The late, great, comedian George Carlin once said that life was about acquiring “stuff”. This is especially true for cigar smokers. To us, the need for “stuff” seems endless. Aside from continually buying cigars, we also need humidors, ashtrays, lighters, hygrometers, humidifiers, and above all, cigar cutters. Unless we want to look like Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, it’s best not to bite off the ends of our cigars. Instead, we more civilized folks prefer using cigar cutters; instruments designed to do one thing, and one thing only: to cut off the ends our cigars. Being of singular purpose, these precision instruments generally work well. But not all cigar cutters are created equal. Some are actually punches, and puncture rather than cut the cigar cap. Others look like small pruning shears, and use a scissor action. And then there is the “V” cutter, slicing a groove into the cap. There is no “correct” way to cut a cigar, and it’s simply a matter of personal preference. However, this article will focus on the most popular kind, the guillotine cutter. And like its name implies, its design dates back to Marie Antionette.
This article, initially published in 2009, has been updated in May 2014.
If you’re new to the world of cigars, you may not only be overwhelmed by the number of stogies out there, but also by the number of cigar books. Like cigars themselves, some cigar books are good, some of them are less good and some of them are, let's admit it, almost useless. I've been checking out some books lately and I also asked people around to recommend their favorites, so we came up with this list. Feel free to let us know if we missed some in the comments area. We’ll update the article accordingly!
Disclaimer: links lead directly to the corresponding Amazon pages of the books. For each sale through these links, Amazon gives us a small %. All the affiliate earnings from these sales will be used to hand out gift certificates to the readers. Subscribe not to miss the giveaways!
The Ultimate Cigar Book
This is the all-time bestseller and considered by many readers in the cigar world to be the definitive guide on the subject. It is indeed quite a nice read, not too simple and not too technical. The author concentrates mostly on non-Cuban cigars. The 2003 edition is quite expensive, but you can get the old one cheap (check the used prices in particular if you want to save money).
Cigars: Revised & Updated
Written by a renowned cigar expert, Vahé Gérard, Cigars: Revised & Updated deals with the history and traditions of cigars. There are some great photographs made by Matthieu Prier. Cigars: Revised & Updated concentrates mostly on Cuban cigars. Unfortunately, this one is pretty expensive, but it makes a great coffee table book for any aficionado who is looking for a great collector’s item.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cigars
This is, in our opinion, the best book for newbies. It is not an expensive title, unlike some of the other books we’ve listed here. If you have more than one year experience in cigar smoking, then you probably won't learn much from this read, but if you're just getting started, there's a ton of valuable information. Extremely easy to read and understand, it will make a nice gift.
The Illustrated History of Cigars
This appears to be the best all-around coffee-table book about cigars. Thorough explanations, interesting history, great illustrations - we should also mention the quality translation. The authors seem to overestimate Cuban cigars, but we'll pardon them. The price isn’t bad either.
Playboy: The Book of Cigars
This coffee table book includes a lot of information about the history of cigars, how they are made, and tips for cutting and smoking. Sprinkled with photos of celebrities and Playboy ladies, this book offers a fun look at the cigar world and a nostalgic tone.
The Complete Guide to Cigars
This hardcover book offers a comprehensive look at the history of cigars and a detailed directory of well-established premium brands. A lot of the information is focused on New World settlement history, so if you are a history buff, this one’s for you. You will also learn how cigars are made step by step from start to finish, and there is some good general advice on choosing cigars for beginners.
Nat Sherman's Passion for Cigars
This one was a recommendation from one of our readers. One of the most renowned cigar makers/shop owners in the world describes his passion for cigars in a simple, accessible, un-snobbish manner. A very enjoyable read that provides inside insights into the cigar industry and also includes some great graphics.
Tobakkonacht - The Antismoking Endgame
Tobakkonacht is a must-read for any cigar aficionado concerned with all the hatred his or her hobby receives all over the world. The book explains how statistical data is misused to promote smoking bans, who benefits from this, and what the real dangers of tobacco are. You can read our full review of Tobakkonacht here.
Blowing Smoke: Being a Compendium of Amusing Anecdotes, Witty Ripostes, and Lengthy Literary Passages on the Glories of the Cigar
Blowing Smoke is a nice collection of anecdotes, quotes and stories about cigars. Suitable for smokers and non-smokers alike, this little book is a good addition to your library.
This is not actually a “book” in the standard sense. It is probably the best pre-filled cigar journal. If you are too lazy to make one, this hardcover, stylish book will help you record your experiences with different cigars. It is extremely easy to use and has enough pages to store hundreds of reviews. This is an excellent choice if you want to easily keep track of the cigars you’ve smoked, brands, tobacco leaves, and notes you have enjoyed, and start discovering patterns in your tastes.
Bonus: Cigar Guide
Again, this is not a book, but a Quick Reference Guide (if you were in school at all recently, you may remember purchasing some of these for calculus, chemistry, and other classes that required a lot of formulas or memorization). It’s a laminated sheet which includes a summary of information on the front and back which is perfect for a novice to check while visiting the tobacconist. As one laminated sheet, it is easy to carry, and can help a newbie make informed decisions about purchases.
As you can see, we didn't include any "cigar encyclopedias" in our list (though several books on this list contain similar sections). There are several reasons for this - first of all, there are so many released and discontinued cigars each year that it is really impossible to have a very reliable printed resource that doesn’t just go out of date again a year later. Secondly, this information (most of it) can be easily found online in an up-to-date form.
I hope you enjoyed this selection. Don't forget to let us know about your favorite cigar books!
“This notice is to inform you that due to a recent change in our apartment policy, you must cease and desist smoking, or vacate the premises within 30 days. We know that you have been living here in our complex for the past fifteen years, and you are a valuable resident. Unfortunately, our tenants have complained, and there is nothing we can do.”
How many times have you received a notice like that? Or been told that you cannot hold a job because you smoke, or even that you will lose a relationship if you do not decide to give up your cigars, cigarettes, or pipe? Any cigar aficionado has gone through an experience like this at least once, if not numerous times. Even if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it is more or less a guarantee that it will eventually.
It’s important to be free to choose the lifestyle that we want. Over the years, tobacco smokers have seen their rights systematically stripped away or threatened. Usually when policymakers bring up a new tobacco law, they cite health concerns as the basis. Friends, family members, landlords, and employers typically do the same. Have you ever wondered about where those statistics come from and what they mean?
Michael McFadden is a graduate of the statistics and propaganda analysis program offered by the University of Pennsylvania. Since graduating, he has worked to promote social change through peaceful activism. He is well known for a previous publication, Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains. His new book, TobakkoNacht (available Amazon), further dissects the statistics which are promoted as facts by antismoking campaigners.
Here are some examples:
One type of statistical aberration McFadden talks about is the “almost zero” logical fallacy. Many statistics about smoking involve comparisons between environments with toxins from cigarette smoke and environments without them. A study may show that there is “53 times as much of the toxin” in the smoking environment, which then frightens the reader. But if the non-smoking environment contains almost zero of that substance, 53 times that amount is still very, very little, and may even be within a safe range.
Another great example is an antismoking study conducted by Dr. Nogueira-Filo et al. called “Low- and High-Yield Cigarette Smoke Potentiates Bone Loss During Ligature Induced Periodontitis.” This study was cited repeatedly by anti-smoking campaigners as a basis for stating that gum disease is caused by secondhand smoke in any amount. What the campaigners failed to mention was that the study was conducted on rats, and that the rats were repeatedly placed in a single cubic foot of space while smoke from cigarettes was pumped in three times a day. This is equivalent to burning almost a thousand cigarettes in a phone booth measuring eighty cubic feet. To top it off, the scientists had torn abrasions in the rats’ gums. The gums were struggling to heal while the rats were subjected to the repeated torture, after which they were put down and dissected. Not only is this an absurd comparison to a standard “smoking environment,” but are these really the kinds of people you want lecturing you on health or morality?
All of this isn’t to say that smoking tobacco has no effect on your health, or that secondhand smoke has no effect either. But you should do your own research and understand where statistics come from before you put your faith in them. The fact is, a lot of what is out there (from both sides unfortunately) is misinformation. It is politically and economically motivated, and smoking is just the beginning. What’s next? Soda? Meat? It may sound paranoid, but take a look at an ingredients list on a food package sometime and start trying to understand what does and doesn’t go into the food you eat and the beverages you drink. It’s shockingly challenging.
Misinformation is rampant in modern life; that might be one of the only facts which is easy to distinguish. Moderation is a good thing when it comes to any personal habit—too much soda isn’t good for anyone, and neither is too much tobacco. But most smokers aren’t shutting themselves up in telephone booths with thousands of burning cigarettes. And if you’re a cigar smoker who simply enjoys an artfully crafted stogie now and again, you owe it to yourself to understand the health risks your habits do and do not impose based on the information which is actually out there. TobakkoNacht is a good start, and once you’ve read it, you’ll be ready to participate intelligently and thoughtfully in any debate about the effects of tobacco.
Recently I tried out a product called the Perfecto Cigar Holder. Many thanks to Gary for sending me this tool for review - he is also willing to provide three cigar holders to give away to our readers - read on for details!
Perfecto Cigar Holder is exactly what it sounds like—a product designed to hold a cigar when you are out and about and are not in a location with an ashtray or another good place to set down your cigar. Think of it as a portable ashtray. The device itself has a resting place for the cigar, a tube for catching ash, and a C-clamp. The idea with the C-clamp is that you can use it to clamp the device onto any surface (a railing for example). So even if you don’t have a table, you can still set your cigar down.
How did it perform? It’s well constructed, but a bit bulky. Despite being bulky, it is lightweight, which is great, and appears to be made with materials that can withstand contact with concrete and other harsh materials without scratching or getting damaged. The nylon it's made out of can withstand temperatures up to 520 degrees F / 271 C, so there are no melting concerns. It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing device, and it looks a bit awkward, but it has a lot of utility.
How useful the Perfecto Cigar Holder is will depend largely on what you want to do with it. For example, it is not very useful in the car, since there is no surface which can accommodate it. But it’s perfect for clamping onto a picnic table, and apparently it will fit most golf carts. I don’t golf, so I can’t attest to that, but I can definitely see where it’d be a great application, and it would be useful if you were out in the park with your laptop working on a bench for example (I noticed that I placed the cigar "ash out" in the picture above. It's not the way you're normally supposed to do it). So, all in all, a useful product. I recommend looking up its dimensions and deciding whether or not it will benefit you. Think about what surfaces you would want to attach it to and where and when you would be using it to decide if it would be a good purchase, either from the official website or from Amazon.
As I said in the beginning of this post, we've got three Perfecto Cigar Holders to give away to our readers, you just need to leave a comment below to be entered in the draw. The winner will be announced in one week. Good luck!
I have recently received a new cigar gadget called Screwpop and, after a few weeks of using it on regular basis, I thought it was time to post a quick review (and, as the title says, we've got a giveaway - read on!).
Screwpop is a cigar punch and a bottle opener. It is described by Screwpop Tool LLC, the company that retails this and other handy tools, as follows:
This durable cigar punch is equipped with a sharp, stainless steel insert for neat-and-easy cutting, threaded screw cap and lightweight aluminum body. The punch can be clipped to belt loops, straps, key rings, in the eyelets of zippers — and just about everywhere else.
Screwpop feels solid and works as advertised - the blade is sharp and makes flawless punch cuts. It's a bit large since it's targeted at the American market, so you might find the cut too wide for your petit corona. The bottle opener is also easy to use once you figure out the way you should hold the tool (I admit I needed a second look). The fact that you can clip it to your belt loop or key ring really helps.
Screwpop Cigar Punch is currently available at $7.95 from Cigars International. Courtesy of Screwpop Tool, we're giving away three of these accessories to our readers! In order to enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post. Feel free to tell us about your favorite cigar accessory.
The winners will be randomly selected in one week. The contest is open internationally.
While looking for a cigar poster featuring different vitolas (anybody knows a good source for one?), I stumbled upon a collection of cigar artworks done in the pin-up style which I found pretty cool to use in a cigar room / lounge. You can get them on eBay.
While reading is one of my favorite hobbies, cigar study has never really driven me to the realm of books. The majority of information I have learned has come from word of mouth or experiences, verification of information online and other electronic research. When Cigar Inspector approached me to review a newly released book I jumped at the opportunity to explore a new (to me) avenue of learning in the hopes that I might not only be able to learn something myself but also convince those less inclined to read that it can be fun if you choose the right content. The vehicle for accomplishing this is Lawrence Dofman's book The Cigar Lover's Compendium : Everything You Need to Light Up and Leave Me Alone.
In order to understand the purpose of this book, the reader need only look as far as the title. A compendium is a summary of a larger knowledge base that while to the point, still offers a certain amount of depth. Based on this descriptive title I would expect the book to cover the gamut when it comes to cigar information including the historical progression of tobacco, information about the various types of cigars, selecting and smoking them and pretty much the highlights from each vital area of the cigar world, which so many of us have come to enjoy.
Dorfman does a very good job at staying true to the focus of his book and that is to provide the reader with a portable reference guide and means of entertainment. He does not distribute five hundred pages on the American and Cuban Tobacco industries but touches on the key elements contributing to their differing pasts. Additionally, the author does a very good job of walking the reader through the entire smoking process beginning with locating a cigar, followed by selection, cutting, lighting and finally enjoying the experience. He does this without attempting to cover thousands of brands, vitolas, or blends. His down to earth attitude and straightforward approach serve to cut through the mystique of cigar smoking making for a very approachable read.
On the whole The Cigar Lover's Compendium (available from Amazon) is a very good basic reference guide. It will not exhaust a single topic but again, that is not its purpose. A person who is new to the hobby or has not thought about the cigar experience byond just the smoking of a cigar will benefit from the book greatly. Although I would not suggest someone who has been around the proverbial cigar block make this their must-read, there are enough poems, anecdotes and random factoids to interest even the most experienced aficionado. Personally, I enjoyed the read and it has sparked interest in areas that I will research more indepth but having completed it, will likely pass my copy onto a friend or acquantaince to enjoy further, rather than keeping it around to continually utilize.
Now for the fun part - courtesy of Robert Sembiante from Globe Pequot Press, we've got 6 copies of The Cigar Lover's Compendium to give away. That's right, SIX copies. Just leave a comment on this post to be entered. US only. The winners will be chosen at random and announced in one week.
I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of Playboy: The Book of Cigars – the new edition. This edition was updated featuring brand new pictures and text. The pictures are some of the best I’ve seen. It’s written by Aaron Sigmund and Nick Kolakowski (Smoke Magazine).
There is a wealth of information for the novice and the seasoned aficionado.
You can learn everything from seed to cigar, from common sizes, wrapper types and growing regions. It’s elegant and sophisticated.
Plus there’s a few pictures of pretty women with cigars thrown in for good measure :) Pick one up today!