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Cigar expert recommends: The 10 best cigars for beginners

Close up of cigars in humidor at home - Briley Kenney from The Manual
Briley Kenney / The Manual

If this is your first time smoking a cigar, or you smoke occasionally, and it has been a while, you want to ease into it. In other words, you don’t want to dive in headfirst and start smoking something strong, like a full-bodied smoke. Not only will the flavors and experience overwhelm you, but the high nicotine concentration in the stronger cigars might also be a bit too much for you.

If you’re curious, you can read a brief guide on what a cigar is supposed to taste like. The experience is different for everyone, and your taste buds may pick up more or fewer flavors than others, but that’s okay. The rich, nuanced tastes will come across even in milder cigars, that is, if you choose the right one. But don’t you worry. That’s precisely why we’re here. We’ll ensure you are introduced to flavorful, enjoyable cigars ideal for beginners and novice smokers. Let’s discuss.f

The best cigars for beginners

Before you begin

The Manual

In case you haven’t read our other cigar coverage, I wanted to reiterate some of the essential tips I’ve shared previously.

  • Cigar and drink pairings are excellent, but you should always try to pair your smoke with something sweet. That could be juice, a soda like a Pepsi, a beer, a malt beverage, or liquor. Yes, you could drink ice water, but sweet drinks help bring out some flavor and counteract the nicotine.
  • Don’t use a regular lighter. If you must, wood matches are okay, but it’s difficult to light the cigar evenly with them, especially if there’s any amount of wind. You should really use a cigar lighter or a torch lighter. I would avoid an arc lighter.
  • If you don’t have one already, consider getting a cigar cutter to trim the cap off your cigar properly.
  • As laid out in our Cigar Humidor 101, you should use a humidor to store cigars for more than a day. This guide will explain what to get, how to care for it, and how to maintain the proper Relative Humidity (RH) to keep your cigars healthy.
  • Never smoke a dried-out cigar. Always rehydrate your cigar before you light it up.

Cigar sizes

The cigar’s general size, also called the vitola, will determine your experience, including how long it takes to smoke. Smaller sizes like Robusto, Corona, and Perfecto don’t take as long to smoke. Although it’s not always true, they’re usually more flavorful because there’s more tobacco packed into a smaller format. Larger sizes, from Toro and Lonsdale to Gordo and Double Corona, take longer to smoke. Another consideration is the ring gauge or the girth of the cigar. The bigger the gauge, the wider it is, and you should know that some people are uncomfortable with the larger sizes. It’s all a matter of preference.

I prefer an assortment of small, medium, and large cigars in my humidor, allowing me to choose based on what I want to smoke that day. If I want a quick smoke, I’ll choose a Robusto. My favorite size is a Toro, which is six to six and a half inches long and has a ring gauge typically between 52 and 54.

Cigar strength

Another factor that alters the experience is the strength of the cigar. Think of it as being similar to the strength of coffee or chocolate. The stronger it is, the more bold and dark the flavors, and generally, the bigger the pepper or spice kick. Cigars start at mellow, light, or mild at the weakest, stretching to full-bodied. I do love a good, full-bodied smoke with lots of pepper, but at the same time, it’s not something I’d smoke in the morning with my coffee. Moreover, if you’re going to smoke more than one in a session, you want to order them from weakest to strongest.

Cigar strengths arranged from weakest to strongest are:

Mellow/Mild > Medium > Full

As a beginner, you’ll want to start light, especially if this is your first time smoking a cigar. You do not want to jump right into a strong or full-bodied option. Has it been done before? Yes, absolutely, but it’s not something I’d recommend.

Cigar blend

The flavor, aromas, and quality of a cigar are determined by the blend or, rather, the ingredients. Starting with the tobacco and the filler on the inside, the binder to hold it together, and the wrapper on the outside, cigar rollers blend it all, and when you light the end of a cigar, you’re tasting all of that goodness combined. Tobacco leaves and the rest of the cigar ingredients are also heavily influenced by the region and soil in which they are grown. Nicaraguan tobacco, for example, tastes completely different from Cuban or Dominican tobacco. The external wrapper usually determines anywhere from 70% to 90% of the nuanced cigar flavor. Some notables are Connecticut, Habano, Maduro, Corojo, Cameroon, Sumatra, and many more.

Lighter wrappers, like the Connecticut, are some of the best for beginners. However, once you try a few cigars, I highly recommend branching out and testing other blends and brands to broaden your horizons. Experimentation is key, especially if you are trying to find the perfect cigar for your palate and taste. Even your best friend or close relatives will have preferences different from yours. What they like will differ from what you like, and that’s undoubtedly true of enthusiasts like me who have tried hundreds of blends.

Singles versus boxes

If you smoke often, you’ll want to start your own cigar collection, which means buying in boxes. They’re cheaper, especially if you frequent local cigar lounges or shops. That said if you’re not smoking often, buying in singles and smaller bundles is just fine.

Some of the best places to buy cigars always offer the option to choose between individual cigars and boxes.

If you’re not smoking your cigars right away, you’ll also want to get a humidor. Unless you live somewhere very humid, cigars will dry out within a day or two of sitting outside of a humidor.

Top cigar recommendations for beginners and first-time smokers

Close up of Southern Draw Kudzu box of cigars in humidor
Briley Kenney / The Manual

Knowing where to start your cigar journey helps. Here are the top ten recommendations for beginners and first-time smokers:

Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente

Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente cigars for beginners
Arturo Fuente
  • Strength: Mellow to medium

This Connecticut shade cigar offers a mild yet flavorful and certainly memorable smoke. If you only go with one to try, let it be this. It may be a difficult cigar to find in select locations, so keep that in mind.

Charter Oak Habano

Charter Oak Habano cigars for beginners
Charter Oak
  • Strength: Medium

This Nicaraguan cigar has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper that’s spicy and packed with flavor without being too strong for beginners — it’s a solid medium in strength. If you think that’s too much for you, Charter Oak does offer a few Connecticut Shade and Connecticut Broadleaf-varied cigars. Either way, it’s a great place to get started, especially if you want to take a trip to flavor town.

Crowned Heads Mil Dias Topes

Crowned Heads Mil Dias Topes cigars for beginners
Crowned Heads
  • Strength: Medium

Medium-bodied, this cigar will give you hints of floral, nutty, and delectably creamy flavors for a smooth, relaxing experience all the way through. It’s no surprise it secured a 91-point rating. It’s also a fantastic cigar for newbies.

Macanudo Cafe Hyde Park

Macanudo Hyde Park Cafe cigar
  • Strength: Mild

Dominican and Mexican fillers, a Connecticut Shade wrapper, a sweet, enveloping aroma when lit, and subtle earthy and nutty flavors describe the experience of smoking a Macanudo Cafe Hyde Park. If any of them sound interesting, and they should, this is where you’ll want to start.

Montecristo White Series

Montecristo White Series cigar for beginners
  • Strength: Medium

You’d be hard-pressed to find a recommended cigar list without at least one entry from Montecristo, and the White Series is about one of the best you can get. Taking inspiration from the OG Montecristo from 1935, this Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade cigar is nothing short of legendary. I won’t get too detailed about the flavors because that would spoil the experience, but if this is your first cigar, you should come away impressed.

New World Connecticut by AJ Fernandez

New World Connecticut by AJ Fernandez cigar
New World
  • Strength: Mild to medium

High-profile blenders like AJ Fernandez dominate the cigar scene these days, and for good reason. The man really cannot make a bad blend. Almost everything from AJ is fire, including the New World Connecticut. Even better, it’s perfect for beginners with a mellow flavor, sweet aroma, and delicious cream, cedar, and spice mixture. If I were you, I would try one of these sooner rather than later.

Oliva Connecticut Reserve

Oliva Connecticut Reserve cigar
  • Strength: Mild to medium

Oliva is another staple of the cigar industry, and while I prefer some of their stronger blends — like the — the Connecticut Reserve is the perfect stomping ground for first-timers. Depending on the size, you can expect coffee, citrus, cinnamon, vanilla, earth, oak, and a bevy of other nuanced flavors during your smoke. Don’t worry about picking out every flavor if you’re just starting. Cut it, light it, and enjoy. That’s all you need to do.

Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Champagne

Perdomo Reserve 10th Anniversary Champagne cigar
  • Strength: Medium

You could do much, much worse for your first cigar. The Perdomo Champagne series is one of the most unique out there, with a nutty, earthy, and delicious blend of sweet flavors that will leave you wanting more by the time you take your last puff. Give it a light, you won’t regret it.

Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real

Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real cigar
Romeo y Julieta
  • Strength: Medium

Romeo y Julieta has been in business since 1875. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s one of the longest-standing cigar brands and one of the most popular and best in the industry. Relocated to the Dominican Republic after the Cuban embargo, they make a wide variety of blends, but the Reserva Real series is one of the best for new folks. A balanced mix of earthy, creamy, nutty, and sweet tones will hit your palate almost as soon as you light one up.

Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real Nicaragua Series

Romeo y Julieta Nicaragua Series best cigars for beginners
Romeo y Julieta
  • Strength: Medium to full

Released in 2020 to great acclaim, even earning a 90-point rating, the Nicaraguan puro version of the Reserva Real was grown on the AJ Fernandez farm in Esteli — as the name suggests. It’s also delicious and adds an entirely new experience to the series, with notes of raisins and fruit, leather, cedar, and nuttiness. They’re also competitively priced, and I recommend grabbing a box if it’s within your budget. Once you smoke one, you’ll want another.

Editors' Recommendations

Briley Kenney

Briley has been writing about consumer electronics and technology for over a decade. When he's not writing about deals for Digital Trends or The Manual, he's writing how-to content and guides for other online publications. He's also a ghostwriter for more than one confidential SEO marketing agency. In his downtime, he's either spending time with his family, playing games, or enjoying a good ol' stogie.

Send all editorial inquiries HERE.

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