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Cigars 101: Questions to Ask at a Tobacconist

A tobacconist is your expert on all things related to cigars, tobacco, and the fine art of smoking. Fine art? We think so. If espresso-slingers and bartenders can call themselves ‘’artists,” we think the people who dedicate their lives to the experience of tobacco should be given equal credit. But, what exactly does a tobacconist's career look like?

Surprisingly, there are schools and certification programs for those who want to be tobacconists. They differentiate the true aficionados from those who just like to smoke with buddies on the weekends. These masters know everything about cigar brands, tastes, textures, and the standards of quality that every cigar should have.

If you’re ever lucky enough to meet an educated and experienced tobacconist, strike  a conversation by  asking some of these questions. He or she will be impressed with your knowledge of the art, and will let you in on some of the industry secrets.

Would you recommend cavendish tobacco?

Remember, cavendish is not a type of tobacco itself, it’s a process by which you process and roll it. You don’t grow cavendish, but the manufacturing process creates a different flavor, which some people prefer.

What type of grain should I look for in a pipe?

Before you ask this, it’s best to know what grain actually is. The grain of a pipe refers to the pattern on the wood. There’s straight (the most expensive), bird’s eye, and ring grain, all of which have their unique benefits for smokers of all interest levels. Depending on your budget and time in the cigar world, your tobacconist can guide you to picking the right pipe.

What curing process produces the best flavor?

There’s four different processes to curing tobacco: air-curing, fire-curing, flue-curing, and sun-curing. Each of these is used for a different type of smoke. Typically cigars are air cured. Your tobacconist will explain the different methods and how they change the nicotine and sugar levels, making the flavor and strength different.

 How do I tell when my cigar is mature?

Cigars must grow up too, before they're ready for the adult world. They go through three life phases, and the subtle changes in aging can be hard to notice if you haven’t dedicated your career to learning them. Ask your tobacconist about ways you can tell when your cigar is at its prime age for flavor and fermentation.

Where is this tobacco sourced?

Most people know that Cuba is by far the best source to grow tobacco, and home to some of the most experienced torcedors in the world. But tobacco is grown across tropical, Central American, and even some northern countries.Cubans are the most expensive, and finding authentic ones in America is nearly impossible. So ask your tobacconist for their recommendations based on growing region.


You can search for a local tobacconist, or read our blog to get all the info you need. We have articles to assist the amateur or lifelong connoisseur with all your cigar-related inquiries.