What to do when your cigar's burn goes on tilt.
How's this? You're relaxing with one of your favorite cigars. It tastes great, the aroma is soothing, the cigar's burning well; all's right with the world. A few minutes later, you notice the burn is starting to angle, but you ignore it. Eventually, the burn continues to tilt and suddenly your hour of indulgence is not as gratifying as you hoped, because now you have to "touch-up" your cigar.
Generally speaking, touching-up a cigar means burning-off the section of the cigar that's ceased burning. It's really a pretty simple procedure. You hold the cigar out in front of you, ignite your cigar lighter and, just as you do when lighting a cigar, keep the flame from touching the wrapper. The heat alone will burn off that charry excess.
In many cases, if you've touched-up the cigar and it's now burning well, that's all you need to do. If the cigar is well-made, oftentimes it will correct itself, which is why you should wait a little before taking any action. If the cigar continues to burn "with a twist," you'll have to touch it up again. Overdo it and you may have to touch-up the other side of the cigar. Suffice it to say, sometimes touching-up makes more problems than it solves.
One thing about touching-up that I've noticed over the years is, sometimes the un-burnt section of the cigar is very black, and won't take to the flame very well. Though it looks like charred tobacco, this black section may be a ligero leaf - the darkest and oiliest of filler tobaccos - that has worked its way over to one side during rolling. Although the binder is supposed to keep the cigar burning evenly, there's just too much ligero for the binder to handle, so you are continually touching-up your cigar. Ligero also offers a lot of flavor, which is why the cigar may still taste good despite the crappy burn.
A cigar that requires more than three touch-ups is probably not worth continuing to smoke. If you have to touch-up the cigar in the last several inches, one try should be all that's needed, since you'll probably be letting the cigar go out pretty soon anyway. However, despite all the extra labor on your part, if the cigar tastes too good to let go prematurely, keep on retouching. After all, it's your cigar, your time, and your money. MORE
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. MORE
Why aroma plays an important role in the enjoyment of your cigar.
Ooh-ooh that smell. Yes, that smell that surrounds you. The smell of your cigar, that is. Why does it seem like more attention is paid to a cigar's flavor than the aroma? I love cigars with a great aroma, and I presume many of you would agree. If you get a great aroma AND flavor, more power to you. Yet, no matter how good a cigar smells, if you're around people who don't care for cigars in the first place, they all smell rotten to them; even the best smelling cigar won't change their minds.
What about when you're smoking around your fellow cigar smokers? If one of them says to you, "What the hell are you smoking? It smells like ass," it can take some of the wind out of your sails and you may not enjoy it as much…unless you don't give a rat's ass. But if they say, "Wow, what are you smoking? That cigar smells great!” you're going to enjoy that cigar even more.
Like flavor, aroma is objective. What matters is that YOU enjoy it. Plus, I've never seen a cigar smoker put down their cigar due to criticism of its aroma unless it was REALLY god-awful. If a cigar smells funky but tastes great, odds are, it ain't goin' out, pal.
To their credit, most of the better manufacturers, both majors or boutique labels, insist that their cigars smell as good as they taste. Take wrapper leaves for example: high grade U.S. Connecticut Shade is normally sweet, while Brazilian Oscuro may smell a little heavier. A lot of it has to do with the quality of the wrapper and how well it was cured and aged. That's why a cigar made with poor quality tobaccos will clear a room faster than tear gas.
Great aroma doesn’t just come from the wrapper, but ALL of the tobaccos in the blend. It may come from the binder or filler leaves, because what you smell also plays a big part of what you taste. The best blenders will seek the ideal mix of all the tobaccos they use in their blends to produce a great flavor and a redolent aroma.
If you want to really get down to aroma, take ACID cigars. They're designed to have a robust fragrance. They use herbals and botanicals to achieve this, but that's part of their allure, and an educated nose knows who in the room is smoking the ACID.
The next time you light up a cigar, pay particular attention to the aroma. If it smells great, your experience will be all that much richer. MORE
Wherever you fall on the spectrum of cigar smokers - occasional dabbler, hobbyist, serious enthusiast, or full-out cigar nut, you need a place to store your stogies. In "Cigar Storage Options, from Soup to Nuts," Bryan Glynn reports on the wealth of storage options available to today's cigar smoker, ranging from small makeshift solutions to high-end furniture pieces. Cigar storage is a topic that comes up at different points in your smoking adventure. Not all new smokers realize the need to properly regulate temperature and humidity levels, often unknowingly creating poor smoking experiences and potentially turning them off to the hobby. Even seasoned cigar smokers often need to re-evaluate their solutions due to an ever-increasing collection and lack of space. Serious hobbyists and collectors often treat storage as a large investment in fine furniture. No matter where you may fall in the spectrum at any given moment, the options to properly store your cigars have never been greater! Starting from scratch, the new smoker may select a single or handful of cigars at a local store, expecting to keep them in a drawer at home indefinitely. Of course, not everyone is going to smoke cigars regularly, so spending dozens or hundreds of dollars for the bare essentials doesn't always make sense. In this case, a couple easy and fairly safe solutions come in the form of kitchen storage. A gallon Zip-Lock bag or small Tupperware container make fairly air-tight containers, allowing for a decent environment for up to a handful of smokes. For humidification, look no further than your local shop for a water-pillow, Boveda pack, or even small jar of gel. I would suggest removing most of the gel from the jar if you go that route, but all should provide good enough humidification for a small stash at least short-term - enough to decide if you want to get in to cigars more and buy a humidor. Be sure to keep any of these solutions in a cool and dark place, as close to 70 deg as possible. Desktop humidors come in all shapes, sizes and sources. Most you find, whether online or at your local shop, are made in China - it's just the way it is. Luckily, overall quality these days is very good, so you can shop by features and aesthetics alone. The only rule of thumb is to buy twice as large as you think you need, especially since most product descriptions woefully overestimate the storage capacity. Humidification beads are a very reliable and easy source of humidification to use in these small units, and can be found online through several sources. They typically come in 65% or 70% RH, and will maintain your small humidor effortlessly. A hygrometer is also needed, and can be sourced easily for just a few bucks on eBay or a retailer of your choice. Both digital and analog models are available. Those of us with large collections often outgrow desktop or shelf units, and need a method for storing boxes of cigars. You have the option of moving up to a large cabinet type humidor, although costs go up exponentially at this point, not only because the units cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, but because they need active electronic humidification systems, adding hundreds more to your budget. On the plus side, they do work and display your collection beautifully! For an alternative that is very inexpensive, works 100% as well as the best cabinets, and is infinitely expandable, look into a "coolerdor." This is a plastic thermal cooler which has been cleaned and emptied for use as a sealed container. The same rules for auxiliary equipment apply, but now you are down to dozens of dollars for the unit, rather than thousands. If you do not use air conditioning in your home then your best storage option may be to make a "wineador." This is similar to the coolerdor, but uses a converted wine refrigerator. These units are not like the traditional mini-fridge in that they neither chill to such low temps, nor remove as much moisture. Using a good electronic humidifier in such a unit provides a small, but effective solution for keeping your cigars resting comfortably, even in hotter climates. At the high end of the spectrum comes furniture-grade storage such as coffee tables with glass tops. Such units display hundreds of your favorite cigars, accessories and a few boxes, in drawers and compartments. Many such pieces provide not only great classic room looks, but also exceptional storage possibilities, and make quite the conversation piece. If your collection includes more than a few boxes, or is of sufficient scale to warrant a small room, you might consider a pre-made or custom cabinet. Cabinets can be tailored to fit any configuration, even including built-in electrical supplies, active humidification, and remote controls. The humidification in cabinets must be what's known as active, putting out vapor on demand, to regulate the changes from the obviously large doors opening and closing. Some units will feature smaller compartments able to be accessed separately to avoid changing the air in the entire unit every time you need a cigar. The shelf and wood finish combinations are endless, but be warned that these large top-end options are budget breakers for many! MORE
A primer on the components of premium handrolled cigars and how they "marry" to create each unique blend.
It's hard to believe that premium handmade cigars, which appear to be simply made, are actually very complicated. There are at least 300 steps, not to mention several years of aging that go into the making of each cigar. If you've been following Nick Perdomo's series on making cigars, you've seen how much time, labor and skill it takes to make good cigars on a consistent basis.
Though it takes plenty of skill to properly roll a cigar, the components are limited to essentially three parts: The filler (tripa), the binder (banda), and the wrapper (capa or capote); the latter being the most expensive component. The reason for this is, only so many leaves make it as wrappers, because the leaf must be virtually flawless; no tears, holes or other blemishes.
The Filler: This is the core of the cigar, mainly comprised of Seco, Viso, and Ligero leaves. By the time these tobaccos make it to the rolling table, they have been bale-aged up to three years or more. The master blender decides which filler leaves from each bale are the best combination for a specific blend. Seco leaves come from the plant's mid-lower primings, and are used for their moderate flavor and good burning qualities. Viso leaves come from the middle part of the plant somewhere below the top Ligero leaves and above the Seco leaves. Ligero leaves come from the top of the plant. Since they are exposed to the most sunlight, the leaves are thicker and much stronger in flavor. Volado leaves, from the very bottom of the plant are often included for their mildness, sweetness, and good combustion properties.
The Binder: A dense leaf with excellent burning properties. This leaf, which is up to the discretion of the blender, is rolled around the filler and helps the bunch keep its shape when placed in the molds.
The Wrapper Leaf: The final stage of rolling. The molds are placed on the roller's table where the wrapper leaves are deftly applied for a smooth, seamless finish. Popular wrapper leaves used today are U.S. Shade or Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut, Habano, Corojo, Criollo, Broadleaf, Brazilian Mata Fina or Arapiraca, Mexican San Andres, Indonesian or Ecuadorian-grown Sumatra, and African Cameroon. The wrapper also plays a big role in the overall strength, character and flavor of the cigar.
Put them all together, send the cigars to the aging room for anywhere from six months to several years. If the master blender did his job, the cigar will convey just the right amount of flavor, complexity, and strength he intended. The result is a cigar you will enjoy time and again.MORE
Why resting your cigar between puffs will help your cigars last longer and taste better.
It's one of those things you don't pick-up right away; generally speaking, it takes a little experience to discover that cigars not only last longer but taste better if you let them spend a little more time in the ashtray saddle, and a little less time in your mouth.
Over the years, I've received a number of emails from readers asking me why their cigars were turning bitter, especially early on in the smoke. In some cases, they were active or former cigarette smokers who were used to constantly puffing. Just the other day, I was with a woman—a cigarette smoker—who told me she tried a cigar some years ago and got an instant tummy ache because she inhaled it out of habit. Even those who'd never touched a cigarette were either puffing too hard or too often on their cigars, or holding them too long in their mouths. (I tend to do the latter sometimes when I'm writing.) It may not feel like you're puffing, but just breathing with a cigar between your teeth can cause it to burn hotter and turn prematurely bitter.
You can teach someone "the proper way" to smoke a premium cigar, but unless it's someone close to you, like a relative, a spouse, or a friend, the odds are you won't. So, if you follow this simple rule—letting the cigar rest, either between your fingers or on the saddle of the ashtray,—you'll find that the cigar will be more consistent as it smokes down. The usual wait time is about one to two minutes, depending on the ring size and length of the cigar.
Larger cigars have more tobacco, which can make them very juicy as you smoke, especially if you draw too hard or too often. By giving them some rest time between puffs, the flavors will caramelize better; it's when the cigar gets past the halfway mark that you want to extend that waiting time. The same goes for shorter cigars like Robustos (5" x 50), Coronas (5½" x 42), Rothschilds (4¾" x 49), and Petite Coronas (5" x 38). Since you have less length to work with from the start, you want to make sure the cigar has cooled down enough so that each puff is smooth and doesn't bite your tongue. Plus, the further you "nub" your cigar, the longer you want to let it rest. The key is not to let it rest so long that it goes out on you, since relights can make your cigar turn bitter, too.
Finally, you don't have to sit there holding a stopwatch over your cigar. In time, you'll know how long to let your cigars rest regardless of their size, shape, or length. I've dished-out a lot of cigar advice over the years, but if you want to enjoy more of your cigar, keep this tip handy. MORE
Have you ever had someone come up to you claiming he found an awesome deal on a collectable at a yard sale or eBay? It doesn’t matter if it’s your friend or a complete stranger. Heck, it could have been a blog or a post you saw online about snatching up a super rare collectable item. But then when you actually see or hear about what they bought, you have no other thought in your mind other than “Wow, that’s a massive hunk of junk you just bought.” Of course being the civil and good person that you are, you simply agree with the good find and quickly change the subject to avoid hearing your friend, stranger, or blogger claiming they can take the jobs of the American Pickers. Of course, it eats at you all day why this person claims the item he purchased is considered a collectable. Is it just a collectable in his mind or is it truly worth its weight in gold? For God’s sake, what the hell is considered a collectable nowadays?
Well fear not. I’m going to give you the inside scoop of what is considered a collectable. First we’re going to start off with what is NOT a collectable. I’m really going to level with you here: if something is labeled as a collectable item, it’s most likely not going to be a collectable. Do you really think the “collectable” lanyard keychain that you got at a small B&M by an obscure tobacco company based out of Spokane, Washington is really going to be worth more than its weight in polyester in 20 years? Absolutely not. What about a backpack or utility knife that you get for free with the purchase of a box of cigars? Again, probably going to be worthless. Those backpacks and knives are made at around $.10 a piece, and thousands get circulated. The most valuable these items will ever get is if you use them in a legit survival situation in which case, they become invaluable as you use them to save your life. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I swear I’m trying to help prevent you from being a hoarder.
Now what are the real collectables in the cigar industry? Well, just take a look at the hot items that are selling now from the 1970s and back! Vintage cigar boxes, advertisements, and high end accessories such as humidors, cutters, and lighters. That’s where the real money is. You may not realize it, but the items that you use every day and toss when you deem them insufficient or defective may be worth an arm and a leg in the future. Now I’m not talking about the $5 lighter that you got on sale. No, I’m talking about items like the Xikar Xi3 Mammoth Ivory Cigar Cutter. Of course this is a bit of a no brainer that it will be collectable because there are only a few thousand in the world and it already has a high price tag, but this helps you get the idea a little better. Actually, I would argue anything from the Xi3 line will be a collectable in 20-30 years simply because of their unique designs and precision cutting abilities. Keep them in good shape and you bet your sweet tuckus they’ll be worth a pretty penny more than what you originally paid.
At the end of the day, a collectable item is usually something that isn’t advertised as collectable. That’s just a front to lure you into buying a box of cigars or 5 pack to get a cheap freebie. Instead, the items you use every day like a lighter or a cutter will most likely hold a lot more value in the future and become a collectable. Even old advertisements will be worth something someday considering advertisements are short run prints for a specific event rather than a mass produced cheap freebie. So keep on the lookout for any cigar advertising or artistic/short run accessories. They may just be worth a fortune in the future.MORE
It’s always great diving into your humidor when you want to reach in for a flavorful and relaxing cigar. Something about opening the lid and getting that big whiff of cigars and cedar almost instantaneously soothes you for the inevitable cigar that is to come. Each time we open the humidor we also take a look at the hygrometer to make sure everything is on point, and most of the time, it’s perfect each time you open the lid. It’s no wonder that it is always on point however. After all, your humidor is lined with Spanish cedar, and if it’s not, it certainly should be. Due to its outstanding qualities, Spanish cedar is the naturally superior wood to use in a humidor.
So why Spanish cedar? It almost seems that any wood will do. Just keep the cigars safe and humid and we’re good to go, right? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Let’s take oak for example. Oak is an extremely dense and hard wood. Not surprisingly, oak isn’t porous at all so it would never absorb humidity. Spanish cedar on the other hand is perfect for absorbing and releasing humidity as needed naturally. This comes in handy when seasoning a humidor since many beginners most likely over season their humidors. By this, I simply mean they put too much water in the humidor. It’s bound to happen, especially if we use a clean rag and wipe down the inside once or twice. That’s a lot of water! But fear not - Spanish cedar’s porous quality is perfect for absorbing all that extra water and releasing it when the humidity drops in your humidor so time between seasonings is greatly extended. This aids in aging cigars as well by creating a naturally stable environment inside your humidor.
Spanish cedar is also a perfect complement to the cigars you are storing in your humidor. If you’ve ever wondered why most Arturo Fuente cigars and many other cigar companies wrapp their cigars in a thin cedar tube, the answer is simply - to add flavor and to enhance the aroma of the cigar. One of the tastes that is used to describe a cigar naturally is “woody.” Spanish cedar greatly enhances any of these woody notes or even brings out this new element in a cigar that does not naturally possess this flavor, adding an extra layer of complexity.
There are many reasons why Spanish cedar is the primary wood you should use for your humidor. From retaining humidity to adding flavor and aroma to your smoke, it has been tested time and time again as the best wood to use. Of course, while other woods such as American red cedar and Mahogany are not bad alternatives, they never really fill the void left by the absence of Spanish cedar. Most other woods simply do not hold their humidity and they can give a foul taste or aroma to your cigars. This can ultimately ruin your smoking experience. So next time you’re searching for a humidor, make sure it’s lined with Spanish cedar.MORE
We all dream of the perfect cigar. You know what I mean – the cigar that has a perfect balance of power and flavor, plump with a little bit of give. When you cut it, the blade of your cutter glides through like a hot knife through butter and when you light it, the ember glows with an even orange glow and has a perfect draw. Uh, it’s what we all want every time we pick a cigar. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes when you cut the cigar, chips of the cap start splitting off or the cap cracks entirely causing the cigar to start unraveling or getting bits of tobacco in your mouth while you smoke. Maybe when you light the cigar it constantly goes out on you or burns unevenly at times, either tunneling or the wrapper burns faster than the filler. This completely throws off the flavor of the cigar and just leaves you frustrated.
This may be a matter of under or over-humidifying your cigars! What a travesty! Well, fear not because both are very easy fixes. Let’s go over under-humidified cigars first. This is usually characterized when your cigar feels hard to the touch and when you cut the cap, it breaks or splits. Under-humidification can also lead to your cigar burning faster than normal leading to a charred taste. This usually happens when you buy new cigars at a B&M with poor humidification or when you have cigars shipped to you and it takes over a week to the cigars to reach you. Anytime you experience this, just let your cigars rest in your humidor! 2 weeks in your humidor can be the difference between frustration and the cigar of your dreams. So next time you order cigars, make sure you have a reserve in your humidor to smoke while you wait for your new ones to come to perfect smoking conditions.
Over-humidified cigars are a different story altogether though. These are more frustrating than under-humidified cigars in my opinion for the unbearable lighting and burn issues. Again, the fix is simple, but it can take a while for your cigars to balance out. You can open your humidor until some of the humidity in the humidor is released, but do this is small, hour long increments as to not expel all of the humidity. By dropping the humidity in your humidor, it forces humidity in the cigars to be released which will re-balance the humidity. You can also add cedar blocks or strips to absorb some of the humidity in your humidor. This is a lot safer than opening your humidor since cedar is known to absorb and release humidity naturally and incrementally.
It will take some playing with to get your humidor and your cigars to the perfect balance, so while you wait to find the happy medium, simply take the cigar you want to smoke that day and let it sit out for a few hours before you smoke out in the open in a dry area so the humidity drops in the cigar. This not only adds more anticipation for the cigar, but it should correct any issues you may experience with an over-humidified cigar. One last tip: Make sure you do not leave a handful of cigars in large humidors. The less cigars that are in your humidor means more humidity is trying to get into those cigars which will over-humidify them. Always keep your humidor stocked close to the maximum threshold to ensure stable humidity.
Over and under-humidified cigars can be a large nuisance to any cigar smoker and can lead to a lot of headaches and frustration. The best thing you can do in order to avoid these problems is to simply take preventative measures. Make sure you always stay near the threshold of what your humidor can hold. This way the humidity is perfectly balanced. Adding too many cigars can lead to dry cigars and having less than 30% maximum capacity can lead to over-humidification. If you follow these simple steps, you’ll have a perfect smoke every time.MORE
Cigar sizes are pretty simple. 50 ring gauge is bigger than 40, 60 is bigger than 50. Similarly, 5 inches is bigger than 4 inches, and 6 inches is bigger than 5. Anyone on earth could have told you that or at least figured that little nugget of wisdom out all on his lonesome. But cigar size is a lot more important than you might imagine. Sure, we all have our favorite sizes. Mine is anywhere between Robusto and Toro sized cigars. It has the perfect time of burn for me and has a better mouth feel than most other cigars. This allows me to become relaxed and at peace while typing away at these fine articles I write every day. But to be quite honest, Robusto and Toro sized cigars are not the ONLY size I go to for every cigar. With each cigar comes different blends and flavors that can be amplified or reduced based on what size you get. Not only that, but the ring gauge can also alter the flavor of the smoke as well, thus completely changing your cigar smoking experience.
Now you may not think it’s that big of a deal going from a Corona to a Robusto or a Toro to a Gordo. In fact, the only thing that might change for you is the burn time in your opinion, but I’m about to shatter your world. Ring size has a lot to do with the flavor of your cigar. Somewhere along your journey to becoming a regular cigar smoker, someone probably told you some ridiculous claim that 60 percent of the flavor of your cigar comes from the wrapper alone while 40 percent comes from the filler and binder. Well, to quote our dear Vice President, “that’s a load of Malarkey.” Flavor is determined by blend and the size of the cigar. I wrote an article about a year ago titled “Is Bigger Better,” which touches upon my theory here. When you get a massive ring gauge cigar, what are you paying for? A ton of filler and binder with very little wrapper. Similarly, when you buy a Corona sized cigar, you get very little filler and binder with a lot of wrapper by proportion.
So what does this mean in terms of flavor? In the old days in Cuba, cigars were blended in the Corona size. You were taking most of your flavor from the wrapper and diminishing the flavor profile of the filler and binder, making wrapper king of all tobaccos. Nowadays, most cigars are blended in the Robusto and Toro sizes to allow for a blend that takes flavors from all three sections. Going to a massive ring size will only leave you with more flavors from the binder and filler whereas going smaller will give you more wrapper flavor. This is why I’m a big fan of our Test Flight samplers. It gives the customer a few different sizes to sample to find the best one for him. That is, in fact, why we make them. We realize the differences in flavor from shape to shape. Your job is to simply pick the size you like best!
Never think all cigars sizes are the same. You’re never going to get the same flavor out of a Corona that you would from a Torpedo or Gordo. In fact, they aren’t supposed to have the same flavor profiles by design. Each size is supposed to dissect the blend in interesting and new ways so you can experience each different section of tobacco differently from one cigar size to the next. The smoker who is more heavily concentrated on what wrapper type they receive should be more open to trying out Corona sized cigars since you will get the most wrapper flavor out of it. Smokers who like bigger cigars will want to look for quality fillers and binders with a lot of flavor so they can enjoy a blast of flavor from those sections while smoking and to diminish the flavor effect the wrapper might have. In any case, the most important thing to do is find the size that suits you, so make sure you try every size you can and find your go-to!MORE
The almighty cigar tube! Oh how we underestimate ye. Whether made from skillfully crafted aluminum or a thinly patched together tube from a recently purchased “en tubo” cigar now used to transport your cigars, you are a thing of sheer genius. It doesn’t matter if it has a few dents in it. After all, that’s its job, right? It’s supposed to take a beating beyond belief while keeping your cigar safe and fresh. Yet today, a lot of people think of the cigar tube as something unimportant or vital. In fact, many accessories are starting to fall by the wayside such as the cigar poker, the V-cutter, and the almighty cigar tube. Sure, go ahead and sully the cigar poker if you wish. After all, it’s hardly used anyway even though it can be wildly useful; and the V-cutter is another hardly used item though it is more practical than a straight cut in certain situations. But never underestimate the benefit you can gain just from the cigar tube.
Okay, so it may seem I’m taking my love affair for the cigar tube a little too far, but in all fairness, it has more uses than you actually think. Many come with hidden tricks and design details to make your smoking experience on the run so much more enjoyable. But for those of us who don’t have the fanciest of cigar tubes, I’m going to break down exactly why these devices are so useful, starting of course with the simple benefit of protecting your cigar. Nothing is better for keeping your cigar safe than the perfect tube. The only thing you have to worry about is picking the right tube for your cigar. Most tubes can only fit up to a Toro sized cigar with a ring size no bigger than 54, so if you’re a fan of Churchills, make sure you find a tube that can fit that size.
Okay, so I know you probably got bored reading the last paragraph and to be honest, I got bored writing it, but for the sake of covering every angle of the cigar tube, I had to include it. Here’s a tip though that I bet you didn’t think of when it comes to keeping a cigar tube around for the home: use it to acclimate your cigars to an environment. As a rule of thumb, when taking a cigar from your room-temperature humidor to a hotter or colder environment, always make sure you rest your cigar in the environment you are going to smoke in. This way the cigar adjusts accordingly so it does not cause burn issues or cracking from rapid expansion and contraction.
So now you’re asking me what a cigar tube has to do with this process. Stop being impatient! A reader named TJ brought to light a way in which he uses his cigar tube in hot/humid areas such as the South-East and South West to help acclimate his cigars. He would always let the cigars rest, but humidity always took a death grip to his cigars which would just cause burn issues. Being the genius he is, he put his cigar in his cigar tube and left it outside where he was going to smoke. The cigar tube effectively allowed the cigar to adjust to the outside temperatures, but kept all the humidity out. When he went to light his cigar, it burned straight as a razor and retained a humidity level as if it was just taken out of the humidor. TJ, thank you for bringing this tip to our attention as this is an awesome way to use an accessory in an unconventional way to benefit everyone’s enjoyment of cigars.
You never know what accessories you can “hack” to help a smoker enjoy his cigar experience. Cigar tubes are no different. Many see the cigar tube as just something to carry cigars in, but with a little ingenuity and a little know-how, you can use your cigar tube in different ways to improve the quality of your smoke. MORE
Just as water seeks its own level, so do cigar smokers. We try all kinds of different cigar brands, strengths, sizes and shapes; cutters, lighters, humidifiers, etc., and eventually find our comfort zone.
As far as lighters are concerned, most cigar smokers prefer the torch, or "jet" flame variety. Torch lighters can vary from one jet to as many as five jets. For the purposes of this post, we'll concentrate on multi-jet lighters.
I was at an outdoor party recently, and one of the guests, who is also a good friend, saw me lighting a 50+ ring cigar with a single flame torch lighter. He looked at me and said, "I'm surprised to see you using a single flame torch on that cigar."
"Why?" I asked.
"I figured with all your experience, you'd be using a multi-jet lighter."
In a way, he was right. A double or triple jet would have been better, but it just so happens, the only lighter I had on me was the backup I keep in my car.
So, is there a "when" and a "why" when it comes to using different jet-flame lighters? Perhaps, so let's start with the when:
The double jet torch is perhaps the most versatile lighter since it provides plenty of flame to easily light cigars ranging from a 32 to a 50-ring. It can also be effective on larger ring cigars, but once you get into the 54 to 60-ring cigars a triple jet may be more in order.
Coincidentally, the past year saw several manufacturers release cigars that go far beyond a 60 ring. Take ,for example, the INCH by E.P. Carrillo "No.64"– literally one inch in diameter; the Jaime Garcia Reserva Especiale "Gordo" at 66, the La Floridita LE "Gordo" at 68, or the 601 La Bomba "F-Bomb" at a colossal 70 ring, and even more 70's from other brands are on the way!
For cigars in the 60 to 64 ring sizes, a four jet torch is ideal, but beyond that you may want to go with a five jet lighter, though many of them are of the tabletop variety.
Here's the why. The more surface area the foot of the cigar has, the more flame you need to toast and light it evenly. Well, you don't really need it; it can be done with a single torch, but it will take a lot longer to toast, and you may need to hit the foot several more times to get it fully lit, which can be frustrating.
Suffice it to say, there are no set rules for what lighter to use on a given cigar. However, just as it helps to have a cigar for different occasions, it may help to have a lighter for different cigars.MORE
WAIT! DON’T FLIP PAST THIS ARTICLE! I swear to you, I’m not going to tell you to snip, light, and puff until you burn your lips off. Come on now, do you really think an Advisor of my caliber would give you an article that bland and obvious? Okay, so don’t answer that. I’m still a newer writer and need to build up as much confidence as I can before the masses tear me apart. Anyway, like I said, I’m not going to simply tell you how to puff, but I’m going to let you in on how to smoke like a pro and correct burn issues that may occur and make sure your burn is straight as a line segment from point A to point B (and my Geometry teacher said I wasn’t paying attention) before they even start. You may not realize it, but smoking a cigar is a lot harder than it seems.
Now we do a lot of smoking over here at Cigar Advisor. We have all those cigar review videos over on YouTube (Oh, you haven’t seen them? Go to www.youtube.com/cigaradvisormagazine and check it out) which is preceded by smoking a ton of cigars to write a proper review and express our opinions on video. You may be thinking “This kid’s taste buds must be shot from all that smoking and heat hitting his tongue!” You would be correct in saying that if I didn’t know how to smoke properly, and by that I mean timing my cigar. A lot of veterans that come into the shop here like to puff away while solving all of the world’s problems, and I see them run through Toros and Robustos in a half hour sometimes. It doesn’t surprise me that they drink the heaviest of beers, smoke the heaviest of cigars, and salt the hell out of their food- it’s because they’re burning the shit out of their taste buds!
When smoking a cigar, pacing is key to enjoying all of the flavors a cigar is meant to have. This means not puffing eight times on a cigar in a row to try and get a room filling cloud. Cigars are supposed to be relaxing, right? So why plow through one when they’re meant to be smoked slowly. Instead of puffing on your cigar every 10 seconds, put it down for a minute or so. At least give it a few seconds so the ember cools down to slowly burn the next section of the cigar. This way it won’t prematurely singe any tobacco which will cause an ashy, bitter taste when smoking. It also allows the cigar to cool down enough so when you reach the end of the cigar, heat doesn’t assault your tongue. Also, make sure you rotate the cigar as you smoke it. Smoking with the same side up will cause the bottom to burn faster than the top. By rotating it, heat is more evenly distributed throughout the surface area of the cigar, and it will create a perfect burn which can again improve flavor.
So yes, the way you smoke a cigar makes a difference. It can make a huge difference. It can be the difference between an even burning, great tasting cigar or a lopsided, foul tasting, tongue burning piece of junk. Cigars are meant to be relaxing, so take your time with it. No one who is smoking a cigar is in a race against time unless you lit up a robusto when you have a business meeting in 20 minutes, and if you do that, you’re kind of a dolt. Make sure you have time to smoke your cigar and puff for flavor, not speed. You took cigars up as a hobby for a reason. To power through a cigar improperly is simply a waste of money and a discredit to the hobby that you once loved. For shame.MORE
Each time we smoke a new cigar, we try to experience the flavors, spices, strength, and a whole plethora of different qualities and nuances during our smoke, so we can remember it to be good or awful. This is our own personal review that we create for each cigar, and a lot of bloggers and people like me have made careers writing about cigars and doing cigar reviews. Now, if you’re a cigar blogger or want to get in on the craze of being one, there are a few things you need to do to make sure your cigar review is top notch. There are a lot of reviews out there that are terrible, and we want to put a stop to that right now.
First things first, never just jump right into a review. If there is no background information, your reader is going to simply close out your page and move on. What’s the blend information, country of origin, or the company history? Some smokers won’t even dream of smoking a cigar with a particular wrapper or that uses tobacco from a specific country. You have to give the reader an absolute education on the cigar in general and the reason the cigar was created. It adds intrigue to the cigar and gives the smoking experience meaning. Of course some cigar companies roll cigars just for the hell of it, but a special cigar that was created with a specific intent should have its story told.
Second, make sure you include pictures of your cigar. This is always important when posting a non-bias review of a cigar. Any person can say the ash quality was good or bad or the burn quality was crappy, but show exactly what you mean by posting images throughout your smoke. There are new cigar smokers jumping into the industry every day that may not know what tunneling or canoeing means. Give them a visual education on the terms, so they are on the same page as an experienced cigar smoker.
Lastly, don’t overcomplicate your review by trying to sound like a stuck up aficionado. Everyone is going to have a different palate than you, but there will be a dominant flavor in every cigar that will be consistent from person to person. Do not make the mistake of putting in the subtle flavors that you may taste that someone else may not. It disconnects the reader from your review, especially if the reader has smoked the cigar previously. Nobody wants to read how you taste cool cucumber or French vanilla coffee. Instead, talk about the dominant flavors because it is consistent and relatable with everyone.
Every cigar smoker is at least a little interested of what people think of their favorite cigars or any new cigar hitting the market, to determine if they want to buy them or not. It is up to the reviewer to make the review relatable to the reader in a way that is clear, concise, and pertinent. If you make your review too in-depth or too lacking, you are bound to turn readers away. But as long as you keep writing and follow our tips, you’ll be a proper reviewer in no time at all. MORE
File under "What would Bear Grylls do?" You're away from home, you brought some of your favorite cigars to enjoy, but you forgot your cutter and you're nowhere near a cigar store. Had you found yourself minus a lighter or matches, at least you could make a fire, but being able to cut a cigar in the "traditional" way is out of the question. No problem. There are several ways to clip your cigar when you're stranded without a cutter.
If you usually carry a knife with you, you're in luck. Simply hold the head of the cigar firmly in one hand, then using the blade of your knife, place it about 1/16th of an inch from the top of the cap. Now, turn the cigar slowly (in the direction of the wrapper) and the cap should start to pop-off about 3/4 of the way around. If the knife is really sharp you can try placing the cigar on a hard flat surface and slice the cap off as you would a slice of bread. Otherwise, you risk cracking the head of the cigar. In lieu of a knife, if you happen to have a single edged razor blade or a box cutter handy, either will work just as well.
If you can find a sharp, pointed tool or a small screw, simply "punch" the head of the cigar. If you're in a wooded area, you can use a small but firm twig, but use a rock to sharpen the end first. If you're fishing, try a fishhook. The barb will help open the end a little further for a better draw when you pull out the hook. If you're in an area where there are bushes with long thorns, carefully break one off and you've got a piercer provided by Mother Nature. If you're on the beach, try using a sliver of broken shell, which should be easy enough to find.
Even with all the cigar cutting tools available, a lot of cigar smokers use their teeth to "clip" their cigars. Those who do this regularly have usually developed a fool-proof method over time. Take the head of the cigar and place the only the cap section between your four front teeth, as you would with a cutter. (You don't want to bite-off too much or the cigar could unravel.) Now, slowly, bring your front teeth together. This will help break through the cap. Just as your teeth meet…SNIP! It may look a little sloppy, but it works in a pinch.
Do you have your own "in a pinch" cigar cutting solution? If so, please share it! MORE
Among the things that make smoking cigars so enjoyable are the innumerable brand choices. I'd even venture that there are more premium cigars to choose from than there are restaurants in New York City. It's almost impossible to know where to begin. The thing is, once you start it's pretty hard to stop. Why? Because every year new cigars enter the market, and ardent cigar smokers are always looking for that next great cigar.
Let's say you were to smoke all of the major brands manufactured by General Cigar and Altadis U.S.A. alone, including all of their line extensions; the list would be nothing short of overwhelming. Add to that such other bestselling brands as Arturo Fuente, Padrón, Rocky Patel, Oliva, Perdomo, Carlos Toraño, Drew Estate, Alec Bradley, Gran Habano, Tatuaje, Pinar Del Rio, et al., with all of their line extensions, and the challenge becomes insurmountable.
I think it's fair to say that no matter how many different brands cigar lovers smoke over the years, many of them tend to drift toward a particular brand (or brands) that they smoke more than others.
So what am I driving at? As usual, what inspired me to propose the title of this post was something I noticed about my own habit. I was lighting up a cigar the other day and suddenly realized that I had been smoking a lot of cigars from a certain Nicaraguan manufacturer. For several weeks I was smoking at least one of this factory's line extensions every day. Admittedly, this was due in part to having purchased a variety sampler from this particular manufacturer, but I was also mixing in cigars from the brand that were not in the pack.
That's when I began to wonder about the possibility of smoking ONLY ONE BRAND until I had exhausted every line extension in their stable. Then, I would move on to another brand, and another, etc. Note that many brands have as many as a dozen or more line extensions, so variety wouldn't be an issue. The grim reality is, besides spending a lot of extra money on cigars, I probably wouldn't live long enough to get through all of them.
And now we come to the BIG question: Have you ever gone on a one brand rampage? Either you were so impressed with a particular brand, you just had to smoke every blend; or as described above, you were looking for an intriguing challenge. Maybe you have no desire at all, but something tells me I'm going to be very surprised by the comments.MORE
All right… you know you do it… come on, all guys do it and there’s no need to feel the guilt and dirty shame. All cigar smokers reach for the lesser quality cigars during those times when an expensive premium smoke just doesn’t make sense. The Yard Gar is an essential part of a cigar lover’s arsenal, satisfying the call for tobacco when garage cleaning, car washing, and grass mowing is your call of duty. Join Cigar Advisor Editor at Large, Tommy Zman as he cracks open that bundle of sticks when no one else is looking. Come on, guys, admit it – you don’t always smoke the premium hand rolled gems that people see you with in public. Sure, you enjoy your CAO and Romeo, and your coveted Padron Anniversarios. Your full bodied muscles flex, when you light an Opus X. CYB and Rocky P., and Christian’s brand new C.L.E. When you herf you’ll always bring, from 48 to 60 ring. But when you’re working really hard, doing man work in the yard, a primo stick’s not up to par, it’s time to puff a lesser gar. Okay, sorry I went all Dr. Seuss on you right there, sometimes the arteest in me comes out to play. But I really wanted to bring up a subject that we premium cigar lovers only talk about on deserted street corners and back alleys. We like to think of ourselves as connoisseurs of the lavish leaf, but face it guys, there are times in our lives when Criollo, Corojo, and ten year aged maduro just won’t do. There are those moments you need a smoke, but there just isn’t sound reason to cut and light one of those coveted sticks that you break out during the big herf with all your cigar buddies looking on. Yes, there are those times you need to turn to a cheaper stick of lesser quality, even though you don’t like to admit this kind of thing in finer tobacco smoking circles. Enter… the Yard Gar.
Oh, come, don’t turn that nose up at me, ya snooty bastid! You know you do it… ALL guys do it and there’s no need to feel dirty and ashamed. While I realize that your admittance can bring about that “not so fresh” feeling - please know that I’m here to assure you that it’s a natural human function and you’re not alone. Remember that kind of skanky chick you dated in secret, years back? She wasn’t cultured, fancy or pretty, and while you didn’t parade her around for all your friends to see, she put out and gave you what you needed. When none of your cronies could be found, you called on her and she was right there always ready to deliver. While my analogy smacks of crude and chauvinistic overtones, I think you get my point. The Yard Gar has its purpose for delivering pleasure, and enjoying its one dimensional lack of body doesn’t make you some kind of low-brow tobacco sucking whoremonger. While it’s exciting and fun to pick out boxes of Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Dominican premium aged goodness, I’ll always grab that bundle of twenty-five hand-rolled “value sticks” for $25 dollars to complete my monthly cigar shopping. The manufacturers try to give them fancy names like El Smokeeto, La Cigarita, or Don Honduran, mainly because it sounds better than Don Chumpstick. And, yeah, it’s a little embarrassing, kind of like picking up a box of tampons for your mom, but the dude behind the counter understands. “Got some yard work to do this weekend, Tommy?” the man behind at the register asks, as I just nod my lowered head, hand him my credit card and say something inane like, “How ‘bout those Mets, huh?”
Hey now, let’s realize something here… yard work isn’t the only time to purchase those lesser value sticks. As you are well aware, there is a notorious creature out there who roams around at barbecues, weddings, and those weekly poker games, affectionately known as the moocher. Moochers generally don’t smoke the finer cigars in life and will be more than glad to accept anything you have to offer. While your traveldor is filled with oily treasures of greater value, that bargain-basement bundle of joy you bring will please the needs of the scoundrels who will never bring a stash of their own. While you sure as hell don’t want to relinquish your good stuff to those who have little appreciation, the pan handling mooch-masters are as happy as a pig dipped in shit to “cop a freebie”, as they say. Yeah, they’ll devour your sticks in minutes flat, but that’s the sacrifice you’ll need to make in order to save your prized puros from the tobacco chomping zombies, or as I like to refer to them as “cheap fucks”. If you’re like me where you love to cook on the grill and enjoy a quick smoke, the Yard Gar is often the go-to choice. When you’re only cooking burgers, dogs, or chicken wings, you’ve got fifteen, maybe twenty minutes tops, and that premium stick you paid good sheckles for can’t be wasted. Smoking a cigar while hovering over some searing mammal flesh is indeed a rite of passage for a man, and a quick dip into the cellophane bundle is all that you need to suffice. Finally, there’s nothing I love more than firing up a big old fattie while cruising around the property on my manly riding mower. The whole experience puts me in a kind of meditative state as I become one with Mother Nature’s cha-cha. I always keep on hand a bundle of 7 x 54 medium bodied El Stankos just for this weekly endeavor, knowing that between the turns and the hills, I’ll be relighting twenty times as the wrapper unfurls leaving me with just binder and filler to enjoy. So listen up, my good bruthas of the leaf, don’t act like such snobby bastids when it comes to the cheaper hand rolled cigars made with lesser grade tobacco. These sticks serve a purpose that is way more noble than given credit for. So put away the guilt and the shame because it’s time you fessed-up and felt cleansed. Like the pawns on a chess set, the Yard Gar is sacrificed with good intention and a means to a fiery end. - Tommy Zman MORE
Cuba is the Mecca of all tobacco and the birthplace of the modern cigar. Every cigar smoker dreams about getting his or her hands on a great Cuban cigar to savor on a special day such as a wedding, a day they got promoted, or even the day they retire. Every cigar we smoke comes from the traditions Cuba has put in place to create the ultimate form of relaxation, giving us cause to honor the time honored traditions Cuba has bestowed upon the industry.
But in a nation where an embargo blocks modern day Cuban cigars to America, the market is now flooded with so many fakes, it is almost impossible to get your hands on an actual Cuban. Let’s face the facts: over 95% of the Cuban cigars that are smuggled into America each year are fakes. In Canada over 85% are fakes, whether you buy from a store in the Great White North or your friend that “knows a guy.” Chances are, you’re smoking a fake if it has a modern band.
So after years of having the same dream but fearing that once I light up a SWAT team will bust through my windows and take me down, or I’ll get a hefty fine, I finally achieved my goal today. I really couldn’t care less if the NSA gets a hold of my admission because the cigar that I am smoking is a pre-embargo Cuban cigar. 100% legal in America and covered in plum from being stored in proper conditions for 50+ years. It was made as a double claro, the traditional and most popular way to roll a cigar in Havana with a small pigtail triple cap, also keeping with tradition.
The double claro had faded to an earthy greenish-brown instead of vibrant green that comes with modern day claros, showing the true age of the cigar. When I removed the cigar from the cellophane, it literally sparkled like it had metallic paint on it, making it look twice as appealing. It cut very easily and was very easy to light up. The first few draws were a little questionable and tasted very grassy, but that was to be expected from a claro, but then it transformed into a mild and well flavored cigar. Every draw was creamy and sweet which put my mind at ease for smoking something more than twice my age.
At the end of the day, this cigar was nothing short of great. I guess this piece really is nothing more than something for you to live vicariously through me while I enjoy a legal Cuban cigar. But if I’m being honest, this is more to give you a little insight on what a Cuban cigar was. Every time we smoke a cigar, we should always remember where the cigar was absolutely perfected and pay tribute to the region where blending and construction became vital in creating the perfect accompaniment to any relaxing evening. So next time you pick up a cigar and light up, remember where the modern cigar came from. I know every time I smoke a cigar I’ll remember the one I just smoked, made half a century ago, and think back to how much Cuba has done to make the cigar what it is today.MORE
With the amount of history and passion involved in the creation of handmade cigars, it's no wonder they have transformed from "habit" to "hobby." Still, in the end, cigars are as complicated as you want to make them. So if you have no interest in deepening your knowledge, feel free to navigate elsewhere. If, however, you wish to go deeper down the rabbit hole, then by all means, please continue.
There is so much to know about cigars that it's hard to know where to begin, but a good frame of reference is wine:
• Like wine grapes, cigar tobacco is the product of seeds and "terroir," or the local soil and weather conditions • Like many wines, different outcomes are achieved by mixing various components in various proportions • Both cigars and wine are handmade, natural agricultural products
Cigar tobacco is an art unto itself. Tobacco seeds are germinated in a greenhouse before the seedlings are planted out in the fields. Once ready for harvest, each "level" of leaves from the tobacco plants (called primings) is harvested in its own time. The varying levels of the tobacco plant correspond to the tobacco's strength and aroma, with the uppermost leaves being the strongest. From top to bottom, the primings are Ligero, Viso, Seco, and Volado (sand leaves, not generally used).
Once harvested, the tobacco is cured (dried) in a curing barn to achieve the proper moisture content, and then fermented to convert the sugars, rid them of ammoniacs, and make them palatable. After fermentation, they may be aged additionally. The term "maduro," literally "mature," refers to various processes of heat and pressure which cause the tobacco to become even darker and sweeter. While often applied to color, it ought to be applied only to tobacco which has been processed using these techniques. As you will soon discover, cigar makers have no problems thoroughly confusing cigar smokers by using terms interchangeably.
Cigar tobacco (especially wrapper tobacco) is variously identified by its seed type, origin (nation, city, valley, etc), whether shade- or sun-grown, color, and fermentation. For example: • Ecuadorian Connecticut means Connecticut seed grown in Ecuador. • Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade means the same, but specifies that the tobacco was grown under shade tents. • Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro means Broadleaf tobacco seed grown in the Connecticut River Valley which was subjected to extended heat, pressure, and other processes to achieve a darker color and greater concentration of sugars, as explained above.
In the next installment, we'll explore some of the more esoteric terms used to define cigars.MORE
Much to the chagrin of cigar newbies everywhere, even experienced cigar smokers can be imprecise with cigar terms. With that said, I'm going to define and expound upon three common cigar storage modalities: dry boxing, resting, and aging.
By now you may be familiar with the old "70/70 rule," which some people even quote as "72/72." It is supposed to represent the optimum environment for cigars in degrees Fahrenheit and ambient Rh (relative humidity) expressed as a percentage. This rule figures heavily into cigar storage, whether short- or long-term, as well as making cigar purchases.
Let's start with the most common of the three practices, "resting." This is essentially the practice of not smoking a cigar ROTT, i.e. right-off-the-truck, opting instead to let the cigars "rest" in your humidor for a week or more.
Resting is a good idea when smoking cigars that have been recently delivered from an online cigar retailer. Many such retailers will store their cigars at the highest acceptable humidity, so as to maintain the cigars' freshness during transit. Some brick-and-mortar retail tobacconists may also store their cigars at a similarly high humidity, because it is much easier to let a cigar "dry out," so to speak, than to "re-humidify" it.
By allowing a cigar's moisture content to even out, you are preventing the burn issues associated with over- or uneven-humidification.
Dry Boxing, on the other hand, is the practice of shifting one or more cigars from regular storage to drier storage, usually an empty cigar box that's outside of the humidor. This practice is particularly useful if you store all your cigars at high humidity. It also comes in handy if you're planning on smoking a full-bodied stink bomb, which tends to have a large amount of oil in the leaves, and therefore performs better with lower moisture content.
The last of these, aging, is also the least common. Aging is the practice of allowing your cigars to slumber for a year or more, typically in a lower-temperature, lower-humidity environment. The plain fact is that most cigars won't actually benefit from aging: it won't turn a cheap drugstore cigar into a $10 smoke, nor will it improve the flavor of a mild cigar. Instead, like wine, it takes a high-quality, fuller-bodied cigar to really see any benefit from long-term aging. Even then, you must ask the question: are you willing to sacrifice strength for nuance? Because that's the best-case scenario.MORE
Back in the good old days in customer service, I would get my fair share of calls of people demanding fistfuls of free lighters be sent to them because theirs stopped working after a few months of use. As calmly as I could, before any return was set up, I would lead these customers through step-by-step instructions on how to manually repair their lighter based on what they were describing, and more times than not, just by the sound of the lighter through the phone as they tried to ignite it. Most of the time when you get a lighter that is deemed “bad” based upon one attempt to ignite it or a lighter that stops working after just a few months, this does not mean the lighter is defective. It just means you need to tinker with it a little bit.
For a new lighter, you have to make sure you purge it after your first fill. In fact, you should purge your lighter on each refill as well. Lighters do not come with butane already in the tank due to mailing restrictions on flammable material, so the fuel tanks are filled with oxygen instead of butane. Fill your lighter with butane and let it rest for a few minutes. Then, using the same valve that you filled the lighter with, empty out some of the butane you already put in. When you release the butane, you release the oxygen as well. If there is oxygen in the tank when you first try to light it, your lighter will most likely not light. If it’s still not working for you, it means you need to adjust the rate the butane comes out of the lighter. If it comes out too fast, you’ll blow the flame out. If it comes out too slow, there won’t be enough butane to ignite a flame. You have to find a medium in which your lighter will ignite properly. Simply adjust the butane level with a screwdriver on the adjuster located at the bottom of most lighters which circles the valve you use to fill your lighter.
Old lighters on the other hand are a little bit of a different story. The name of the game is always maintenance. You may not realize it, but every time you use your lighter, contaminants in the butane you use can gunk up your lines and valves, which over time can block butane from coming out. I don’t care if you’re using triple refined or 1000 times refined butane. There are still contaminants in the butane. You can’t do much about your lines unfortunately but it hardly affects the lighter since a constant stream is always pushing butane and everything else through at breakneck speeds so nothing really collects in the line. It’s the valve in which the butane is released and the igniter you have to watch out for. Contaminants rest on the valve and spew onto the igniter which can prevent butane from being released and could stop your lighter from sparking. Just rub your lighter and igniter down with a clean cloth every once in a while to remove anything that may be on it. You also want to check the positioning of the igniter. It may move during the cleaning process so make sure the igniter is directly over one of the valves in which the butane comes out.
Any problem can be fixed with just a little know-how and tinkering with the lighter. A defective lighter is usually not defective. Instead it is usually a small and rather insignificant problem that is causing you grief that can lead to frustration. Next time you purchase a new lighter or if you think your lighter is on the downhill slide, follow these tips to see if you can revive your dying lighter or bring your new one to life.MORE
You're about to light up that cigar you've been looking forward to all day, when you realize the cigar won't draw; and there's nothing more frustrating than a cigar that won't "pull." As long as I've been smoking cigars (that's pretty long, and a lot of cigars), I've had very few draw problems. I suppose I've been lucky, yet, I've received numerous emails over the years from smokers complaining that the draw on their cigar was too tight, and in some cases almost the entire box (or bundle) was affected!
Once upon a time, a friend gave me a very pricey, limited edition cigar. I waited almost three years for the right occasion to smoke it. When that occasion finally came at a family wedding, the cigar was so tight I couldn't get through the first inch. I even tried poking it with one of those long toothpicks from the bar. "What a waste," I thought. And wouldn't you know, I didn't have a backup cigar.
A plugged or tightly-rolled cigar will smoke too hot, preventing the flavors and aroma from developing properly. So, with credit due to TobacconistUniversity.org, here's some advice that will help you deal with this problem. Let's start with what causes a cigar to draw too loosely or tightly.
The manner, or technique, in which the cigar is rolled and the placement of the filler leaves determine how loose or tight a cigar will draw.
Some cigar smokers will tolerate a cigar that's a little tight, as long as they can still get a decent puff. Cigars that are so tight you know before lighting up you're going to have a problem, may also be "plugged." Plugs are caused by an obstruction in the cigar, like a stem or misplaced leaves.
If your cigar has a very tight draw you have several options:
Gently massage the cigar by gently rolling it between your thumb and forefinger. This can help loosen-up the filler and/or the obstruction, allowing the cigar to “open up.”
If the plug is close to the foot of the cigar, cut the cigar behind the problem area. You'll get less cigar, but if it works, take it.
A draw poker can be very effective, but reaming a cigar has to be done very carefully and slowly, otherwise you risk cracking or perforating the cigar. Some smokers will use a long thin screw, paperclip, whatever works.
Fortunately, plugged cigars are more often the exception and not the rule. Feeling the cigar for soft spots will give you an indication of how well the cigar was rolled, but even a very firm cigar, if it's well made, will draw effortlessly. The thing is, you won't know until you clip it. MORE
When we talk about cigars, we usually talk about pairings as well. A lot of people prefer to drink their favorite scotch or beer, perhaps even coffee with their favorite cigars. All are respectable choices of course, but one pairing that has been puzzling the cigar world for years now, and has been picking up steam very rapidly is Dr. Pepper. Now, it may seem crazy to think that Dr. Pepper, of all drinks there are in the world, pairs up with any cigar out there today, but to be quite honest it is the only drink that makes sense.
As I’m writing this, I am smoking a Perdomo 20th Anniversary, which is a home run of a cigar, and drinking a Dr. Pepper to put this theory to the test. So far I have smoked through half of my cigar, and the Dr. Pepper is slightly mellowed by the cigar while the sweetness of the soda is bringing an added layer of flavor to the 20th Anniversary. It’s quite interesting to be honest and absolutely delicious. The 20th Anniversary typically has grassy notes in the first third which surrenders to a rich earthy, tobacco taste with underlying grassy notes almost as an aftertaste for the remainder of the smoke. The Dr. Pepper adds some sweetness to the mix and brings out a few underlying flavors that I would never expect from this cigar, such as caramel, and even a hint of cocoa. Since Perdomo puts out a lot of complex yet extremely consistent cigars in terms of flavor, I assume the caramel and slight cocoa is going to stick throughout the rest of the smoke.
So why is it that Dr. Pepper is gaining so much steam as a proper pairing for cigars? Well, as you may have noticed from my small review, the Dr. Pepper is bringing out flavors that add some complexity while not diminishing the true flavor of the cigar. Consider it a flavor enhancer. Of course, you can make the argument that a good scotch will bring out some flavors in the cigar. , But as far as I have experienced, it just amplifies the flavors already present in the cigar. which can in turn ruin a cigar. After all, cigars are blended with a certain flavor profile in mind. Dr. Pepper on the other hand allows the natural flavors to come out while bringing even more flavor straight from the tobacco.
There are two theories as to why Dr. Pepper reigns supreme as the ultimate cigar pairing. The first of which is the 23 flavors in Dr. Pepper bring out the natural underlying flavors of each cigar, making it an even more complex smoke each and every time. The second theory is that Dr. Pepper is a stellar palate cleanser, making each puff unique so you can better track the changes in your cigar. Both theories have a lot of validity behind them. Each sip I took I felt my palate was clean and ready for a new puff, while at the same time, I experienced flavors that I have never tasted with a Perdomo 20th Anniversary, thus enhancing my smoking experience. So try a cool and refreshing Dr. Pepper next time you smoke a cigar and find out what the craze is for yourself.MORE
In 15 years of cigar smoking, I've come to realize that cigar makers have no problems using terms very liberally, much to the chagrin of cigar newbies everywhere. In this article, we'll explain some basic to intermediate cigar terms the average cigar smoker is likely to encounter.
Here are some colors used to define cigar wrappers: • Jade/Candela/Double Claro/American Market Selection, or AMS (green) • Claro/Natural/English Market Selection, or EMS (pale blonde) • Colorado/Natural (light brown) • Colorado Maduro/Corojo/Rosado (medium or reddish-brown) • Maduro/Spanish Market Selection or SMS (dark brown) • Oscuro (very dark brown or black)
As for the construction of cigars, here's how it breaks down:
• Fillers: The "core" of the cigar. Longfillers are long leaves of tobacco. Shortfillers are scraps of longfiller tobacco that has been cut. A blend of the two in a given cigar is called "mixed fillers," or a "Cuban Sandwich." Generally, the more shortfillers in a blend, the cheaper and lower the quality.
• Binders: Often wrapper tobacco that has been rejected because of blemishes, these leaves surround the core tobacco bunch.
• Wrappers: The most pristine leaves; surround the filler/binder blend. It is commonly held that wrappers impart up to 60% of a cigar's flavor.
Blenders are responsible for creating "recipes," or blends of these tobaccos. Think of them as executive chefs. Once a blend has been established and the tobacco for it sourced, it is ready for larger-scale production. Typically, teams of two (one buncher and one roller) work together to make cigars by hand.
The buncher is responsible for creating the longfiller bunch, and then rolling it in the binder. This produces what's sometimes referred to as a "blank." The blanks are put into molds, which are in turn stacked inside of a crank press. Over time, the cigars' shape conforms to the mold, and a uniform desired shape is attained. Thereafter, the now-molded blanks are given to the roller, who applies the wrapper and cap.
Applying the cap is an art unto itself, with many different methods used. The highest-quality cigars usually stick with the Cuban tradition of a "triple cap," which entails three circular pieces of tobacco at the head. The "pigtail" cap is another popular option, and also traces its roots to Cuba.
Cigars come in an inconceivably large number of shapes, but all can be broken down into two basic categories: • Parejos = straight-sided cigars (Corona, Rothschild, Robusto, Toro, Churchill, Presidente, etc.) • Figurados = any irregularly-shaped cigar (Pyramide, Perfecto, Salomon, Diadema, Torpedo, Belicoso, etc.)
These terms should be enough to get any cigar smoker started. But when you encounter a term you're unfamiliar with, don't hesitate to ask what it means. Cigar smokers are generally a knowledgeable and friendly bunch, and welcome the opportunity to spread knowledge and love of the leaf.MORE
In all the years I've been smoking cigars, I've rarely come across a fellow cigar smoker who had bad breath from doing so. I'm talking about that nauseatingly putrid, so awful I have to turn my head away, week-old road kill-level breath. However, there is one thing that most cigar smokers experience; it's called "cigar mouth," or "ashtray breath," that lingering taste of your last cigar on your palate.
Although there is no one single product or procedure that will entirely remove the taste of a cigar, there are several things you can do to minimize it.
One method is to drink something made with citric acid. Tonics work better than the lighter fruit-flavored, carbonated waters. Bitter Lemon is the most effective, yet Bitter Lime and Tonic Water with quinine will do the job. The key here is the citric acid, which can cut up to 90% of the cigar taste in your mouth.
I pair some of my cigars with vodka & tonic and a splash of Rose's Lime Juice, since it leaves a clean feeling on my palate between puffs. Sometimes I don’t add the vodka, but the alcohol does add a little extra grease cutter.
If you don't like the bitter aftertaste of tonics, try drinking them with some cheese. Harder, sharper cheeses seem to work best.
Most bad breath comes from food residue on your tongue, like garlic breath, for example. Brushing your teeth and yourtongue, will remove a good amount of cigar slime, but if you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty, pick up a tongue scraper. (Dentists often give them out along with a new toothbrush, floss, etc., after a cleaning.)
If you don't already have a tongue scraper, you can purchase one at most pharmacies; they come in several styles, too. The one I have looks like a little plastic saw with tiny teeth and hollow, spoon-shaped ends for your fingers. The scraper has a "soft" side and a "regular" side. The "soft" side has smoother teeth, so when you scrape your tongue (from back to front), you'll feel a light pressure as the scraper works its way forward. Now try the "regular" side. You'll notice that the teeth are much sharper and you'll feel a noticeable difference. When you're done, clean the gunk off of the scraper by rinsing it under hot water, or with an antibacterial mouthwash.
Finally, if you're away from home, “curiously strong” after-dinner mints, hard candy sour balls, or hot cinnamon balls will go a long way. However, experience has taught me that firing up another cigar too close to finishing a mint will kill the flavor of your cigar. MORE
The subject of aging cigars always elicits a wide range of opinions; not only among rank and file cigar smokers, but also among those who have spent many years collecting and aging cigars.
In general, my axiom of the value of aging cigars can be stated this way: "The benefits of aging cigars will vary from cigar to cigar and may range from considerable to negligible." Cigars are made of plant matter and all plant matter changes over time, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. That distinction is important because the question of whether a cigar will improve or worsen with a year or two (or more) of aging, will ultimately be subjective.
These days, most cigars (of non-Cuban origin) are ready to be smoked as soon as they hit the retailer’s shelves. Cigars coming out of the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras, just to name a few, arrive at their point-of-sale with considerable age and in prime smoking condition. The best growers and manufacturers are meticulous with their handling of the product. The tobacco has been fully cured and completely fermented. It has likely been baled and aged for 2-3 years prior to being used to make premium cigars. After the cigars have been rolled, they typically receive another 3 months (or longer) of rest in aging rooms, prior to shipping. So, by the time the cigars reach your humidor, the tobacco has experienced considerable aging.
Nevertheless, because a cigar is a plant product, the tobacco will continue to morph and evolve (even if very slowly) over the course of years. Though cigar tobacco has undergone much fermentation at the factory, there will continue to be micro-fermentation, which will continually purge the residual by-products of fermentation (e.g., Ammonia) and other compounds that can make the flavor of the tobacco acrid and unpleasant until they have dissipated. Various other compounds within the tobacco will also change over time. As your cigars rest in your humidor, the oleoresins and moisture will migrate across the leaves, becoming distributed more evenly throughout the cigar. This will predispose a cigar to a more even burn and will result in subtle changes in the flavor. This process is known as "marrying."
As the cigars continue to age and marry, the flavors will change and may become less distinct. This is because the oleoresins, which carry the bulk of the flavor in a cigar, will slowly evaporate. So, when you smoke a cigar that has been aging for a good length of time, the flavors that were once so clear may be more difficult to discern because they have mellowed and blended. While this may sound ominous, it is often a good thing since the tobaccos will have a tendency to become smoother and will display fewer "off" tastes and/or less "bite." You may be able to pick up flavors that were once masked by the other, more powerful flavors in the tobacco. This is the essence of COMPLEXITY in a cigar. Complexity is the emergence of layers and multiple combinations of flavors within a cigar and is a feature of well-aged tobacco. Making the Most out of Aging Cigars
It is difficult to predict how a cigar will age and you can't be sure whether or not you will even like the cigar after it has some significant time in your humidor. The cigar may indeed be smoother and more complex, but there is no guarantee that you will enjoy that flavor profile. It is the individual smoker that decides if the changes are good or bad and there is no single answer that works for every person.
Many factors are responsible for how any given person will interpret the flavors and characteristics of a cigar. The number and quality of a person's organs of taste and smell, their prior experiences with flavors and aromas, and their ability to perceive and subsequently label these tastes and aromas will all play a role in determining whether or not they will relish the fruits of a well-aged cigar. There is no universal "ideal" time period for home aging as far as getting the best results. The best way to decide if a cigar is aging beneficially is to smoke many cigars from the same batch over a period of time. In other words, by smoking them as they age, you can experience, first-hand, the changes taking place during the course of a cigar's lifespan. In that way, you can check their progress and determine whether you should smoke them quicker because their body and strength is tailing off rapidly, or whether you can relax and smoke them at your leisure because they are aging slowly and gracefully. Time, Money, Patience
Laying cigars down to age takes a major commitment of time, money, and patience. Time is a concept that is lost on many cigar smokers. Many people buy cigars in samplers of 5-10 cigars so they can smoke one or two here and there over an indefinite time span and typically run out of those cigars before they have significant age.
Ideally, you should buy cigars by the box for aging. That way you can keep them in their original box and away from the influences of other aromas and flavors of cigars in the same humidor. By purchasing cigars by the box, you can pluck one out at various intervals and note the changes that 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, and more, have made on the smoke. But, purchasing boxes of cigars also has its drawbacks. It requires some serious cash, not only for cigars, but also for storage space. People that want to give their cigars some serious age must think in terms of large volume humidors such as large coolers, or cabinet style humidors, or walk-ins. Providing the space for hundreds, if not thousands of cigars can be costly, but is a necessary adjunct to serious collecting and aging.
Aging premium cigars can be an educational and fun pastime and it can result in some optimally aged smokes. But, before you embark on a plan of collecting and aging cigars, be sure to consider the potential costs as well as the prospective rewards. MORE
We've all been there: you reach into your humidor and carefully extract the prized stick you've been saving for just this occasion. It looks as sexy as it did when you first laid it down –even better, maybe, its now-sepia cellophane concealing a delicate coat of plume.
Sniffing the wrapper and the foot, you carefully slice off the cap. Your mouth is practically watering. Before toasting it, you attempt a cold draw: nothing. To your horror, the draw is excessively tight, or worse, totally plugged.
Putting flame to foot only confirms your suspicions: it's like sucking the proverbial golf ball through the garden hose. You grunt white-knuckled frustration; with equal parts disgust and resignation, you assume your best Al Bundy pose and prepare to sling it 50 yards downfield. FREEZE FRAME
Before pitching your prized puro, let's see if we can't resuscitate it. We'll investigate the causes of plugged cigars, and uncover some tried-and-true steps for restoring your cigar (and the moment).
A WORD ON COMPLICATED SIMPLICITY
When it comes right down to it, cigars are just rolled up leaves. That sweet simplicity is complicated by factors like how that tobacco is cured and fermented, how and when it's rolled, how the cigars are stored, and how they are smoked. Obviously some of these variables are beyond our control, but understanding their role equation of a good smoke will help us achieve a more consistent and enjoyable smoking experience FACTORY FACTORS:
If tobacco has not been properly or fully fermented, it can release tar once it's fired up. As the tar builds up, it plugs the air gaps between the leaves. This can lead to an increasingly tight draw, often coupled with an uneven burn and a "crispy" cherry at the cigar's burning foot. Often, the cigar goes out all together; even if it doesn't, the tar will build up at the head of the cigar.
If you've had experience with it, you're keenly aware of how vile tar is—a bitter, viscous liquid whose exceedingly disgusting flavor is nearly impossible to remove from the lips, tongue, or skin. Unfortunately, there's no magic solution here. Once rolled, it is impossible to appreciably alter tobacco, and no amount of home aging will properly ferment the tobaccos. You can try to 'purge' the cigar by blowing fairly forcefully back through it, rather than drawing the smoke into your mouth. This can help dislodge some of the buildup, but there's no guarantee of success.
If the taste is good and the draw tolerable, try dabbing the head of the cigar with a tissue or paper towel to remove the tar. However, this is a truly case where you may have no recourse but to chuck it. Rolling
Premium cigars are physically rolled by hand, and therefore subject to human error. If the roller fails to form the bunch (the interior longfiller leaves) evenly along its length, it can create a knot. Similarly, if the rollers' hands aren't perfectly synchronized—think "rolling a snake with clay"—the leaves form a twist. Though uncommon, the overall pack of the roll can also be too tight.
If you suspect a knot or twist is impeding the flow of air, try gently rolling the cigar between your thumb and forefinger. If you're lucky, you'll locate a knot or twist, and gently loosen it. The patient among us may simply choose to endure a poor draw until the burn to get past the blockage, especially if the imperfection is toward the foot. This is also where a draw poker can come in handy. This commonly-sold implement is more or less an ice pick that is driven through the center of the cigar lengthwise, thereby creating an unobstructed air channel. It won't help in every case—if it's rolled too tightly, for example, the wrapper may end up splitting—but you literally have nothing to lose by trying.
The downside is that this can lead to tunneling, where the center of the cigar burns faster than the outside, producing an inverted cone-shaped cherry and leaving wrapper leaf unburned. Still, you'd probably rather touch up a good cigar than toss the whole thing.
If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then the most effective solution is undertaken weeks before the cigar is ever smoked. More on that below... Figurados
Torpedoes, belicosos, and perfectos are all beautiful vitolas, but you'll occasionally get one that's excessively tight at its taper. This is simply human error; rolling a shaped head is 100% a manual process, and flawlessly rolling hundreds daily is no mean feat. Should you find that your figurado has a tight draw, try cutting the head a little further back. You can cut down as far as where the cap meets the wrapper; any further, and the cigar will start unraveling. Gently rolling the head of the cigar between your fingers might also help. CONSUMER-CAUSED:
Humidity is probably the most culpable in all of this. Over-humidified cigars swell up with moisture, restricting their airflow. Ever hears that old 70/70 guideline for degrees and RH? It's just that: a guideline. Cigars can withstand considerably lower temperatures and humidities. Indeed, some thrive in them
If you encounter plugged cigars frequently, consider lowering your humidor's RH. Even a difference of 2% RH can result in a better draw, so go with your gut. This is especially true if you favor fuller-bodied fare, whose tobaccos tend to contain more oils. Generally, the stronger the cigar, the lower the ideal RH. Take stock: if your inventory skews toward strong, don't be afraid of 65% (or even 62%) RH.
Additionally, some opt to "dry box" their cigars by putting them in an un-humidified cigar box for a day or two before smoking. The net effect is basically the same. No Rest for the Weary
If you are getting plugs from mail order cigars, try giving them a couple weeks in a proper humidor to re-acclimate them before trying to smoke them. Often mailed cigars are over humidified to keep them fresh on their journey, and it's always a safer bet to let them settle.
This is the easiest variable to control. A relaxed smoking pace yields benefits beyond heightened appreciation and a sweeter flavor, especially for full-bodied smokes. When you smoke too fast, you unleash bitter tars and oils which foul the cigar's taste and restrict the draw. With the draw now tighter, you'll smoke even harder—a vicious cycle the ends with your unfinished cigar in the ashtray. FINAL THOUGHTS
For some, the preceding sounds like so much esoteric rambling. For others, it's basic knowledge. Either way, I hope you learned something. Like most hobbies, cigars are as complicated as you want to make them. Now armed against the evils of plugged cigars, you are a stogie ninja. Go forth and herf! MORE
A few days before writing this post I met a couple of girls in their twenties, both cigarette smokers, who had never smoked a premium handmade cigar. Besides being curious about cigars, one of the girls thought switching to cigars might help her quit cigarettes. They were each given flavored petite coronas, one vanilla and one honey, respectively.
First, I showed them how to cut, toast, and light the cigars, and told them not to inhale. They loved the aroma and the taste of the cigars' sweetened tips. Yet, when it came time to puff, they instinctively inhaled. One of the girls said that inhaling the smoke wasn't so bad. I told her it was likely due to the fact that the cigar was also very mild, but if she continued to inhale, she would probably get an upset stomach. The other girl tried not to inhale, and after a few puffs got the hang of it. In the end, both were quite pleased with their experience. Moreover, the girl who wanted to quit cigarettes seemed convinced that she had found a solution, and was looking forward to her next cigar.
CigarAdvisor polls taken over the years have shown that a certain percentage of cigar smokers do inhale. I had a friend some years ago who did what I called the "double whammy." He smoked at least a pack of Marlboro Reds a day and several full-bodied cigars, which he also inhaled. It just didn't bother him.
Speaking from a "traditional" standpoint, inhaling is not recommended nor necessary for enjoying premium cigars. If you believe inhaling a cigar will give you the nicotine rush you crave, relax; the cigar will supply you with plenty of it. That said, the nicotine content of well-fermented and aged cigar tobacco is actually lower on average than cigarettes.
The reason cigarettes (RYO excluded) are easily inhaled has to do with how cigarette tobacco is cured, the chemical additives, and filtered tips, all of which actually lower the temperature of the smoke.
Handmade premium cigars are made from all naturally-cured, fermented and aged longfiller tobaccos. As a result, the smoke tends to be hotter and thicker, even in mild cigars. If inhaled, especially by those new to premium cigars, doing so may result in an earthshaking coughing fit, a sour stomach, or worst case, damage your lungs. Though the inhalers out there may differ, try to resist inhaling. If you want to fully enjoy a good cigar, simply pull the smoke into your mouth gently, allow your palate savor the flavors and aromas, and blow out the smoke. MORE
When I was back in the customer service department, I would receive an occasional customer call insisting their cigars were bad. In fact, they were always the worst cigars the customer ever tasted. No, even worse; they were so bad, they would make people violently ill to the point where hospitalization would be the only means of full recovery, and even still, that person would have to undergo decades of psychiatric therapy to free his mind of all the horrors the cigars had on his life. Of course I never believed these flamboyant claims; and trust me, I actually received calls just like this. But like a good employee, I pried into why they were the worst cigars in the world since that was my job. Nine times out of ten, the answer would be because the ash color was black instead of white.
Again, I seriously had people call and give me stories like these. The flashback to the dark days in the call center actually came to mind when I was speaking to a cigar blogger over the weekend named Peter. The issue came up since I was smoking a Cusano 18 and the ash was relatively dark, and I pointed it out to him. His reaction was as normal as the sun is bright; he slapped me on the back of the head and told me to stop whining. He was right though, I shouldn’t be complaining about a dark ash. There is no reason to considering ash color as an indication of the taste of a cigar. Ash color is perhaps the most insignificant thing you can analyze when smoking a cigar.
Let me explain: Ash color only has to do with the levels of magnesium contained in the tobacco leaves. The lighter the cigar ash, the more magnesium there is and the opposite is true of darker cigar ash. However, the level difference is so minimal in the cigar, it is nowhere near noticeable on your palate. Instead of looking at color, look at the overall ash quality. This tells the story of your whole cigar as you puff through it. Say your cigar ash is flaky. This usually means that you are smoking a short filler and it can become a nuisance since the ash will most likely break off constantly. If this is the case, don’t smoke and drive without a Road Warrior Ash Can. Also, if the cigar splits in the middle, this usually means the middle is not keeping pace with the perimeter of the cigar. When the wrapper is burning faster than the filler and binder, this is a caustic burn issue and can alter the flavor of the smoke, so you will not taste the blend the manufacturer intended. To fix this, just stop puffing for a few minutes so the inside can catch up.
If you really want to analyze the ash on your cigar to ensure a quality cigar, do not look at the ash color. It is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Instead, pay close attention to how the ash splits and breaks off as you smoke in order to better analyze the quality of your burn. After all, the quality of the burn is what really defines the flavor of the cigar.MORE
It's inevitable. You're relaxing, enjoying the flavor and aroma of your cigar and suddenly the time comes to "ash" your cigar; in other words, tap the ash off into the ashtray. It's possibly the most effortless thing you have to do with a cigar besides puffing. There's no right or wrong way to ash your cigars, so let's digress and look at the ash itself.
Cigar ashes vary in color, texture and firmness. The colors can range from a variety of light to dark grays, to a gray with black lines, to more of a marble-like pattern to almost black. The color of the ash is generally determined by the minerals in the soil in which the leaves were grown.
Ash texture can range from silky smooth, to a series of slim ringlets, to toothy, to very rough and jagged.
A firm ash is preferable to a flaky one. It will also burn longer before having to tap it off. (How many times have you let the ash go only to find it in your lap a few seconds later?) A flaky ash will sprinkle flecks on your clothes as you smoke, and if it's windy, it will blow off before you even have a chance to tap it.
The sign of an "ideal" ash is, when you tap it into the ashtray what remains is a "cherry" (ball-like) or a cone-shaped ash (bullet-like). That means the cigar is burning well. A lot of times the ash breaks off more squarely. In that case, if you've still got about a quarter-of-an-inch or more of ash left, you can "roll" the ash along the inside of the ashtray to form a more cone-like ash. This can be done with longer ashes, too. Simply place the ash-end of the cigar anywhere the base and the wall of the ashtray meet, and gently turn it, rounding-out the sharp and flakier edge of the ash.
How do you know when to ash? It should be obvious, but let's say about every ½ to ¾ of an inch or so depending on its firmness. If it's really firm, about every inch. When you're ready to ash your cigar, test the ash by very gently touching it against the side of the ashtray wall. If it has a decent amount of resistance, you can probably go a little longer. Some cigars will burn three, four, and even five-inch long ashes before they're tapped or fall off under their own weight. If it's soft, it will begin to break up once it makes contact, in which case it's simply tap-tap and let gravity do the rest. MORE
Chances are you've been in a cigar situation with a relative newcomer to the hobby. After counseling them on which cigar to choose, you demonstrate how to properly cut, toast, and light the cigar. With your puros underway, everything is copasetic...until the cigars are down to the nub.
All too often, the newer cigar smoker will declare his cigar finished before crushing it into the ashtray. This happens more frequently with cigarette smokers, although just about anyone could make this same mistake.
The problem with such a violent end to a cigar is really two-sided. Pragmatically speaking, when a burning cigar stub is extinguished, it releases foul-smelling odors, creating a harsh aroma that is at odds with the relaxation afforded by enjoying a fine, premium cigar.
Moreover, a good cigar deserves better than to be crushed to smithereens.
Veteran cigar smokers know that the easiest and best way to extinguish a cigar is to simply let it die a dignified death. By this, we mean the cigar smoker rests the cigar on the ashtray's stirrup, or tosses it into the ashtray, where it will continue to smolder, eventually going out by itself.
Fire requires oxygen, and the same is true for the burning cherry of a cigar. Without oxygen to feed the fire, the cherry will eventually go out all on its own. This is the same reason why under-smoking a cigar will force the cigar smoker to relight the cigar.
Speaking of oxygen, there's another option available for those who have a passion for cigar accessories: the cigar snuffer. Used more frequently in years gone by, these devices look a little like a candle holder: by standing the cigar inside of a snuffer with the cherry side down, the burning end is deprived of oxygen, thus snuffing out that flame naturally.
But suppose you have to extinguish a cigar quickly, and don't have the luxury of a cigar snuffer on hand? In these situations, liquids work nicely. Dunking the end of the cigar into a container of liquid will obviously snuff it out; lacking that, if you're outside, you could put it out in a puddle of saliva.
One word of caution: overzealous cigar smokers will sometimes throw their cigar butts when finished. This is not only littering, but presents a serious fire risk, especially during hot, dry months, when brush or tinder is likely to catch fire.
Bottom line? In order of preference, we advise you let it die, use a snuffer, or put it out using liquid. But whatever you do, don't stub it out like a cigarette. Your nose will thank you.MORE
Snip, cut, punch, hack, slice or dice – no, it’s not an infomercial for a new kitchen machine; it’s the Cigar Advisor editors, and they have some quick tips on how to cut cigars. Whether you’re a noob or an old hand at this thing we call “good smoke,” our boys have the low down on four (and more) easy ways to get your cigar off to a better start. So you’re gonna smoke a cigar. Whether it’s your first, and you’re just figuring this whole thing out – or you count your cigar conquests in the thousands – you know that there’s a method to the madness of getting a good smoke started.
Whether you’re a noob about to tear into a torpedo, or an old hand getting ready to savage a Salomon – here’s a couple things to remember (or wonder why you forgot) when it comes to cutting a cigar. Think you know everything about cutting a cigar – well, you probably do. Especially if you’ve been doing this for a while. But even those of us who have some significant “time in the aircraft,” as it were, could use a bit of a refresher – or maybe a little push to try a method we haven’t used, or tended to avoid. Hell, even I shied away from using a punch for 15 years. I owned three of them, but never used any of them – terrified of turning my hecho a mano into hecho a mangled. After all, if I’m going to pay upwards of ten bucks for a smoke, the last thing I want to do is turn the business end into a horror show. So you can appreciate (or at least understand) my hesitation with reaching for the punch to poke open a puro. Until one day I just said, “time to bite the bullet.” Ha! Cutter puns. Awesome. I really didn’t say that. Actually, what I said was, “maybe it’s about time I learn how to use this thing the right way, and see if I’m missing out on something.”
Moral of this story? I did – and I was. I did learn to use a punch, and I was missing out on something: the enhanced flavor (my opinion, of course – your mileage may vary) of channeling the smoke through a smaller opening in the head of the cigar. I now punch and v-cut my cigars about 50/50, depending on their size. But this isn’t about me, it’s about you – so if it’s your first time, or you’re an old pro, or somewhere in between, it doesn’t matter, but there are a couple of important things to remember:
Use a quality cutter. “A poor carpenter blames his tools,” it’s said. But in this case, quality really does count. Cutters dull and get dirty, and will need sharpening or cleaning; others just plain suck. Since the goal is to slice (not tear) the leaf at the head, make sure you’re using a very sharp edge – no matter what your implement of choice.
When you select a cigar to smoke, make sure you have the right apparatus. Certain cigar shapes require certain types of cutters. You can’t cut a figurado with a punch…or can you? Hmmm…actually, there is a method, which we’ll get into shortly. But the key really is, don’t make it harder on yourself than it needs to be.
Be quick, strong and decisive. Again, slice - don’t tear. Commit to one quick and forceful movement for best results.
Concentrate on what your cutting hand is doing, but pay mind to the hand holding the cigar. Don’t get so focused on making the cut that you squeeze the cigar like you’re choking the life out of it. What good is a perfect cut on a cigar you just crushed in that meat hook of a hand?
Be careful – regardless of the kind of cutter, you’re still messing around with a sharp blade. Don’t take my word for it, ask Michael Jordan Lastly, some simple caveats:
Yes, you can cut off too much of the cap and head. Unless you want an up-close-and-personal lesson on the dissection of a cigar, starting with the wrapper picking up and leaving town - take off only what’s needed. The cap itself is a good line at which to cut.
Yes, you can cut off too little. Maybe you wanted to play it safe, and cut it short so the cigar doesn’t unravel. Taking too little means you’ll end up with tighter draw, and a pain behind one of your eyeballs. The good news is you get another bite at the apple – you can cut a little deeper to improve the draw. The average depth of a good cut is only about 1/16th of an inch. We wrangled the editors here at Cigar Advisor Magazine to give a bit more insight on how they prefer to slice, dice and make it nice. Because, like me and the punch, I asked somebody to show me how to do it right. Let’s say we start with the guillotine, just because we’re going in order of relative popularity. You probably got one of those single-blade plastic cheapies with your first cigar purchase ever…but rather than endure a series of messy beheadings that would make even King Henry VIII blush, here’s how to use it. Guillotine Cutters
By Lou Tenney
Among cigar cutters, the guillotine cutter and its two-bladed cousin, the double guillotine, are easily the most widely used and recognized. Ranging anywhere in cost from under a buck to over a grand, this ingenious device comes in a multitude of materials, shapes and colors.
At its most basic, the guillotine cutter is a thin, rectangular piece of plastic housing a blade, with a hole in it. The blade is manually opened and closed to cut off the cap of the cigar.
The single blade variety, however, can have a tendency to tear rather than cut cigars over time, a problem solved by adding an additional opposing blade. With its second blade, the double guillotine cutter is a vast improvement. It, too, is often presented in the slim plastic shape. Some cutters feature a "backstop," or solid piece behind the cigar hole. By resting the cigar's head against the backstop, the smoker is assured that he will not cut too much off, thus avoiding an unraveling cigar. (Quick tip: if your cutter doesn’t have a backstop…lay it flat on the table top and put the cigar in the hole, with its head touching the table underneath. Now cut. Shazam: no mess, and not too deep of a cut.)
XiKAR and others have popularized a more ergonomically sound teardrop form factor with spring-loaded blades. These cutters feature rubberized handles, wooden handles, and even ivory from a wooly mammoth. Unsurprisingly, the cost also increases sharply with these higher-end implements.
Pros: Easy. Wide variety of guillotines to choose from, and pretty easy to find anywhere you might need one. Cuts any shape of cigar easily.
Cons: Easy to cut off too much, allowing the cigar to shed its wrapper like a snake shedding skin.
Maybe you’d like to take some human error out of the equation? The V-cutter may be for you. The only catch here is that you may end up being a bit limited on the variety of cigar sizes you can cut – bigger ring gauges are a little bit of a challenge with the V. But if a regular Robusto or Toro is in your near-future, here is… How to use a V-cutter on your cigars
By Gary Korb
When it comes to cigar cutters, I think the V-cutter is perhaps the most underrated. Based on its design, the V-cutter is perfectly suited for cutting figurados, or tapered head cigars such as Torpedoes, Pyramids, and similar shaped frontmarks. Though the V-cutter is also effective at cutting standard, rounded head cigars, just as the double-blade is fine for cutting figurados, the V-cut has its advantages over the double-blade when it comes to these pointy primos.
On average, the V-cutter is designed to cut no more than a quarter of an inch. This is important for cigars like Pyramids, since the idea behind the tapered head is to concentrate the smoke through the "bottle neck", offering a richer-tasting smoke.
Secondly, because the V-cut is limited to the amount of tobacco it can cut, you avoid the risk of cutting your figurado too deeply, which can happen with a double-blade, sometimes causing the wrapper to unfurl. The V-cut keeps most of the pointy head intact, which is what you want. When the V-cutter is closed it looks like a cat's-eye. The blade itself is long and thin with a sword-like tip that's been bent in the middle to form the V shape. To use it, simply open the cutter, place the head of the cigar through the front of the "eye," hold the cigar steady, and SNAP the cutter closed. The result is a cleft-shaped tip, which should provide a good draw and an enjoyable smoking experience.
Pros: Almost (and we do stress almost) foolproof. Channels the smoke for a robust and flavorful draw. Great for torpedoes.
Cons: If the cutter is dull, or you don’t snap it shut quickly enough, that cap is a goner. Might not open enough of the head for a good draw on larger ring cigars.
One way to solve the big-ring cutting issue – while still focusing that blast of Nicaraguan pepper on your palate – is to go for the punch. And that part about punching a figurado? Read on…a little finesse gets it done, and you don’t have to worry about taking too much of the head off when you cut with a… Punch or Bullet Cutter
By Tommy Zman
The punch, aka the bullet cutter, is a favorite among many cigar smokers for a few good reasons: it’s small and easy to carry, it’s quick and easy to use, and it doesn’t make a mess like the traditional guillotine. All you need to do is remove the cover, place the sharp cylindrical side up against the head of your cigar, then push in while giving the punch a slight twist left and right. The idea is to simply cut/punch a hole through the cap of the cigar, allowing the smoke to easily draw through the opening.
There are a couple of additional great uses for the punch cutter that I wanted to share. It’s excellent for cutting a chisel type cigar. You use the same push and twist method, but you actually pierce completely through the chiseled end of your stick, leaving a see-through hole that allows you to draw out the smoke Now here’s a cool little tip for you... a lot of guys think they’re out of luck when they have a pyramid or torpedo to smoke, but they only have a bullet cutter, because you obviously can’t punch down into the pointed top – that just won’t cut it (pun intended). But a neat trick is to place the punch about a quarter inch down from the top of the point, then push in, twisting it back and forth, just enough to create a hole through the wrapper. So, upon lighting, you actually place the pointed, un-cut end in your mouth and draw the smoke through the hole in the side of your figurado!
Pros: Keep it on your key ring and you’ll never go without. Very little mess, and provides a nice clean opening through which to draw.
Cons: Push too hard and you’ll crush the cap. While you can use it on a torpedo or pyramid, it’s kind of a pain in the ass, but it’ll get you through.
One more option remains – cigar scissors. Probably the hardest to pull off, but you’ll be glad you did. Especially if, all of a sudden, you need to cut off the hot end and stash the rest for later (just don’t put the un-smoked half back in your humidor). Or, if you’re a “chewer” – when you get a gnarly lookin’ chew-gar nub after grinding it with your teeth for an hour, you can cut that bad boy right down to size with… Cigar Scissors
By Jonathan Detore
Cigar scissors are extremely effective and practical cutters compared to traditional cutters. Not only do they offer a clean and even cut, but when you use them properly, they make you look super stylish. Well, at least they do in my opinion. Besides being the pinnacle of cigar accessory style, they can also prove to be very useful time-after-time. The main advantage to owning a pair of cigar scissors, besides the “coolness” factor, is the ease in sharpening them. We have all had cigar cutters dull down on us and it’s a waste of money buying more of the same cutters that we know will also dull, and sharpening an old cutter can be annoyingly difficult since the casing is rather troublesome. With a pair of cigar scissors, the casing is eliminated and you can easily sharpen them, extending the life of the scissors far beyond traditional cutters. Another benefit to using cigar scissors is, you simply get more leverage when you cut your cigar. Traditional cutters involve quite a bit of squeezing, and if the blade is dull, it can make cutting your cigar a bit of a chore, resulting in a rather uneven cut. Because of the leverage cigar scissors give you, they glide through the tobacco effortlessly and offer an even cut.
Pros: Wicked clean cut; and you look classy as hell if you can pull off using them right. Long lasting, too.
Cons: In addition to some skill and precision in their use, scissor blades need to be kept sharp – like almost religiously – or they’ll tear your stick to shreds. Even a cheap pair of cigar scissors, which are often dull as a result, can be honed to near surgically sharp standards. So there you have it - that’s how we cut our cigars. Maybe you picked up a couple of pointers, or acquired the inspiration to try something different for a change. At the very least, I did want to reference a recent Q&A I saw on Facebook…when asked “what do you use if you’re in a pinch and forgot your cutter,” the inner MacGyver in our brothers and sisters of the leaf came out in spades. Here are a few samples/suggestions/comments…cigars first, safety second!
“I've used an awl, a box cutter, a power drill, teeth, whatever it takes to get it done.”
“I like my leather awl.”
“I used a Philips head screwdriver once.”
“A small screwdriver”
“A pick from my tool box, if I’m in the shop.”
“I've used my side cutters.”
"A small screw" Lock n Load:
“9mm shell casing.”
“I have pulled the eraser out of a pencil and used it as a punch.”
“End of ink pen cover.”
“I've used a wine bottle opener.”
“Meat cleaver.” (really?)
“The end of the match.” MORE
A short primer on "must-have" cigar accessories.
When learning the ins and outs of smoking premium cigars, as with any avocation, there are several accessories you must have to fully enjoy it. Bikers need helmets (at least in most states), target shooters need ammo (if you can find it these days), fishermen need hooks and lures. OK, you get it. So what about cigar smokers?
For storing your cigars, put a humidor at the top of your list. It doesn't have to be super fancy or expensive, but when stocked it should be at least 50% full, have a good seal, and a reliable humidification system. If you want to go state of the art, the humidification system should include a digital hygrometer/thermometer and a crystal-based humidifier. Additionally, you will need a calibration pack to accurately calibrate your hygrometer before seasoning your humidor. This will help prevent false readings when you check on your cigars.
Secondly, you need a cigar cutter to cut-off the closed end, or "head," of the cigar. There are several options available: single and double blade, punches, V-cutters, and scissors. Start with a double-blade cutter. It's the most commonly used and the most reliable for properly snipping the cap.
Once you're comfortable with the double blade, try some other types of cutters. You may even find that you like one type of cutter better than another, too. Whichever type of cutter you choose, don't skimp; buy a good one with really sharp blades.
As for lighting your cigars, go with a torch flame lighter. Most of them are highly wind-resistant, plus, they offer the best method for toasting your cigar. Torch lighters range from single to quadruple flame. A single flame will do the job as well as any, but if you smoke wide ring cigars, like 48 ring and wider, a dual or triple flame may be more in order.
You'll also need a can of multi-filtered, high-quality butane for refilling. The more times the fuel has been filtered, the cleaner the flame and the less gunk buildup in your lighter over time.
Finally, you need a cigar ashtray. There are a mind-boggling number of styles and sizes available. Choose the model that appeals to you, but try to find one that also has the following features: Two to four stirrups (for when you're smoking with friends). The stirrups should be wide enough to hold most any size cigar, and long enough so the cigar sits comfortably when placed down – at least 1½-inches. It should also have a bowl deep enough to hold at least two or four cigars-worth of ashes without overflowing.
That's all you need to enjoy your favorite cigars. Just add something to pair with them, some good company, and you're set. In a future post, we'll get into some other useful accessories.MORE
We all have preferences as to what cigars we smoke. People may prefer Maduro over Habano, Nicaraguan over Dominican or even Robusto over Panatela, but one of the most scrutinized specifications for choosing a cigar is short filler versus long filler. The difference between short filler and long filler may not seem too big, but in fact, it makes a dramatic difference if a cigar manufacturer chooses one over the other. Here is my two cents on the issue.
Think about the duration of your smoke. As the tobacco burns, smoke travels through the cigar taking with it subtle flavors, depositing them throughout the cigar. As you puff away, more and more smoke brings different flavors through, which will add to the complexity of the smoke the further along you get. Long filler is typically preferred in this case simply because the consistency and slow burn of long fillers helps bring the built up flavors through in the cigar.
Short filler, on the other hand, does not allow a natural complexity to occur within the cigar. Instead, short filler cigars use chopped tobacco to try and manually add complexity. Sometimes this works, but it usually is all for naught. Short filler contains more air between pieces of tobacco which causes the cigar to burn faster and hotter than long filler cigars. This can cause a taste of harsher burnt tobacco, eliminating any traces of complexity that may develop in a cigar.
Now it sounds like I am trashing short filler cigars, and I kind of am. To be quite honest, short filler cigars usually are made from leftover tobacco from the production of premium long filler cigars. But let me try and redeem them because there are outstanding short filler cigars on the market today which are well worth smoking, one being the Liga Privada Papas Fritas. The Papas Fritas is made using tobaccos from the T52 and Number 9, two of Drew Estates most popular cigars. The cigar offers an unbelievably full flavored and full bodied smoke for a lower price than the long filler premiums from which they are derived.
In my opinion, long filler cigars reign supreme. This isn’t to say there are no good short filler cigars on the market because there are. Like I said, the Papas Fritas is a hell of a cigar and is in fact one of my favorites. But if you want natural complexity, go with a long filler. If consistency in the flavor profile is up your ally, then go with a short filler cigar. At the end of the day, it really is a matter of personal preference.MORE
If you have smoked cigars long enough, chances are you have encountered one that didn't burn properly. From canoeing to tunneling to burn holes to an uneven burn, there is no shortage of pitfalls that can make smoking a cigar less of a pleasure and more of a chore. In this Cigars 101 Guide, we'll cover the most common causes of these burn issues, how to deal with them, and how to avoid them altogether.
For starters, it's important to mention that cigars are a handmade, agricultural product. For that reason, you can expect to deal with burn issues occasionally from even the most prestigious manufacturers. This is especially true with canoeing, which usually starts with a "run" in the cigar wrapper that grows into a much larger problem.
The cause of these runs generally boils down to either an incorrectly bunched cigar, which causes one side to burn at a faster rate, or a prominent vein in the wrapper, which can act as a fuse of sorts, igniting the wrapper tobacco surrounding it. Unfortunately, your options in these cases are limited to wetting the fast-burning spot, or allowing the cigar to go out before re-cutting and lighting it.
Burn holes on the wrapper can also cause these runners. These are relatively small burn holes that appear on the wrapper below the burn line, caused by an incorrect bunch, usually a small pocket or void where there is no tobacco.
Having said all that, construction issues like these are rare. Most cigar manufacturers are serious about quality assurance. The plain fact is that user error probably accounts for 80-90% of cigar burn issues.
This includes both improper smoking technique and improper humidification. If you experience a blistered, thick burn line, an overly wavy burn, or a cigar that just won't stay lit, odds are your cigars are being stored above the ideal humidity range: no higher than 72 Rh, though stronger cigars tend to perform more favorably when stored in the 60-65% humidity range.
If, however, you find that your cigars are burning entirely too fast and are extremely hot, then your cigars are most likely under-humidified. Once cigars lose enough moisture, it becomes difficult or even impossible to restore them to their former glory. Your best bet is to maintain a healthy humidor by checking your cigars periodically.
Likewise, if you find that your cigars are consistently burning unevenly or are bitter, odds are you're over-smoking. Smoking too fast causes bitter flavors and tar buildup, not to mention incomplete combustion of the tobaccos. For best results, smoke slowly...your cigars will thank you.MORE
As a cigar smoker, I have one main concern (which everyone really has), which is making sure my cigars are properly humidified. Sometimes it takes a lot more than to just charge you humidifier and throw your cigars in you humidor. In fact, maintaining a proper humidity can be quite difficult, especially when the seasons start to change. When summer comes the air gets more humid and can increase the humidity in your humidor. During winter, its low to almost bone dry conditions and can significantly decrease the humidity in your humidor. Since we are entering into summer and a higher humidity, I want to cover what you should do if your cigars get over humidified.
There are really two things you can do to decrease the humidity in your cigars/humidor, the first one being just open your humidor for an hour or two. I mean, it kind of makes sense if you think about it. If you have a humidor that has too much humidity, if you open it, the humidity will decrease. Once you close the lid, the humidity will regulate to a decreased level. The good thing about doing this is if too much humidity escapes, you can always add more by using a humidity pack or re-seasoning. The down side to doing this, however, is it is sort of a shock to your cigars. Humidity makes your cigars swell and when you change from a very humid environment to a significantly decreased humidity, the outer part of the cigar will lose humidity first and tighten up around an over-humidified and swollen center, which can cause your cigar to crack. If you do decide to open your humidor and let your cigars sit out, make sure the humidity is not so drastic that your cigars get damaged.
The safer way to decrease the humidity in your humidor is to simply put some cedar strips in with your cigars. Cedar is used in humidors because it retains moisture very well, so why not benefit from this natural property by adding dry cedar to soak up excess humidity gradually over the course of a day or so? Just make sure the cedar that you use is clean. Just like the water you use must be distilled to ensure it is free of spores that can cause mold, the cedar you put in must also be clean for the very same reason. Once the humidity in your humidor is at your desired level, simply remove the cedar and enjoy a summer full of smokes.
The best way to take care of over-humidified cigars though, is taking simple preventative measures to make sure your humidity does not reach above 75% at the MOST. Anything over that and your cigars will run a risk of becoming over-humidified or growing mold in your humidor. By properly maintaining your humidor, you will prevent having to take these extra steps to recover over-humidified cigars. MORE
Is it something in our past that led us to smoking cigars?
Most people who enjoy smoking premium cigars may have picked up the penchant either from their father, a friend, or out of plain old curiosity. Yet, I wonder if our attraction to cigars – at least for some cigar smokers – lies deeper than that. Is there something subconsciously inherent in us that has drawn us to the leaf? Possibly.
Once upon a time, I spent my childhood summers down the shore, (as we New Jerseyans say) in Long Beach Island, NJ. One of the things we used to do for fun was buy these incense-like sticks we called "punks." (I think they cost something like 10¢ apiece.) They didn't do anything special; all you did was light them and they just burned down. I don’t know what they were made from, but they smelled SO good we couldn't get enough of them. One night, I was telling my sons about punks when it struck me . . . maybe this is why I was drawn to the wonderful aroma of cigars? Having done several CigarAdvisor surveys on this over the years, I can say with absolute certainty that aroma is a major enjoyment factor to many cigar smokers.
The other thing I remember as a child was when my Dad would light-up a cigarette in the car. Yes folks, in olden days, smoking with children in the family car was not looked upon as taboo. (To my Dad's credit, his window was lowered a few inches.) He always used the car's dashboard cigarette lighter, and that first wisp of smoke was so redolent, I actually looked forward to him lighting-up. I don't know what caused it, the nature of the electric lighter or the cigarette tobacco, but it was only in that first wisp. After that…yuck!
I've always had a very perceptive nose. I could smell things others could not, and still do (including some things I'd rather not mention). Since most of the so-called "flavors" we identify in cigars are actually aromas, I'm beginning to think those early aromatic experiences may have subconsciously played a role in leading me to discover one of my most enjoyable pastimes.
Many years later, when I first started buying cigars, I didn't know what the heck I was doing. There were no cigar magazines or websites, though SCREW magazine publisher, Al Goldstein, an avid cigar smoker, issued a short-lived, but informative newsletter titled, Cigar. After trying a number of different cigars, I ended-up buying these panatelas made in Brazil that fanned-out at the foot. They were nothing close to the cigars I smoke now in terms of quality and flavor, but man, they smelled awesome! MORE
It's one of those things cigar smokers do almost without thinking; that is, the act of removing cigars from their cello wrappers. Most cigars are wrapped in cello for two reasons: 1) to protect the wrapper leaves from being damaged, and 2) to keep the cigars fresh during shipping. Cigars presented without cellos are called "Cabinet Selection," since they are traditionally stored in a cabinet humidor in their factory boxes. There's no specific rule for removing a cigar from its cello. As long as you can remove the cigar without hurting it, whatever works is fine.
The most common method is to open the cello at the foot and, using your thumb and forefinger, gently push the cigar out from the head. This works most of the time, but sometimes the cigar refuses to come out. You almost can't blame it. You wouldn't want to come out of your house knowing that someone was going to set you on fire. All kidding aside, in reality the cello may be just a little tight. You push the cigar out and the band stays in the cello. Oops! A little trick that will help make this easier is, when you open the cello at the foot, take your thumb and forefinger and rub the cello back and forth while gently pulling on it. This will help loosen it up and open it further for easier removal.
If the cello is really tight, do not force the cigar out. All cellos have a seam. Since you've already straightened-out the foot end of the cello, you can open it by peeling the cellophane apart at the seam. It will open like an unbuttoned shirt, and you can easily remove the cigar.
Another way to remove your cigar is from the head end of the cello. You'll notice that cellos are folded down flat at the top. Simply unfold the cello and gently pull the cello apart, or tear it open as you would a snack bar. In either case, the seam will open and you can ease the cigar right out through the top. Some cellos can be a little stubborn, so if you have to, snip it open with some scissors.
Removing your cigars from their cellos should be the least of your problems, but sometimes, either out of laziness or impatience, many a cigar has not made it out of its cello alive. MORE
Are you the type of smoker that only likes full or mild-bodied cigars? I know I am. I love full bodied cigars with a passion. The rush that comes from smoking a powerhouse relaxes every muscle in my body and melts away the stresses of work and home. Despite a preference for stronger cigars, I’m not a fan of some of the traditionally full-bodied wrappers, like maduro. Well, at least that’s what I used to think - you learn a lot working in the cigar business, and what I've learned is there a huge misconception equating a cigar's wrapper to its strength.
I started my cigar journey as a Customer Service Agent. There I was taught to start off with Connecticut wrappers, which have a mild strength profile, before graduating to fuller-strength maduros, and then branch out from there, slowly expanding my palate to find the wrappers I like. This is how most people are taught to approach cigars. The truth is that this approach is flawed.
I’ve always been an advocate on trying whatever you damn well please and learn as you go, never being afraid to try something new. However, the biggest misconception we learn is darker wrappers offer more strength than lighter wrappers. Well, let me put this one to bed by saying this is a load of malarkey. There are plenty of velvety smooth Connecticuts that offer a complex flavor which also are a powerhouse that will leave an inexperienced smoker dazed and confused such as the La Aurora Preferido. At the same time, there are maduros, habanos, mata finas, and a slew of other dark shade cigars that offer a mild profile such as the Macanudo Vintage 1997 maduro that is packed with flavor.
At the end of the day, never expect a darker shade cigar to only offer a full-bodied smoke and a light shade cigar to give you a mild-bodied smoke. There are a lot of cigars out there and you should not feel limited to what cigar wrappers you can try and what wrappers you must avoid because, to be honest, wrapper never dictates strength. So enjoy all the cigars you want and I encourage you to try every wrapper you can. By throwing this misconception out the window while still sticking to the strength profile you enjoy, your world opens to a lot of other options you may not have thought were previously available.MORE
In my time in the customer service department I would frequently speak with wives or friends of cigar smokers trying to find a birthday, wedding, or Christmas gift for their loved one. Often they would ask how long cigars can last before they go stale. Even some regular cigar smokers would ask this every once in a while, and it always left me a little speechless when a cigar smoker asked me. You would think someone who picked up cigars as a hobby would know that cigars actually never really go “stale.” Let me explain…
The only way cigars go stale is when they are stored improperly. If a cigar dries out, it will start losing its nicotine content and flavor in about 2 months. Even if you try to re-humidify it, which would take forever, it’s a lost cause. I had a customer say he found a box from 3 years ago that he had simply forgotten to put in his humidor. He asked me if they would still be good to smoke if there was any way to salvage them. Sadly, the answer was an emphatic no. However, if properly stored, a cigar can last decades and still be ready to light and enjoy.
Keep in mind that even though a cigar can last a long time in proper storage, the flavor profile of the cigar will change, mostly for the better. Maduros tend to get smoother, Connecticut wraps get a little more mellow and velvety, and Ligero starts to lose its power after about 1-2 years, turning from a powerhouse into a flavorful medium-full bodied smoke. A great example is when I visited Nat Sherman in NYC one afternoon. They showed me around the member’s only section, which featured a humidor that looked more like a dresser. Inside were all pre-embargo Cuban cigars gifted to Nat Sherman by the Fuente family after they fled Cuba. Hundreds of Cuban cigars, just sitting there behind glass, off limits to the public with only about 3 smoked. All were kept in pristine condition. Even though the cigars were over 50 years old they were all in perfect smoking condition, looking as though they were rolled just last week.
In fact, most of the cigars that you buy usually are aged in the factory for a minimum of 60 days, if not a few years, according to the manufacturer's specifications. They then age even further while sitting in the warehouse of the retailer you are purchasing from. Sometimes boxes can sit for 2-3 years on top of a manufacturers aging period before they ship to your house. So next time you think your cigars have gotten stale because they sat in your humidor too long, they probably got better.MORE
Heat, moisture, and organic material are a surefire recipe for the growth of mold. Unfortunately, these conditions also describe a cigar humidor that is properly maintained. Indeed, to care for cigars is to walk a razor's edge: too much heat and humidity, and you risk developing mold and tobacco beetles. Not enough moisture, and you risk your cigars drying out and becoming stale.
In this article, we'll focus on restoring your humidor to its former glory after developing mold.
The first thing to know is that mold spores are literally everywhere, so it's not worthwhile to think of them as the enemy. Only under the right conditions – plenty of heat, humidity, and organic material – do they develop into the visible colonies that can plague cigars and humidors. The recommended threshold for heat and humidity is 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 72% humidity, but cigars can be stored long-term at a Rh of 60% or even 55%. Once these conditions are exceeded, that's when the spores begin to manifest as the colorful splotches that cause off-flavors and aromas in a cigar.
Mold grows relatively slowly, so if you check your humidor on a regular basis, you're likely to first notice a musty smell. Whether you're in those early stages or you have a full-blown mold outbreak on your hands, the sooner you mitigate the problem, the better.
Begin by emptying your humidor. Brush any mold off your cigars, and place them in a cool, dry environment while you clean your humidor. Next, take the humidor outside and carefully brush any growing mold from the humidor, so as not to cause staining on the interior wood surfaces.
Once complete, it's time to kill the spores. Using a light solution of distilled water and isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, wipe down all of the humidor's interior surfaces, and leave it open while it dries. This will kill any visible mold, but remember that most of the mold is not actually visible.
Another proven tactic is to lightly sand the interior surfaces with a fine grit sandpaper. Just make sure to wipe down after sanding to clean up any dust.
Your humidor may require several such treatments to completely remove all existing mold, and even then, there may still be a funky, musty smell. Place a paper plate of baking soda into the humidor to absorb these smells, changing as necessary.
Even then, some smells may linger. These will dissipate over time, especially if you commit to maintaining proper humidity and temperature, and keep it filled with plenty of cigars.
It's time to re-season your now-dry humidor by wiping down the walls with a new sponge and distilled water.MORE
One of the most frequently asked questions about cigars and cigar storage is whether to remove the cellophane wrappers before placing them into the humidor. It is a question which draws surprisingly impassioned opinions from both sides of the fence. So what is the correct answer?
Proponents of removing the cellophane wrappers correctly claim that the cigars are able to breathe better, thus concentrating the benefits of home aging cigars into a shorter timeframe.
An additional benefit, they argue, is that removing cellophane wrappers promotes the development of plume, the crystallized tobacco oils that can form on the wrappers of cigars which age extensively and remain untouched. While plume doesn't actually improve a cigar, it is definitely a coveted hallmark of a well-aged cigar.
Cellophane, often confused with plastic, is made of a plant material called cellulose. For this reason, proponents of leaving the cellophane wrappers on the cigars correctly counter that cellophane is breathable, so that any aging gains are soon equalized, especially if the cigars are to be aged over a long period of time.
Perhaps more importantly, leaving the cellophane wrappers intact also protects the wrappers from suffering minor damage – think tears, punctures, and other minor trauma, especially on more delicate wrappers like Connecticut Shade or Cameroon – as well as acting as a first layer of defense against tobacco beetles or mold.
So what's the right thing to do?
As with many aspects of collecting, storing, and smoking cigars, it's a matter of personal preference. There's an undeniable tactile benefit to being able to smell and touch the wrappers you just won't get otherwise. If you're the type to keep a manifest of all cigars currently in inventory, rotate your collection faithfully, and don't have any pilfering family members or neighbors, then by all means, un-cello your cigars.
If, on the other hand, you are more casual about it, or smoke cigars as you get them without regard for how long they've been aging, or you just don't like the hassle of removing 20 cello wrappers every time you pick up a box or a bundle, then don't.
Interestingly, we've had customers opt for the best of both worlds by cutting off the excess cellophane from the end, allowing for both an exposed foot (which accounts for most of the air and moisture exchange in a cigar) AND a protected wrapper.MORE
To freeze your cigars, or not to freeze them? If you or a friend have ever dealt with tobacco beetles, it's a question you're probably familiar with. Given the abundance of misconceptions on the topic, CigarAdvisor is here to set the record straight on how and why to freeze cigars.
Let's start with "why." Freezing cigars can be either a preventative or curative measure for cigars infested by the aforementioned humidor-marauding tobacco beetle, Lasioderma serricorne. While it's true that tobacco beetle eggs are present in many cigars, they require a warm, moist environment to hatch. Some suppliers, particularly those of Cuban cigars, are notorious for poor storage or transport conditions, which can trigger an infestation. For this reason, some cigars smokers choose to freeze all incoming cigars as a matter of course, thus killing the eggs before they have a chance to hatch.
Note that if you deal with a reputable supplier and maintain optimal temperature and humidity in your humidor, this is overkill, and places unnecessary stress on your cigars.
If, however, you notice small pinholes in your wrappers and "tobacco dust" in your humidor, then you've probably got tobacco beetles. It's not the end of the world, especially if you catch it early, but the reason it occurred is because your humidor became too warm and moist. You just learned the hard way that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
So now what? First things first: remove the affected cigars, as well as any adjacent cigars you fear may be affected, and quarantine them away from your humidor. Empty and vacuum out the humidor, then reestablish proper conditions not exceeding 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% Rh.
With the affected cigars, you've got a choice: save them, or chuck them. This will largely depend on the quality of the cigars to begin with – is it worth the hassle? – and the extent to which they've been chewed through.
If you opt to freeze them, remember that cigars do not respond well to sudden changes in temperature and humidity. In other words, slower is better,but not too slow, because residential refrigerators and freezers are typically very dry, and can easily dry out your cigars if left in for too long. For this reason, it is never recommended to use the freezer or refrigerator for long term cigar storage.
Pack them loosely in zippered plastic bags, ensuring a very tight seal, and place them in the refrigerator for a few hours. Once they're cool all the way through, put them into the freezer for 24 to 48 hours. After that, place them back into the refrigerator for a day or so to gradually "thaw." By then, they'll be perfectly ready to go back into your humidor, but bonus points if you put them in a cooler before returning them to general population.
Even after they're back in your humidor, it's advisable to give them another few weeks to recover their humidity before smoking them.MORE
Sought for its robust flavor and complexity, the Corojo leaf was developed during the 1930's by Diego Rodriguez in Cuba's famed Vuelta Abajo tobacco-growing region. Using selective breeding, Rodriguez created the Corojo seed from the Criollo seed. This month we take a closer look at the origins of this flavorful leaf whose name comes from the Santa Ines del Corojo Vega, a.k.a. the "El Corojo" plantation, not far from the town of San Luis y Martinez in Pinar del Rio. With the myriad variety of wrapper leaves available for premium handmade cigars these days, there's one leaf to which tobacco growers, blenders and cigar smokers alike have been drawn: Corojo. One reason for this is Corojo is the famed leaf of Cuba's finest cigars made between the 1930's and the 1990's.
Sought for its robust flavor and complexity, the Corojo leaf was developed during the 1930's by Diego Rodriguez in Cuba's famed Vuelta Abajo tobacco-growing region. Using selective breeding, Rodriguez created the Corojo seed from the Criollo seed. The leaf's name comes from the Santa Ines del Corojo Vega, a.k.a. the "El Corojo" plantation, not far from the town of San Luis y Martinez in Pinar del Rio. The farm got its El Corojo name and logo from a palm tree that Rodriguez found growing on the plantation. This palm tree is clearly illustrated on boxes of HC Cigars which are blended by Jesus Fuego. Rodriguez's goal was to produce a superior-quality wrapper for making Cuban cigars, but it didn't happen overnight; Rodriguez had been working the farm since the early 1920's. Rodriguez matured his Corojo plants under shade, as Connecticut leaf wrapper is, using a tapado or cheesecloth tent that filters the light and heat of the blistering Cuban sun. The result was a plant that produced eight to nine pairs of leaves with very fine veins and ripened to a dark brown, uniform color. Ultimately favored for its distinctively sweet/spicy/peppery character and remarkable smoothness, from the 1930's through the 1990's Señor Rodriguez's Corojo wrapper was used exclusively on all Cuban cigars. As ideal as Corojo was for making Cuban cigars, the leaf was so delicate that it was susceptible to the dreaded Blue mold and Black shank, among other devastating tobacco diseases. By the 1990's the Cubans had all but ceased growing both Corojo and Criollo leaf. The seeds for these tobaccos were replaced by crossbred seeds that were resistant to disease. By comparison, the color, elasticity, flavor, and aroma of these new breeds was every bit as good for use as top-grade wrapper.
The first of these new hybrid seeds was Habana 2000. Popular during the 1990's, it was a crossbreed of authentic Corojo seed and Bell 61-10, used for making Cuban cigarettes. Though it is still used in some cigars, due to fermentation issues and burn problems, Habana 2K eventually faded into the mist.
Following Habana 2K were Criollo ’98 and Corojo ’99. Allegedly hybrids of Cuban and Connecticut seeds, these wrappers have been much more successful. One of the Central America's largest suppliers of tobacco, Plasencia, grows the hybrid strains of Corojo and Criollo leaf on their plantations in Honduras and Nicaragua. Nestor Plasencia, Jr. uses this tobacco in his Plasencia Reserva Organica cigars. Since the tobaccos are organically-grown, no chemicals or pesticides can be used on the plants. As a result, Nestor has to use seeds that are disease resistant. Hybrid Corojo is not only highly resistant to Black Shank, it also yields a darker and sweeter tasting leaf. Used mainly for wrapper, in some cases hybrid Corojo is also used as filler, which adds a little extra zing to the blend. Other manufacturers that have used Corojo and Criollo to create some of the world's most highly-rated cigars are La Aurora, CAO, and Alec Bradley Cigars, to name but a few.
Perhaps the most recognized grower of "authentic" Cuban-seed Corojo and Criollo tobaccos is Camacho Cigars, who have been using it since the 1960's. Grown by the Eiroa family in the Jamastran Valley of Honduras where the soil and climate are ideal for growing these tobaccos, their first Corojo seeds were acquired directly from Diego Rodriguez's grandson, Daniel. As a result, Camacho cigars are as close to smoking a classic, pre-embargo Cuban cigar as it gets. Though their Corojo leaf is also susceptible to disease, the company maintains that the seed has adapted well to the fertile soil of the JamastranValley resulting in a tobacco leaf that's naturally robust and full-bodied. Though he and his family left after Castro nationalized the cigar industry, today Diego Rodriguez's El Corojo plantation continues to produce tobacco for Cuban Cigars. In a 1995 interview, Diego's granddaughter, Adelaida Perez Fuentes said, "When my family left Cuba in 1960, we took the memories of El Corojo with us." "The government took everything from us. What were we to do?" MORE
Seasoning and setting up a humidor is relatively simple when it comes down to it. Think about it: you make sure the interior wood is humidified to the desired relative humidity, and then stick a humidifier and hygrometer to the inside of the lid. If your humidor has a good seal, your humidor will maintain its humidity for a long while before you have to do any routine maintenance. However, if you are dealing with a glass top humidor, you may have to do a little more work than this to ensure your cigars are kept humidified.
There are two main issues when dealing with a glass top humidor we never really think about. Usually (myself included), we see a glass top humidor and want it so we can stare into it and daydream about what cigars we’re going to have next. It’s like looking at the Mona Lisa behind glass. It makes our cigars look like a masterpiece. Okay, so I digress. This is turning more into a romantic novel than an actual “How To,” article. Anyway, the two main issues are where to put your hygrometer and humidifier, and how to deal with a loose seal around the glass which will drain humidity from your humidor.
First of all, regarding where to put your hygrometer and humidifier (which is a question we constantly get when someone is setting up a glass top humidor), you can put your hygrometer and humidifier anywhere you want. It’s preferable to place at least the humidifier on top of your cigars however, to have the moisture drop down on to your cigars, but to be perfectly honest, a humidifier will work just as well when resting on the bottom of your humidor. Humidifiers act more as an aid to the humidified wood in your humidor and just extend the period in between re-seasoning it. Similarly, the hygrometer can go anywhere in your humidor since the humidity will be constant throughout.
Now on to the biggest issue when setting up a glass top humidor: the seal.You may not realize it, but the seal between the wood and glass may not be air tight, which is the case 99% of the time if you find you are losing humidity. A lot of the time, people will attribute this to a loose seal around the lid instead, when the seal is actually air tight. To test the seal around the glass, just place clear tape around the outside lid and let it sit. If the humidity holds, the seal is weak and needs to be fixed. To fix this, just get a clear, odorless epoxy and apply it to the edge of the glass to create an air tight seal. It’s a rather easy fix to a simple problem.
So if you are thinking of buying a glass top humidor, keep these tips in mind. It may sound rather discouraging that the seal around the glass may not be tight, but I can assure you, setting up a glass top humidor is worth it and looks great.MORE
Have you ever bought or been given a cigar covered with plume? Are you sure it wasn't mold? CigarAdvisor Executive Editor Lou Tenney recounts an experience at his local tobacconist in which the shop employee tried to pass off moldy cigars as cigars covered in plume. Small-Town PA, Summer 2004
Slumped idly over the cash register, George looked less like a tobacconist, and more like a slack-jawed Shar-Pei. I negotiated my way out of the crowded humidor and carefully fanned out a selection of cigars on the counter.
Aloof as ever, he acknowledged them with an almost-imperceptible head nod.
The words were barely audible above the din; dozens of men stood talking and laughing loudly, each holding a lit cigar in one hand and a plastic beer cup in the other. A dense haze swirled lazily about, spilling out of the shop's front door and into the street.
Funny, how a cigar event can transform an unassuming smoke shop into a raging kegger for every cigar smoker within 50 miles. "Hey Lou. Did you find everything OK?"
The question was rhetorical, the sort of congenial formality that functions just above punctuation. Of course I found everything OK, George. I'm here two nights a week, and the humidor is the size of a walk-in closet.
"Yeah, I guess I'll just take these. Is this enough to get the free Robustos?"
"Yeah, you get two," he said, sliding my cigars into a clear bag. "I have Corojo, Maduro, and Sumatra," he said, referring to each cigar by its wrapper leaf. "Whad'ya want?" "I'll take two Sumatras." The Corojo and Maduro were good, but the Sumatra – well, the Sumatra was something really special: sweet and a little strong, but not too heavy.
George fumbled beneath the counter and produced a bundle of cigars. He extracted two and reached for the bag.
"Actually, I'm gonna smoke one. You can put the other in the bag." He retrieved one of the cigars with his sausage-like fingers and handed it to me.
Reaching for the tethered "house cutter," my enthusiasm came crashing down like a Soviet satellite. "What the hell is this?" I asked, pointing at the white patches haphazardly covering the reddish wrapper. "Does this cigar have psoriasis?"
George chuckled condescendingly. "What do you mean? You've never seen bloom before?" "Bloom?" I asked, indignantly. "Bro, this cigar looks like it needs some lotion."
"Yeah – when stronger cigars are well-aged, the oils crystallize and rise to the surface of the wrapper leaf. I should charge you more!" he laughed. "Just brush it off and smoke it."
"Dude, I know what bloom is," I protested. "It's also called plume, but this ain't it. Look at it!" I insisted, shoving the cigar in his face. "This stick is fuzzier than a hatched chick. I'm already vaccinated against polio, but thanks anyway."
George's smug grin began to fade. "SHH!" he hushed, scanning the room, his finger in front of his mouth. "What, you think it's mold?" he quietly demanded, incensed by the suggestion.
"Are you kidding me? You mean you work in a cigar shop and can't tell the difference? Let me see that bundle." George surrendered the bundle. Predictably, half of the cigars were covered in patches of white to off-white fuzz. I picked out an especially egregious offender.
"See this?" I asked, wiping at one of the splotches. "This is mold. Look how it stains the wrapper. It's even on my finger! Plume would just wipe away cleanly."
Unmoved, George met the explanation with a vacant stare.
"Besides, you just got these in for the event, right?" I added. "Yeah, so?" he answered skeptically.
"So? Plume develops over months or years of untouched aging. When cigars are handled, any nascent plume is destroyed. Even under the most ideal conditions, these cigars are too young to have developed plume."
"But I just smoked one," he retorted, "and it was delicious. Bloom on a cigar has an unmistakable taste."
"Then you must like the taste of mold, because plume doesn't affect the taste. It's just a visual indicator of a well-aged cigar. Sure, the cigar would have the mellow evenness of extensive aging, but an otherwise-identical cigar without plume would taste exactly the same." "Bullshit, you don't know what you're talking about."
"Yeah? Grab that magnifying glass there and get ready to go to school, Georgie Boy."
I fixed the lens just above an especially well-developed colony of mold.
"See, look at this spot. Does that look like crystals to you?"
"For god's sake, look closer. This colony practically has hi-rise buildings. See how it looks like skinny little stalks with round structures on top of them? Those are the spores. Mold is a living thing – a fungus, actually. This mold is white, but it can be gray, green, yellowish – even blue." "Hmm," George grunted," noting the line forming behind me. "Alright, fine. Here are two new ones. I guess I'll give this bundle back to the manufacturer."
Atta' boy, George. Passing out moldy cigars, even unintentionally, is just bad form.
I thanked him, grabbed a beer and joined my friends, where we discussed the mold question at length. Turns out they had similar misconceptions about mold and plume/bloom.
Given recommended ideals for proper humidity (≤ 70% RH) and temperature (≤ 70° F), we store our cigars on a perilous razor's edge. The next time you find yourself in a shop or just perusing your own collection, take a careful look at your cigars. Mold can spread quickly, and if unchecked, could ruin an entire collection. Maintaining your humidor properly and spot checking your cigars goes a long way toward protecting you.
Bottom line, it's nice to do business with companies you can trust, but in the end, it always pays to be an educated consumer. MORE
One of the most horrific experiences is discovering that your cigars are dried-out. Lest we not forget that keeping your cigars at the proper temperature and humidity will keep them fresh and supple, should your cigars appear to be dry, there is a solution. However, the state of dryness you find them in will determine if they can be revived or not.
If the cigars are hard, like kindling, you may as well move them to the woodpile. However, if there's even a hint of moisture left in them, they may be salvageable. The best way to test this is to gently pinch the cigar at the foot. If it crumbles or cracks you've got trouble.
Much of the flavor in a cigar comes from the oils in the tobacco. When these oils are allowed to evaporate, any other moisture in the cigar will go with it. Even if you are able to revive the cigars in question, they may lose some or all of their natural bouquet, so, you've been warned.
Re-hydrating cigars takes patience, so be prepared to wait a while before you can smoke them again. In some cases, this can take months. Ideally, you want to allow a slow absorption of moisture.
What to do
Place the dry cigars in a spare humidor or other tightly-sealed container with an appropriately-sized humidifier that is only about 25% charged. It helps to have a well-calibrated digital hygrometer/thermometer in there as well, so you can see how much relative humidity (RH) and temperature your cigars are getting. Start by placing the cigars as far away from the humidifier as possible; then move them a little closer to the device about every 3 to 5 days. I also suggest you use a clear, crystal-based humidifier. Not only do they produce a more consistent humidity, but you can actually see how much water has dissipated. Check the humidifier every few days until it's almost dried-out. If so, move on to the next step.
Add distilled water to the humidifier - about 1/3 to 1/2 full - and let the cigars rest for another week or two. Once they feel like they're coming back a little, fully refill the humidifier and let your cigars continue to rest until they are re-humidified to your satisfaction.
At each stage, always remember to place the cigars away from the humidifier and move them closer each time you refill it. Rotating them every few days will help, too. If your cigars still haven't returned to "normal" at this point, at least you can say you tried. MORE
There are several different methods for cutting cigars, and a variety of tools to cut them with. You've got your single-blade guillotine cigar cutter, your double-blade, punch cutter, V-cutter and cigar scissors. Some cigar smokers use a toothpick or their teeth. Whichever method or tool you prefer, the key to a good cut is removing the cap without cutting too much of the cigar. You want to keep the cut above the "shoulders" of the cigar. This is the spot where the cap and wrapper meet. If you examine the head of the cigar, you'll notice a strip (or strips) of tobacco just below the cap, so you want to cut just above that line. Cutting below the shoulders may result in your cigar unraveling on you, followed by steam coming out of your ears.
Since the majority of cigar smokers use a double-blade cutter, including moi, here's the technique I've found most effective for getting a nice clean cut. I call it "scalping the cap."
Open your double-blade cutter and position it over the head of the cigar about 1/16th of an inch down.
Note the direction of the wrapper seam. Depending on how it was rolled, it will be spiraled to the left or right.
Slowly close the blades just enough to break through the skin of the cap.
Begin turning the blades in the same direction as the seams.
When you get about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way around you should see the cap starting to unhinge. Snap the blades together, and an almost perfect circle of tobacco will pop-off.
Test the cigar for draw. If it's good, you're ready to toast and light-up.
Note that you don't have to use the "scalping" technique. You can just as easily place the cutter in position and quickly SNAP the blades closed.
Cutting figurados, or tapered head cigars like Torpedoes is a little different. Because the wrapper leaf goes all the way to the tip of the head, there is no cap. With a figurado, you want to get as small a cut as possible while still being able to draw easily through the cigar. For these cigar shapes, position the blades about a 1/4 of an inch from the top. Quickly snap the cutter and test the draw. If it's too tight, lop-off only about another 1/6th of an inch, and draw again. Repeat this procedure until the draw is where you want it. Note that if you go too far, you also risk the cigar unraveling. This is why it's best to start with a small cut, and work your way down. MORE
What is a humidor? Breaking it down to its most basic components, it's a humidified box or cabinet designed to keep premium handmade cigars fresh for an indefinite period of time. Of course, there are humidors and there are humidors. When you envision a humidor, you probably think of the traditional wooden box with Spanish cedar walls, a humidifier of some sort, and a hygrometer. Moreover, a traditional humidor can run anywhere from $49.95 to $4,995.00.
There's also another alternative: the "Coolerdor." It's not as pretty as your traditional humidor, but it does a great job of keeping your cigars fresh for a fraction of the price of even the cheapest humidor, which you wouldn't want to buy anyway.
Though I can't say when the first coolerdor was made, I can tell you that there are thousands of them being used by cigar smokers, maybe tens of thousands, for any number of reasons: from the low cost of making one, to a reliable unit that can sustain your overstock cigars.
So, let's get into how to make a coolerdor. As you would before buying any humidor, you have to decide how much room you'll need to hold your cigars. You should also take into account if you'll be storing loose (or single) cigars, boxed cigars, or a combination of the two.
The term "coolerdor" speaks to a humidor made from a beer cooler, but you can also use a plastic storage bin (a.k.a. a "Tupperdor"). A beer cooler offers a better seal and insulation, but a storage bin will do the job just as well. Here's what you'll need:
A large beer cooler or plastic storage bin/tub.
A humidifier designed to humidify about 250 cigars (preferably a crystal-based model).
A digital hygrometer to keep tabs on your temperature and humidity.
A calibration kit to ensure the hygrometer is accurate.
Distilled water for filling and refilling the humidifier.
Optional: Empty Spanish cedar cigar boxes for holding single cigars (with or without a lid), or Spanish cedar strips (in case you want to line the interior of your 'dor like a traditional cigar humidor.)
Once you have all the parts, you set up your coolerdor pretty much as you would a traditional humidor.
Calibrate the hygrometer with a good calibration kit (I recommend Boveda.) This will take up to 6 hours, so do that first.
Completely fill the humidifier with distilled water and make sure all of the water has been absorbed.
Affix the humidifier in the center of the 'dor's lid. (Note that depending on the size of your coolerdor you may need more than one humidifier.)
Place the hygrometer in the spot of your choosing: a corner under the lid, one of the walls of the box, on the bottom, or on top of one of the cigar boxes, but not too close to the humidifier.
Place your cigar boxes, sealed, open, or closed in the 'dor, put on the lid, and you're done. (Hint: After adding your cigars, try moving it around every few days and take readings before you decide where you want it to be permanently situated.)
Check the humidifier and hygrometer regularly, and recharge your humidifier as needed.
One advantage to making a coolerdor is that no pre-seasoning is required, which can take days with a traditional humidor. You can also store your cigars in their factory boxes, creating a mini-warehouse of sorts for your stash. This also helps keep the cigars insulated.
As a traditionalist, I keep my loose cigars in traditional, wooden, cedar-lined humidors. Extra boxes are placed in my coolerdor and eventually moved to one of my humidors as room allows. Come to think of it, the cigars I keep in the coolerdor are probably just as fresh, if not more so than the cigars I keep in my humidors. If I had known about making my coolerdor sooner, I would only need one humidor instead of five! MORE
As you continue to clip your cigars with the same cigar cutter, after a while you may notice one or all of the following:
The caps are beginning to shred instead of slicing-off cleanly
The cutter doesn't open and close as smoothly as it used to
The cutter is starting to build up some brownish gunk on the blades.
If you think that tossing it in the trash can is the solution, whoa, not so fast! All your cutter may need a good cleaning. Even if you use a cheapo, freebie cigar cutter, a decent cleaning will help improve its performance. It's easy to do, works on every type of cutter, including scissors, and takes about five minutes. All you need are cotton swabs, rubbing alcohol, and some graphite lubricant.
Daub a swab with rubbing alcohol and carefully rub all of the metal surfaces on the cutter. Any tars on the blades will come right up. If the swab gets too dirty, use a fresh swab and continue.
Use a dry swab to absorb any leftover alcohol and complete the cleaning.
Do the above as many times as it takes to get all the gunk off the blade/s.
Place a very small amount of graphite lubricant on both sides of the blade/s and begin opening and closing the cutter. You will notice a marked improvement in movement.
Wipe off any excess lube with a clean cotton swab.
For cigar smokers who use Xikar "X-type" cutters: Because the blades are so sharp on these cutters it takes a long time for them to dull, so cleaning is usually the most you have to do. With the bottom of the cutter (the narrow end) facing up, apply a very small amount of graphite oil where the blades are held together by the hex screw. You can also apply a little bit of lube under the open/close button. You'll notice that the cutter now opens much more quickly. This method can also be used for similarly designed cigar cutters.
Finally, in case you were a little sloppy, make sure you have completely removed all traces of lubricant on any of the exposed areas of the cutter. That's pretty much it. You may have just saved yourself from having to purchase a new cutter. Instead, use that money to pick up a few good cigars. MORE
When it comes to certain professions, trades, sports, or hobbies (like smoking premium cigars), when done by a professional or someone who's very experienced, it usually looks a lot easier than it is. However, in the case of smoking cigars, nothing could be simpler or more pleasurable when done right. Keeping in mind that every cigar smoker has their own way of smoking a cigar, the following will show you how to clip, toast, light and puff away to your delight with the best of them.
The Right Tools
Now that you've got your cigar, make sure you've got the right tools. All you need is a cutter (preferably a double blade), a lighter (preferably a torch flame), and an ashtray with wide saddles for comfortably resting your cigar between puffs.
With your thumb and forefinger, hold the cigar at the neck or on the band with the closed end, or "cap," facing up. Hold the cigar steady, open your cutter and clip anywhere from 1/16 to 1/8 of the cap. If done correctly, the cap will practically pop-off, then the blades close behind it. Be careful not to cut too deeply or you risk the wrapper unraveling on you. If you're not sure, it's better to cut less at first, then more. Place the clipped end of the cigar in your mouth and test the draw. Air should flow easily through the shaft.
Toasting & Lighting
Hold the cigar in front of you so you can see the end (or "foot") of the cigar. Take your lighter and carefully toast the foot by holding the lighter close enough to blacken the foot, yet without touching the flame to the tobacco. Now, gently blow on the foot. It will start to glow bright red. If you notice some black areas, continue toasting those spots, then blow again until the entire foot is glowing. At this point, the cigar is lit and you can begin puffing.
You can also toast and light your cigar in two stages: Though I personally prefer the method I described above, here's an alternative:
Toast the foot until the entire surface is blackened. Place the cigar in your mouth, point it down to about a 45-degree angle, and hold the flame under the foot, again without touching the tobacco. As you hold the flame, slowly turn the cigar in the direction of the wrapper (look at the seam of the wrapper to see which way it was rolled: clockwise or counterclockwise), and begin to puff. You may see the flame jump as you light it. Once you have it going, take the cigar out of your mouth and blow gently on the foot to ensure it's completely lit.
Some cigar smokers put their flame right to the foot without toasting. To each his own, but the advantage to charring the foot is it permits the flavors in the tobaccos to caramelize, resulting in a more flavorful start and a cleaner burn.
Now for the really fun part: enjoying the flavor and aroma of your cigar. Slowly draw the smoke into your mouth and taste the flavors. Whatever you do, DO NOT INHALE. If you do, you will soon find out why that's a no-no as you bow deeply to the God of Porcelain. Try not to rush your cigar, too. Let it rest for about a minute between puffs. This will allow the cigar to cool a little and let the flavors caramelize, so the next puff will be consistent with the preceding one. Continually puffing on your cigar will not only build up more heat, which can cause the wrapper to crack, it will also produce more tars and bitterness as you get to the "sweet spot" of the cigar.
Finally, make sure you give yourself enough time to relax and enjoy your cigar in its entirety. For most cigars, about an hour is plenty of time. MORE
For many cigar enthusiasts, writing cigar reviews is something of a personal hobby. Think of a journal – by making details notes about what you smoke, you're creating a snapshot of yourself as a cigar smoker in time. Months or years from now, you can look back on the cigars you were smoking and what you wrote about them, and see how your palate has developed.
For others, writing cigar reviews is more like a public service. These cigar smokers rate and review cigars based on their passion alone, with the sole payment coming in the form of comments, likes, shares, and general credibility among the cigar community, especially within their immediate and extended social media circles.
Still others rate and review cigars for actual profit. This may be in the form of advertising revenues, a paid editorial gig, or even free samples from manufacturers, who recognize the value in soliciting the opinion of widely-read cigar reviewers.
In short, there are as many ways to review a cigar as there are reasons to write a review in the first place. Whether you choose to establish a rubric for "grading" cigars with a numerical rating, or invoke "cigarspeak" in your review, is ultimately your decision, but be aware that there are many strong opinions on both sides of the argument.
Step 1: Pick a cigar. It can be anything – an old favorite, a new release, even an un-banded cigar.
Step 2: Visually inspect the cigar, noting the color and condition of the wrapper. Are there large veins or seams in the wrapper? How well is the cap applied?
Step 3: Smell the wrapper and foot of the cigar, and make notes. This is also a good time to inspect the construction: does it have any soft spots? Does it feel heavier or lighter than you expected?
Step 4: Cut the cap and, before lighting, draw on the cigar. Note any flavors you detect.
Step 5: Light the cigar and jot down your initial impressions, including the flavors, aromas, smoke texture, amount of smoke produced, intensity of flavor, strength (nicotine), and anything else you may notice.
Step 6: Imagine the cigar cut into thirds. Write down your thoughts on each third of the cigar, including flavors, aromas, body, strength, flavor intensity, burn line, ash color and quality, and how these change while you smoke.
Step 7: After you've finished your cigar, it's time to distill your notes into a written review. Some choose a linear, chronological review, while others take a different approach. Be creative or play it straight, it's up to you!MORE
It’s like a horror movie:
“Hello? Honey? Is anyone home? Helloooo? Nice, house to myself.”
Nobody is home, so you take this opportunity to smoke a cigar in peace. You walk down a dimly lit hallway, floorboards creaking with every slow, unsuspecting step you take. You round the corner and you see it on the counter. Your humidor; sitting there like the golden idol on the pedestal in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. You creep towards it, mouth watering for the perfect cigar. The cigar you’ve been waiting all day to have. Placing your hands on your sacred humidor, you flip open the lid, reach your hand in and grab your treat. But what is this? A hole? And another! What is this? Holes are riddled throughout your cigar! You drop to your knees and let out a scream: “WHYYYYYY?!?!”
Pretty tragic story, right? I know, I should be a screen writer. I had you on the edge of your seat, admit it. Anyway, this is the handiwork of the dastardly cigar beetle - and it can be a real nuisance to any cigar smoker or collector. It can turn your entire inventory of hundreds of cigars to a pile of broken tobacco leaves if you have enough of them to terrorize you. The worst part is it is hard to inspect for cigar beetles and their eggs at the manufacturing plants simply because they can be hard to see. One beetle that is carrying eggs, or just a few eggs on a tobacco leaf, can turn into dozens; thus wreaking havoc if they hatch. This is when it becomes a tragedy: once you introduce those beetles to your humidor, they can multiply and destroy your collection.
So what happens when you meet this tiny foe? Well, fear not, as your cigars can be protected during a possible break-in through freezing. That’s right, freezing your cigars will kill off any beetles that may do harm to your cigars. This is how I usually go about the process: first, identify which cigars are damaged. If they are still in the cellophane, your other cigars are 99% safe from beetles because it is hard for beetles to escape the sealed plastic. Simply throw the affected cigars away and keep the ones that look fine. However, we always recommend, especially if the cigars have been removed from their cellophane and have been introduced to your humidor, to toss any infested cigars, and freeze the remaining.
To do this, place all of your cigars from your humidor in an air tight bag, preferably a sandwich bag, and try to remove most of the air from the bag. Place the bag in your refrigerator and let it sit for at least 4 hours. From there, move the bag to a freezer and let it sit for no less than 8 hours (overnight). It is recommended to let them sit in the freezer for a full day just to make sure all the beetles are dead. After this time, transfer them back to a refrigerator for a couple more hours to start warming them up, and then bring them to room temperature. It takes a long time simply because you must gradually cool down and then warm up the cigars to prevent swelling and cracking of the cigars.
At this point, your cigars are good to go, but you do need to make sure your humidor is safe as well. You should never freeze your humidor because it is obviously designed to hold water. If you freeze it, the water will certainly freeze and can crack and warp the wood, rendering your humidor useless. The best way to protect your humidor it to vacuum out any excess tobacco leaves and debris, and then wipe down your humidor with a cloth dampened with distilled water to clean it. As long as you make sure there is no debris, there should not be any more cigar beetles.
The best way to deal with cigar beetles though is to simply take preventative measures against them by following the 70-70 rule. Do not allow your humidor to reach over 70% humidity and 70 degrees. If you’re at or above 70% humidity, once your humidor temperature reaches 75 degrees or higher you begin to run the risk of beetle eggs hatching. By keeping your humidor at the sweet spot of around 67% humidity and out of direct sunlight at room temperature, you should not experience this problem. MORE