What Makes a Cigar Good

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What Makes a Cigar Good?

Is flavor the main factor that determines whether a cigar is good or not, or is that just too simple of an answer? Other factors such as a cigar's construction, strength or nicotine content, draw, burn, feel, appearance, etc. all contribute to the overall enjoyment of a cigar, but the majority of cigar smokers consider flavor to be the single most important factor. However, there are many aspects of flavor that require further analysis.

For instance, we must not only consider the various tastes and flavors in cigars such as spice, pepper, sweetness, salt, etc., but the texture, smoothness, fullness and intensity of the smoke also contribute to the overall flavor. The coolness of the smoke is also an important aspect of taste to some cigar smokers. If this is the case, then consider smoking cigars with larger ring gauges. And let's not forget aroma, which is 75% of flavor, at least according to our Contributing Writer, Dr. Mitch Fadem.

We can delve further into the aspects of taste, but I believe that there is a certain intangible that makes a particular cigar great, and this certain x-factor cannot always be accurately defined or explained. However, you know it when you taste it. I can tell you that complexity and balance are also important factors that some smokers do not always consider. Those factors can also help to make a cigar great, as well as give cigar reviewers something more to write about.

However, complexity may not be a significant factor when it comes to evaluating smaller cigars. If a cigar lasts for about 30 minutes or so, then the flavors do not have to morph several times to make the cigar enjoyable. But if a cigar lasts for an hour or two, then the smoking experience will eventually become boring if a cigar's flavors do not transform, develop or change as the cigar is smoked.

Price Doesn't Matter

Some cigar smokers' perceptions may be affected by the price they pay for a certain cigar. If a cigar costs an arm and a leg, there is probably a high expectation that the cigar will automatically be good. However, there is not always a direct relationship between price and enjoyment, and I think that most smokers would greatly prefer to discover a value priced cigar that they really like. Be critical of expensive cigars. Some cigars may cost more than others, but will they taste better to you? Not always. The flavor you taste in a cigar is mostly about the blend – how the different tobacco leaves work together to produce an enjoyable smoke. There are a number of reasons why some cigars cost more than others, but some of those reasons have nothing to do with how the cigars actually taste.

The Difference Between Good Cigar and Expensive Cigar

Not to get too far off the subject, but it is important to be able to distinguish a good cigar from an expensive cigar. There are a number of legitimate reasons why some cigars cost more than others, such as scarcity or rarity of the tobacco, expertise of the blenders and rollers, where the cigar is made (it costs more to make a handmade cigar in the U.S. or the Bahamas than in Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic), the quality control procedures in place at the factory, how long the tobacco and the cigars have been aged, plus many other factors.

However, there are also a number of other factors having little or nothing to do with the cigar itself that could raise the price, such as high advertising and promotional expenses, too many middlemen, and high-profit margins. (I'm not even going to get started on government taxes and regulations.) Also, some small-batch boutique cigars are limited in production and targeted to an upscale market. That does not automatically make them better, only more expensive (and more exclusive, but on purpose).

Other extraneous factors besides the price may also affect a cigar smoker's perceptions. Almost every new cigar has a story behind it nowadays, but many of these stories are really just a part of the marketing strategy to get you to buy the cigar. All that should really matter is how much you enjoy a cigar for the cigar itself, and not for any other reason.

It is true that some cigar makers put their heart and soul into the cigars that they produce, but does that really matter if another passionate cigar maker can do it better?

The Elusive "Perfect" Cigar

Did you ever smoke just one particular cigar and find it so enjoyable that you went out and bought an entire box of those same cigars, but were disappointed to find that none of the cigars in the box could compare to the one cigar that you initially enjoyed so much to begin with? Absent any inconsistencies in the production of the cigars, maybe there is another y-factor that could affect the condition of your palate at a particular time of day, or after eating a particular type of meal. Or could it be the different conditions under which you smoke cigars, such as room temperature, humidity, atmospheric conditions, accompanying beverage, scenery, surroundings, camaraderie, or any number of other external factors? I believe the answer to that question is YES.

It is helpful to read what others think about a particular cigar before deciding whether to buy it and try it for yourself or not, but everyone's palate is different, and we all have our own preferences. That is why it is important to sample a large variety of cigars before deciding on a favorite or favorites. If you already have a cigar that you like, you will always eventually be able to find another one that you like even better. And if you are a new cigar smoker who had a bad experience with one or two cigars, do not give up and assume that you just don't like cigars. Believe me, there are cigars more suitable for beginners that will change your mind. All you have to do is find them, and of course, make sure you know how to smoke cigars properly.

There is one last caveat to consider in the search for the ideal cigar. As you continue to smoke, your palate will develop and change over time. There is a very good chance that sometime after you find the perfect smoke, your tastes will change, and you will then have to resume the quest for that perfect cigar all over again.

After all, change is what keeps the cigar world spinning around.