When a novice cigar smoker first walks into the humidor of his or her local tobacconist they are overwhelmed with the massive selection of cigars that are available. There are just so many different brands, shape, size, lines and colours. The new smoker should always first ask his tobacconist, hoping that he is knowledgeable, what he should choose that is within his price range. Asking an expert is always the way to go when you don’t know better yourself, or you have not yet acquired enough experience to be able to distinguish exactly what you like.
There is a one thing that novices always make the mistake of choosing, and that is to stay away from maduro cigars because their dark, almost black colour wrapper, induces notions of strength that would be overpowering for their unrefined and unexperienced palette. This is simply not the case. The maduro leaf is usually not stronger than the more pale natural colour wrapper. In many cases a light colour cigars will be stronger than a dark, maduro cigars.
Before we continue however we must make a distinction between two fundamental terms that are used to describe cigars, strength, and body. Strength is typically defined as the nicotine content and how it affects you. Usually high nicotine content cigars will make the smoker feel light headed and sometimes even sick, trust me I know:) Body is defined as the boldness and pervasiveness of the flavours of the cigar (the richness). These two are not mutually exclusive. One can exist without the other and both can exist simultaneously, however in different degrees. For example: a cigar can have a full body profile (a very bold and dense flavour, usually when the cigar has a high volume of smoke), yet it has low strength (all you taste is the flavours and there is no nicotine interaction with your body).
Novices typically confuse these terms, especially when it comes to maduros. Now we must remember than any cigar, regardless of shape, size or colour is capable of high/medium/low strength and full/medium/no body. New smokers often think that maduro cigars have a high strength, when they, in general, have a full body. The maduro leaf is typically produced by high amounts of fermentation to the leaf. The nicotine content breaks down and the sugars and oils are released from the leaf. This produces usually a sweeter and creamier stick. Although some maduro cigars do have a high strength, the process from which the maduro is derived typically produces little to no strength at all. However, it is a characteristic of maduro cigars to provide the smoker with a rich, full body.
I hope that new cigar hobbyists, after learning this information, will not shy away from maduros the next time they set foot inside their local humidor, they just may be surprised at how much they like this brave new world of cigars!
By: Steven Umbrello
Steven Umbrello is a student of philosophy and an avid cigar and pipe smoker. He has been smoking cigars and pipes for over five years and has made it his mission to learn as much about the industry as possible. He has attended some high profile cigar events and is a leading member of the Toronto Cigar Club. You can find more from Steven at his blog The Leather Library Blog.