Cigars Come in Variety of Shapes and Colors

Cigar smoking is not for people who hate to make choices. What with the many manufacturers, traditional types and sizes, blends and prices, the cigar aficionado can be faced with an almost dizzying number of choices (which delights the true cigar lover).

The cigar at its most basic is a cylindrical roll consisting of cut tobacco filler formed in a binder leaf and with a wrapper leaf formed spirally around the bunch. Modern cigars are described by their size and shape and are measured by length in inches and by diameter with a measure known as ring size.

Perhaps the two best-known shapes are the corona (about 5 1/2 inches long with a rounded end) and the panatela (about the same length, but thinner). The Lonsdale is a longer and thicker version of the corona. A cheroot is a short, slightly stubby cigar that is sometimes slightly tapered. The ideales is slender and torpedo-shaped. There are other classifications, some particular to certain makers.

Cigars also are classified according to color. The lightest is the claro, followed by the colorado-claro, the colorado, the colorado-maduro and the maduro.

In general, connoisseurs will say that the finest cigar tobaccos do not come from the United States but from more favorable climates in the Dominican Republic, the Canary Islands, Honduras, Jamaica and the Cameroon.

Cuban cigars, still considered to be the best in the world, continue to be contraband in the United States. Hand-rolled cigars are considered superior to those made by machine.

A good cigar can be had for less than a dollar from some makers, but many smokers will spend nearly $10 apiece for their favorites.

Unlike cigarettes, cigars will not stay lit if the smoker does not draw on them fairly frequently. And they do not keep indefinitely. Ideally, they should be stored in a humidifier or humidor, which can be as small as a specially constructed box or as large as a room.

Many of the better cigars are not pre-cut at the mouth end, but must be snipped or cored with small cutters made for the purpose. And the cigar should not be puffed vigorously when lit, but rather drawn gently so that it is lit uniformly around the tip. It will then burn evenly.

Social notes: It is considered good manners to ask permission before lighting a cigar if one is not sure of local policy or the preference of others. And it is considered needlessly showy--like flashing a designer label on clothing--to smoke a cigar without first removing the band.

WHERE TO GET PREMIUM CIGARS

Here are some of the retailers in the county who stock wide varieties of cigars:

AA Tobacco Barn Pipe Shop

24602 Raymond Way, El Toro

(714) 830-7110.

Canyon Smoke Shop

Buena Park Mall

(714) 527-2959.

Hiland's Tobacco Locker

15931 Golden West St., Huntington Beach

(714) 897-1172.

Hiland's Tobacco Locker

Laguna Hills Mall, Laguna Hills

(714) 586-9570.

Ritz-Carlton

33533 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Laguna Niguel

(714) 240-2000.

Smoke Shack

250 Ogle St., Costa Mesa

(714) 650-8463.

Teri Cigar Co.

310 E. 1st St., Santa Ana

(714) 541-9142.

The Tinder Box

the City Shopping Center, Orange

(714) 634-8244.

The Tinder Box

South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa

(714) 540-8262.

The Tinder Box

Orange Mall, Orange

(714) 998-0792

The Tinder Box

Mission Viejo Mall, Mission Viejo

(714) 364-1791.

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