Cigar strength can be a bit of a tricky subject. Not only can the types of tobacco packed inside a premium cigar blend determine its strength, but an individual's sensitivity to stronger cigars can have a massive impact on what is perceived as well.
But wait... there's more...
To keep things simple, here are a few key factors to keep in mind when pondering the intensity of a certain cigar.
1. Understanding Seed Strains
Like spicy peppers, certain types of tobacco are more prone to packing strong flavors and intensity than others. It is the master blender's job to make sure that these stronger strains are balanced by other, milder types of tobacco within a premium cigar blend.
2. Internal Strength Matters
Where these various forms of tobacco end up in a cigar can determine the overall potency of a cigar. For instance, a single sun-grown leaf serving as a wrapper is not going to provide nearly as much strength as a fat bunch of the same leaf stuffed inside the filler.
3. Upper Ligero Leaf=Strength
Being that the upper portions of tobacco plants receive the most sunlight, these top ligero leaves tend to be the strongest primings, or pickings, from the plant. In contrast, the viso leaves underneath, as well as the seco and volado leaves toward the bottom receive far less sunlight, and ergo tend to be far less potent.
4. Fear Not the Fermented
Almost all premium cigar blends contain some form of fermented tobacco or another. This process removes impurities, lowers nicotine content, smooths out rough flavors, and adds complexity to a cigar flavor profile. This stage also has been known to make certain tobaccos taste a bit milder over time, thus reducing the overall strength of a cigar.
5. Remember to Retrohale... or Don't...
The act of retrohaling, or blowing cigar smoke out through your nostrils, can really help determine the strength of a cigar. If a smoke seems a bit too intense for whatever reason, try and abstain from this act, as your nostrils will always be the first to detect the perceived strength of a cigar.
6. Smoke Small
If you are unsure as to whether or not a strong cigar is going to be your puff of nicotine or not, take the safe approach, and start with a shorter smoke. This will make for a far more manageable smoking experience, and you won't be hating yourself if you find that you have to throw in the towel at the halfway point.
For first-time strong cigar smokers, we suggest reaching for something like the "Asylum Premium 44x4" by C.L.E. Not only is this full-strength cigar beautifully balanced, but it also has very approachable proportions.
7. Exploring Stronger Smokes
Finding out what tastes good, and what strength levels are pleasant to your olfactory senses is part of the joy of being a cigar smoker. Sometimes, going out on a limb, and firing up a stogie that is a bit bolder than what you are accustomed to can bring the greatest reward.
After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
For further reading on the subject of understanding cigar strength, be sure to read our in-depth article entitled What Makes a Strong Cigar?