Originally Posted by puravida286
Whats a good rule of thumb when buying a decent cigar for someone who knows nothing about them...is the price a tell-tale sign? I'm supposing anything above the $8 mark has to be decent...
Price is not an absolute guide, but it is a general indicator of quality usually.
Sometimes prices vary depending on where you live, as some cigars are not distributed everywhere. Some faddish cigars are high priced because the sellers can get away with it. Frankly, I'd never buy a cognac-infused glass tubo cigar. Expensive, and almost always a disappointing smoke. You will be looking for good quality hand rolled hand made long filler leaf cigars with good wrapper leafs from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Jamaica, Honduras. There are other cigar producing countries. The cigars from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are probably the most popular. Honduran and Nicaraguan cigars tend to be strong.
Best thing to do is to go to a good cigar shop and talk to a knowledgeable tobacconist. Go somewhere that has a walk-in humidor that is properly conditioned (70 degrees, 70% relative humidity). A store that does good business will usually have more than a hundred different types of cigars in open boxes, and stacks and stacks of sealed boxes in stock.
It should smell good in the humidor, not funky/moldy. If you see dry busted wrappers or feel any clammy wetness in the air or smell anything unpleasant, go elsewhere.
If cigars are the store's main business, you are probably pretty safe. The folks at the liquor stores and discount cigarette stores usually know nothing about cigars, and their stock will be limited and probably not properly cared for.
Ask the tobacconist to help you pick something that burns evenly and well, has a good draw that is not too tight nor too loose, and is mild. Seriously, don't go in and ask for a strong cigar. Tell the tobacconist you have no experience with cigars. If he's a good tobacconist, he'll ask you a few other questions, perhaps, and lead you to a high quality mild cigar. There are some of the stronger cigars that can make you puke if you're not used to smoking cigars.
The standard line of Ashton's (not the stronger Cabinet Vintage series) are a pretty safe bet, as are most of the natural Macanudo's, and most cigars in a light-colored smooth Connecticut shade wrapper. They tend to be milder than the colorado (reddish) wrapped cigars and the maduros (dark brown, or black wrapper).
There are many good cigars in the $5 range, so they're not all expensive. Size affects price too. A short fat robusto will cost less than a churchill rolled from the exact same tobacco. Figure on about 45 minutes smoking time for a 5 inch long by 50 ring gauge robusto, and 1.5 hours for a good churchill, to even two hours for a big fat 55 ring gauge double corona. That double corona might cost three times what a robusto from the exact same line will cost.
Also, I think a 48 to 52 ring gauge is about right for most people. That's fatter than a typical corona or lonsdale (42 ring gauge), but the extra thickness makes for a cooler smoke, usually. My favorite cigars are 48 to 50 ring gauge. 52 is getting to be a mouthful.
Ask your tobacconist to explain to you proper smoking technique. The most important thing is to make sure you don't chew the end of your cigar or get it sloppy wet and yucky, and don't smoke fast. Fast smoking is hot smoking, and will scorch your tongue. Don't inhale, ever. Cigars are nothing like cigarettes, and if you inhale, you will be choking.