Cigar Culture

Cigar Lounge Etiquette

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

A lot of cigar lovers also love to socialize. Add to that a lack of cigar-friendly confines these days, there’s a good chance you’ll be smoking in the company of others, unless you prefer to hotbox in your bedroom like a hermit. For new smokers, enjoying a cigar with or in front of others can be an intimidating experience. You’ve got to choose the right cigar to smoke, or accept one from a pal who’s eager to share. Once you’ve got the cigar in your clutches, now you’ve got to cut it, light it, and start puffing. It’s like having a chimney in your hands. And if you’re smoking in a public setting, why does everyone else look as natural as a Meineke tailpipe while you fidget and fight off the urge to cough with a pile of ashes in your lap? Let’s tune up your technique.

It doesn’t matter if you’re hanging out on the front porch, in a buddy’s basement, at a local smokeshop, or even a fancy, cigar-friendly nightclub. A little cigar lounge etiquette goes a long way. We’ve already outlined some expert advice on How to Cut and Light Your Cigar and How to Hold a Cigar. Let’s get the training wheels off when it comes to smoking around others with a few helpful hints of advice that won’t repel fellow cigar-lovers.

Lickety Spits

Saliva plays an important role in your enjoyment of a premium cigar. It keeps your palate lubricated and helps to digest much of the amazing flavor premium cigars deliver. That doesn’t mean everybody else wants to see your saliva, much less go for a swim in the puddle you transferred to the cigar rest in a community ashtray – ick! Don’t let your drool develop into a deluge. Smoke your cigar and enjoy it, but it shouldn’t need a lifejacket. Who wants to see a golden-hued Ashton Cabinet look like it was swimming for its life on the edge of an ashtray?

Also, some cigar enthusiasts like to lick the end of their cigars – it’s totally common to twist it around in your mouth for moment or two before lighting up. Some guys take it as far as licking the entire thing like a Popsicle. To each their own, but whatever extreme you prefer, make sure you’ve taken care of the cut beforehand, especially when you’re borrowing a buddy’s cutter or you’re using a universal cutter. It’s not cool to communicate your germs or a cold to another unsuspecting smoker. Or better yet, just pony up and pay for a cheapo, plastic disposable cigar cutter if you left your accessories at home. I can’t remember the last time I shared a spoon or a fork with anyone outside of my immediate family.

Incineration Nation

We’ve already covered the proper way to light up. We’re simply espousing a few extra tips to prevent a dousing from a fire extinguisher. Some cigars come wrapped in cedar, like Arturo Fuente Chateau. Take it off. The cedar protects the wrapper leaf and facilitates the aging of a cigar’s tobaccos. Also, some purists subscribe to the use of cedar to light their cigars, and prefer to light up off a burning strip of cedar as it harbors none of the impurities or residual taste you can get from certain types of lighter fuel. However, if you light a cigar with the cedar wrapped around it, there’s a good probability the whole thing will go up in smoke before you get it in your mouth, not to mention the fire hazard you’ve become to your immediate environment.

Watch Your Ash

Once you’ve got a flawless draw and a razor-sharp burn, don’t ruin the experience by being a messy asher. Prevent the precipitation of spent tobacco embers all over your sweater, your buddy’s couch, or the leather chair you’re sitting in at your local smokeshop’s lounge with a bit of care when you ash.

Some guys like to knock their cigar against the side of the ashtray like a batter tapping the bat on his cleats before the pitch is on its way. Not only will you likely damage the integrity of your smoke, but the wrapper can crack and the entire cigar can begin to unravel. Gently twist the edge of the ash in the center of the ashtray and roll it off (also called a “gentleman’s drop”). You don’t have to do this every time the ash is a millimeter long, either. You can wait until an inch, or two or three, of ash develops and it appears ready to drop. If you do drop your ash outside of an ashtray, don’t panic. Stray ashes can easily be swept up and discarded, or brushed off clothing. The main thing is to make sure the ash isn’t smoldering. That’s a whole other cause for alarm.

One other key concern: when you’ve reached that pivotal moment when you cigar is finished, just let it go out on its own in the ashtray. Don’t smoosh or smash it out like a cigarette butt, even if there’s a good amount left. Cigars are humidified, therefore the moisture content in the tobacco will cause the cigar to burn out on its own. Squashing the end down will only make a mess and cause the cigar to emit the unwanted and pronounced aroma of mashed-out tobacco.

It Sucks to Leech

“Hey pal, can I get a taste of that?” is definitely not the best opening line at a cigar lounge. At Holt’s, as big as we are on frugality, bogarting someone’s cigar never really crosses our minds. It’s also more than cool to inquire what somebody else is smoking, and to ask where you might get one for yourself. We generally refrain from straight-up asking if we can have one from the stash of a stranger. Everyone encounters a shortage once in a while, but for the most part, avoid being a charity case. Bring your own smokes, or buy one – especially when you’re visiting a smokeshop where you plan to hang out and smoke. It’s kind of an unwritten rule.

Over-the-Top Olfactory Sense

It’s no secret. When you’re smoking a cigar, your clothes and your hair are going to reflect what you’ve been up to. That doesn’t mean you have to unload an entire bottle of cologne on your chest after your stogie’s expired. Hit pause on spritzing everything in sight with Febreze. If you’re hanging out in a cigar lounge, you’re guilty by association, so you might as well come up with a creative story for the Mrs. ahead of time. What you don’t want to do is freak out in a Yankee Candle panic, like you should drive home wearing a garbage bag with a hole cut out for your head.

Cigar smoke is natural. It isn’t sticky and full of pharmaceutical chemicals like cigarette smoke. You won’t have to dry clean everything three times, either. Simply, hang your jacket and slacks over a chair overnight and, nine times out of ten, the residual scent of a cigar will disappear in a day or so.

On a Soap Box

A lot of cigar lovers have strong opinions. Having a fervent perspective on a variety of issues isn’t a bad thing in our books. That doesn’t mean you have to attack your local cigar lounge like it’s a bully pulpit for the chest-thumping speech you’ve been longing to pump out through a bull horn over the past three weeks. Also, touchy subjects like politics and religion can end up touching an unexpected nerve. Hanging out in cigar lounge is like going to your favorite restaurant. Be a gracious guest and save your passion for the common bond you’ve got going into the equation – premium cigars!

The Cigar Geek

At Holt’s, we eat, sleep, and breathe tobacco, but we’re hardly biochemists. No one really wants a detailed lecture on botany and seed varietals from 1952 when they’re just kicking back to smoke a cigar. It’s definitely a plus to know what you’re smoking and where every seed varietal of My Father Le Bijou is grown, but you also shouldn’t feel any pressure to be a smarty pants and saturate your company with a monologue on tobacco details that sounds like a manual for your vacuum cleaner. Yawn. If somebody wants to dig in deep, we’re sure they’ll pick up on your proficiency – and, they’ll ask you for more information if that’s what they’re craving. I’ve been drinking PBR for decades and I still couldn’t really tell you what’s in a can except for beer.

Too Fast for Taste

What better way to put on a show for your tough-guy, cigar-smoking pals than to puff your stogie down like you’ve got the steaming snout of an ornery bull. Problem is, unless your chest looks like the Sherwood Forest or your tolerance is as prolific as a diesel muffler, you’re likely to pump a surplus of nicotine into your system that will make you woozy or sick. Smoke your cigar at a measured pace, no matter who you’re hanging around. No one wants to be the guy in a cigar lounge who loses his cookies just because he took too many draws in quick succession or he smoked on an empty stomach. Premium cigars are all about the nuances of taste and the passing of time. It takes years to grow, harvest, and cure the tobaccos that make up a premium cigar. Nothing about the process can be rushed, least of all what happens after you light one up. Unless, of course, you only smoke Cain!

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