Judging The Quality Of A Cigar
Certain analytical observations made about cigars are agreed upon by those in the know. All the senses come into play when determining the quality of a cigar. Observing the leaf, the color of the ash and the burn rate -- and by tasting the smoke for complexity and richness can differentiate a good cigar from a bad one. By doing these things, with practice, you will understand the quality of your cigar.
Inspect the wrapper, look for smoothness, some oiliness and an overall pleasing impression. Check for cracks or ripples which might suggest the cigar has been exposed to uneven humidity levels. The wrapper should be free of large veins and flaws and may feel smooth, silky, oily or sandy or bumpy depending upon the cigar. It should feel resilient to the touch, not too soft or hard. A cigar may feel harder closer to the head of it so that it will resist when clamped down upon. Feel the cigar for its springiness and hold it up to your nose to smell the aroma.
Light the cigar
Inspect the ash -- a white ash is superior to a gray ash due to soil growing conditions. Check the draw and burn rate. Check to see that the cigar is burning evenly.
Perhaps the best way to explain the taste of a cigar and how it is to be interpreted by an inexperienced smoker is to say, a negative taste impression is a valuable experience. If the taste you're experiencing is pleasurable and relaxing, then that is a good cigar. Forget about the undertones and complexities of flavor for now, just try lots of different cigars, perhaps starting with milder, bigger cigars as thinner cigars have more binder and filler and won't contribute as much to your education.
A moderately priced cigar from an established manufacturer is probably the best guide to use in determining price/quality when experimenting with different cigars. Find a good source with a good selection and try different brands.
Each country's cigar production has its own taste and character. Cigars are made all over the world, with tobacco grown in different soils, cured by different processes, and rolled with different techniques, each element contributing to the taste and flavor of individual brands and types.
These are not hard and fast rules, but you'll have something to go by when you're faced with a humidor full of cigars from which to choose.
Cigars from Jamaica are usually considered mild. Cigars from the Dominican Republic are mild to medium in strength. Cigars from Honduras and Nicaragua are stronger and heavier smokes. And cigars from Cuba are considered to be some of the richest and creamiest in the world!
Also remember that the larger the diameter (ring gauge), the richer and fuller the flavor, and the longer the cigar, the cooler the smoke. New smokers might want to start with any cigar made by Macanudo or Arturo Fuente. You might also try one with a maduro wrapper (which is dark and rich tasting). Enjoy yourself.