Higher MSRP Signifies a Better Cigar
This is one that I see a lot in forums, online groups, and social media – and I get it! You don’t splurge on a $50-100 cigar for a mediocre experience. So, what gives?
There are many things that affect the suggested retail value of a cigar: scarcity of materials, scale of operation, sourcing / outsourcing, and a whole lot more. But the problem comes in when we expect a dollar for dollar return when, in fact, cigars experience a diminishing return on investment.
For instance, a $40 cigar won’t taste four times as good as a $10 cigar. Most of the time we’re paying for a more exclusive experience, aged or limited tobacco, or limited production capability for another reason. Being able to taste something rare and (hopefully) unique is exciting in its own right.
To be fair, I’ve had some incredible $5 cigars that blew my mind like Xhaxhi Bobi recently. Yet my favorite cigar of all time is still the Davidoff Oro Blanco which commands a hefty price tag. It isn’t 100x better than Xhaxhi Bobi, but it’s a one-of-a-kind cigar that I still dream about.
Country of Origin Defines the Type of Tobacco in a Cigar
Remember when you first heard that the cigar you were looking at was a Dominican or Nicaraguan cigar? And when you brought the box home, it said something like Product of Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic?
You’ve probably learned since that cigars are composed of a wrapper leaf, binder leaves, and filler leaves. The most exciting part of today’s Cigar Era is that we’re constantly experimenting with tobacco from different countries, seeds, and fermentation to create exciting blends that they only dreamed about in decades past.
It’s very common for a Nicaraguan brand (for example) to use wrapper-grade tobacco from Mexico, Ecuador, or the United States. Some factories to this day only use tobacco from their home countries (these cigars are called puros) but the wide majority of factories outside of Cuba blend with tobacco from all over the world. The usual tobacco countries include the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Brazil, Cameroon, United States, Peru, Indonesia, and Mexico.
Different Sizes Will Taste the Same
It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this one out. Mostly because I used to only dabble in the robusto size, but also because I just wasn’t paying enough attention.
Sometimes, you’ll find that a gifted blender really can translate the flavor profile from one size to another. But this is much harder than it sounds because he or she is working with different amounts of tobacco in each size.
While it is possible, it isn’t the norm. Instead, a lot of blenders like to change the profile to fit our expectations. Smaller ring gauges get more punch, larger ring gauges get that smooth jazz effect, etc. Sometimes the tobacco they’re using lends itself to these characteristics, and sometimes they change things up so that your expectations are met.
On paper, the blends usually remain the same – but not always! Some brands like Casdagli like to change up their sizes to smoke like completely different cigars. It’s also common practice to change a blend’s tobacco primings to achieve their desired combustion, flavor profile, and strength.
For that matter, blends undergo micro tweaks regularly due to all sorts of reasons. We often say that the blend hasn't changed, but that's speaking loosely. It makes brands that are known for their consistency even that much more impressive.
You can read more about the different sizes and how it affects a cigar here.
Wrapper Tobacco Provides 70% of a Cigar’s Flavor
I hear this a lot, and it’s another misconception that can actually be true. The difference is that it’s not always true, and I’d venture to estimate that it’s not even mostly true. But it can absolutely be true.
Wrapper tobacco receives the most attention throughout the growing and curing process because it’s the only part of the cigar that is visible to cigar enthusiasts. This dictates that wrapper-grade tobacco must be the most expensive tobacco to buy, but not that it dominates the flavor profile of a blend.
Even with all the extra attention, wrapper-grade tobacco will often be downgraded after purchase to binder tobacco because of blemishes or shade. Some brands downgrade almost 50% of their wrapper tobacco for binder use, and I have a hard time believing that it’s no longer as flavorful because it resides just beneath the wrapper.
You can read more about this common misconception here, but the gist is that blending a cigar involves a lot of moving pieces. It’s like saying one ingredient provides 70% of the flavor in soup. While it might be true depending on the soup, it’s isn’t as dogmatic as many people say.
The Only Proper Way to Light a Cigar is with a Match
Imagine my surprise when – upon lighting probably my 10,000th cigar – a coworker informs me that real cigar aficionados only use matches.
“Do you smoke cigars?” I asked. “No,” he replied.
I’ve heard this a few times in recent years. Personally, I’m too impatient and lazy to light all of my cigars with matches. A single-flame torch at a distance has all the firepower I need to start enjoying a great cigar without scorching it like hotel coffee.
Here’s the truth: cigar enthusiasts enjoy many different cigars many different ways. No one else is smoking your cigar but you, so feel free to light it however you’d like. Bic lighters, torch lighters, and wood matches are all fair game.
Darker Cigars are Stronger than Lighter Cigars
Preconceived notions are powerful, yet they often work against us. Just about everyone I know enjoys both water and sprite in their own right but will be taken aback if they expect one and take a sip of the other.
Until recent years, most Connecticut-shade cigars were certainly milder. And darker cigars have a tendency to be stronger and more aggressive. But these norms are challenged by every year that goes by with new blenders and brands hitting the market, carving out a new niche for themselves.
Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to guess a cigar experience solely by the way it looks without context.
Cuban Cigars are the Gold Standard
In Zino Davidoff’s Book, The Connoisseur’s Book of the Cigar, he talks about Habanos essentially being the gold standard. He even wrote, “Everything else has changed; things quickly come to pass. But great cigars always have the same origin, even if their names change, and they still work the same magic.
Great cigars will always come from the precious lands, and will always keep their grandeur and nobility. Surviving every vicissitude, a good Havana with a gold and purble band, in its wooden box with cedar shavings, encased in its baroque spledor, will forever remain lord over all other cigars. It can never be cut off from its grand past or its obscure origins. Of noble lineage, it will never be a mere manufactured object.”
Myself, I enjoy Cuban cigars on occasion. When they’re constructed properly, they strike a chord that’s rarely played in non-Cuban cigars. It’s a change of pace, a different vibe, a unique experience.
But unfortunately, the quality control on Cuban cigars has severely declined in our time. Simultaneously, the quality of New World cigars has steadily increased to the point that we’re currently in what I believe to be the Golden Era of cigars.
You can read more about the difference between Cuban and New World Cigars here.
The 70/70 Rule
One of the first things I researched about cigars was the proper environment to store them in. At the time, the internet was flooded with guidance for 70% humidity and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
The reality is that cigar storage is much more of a personal endeavor than a strict rule. Myself, I found that 70% was too much humidity for the environment that I was living in at the time. I found that 63-65% was more appropriate for my personal tastes and smoking environment. When I travel, I have to reaccess the situation to match my new environment.
Since then, I’ve experimented with 62% and even higher than 70%. And to this day I maintain multiple environments because some cigars perform better at different humidity levels. I’ve noticed that some Dominican puros especially react more favorably with higher relative humidity.
If I were to make a rule regarding humidity, it would be to apply the same concept of cutting your cigars to cigar storage: less is more. You want to cut just enough off the cap and maintain just enough humidity in your humidor to get the job done. After you’ve achieved the desired results, anything additional carries more risk than reward.
Cigars Always Get Better Over Time
This is another misconception that can go both ways. On the one hand, most cigars absolutely improve within their first 6-12 months of release. Around the 18-month mark, however, you may or may not like how your cigar is changing over time.
I know some that extensively age everything for many years before lighting them up – and they love it! And I know others that try purposely to go through boxes before their second year is up.
The length of time required to age a cigar will change depending on your personal preferences and the blend itself. This is a moving target, and we always suggest pulling from the box periodically to see how your cigars are coming along.
Hopefully you can pinpoint when your boxes are in the sweet spot and enjoy them before they go over the hill.
You can learn more about aging cigars here.
Cigars Are Ready to Smoke Immediately
Whether you purchased your cigars from us or from a local Tobacconist, a common misconception is that they’re ready to enjoy immediately. Especially when purchased locally, because they’re visible on the shelf and appear ready to be enjoyed. Right?
Our newest Small Batch shipping bags say, “Rest Them Before You Test Them,” trying to alleviate the sick period that happens when you ship cigars. We recommend letting the cigars acclimate to your humidors for approximately 1-2 weeks to improve their performance and flavor profile.
When purchasing locally (whether from our lounge or any other), we often forget that the new releases or limited editions have also just travelled a great distance.
Trust me, we’re as guilty as the next guy or gal of smoking new cigars ROTT (right off the truck). It’s practically an industry standard. But we always try our best not to allow those first impressions to color our views on that cigar down the road. The reality is that the cigar could be a completely different experience 2-4 weeks later.
While not always feasible, we encourage you to rest your cigars for a period of time in your humidor. This will improve overall combustion, draw, and taste, allowing the blender’s intent to shine through. Especially if you just received it in the mail or it only just arrived at your local Tobacconist.
You can learn more about how shipping affects cigars here.