Cigar Culture

Women Who Smoke Cigars

Holt's Staff Cigar's picture

Holt's Staff

Women smoking cigars may be a less common sight than men smoking cigars, but make no mistake, the indulgence is equally enjoyed. As a matter of fact, I personally received my first introduction to cigars from a woman who not only smoked cigars, but owned her own cigar shop, which she had built into a successful enterprise over the course of many decades. I worked at her cigar shop for nearly ten years, absorbing an untold degree of product knowledge, brand expertise, and sales experience.

Perhaps as a result, I have never really perceived cigar smoking as an exclusively “gender-specific” luxury, although one cannot ignore the pinky-ring-clad stereotype of an assertive male puffing away in defiance of his surroundings as the “typical” cigar smoker – at least for many who may not be exposed to cigar smokers on a regular basis. We know this is truly not the case, or at least, certainly not the whole story. Doctors, construction workers, lawyers, mechanics, teachers, politicians, tycoons, and more represent a wealth of backgrounds cigar lovers claim. And, you might be surprised by who is most capable of perpetuating a brash cigar-smoking image or by who is quickest to advertise his sophistication. Thankfully, many cigar lovers are quintessential gentlemen who easily refute a number of preconceived notions.

But what about women cigar lovers? Is there a stereotypical cigar-smoking woman? I’m sure the question conjures an image. As a guy in the world of cigars, and more importantly a sales professional, I have always welcomed and encouraged the curiosity of everyone interested in premium cigars, regardless of gender. I could not imagine arguing that one gender is more predisposed to accessing the enjoyment of a cigar over another. That said, I would also not argue that a woman smoking a cigar surely elicits a different reaction from passersby than a man doing the same.

Assumptions swirl around the gal with a ‘gar, with perception instantly branding her as a hard-charging, no-nonsense broad who rocks a power suit and eats her subordinates for breakfast. It’s implied that she’s an alpha female who punctuates each statement with a pointed puff of an Ashton Corona, or jabs the air with her Montecristo #2 after a dynamic presentation to members of the board.

The Ladies Who Light: What Makes a Cigar Smoking Woman Different?

The truth of the matter is: Women (like men) who smoke cigars, come from all walks of life. Women who enjoy cigars are just as likely to be high-powered executives as they are church-going moms who just want to blow off a little steam (literally and figuratively).

Today, many more women are finding enjoyment in the taste and aroma of a good cigar. While stereotypes do exist, a person can’t simply be defined or pigeonholed based on their personal tastes and hobbies.

Some do it because the love the taste and feel of a good cigar, while other ladies enjoy the community aspect of the practice – enjoying a puff with their husband and his friends, or having a girls-only herf complete with good food, good conversation, and good cigars.

The same way many men make time to have a herf, more cigar smoking ladies are getting in on the action. From The Smokin’ Hot Ladies Club in Jackson, Mississippi to Stixx & Stilettos professional networking events in New York City, to countless meet-ups in cities around the country, more women are taking up the hobby. And it’s not just in the United States, either. The International Women’s Cigar Club formed in 2012, fostering a cigar-centric inclusiveness of women around the globe who love travel, food, wine, and music as much as they do their stogies.

Women and Cigars Through the Ages

While today’s ladies are embracing cigar culture in a far more visible way, it’s not an entirely new phenomenon – or one confined solely to the past few centuries!

For many Americans, the sight of a woman enjoying a cigar is a bit more jarring than it is in Europe, where it’s not uncommon for women to be offered a post-meal cigar -- even if the table is comprised solely of members of the fairer sex.

“A cigar numbs sorrow and fills the solitary hours with a million gracious images.” - George Sand

France has long been home to women with an appreciation of fine cigars, particularly French author George Sand, a noted intellectual and paramour of Frédéric Chopin. Born Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin in 1804, Sand adopted her masculine nom de plume during a time when female writers weren’t as readily given their due as men with a pen. The George Sand Smoker Society, a club of female cigar enthusiasts emerged in her honor during the Cigar Boom of the 1990s.

In 1920s in Berlin, cigar-smoking clubs opened their arms to women. It’s probably not too much of a stretch to imagine gender-bending iconoclast Marlene Dietrich leaving a trail of admirers – and cigar smoke – in her wake at one of these clubs.

Going back even further, thousands of years ago, Aztec women of ancient Mexico were known to have smoked. Making a few more leaps in time, historical accounts from Spanish conquistadors make note of women who smoked cigars in Peru during the 16th century. And while she didn’t indulge in a delectable rolled cigar, Good Queen Bess herself, Queen Elizabeth I of England, had a fondness for smoking a pipe.

A number of Cigar Aficionado’s most iconic covers feature women. Who can forget resonant quotes such as: “There’s something about smoking a cigar that feels like a celebration. It’s like a fine wine. There’s a quality, a workmanship, a passion that goes into the smoking of a fine cigar.” —Demi Moore

What to Smoke?

If you’re among the small – yet growing – numbers of ladies who smoke cigars, it’s comforting to know that you’re in good company from both a historical and current standpoint. If you’re on the fence about deciding whether or not it’s time to take your first puff and savor the flavor of a premium cigar, there’s no time like the present to take the plunge.

Many women gravitate towards a smaller cigar, such as a Corona, a Petite Corona, or an even smaller cigar. Some women are intimidated by larger cigars, like a Robusto or a Toro. However, when it comes to cigars, it’s not so much about the size as it is the flavor, smoothness, and how mild of full-bodied your cigar may be.

However, if you do prefer a smaller cigar, opt for a wieldable Corona such as the Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real or a San Cristobal Elegancia. Want something even smaller? Check out an Ashton Cabinet Tres Petite, an Ashton Cordial, or the iconic, artful, and stubby dimensions of Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story. But certainly, lady cigar lovers should never feel compelled to limit their choices to cigars that are “appropriate” for a woman. There is really no such thing. Recently, I’ve been selling a ton of San Cristobal Ovation Decadence to a young lady who coaches a girls’ college basketball team at an Ivy League school. She has a marvelous palate and is not shy about trying any number of the full-bodied Nicaraguan cigars Pepin Garcia blends.

Much like there aren’t separate menus for men and women at a restaurant, there are no gender-specific cigars that can be enjoyed solely by women. It’s merely a matter of taste and preference – and expanding your own cigar-smoking repertoire to familiarize yourself with the wide variety of strengths and flavors that the modern cigar market has to offer.

The Science of Taste & The Future of Women and Cigars

While women who indulge in cigars span a wide spectrum of ages (18 to 60+), occupations, and interests, there are a few subtle differences between these gals and their male counterparts. And while there may be seemingly fewer women than men who have gotten in on the cigar smoking game, those who do may actually have a more refined palate and a better sense of taste.

A 2002 paper published in Nature Neuroscience reported that women of reproductive age were more sensitive to smell. Similarly, a 2014 study published in PLOS ONE showed that the female brain has 43% more cells and 50% more neurons in their olfactory centers than the male brain. On a related note, a heightened sense of smell is strongly associated with a better sense of taste. A study conducted by Yale University showed that women have more taste buds on their tongues.

Given how enjoying a cigar is both an experience of smell and taste, it’s only a matter of time before even more women start occupying the seats at your local cigar lounge and swapping ‘gars with the guys – and quite possibly schooling them on the subtle nuances of different blends and identifying flavor notes to look for. There’s plenty of room for everyone at the table, so long as they enjoy a good cigar!

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