I quit cigarettes a few years back. I had tried cigars several times over my 20 year smoking career, but I couldn't figure out how to NOT inhale. This does not provide the ideal cigar experience. Since quitting cigarettes, I'd been offered cigars by friends and family, and declined on the grounds that I didn't want to trigger the desire for a cigarette.
I have always loved the taste of tobacco. When not smoking cigarettes, when I have a working sense of smell, a unlit pack of Winstons smells like raisins to me. They never taste like that, though.
Pipe smoking is a pain in the ass.
Two weeks ago, I decided to try cigars again. I picked up an Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story, and sat on the back porch reading and puffing. I was careful to not inhale, and it wasn't bad at all. Since then I've tried a half dozen other cigars, trying to find out where my tastes lie. I find that had really missed reading-while-smoking, which was sort of my ground state for most of my life. A properly smoked cigar takes an hour or even two to enjoy, and the satisfaction and flavor persist for many hours more. This is not at all like cigarettes, where I needed one hourly.
These short reviews are more or less in the order I smoked them, and to a great extent they reveal the evolution of my cigar palate rather than any sort of reflection on the quality of the cigars. Cigar sizes are in the standard form, length x diameter in 64ths of an inch.
ACID cigars are made by Drew Estate. The ACID line is clearly marketed to the person who does not respect tradition - the aesthetic of the labels and boxes is pretty much rave influenced, and the cigars themselves are 'infused'. This is a fancy way of saying 'lightly flavored'. The infused flavors vary depending on the exact model of cigar. Some are quite reasonable to mingle with the taste of tobacco (eg, black tea, coffee, chocolate) and some are not. Most of the cigars have a sweetened 'cap' (the part of the wrapper that touches the lips). The overall effect was delicious the first time I tried one, but I soon realized I couldn't taste the tobacco, and that's what I was really after. I want a cigar to taste like a walk-in humidor smells. I had three ACID cigars total, and my notes include stuff like 'this tastes like chewing an incense stick'. I liked some at the time, but thinking about them now, eh, not so much. I will probably not smoke these again.
Cohiba Red Dot - crystal corona 5.5x42 - the most expensive cigar on this list. This comes in a glass test tube sort of thing, and was drier than any of the others. My notes say it was 'pleasant enough', but imply it was not worth the money. HOWEVER, as my tastes are changing, I think I would like to get another and see if I enjoy it more. I find myself thinking about it fondly, the opposite of how I'm remembering those ACIDs. I might prefer the Cohiba XV line, which has darker wrappers and therefore a stronger and/or sweeter flavor.
Another Drew Estate brand is JAVA. I had a Java Maduro which smelled of dark chocolate and espresso. This was nearly ruined by that damn sweetened cap - once I peeled that off, it was a pretty reasonable smoking experience. Might smoke again when I want a candy bar, although I will probably wipe the cap off with a wet paper towel first, if I do.
262 is a very new line, named for February 1962, when the embargo against Cuba started. They are only available at a few retailers. I had one of their Paradigm cigars, in the box-pressed toro shape (6x54). This was a beautiful cigar even before lighting, a rich medium-dark red-brown, and oily. It was packed very tight, and I had to punch a larger hole to smoke through. Turned out I didn't have time to smoke the whole thing, and I regretted putting it out. Would totally smoke again if I got a good deal on it. They have a lighter version, the 262 Ideology.
NUB is a line of cigars made quite short and thick. The theory is that the first inch or two of a longer cigar isn't giving you the optimum flavor that you will get at the halfway mark - so why not skip that part and go straight to the best section? I have tried the 4x60 with the habano (medium dark) wrapper, and the 4x64 torpedo shape with the connecticut (pretty light) wrapper. Both were excellent, easy to smoke, beautifully made. I wished I had a nail to stick through that connecticut one so I could get right down to the end without burning my fingers.
I have a variety pack coming from an internet retailer, so I can keep trying more.