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Cigar 101: Why Cigars?

Out of all the questions I get asked about cigar smoking—how do you get that smell out of your clothes, how are cigars any different from cigarettes, why do you drink so much (the two just seem to go together) are just a few—the one that comes up most often is about how and why I got into cigars in the first place. There are a few short answers I throw back intermittently: cigars are delicious, I just like smoking in general, and smoking a cigar is a great way to relax and get my mind off of things for an hour or two.

And while all of those are true, for me at least, I think that there’s a lot more to it than a one-line answer. There are a lot of different reasons I could go into, and I’ve picked out a few of the ones that I find myself explaining to people more often.

I call the first reason the “natural” angle, because it’s my favorite argument for cigars versus other more processed tobacco products. Regardless of which way you look at it, a cigar is an agricultural product that endures very minimal if any artificial processing—there’s no paper, no filter, and to my knowledge, no chemical additives like ammonia and formaldehyde. The leaves are grown on farms with minimal pesticides (nicotine itself is a pesticide; see my post that touches on the subject), naturally fermented (sometimes for years), and rolled with a tasteless, odorless, vegetable glue. So what you have is a handcrafted, all-plant product with nothing in it except for leaves and vegetable glue—how much more natural can you get?

And now for the “foodie” angle. When I say “foodie,” I don’t mean to say that cigar smoking is inherently pretentious. Your typical cigar smoker is not the guy in a restaurant who asks if the inedible garnish on his plate is organic. I say “foodie” because a cigar is just as much of a tasting experience as a $20-30, tapas-sized dish that a restaurant-goer would order just to experience a rare ingredient or an unconventional flavor combination.

I think cigar smoking is in a similar realm to wine drinking. Wine isn’t about drinking until you’re full, and while you can get massively drunk off of it if you choose to, for many wine drinkers, it’s not all about the alcohol itself. Most would agree that wine is about tasting, because there are flavors you can get from wine that you can’t get anywhere else. Well in that same vein, you can get flavors from a cigar that you can’t get anywhere else, and for the vast majority of cigar smokers, it’s not at all about the nicotine. It’s about the taste, rather than the buzz.

My biggest reason for why I smoke cigars, though, is a bit harder to throw a name on. Maybe it’d be the “general fascination” angle. What I mean by that is that I find cigars themselves fascinating—the way they’re rolled, how the cap is applied, the texture of the wrapper leaf, the weight of a cigar in my hand, or the fact that a half a leaf or a year of age can change a blend’s flavor entirely. For that matter, I find it fascinating that a bundle of fermented and bunched-up leaves can produce flavors like cocoa, leather, cherries, coffee, red pepper, black pepper, caramel, flowers, cinnamon, you name it. There really is nothing like a cigar, and that’s reason enough for smoking them.

Anyway, for any nonsmokers who happened to stumble upon this post, I hope it was at least eye-opening. I hope any of you overzealous types (however many read this, probably not too many) will consider this before unleashing your next anti-smoking rant on somebody who’s just trying to enjoy one of life’s most unique pleasures. For everybody else, smoke, enjoy, and never hesitate to explain yourself!