As Bullz-Eye.com's cigar reviewer, I am often asked, "What do I look for when I choose a cigar?" Obviously, this is a question that is asked primarily by the novice cigar smoker. As I have said in publications in the past, to get the most out of the experience, try to engage virtually all of the senses when selecting a cigar, particularly look, feel, smell and taste. However, keep in mind that everyone is different in terms of what they enjoy or dislike from a sensory perspective, and the sensitivities to certain tastes, smells, etc. do vary amongst us. Your overall environment (externally) and mood (internally) can impact your senses and will naturally do the same to the smoking experience. In other words, it's unlikely that you and I, or you and anyone else, will have the exact same experience when smoking the same cigar. This is one of the things that makes cigar smoking such a fun pastime.
With the above in mind, let's take a closer look at some steps that could help improve your odds of selecting a good cigar that best fits you. First, consider how long you have to smoke a cigar. A general rule: A longer, fatter cigar requires a longer time to smoke than a shorter, thinner cigar. I would suggest a 5" to 6" length cigar for most occasions, with a ring gauge of 46 to 52. It will fit just about any occasion.
Secondly, shop at a reputable cigar store and solicit the help of the tobacconist working at the store. After all, they are there to advise. However, trust your own senses too.
Now, engage your senses.
Start with your known or suspected taste profile and ask yourself what you think you would prefer: mild, medium or full flavored. Also consider the strength of the cigar in terms of the potential nicotine buzz you may get from the smoke -- again, characterized by mild, medium or full. Neither of these can accurately be discerned pre-purchase, so talk to the tobacconist.
View the cigar's wrapper, looking for a sheen or oiliness to it. Its color consistency should be noted as well as its construction around the ends of the cigar. Color should be consistent and construction should be solid. Especially note the number and placement of the caps at the head end of the cigar. Sloppily placed caps could mean a hastily rolled cigar.
Note the weight of the cigar. You want something that feels dense rather than very light. Gently press the cigar between your fingers to ensure some give and spring back to the rolled tobacco, signifying proper humidification. Avoid a cigar that has bulges or is lumpy.
Run your nose along the length of the cigar and breathe it in. This will give you some indication of the nature of the cigar's aromas and potential flavor.
Finally, consider consulting Bullz-Eye.com's cigar review archive, where a number of cigars have been reviewed and rated for look, feel, smell and taste. Good luck in selecting the perfect cigar!
Check out our Get Real Guide for Men regularly for more tips for the everyman!