Cigars 101: what are the best sticks and does anything rival Cuban?

Giuseppe Ruo, cigar sommelier for The Wellesley Knightsbridge, gives his tips on how to find a great smoke

(Image credit: © Paul Harmer Photography Ltd)

The Week Portfolio caught up with The Wellesley's resident cigar expert, Giuseppe Ruo, to discuss where the best cigars come from, what his favourite sticks are and what, in his view, is the must-have equipment for all cigar enthusiasts.

Are there any cigars you recommend to a first-time smoker?

For beginners, I recommend they try Cohiba Siglo, H. Upman half corona or Montecristo No. 5. The smoker usually knows after two puffs if they like cigar smoking. If they like the sensation, I suggest they try three or four different types of cigars. This will help them acquire the taste and get the feel of the cigar. After a smoker decides they like cigars, they will try various smokes. Some like long smokes and some like short. A long drag would mean to inhale for at least two seconds and a short drag would be to inhale for two seconds or less. It takes time to know what you like, but you won’t know until you try.

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Are Cuban cigars still best?

In my opinion, yes, Cuban cigars are the best. They must be made with a good, high-quality tobacco and stored properly. Tobacco grown in the most western region of the island is best for cigars.

Of course, some people really like non-Cuban cigars - from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua or Indonesia, for example - and you will only learn what you like if you are open to experiencing different brands and origins.

If you could only smoke one cigar for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Personally, I would pick the Cohiba Sublimes 2004 Limited Edition. It has the perfect balance of aroma and strength, predominantly flavoured with cocoa and providing a coffee taste to finish.

What is the difference between a good cigar and a great one?

The difference between a good and a great cigar is often based only on rarity. For example, the Cohiba Behike 56 is made from the world’s finest tobacco and is a very good cigar, however, the Cohiba Grandiosos 50th Anniversary cigar is the most expensive cigar in the world because only 2,500 were made – this is thought to be the greatest ever cigar.

What brands should all cigar smokers try?

I recommend that cigar smokers should try Cohiba cigars at least once in their life. All tobacco in Cohiba cigars comes from the five best plantations in Cuba.

What cigar equipment do you have about you all the time?

To ensure you’re always prepared should you wish to light up, a smoker must carry with them a very sharp cigar cutter, a single laser flame DuPont cigar lighter, a good travel humidor and a cigar holder - this will ensure you have enough cigars to last all day.

The cigar terraces at The Wellesley are currently being refurbished and will reopen in summer.

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