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How to Tell if a Cigar is Good: Expert Tips for Quality Selection

How to Tell if a Cigar is Good

How to Tell if a Cigar is Good: Expert Tips for Quality Selection

Cigar enthusiasts always appreciate a good cigar, and for beginners, it can be a bit daunting to determine the quality of a cigar on their own. The experience of enjoying a cigar goes beyond merely smoking it, as various factors contribute to determining its quality. This article aims to provide insights on how to tell if a cigar is good, enabling cigar lovers to identify premium cigars that promise an unparalleled smoking experience.

Quality cigars possess a level of craftsmanship, which is evident in their appearance, construction, and aroma. It is important to pay attention to details such as the wrapper leaf, the smell of the cigar, and the consistency of the roll. A proper understanding of these factors will guide you to choose cigars and enhance your overall experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Inspecting the appearance, aroma, and construction can determine cigar quality.
  • Assess the cigar’s moisture and wrapper leaf by performing a touch test.
  • Analyzing the burning quality and draw resistance ensures a satisfying experience.

Visual Inspection

Wrapper Condition

To determine if a cigar is of good quality, start by examining the wrapper. A high-quality cigar will have a supple, oily wrapper with minimal veins and a seamless finish. The wrapper should be free of cracks, splits, or blemishes. Feel the cigar between your fingers – it should have a consistently firm texture along its entire length without any hard or soft spots. This consistency ensures an even burn and pleasurable smoking experience.

Vein Structure

The vein structure of the cigar’s wrapper can provide valuable insight into its quality. While some veins are inevitable, excessive vein presence can lead to an uneven burn. A good cigar will have a minimal number of veins, ensuring a smooth burning experience. Smaller veins are preferable to larger ones, as the latter could result in burn issues.

Color Consistency

Finally, observe the color of the cigar’s wrapper. A consistent color throughout the wrapper indicates quality craftsmanship and proper aging. Color inconsistencies or splotches may signal inadequate fermentation or storage, which can negatively impact the smoking experience. To ensure that you have a premium cigar, seek out wrappers with a uniform color.

In summary, when visually inspecting a cigar to determine its quality, focus on the wrapper’s condition, vein structure, and color consistency. By carefully observing these aspects, you can confidently choose a high-quality cigar for an enjoyable smoking experience.

Touch Test


When assessing the quality of a cigar, it is important to evaluate the firmness of the cigar. A healthy cigar should be firm to the touch, but not excessively hard. Gently squeeze the cigar between your fingers to gauge its firmness. It should not feel like a dry piece of wood or overly soft, either of which may indicate an issue with the cigar’s freshness or humidity.

Tip: Use your thumb and forefinger to apply gentle pressure on the cigar’s body and foot, determining the ideal firmness.


Another key aspect to check for in a cigar’s quality is its springiness. When you gently press the cigar between your fingers, it should bounce back slightly. This characteristic indicates that the cigar is well-humidified and stored at optimal conditions, ensuring a pleasant smoking experience. If the cigar feels stiff or unresponsive, it may be too dry or over-humidified.

Identifying Springiness:

  • Press the cigar’s body gently, and it should bounce back with a slight springiness
  • If the cigar feels stiff or lifeless, consider its humidity conditions

Surface Texture

A cigar’s surface texture can provide valuable information about its quality. Examine the outer wrapper of the cigar, looking for any irregularities, such as bumps, cracks, or peeling. A well-made cigar should have a smooth, uniformly textured surface, with minimal veins. Keep in mind that some veins may be present naturally, but excessive veininess could point to a lower quality cigar.

Checking Surface Texture:

  1. Observe the cigar’s wrapper; it should be smooth with minimal veininess
  2. Look for any irregularities like bumps, cracks, or peeling
  3. Keep in mind that some veins are natural, but excessive veininess may indicate a lower quality cigar


The aroma of a cigar plays a crucial role in determining its quality. It consists of two main aspects – the pre-lighting smell and the foot aroma.

Pre-Lighting Smell

Before lighting a cigar, it is essential to take a moment to inhale its aroma gently. A quality cigar should emit a pleasant and inviting fragrance. Look for notes of earthiness, wood, spices, and even a subtle sweetness, which indicates well-aged and properly fermented tobacco. The pre-lighting smell helps set the stage for the overall smoking experience and can hint at what flavors to expect during the smoke.

To examine the pre-lighting smell of a cigar:

  1. Hold the cigar close to your nose.
  2. Gently inhale the aroma.
  3. Identify the various notes present, such as earthiness, woodiness, or spiciness.

Foot Aroma

The foot aroma refers to the scent that emerges from the foot of the cigar (the end you light) when the tobacco is smoldering. A quality cigar will have a distinct fragrance that complements the pre-lighting smell. The foot aroma should be consistent with the notes detected during the pre-lighting phase, creating a well-balanced and enjoyable experience.

To evaluate the foot aroma of a cigar:

  1. Light the cigar and let it burn for a minute.
  2. Carefully smell the smoke, focusing on any additional notes beyond the pre-lighting smell.
  3. Note the consistency and harmony between the pre-lighting smell and foot aroma.

An excellent cigar should display a smooth and balanced combination of flavors and aromas that entice from the moment the cigar is lit until the very last puff. By paying close attention to both the pre-lighting smell and foot aroma, one can better appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship behind a truly exceptional cigar.

Cut and Dry Draw

In this section, we will discuss the importance of proper cutting technique and the significance of finding the right balance between resistance and airflow when determining the quality of a cigar.

Cutting Technique

A clean, precise cut is critical when assessing the quality of a cigar. The proper cutting technique can dramatically influence the smoking experience, as it directly impacts the draw and evenness of the burn. The first step is to locate the cap – the small piece of tobacco leaf glued to the head of the cigar.

There are different types of cigar cutters available:

  • Guillotine cutter: Also known as a straight cutter, it features single or double blades and creates a clean, straight cut.
  • V-cut cutter: This cutter creates a v-shaped cut, allowing a greater surface area while preserving the structural integrity of the cap.

To cut a cigar correctly, position the blades just inside the end of the cap (1/16 to 1/8 of an inch), and make a swift, precise cut. An improperly cut cigar may result in an uneven draw and poor airflow.

Resistance and Airflow

After cutting the cigar, it’s essential to perform a dry draw test to determine the resistance and airflow of the cigar. Resistance and airflow can significantly impact the smoking experience and the quality of the cigar. To perform this test, draw air through the unlit cigar without lighting it. The ideal resistance should offer some pull but not feel too tight or too loose.

Here are key aspects to consider:

  • Tight draw: If you encounter too much resistance, it may be a sign of poor construction or over-humidification. If you suspect that the cigar is over-humidified, you can leave it out of the humidor overnight or for a day to let the humidity dissipate.
  • Loose draw: Alternatively, a lack of resistance or a very loose draw could suggest a dry cigar or inadequate construction. Dry cigars may be revived using a humidor or a humidity pack, but in some cases, they may be beyond rescue.

To summarize, a proper cutting technique ensures an even draw, while resistance and airflow are indicators of cigar quality. Regularly checking these factors can help you maintain an optimal smoking experience.

Burning Quality

When assessing the quality of a cigar, one of the key factors to consider is its burning quality. This can be examined through two aspects: the evenness of the burn and the characteristics of the ash.

Even Burn

A good cigar should have a consistent and even burn from start to finish. This is a result of the cigar being well-constructed and evenly rolled, which allows for a steady flow of air through the tobacco. To determine if a cigar has an even burn, look for the following:

  • Uniform color: The color of the wrapper should be consistent throughout the entire cigar.
  • Burn line: As the cigar burns, the burn line should remain straight and even, without any jagged edges or tunneling.
  • Draw resistance: The cigar should provide a moderate level of resistance when you draw air through it. Too tight or too loose of a draw may indicate poor construction.

Ash Characteristics

The ash produced by a burning cigar can provide valuable insights into its quality. Here are a few aspects of ash to consider:

  1. Length: The ash should be able to hold at least an inch in length before falling off. This means that the cigar has been properly packed, resulting in a firm and well-structured ash.
  2. Color: The ash should generally be a light gray or white color, which is an indication of quality tobacco being used in the cigar. Darker ash may indicate lower-quality tobacco.
  3. Shape: A quality cigar’s ash should maintain a conical shape, with the tip of the cone pointing towards the end being smoked. This reflects a well-centered burning ember and a well-constructed cigar.

By paying attention to these aspects of burning quality, you’ll be better equipped to determine if a cigar is of good quality or not.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs of a properly humidified cigar versus an over-humidified one?

A properly humidified cigar should have a bit of spring when gently squeezed, indicating that the tobacco leaves have retained their natural moisture. On the other hand, an over-humidified cigar feels soggy and may be difficult to draw smoke through when lit. Over-humidified cigars may also develop a moldy smell, which can negatively impact the smoking experience.

How can you identify mold on a cigar, and how does it affect the smoke?

Mold on a cigar usually appears as a fuzzy or powdery substance, often with a greenish or white hue. It can develop on over-humidified cigars or when stored in areas with poor airflow. Moldy cigars often emit a musty or stale odor and can cause health issues if smoked. It is best to discard moldy cigars to avoid potential health risks and preserve the integrity of your collection.

What indicators suggest that a cigar has been adequately preserved when sealed?

An adequately preserved, sealed cigar should maintain its aroma and have a wrapper that is free of cracks, tears, or discoloration. The band should fit snugly without sliding off or leaving significant gaps. When squeezed, the cigar should retain a uniform firmness throughout its entire length, indicating that the tobacco leaves have been consistently packed.

What characteristics should beginners look for in selecting a suitable cigar?

Beginners should consider the following factors when selecting a cigar: size, shape, and country of origin. Opt for a smaller, mild-bodied cigar that is easier to smoke and less likely to overwhelm the palate. Moreover, pay attention to the cigar’s appearance, ensuring that the wrapper color is uniform and devoid of blemishes or cracks.

How does one assess the quality of a cigar based on its firmness?

A high-quality cigar should feel firm and consistent throughout its entire length when gently squeezed. This indicates that it is well-packed with tobacco and free of weak spots or inconsistent fill density. A cigar that is too soft, or contains noticeable weak spots, may burn unevenly or produce uneven draw, reducing the overall quality of the smoking experience.

What potential risks are associated with smoking a cigar that is considered ‘bad’?

Smoking a ‘bad’ cigar can lead to several unfavorable results, such as harsh or unpleasant flavors, a difficult draw, or an uneven burn. Additionally, smoking a cigar that is moldy, overly dry, or damaged can result in health issues or an increased risk of inhaling harmful substances. It is important to inspect cigars before smoking and discard any that pose potential risks to one’s health or overall enjoyment.

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