Discovering a passion for cigars

Story by Julie Schillings | Photography by Michelle Adams

Cigars are shared among colleagues to celebrate good fortune like the birth of a child, marriage or a business accomplishment. For many aficionados, the benefit of smoking cigars is taking time to relax whether enjoying it with friends or alone in quiet contemplation.

Sharing his expertise, Certified Tobacconist and Manager of Auburn Cigars, Gary Brown has advice for those new to the art of cigar smoking, "It is important to define your palate," insists Gary. He suggests trying two or three cigars from different regions, "like wine, the country of origin directly impacts the flavor and aroma of a cigar." Identifying the cigar characteristics that are pleasant as well as those that are unfavorable will lead the new smoker on the path to refining their individual taste.

Selecting a premium cigar without guidance is overwhelming. Wichita boasts several cigar shops staffed with trained tobacconists to help along the journey. Educating yourself on the basic terminology and cigar qualities before making your first purchase will make the decision less daunting.

Every cigar has three basic parts: the wrapper, binder & filler.


Leaves wrapped around the outside of the cigar. The wrapper contributes up to 80 of the cigar's overall flavor, so understanding the characteristics of the tobacco used in the wrapper is essential to defining your palate. Wrappers grown in the shade are smoother, have smaller veins and will be slightly oily.

Those grown in the sun will have larger veins and will be darker with a velvety texture. These tend to have a full flavor and a hint of sweetness.


The strong flexible tobacco leaves found between the filler and wrapper used to hold the cigar together.


Comprises the majority of the cigar. These leaves come from a variety of countries.

Understanding the unique characteristics of tobacco-growing regions throughout the world helps cigar smokers select varieties that appeal to their individual tastes.


High quality, medium body with sweet undertones.

Connecticut Valley

Pale wrapper leaves grown under huge tents to protect the delicate leaf. Connecticut Broad Leaf grown in sun is coarser, darker and sweeter.


Typically dark, tasty and fragile. Varieties grown under shade are commonly referred to as TBN producing a rich and flavorful tobacco.


San Andreas Valley famous for sun-grown Sumatra used for Maduro wrappers. Filler tends to be strong, sweet and spicy. Nicaragua: bold, earthy, full-flavored tobacco is said to rival the best from Cuba.


Fragile and thin leaf with light, neutral flavor and a sweet aroma.


Variety of tobacco from sun to shade as well as Cuban-seed grown in Ecuador producing full-bodied and rich characteristic.


Produces quality Cuban-seed and Connecticut-seed tobaccos with full-bodied, strong and spicy flavors.


After fermentation Brazilian tobacco leaves become deep brown with rich smooth and slightly sweet flavors.


Ever since the U.S. embargo in 1963, Cuban-grown tobaccos are not used in cigars sold in the United States.

Gary Brown at Auburn Cigars, a true walking Wikipedia of the cigar industry, recommends that new smokers not purchase a box of cigars until they have tried several dozen varieties, and reminds customers not to judge the quality of a cigar based on price alone. Attending special events hosted by local cigar lounges, including Auburn Cigars and The Humidor, allows budding enthusiasts to try a variety of cigars and learn from experienced smokers.

When asked what is the "best" cigar, Gary concluded that it is one that enables you to relax and enjoy the art of smoking. Cigar smoking should be a deliberate and sensory activity, taking an hour or more to finish a single stick. Like a good wine, you smell, taste, look and feel it. For the dedicated aficionado, cigar smoking is a journey a quest to advance their knowledge and explore the industry. Discovering all of the subtle characteristics, strengths and flavors of premium hand made cigars can literally take a lifetime.

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