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Cigar 101

What Is a Cigar Aficionado?

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

What is a cigar aficionado? According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of aficionado is “a person who likes, knows about, and appreciates a usually fervently pursued interest or activity: DEVOTEE.” The term is rooted in the Spanish verb aficonar, which means “to inspire affection.” Also according to Merriam-Webster, aficionado first appeared in the English language in the early 1800s.

Cigar Aficionado Enters the Mainstream

For all practical purposes, no other “fervently pursued interest” is more closely linked to “aficionado” than cigar smoking. We can thank Cigar Aficionado founder and publisher Marvin R. Shanken for the term’s modern prevalence. The magazine launched in 1992. Common dissemination of “cigar aficionado” followed. And, it can be argued “aficionado” gained noticeable momentum in our everyday vocabulary on its own as a result. We refer regularly to individuals who display a particular of level of expertise or zeal for a subject as aficionados, i.e., music aficionados, car aficionados, baseball aficionados, etc., because we first encountered Cigar Aficionado.

Shanken’s journey into publishing began in the early 1970s in the wine and spirits industries. In 1979, he purchased Wine Spectator, an American lifestyle magazine that focuses on wine and wine culture. Shanken is also editor and publisher of Whisky Advocate, a lifestyle publication for whisky enthusiasts. What’s curious is that we haven’t begun touting the experts or enthusiasts in a given pursuit as “spectators” or “advocates,” but aficionado has stuck in our pop culture lexicon. Perhaps it’s the way aficionado rolls off the tongue.

Who Are Today’s Cigar Aficionados?

What does it take to become a cigar aficionado and who are today’s true cigar aficionados? There is no official certification or degree one can attain. But that doesn’t mean becoming a cigar aficionado is a free for all. Cigar knowledge is essential. Today’s foremost cigar aficionados are the cigar-makers – guys like Carlito Fuente, Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia, and Jorge Padron. They’ve mastered the art of growing, aging and blending the premium tobaccos that make up the cigars we smoke, and their status as aficionados is unquestioned. From there, retailers, critics, salespeople, and consumers qualify as aficionados. Many bloggers consider themselves aficionados. It all boils down to knowing what you’re talking about, though.

Cigar Aficionado vs. Cigar Connoisseur: What’s the Difference?

Cigar lovers are commonly referred to as aficionados and connoisseurs, but is there a difference? Merriam-Webster does not suggest “aficionado” as a synonym in its definition of connoisseur, “1) : EXPERT, especially : one who understands the details, technique, or principles of an art and is competent to act as a critical judge” and “2) : one who enjoys with discrimination and appreciation of subtleties.” So, if you want to get technical about it, aficionado falls more into the category of being a fan while connoisseur indicates a higher degree of expertise. A cigar lover indulges his or her passion for cigars as an aficionado but becomes a connoisseur through critical knowledge and discriminating taste.

How to Become a Cigar Aficionado

Smoking cigars and really appreciating the taste, aroma, and recreation they offer is key to becoming a cigar aficionado. Some attempt to substitute the word, sommelier, which is not an accurate comparison. In the wine industry, a very rigorous set of exams requiring years of formal study must be passed to earn the title of sommelier. However, you can definitely become an expert on cigars without an official title. Talk to your local retailer when you’re buying cigars. Listen to his or her recommendations. Start a cigar journal and log the details about the cigars you like and the ones you don’t. You’ll learn to identify a cigar’s tasting notes and its origins as your palate develops. Possessing cigar etiquette is essential too.

Smoke cigars with confidence. Learn the different ways to cut and light a cigar, even how to hold it while you’re smoking. Avoid amateur mistakes like inhaling a cigar, smoking a dried out cigar, or smashing your cigar out in the ashtray when it’s done. Smoke different cigars from different brands and from different regions. Premium cigars are handmade in dozens of different shapes. Get to know and recognize them and develop your preferences. If you’re ordering a bottle of wine with dinner, a recommendation from a waiter or waitress who’s only had one or two on the list is less meaningful than from someone who’s had them all. Broaden your palate. Cigar aficionados aren’t intimidated by the details. They’re always curious and want to learn more.

You can begin your journey here. Visit our Cigar 101 page. We cover all the basics you need to start smoking cigars as well as more advanced topics about how cigars are made and where tobacco is grown. Knowledge comes easy with passion and if you’ve had a good cigar before, you know the homework is a total pleasure.

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