Cigar smoking is an activity that continues to draw in new people, but beginners are often faced with a lot of challenges when it comes to choosing a first cigar. After all, worthwhile cigars are not inexpensive, and a bad choice early can shape your perceptions and dictate how you move forward or if at all.

1. Opt for a Medium-Sized Cigar

Enjoying cigars is an activity you’ll probably want to ease into. A medium-sized cigar can be enjoyed in a single session. You may negatively affect your experience if you have to tend to a stogie for too long or even put it out in order to relight it later.

2. Select a Neutral Cigar

In that same vein, you should opt for a cigar that’s considered more neutral than intense. Understand that this is a matter of perspective. A powerhouse to some is medium body to others. Generally, larger, lighter-colored cigars are less intense and an ideal way to establish your palette. The reason small cigars are usually not recommended to novices is that they tend to be stronger and more complex.

3. Consider Ring Gauge as Well

Connoisseurs generally prefer a large ring gauge since these cigars typically have a better blend, are fuller flavored, heat up more slowly and smoke more smoothly. However, a thicker cigar will take more time to smoke, so you have to find the right balance between length and ring gauge.

4. Don’t Fixate on Price or Overspend

Arguably, the biggest mistake new cigar smokers make is assuming that the bigger the price tag, the better the cigar. This often isn’t the case, however. Many amazing cigars are underappreciated in the market, and an expensive cigar available online or at your local shop may have that high price for a host of reasons that have nothing to do with flavor and quality.

5. Shed Any Preconceptions

Forget what you think you know. Many American novices have an incorrect impression of Cuban cigars because they’re a forbidden fruit. Experiment, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and tell shop owners and other aficionados that you’re new.

6. Squeeze Gently

If you’re buying a cigar in person, it’s acceptable to squeeze the cigar gently. Don’t roll it, which can damage the wrapper. A good cigar should give but not be too soft, and it shouldn’t have lumps.

7. Select a Cigar Based on Context

Will you be enjoying your first cigar on a Sunday afternoon or that evening after eating a big steak dinner? It matters. You’ll want to pair flavors and match your mood. The ideal cigar when drinking wine, for instance, is quite different than the right choice to pair with your favorite stout or IPA.