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So you like a good cigar?

Are you new to cigars or have you been enjoying a favorite "stick" for many years? Either way, what do you really know about cigars; their history, production, and flavor qualities? We recently had a conversation with John Stancil, cigar proprietor of Park City Cigars in Knoxville about what make cigars and cigar smokers special.

Much like the recent growth in craft beers around the country, cigar popularity has increased over the past few years as well. The trend for the global consumption of cigars is projected to reach 19.9 billion sticks by 2020. The United States represents the largest market worldwide but the Asian Pacific is the fastest growing region.

What is driving this growth? Unlike the stereotypical scene of old men chomping stogies in smoke-filled backrooms, the new generation of cigar aficionados are professionals and lean toward younger men and an increasing number of women. The lifestyle around cigar smoking is very relaxed and social, especially around outdoor events like festivals and football tailgates. Stancil says that “cigar smoking seems to promote cordial conversation, even around topics like religion and politics.” It is a more civilized alternative to cigarettes and the endorsement by the A-list stars makes it very cool and women make up about 20% of the cigar smoking population.

Just like the proliferation of craft beers, cigar brands have increased dramatically in recent decades so there are many choices of flavors and prices. There are three flavor categories of cigars: mild, medium, and full flavored. Stancil suggests that novice smokers should start with offerings in the mild category. "Trust your nose, the smell of a cigar is a pretty clear indication of the smoking flavor and should guide you to a choice you will enjoy." As wine drinkers pair wine with particular dishes, veteran cigar smokers match their smokes with food, beer, or liquor of choice.

What does price tell you about a cigar; for example what is the difference between an $8 stick and a $20 stick? Stancil says that “$7 to $12 is a good price range for a lot of cigars. When you get over $12, the quality and construction consistency should be noticeable; the burn should be even and consistent. Most cigars over $20, you are paying for marketing and over $30, according to legendary Nicaraguan, cigar maker Jose Blanco, ‘you are just showing out!’”

Stancil will be moving his cigar business into Merchants of Beer humidor when it opens in the early spring. The MOB smoking humidor will create an upscale environment for indoor consumption in cold months and the opportunity for locker cabinets and a great mix of brands and product offerings. Stay tuned for updates and invitation to exclusive events by joining the TapMOB!

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