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Cigars 101

The list of traditionally masculine vices is somewhat short: gambling, whiskey (or whisky), and tobacco. This post will focus on cigars in a “Cigars 101” format to give you some basics about the different styles, and etiquette tips.

four cigars on a wooden tableWhy focus on cigars? Cigarettes aren’t nearly as ubiquitous or accepted as they once were. Pipe tobacco is very pleasant on the nose, but a pipe nowadays looks a bit like caricature, like something you’d see a 2000’s-era Brooklyn hipster smoke for the sake of irony.

Different Cigar Types

roll of cigars next to humidorLife can be tough for a novice. Choosing what kind of cigar to smoke can be just as overwhelming as picking suit cloth, or which red wine to pair with your steak. To the untrained eye (or hand, or nose, or tongue), everything seems so similar that it’s hard to choose.  Despite the lack of industry-wide standardization, we’ll do our best to give you an overview here.

First, the different shapes and sizes of cigars are referred to as “vitolas.” There are two initial “buckets” that these will fall into: Parejo and Figurado.


When you think of the classic, symmetrical tubular cigar shape, you’re thinking of a Parejo. Parejo cigars are available in just about any size imaginable. Within the Parejo bucket, there are three different styles:

  • Parejo: Symmetrical and tubular all around. The classic cigar silhouette.
  • Box-Pressed: These are similar to the standard Parejo, but with flat sides instead of rounded ones. This is a result driven by economics: you can fit more cigars into a box when you press them flat, which allows you to sell more cigars.
  • Culebra: Meaning “snake” in Spanish, a culebra is what you get when you braid three Panatela Parejos together (Panatelas are relatively thin cigars, which allows for this).


Anything that isn’t a Parejo is a Figurado. These cigars often change in thickness, though the point at which that occurs differs from style to style. The overall look is less symmetrical than a Parejo, and there are five styles:

  • Torpedo: In the Figurado family, these most resemble a Parejo. The body of the cigar is tubular, but the head tapers to a point. The term “torpedo” is sometimes used to refer to any type of Figurado cigar.
  • Belicoso: Similar to Torpedoes, but with a more Parejo-like (read: less drastic) taper at the head.
  • Pirámide: This vitola is characterized by a taper that runs all the way through the body of the cigar. The end result vaguely resembles a pyramid, hence the name.
  • Perfecto: Perfecto cigars feature a taper at both ends of the cigar, not just the cap. They’re also known as Exquisito or Double Figurados in Cuba.

Cigar Etiquette Tips

man cutting a cigarMuch like the worlds of wine, whiskey, and suits, there are some “insider” things to know about smoking cigars. The overarching things to remember are two-fold:

  1. If you have a friend who’s a cigar enthusiast, ask him or her for advice. You may want to accompany one to a cigar lounge and / or smoke shop, which leads us to the next point:
  2. Walk into a smoke shop and talk to someone about being new to cigar smoking. Most smoke shop employees will be happy to recommend a relatively even-keel cigar that’s neither under- nor overwhelming. From here, you can track the things you like and don’t like.
  3. Take most of the below tips with a grain of salt. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy a cigar any more than you need to have a sommelier certification to enjoy wine.

For now, some general tips:

  1. Don’t put the cigar between your teeth, and certainly don’t bite off the end to start smoking it. Use a cigar cutter (of which there are many varieties). There are few sensations in this world more unpleasant than a bunch of loose tobacco on your tongue.
  2. You can hold a cigar in your fingers however you please. Still, it’s generally frowned upon to hold it between the forefinger and middle finger as you would a cigarette. No matter how you hold it, avoid grand gestures with your hands. This could easily result in ash everywhere.
  3. Keep your ash length to about an inch or so. Don’t tap the cigar to ash it as you would a cigarette, but rather gently roll the ash end around in a proper ashtray. The idea is to avoid exposing the cherry, which would result in too hot a burn.
  4. People tend to leave the band on their cigars, but this isn’t 100% necessary.
  5. When you put out a cigar, simply leave it in the ashtray and let it burn itself out. Snubbing it as you do a cigarette will result in a ton of smoke everywhere, which is of course rude to those around you.


glass of whiskey next to a cigarIf you’re in Philadelphia and looking for a great place to enjoy a cigar, we can’t help but recommend Ashton Cigar Bar. They’re just a few blocks from our shop, and the atmosphere is second to none. It’s a perfect stop after a visit to our showroom: give us a call at 215-310-0219 or email info@henrydavidsen.com to set up an appointment.

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