Got a major holiday coming up? Birthday? Anniversary? If you’re stuck for a gift, cigars make a great one and not just for cigar smokers. Even non-smokers enjoy the taste and feel of a good cigar from time to time, like whether they’re having a poker night with their buddies or relaxing at a fancy club. But before you rush out to buy one, there’s some advice on giving cigars as gifts you ought to know first.
It’s Risky Buying Boxes
If you’re giving cigars as a gift, it can be tempting to buy a whole box of them. If some is good, more must be better, right? Normally yes, but not always with cigars. It’s only recommended if you know for certain what brand and style of cigar the recipient likes to smoke. Cigars some in many different flavors and strengths, and something as simple as ring size (how thick a cigar is) can have a big impact on how they taste. Labels, brands, location – all of these affect taste so, so if you don’t know the person’s taste precisely, a box of cigars can turn out to be a major disappointment. They’ll be stuck with a whole bunch of cigars they won’t enjoy smoking, but won’t want to give away out of concern for your feelings.
A smarter strategy is to buy a cigar sampler or cigar gift set. These are small collections of 5-10 cigars sold as a pack. They’re popular with new cigar smokers because they help them find a brand and style that suits them and they’re popular with experienced smokers because they’re an easy way to break out of a rut and explore something new. Samplers and gift sets are easy to find. They’re all over the internet and a lot of major cigar brands put them out, including Macanudo, H. Upmann, Alec Bradley, Cohiba, Rocky Patel, and Drew Estates (famous for ACID Cigars). You can also buy random assortments from big cigar retailers, which contain an eclectic mix of brands and styles. They upshot is that even if the person doesn’t like every cigar in the sampler, they’re bound to like a few and those are the ones they’ll remember.
Know What to Look For
If you do have a good idea of what brand and style your cigar smoker likes, or if you prefer putting together a random sampler yourself rather than trusting the internet (everyone appreciates the personal touch, after all), then you can go and buy the cigars at your local smoke shop. Make sure you know what to look for though, to make sure you’re buying a quality smoke. You want something that’s fresh and well put together. If you don’t know much about cigars, here are a few simple guidelines.
|Appearance||Outer wrappers are a good indication of inner quality. Look for cigars that have smooth, shiny wrappers. If you can see any cracks or tears, the cigar’s no good|
|Color||Cigars come in a variety of colors: brown, black, red, yellow, and green. Color often indicates strength, but a color is also sign of quality. Avoid any cigars that have spots, smudges, or dark spots on the wrappers. They’re either poorly constructed or have been poorly stored. Choose a cigar that has an even, uniform color instead|
|Feel||A good cigar should feel firm when squeezed. It should give a little, then spring back. If it’s soft and mushy, find something else|
|Smell||Taste and smell are strongly related. In fact, many of the flavors people associate with cigars can’t be tasted with the tongue. They’re part of the aroma you inhale. Before you buy a cigar, hold it up to your nose and see how it smells. If it smells good, it probably is good|
Keep Them Safe
Cigars aren’t like most other presents. They can’t just be wrapped up and left in a drawer or under the tree, not if you want them to be good to smoke when they’re unwrapped. Cigars are hydroscopic, that means they exchange moisture with their surroundings. When you put them in a humid environment, they absorb moisture. When you put them in a dry environment, they lose moisture. Either one is bad. Too much and the cigar gets mushy and moldy. The tobacco will swell, it won’t burn well, and the cigar will be hard to draw on. Too little moisture and the cigar will dry out. The outer wrapper will crack and flake, the cigar will burn too hot, and the taste and aroma will be ruined. It doesn’t take long for a cigar to go bad, either, not when it’s kept in the wrong conditions. Sometimes all it takes is a few hours. So if you’re the type of person who likes buying their gifts far in advance, you’ll need to know how to keep those cigars fresh until the appointed time.
The best way is to keep them safe is in a cigar humidor. Humidors are boxes that specially designed to control the amount of humidity cigars are exposed to. They use humidifiers, like crystal gel or silica beads, and specialized building materials, like Spanish cedar. Spanish cedar comes from Brazil and is unusually good at absorbing and retaining moisture. In a humidor, it keeps moisture levels stable. (Read How Moisture and Humidity Affect How Your Cigars to learn more). Some humidors, like the NewAir CC-100 , NewAir CC-280E , and NewAir CC-300 , use thermoelectric cooling systems to regulate temperature as well as humidity, in order to provide an extra layer of protection.
If you don’t have access to a humidor, you can use a zip-seal bag instead. Use a freezer bag instead of an ordinary zip lock. They’re tougher and have tighter seals. Put the cigars inside. Then, to keep the cigars from drying out, wet a clean sponge and place it alongside them in another, smaller plastic bag. Leave this bag open, but keep it upright. It will provide the moisture needed to keep the cigars fresh. Seal up the bag and keep them someplace with a stable temperature until you’re ready to give them away. A plastic box works well too. Place the cigars inside along with a sponge in a plastic bag. Never let the cigars come into direct contact with the sponge or it will ruin them.
Consider a Themed Cigar Set
If you’re giving cigars as a gift for a major holiday, you may want to consider buying a themed cigar set. Cigar makers release these at different times of year in order commemorate different holidays. For example, Tatuaje produces a “Monster” series for Halloween. Each set is named after a different monster, such as Frankenstein, Dracula, or Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th . Quesada has a series for Oktoberfest, Viaje has cigars for Thanksgiving, and St. Patrick’s Day (amongst others), and CAO celebrates Christmas with their Angry Santa and Evil Snowman series. Themed cigars normally come in special boxes with unique cigar rings, and they’re often produced in limited quantities, which makes them a collector’s item. Themed sets are sold in small quantities as well, so if you buy one, you’ll only end up with about 10 cigars, not a full box.
Consider Buying a Cigar Accessory as Well
If you’re looking for a way to embellish your gift a little, consider buying a cigar accessory as well. You can buy a Most accessories are relatively inexpensive items that a serious smoker will get a lot of use out of, like a cigar case, cigar punch, cigar cutter, a cigar lighter, or a cigar torch. Cigar cases and cigar lighters can even be engraved with the recipient’s name in order to make them more personal.
If you’re feeling really generous, you can buy them a cigar humidor to keep their cigars in. If they’re a really serious collector, consider upgrading them to a NewAir cigar humidor or cigar cooler. They’re not only better at preserving cigars, they’re also bigger. The NewAir CC-300 can hold 400 hundred cigars.
If they like to read, get them a book on cigars. The Ultimate Cigar Book, The Illustrated History of Cigars , and Nat Sherman’s Passion for Cigars are all very popular. If they’re a new smoker, or an experienced smoker who likes to experiment with different smokes, a cigar journal might make a good gift as well. It lets them write down their thoughts about each cigar as they smoke them.
If you’d prefer giving something a little more fun, pair your cigars with a drink. Buy a bottle of cognac, scotch, or rum. They all go great with cigars. So does coffee.