessories Gift Buying Guide by David Sabot