Building up your Stockpile of Cigars
How should you build up your stockpile of cigars? Should you go with samplers or with boxes or buy single sticks? Should you rely on friends or should you get a monthly shipment from some shop online or should you go into your local tobacco shop and personally inspect every stick?
The first thing I can think that you should do is assess how often you actually smoke cigars. If smoking a cigar is an occasional treat you have once every couple of weeks you might be better served going into your local cigar shop and picking out a cigar the day you plan on smoking your cigar.
I suggest this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, since you aren’t smoking cigars too often that means you probably don’t keep up with all the different cigars that much either. So use the experience of someone you trust; either a smoking buddy or the cigar shop’s purveyor. The other reason is that if you don’t smoke cigars too often that will probably mean you don’t pay close enough attention to how you are storing your cigars. Let the professionals do it then.
But what if you smoke regularly or at least three or four times a week? If that is the case then I would suggest getting a humidor and learn how to use it. Now onto your stockpile of cigars.
I have mentioned in the past that you shouldn’t make a big investment (“big investment” is different for everyone) in a cigar you aren’t familiar with. With that being said, I wouldn’t ignore those cigars either because I truly do think that a big part of cigar smoking is finding out as much about different cigars as possible. Or, to put it more bluntly, I value connoisseurship (even though I can’t spell that word without spell check!).
What is true for investing in stocks is true for investing in cigars: diversification is key. That means diversity of size, strength, tobacco, and cigar makers. Using investment lingo for a second time, I think it is perfectly fine to overload some categories. If you really love full bodied cigars from Ashton then you should have a nice portion of your stockpile from that grouping. Maybe something like 15% of your cigars though, not much more.
A good way to start building a stockpile is by buying samplers. There are brand samplers that will feature different lines and sizes from a single cigar maker and this is a good place to start when you are first exploring a new brand. CAO, for example, has a nice brand sampler with a DVD that talks about their company (they are very good marketers and, I think, great cigar makers – even though they just recently got bought out).
There are also samplers for particular strengths, sizes and probably even regions. These are fine as well because you get a little snapshot of what can be had with different types of cigars.
Even though I do like samplers I need to caution you about going this rout. When you get a sample you don’t get to decide much. You don’t pick your size or strength or wrapper or cigar maker. In order to get a deal you are giving up control over what you are buying to a very large extent. Sometimes it is even the case that you aren’t getting any money off by buying the sampler.
Buying single cigars is another way to go. It is probably the most costly option but you get the most flexibility with this method over buying samplers or boxes. This method is going to require a lot more work though. You will have to do some research to get a little understanding of what it is you are actually buying. Whether this is through the web at a site like mine (which is a good place to start!) or by picking the brain of a friend or trusted purveyor you are going to have to invest a little more time here.
The best type of research, though, is through actually smoking and keeping records of the many different kinds of cigars you smoke. Once I started actually taking notes on the cigars I smoked I got a much better understanding of what I liked in a cigar. You don’t have to take copious notes either, I don’t, but just note the different flavors in a cigar and things like draw, burn, appearance/construction, and your overall impression and/or score for each cigar.
Once you figure out which cigars you like you then need to figure out which other cigars are similar and buy those cigars. Then branch out. If you like medium bodied cigars then you can branch out by buying cigars from Arturo Fuente that are medium-full bodied. If you like robustos the most you can branch out by buying coronas (smaller) or pyramids (pyramid-like shape).
Basically, start with what you like and take many small steps and a couple big steps away from that point when you are building up your cigar stockpile. There will always be a situation for every cigar and, if you find out you don’t particularly like a certain cigar, it won’t be that big of a deal because you probably only have a couple of those cigars anyway.
The last thing that needs to be considered is when to buy a box of cigars. If you are someone who can easily afford to spend over $100 and not be upset if those cigars just aren’t to your liking then this would be the quickest way to go when building up a stockpile. For the rest of us we need to be a lot more judicious.
Obviously, you need to know you actually like the cigar. You will also need to take into consideration how many other cigars you can buy and store along with having this box of cigars. If you don’t have at least enough humidor space to store 50+ cigars (at least, more like 100+ even) then you should definitely think twice about buying a box of cigars. A box, which is usually between 20 and 25 cigars, will take up quite a bit of space and unless you are fine with totally ignoring my diversification advice you will be smoking the same cigar frequently for a while without much variety.
Really, the only time you should buy a box of cigars is if you have the extra space, love the cigar and have a large enough budget to make a purchase like this. Otherwise, you are better off buying cigars in smaller quantities.
One last thing before I let you go. Once you start depleting your stockpile you will need to continuously replenish it. If you find out that you really like a certain cigar then buy a couple more of those and a couple that are similar in a couple of different ways (maybe with just a different size or with a different wrapper or a different cigar maker).
This is actually the really exciting part of the whole process because this is when you transition from being a casual cigar smoker to a bon-a-fide cigar smoker. This is the time you actually start thinking about the cigars you are buying instead of just going out there and buying whatever “looks” good. When you reach this point you may not be good enough to write for Cigar Aficionado but you at least will know what you are talking about.
In summary, smoke a lot of cigars. Find out which kinds of cigars you like based on strength, wrapper, cigar maker, size, or some other measure. Make most of your purchases in that category (while not making more than 15% of your stockpile a single type of cigar from one cigar maker) but branch out into other categories as well (you never know where those diamonds are). Then, as you start to get some more space in your humidors fill that space with cigars you think you will like based on your observations of the cigars you have been smoking. It does take some work but I have found that it is worth it.