We have some cigar experts here. Brian's been kicking around the cigar business for years, Ron knows his stuff. As do Kelly and Adam. I've deferred to the cigar knowledge of others for some time. The cigar business changes too quickly for me to keep up. So, while I think I write and speak knowledgeably about pipes and pipe tobaccos, I always feel like I'm on shakier ground with cigars, lest someone guess that I really haven't much idea what I'm talking about when I'm talking cigars. So, upfront on the cigar thing, I don't know much of anything about cigars. In theory, I've been in the cigar business for eleven years in one capacity or another. In reality, I've spent 97.5% of that time thinking about pipes and pipe tobacco. For serious cigar insight, I suggest talking with someone else here. That warning in place, read on if you want a pipe guy's musings on cigars...
That said, I am an occasional cigar smoker. And since even occasional cigar smokers like to pontificate about what they like to smoke, I feel like I'm equally equipped to share some thoughts on this. I tend to go in fits and starts with cigars. The pipe is a near constant companion, but I might go a month without smoking a cigar and then smoke a half dozen in a week and then go another month without smoking one. Lately, I've found myself smoking milder maduros. Not necessarily really mild, but I've always liked maduros, but found many (think Camacho, for example) just a bit too much for both a) my tolerance for that kind of nicotine, and b) my rather unsophisticated cigar palate.
Two have jumped out at me lately. Carlos Torano's Virtuoso line, specifically the Baton. I also like the Encore when I haven't the time for the super-long lancero shape (and, seriously, the Baton is the first lancero that I've ever liked; I'm normally a robusto/toro kind of guy). Anyway, this maduro has a lot going for it: rich and earthy, but not overwhelming, almost creamy at times, and subtly spicy here and there. I tried my first Baton at the IPCPR show almost two years ago and have returned to it over and over since then. They're also fairly reasonable price-wise, making them a solid choice for me, a guy who flinches slightly at the prospect of a ten dollar cigar.
Pricier, but not eliciting too much of a flinch, is Ashton's Aged Maduro No. 20. Soft, creamy, gentle, complex: I simply love this cigar. I also have this distinct impression that I might be the only guy in the country who smokes Ashton Aged Maduros. I think some of my more sophisticated cigar smoking brethren might turn their noses up at a mild, gentle maduro, but I think this is one fine cigar-- one that it too often overlooked next to its more famous brethren like the VSG (which, yes, I also like, but that's sort of like saying that I like chocolate ice cream: does anyone not like Ashton VSGs?).
I'm still very much exploring my way through the humidor, taking recommendations from those guys here who know cigars better than I do. It's a fun process. With pipe tobacco, I pretty much know what I'm getting into; yes, I get excited about new blends, especially ones that I think I'll like, but that narrows the exploratory field for me. With cigars, I feel like an early colonial lost in the wilds of Virginia, treading a path entirely unfamiliar. With pipe tobacco, it's sort of like hanging out in a neighborhood I've known my whole life. It's a totally different experience for me, and not just because the flavors diverge so wildly.