Over the past few days I have been thinking about posting some sort of article on selecting a cigar for a special occasion. After thinking about how to approach that article from a variety of angles, I just couldn’t settle on one that I was completely happy with.
Giving advice on how to select a cigar for a special occasion is much harder than I originally anticipated. When I began thinking through a variety of scenarios, which included time of day and taste preferences, an endless list of possibilities began to unfold.
After over-thinking the situation a number of times, I felt the best thing to do would be to simply pose the question for community discussion and see if we couldn’t create a running list of interesting perspectives on selecting a cigar for a special occasion. But before I open it up for community discussion, I want to sort of “think out-loud” in regards to how I went about selecting a cigar for my recent special occasion.
Does Price Matter?
Under most circumstances I do think that price matters in regards to a special occasion cigar. Every fiber of my being screams that it does not, but ultimately, if the cigar is inexpensive enough for you to smoke regularly, it may loose some of its pizzazz when that special time rolls around.
Some of my favorite cigars are less than ten dollars. Even if I were to treat myself with this sub ten-dollar cigar during a special occasion, I may really enjoy it, but it feels like less of a treat because it is a cigar I smoke routinely.
When it comes down to it, I like to either smoke a cigar that is out of my normal comfort range or smoke a cigar that is not readily available to me. I think the situation is heightened by the fact that I am smoking something that I enjoy but wouldn’t feel comfortable purchasing, or be able to purchase, under normal circumstances.
Some of you may be thinking, well how do you know you will enjoy the cigar? To ensure that the cigar doesn’t take away fro the special occasion, I like to smoke things that I have had positive experiences with in the past. Just because I wouldn’t purchase this cigar routinely, it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have had it at some point.
Do the Surroundings Matter?
My surroundings play a big part on my cigar selection. Regardless of the surroundings, I’ve already mentioned that I’ll be smoking something that is typically more expensive than I would select otherwise. If I am celebrating with a couple of people and there is drinking involved, I’ll try and select something that doesn’t require my full attention to enjoy.
Lets face it, some cigars are incredible if you are in a situation where you can focus exclusively on the cigar. Take that same cigar and introduce a few distractions, and a dulled palate due to alcohol, and that stick may loose much of its luster.
On the other hand, there are some cigars that are straight forward enough that they can deliver even with a few distractions. While these cigars may not be overly complicated, with a variety of subtle flavors, they provide a smoke that is, plain and simple, good.
Does Time Matter?
As my though process progresses, I’ve run down the mental checklist and determined that my cigar selection will not be one that I smoke routinely and I’ve factored in the circumstances in which it will be smoked. From here I need to take a look at the matter of time and determine a few things.
When I consider time, I’m looking at two factors. I need to determine how much time I have to smoke the cigars as well as what the time of day is. Over the years I’ve found that I definitely prefer certain properties of cigars at different times of the day. For instance, if I’m celebrating in the evening my selection may differ greatly from what I would have selected as a morning cigar.
With a palate that is more sensitive in the earlier parts of the day, I find that I appreciate the milder and more subtly flavored cigars more. In the evening I prefer cigars that have a little more punch and crisper flavors. In the middle of the day, I like something in between.
When it comes to allotted time to smoke, it isn’t just a matter of selecting a Corona or a Churchill of one particular brand. I find that some vitolas have a completely different flavor profile within the same brand. I try to take that into account and may turn away from a cigar simply because I can’t afford to take the time to smoke my preferred vitola.
For instance, I love the Pinar del Rio Classico Exclusivo, but if I don’t have the time to smoke the Lancero I may turn away from the line entirely. In the case of special occasions, its about maximizing the enjoyment and accenting the special occasion. Instead of simply going with the Robusto because it would take less time, I’ll turn to a smaller vitola that I feel stands out in a particular line.
Does Presentation Matter?
By presentation, I’m not only talking about what the cigar looks like, I’m also talking about the back-story that the manufacturer tells about this cigar. For instance, Room 101 is presented as a stick that carries sort of a “bad ass” attitude. A Padilla Miami is presented as a stick that feels as though it is created out of tradition and heritage.
You are probably thinking this portion sounds a bit crazy, but it really isn’t. Some people feel that just because they are celebrating an engagement, anniversary, or honoring someone, that they should smoke a Davidoff. The reason being, Davidoff is presented with a kind of black tie sophistication that just seems to match those particular instances properly.
I don’t feel as though the presentation, or back-story, of a cigar should determine its eligibility for a special occasion cigar. If I was celebrating the birth of a child, I would not disqualify the Illusione ~hl~ because it carries with it a back-story involving a weapon used in battle (for more on this visit the Illusione Website).
In short, I do not feel as though the special occasion cigar is, in part, determined by the story, or attitude, it carries in comparison to the event being celebrated. I make my selection based on the factors listed above and try not to get wrapped up into the hidden meaning behind the brand/blend/vitola/etc…
Truth be told, I like to do my celebrating twice. The first is done with friends and family. This generally makes for many smiling faces and memories that last a long time. If the situation allows us to smoke cigars, I like to share a few so that we can all tie a cigar to that memory. The cigars don’t necessarily have to be the same. What is special for me may not be right for someone else, so if I’m providing I’ll try to match the cigar to the individual and situation as best as possible.
The second celebration is for me, and me alone. I am the type of person that really enjoys my quiet time, it gives me the opportunity to reflect on what I am celebrating on a much deeper level. This celebration often comes in the evening when all is still in the night. In this second situation, I go all out and select something that I can focus on. This is the time for that cigar that requires the extra bit of effort to extract all of the enjoyment from.
The photo above, showing the Illusione ~hl~, was taken just before I settled into my quiet time. While smoking that cigar, I was able to allow my mind to drift to fond childhood memories. I thought about the things that instantly put a smile on my face as well as all of the things I hope my future child can experience as well. After carefully matching the cigar to the scenario, I think it was a perfect match. There are very few cigars that come to mind that I feel could have made the situation any better. I hope that anyone reading this rather long write-up has, or at least will, experience a similar situation.
11 thoughts on “Ask The Readers: How do you select a special occasion cigar?”
I have a HELL of a time picking a special occasion cigar out! I always look at price and think to myself, I could buy a couple cigars for the cost of that one high end stick 😉 I have bought the CAO American Anthem which ran $25 locally, but i got my CAO Sopranos hat for free with the purchase, so to me, it evened out the cost of the cigar.
I REALLY enjoy smoking cigars, but with how the prices have gone up, I may be doing less and less of anything high end just so I can enjoy more of them.
That being said – I am eying up a Davidoff Colorado Claro ( Jerry is a bad influence ) for a possible Christmas smoke – if I can find it!
I just want to congratulate you and your wife on this joyous occasion.
Congrats to you and your wife Walt.
First Jerry and now Walt. Mr. Hewitt your next LOL.
I usually have a hard time picking a “special” cigar.What I normally do is when I come across a particular cigar that I really love, I will buy a few to keep on hand just for special occasions. It may range from something like a Camacho Liberty series to a CAO Sopranos or even a Cuban Cohiba and almost anything in between. Right now I am sitting on two 2009 Camacho Liberty’s that I am saving for Christmas time,but in the summer months I tend to lean towards a fuller bodied smoke for that certain occasion
Just this Thanksgiving day I was with a good friend of mine and we smoked a very nice new release from Famous Smoke by Camacho that was just fdantastic,It had the right ammount of fullenss and the perfect length before our big dinner. And for my birthday next month I have been keeping a Diamond Crown for me to celebrate another year of my life.
I would have to say that I agree with all of your questions about what goes into picking a special cigar, but for me I generally don’t pick a special cigar that I have not tried at least twice before
For me a special occasion cigar is either one I know I really like or one that carries a reasonable certainty that I’ll like. For instance, I was given a celebratory cigar at a wedding reception once that I had never had before (and probably never will again) that was amazing. Under that circumstance, even though it was a once in a lifetime cigar, just about any cigar would have been a great accompaniment to the celebration. If I’m selecting a special cigar, I factor in whether the cigar was purchased by me or gifted to me, a gifted cigar always being the more special of the two. I tend to hang on to “special” cigars, ones I wouldn’t buy for myself, for long periods of time waiting for the right occasion. On the other hand, I purchased a special box of cigars for my daughter’s wedding.
I guess I can only offer how I would select a cigar, only you can really know what makes that special cigar special to you.
I used to have a very difficult time selecting just the right cigar for a special occasion but I realized what you said in the beginning. It doesn’t have to be of the charts expensive but just enough out of my range to makeme a little uncomfortable under normal circumstances. I used to think it had to be one that I have been saving for ever etc…
Over the years though I have realized a handful of favorites that are just a little out of my comfort zone, as you say, but usually between $10 and $15 a stick. I do have a nice collection of much more expensive cigars that are resting and getting happy in their own humidor and i will pull one of those out for a VERY special occasion. Such as marriage (not necessarily mine), birth of a child (definitely not mine), even divorce if it makes you happy (mine) 🙂 The kind that only comes along once every couple of years. For instance the Ashton ESG, Padron 80th anny or some of the rarer AF’s just as a short list.
For your average special occasion, holidays, anniversaries, birthdays etc I have 4 or 5 brands that I will pull from, again as you said, based on the time of day and how long I have to enjoy them. Although I tend to make a little extra time at some point during the special day and wait for it because I do like to savor a good smoke. One of my favorites right now is the San Cristobal. It’s a great tasting smoke AND every time I light one up around people, even non-smokers, they say they like the smell! Bonus! Another for instance is the R&J, I love em all! One of my regular daily smokes is the Reserva Real but on a special occasion especially in the early hours of the day I might smoke an Edicion Limitada.
Congrats and I’m sure you picked just the right smoke for the occasion!
first off, congrats to you walt and your family!
secondly, wow, I don’t think I put that amount of effort into selecting my special occasion smoke. I’m more of an intuitive guy – if it feels like a special occasion smoke, well then, it is…
Thanks for all of the kinds words and congratulations.
I actually just had to pick out some cigars to celebrate getting married. It was tought to narrow it down, and I still have quite a few to get through.