The Art of Cigars: A Beginner’s Guide

humidor M.A.'s Smokehouse Shreveport

If you’re new to the world of cigars, you’ll soon find there’s an art to the practice.

From choosing your cigar from the many options available and deciding whether quality or quantity is more important, to learning how to accessorize as well as how to ease into the smoking experience, navigating the world of cigars is a never-ending journey.

“There is a learning curve to the enjoyment of cigar smoking,” says Buddy Williams.
“And that’s part of what makes it fun. You have to experiment enough to find the cigar or cigars that you like and then ease into the experience and continue to explore and learn.”

Fortunately, customers of MA’s Smokehouse in Shreveport-Bossier aren’t alone in their quest for the perfect cigar and smoking experience. Buddy and his colleagues are always around to offer tips of the trade to beginners.

If you’re new to the art of cigars, here are five tips that will help you get started. And if you need any help, MA’s stands ready to answer your questions.

“It all begins with the wrapper,” says Buddy, who recommends that newbies select either Connecticut or Cameroon wrappers. “The Connecticut is a little milder and creamier while the Cameroon has more of a nutty, toasty taste,” he explains.

Once you’ve chosen your wrapper of preference, you next choose the origin of your tobacco. The most popular choices are cigars from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua.

According to Buddy, Dominicans are normally milder than Honduran and Nicaraguan cigars.

He recommends:
• The Arturo Fuente Hemingway series from the Dominican Republic.
• The ‘My Father’ and ‘Perdomo Champagne’ brands – both from Dominican Republic and made with a Connecticut wrap.
• The ‘San Cristobal Elegancia’ a Nicaragua blend with a Connecticut wrap.
• And the ‘Romeo and Julieta Reserve Real’ a combined Dominican and Nicaragua blend with a Connecticut wrap.

“I encourage new smokers to purchase three different kinds of cigars,” says Buddy. “They will each taste different so they need to experiment, try a few and see what hits their taste buds.”

MA’s Smokehouse sells cigars that range from $4.00 upwards to $2000. But most quality cigars cost in the $8.00-$15.00 range.

“There are a number of things that go into the price of a cigar including the age of the tobacco, the rarity of the tobacco and whether or not the cigar was made in a factory or a small boutique,” says Buddy.

“With a more expensive cigar, the aged tobacco is going to give you a smoother taste and the long filler will burn slower and last longer. So it really is about how much the smoker wants to spend. I’ll ask a new smoker what their budget it and recommend something within that range.”

Although you buy virtually anything these days online, when it comes to cigars you really don’t know what you are getting.

“I’ve had guys come in and tell me they ordered a cigar online but instead of getting what they ordered they were sent a substitution. That doesn’t happen at MA’s.”

What else do you get when you buy local from MA’s?
• You support the local economy.
• You get the expertise and advice of the man behind the counter who can answer your questions one-on-one.
• You enjoy the sensory-filled experience of touching, smelling and seeing cigars.
• You can join the community of smokers who enjoy each other’s company in the indoor and outdoor smoking lounges.

There are a few necessary accessories you’ll need to enjoy your cigars including a cutter and a lighter.

Cigars come with a cap on them to protect the stick and keep it bound. Before smoking, you have to cut the cap with a cutter. “With a cutter, you’re paying for the quality of the steel,” says Buddy. “We sell Xikar cutters that come with lifetime warranties and range from $8.00 to $100.”

While you can light your cigar the old fashioned way with a match (as long its sulphur-free), a torch lighter will give you a quick and easy burn plus add pizaaz to the experience. Torch lighters start at $30 and can be refilled with butane.

Like fine wine, gourmet foods and craft beers, enjoying a good cigar is an art that must be cultivated and finessed to maturity.

Here are Buddy’s tips on how to do just that.
• Cigars are not cigarettes: you don’t inhale them. You puff them for the taste.
• Prepare yourself for a time of trial and error. It may take a while for you to find the cigar or cigars you really like and time to practice the art of smoking.
• Relax, enjoy the experience, and join in the camaraderie with other smokers.

“Smoking cigars is not something you do in a hurry,” says Buddy. “Cigars don’t burn quickly. They are designed to give you time to unwind, spend time with friends and relax. That’s one of the reasons they are so enjoyable. It’s meant to be an experience not a passing thought.”