Cigar smoking can be a very enjoyable activity, however some forethought must go into the process. Cigars, like any natural tobacco product, contain nicotine. For the vast majority of cigar smokers the nicotine is not the sole attraction. However it is there and if not managed properly can cause unpleasant effects, especially in the new cigar smoker.

Smoking a cigar is best done after a reasonable sized meal that is “sitting well” with you. Never smoke a cigar on an empty stomach unless you know what you’re doing and are familiar with the cigar in question. Beverages such as port, brandy, scotch, bourbon, strong ale, espresso and Dr. Pepper are good accompaniment for a cigar, however they are no substitute for a comfortably full stomach.

Some people salivate when they smoke cigars. If you find yourself salivating, by all means try to spit most of it out as opposed to swallowing it. I believe one reason the full stomach helps is that the food in it soaks up the saliva which you do end-up swallowing. This spreads the absorption out over a longer duration thus helping to avoid the problems noted.

A note on puffing a cigar: Do not use your lungs! Lungs are meant for breathing air, not concentrated cigar smoke. The use of your cheeks, jaw, tongue, palate, etc. is mandatory. Failure to puff properly may result in coughing, dizziness, nausea and a bad cigar experience.

SMOKING THE CIGAR

Congratulations! You now have a lit cigar in your hand. Allow it to cool down a little bit after the initial lighting, say for about a minute. After this take a puff every 30-90 seconds depending on how the cigar is burning. Puffing too often can cause the cigar to overheat and give it a harsh flavor. Puffing too infrequently will allow the cigar to go out.
If the cigar starts to bum unevenly, orient the edge of the cigar which is burning the slowest towards the bottom when holding it or setting it in the ashtray. This may seem counter-intuitive, but there is more fresh oxygen at the bottom of the cigar than at the top where all the burn products are coming out. If this fails to rectify the situation, hold a flame very briefly to the edge of the cigar which is burning slower. This gets the recalcitrant part of the wrapper smoldering again, causing the burn to even back out.

If you have to let a cigar go out, blow through it before it goes out to remove the smoke inside the cigar before it has a chance to become stale. This can greatly improve the taste of the relit cigar. However this mostly depends on the cigar and your tastes.

If your cigar does go out, relight it slowly. Knock most of the ash off the end and gently blow through the cigar to get the stale smoke and fumes out of the cigar. Hold the remaining ash and partially charred tobacco in the flame for a few seconds while turning it before drawing on the cigar. When lighting the cigar, start at the edges of the wrapper and work in a little. You’ll probably find that by the time you have the edges lit, the whole cigar will be burning again.

Whenever you smoke cigars from a certain box, see if you can determine any significant variance in taste and aroma. If you can, now you know the probable cause. But be careful. A cigar will taste different depending on when it’s smoked: morning or evening, after a meal, with coffee, or cognac, indoors or outdoors. Maybe one of the box of 25 isn’t sufficient after all to really test for consistent quality. It probably is, but the point is that slight variances are acceptable. It’s the wide swing in quality you must watch out for. Remember, the bad cigar costs as much as the good one. You’re entitled to some assurance of getting value for your money.

Selecting a beverage to accompany fine cigars is a matter of personal taste, which will vary depending on the occasion. The tradition is a fine cognac or brandy; the clean, crisp flavor of these liqueurs perfectly compliment the smooth flavor of a premium hand-rolled cigar. Alternates include Port (its sweetness blends splendidly if you choose a full-bodied smoke), single-malt Scotch, Bourbon and Wine. If you prefer non-alcoholic beverages, try fruit juice or a favorite cola – both do quite well to cleanse the palate between puffs.

Do not smoke a cigar as you would a cigarette. Take your time – savor the taste, the aroma; if you smoke too fast you’ll develop a burned taste in your cigar. One or two puffs per minute should be enough to keep it lit.

Do not inhale any smoke and never swallow the residue of any tobacco product; it will make you ill.

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