Best cigars for beginners - A complete Guide to Your First Smoke (James J. Fox)

Imagine strolling down Dublin's bustling Grafton Street, where excitement fills the air and the scent of luxury wafts around you. Amidst this lively scene stands James J. Fox, a beloved spot of indulgence for cigar and tobacco connoisseurs for over 140 years. Here, among the buzz of activity, a journey begins – a fun adventure into the world of cigars.

Choosing your first cigar isn't just about picking any cigar; it's about embarking on an exciting voyage of taste, scent, and culture. Let's uncover the secrets of selecting that perfect first cigar together – a decision that sparks a passion for moments of pure enjoyment.

Understanding Cigars

Welcome to the vibrant world of cigars! Picture each one as a meticulously crafted masterpiece, passing through as many as 300 skilled hands before reaching yours, igniting a sensory journey. At its core are three key ingredients: the wrapper, the filler, and the binder. The wrapper sets the stage with its stylish outfit, while the filler, a blend of tobaccos which creates unique flavours, and the binder ensures a smooth burn, holding everything together.

Close-up of a cigar anatomy: Filler, binder, and wrapper labeled.


Cigars offer more than just their contents; they vary in shapes, sizes, and strengths, catering to diverse preferences. From sleek Coronas to bold Double Robustos, there's a cigar for everyone. Strength-wise, they span from mild to full-bodied, offering a spectrum of flavours. Understanding these elements enables you to explore the vast world of cigars with ease and excitement.

Factors to Consider

Now that we've laid the groundwork, let's talk about what really matters when choosing your first cigar. It's all about personal preference. Do you prefer a cigar with a hint of sweetness, or are you drawn to rich and earthy flavours? Take the time to explore different options and discover what suits your palate best.

However, taste isn't the only thing to consider; body and strength play a crucial role too. Are you looking for a gentle introduction to cigars, or are you ready to jump headfirst into a full-bodied experience? Be honest with yourself about your tolerance and choose accordingly – after all, there’s little pleasure in smoking a cigar that’s too overwhelming.

While the terms “body” and “strength” are often used as synonyms, it’s a bit of a misconception. The body of the cigar refers to the impact of the smoke on one’s senses, its texture and how it coats the inside of your mouth. The strength, however, is about the nicotine level present in the cigar. In cigars, the body is a more important parameter – which is why it’s commonly displayed by cigar sellers, alongside things like length, ring gauge (thickness), etc.

A wooden cigar humidor filled with various sizes and colors of cigars.

Of course, keep in mind the occasion for which the cigar is to be enjoyed. Whether it's a special celebration or just a quiet moment of relaxation, choose a cigar that fits the moment perfectly.

As someone who has only recently discovered the world of cigars when joining the team in James J. Fox Dublin, I’m well aware how daunting it can be to make those first few choices, without own experience to serve as a guide. Following the advice from my colleagues, I personally began with mild to medium cigars, opting for shorter lengths initially – it can be easy to underestimate just how much time a cigar can take to smoke. Fear not, we'll explore these considerations further as I provide you with tailored suggestions!

Choosing Your First Cigar

Embarking on your cigar journey is an exciting step, and choosing your inaugural smoke sets the tone for the adventure ahead. Let's navigate this momentous decision together, offering practical advice and friendly recommendations tailored to your taste buds.

For structure, I'll guide you through a diverse selection from different cigar-making regions. Each recommendation reflects the unique flavours and styles stemming from the cigar’s origin, promising an enjoyable experience for beginners and seasoned aficionados alike.

Dominican Republic

Known for their smooth and well-balanced cigars, the Dominican Republic offers a delightful range of options. It is also where one of the biggest brands in cigars – Davidoff – hails from. If you're craving something with a touch of elegance, the Davidoff Signature 2000 is sure to impress with its refined blend of Dominican tobaccos wrapped in Ecuadorian beauty – it is said that “every 30 seconds, an aficionado somewhere in the world enjoys a Davidoff Signature 2000”.

Open Davidoff 2000 cigar box with branded cedar wrap concealing the cigars.

A more budget-conscious smoker may want to consider trying the Villa Dominicana in either Corona or Short Robusto size for a mild to medium-bodied experience. These cigars are perfect for those looking to ease into the world of cigars with flavours that are both approachable and satisfying.

Nicaragua

Moving a bit further west, we arrive in Nicaragua, renowned for its bold and flavourful cigars. The Flor de Oliva range is a prime example, offering a medley of flavours with a mild to medium-bodied profile, suitable for beginners. Each puff invites you to explore the rich complexity of Nicaraguan tobacco, making it a fantastic choice for those seeking a memorable smoking experience.

Honduras

Venture into the rugged terrain of Honduras and discover the unique Leaf by Oscar selection. They’re a little bit bolder than most of the recommendations here, but also come with a nice finishing touch – each cigar is wrapped in a dry tobacco leaf, adding to its presentation and protecting the cigar from damage, until it’s time to take it out of its “cocoon” and enjoy it.

Open box of Leaf by Oscar premium cigars, revealing five cigars inside.

A lesser-known gem worth exploring is the Puro Desnudo range. These meticulously crafted Honduran cigars offer a medium-bodied experience, blending the essence of the region with Cuban inspiration. Originating from Honduras' fertile soils, they promise an authentic taste, inviting you to embrace the country's vibrant culture. With excellent aging potential, storing them in your humidor for 3–6 months yields truly magical results.

Cuba

No cigar conversation is whole without Cuba, home to some of the world's most iconic smokes. For beginners, the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 is a prime choice, epitomizing Havana's legendary craftsmanship. Originating from Cuba's fertile fields, it boasts a unique symphony of mild, accessible flavors, a testament to the country's renowned microclimate and rich soils, providing a glimpse into its storied cigar-making tradition.

Open box of Hoyo de Monterrey premium cigars, revealing cigars inside.

If the budget doesn’t quite stretch that far, another thing to consider would be short-filler cigars, such as the José L. Piedra Petit Cazadores. A short-filler cigar is made using chopped or shredded tobacco leaves rather than whole leaves used in long-filler cigars, like in the other suggestions listed here. These cigars are often less expensive and quicker to produce. Short-filler cigars can still offer enjoyable smoking experiences, but they may burn more quickly and inconsistently compared to long-filler cigars.

Fox House Blend

While these are predominantly Honduran in terms of the tobacco origin, they also hold a special place in our hearts, worthy of dedicated space on this list. For a taste of home (our home at least!), consider the Fox House Blend in a classic Robusto size. Our House Blend are the only cigars currently in production that were conceived and developed exclusively for the discerning Irish and UK palates. These cigars embody the essence of our store's legacy, inviting you to embark on a journey of discovery from the comfort of your own palate.

Fox House Blend Robusta cigars: A bundle wrapped with a yellow ribbon sits on a wooden table, with a single cigar standing upright beside it.

With these recommendations in hand, your journey into the world of cigars is poised to be a memorable one – so sit back, relax, and let the adventure begin.

Preparing to Smoke

Before you ignite your cigar, there are a few essential steps to ensure a smooth and enjoyable smoking experience. If you want to choose the right, perfect accessories to elevate your ritual, you can consider to explore our premium selection at James J. Fox.

Cutting the Cigar

Start by selecting a quality cigar cutter. Common types of these include straight cutters (also called “guillotines”), v-cutters and cigar punches. Each have their own advantages, but a straight cutter is generally the most versatile for a beginner. Place the cutter just below the cap, which is the rounded, closed end of the cigar. The point is to remove just enough of the cap to allow for a smooth draw, so aim for the halfway spot on the “shoulders” (typically ⅛ to ¼ of an inch) and make a swift, clean cut. Avoid cutting too much, as this can cause the wrapper to unravel.

Close-up of a cigar anatomy: Body, head, cap, and foot labeled. "Cut Here" marks the ideal spot on the cap for a pointed cut.

Lighting the Cigar

Use a butane lighter or wooden matches to light your cigar – lighters powered by fluid (e.g. classic Zippo) aren’t recommended, as they can impart undesirable flavours on the smoke. Hold the flame just below the foot of the cigar and rotate it slowly to ensure an even burn. Avoid touching the flame directly to the cigar, as this can also interfere with the flavours. Take your time and allow the heat to gradually toast the tobacco, ensuring a proper light.

Storing Cigars

Proper storage and humidity control are crucial for maintaining the freshness and quality of your cigars. Invest in a quality humidor to regulate temperature and humidity levels. Aim for a humidity level of around 65-70% to prevent your cigars from drying out or becoming too moist. Store your humidor in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations.

If you're not ready to commit to a traditional humidor, consider ready-to-use humidity control solutions like Boveda's Humidor Bags for easy humidity control. While not as stylish, they provide effective care for your cigars.

How to Smoke A Cigar

Now that your cigar is properly prepared, it's time to savour the moment and enjoy your first smoke. Before moving on to the intricacies of smoking your first cigar, familiarize yourself with two key aspects: holding the cigar properly and puffing techniques. Mastering these fundamentals will pave the way for an enjoyable and fulfilling cigar experience.

Holding the Cigar

Hold the cigar between your thumb and index finger, avoiding excessive pressure that could cause it to crack. Rest the cigar gently between your lips, ensuring a comfortable and relaxed grip. Avoid gripping the cigar too tightly, as this can restrict airflow and affect the draw.

Man's hand holding a cigar between thumb and index finger, with other fingers relaxed.  pen_spark

Puffing on the Cigar

Take slow, steady puffs to draw the smoke into your mouth. Hold the smoke for a moment to savour the flavours before exhaling slowly. Avoid inhaling the smoke into your lungs, as cigars are meant to be enjoyed for their aroma and taste rather than for nicotine delivery.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

As a beginner, it's natural to make mistakes along the way. Avoid common pitfalls such as puffing too frequently, which can cause the cigar to overheat and become bitter. Instead, take your time and enjoy the process. Additionally, resist the urge to relight a cigar that has gone out on its own. Instead, gently blow on the foot to remove any ash and relight with care.

By following these tips and techniques, you'll be well on your way to enjoying your first cigar with confidence and finesse.

Enhancing the Experience

Now that you've got the basics down, let's add some flair to your cigar journey!

Pairing with Drinks

Elevate your smoke with a drink pairing! Whether it's a smooth whiskey, a rich bourbon, or a bold cup of coffee, finding the right match can truly enhance your cigar experience. Give it a whirl and discover how flavours mingle on your palate.

Two iced glasses of whiskey stand in front of a whiskey barrel on a wooden table. A lit cigar rests in a nearby ashtray.

Complementary Accessories

Treat yourself to some classy accessories to enhance your cigar ritual. A quality humidor ensures your cigars stay fresh, while a stylish cutter and reliable lighter add a touch of sophistication to your setup. Not only do they make smoking easier and more enjoyable, but they also elevate the aesthetic of your smoking experience.

Cigar Etiquette and Final Tips

As you immerse yourself in the cigar world, here are some friendly reminders to consider.

Cigar Smoking Etiquette

Be mindful of others when enjoying your cigar, controlling the smoke, especially in shared spaces. Respect non-smoking areas and always ask before lighting up in company – cigars are meant to be savored, not imposed upon.

Final Tips for Beginners

Take your time to explore and enjoy discovering new cigars. Experiment at your own pace; there's no rush to find the perfect smoke. Remember, cigar smoking is about relaxation and pleasure.

Congratulations, you're well on your way to becoming a cigar connoisseur! Take your time to savour each puff and relish the rich flavours of your chosen cigar. And hey, don't be shy – share your experiences and questions with us below, or contact us directly. We're here to help you on your cigar adventure!

Two glasses on a glass table: one filled with whiskey, the other empty. A decanter sits between them. A lit cigar rests in an ashtray nearby. A lighter sits on a newspaper.

Ready for more cigar insights and recommendations? Give us a follow on social media! We've got plenty more tips, reviews, and whiskey and cigar related content coming your way.

And if you're looking to expand your cigar collection or upgrade your accessories, why not check out our curated selection? Treat yourself to quality cigars and stylish accessories – you deserve it!

May 16, 2024

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