The FQ How To Guide

HOW TO Become a Cigar Aficionado

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

If you aspire to channel the legendary Schwarzenegger characters of action film past and become a cigar aficionado, how do you get started?

For many, watching Arnie hunt down Predators, drive a tank and take on terrorists with a cigar in hand was the epitome of cool. In fact, with the strongman-turned-actor being a lifelong smoker in real life, his image has inspired men all across the world to undertake the ancient art of cigar smoking.

For some this journey begins earlier in life than others, but it is never too late. Here are few things to consider when getting started:

Types of Cigars

One of the most daunting aspects of cigar smoking for those starting out is the vast array of brands and types of cigars available. It is a lot of information to take in, let alone to understand from the word go. However, there are two extremely popular brands that can make the perfect ‘starter’ cigars.

Romeo Y Julieta is a premium cigar brand which sources its product from Cuba – as is the case with many premium cigar brands – and is famous for being the favourite brand of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The brand benefits from producing a variety in the strength of its cigars, so you can start with this brand at a lower strength and develop with it as your tastes mature. They also have a smoking time of under twenty minutes to make for a quick introduction to smoking.

Another brand of note that can be enjoyed by beginner and aficionado alike is the Montecristo cigar. Again of Cuban origin – all the best cigars are – it is said that the Montecristo No. 4 is the perfect cigar for beginners. With a middling strength and short smoking time of half an hour, it can introduce you nicely to the full-bodied flavours for which cigars are famed. Cigar aficionadi recommend this cigar for all beginners, so why not take the advice of those you wish to emulate?

Start Mild

If you are a cigar newcomer, a more full-bodied smoke can be a little overwhelming. In fact, you may not find the experience pleasant at all. As you begin your journey, it is important that you seek out the milder blends to help ease you into the experience. The more knowledgeable and experienced a cigar smoker you become, the stronger a smoke you can appreciate.

With this in mind, you should only buy a few cigars at a time as you may find your taste develops rapidly.

Masterclasses and tasting events can be an ideal resource for beginners.


As a beginner, seeking out some events to introduce yourself to the world of cigar smoking may be a great first step. A few events of interest coming up in 2017 include:

  • Boisdale Belgravia’s Cigar Masterclass – 22nd February, 15 Eccleston Street, London
  • JJ Fox’s St Patrick’s Day Party – 16th March, 19 St James’s Street, London
  • Soho Whisky Club Cigar Tasting – 6th April, 42 Old Compton Street, London

These events are open to beginners and aficionados alike – no-one is turned away for lack of knowledge. It is also the perfect opportunity, in some cases, to introduce yourself to the cigar’s perfect accompaniment: whiskey.

Seek Advice

Of course, there’s only so much you can learn on your own. The cigar world is vast and both the choice and terminology can seem daunting to the beginner. Seek out the Masters of Havana; a prestigious group of men and women  currently numbering only 26 people  who have the highest certified knowledge of cigars.

Luckily for the beginner cigar aficionado in the UK, 22 of these Masters reside in the UK with three of them offering advice from the flagship store of JJ Fox in St James’ Street, London. If you’re seeking both quality and education, then this is the perfect place for the apprentice cigar smoker to seek out a master to guide them.


Lastly, you should source all of your cigars from a reputed tobacconist. Doing so guarantees quality, well-cared-for cigars and that all-important expert advice. It’s key to seek information and advice from those in the know – be that through visiting events, specialist stores or through looking for information from online experts.

Ensuring that you are setting off on your venture to become a cigar aficionado correctly will mean that you can get the most out of the experience. It also allows you to understand your initial limititations, as opposed to jumping straight in at the deep end, and lets you find your very own niche; something that will help you to develop a deeper appreciation over both the long and short term.