How to rate the strength of a cigar?


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Hello all,

I am a heavy smoker (pipes mostly) and I need a strong smoke in order to enjoy the benefits. I would like to understand how to properly rate the strength of a cigar. I often see the terms 'Light, Medium, Full' with regards to flavour. I initially assumed this to also be a guide to the 'nicotine hit' that one gets from the cigar. But someone, whose opinion I respect, said that I was confusing flavour with strength, and that just because a cigar was reffered to as being 'full bodied' didn't mean that it would deliver a strong nicotine hit.

So, my question is, can I relate the nicotine hit to the level of flavour? Or is there no connection between these ratings?

Personally, I think what we generally refer to as 'the nicotine hit' is actually the level of tar that we receive during smoking, but then I could be wrong about that too. :)

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I typically analyze cigars in my own mind as light, medium or full in regards to:

flavor (how overwhelming the flavor is - can it overpower the whiskey or brandy I'm sipping?)

body (how "thick" the smoke feels and how "thick or thin" the flavors are)

strength (do I feel the nicotine and to what degree?)

I'm not sure if this is the hoity-toity definition and I'm sure there are pedants who would disagree. The most important thing is to use and develop language that makes sense to you.

BTW, if you're looking for strength, I would recommend fresh Bolivar and Partagas as they're much too strong for me, as well as the Padron 1926 and Fuente Opus lines for NC as those typically have left me wishing I had grabbed something that didn't make my head swim so.

Happy hunting!

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I typically analyze cigars in my own mind as light, medium or full in regards to:

flavor (how overwhelming the flavor is - can it overpower the whiskey or brandy I'm sipping?)

body (how "thick" the smoke feels and how "thick or thin" the flavors are)

strength (do I feel the nicotine and to what degree?)

I'm not sure if this is the hoity-toity definition and I'm sure there are pedants who would disagree. The most important thing is to use and develop language that makes sense to you.

BTW, if you're looking for strength, I would recommend fresh Bolivar and Partagas as they're much too strong for me, as well as the Padron 1926 and Fuente Opus lines for NC as those typically have left me wishing I had grabbed something that didn't make my head swim so.

Happy hunting!

Yeah, that's what I'm looking for. Had an amazing Bolivar Coronas Junior, and a great Partagas Shorts recently. Even as small cigars, they pack an impressive punch.

So, following your definitions of flavor, body, strength - it is strength that I want. Does this mean that you come across cigars that have lots of flavour and body, but little strength?

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When you see light, medium and full that's referring to body not flavor. Light bodied cigars just like light bodied wines should have lots of flavor. So your friend knows what he's talking about. The nicotine hit is in no way related to flavor, just like the caffeine hit doesn't translate to coffee flavor.

We're all looking for flavor, if you're looking for a buzz, nicotine is one of the worst. If cigars are high in nicotine we know to lay them down, unless your constipated.

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My question to people who "feel" the nicotine hit, is "what do you feel? How do you know when you're getting a high dose"?

When I used to smoke fags (cigarettes for our cousins across the pond) the first one in the morning would give me a "nicotine rush", light headed, tingly-limbed, pleasant sensation. However, since quitting those and smoking cigars I can honestly say I've not experienced it since.

Do you?

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My question to people who "feel" the nicotine hit, is "what do you feel? How do you know when you're getting a high dose"?

When I used to smoke fags (cigarettes for our cousins across the pond) the first one in the morning would give me a "nicotine rush", light headed, tingly-limbed, pleasant sensation. However, since quitting those and smoking cigars I can honestly say I've not experienced it since.

Do you?

I almost never experience that, except maybe if I smoke something very powerful first thing in the morning.

By 'nicotine hit' I didn't really mean this light-headed rush. I had difficulty describing what I meant. :)

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My question to people who "feel" the nicotine hit, is "what do you feel? How do you know when you're getting a high dose"?

When I used to smoke fags (cigarettes for our cousins across the pond) the first one in the morning would give me a "nicotine rush", light headed, tingly-limbed, pleasant sensation. However, since quitting those and smoking cigars I can honestly say I've not experienced it since.

Do you?

I agree with using body to describe the quality of the smoke and the level of flavors from mild to full. I would describe strength as the level of nicotine and the impact it has on me.

Mild- feeling a light buzz in the head

Medium- feeling a stronger buzz in the head and some mild nausea

Full- strong buzz in the head, sweating, dizzy, feeling like I'm going to vomit

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Whenever I want to convey how a cigar is developing/smoking, I separate flavour and body. I concur, a light-bodied cigar can be full of flavour and in contrast, a full-bodied cigar can be one-dimensional. I must admit that I don't get 'nicotine kicks' very often at all when smoking Habanos cigars.

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Whenever I want to convey how a cigar is developing/smoking, I separate flavour and body. I concur, a light-bodied cigar can be full of flavour and in contrast, a full-bodied cigar can be one-dimensional. I must admit that I don't get 'nicotine kicks' very often at all when smoking Habanos cigars.

So, by this definition, when I discuss 'strength' it is a medium to full body that I am after - rather than full flavour.

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So, by this definition, when I discuss 'strength' it is a medium to full body that I am after - rather than full flavour.

In regards to Habanos, you're probably after Bolivar, Partagas or Ramon Allones cigars, depending on what flavour suits your palate. These are all fuller-bodied cigars.

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My question to people who "feel" the nicotine hit, is "what do you feel? How do you know when you're getting a high dose"?

When I used to smoke fags (cigarettes for our cousins across the pond) the first one in the morning would give me a "nicotine rush", light headed, tingly-limbed, pleasant sensation. However, since quitting those and smoking cigars I can honestly say I've not experienced it since.

Do you?

I certainly feel some nicotine from cc's, but not like a lot of the nc's (thankfully). Yes, it's similar to the description you gave, except it creeps up on you and can last way longer, unlike a cigarette that packs a big punch upfront and then dissipates.

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The strongest Nicotine hit I have ever had was from a Herrera Esteli Lancero. They are light in body, but very full in flavor and strength. I like the kick from the first one so much that I ordered a couple boxes straight away!

The flavors are "light"; tea, cream, nutmeg, burned sugar, hints of white pepper. But the smoke is thick and rich, coating the mouth and leaving those flavors on the pallet to mix and compete with what I am drinking, hence the "Full" flavor. The Strength is off the chart. I can't get half way through one of these guys (7" x 38) before I start to feel the Nicotine kick. By the time I'm nubbing it, which I always do with these, I'm battling the Nausea, sweats and light headedness. But, in the best way possible. love.gif

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I'd also favour the basic concept of the trinity taste, body and strength. There is also much that can be drawn from the wine realm.


Strength for me, as others have stated, is the effect of nicotine alone. Nicotine, although not being completely taste- or odourless, is found in such a low concentration that it renders irrelevant to the taste of a cigar (much unlike alcohol in wine), and as such being mostly unimportant to me, as a non-addict, like most of us. And it's also not to be confused with condensate or tar. While in wine, alcohol and extract add to the body, we are obviously lacking the "alcohol" component in a cigar - perhaps this could indeed be the underlying condensate/tarry taste-component? Not sure.


All other organoleptic components making a three- or even four-dimensional picture for me:


When using the visual analogy of a picture, flavour would be the colours. The more colourful, the more flavourful and complex is the taste/aroma of said cigar. Above that, there is the body, i.e. (for me) that is the perceived intensity of those colours/flavours. But body seems to be a bit more than just intensity or brightness, perhaps also an underlying "priming of the canvas", adding to it a kind of gravity or heaviness. The opposite to that would be elegance, lightness, a kind of subtleness for me, if putting it positively, and provided the smoke were not lacking something. And perhaps there is also a third aspect, something along the lines of a contrast or sharpness of a picture that needs to be added. That would correspond to "definition" in a cigar.

But all that is sometimes very difficult to put in words... Once you taste it, you know it. I know, I am overdoing it again...


The fourth dimension would be time, which we usually capture in two aspects: First one being length, i.e, how long a taste "stays" subsequent to the draw (often closely related to body) and, second, with the expression evolution, the change of flavours/complexity/body/intensity/definiton over the course of the smoke.


When all those components come in a well-proportioned, mind-pleasing fashion, I'd speak of a well balanced cigar!


If you are really looking for strength in the first place, Smoker, (if I read that correctly) I'd rather search out within the NCs. One of the nice things about Cubans is that they are usually, even the strongest ones, not very nicotine-heavy an a NC-scale.


Edit: Question remaining: Where to put the twang within this framework... biggrin.png

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Killer nicotine hits I can remember included a young siglo ii (almost unsmokeable). I think a lot depends upon what you have eaten. With a full belly and a whisky or two my tolerance and enjoyment is very different to smoking on an empty stomach.

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So, following your definitions of flavor, body, strength - it is strength that I want. Does this mean that you come across cigars that have lots of flavour and body, but little strength?

Oh, yes. I smoke once or twice a week, and typically PC size (or thinner). I can smoke a fairly mild cigar, strength-wise (say, a PL with 8-9 years on it), and still get that nic-o-tine satisfaction!

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I separate nicotine from all the other descriptors. Nicotine yields a drug-like result. It adds nothing to flavor, body or complexity. One can get nico-buzzed to kingdom come from a mild cigar and one can be bludgeoned by a full cigar like a BBF without the bed spinning. Then there are cigars like a Cazzie that are both strong and heavily nico-loaded.

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Thanks a lot for the responses. I've found that what works best for me is Montecristo in the morning and Bolivar in the evening. smile.png

The only NC I've had was a Davidoff 'Nicaragua Short Corona' which was almost too powerful really. I was recently surprised by a RyJ Cazadores, which seemed more full bodied than I was expecting. It was also quite a large cigar, which took a while to finish. I would have definitely benefitted from a large meal before this one.

I think the size of the cigar also comes into play. Even as a smoker who likes a full flavour, I struggle to enjoy anything that lasts over 60-90min depending on the situation. The Cazadores, which I considered to be a medium sized cigar at 43 - 162mm, it turned out to use more tobacco than a Robusto or Coronas Gordas. Definitely need the right situation for a cigar of this size in my opinion.

Actually, I'll make a new post to describe how I calculate the sizes - it might be of use to newbies.

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Oh yeah, classically the RyJ Cazadores is one of the strongest HSA offerings, especially when smoked young. You might really like those for strength!

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This is a very interesting conversation.

One of the methods I use to evaluate the nicotine strength in a cigar is through the sensation I get from the smoke touching the rear of the mouth.

I must say I often smoke just drinking water, so the measurement based on whether the cigar overpowers spirits or not is not applicable to me.

Do any of you use a different method?

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