Like so many things in life, cigar smoking is not immune to certain do’s and don’t’s – little niceties and protocols that dictate how to be a respectful and conscientious aficionado.
The following guidelines, while not hard and fast rules, are fairly well-recognized and certainly universally appreciated:
Private Space or Public Square
It doesn’t matter. In either, the standard guideline applies: Play by house rules. If a home owner (or more likely his wife, landlord, or insurance underwriter) says “No dice”, then it is decidedly no dice. However, if he (or she or he or he) gives the go ahead, then by all means go ahead. After all they are the Master of the House and, as such, the Keeper of the Flame.
In a word, ask. If they say “Yea”, yay! If they say “Nay” then neigh. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to respect their wishes.
1.) Play by house rules.
Eats, Drinks, or Being Merry
There is rarely a bad time for a cigar – on oxygen in the ICU comes to mind as the possible sole exception and even then it’s going to be a coin toss for me. As for the rest:
Be careful not to smoke a cigar too strong in that it might overrun your palate and put to waste that perfectly delicious 72oz Prime Rib you’ve had your heart set on. Also, be careful to pick one that is the right size to correspond with your order arriving. This is tricky. Equally tricky is making certain that your pre-meal stick doesn’t foul someone’s salad or appetizer. Size and strength are just two of the considerations that take on special importance when incorporating a cigar into a dinner.
2.) Pick the right stick.
Don’t rush right into lighting up. Digest. Stretch. Cleanse the palate. These are Premium Hand-mades not Pal-Mals. No need to hurry. They will wait.
3.) Take your time.
Perhaps no pairing outside peanut butter and jelly is as recognizable as scotch and a good cigar. However, not everyone digs a single malt, and that is okay. Don’t feel pressured to order something just because “that’s what people do.”
Like vodka? Go for it. Beer fan? Bottoms up. Coffee or cola much more to your liking? Do it. The point is, cigars are for enjoyment, don’t water that down with a liquid not to your liking.
4.) Pick the pairing that suits you NOT convention.
Unlike drinking alone, enjoying a cigar by yourself requires only the time, tools, and desire, and it results in the most sublime of all pleasures – not a sponsor and a 30 day chip.
When with others, though, the entirety of the cigar from cutting to brazing into lighting and finally throughout the smoking becomes a ceremony. And part of that ceremony is the conversation with others. Sure politics and religion are verboten and eschewed everywhere else. However, with cigars, they are as natural a part of the conversation as trash talk at a fantasy football draft – also a great place to smoke, by the way.
The point is, alone, cigars can be meditative. With others they are a chance for fellowship and camaraderie. Either way…
5.) Cigars are for enjoyment, so enjoy.
Okay, scouts, back me up on this one. There is only one thing worse than not being prepared, and that is making your lack of preparation everyone else’s problem.
“Have you got a cutter? Can I see your matches? Do you have an extra stick?”
Come on. Do I have to explain to anyone why this is annoying? I am actually annoyed that I have to even include this, yet not a trip to our local store goes by where I do not hear one of these questions repeated. To make matters worse, the store has a wealth of lighters, matches, punches, and cutters strewn about for the use of patrons.
Some folks are positively pathological in their refusal to carry the proper tools. To them I say, “Tough.” It’s like the old rule on tipping – if you can afford to eat out, you can afford to tip.
I have had cutters broken and lighters literally run into the ground by these simply innocent requests. My solution is to now immediately pocket my cutter and lighter when I am finished using them. If anyone asks, I simply point in the direction of one of the many instruments provided by the shop. It may not be the most gracious move in the world, but it saves wear and tear on items for which I paid a decent amount.
Light a man’s cigar and he smokes for a day, TEACH a man to find his own tools and he can smoke for a lifetime….or something like that. So…
6.) Be prepared.
Sure it looks manly to rip through the head of a cigar with your canines and spit out the residue, but let’s be real, do you really enjoy the taste of sinewy tobacco leaves dangling into your cake hole? I didn’t think so. There are correct and incorrect tools.
Correct: Cutters, punches, scissors
Incorrect: Teeth, toothpicks, golf tees
You want to be a surgeon not a butcher.
Perhaps no part of the smoking ritual is as misunderstood or as abused as the initial light. There is a correct or incorrect method.
Correct: wooden matches, butane lighters, cedar strips
Incorrect: Bic lighters, Zippos, book matches
First: Braze by rotating the edge of the stick ABOVE the flame.
Second: Gently puff on the stick as you again hold the foot of the stick ABOVE.
Your stick is not Joan of Ark. Don’t plunge it into the fire.
7.) Use the right tools and follow the right method.
Roll don’t dab into an ashtray if you want to maintain the integrity of both the cigar and the glow. Unlike cigarettes, cigars require finesse rather than brute force.
And be conscientious with your ash. It is not a contest. A 12 inch ash may look cool on the midget gangster that is always threatening Bugs Bunny, but in real life it just looks silly. Not to mention the fact that it stands a better chance of ending up on the floor, the furniture, or your clothes if you do not mind it.
8.) Don’t make an ash of yourself
The Bitter End
Never squish out your cigar in an ashtray (or the ground, or a forehead). This is a simple mistake made by novices and experienced smokers alike. Unlike cigarettes which require you to forcibly end their activity, cigars will ultimately go out of their own accord without attendant action – puffing, relighting, etc.
Part of the odor that people consider to be so offensive in cigars comes from the fact that smokers are not properly finishing. If they were to let the cigar go out on its own, then that smell would be avoided as would the ensuing sneers and audible sounds of disapproval. Just…
9.) Let the cigar die with dignity
Because You Have Them
These simple rules of the road are understood by most stogie lovers. They adhere because one of life’s great pleasures is in enjoying a stick with or without friends. That is why we seek out, collect, store, and celebrate them.
However, from time to time, we run across an unfortunate soul who is either uneducated in the way of the smoke or perhaps caught off guard by an impromptu herf. In those moments, most folks do what any civilized smoker would do – they offer a cigar. Maybe they want it. Maybe they don’t. But in either case, cigar etiquette says they are required to take the stick.
So, ardent smoker embarrassed by being unprepared or newbie who has never partaken, whatever the case may be, save it smoke it, or bury it in a time capsule, but …
10.) Graciously accept a cigar when it is offered to you.
Follow these simple rules and you are sure to be covered from the club house to the White House (which thanks to a certain Arkansas native now requires an entirely additional set of rules…but that is for another day).