Our vices have changed of late. Over the course of the last, locked-down year, they’ve had to. No longer can we splash out on city breaks every other weekend. We can’t book tables at top restaurants and fork out for the most decadent dishes. There’s not even much point splurging on new styles — as we spend most days in our pyjamas anyway.
Instead, our vices have veered away from the usual luxuries — and towards more self-isolated indulgences. A fine wine here. An aged spirit there. And, of course, that richest, most robust vice of them all; the cigar.
Decadent and smoky, the cigar is a gently smouldering beacon of high-living hedonism. Created to go up in flames, these claros and coronas have deep flavours, colourful histories and tasting notes more intoxicating than a first-rate French brandy. So, if you’ve not yet taken the chance to have a chomp, there’s never been a better time than lockdown. Here are the best cigars for first-time stogie smokers…
A ‘Petit’ cigar will give you a swift, simple introduction
First up, the small cigars. One smoky step up from a cigarillo, these miniature options are called ‘mareva’ in Cuba. We’d recommend something shorter than five inches for a first-time cigar smoker. This way, you won’t be left toting your first smoke for more than 20 to 30 minutes — but you’ll still have time to appreciate the mellow flavours.
Something like this Hoyo de Monterrey cigar — essentially a sawn-off version of a larger cigar. Expect soft leather and a toasty finish with this one. Montecristo’s Petit Edmundo is an excellent introduction to an excellent brand, offering a short smoke full of peppery, woody flavour. Or look to the lesser-known, slightly stronger Serie V Melanio from Oliva — oddly cool for a smaller smoke and with a subtle coffee bouquet.
Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robustos
Montecristo Petit Edmundo
Oliva Serie V Melanio Petit Corona
A mellow, mild cigar won’t shock your system
Some slightly larger options next. These smokes may look daunting to a cigar amateur, but they’re so mild, mellow and creamy that you’ll hardly notice the time puff by. And, with all that extra time to enjoy your first cigar, you’re more likely to stumble upon subtler flavours as you smoke it down.
And there are some fantastic flavours to be found. Romeo y Julieta’s rarer Belicoso offers an already-smooth smoke, further tempered by green tea and honey. Davidoff’s long, luxurious Anniversary No. 2 smoulders with dried fruit and creamy spice notes. And this slightly stronger, slightly smaller Exquisitos from Arturo Fuente may be less nuanced — but its sweet, smooth flavour paired with such a low price? That could make it the best beginner cigar on this list.
Romeo y Julieta Belicoso
Davidoff Aniversario No. 2
Arturo Fuente Exquisitos
A large, easy cigar will keep up appearances
Finally, cigars bought solely for putting on a smoke show. This’ll likely make the aficionados’ eyes water, but many first time stogie-smokers just want the effect. They’ve seen Nicholson, Schwarzenegger and Roger Moore’s James Bond light up — and now they want to see what all the fuss is about. It’s not a bad impulse; anyone who wants to learn the art of cigar-smoking is alright in our matchbook. But you should still do it right.
This Magnum 50 from H. Upmann is a big beast. But it’s also fairly tame; mellow, uncomplicated and relaxing. If you want the big cigar look — but can’t yet handle the strength — there are few better bets. Hoyo de Monterrey’s Epicure Especial will similarly keep up appearances. It’s vaguely sweet, pleasantly cool and uncannily easy to smoke. Alternatively, if you want to take a slight gamble with your first smoke, Cohiba’s Siglo V is medium-sized, and has a middling, mild flavour. Perhaps one for your second-ever cigar — and miraculously mellow down to the final puff…
H. Upmann Magnum 50
Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial
Cohiba Siglo VI
Looking for more cigar-smoking inspiration? Here’s why every self-discerning cigar aficionado should own a smoking jacket…
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