Saying "Thank You" With a Good Cigar
Since I work with a lot of cigar smokers, there are times when we will trade cigars. It's not only fun, but sometimes it's a great way to get a cigar you haven't tried. The key is finding a cigar of relatively equal value to trade. If you can't find one, sometimes the deal doesn't go down. But occasionally, we also give each other cigars just for the heck of it.
With that stipulation in mind, let's say someone gives you a cigar for no other reason than they consider you a good friend, or they like a cigar so much they want you to try it. So, you take the cigar and offer a nod of thanks.
Should you feel obligated to return the favor? Not necessarily. You must remember this: a gift is just a gift. As the "giftee," you're under no obligation to return the favor. Looking at it from a cigar etiquette standpoint, sharing cigars is part-and-parcel of our cigar smoking culture. Then again, you might say to yourself, "The next time I see Charlie, I'm going to give him a good cigar." From an ethical standpoint, most people would agree that paying it back would be the right thing to do.
The next question is, do you give your BOTL a cigar of equal value or will any decent stick suffice? Chances are the person will say, "Oh, that wasn't necessary," but I've never seen a cigar smoker turn down a free cigar -- even a cheapie.
So, let's say we agree on both giving cigars and returning the favor in kind. As for giving cigars, I'm not talking about a gift or a present; I'm talking about something a little more spontaneous. Speaking for myself, I usually give cigars that I personally enjoy to friends and colleagues because I want to share that experience. It could be anything from a pricey primo to a value-priced bundle cigar. For me it's one of the great joys of smoking cigars.
As for returning the favor, if someone gives me a Padrón 1964 Anniversary or a similar top-shelf cigar, I try to give back something in the same class. Moreover, the "pay it back" cigar doesn't have to be of equal value in terms of price, but in most cases a cigar of equal value in terms of reputation will more than suffice. The person may even like that cigar even more. At the very least, it should be a cigar that you know the person will enjoy based on their personal preference.