Let's take a walk down memory lane: You smoke your first cigar. Maybe it was good, maybe it wasn’t. But soon you have another, and then another. Next thing you know, you’re shopping online and stopping in your local shop trying to learn everything you can about the wide, wide world of cigars.
Mistakes are made, money is spent, and hopefully laughs are passed around in retrospect over a pour of your favorite drink. It seems that cigars take us on a journey without a destination, yet everyone arrives at certain conclusions over time. If you’ve made some of these mistakes in the past, feel free to share this article with someone that is just getting started or might not be as far along just yet.
Or maybe you just want the fast track to enjoying cigars without having to experience all the growing pains of a new hobby. Below you’ll find seven unique traps to avoid as a cigar enthusiast in order to help you quickly earn your diploma on the way to becoming an aficionado.
New Cigar Smoker Pitfall #1 - Smoking Too Fast
If your symptoms include acrid, bitter flavors then it’s very possible that you’re smoking too fast. This is a very common occurrence with new cigar smokers and especially with those that used to be cigarette smokers. The act of puffing becomes habitual, and many-a-cigar has been smoked faster than you can crank up your vehicle’s AC on a hot day.
The seasoned cigar enthusiast has learned from experience that smoking slow and steady keeps the flavors vibrant and satisfying. The difference is like drinking fresh coffee prepared your favorite way versus yesterday’s burnt coffee.
Let the cigar talk to you. Smaller ring gauges will naturally burn faster, hotter, and require a slower pace. Likewise, larger and denser cigars may allow (or even require) a faster pace. But before you break out a stopwatch and try to over-engineer a prescribed puff per minute (PPM) ratio, remember that these cigars are rolled by hand without precise tools. In that spirit, paying attention to your cigar and your taste buds is all that’s needed to ensure you get the most from your experience. Also, see Tip #7.
New Cigar Smoker Pitfall #2 - Humidification
There are few things that can ruin a smoking experience before it starts, but under/over humidifying your collection is like purchasing a one-way ticket to sadville. If your cigars taste bitter or are feeling brittle, they are more than likely underhumidified. If they are spongy, taste funky, and keep going out or needing burn corrections, chances are that they are overhumidified.
For years now, owners of humidors have been inundated with the 70/70 doctrine. Somehow, our conventional wisdom train left the station filled with ideas that 70% humidity and 70 degrees Fahrenheit were the optimal settings for cigars.
We now know that not only is this a personal preference, but many cigar enthusiasts prefer to store their cigars between 65-69%, with 69% still being too high for many. And which percentage you store your cigars at will likely change based on the relative humidity in the area that you live in. Luckily, Boveda came along with an easy solution for many with smaller humidors. They have 62%, 65%, 69%, and even 72% packs that regulate humidity. Boveda packs are a popular humidification device that advertises 2-way humidity control.
Sounds perfect, right? Well, the 2-way nature of Boveda packs can give consumers a false impression that they don’t need to inspect their humidors or even calibrate and use a hygrometer. Boveda has significantly reduced the amount of dehydrated cigars in homes across America, but now we’re seeing more and more overly hydrated cigars.
The problem occurs when using an airtight humidor such as a plastic Tupperware container. In an airtight environment, one Boveda pack goes a long way. For example, Boveda Inc says that a 250ct humidor would require 8-10 large boveda packs while a plastic humidor would only require 2-3 packs of the same size. This is because air doesn't escape plastic containers like it does with wooden humidors.
Boveda states on their website, "because it's impossible for Boveda to humidify beyond the RH on the pack, it's impossible to use 'too much.'" This statement has caused consumers to toss as many boveda into a humidor as possible, thinking that each pack will have to work less and the longevity of their purchse will increase. But it's simply not true.
Using boveda in airtight containers such as a tupperdor is a fine practice. Using too many boveda packets, however, will over humidify your cigars. We tested this by calibrating a digital hygrometer with a salt test (75%) and then placing the hygrometer in a plastic bag with five 69% packs of differing sizes. The hygrometer, at the same temperature, read between 71-75% during the next 36 hours. Not once did the hygrometer read at or below the advertised 69%.
The bottom line is that you must inspect what you expect - every product is intended to be used a certain way and using it outside of those parameters can have consequences. In fact, we use boveda every day to ensure the best experience possible when delivering your cigars - but we use it as the product was intended. Read more about how temperature and humidity are affected during the shipping process.
New Cigar Smoker Pitfall #3 - Deep Cuts
OK – you’ve ensured that your humidor is properly taking care of your cigars. You select your victim of the day and promptly chop off the head like a savage. More often than not, the wrapper begins to unravel and soon you’re left piecing everything together as you try to smoke it.
What causes this? When your cigar is rolled, a Rolero begins to apply cigar glue to the end of the wrapper that will become head of the cigar. Additional glue is applied to the cap of the cigar to hold everything in place as well as for aesthetics. When you cut below the cap, the wrapper may not have sufficient adhesive and will often begin to make your life miserable.
One easy solution is to use a style of cutter called a perfect cutter, like the one we feature in our Small Batch Starter Kit. This cutter features a backing that makes it virtually impossible to cut too much of your cigar, giving you the right cut every time.
Essentially, we want to remove as little as possible from the cap when making our cut. Any more than is necessary risks damaging your cigar. For tips on how to cut different types of cigars and caps, check out this article: How to Cut a Cigar: Different Shapes and Caps.
New Cigar Smoker Pitfall #4 - Give Me All the Boxes
This trap and the next go hand-in-hand. As with any great endeavor, we often try to skip the minutia and go straight to the good stuff. In the cigar world, that’s often seen as moving past sampler packs and buying your first box of cigars.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with buying a box of cigars regardless of how long you’ve been in the hobby. Breaking the seal, opening the box, smelling your cigars, and generally reveling in your purchase is an exciting experience each and every time.
So what gives? The problems are two-fold. If you’re new to our cigar hobby, you have to put in the time to know what you like and don’t like. There aren’t any cliff notes as you’re the only person with your particular taste buds. Purchasing a box before you know what you like exposes you to feelings of cold feet and regret if it isn’t what you were expecting. We always recommend to try a five-pack or sampler as often as possible to expand your horizons before jumping straight into a box purchase.
Likewise, the seasoned veteran can fall into the trap of purchasing a box without sampling the different vitolas (sizes) first. Each vitola is blended separately out of necessity, and sometimes they are radically different depending on the blender’s intent. It’s always recommended to sample a new product and find which vitola calls your name before committing to an entire box.
New Cigar Smoker Pitfall #5 - Buying the Most Expensive Cigars First
Along the same vein as the previous Tip, this one is another common trap for new cigar smokers. Expensive cigars are seen as being inherently better than their inexpensive cousins. Following this train of thought, new smokers sometimes decide that they want to try a cigar significantly outside of their comfort zone while still practicing bad habits.
But when first beginning the cigar journey, there’s a roadmap that most of us follow – beginning with trudging through several of the traps laid out in this article. Improper cuts, poor humidification, and fast-paced smoking habits all contribute to this roadmap and can detract from your smoking experience until you learn the ropes.
And here’s where we would caution you. When you smoke a cigar that costs several times what your other cigars cost, and you do all of the things in this article, it becomes easy to assume that this cigar is absolutely, unequivocably… not worth the money.
You’ve probably heard that there’s a time and place for everything, and this holds true for cigars. Not only will your mood and environment impact what you think of a cigar, but your tastes will change over time. What you don’t like now might shock you in a few years and vice versa. We always encourage our customers to revisit cigars over time as you continue your journey.
At SmallBatch, we know that we’re a part of many celebrations by providing some of the best cigars available to the U.S. From the ultra-premium lines such as Davidoff to Padron, we know the feeling that comes with smoking the heavy weights of luxury. Our goal isn’t to dissuade you from buying expensive cigars, but guide you around the trap of assuming that all cigars over $X are overpriced because you had a bad experience before you were to ready to really enjoy it.
New Cigar Smoker Pitfall #6 - Judging
We’ve all been there and done that: you light up a cigar that you enjoy and someone immediately says, “I wouldn’t smoke that,” complete with a disapproving look and an upturned nose. It doesn’t matter what words are actually said or what you were smoking – what matters is that you were being judged.
Some think of it as a rite of passage, that once upon a time they didn’t know better but now they do - and that eventually you'll come to your senses as well. But this line of thought couldn’t be further from the truth. Cigars are a Gentleman’s (or Lady’s) hobby and courteous people always make others feel comfortable.
The truth is that someone despises a cigar that you cherish. And, someone cherishes a cigar that you would never ever want to smoke again.
There’s only one person on this planet that can tell you what you do or don’t enjoy, and that will always be you. If you enjoy a cigar, enjoy it to the greatest extent possible and don’t let someone else make you feel like you shouldn’t.
And, after you’ve become a fully-fledged Cigar Aficionado, remember not to be that guy or gal. Some of the most successful people in this industry are also some of the humblest that you will meet. They’ll also tell you to smoke what you like and like what you smoke.
New Cigar Smoker Pitfall #7 - Overthinking It
Lastly, enjoy your cigar! It’s too easy to get caught up in all the rigmarole and miss out on a truly amazing cigar. Everything from getting the right picture for social media to overthinking the PPM (if you knew what this was before today’s article, you’re overthinking it) to worrying about the right way to organize your inventory spreadsheet can be disruptive.
Of course there’s a time and place for everything – geeking out about cigars is what we enjoy! So with that, we'll close with another personal preference clause. There's no right or wrong way to enjoy a cigar, as long as you're enjoying it. Hopefully we covered some areas that will help you get the most satisfaction from each and every cigar.
If this article was helpful to you, please share it with someone that might enjoy it as well.