Entering the cigar lifestyle can be intimidating and challenging. And while those that aren’t familiar with premium cigars may think that getting started is just a matter of grabbing something from a store and lighting it, one’s first cigar selection is a critical moment in their journey. The one thing (besides the occasional jerk) that drives most folks away from cigars in a poor first experience.
Think about it. How many times have you seen an excitedly nervous person enter a shop, only to never see them again? How often have you invited someone to a cigar function and they refused because they didn’t like the “morning after” taste. Have you witnessed a moment when someone automatically suggested someone try a flavored cigar since it would be there first…and they couldn’t get past the first 3rd due to the taste? They happen all to often, and all it takes is one negative outcome…one misplaced tobacco leaf between someones teeth to turn them off of cigars for good.
Many factors (cutting and lighting techniques, inhaling or “nah”, tongue placement, cigar choice, etc.) go into what will make or break a budding aficionado’s first go at it. We will focus today; however, on the choice. The selection. THE most important decision anyone can ever make in their entire lifetime…which cigar do I choose? And what two or three should I buy now to try after the first one? Enlisting the help of The Cigar Crew Nashville, a 800 + member cigar social group based in Middle Tennessee, a 4-cigar list (in order from oldest to newest) was compiled that will neither intimidate the cigar virgin’s pocket or palate.
The CAO Gold is a classic and is a “gold standard” in the cigar world. Conceived in Nashville and produced in Nicaragua, the Gold is a great introduction to spice and body (complexity of taste) for a cigar newcomer. Going strong since 1997, the CAO Gold is a staple in many a aficionado’s humidor and are an easy-to-find prize to acquire from most brick and mortar shops. One can’t go wrong with this multiple award-winning cigar, especially for a first…and especially if one is wanting to really pick up on natural tobacco notes with hints of oak and pepper.
When I first started enjoying cigars again (after a brief hiatus in the early 2000s) I was hearing all kinds of buzz about this Sumatran cigar that no one could find anymore. Lucky enough to get my hands on one, it instantly became a favorite of mine…and when brought back to the market in 2010 I started stockpiling them in case they disappeared again. The Edge Sumatra was my first time experiencing the balance of dark sweetness and spice, before Mexican and Broadleafs were popular. The entire Edge line retails for around $6 and is an absolute steal for the quality and flavor.
This is one that has flown under the radar over the two years it’s been on the market. I’ve given this cigar to non-smokers and they have even enjoyed it and asked where they could find them. A flavorful and mild smoke, the Joya Red retails for around $6 and has interestingly sweet, baking spice aromas and notes. Made by the oldest and one of the most renowned factories in Nicaragua, the Red is extremely consistent, balanced and sure to impress.
Many will point newbies to Connecticut Shade cigars with the assumption that the very light-colored cigars are “not as strong”. Experienced aficionados sometimes shy away from them because they don’t feel as if they are complex enough or offer enough flavor. Drew Estate Cigar’s Master Blender, Willy Herrara, said that he was one of the latter, so he challenged himself to make a Connecticut Shade that had some kick and offered great taste. In 2015 the Undercrown Shade was released and it accomplished both. This creamy, sweet powder keg isn’t your typical Connecticut and there is enough kick to make you notice…but not run an inexperienced cigar smoker away.
While these 4 cigars were a few of the most frequently mentioned by The Cigar Crew Nashville, the list can truly go on and on and on. We believe that this list offers a variety of tastes and great prices, because one doesn’t have to start “expensive” to start right. Any shop that calls themselves a cigar shop should have a few if not all of these, so go grab a few, check out Which Cigar Cut Is Right For You and Don’t Char Your Gar for techniques on how to prepare and enjoy your stogie…and welcome to the Family of the Leaf!
Cigars for this post were purchased at UPTown’s Smoke Shop in Nashville, TN.