Get hands on a quality cigar will have a lustrous sheen and slightly oily texture, says McKee. It’ll feel firm between your fingers, and give off a strong aroma of tobacco. A cigar that’s been stored improperly, on the other hand, will be dull, with a dry, cracked wrapper. “It’ll crumble in your hand, just like a cracker,” she says. A bad cigar won’t have much of a scent.
Stick to specialists. You’ll find an excellent selection of individually priced cigars at tobacconists and cigar shops, says Bettridge. Look for a store with a walk-in humidor, which replicates the temperature and humidity of the cigars’ native country. Bonus: Because these stores sell only smokes, you’re more likely to find knowledgeable staff to make recommendations.
Avoid buying from large online distributors. There’s no way to know in advance if cigars have been stored properly, says Bettridge, or if you’re getting the real deal (counterfeit cigars — cheap, poor-quality tobacco dressed up with a ring band similar to a legit brand — abound). And even the most reputable online retailers sell cigars primarily in boxes — a costly proposition if you’re trying new brands.
Go late. Unless you have a humidor, any cigar you buy as a gift (or to smoke yourself) should be smoked within a day or two of purchase. The exception: Cigars packaged in tubes. “They put them in the tubes when they’re freshly rolled,” Seise says, “so the moisture is locked in.” So long as you don’t open the tube, these cigars can be kept for a week or so.
Here are some things to watch for in the construction and aesthetics of a cigar:
- The cigar should burn evenly all the way down. Uneven burning is the sign of an improper roll.
- Ash should be firm and should reach an inch in length without difficulty, except in the case of small ring gauge cigars.
- The cigar should feel firm and resilient in mouth.
- The cigar should look good and feel good to the touch. It should have life – that is, it should squeeze without breaking and should revert to its shape when released. It shouldn’t be too spongy or too firm.
- Rolling should be firm, but again not too firm. Too much firmness in a cigar may be a sign that it is rolled too tightly. Look at the foot of the cigar to see if it is overfilled.
- The wrapper should not have too many blemishes. Also, the wrapper should not be dry and unraveling. This is the second most frequent complaint among smokers.
- The color in box should be consistent. A manufacturer who pays close attention to detail makes sure all the shades in the box match.
- The cigar should feel smooth when you roll it between your fingers.
- The box should appear neat.
- High price does not guarantee a good cigar. Remember, prices can vary greatly.