cigar

Has the humble cigar gone up in smoke?

The stogie sector is in long-term decline. But we’re here, Cubans in hand, to champion the charms of these hand-rolled, full-bodied indulgences...

Before we begin, let’s start with a couple of disclaimers. Firstly, we’re not here to condone everyday smoking. In fact, we’re here to help you cut down on lighting up — and promise only to point you towards the humidor on special occasions. But, that said, here’s another warning: what you’re about to read is the most huffing, puffing, puffed-up puff piece you’re ever likely to read.

And that’s because we are in full, fiery praise of the cigar. But the cigar — predictably, regrettably, lamentably — is in decline. It is burning dangerously down; at risk of going up in smoke like the humble pipe before it. But why is the cigar so close to drawing its last? Is it the cash-strapped younger generation? The baffling rise of the vapid vape? Or have the health-aware reduced a cigar’s appeal to ashes?

Don’t get us wrong — smoking anything isn’t good for your health. Like cigarettes — the slimmer, prissier cousins of cigars — taking too many drags will eventually become a drag in itself; leading to countless health concerns and more medical bills than you can shake a stogie at. But cigars weren’t created to be chain-smoked. Instead, they are celebratory, ceremonial and best enjoyed once in a blue moon.

Tobacco-wrapped and highly regarded, cigars are stoic, staunch stalwarts of the well-heeled world. Where cigarettes are sold as transient commodities, cigars have achieved iconic status — and are stocked in most of the finest private clubs and bars around the world. Even those who famously favoured cigars were often overshadowed by their smokes. Try to imagine Winston Churchill whipping out a pack of Benson & Hedges before a wartime rally. Not so inspiring. Would Castro have been considered so revolutionary had he been known for trying out tropical vape juices? We think not.

Clearly, the cigar is in a class of its own. It’s less of an affectation; more a way of life. It’s a rare treat, and the preserve of legends. So, rather than letting your money go up in flames on another carton of cigarettes, do yourself a favour and roll that cash into a quality cigar.

"Would Castro have been so revolutionary had he been known for trying tropical vape juices?"

Spending good money on our cigars also appears to be a thing of the past. Research by STG UK this year revealed that younger, more price-conscious consumers are no longer splashing out on stogies. Instead, they’re smoking more and smoking cheap. But we’ve got a different approach; rather than sparking up every day, only buy cigars for special occasions. It’s like top shelf Scotch — and you wouldn’t knock back fifteen Macallan neats every day.

Instead, find yourself an established, dependable cigar merchant and discuss your likes and dislikes with them. Explore flavours, brands and textures. This way, even if you end up opening your wallet that little bit wider, at least you’ll be left cradling a Cuban worth your time.

cigars

And time should be spent on cigars. Their lighting should be almost ritualistic; something you can enjoy and celebrate properly. Most cigars take between 30 minutes to two hours to finish, and that gives you plenty of time to pair them with your favourite whisky or rum, and even jot down a couple of tasting notes. You can sit, appreciate and take stock — and no-one’s doing that with an e-cig.

Unfortunately, the problems don’t end there. STG UK’s findings also reveal that a worrying 74% of all cigar sales are now in the miniature market. And, while some smaller cigars are okay, bigger tends to be better. We know you don’t want to hear it, but what’s the point in spending a fair wodge of wallet on a skinny cigarillo? Just pick up a box of Marlboro Lights if you’re not going to do things properly.

You want a big, chunky premium cigar; a real rolled work of art. These are the smokable equivalents of masterfully crafted single malts, or that bottle of 1996 Haut-Brion you’ve been hiding in your wine cellar. Time, tasting and real work have gone into creating these cigars — passion and heart you simply won’t find in a foil-lined cigarette box.

Still need convincing? Here’s our final push. Look at the lifestyle that surrounds cigars. There are cutters and pairings and huge, finely hewn humidors dedicated to keeping them in order. To smoke cigars is a sign of gentlemanly refinement; it’s doing something with care and investment rather than taking the easy, twenty-a-day way out.

There’s even a whole velvety, quilted jacket tailored around the cigar — such is the profundity of the practice. There’s no vaping jacket, is there? And, even if there were, you certainly wouldn’t catch us wearing one. So, next time you’re celebrating a special occasion — a real black-tie-topping, champagne-popping kind of event — just think to yourself, wouldn’t a fine cigar be nice? Wouldn’t it be good if, rather than nipping outside for a quick cigarette, I could take my time chomping a hand-rolled, woody, luxury cigar?

Go ahead; chew it over.

Looking for something to sip while you smoke? We tested the best own-label champagnes money can buy…

Further Reading