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Cigar 101: A Beginner's Guide to Cigars for 2021

Cigars are an enjoyable pastime for many people. They can be a great way to relax and unwind, or they can provide the perfect accompaniment for a special occasion. But there is more to cigars than just smoking them!

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There’s no need to be intimidated by the world of cigars, we can help! We have everything from beginner-friendly products that will get you started on the right foot, all the way up to high-end pieces that will turn heads with their craftsmanship and style. If you want something simple or something extravagant, we have it all here waiting for you.

Don't know where to start? Check out our Beginner's Guide To Cigars which is designed specifically with newbies in mind! It'll walk through how cigars are made, what they're made of, why they taste different than cigarettes (and why that's a good thing!), plus some tips on how best to store them at home once they arrive. And if there's anything else we can do just let us know - after all this is your journey into the world of cigars and we want it as smooth as possible!


Tobacco Smoking Health Effects

Cigars are a type of tobacco that differs from most other types because they have air-cured and fermented tobacco. They can vary in size, shape, and they generally contain between 1 gram to 20 grams of tobacco.

Are cigars worse than cigarettes?

Cigar smoke, like cigarette smoke, contains toxic and cancer-causing chemicals that are harmful to both smokers and nonsmokers. Cigar smoke is possibly more toxic than cigarette smoke. Cigar smoke has:

  • A higher level of cancer-causing substances: During the fermentation process for cigar tobacco, high concentrations of cancer-causing nitrosamines are produced. These compounds are released when a cigar is smoked. Nitrosamines are found at higher levels in cigar smoke than in cigarette smoke.

  • More tar: For every gram of tobacco smoked, there is more cancer-causing tar in cigars than in cigarettes.

  • A higher level of toxins: Cigar wrappers are less porous than cigarette wrappers. The nonporous cigar wrapper makes the burning of cigar tobacco less complete than the burning of cigarette tobacco. As a result, cigar smoke has higher concentrations of toxins than cigarette smoke.

Furthermore, the larger size of most cigars (more tobacco) and longer smoking time result in higher exposure to many toxic substances (including carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, ammonia, cadmium, and other substances).

Cigar smoke can be a major source of indoor air pollution (1). There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. If you want to reduce the health risk to yourself and others, stop smoking. - National Cancer Institute

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) states that "A cigar is defined as a roll of tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco or in a substance that contains tobacco. Cigars differ from cigarettes in that cigarettes are a roll of tobacco wrapped in paper or in a substance that does not contain tobacco."

"Cigars contain the same toxic and carcinogenic compounds found in cigarettes and are not a safe alternative to cigarettes." - CDC

Is cigar smoking safer than cigarette smoking?

Answer From J. Taylor Hays, M.D, Mayo Clinic

No. Cigars are not as safe to smoke as you may have thought. Even if you don't inhale the cigar, it still exposes your body to nicotine and other harmful chemicals like formaldehyde (burning tobacco) that can lead to a dependence on tobacco.

Like cigarette smoking, cigar smoking exposes you to:

  • Nicotine. Cigars, like cigarettes, contain nicotine, the substance that can lead to tobacco dependence. A single full-size cigar can contain nearly as much nicotine as does a pack of cigarettes. If you inhale cigar smoke, you can get as much nicotine as if you smoked cigarettes. And even if you don't intentionally inhale, large amounts of nicotine can be absorbed through the lining of your mouth. Smoking cigars instead of cigarettes doesn't reduce your risk of nicotine dependence.

  • Secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke from cigars contains the same toxic chemicals that secondhand cigarette smoke does. This type of smoke can cause or contribute to lung cancer and heart disease. It also increases the risk and severity of childhood asthma, ear infections, and upper and lower respiratory infections in children.

Can cigar smoking cause cancer?

All tobacco smoke contains chemicals that can cause cancer, and cigar smoke is no exception. Regular cigar smoking increases the risk of several types of cancers, including cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and larynx. Cigar smoking has been linked to oral and dental diseases, such as gum disease and tooth loss. - J. Taylor Hays, M.D. for the Mayo Clinic

Are cigars addictive?

Cigar smokers are at risk for addiction, even if they don't inhale the smoke. A single cigar can provide enough nicotine to a smoker's system that it becomes addictive without having been smoked. The nicotine in cigars is absorbed into your body through two routes-either by inhalation or absorption of saliva on the inside lining of your mouth and cheeks while smoking. It doesn't matter which way you get addicted; either route allows for high levels of nicotine buildup within minutes, making them very dangerous! - National Cancer Institute

What if I don't inhale the cigar smoke?

Cigars are a unique experience that not everyone is willing to take on. Unlike nearly all cigarette smokers, most cigar smokers do not inhale and have lower rates of lung cancer, coronary heart disease, and lung diseases than those who smoke cigarettes but higher rates of these diseases than those who don't smoke cigars at all. - Cancer.gov


The Complete Beginner's Guide to buying, smoking and enjoying cigars

There are 3 common types of cigars (Large, Cigarillo, Little Flavored)

  • Large Cigars

Smoking a large cigar takes time. These are by far the most popular of all three types. Typically contain at least one-half ounce of aged, fermented tobacco (i.e., as much as a pack of cigarettes) and usually take 1 to 2 hours to smoke. It's not something people do casually like smoking cigarettes or pipe tobacco in the morning on their way to work, it should be an event for you and your friends.

  • Cigarillos

Cigarillo cigars are perfect for when you don't have much time to smoke. They're a bit shorter and narrower than your typical cigar so they can be smoked in less time, usually only 3–4 inches long with about three grams of tobacco inside, and often does not include a filter.

  • Little filtered cigars

Filtered flavored cigars are nowhere near what you will experience smoking a real cigar. Perfect when you're pressed for time and more popular among the inexperienced youth as an entry-level product leading to the granddaddy large cigar later on. Containing about three grams of tobacco inside, they come in a handy variety of flavors, like peppermint or chocolate so they can be enjoyed with any favorite beverage.

Far-right little cigar image from Smokin Joes Filtered Cigars Vanilla flavor

Top 10 Things You Need To Know About Cigars

1. How to prevent them from drying out?

Cigars can dry out over time and that is why it's necessary to introduce moisture gradually. To do so, first, place the cigars in a resealable bag with just one end open for several weeks. Monitor them every few days as you slowly move them closer towards the humidification source until they reach their optimal level of humidity.

2. How are cigars rated?

Have you ever wondered how cigars are rated? Every December, Cigar Aficionado releases its list of the 'Top 25 Cigars of 202...' .

Cigars are rated in a magazine called Cigar Aficionado. The cigars are smoked anonymously by the members of their tasting panel, meaning that they remove all branding and bands from them so no one knows what cigar it is. They use a 100-point scale to rate based on appearance, smoking performance, flavor, and overall impression.

To make the ‘Top 25,’ the panel only revisits cigars that have scored 91 points or higher earlier in the year. Cigar Aficionado classifies the scores on its 100-point scale as follows: 95-100 = Classic; 90-94 = Outstanding; 80-89 = Very Good to Excellent; 70-79 = Average to Good Commercial Quality; and 0-69 = Don’t Waste Your Money. Scores of 90 points or higher get attention from retailers and consumers.

The Classics Cigars

The Classics are the cigars that rate 95 points or higher in Cigar Aficionado blind reviews. They range from mild to full-bodied and offer something for every cigar lover out there. The best part? These sticks age well, so if you plan on stocking your humidor with these gems, they'll only get better!

Image from cigar aficionado

3. Can cigars go bad?

Cigars are a treat that never goes bad, as long as they're stored correctly. Handmade cigars will remain fresh indefinitely if cared for properly.

4. How are cigars rolled?

In order to make a cigar, the wrapper must be placed on the rolling table and spread out flat. Using a chaveta, one will use their knife with its wide blade that is razor-sharp so any vein remaining along the edge of this leaf can be cut away without much effort at all. Once completed, it's now time for cutting in what seems like an almost curve-like manner that should wrap around your cigar just right!

5. Where are they made?

While Cuba holds the most famous cigar-producing title in the world, renowned for its flavor and high quality (Montecristo, Partagas, Cohiba, etc.), Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Honduras have a long history of cultivating tobacco for cigars and win yearly "Best Cigars" titles for their famous brands such as My Father, Padron, Perdomo, CLE, Room 101, Partagas, Rocky Patel, Camacho, etc.

Looking at the previous Cigar Aficionado's Cigars of the Year, we can see the variety of countries:

Other countries include Mexico (Te-Amo, Maduro, Jericho Hill, Drew Estate Norteno, Black Abyss), Brazil makes CAO Brazilia, Liga Privada No.9, and the famous Davidoff Escurio. The United States has the smoky flavor Kentucky Fire Cured by Drew Estate, and the Camacho American Barrel Aged.

6. What is best to drink with cigars?

Gin and vodka are the worst spirits for cigar pairings because many of their base flavors clash with those in cigars. Tequila, rum, and whiskey are more complementary to a taste spectrum that can range from sweeter rums or whiskeys down to smokier tequilas. Cognac, port & Bourbon too are excellent. These liquors have a heavier taste than more casual drinks like wine or beer; therefore they will really accentuate the flavor of your fancy cigars without overpowering them. Because of the ceremonial nature surrounding sitting down quietly for hours on end smoking a large cigar - it's better to have something stronger than a quick light cocktail!

For non-alcoholic drinks, go with coffee, non-alcoholic beer, cola, hot chocolate, even tea.

7. Which cigars are hand-rolled?

You can either buy the cigars that are handmade by hand or machine-bunched but finished with a human touch. A machine-bunched and hand-rolled cigar doesn't always look the same. One thing that sets them apart is price, as a true handmade can be quite expensive while one made by an automatic roller will cost far less but otherwise appear identical and taste as good to those who cannot tell the difference.

8. What goes into the construction of a cigar?

Image from CigarHouse.my

"Cigars have 3 basic components which affect the cigar's taste: binder, filler, and wrapper. The binder is the intermediate layer that holds the "bunch" of filler leaves together and is usually a slightly lower-quality leaf. The filler is the bunch at the center of the cigar and determines the strength of the smoke. Long-filler refers to whole leaf filler, which runs head to foot in the cigar, and these are premium cigars. Lower quality, "short-filler" cigars use scraps of tobacco (the hot dogs of cigars) pressed together, and chemicals and additives are added to these. The wrapper is the outside layer and provides the primary flavor elements. These are the highest quality leaves and range in color from Claro (light) to Maduro (dark). Wrappers come from Connecticut, Indonesia, Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa."- Cigar International

9. Can cigars get moldy?

Yes. When humidity levels are high or low - which usually means temperatures fluctuate too much - mold starts growing rapidly within the airtight environment of our beloved cabinets (aka humidors). This speeds up deterioration by breaking down these tightly packed bundles into more powdery substances. Don't let the mold win! If you find that it has overtaken your humidor, be sure to relocate any unharmed cigars into a new and clean environment. Give the interior of your humidor some TLC with a damp cloth or paper towel soaked in isopropyl alcohol- just don't get too carried away. Don't forget about those pesky corners either!

10. What is the ideal temperature to keep my cigars at?

About 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A humidor is a really neat way to store cigars because it helps keep the temperature and humidity at just the right levels in the range of 70 to 75 percent. This enables controlled airflow, which keeps cigars moist for long periods without sacrificing flavor quality.


FAQ - Questions Every Cigar Amateurs Asks Themselves

Long vs short filler: It's all about the type of tobacco leaf. Long-filler consists of whole premium leaves that run the entire length of a cigar (more expensive). Short filler is chopped up scraps from tobacco plants which tend to burn quicker and hotter than their long counterpart can manage because they are not allowed enough time during development to become more fleshed out with protein like their longer counterparts have been able to do over years on end (more affordable and burn faster).

Do I really need a humidor? Not when you just begin smoking. But if you want to enjoy the rich flavors of your finely crafted cigar, it's important that they maintain proper moisture content and temperature. Otherwise, they'll burn hot and harsh without any nuance in flavor or aroma. You can also use any type of plastic Tupperware container and leave a small wet sponge, which we'll do as well.

What is the hygrometer for? It is the device inside your humidor meant to monitor the level of moisture. Some are analog and the best are digital. If you want to enjoy the rich flavors of your finely crafted cigar, it's important that they maintain proper moisture content and temperature. Otherwise, they'll burn hot and harsh without any nuance in flavor or aroma.


Cigar Accessories

The Big Easy Tobacco Co. Quad Table Cigar Cutter

$54.99 | Buy on Amazon

*****4.8 out of 5 on Amazon

Elegant and durable with brushed finish, fits 52 and 60 ring gauge cigars. Straight cut with two straight guillotine cutters. An impressive addition to any cigar accessory collection.

Torch Lighters

The cigar aficionado will find the torch lighter perfect for any situation. The one-click button is easy to use, and it produces a clean flame that won’t spoil your taste buds with residual butane smell as some other lighters do.

Torch lighters are an essential item for every smoker's arsenal of equipment! They're simple - just push down on the button to produce a single jet or multiple jets depending on what you need at that moment in time. They come in handy when taming those stubborn ashes and touch-ups if needed too!

  • Urgrette 2-Pack Butane 6"- Pen Torch Lighters: $16.54 on Amazon

  • Alec Bradley "The Burner" Table Lighter: $32.99 on Amazon

  • Obling Tripple Torch Butane Lighter with punch & silver cutter: $19.99 on Amazon

Moretti Churchill Lighter

$24.50 | Buy now

*****4.7 out of 5 on Cigars Intl

The Moretti Churchill Lighter features a scorching hot quad-flame that will light hordes of cigars without blinking an eye.

An oversized tank holds a massive amount of fuel, which can be seen through the large viewing windows.

Lotus 52 Orion

$24.50 | Buy now

*****5 out of 5 on Cigars Intl

The Moretti Churchill Lighter features a scorching hot quad-flame that will light hordes of cigars without blinking an eye.

An oversized tank holds a massive amount of fuel, which can be seen through the large viewing windows.

Vexo Quad 4 Jet Flame Torch

$16.99 | Buy now

*****4.4 out of 5 on Amazon

Flame Adjustment & Sleek Body. Windproof jet flame of 4 burners has much quicker lighting than other flame lighters. The Portable lighter can be used for camping, grill, candles, fireworks, BBQ and more.

Vexo Quad 4 Jet Flame Torch

$13.99 | Buy now

*****4.5 out of 5 on Amazon

This Cigar Torch Lighter Consist of 3 Burners, High Quality Triple Jet Flame Produce Strong and Powerful Jet Flame than Single Jet Flame. Which Works Very Well Even in Windy Conditions with an Effective and Hot Flame.

Cigar Ashtrays

Don't forget that it's always best to let the ash develop a bit on the end of a cigar before gently tapping it off.

  • Cohiba Triangular Yellow Ashtray: $15.99 on Amazon

  • Pardo Black Ashtray, unbreakable 4-cigar silicone: $13.99 on Amazon

  • Whiskey glass tray & cigar holder wooden ashtray: $17.89 on Amazon

Arturo Fuente "Hands of Time"

$36.00 | Buy now

*****5 out of 5 on Cigars International

The Arturo Fuente family has been making high quality cigars for four generations and they have released a ceramic ashtray to symbolize their devotion to quality and consistency over the years. Reading “We will never rush the hands of time” this beautifully crafted ashtray measures 8 ½’’ in diameter and has a 2 ¾’’ high dish.

Sitinky Ashtray

$27.99 | Buy now

*****5 out of 5 on Cigars International

The Stinky ashtray is a durable, well-made piece. With a polished stainless steel finish that's heat resistant and easy to clean, the Stinky ashtray is functional and attractive. A 4-finger design with an endlessly deep bowl that puts a stop to daily ashtray emptying. Comes in 5 colors.


Humidors for storing your collection

A humidor is a must-have in any cigar enthusiast's collection. This box for storing cigars comes in handy when it comes to preserving and maintaining the quality of your favorite smokes, typically at 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. You will want the ones made with Spanish cedar, which not only helps maintain humidity at an ideal level but also smells great!

Acrylic Humidor Jar

$22.98 | Buy now

*****4.6 out of 5 on Amazon

This entry-level acrylic jar makes the perfect elegant choice to get your feet wet into the world of quality cigars. Holds 20 cigars with a length of 6.5", ring gauge 50/64". Comes with a Spanish cedar sheet to better preserve the humidity. A seal ring is attached to the edges. Needless to say, it looks better than your Tupperware!

Woodronic Handmade Humidor

$54.99 | Buy now

*****4.7 out of 5 on Amazon

This cigar box exquisitely crafted as a desktop humidor features its exterior ebony veneer and internal Spanish cedar lining, with a good seal around the lid. 50-count capacity. Hygrometer, cutter & ashtray.

5 Vegas Tradicion Humidor

$100.00 | Buy now

*****5 out of 5 on Cigars International

This 5 Vegas ’Tradicion’ Humidor is a unique storage piece for your treasured tasties. It can store 100+ cigars and the exterior features a stunning red finish and a striking 5 Vegas Crown.

Glass Top Cedar Humidor

$119.99 | Buy now

*****4.8 out of 5 on Amazon

This Spanish cedar cigar box includes the only built-in digital hygrometer on the market. This is the most accurate way to monitor and ensure your humidor is adequately seasoned.

Monogrammed Mill Glass Humidor

$139.99 | Buy now

*****5 out of 5 on Amazon

The Mill humidor is finished with a minimalist black matte wood grain texture and modern solid metal handles. Store your lighter, cutter, travel case, and other Klaro accessories in the felt-lined drawer.

Monogrammed Mill Glass Humidor

$199.99 | Buy now

*****4.6 out of 5 on Amazon

This cigar cabinet features 3 larger cigar drawers with handles for up to 200 sticks. A clear acrylic glass door gives you the best view of your cigar collections, also allowing you to check RH level without opening the door and breaking the humidity balance.

Monogrammed Mill Glass Humidor

$149.99 | Buy now

*****4.6 out of 5 on Amazon

This humidor can fill up with around 100 sticks depending on the ring gauge, with 3 cedar trays and dividers to help you better organize and age your fine cigars. The electronic thermal hygrometer reads humidity and temperature with high precision, is more reliable than analog hygrometers, and can be easily adjusted by pressing the buttons at the back.

Desktop Vertical Display Humidor

$109.99+ | Buy now

*****4.4 out of 5 on Cigars International

Ideal for 75-100 cigars, this gorgeous display humidor offers 45-degree shelves perfect for viewing. With 3 Spanish cedar trays and dividers, it has a rich mahogany finish. Includes gold plated lock & key with hidden quadrant hinges.

Whynter Stainless Steel 250-Cigar Cooler

$325.00 | Buy now

*****4.4 out of 5 on Amazon

Vibration-free thermoelectric cooling. Insulated stainless steel trimmed glass door with sleek black cabinet. Removable Spanish cedar drawer and shelves with an interior light. It is designed to help store and age cigars within the optimal humidity range of 62% to 75% at room temperature.


Cigar Cutters

This tool makes the perfect gift. The three most common cutters are straight, punch, and V-cutter which come in different varieties depending on what you're looking for! A punch cutter is a perfect tool for removing just enough from the top of your stogie to get it ready for smoking. It's often overlooked by newer smokers who think they're supposed to bite off one end and then light up.

1. HIFEI stainless steel V-cut cigar cutter with a built-in punch (Black Gold) , $28.98 on Amazon | 2. Mrs. Brog Triple Torch with built-in punch, $12.99 on Amazon | 3. Xikar Xi3 - Phantom Carbon with razor-sharp cut time, $135.00 from Cigars Intl

Above is the V-cut Xikar, Up to 70 Ring Gauge, Stainless Steel Blades: $44.00 on Amazon

Comes in 5 colors with an attractive gift box.


Portable Cigar Cases

Portable cases are not only practical, functional, and elegant but can even protect from water spills if waterproof and any theft when equipped with a built-in lock.

Vaultek LifePod Humidor Lock Box Waterproof

$279.99 | Buy now

*****4.3 out of 5 on Amazon

You will appreciate this portable humidor. It comes with a secure built-in lock system. Anti-impact, easily portable to travel in your car, to the office, on a boat, and in luggage. Meets TSA guidelines. Fits 6 cigars. Ring size 50 (20 mm), and length 6” (152 mm). It is even equipped with Bluetooth technology to communicate the humidity and temp to your smartphone.

Amancy Leather Humidor Case

$29.98 | Buy now

*****4.8 out of 5 on Amazon

This classic brown leather style is perfect to go to any sports game, travel, or in your car. Cedar wood inside with cutter, it can hold 3 cigars of max length 6.5 inches and up to ring gauge 52.

Time C club 4-finger portable leather cigar case

$49.99 | Buy now

*****4.8 out of 5 on Amazon

Take 4 of your favorite cigars with you in this cigar box. Case measures 8”x 5.5” x 3”. Can hold max length 6.9” and ring gauge 60, Suitable for home use or travels, such as Vacation, Camping, Bar, Cafe, or Anywhere away from home. Cutter included.

Amancy Leather Humidor Case

$19.98 | Buy now

*****4.7 out of 5 on Amazon

PU leather outside and cedar wood inside to protect and keep cigars fresh. Includes Built-In Hygrometer, Long Humidifier, and Dropper.

Dimensions: 7.9"T x 3" Diameter,

Capacity: holding 5 cigars

Travel Stogie Safe

$21.99 | Buy now

*****4.8 out of 5 on Amazon

This cigar travel case has a built-in hygrometer to monitor humidity, airtight seal, waterproof up to 100 ft & floats! Our cigar humidor travel case fits up to 11 Petit Corona cigars and measures 8.3” x 4.9” x 1.5” on the inside & 9.3” x 5.7” x 1.6” on the outside.


Common Cigar Terms

  • Aroma: The scent of a lit cigar, also called the “bouquet” is an aromatic symbol that can represent power and success but that refers to the quality of a good cigar we can detect from its sent.

  • Fillers: The filler leaves in cigars are encompassed by the binder leaves. Premium handmade cigars often contain several different filler leaves (between two and five). The whole-leaf tobacco is rolled inside a long-filler, as opposed to a short-filler or chopped-up machine-made cigar.

  • Binder: Tobacco is an integral component in a handmade cigar. The binder tobaccos hold the centermost filler leaves together and are called "bunch." Binders often start out as wrapper leaves, but due to cosmetic imperfections, they're classified with a lower grade than wrappers.

  • Bundle: Bundle packages offer un-banded seconds from premium brands at discounted prices due to their economic appeal - because bundle manufacturing does away with box costs altogether.

  • Cap: There are different types of caps like Cuban-style, triple cap (or cigars with three seams), and pigtail which features a thin twist at the head that resembles a fuse to dynamite stick. Cutting the edges is but one step in smoking your favorite cigar; because before you light up there's work to be done first such as cutting off those pesky tobacco bits inside or smoothing down any rough spots left by damp fingers during handling.

  • Cedar: Cedar is the type of wood used to make most cigar boxes and humidors, Spanish cedar in particular. Cedar positively reacts with moisture and facilitates the aging of cigars after they are packaged. It also makes for a great tasting note among many premium brands!