This can be a challenge to determine what cigars are best for newbies. It does depend on your taste buds. I’d say it’d be worthwhile trying only a stick or two at first. If you really like something then you can buy a box and put them into your humidor or tupperware-dor. One of the things you should invest into is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars, 2nd Edition, an excellent book that recommends and breaks down the finer points of cigars and the world of cigars.
Also, where possible, visit a local B&M cigar store so that you can look at and touch the cigars. There should be a firm give but not like a wet sponge. Remember that cigars are kept at 70/70 range (70F and 70% humidity). If they respond like a wet sponge, then the store has too much humidity. If they don’t respond at all and feel like wooden, dry stick, then likely they are too dry. Also check for a bluish tinge. If you see that or perfectly round holes, then go to another store. These are indications of mold look almost like the mold you’d find on food — fuzzy and slightly coloured. If you see a white tinge and it’s not quite mold, it’s likely that you have bloom or plume. This is an indication of a nicely aged cigars. I found these photos elsewhere that show mold on cigars so you can get a feel for it.
Plume or bloom is the release of the oils from the cigar and because of the wrapper, they get trapped inside drying and turning into a white powder. You can see the difference in this photo. Plume is not a bad thing as it is a natural occurrence and does indicate an aged cigar. All you have to do is wipe it gently off with your fingers and you can smoke it fine.
Generally speaking, most cigar newbies start off with mild or slightly flavoured cigars. This helps to develop the palate and as time passes, you’ll find you’ll get into the more bolder cigars. You can ask your local B&M for suggestions. Personally, I would start with a sampler of sorts from a local B&M or online store.
If you have a sweet tooth I’d definitely suggest the Drew Estates or Acid lines. The Dirt and Krush are definite ones to start out trying. They tend to be mild and the wrappers are literally dipped in a sugar, which gives them a sweet flavour throughout the cigar. This isn’t something that everyone would enjoy.
If you’re not big into flavour but want to start off mild look to the Macundo (Gold, Cafe or Maduro), CAO Gold, Ashton or one of my favourite brands, the Rocky Patel Connecticut. I’d also stick in the Georges Reserve that I like so much (these can only be obtained from Famous Smoke) These cigars will range in price (depending on your area and tax rate) from about $2-$8 per cigar. Many of these come with a natural or a cameroon wrapper.
For a medium flavoured cigar, you can’t go wrong with many of the sun grown varieties from the likes of Arturo Fuente and Perdomo. You also may want to try Perdomo Lot 23 or the Ashton Heritage or Cabinet lines. These will all give you more of a flavour punch when it comes to tasting the nutty, creamy flavours that I’ve talked about (and literally, that’s what you’ll taste). When I first experienced this, I finally understood what I had read elsewhere.
If you’re really adventurous and want to go out and try a full-flavoured cigar, I’d suggest first making sure you’ve eaten a full meal (and I mean a full meal). Try it after dinner and not after working 72 hours non-stop. Ensure you’re rested. I suspect most people get sick on their cigars when they try them on empty stomachs and when they are exhausted for the first go. Have water or a nice mild beer nearby. For these cigars, look to the CAO Brazilia, Rocky Patel Sungrown (very nice), Perdomo Cameroon Reserve (again, a nice cigar), Gurkha Triple Ligero and the CAO Lx2. If you have a few extra bucks, look to the Ashton VSG for a great experience.
For me personally, I’ve found I like the cameroon wrapper and often look for cigars that have that. If you like a spicer flavour (you like hot wings and such), look for peppery wrappers like the rosado wrapper found on the Partagas Spanish Rosado, the Rocky Patel Rosado or the Perdomo Cuban Parejo. These can be trickier to find at times but are often well worth it. Now, you may have noticed that I’ve stuck with some major brands. It can be worthwhile to try those out first, figure out what you like (mild, medium or full) and then try other brands as recommended by friends or on whims. I personally tend to try a lot of a variety of things, although I do tend to stick almost exclusively with handrolled cigars.
Expect to spend about $4-$15 per cigar and plan in advance. Cigar smoking can be an expensive hobby at times and if you get deals, a humidor can bring those prices down (e.g., the Georges Reserve I like so much sometimes have a two-for-one deal thus effectively cutting the price in half — a humidor ensures that these will be a wise investment).
Whatever you’re choice is in the end, remember to take the time and enjoy it. It is the time spent with friends and family while enjoying a cigar that makes it more than just a smoke.