There have been several heated discussions in blogs and forums on the web, over the benefits of wetting your cigar before smoking it. Min Ron Nee, a well respected aficionado was the one that said he sometimes puts his cigars under the tap before smoking them to enhance their flavours and the overall smoking experience. Some people said that it did seem logical, some more adventurous tried it and some simply said this was impossible! I thought I should try the experiment myself and find out if wetting a cigar would make it more pleasurable to me. To be able to compare it with a dry cigar, I picked up two Ramon Allones Small Club Coronas, in order to smoke them at the same time. Both cigars were from the same 2008 box.
Recently we had a reader write in with the following question:
“Do you think cabinet selections are somewhat better than dress boxes?”
This is a good question and well worth addressing. For those not already familiar with the different ways that cigars can be packaged, dress boxes and cabinet selections are both common styles.
A dress box is also known as a “semi-plain box.” This is the most common type of packaging you will come across, and basically the default for most purchases. A dress box is typically made of either cardboard or wood, and usually includes some kind of finishing material on top like decorative paper. On top of that go all the logos and seals you expect to see identifying the brand.
A cabinet selection is a large square / rectangular box made out of Spanish cedar. It may also be known as a “slide-lid box” or sometimes just “SLB” or “cabinet.” As these names indicate, a cabinet selection usually is closed with a wooden slide-lid. Sometimes the lids are hinged. Usually around 20-50 cigars are packed into a cabinet selection.
A lot of people say they prefer to purchase cabinet selections rather than cigars in dress boxes. There really is no “better” here, since it is very much a matter of subjective preference.
What are the advantages of going with a cabinet selection? Most smokers who prefer them say that they like them better because:
- Cabinet selection boxes are often not as cramped as the dress boxes, so the cigars have more room to breathe. (Cigars in cabinet selections are often pretty cramped, though.)
- The cigars in cabinet selection boxes are in direct contact with cedar. This (apparently) imparts something to the flavor profile of a cigar. This actually is probably the case no matter what material you store your cigars in. But many people prefer the cedar flavor to the flavors that are imparted from dress boxes and other types of containers.
- Maturation. For the two reasons above (room to breathe and contact with cedar), it is commonly believed that cabinet selections are better for maturing cigars than dress boxes. Some smokers feel they age faster. Others feel they simply age better.
- Presentation. Many people prefer the cabinet selection boxes over the dress boxes for aesthetic reasons. Cigar smoking engages all the senses, so this is a completely sensible point of view.
- Psychology. Since cabinet selection boxes have a reputation of distinctiveness over dress boxes, many people just prefer them for that reason, and openly admit that they aren’t sure that cabinet selection boxes really make their cigars taste better. They just feel good buying them.
In short, all of these advantages are somewhat hypothetical. Even people who are fairly certain that cabinet selection boxes impart a better flavor will usually admit that they aren’t positive, as there is a lot of variation and inconsistency from one cigar to another. Personally I think out of the two main theories about flavors and maturation, the one about cedar makes the most sense.
In the end, whether you go with cabinet selections or dress boxes is up to you based on your own personal tastes. If you prefer cabinet selections, then by all means, go with them. If you don’t notice a difference, that’s fine too; not everyone does.
Recently I posted on 5 Must-Have Accessories for Smoking Outdoors in Winter, and I got some great responses! Now that we’ve talked about how we stay warm and keep our cigars from drying out, I want to share some of what I’m smoking this winter with you. Six non-Cuban cigars followed by four habanos. These cigars are all on the short side, so they won’t keep you out in the cold for too long. Please note that these are not cigarillos, you'll still need at least 25 minutes to go through most of these cigars, and twice as much for a few robustos on the list.
Joya Red Short Churchill
This has become a very popular Nicaraguan puro over the past couple years, and it’s easy to understand why. The construction rocks, and the flavors are a tasty combination of earth, leather, and nuts with just a hint of plum and citrus to balance it out. Best of all, you can pick these up for around $6 each, which is just a crazy bargain for the quality. For winter, I smoke the Short Churchill, which measures 4 3/4 x 48.
Herrera Esteli Short Corona Gorda Natural
Here is another short cigar you can get for around $7. This cigar was a collaborative effort between Willie Herrera and Drew Estate. Personally, I think it’s one of Drew Estate’s best. The stogie measures 4 7/8 x 46, and has a delicious, smooth, classic blend of flavors which is perfectly balanced. Because it’s so reasonably priced, you can really load up on these for the winter; it’s the perfect everyday smoke!
Illusione Fume d’Amour Viejos
This Nicaraguan puro measures 5 x 50, and it’s one of my very favorite cigars at the moment that I reach for when I have some more time and/or when it's not that cold outside. Illusione releases are a rare treat, but they have real staying power—I’ve been enjoying these since their release last year, and I don’t imagine I’ll tire of them anytime soon. Perfect draw and a razor sharp burn make for a smooth smoking experience. Flavors include a wonderful mesh of sweet and spicy: cocoa, nuts, and cream sprinkled with cinnamon and red pepper. I love those spicy notes on a cold winter’s day!
[review] [compare prices]
Oliva Serie G Special G
If you’re in search of a classic cigar which has built up a loyal fan base over the years and is perfect for winter, look no further than the Oliva Serie G Special G. This is a squat Perfecto measuring just 3 3/4 x 48. Don’t be fooled by the small stature of this cigar, however—it is a flavor giant! Hay, hazelnuts, and spice pack a memorable punch. Even on a super cold day, this smoke will feel like it is over way too quickly. The good news is these only cost around $4 per stick, so you can stock up.
[review of the maduro robusto] [compare prices]
This cigar includes filler leaves from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, a Nicaraguan binder, and a Brazilian wrapper (for the maduro; there are also habano and natural versions). It measures 4 x 38, and features a great mix of cedar, cocoa, and pepper. There are no surprises here, no major twists or turns, but it is quite enjoyable. The only drawback I’d cite with this one is that it tends to get a little harsh near the end, so you can’t really smoke it down to the nub. Oh yeah, and these are really cheap, like $3 per stick.
H. Upmann Sun Grown Short Churchill
These cigars measure 4.5 x 54, and are rolled in sun-grown Ecuadorian wrappers with Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers and a broadleaf binder. It’s a mellow smoke with notes of wood and leather and sound construction. The flavor profile is simple, but sometimes simple is what you want. In particular, this cigar stands out to me for its sweet, unique aroma.
[review of the magnum] [compare prices]
Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto (Cuba)
This short robusto was among our favorite Cuban cigars last year. It measures just 4 x 50, and it’s reasonably priced around $9. Construction is always good, and the flavors—lots of cocoa and spice—are perfect for the holidays. As a bonus, the flavors have actually improved with time; a little aging does these cigars a lot of good. You can smoke the Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto right down to the nub without a hint of harshness.
H. Upmann Petit Corona (Cuba)
Another H. Upmann, but a Cuban this time (and JFK's favorite by the way)! This petit corona measures around 5 inches and features great, consistent construction and delicious earthy flavors with some spice thrown in for good measure. There’s nothing radical or unexpected here, but you don’t always want a lot of curveballs. At $7 per stick, it’s a great value. This is a pretty well-known cigar, but I still think it deserves more props. Give it a try this winter.
Montecristo Petit Edmundo (Cuba)
This short robusto measures around 4 1/3 inches and sells for around $11. It’s a great-looking cigar with an oily wrapper and awesome construction. The burn is pretty straight and does a good job self-correcting (I love low-maintenance cigars, especially in the winter; I want to keep my hand warm in my pocket, not constantly be adjusting a wavy burn line). Flavors include dry cedar and bitter chocolate. There’s an amazing mix of saltiness and sweetness with just a hint of pepper. You’re not going to find better balanced notes anywhere. The value is outstanding. Make sure you have enough time for this one though, I really don't like rushing a Petit Edmundo.
Romeo y Julieta Petit Churchill (Cuba)
If youre looking for a reasonably priced Cuban cigar for winter that offers a short smoking time, this petit robusto is the way to go. The length is around 4 inches with a stout 50 ring gauge. The construction is as flawless as the appearance, and the stogie offers a delightfully complex bouquet of flavors including coffee, chocolate, leather and fruits. Its a very satisfying stick which you can smoke right down to the nub without heat or harshness.
So there you have it … 10 of the best short cigars for winter! You will find additional ideas in our selection of the best cigars under $5.
Now it’s your turn! What are your recommendations?
UPDATE: Readers' Suggestions
Here is a list of other great short smokes suggested by our readers:
- Asylum Petite Corona
- Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story
- Avo Domaine Puritos [review of the perfecto]
- CAO Gold Karats
- Drew Estate Papas Fritas
- J. Fuego Origen
- Nica Rustica Short Robusto
- Rocky Patel Vinage 1999 Juniors
- Room 101 Namakubi Ecuador Papi Chulo
- H. Upmann Half Corona (Cuba)
- Montecristo No. 5 (Cuba)
- Partagas Shorts (Cuba)
- Por Larranaga Petit Corona (Cuba)
- Rafael Gonzalez Perlas (Cuba)
- Ramon Allones Small Club Corona (Cuba)
- Trinidad Reyes (Cuba)
Cigar breath … also called cigar mouth. One of the few drawbacks of smoking stogies, it’s something all of us have experienced at one time or another. It’s bad enough when that taste sticks in your mouth after you smoke, but even worse when you brush and floss and use your mouthwash, wake up the next morning, and it’s still there. And worse, you lean over to kiss your wife and she turns the other way and gags.
Why Does Cigar Breath Happen?
First things first. Let’s talk about why cigar mouth happens. I’ve actually heard a number of theories on the topic. It’s my guess that each of them is a contributing factor. For starters, let’s say you smoke a badly made or poorly aged cigar that has a lot of bitter flavors and ammonia. A cigar like that is going to leave some unpleasant flavors lingering on your palate. So what you smoke is a factor.
We’ve been getting quite a lot of questions about temperature-controlled humidors lately and it was about time to come up with an answer! The following guest article comes courtesy of Squidot.
Wineador: a wine cooler converted for use as a humidor.
When I was looking for info on this topic I found a lack of a good singular source, instead having to go to multiple sites/forums to find the answers to my questions. I thought it would be helpful to compile my findings and the options you have available when going this route. If anyone wants to add something please let me know in the comments. Let's get started !
Why a wineador?
- The main reason people choose wineadors as their preferred storage method is the temperature controls. This can be very handy if you live in a hot climate like me. I don't really want to keep my entire downstairs at or below 70 degrees for the sake of my cigars. With my wineador I am easily able to keep my sticks at a pretty constant 64 degrees. It also has a fan that will circulate air, which is very nice.
- Another reason is increased storage capacity. You could also go with “coolidoors” but you wouldn't have temp controls or airflow. And also...
- Aesthetics. Many people, myself included, really like the way they look once you get custom drawers in there.
A few months ago we posted an article called "The Bands: the Whole Colour of Tobacco", which was part of a relatively new cigar magazine called CigarsLover. Based in Italy, the team behind this publication is doing a great job and each issue is better than the previous one. Today we're posting an article written by Heiko Blumentritt from the most recent issue, which you can download here.
Smoking could be only a mere pleasure, but sometimes it could also be a scientific experience, pursuant to “La Méthode de Jacques Puisais”, or “The Method of Jacques Puisais”.
Mr. Puisais, the director of the French Institute of Taste, developed his personal theory about the lighting of the cigar. The flame emits a relevant heat, which creates a temperature gap between the head and the foot of the cigar; for this reason if you light up a cigar after having cut – or punched – its head, part of the smoke ends up in the middle of the cigar. This phenomenon leads to some negative aspects and it influences the taste in a significant way. His recommendation is to light up the cigar without cutting it before, and to blow on its foot before starting to smoke it, so that the impurities arisen with the heat can be expelled.
Jacques Puisais is a renowned character who made a big effort in the Taste field research. Many experienced smokers, in the field of food & wine, with well educated taste buds, are committed supporters of this theory, so this pushed me to give it a try.
I have been using this method for 4-5 years, and I tried it with various cigars. The test for this article has been led with a Montecristo No. 4.
For this test, two cigars of the same type have been lit up at the same time (using a non jetflame lighter). One of the cigars have been cut after the lighting, blowing through it before to make the first puff. The other cigar has been cut and lighted up after heating its foot until the burn was even (the first puff has been taken without blowing through the cigar).
The question now is: is there any difference between the two cigars?
As far as I’m concerned the answer is yes, especially for the first third.
One possible explanation is the “Chimneystack effect” inside the cigar, as claims Puisais. The lighting of a cigar gives off a strong heat and the smoke emitted looks for a way out. With the head cut, part of the smoke goes through the body of the cigar, releasing several impurities on the tobacco leaves. The part near the foot is the most affected one by this phenomenon, and this could be a possible reason why the first third is the most negatively influenced part.
The smoke regularly passes through the cigar during the smoking process. So why does the problem only come up during the lighting? Probably it is because the temperature of the lighter’s flame is much higher than the one kept by the cigar when it is lit. This theory finds its validation in the fact that smoking very fast involves an overheating and, what is important, usually makes the cigar bitter and unpleasant.
This is obviously only theory, but it is convenient to test it with the practice. In order to figure it out, the only thing we can do is smoking two cigars in parallel, simultaneously. That is exactly what we did, and the following is our report, where cigar 1 is the one lit with the Puisais Method and cigar 2 has been cut before lighting it up.
Cigar 1: the opening is really creamy, with rich notes of cocoa and delicate aromas of coffee, with hints of chocolate and milk. The aromas are well combined.
Cigar 2: the opening is sour, notes of coffee and spices (black pepper) are highlighted.
Both the cigars develop the same aromatic palette, and no differences have been noticed. The woody aroma (cedar) plays the main role, followed by coffee and leather.
The cedar and leather notes increase in intensity. Every puff develops toasted aromas. The two cigars show some slight differences. While cigar1 is still really creamy and pleasant, cigar2 is the first one to rest in the ashtray. Since we smoked both of them with the same rythim, we exclude that this happened beacuse of an overheating.
The cigar 1 lasted 65 minutes, without any combustion issue. I had to put it down to not burn my fingers.
The cigar 2 lasted around 50 minutes and some burn corrections were necessary. It got bitter in the last third.
With this article we don’t want to say that Puisais Method is the correct one and the “traditional lightning” is not. We just want to make you curious about it and perhaps make you try it out!
This post, originally published in November 2012, has been updated in 2014.
Following the blog post about the best options when selecting cigars as a gift, it's now time to cover the budget cigars area. Indeed, there are so many cheap cigars out there (think about all those bundles from large distributors) that it's rather hard to find a sub-$5 stick that fits the bill. Of course, when you buy a sampler or even a box of such cigars, the stakes are not high, but still, we're always better off with some guidance.
Below is a list of our favorite cigars that cost under $5 if bought by box. Keep in mind that this selection is subjective, so your mileage may vary, as usual. And if you don't find your favorite budget cigar below, let us know in the comments area!
Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente
Natural or Maduro (or even Sun-Grown), these cigars from one of the major manufacturers rarely disappoint. Well-built, with a medium body, they can be lit daily.
[review of the natural] [review of the maduro] [compare prices]
CAO La Traviata
CAO Osa Sol
EP Carrillo New Wave
Find these on sale and you can easily get them under $5, maybe under $4. EP Carrillo New Wave cigars feature a blend of Nicaraguan and Dominican longfillers housed in an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. Great choice for a mild, creamy smoke at a low price.
[review / compare prices]
Alec Bradley American Classic
Connecticut wrappers are rare guests in most lists, but this one definitely should not be missed. Alec Bradley American Classic is the brand's entry in the budget cigars market, and it's a success.
[review / compare prices]
Alec Bradley American Sun Grown
For more punch, consider another Alec Bradley's line, American Sun Grown. With the same filler as American Classic, it uses a Nicaraguan sun-grown habano wrapper which gives it a rich, spicy flavor profile. If you’re a fan of spicy cigars, this is one you won’t want to miss.
La Aurora 107
Whether you can get these for under $5 will depend on how good a deal you snag, but you should find them close to that price. A suggestion from one of our readers, these cigars feature Nicaraguan and Dominican longfillers in an Ecuadorian wrapper. Flavors are earthy, creamy, woody, and nutty, with a hint of spice and sweetness.
[review / compare prices]
El Rey del Mundo (non-Cuban)
It’s medium to full-bodied and has a nice mix of sweet and woody flavors. This is one of those cigars that range in price a bit, but if you do some hunting, you can get it for under $5 and even under $4.
[review / compare prices]
Gurkha Royal Challenge
What? A Gurkha? It may sound strange, but this Royal Challenge is actually rather good. And at $5, unlike most other offerings that sell for $10+, a sampler of these is affordable.
[review / compare prices]
Perdomo Lot 23
These cigars sell for close to $5 or just a few cents more. Expect a medium-bodied smoke with a balance of earthy and creamy flavors. You can purchase these with several different types of wrappers.
[review / compare prices]
Diesel Unlimited Maduro
You can pick up a box of these cheap cigars for around $3.50 per stick. This is another full-bodied smoke, this time with a Broadleaf maduro wrapper. A San Andres binder and a filler blended from Honduran and Nicaraguan tobaccos complete the mix. If you enjoy sweeter flavors, you will love the notes of coffee and cocoa with a hint of spice and leather. The Habano-wrapped version is equally very good!
Toraño Master Series
Another major manufacturer with a budget smoke. And, again, the results are pretty good. Torano Master Series is a frequent guest in my humidor, thanks to its bold flavor and reliable construction.
[review / compare prices]
Room 101 Big Payback
You can get this Nicaraguan puro easily for $5 or less. Enjoy flavors that are sweet and spicy with a medium to full-bodied profile.
The flavors and aromas are delightful, and while it does not throw any major twists or turns, the subtle variations keep things interesting, and the blend is very nice from start to finish. All of this at around $5.
[review / compare prices]
Bucanero only distributes its cigars directly through its website, so you have to buy from them directly (no, they did not go out of business; this seems to be a common and incorrect rumor). Bucanero Z cigars are available for under $5 and are very popular. Flavors are toasty and spicy with a sweet finish.
Flor de Oliva
Ambos Mundos Habano
Thanks for checking out our updated list of the best cigars under $5! Hopefully you found something new to try. As always, we love your feedback and appreciate your suggestions. Please share your favorite stogies under $5 in the comments below, and we may feature your suggestions in our next updated list!
Recently we received the following question from one of our readers:
"I've been storing some cinnamon-flavored cigars in my humidor and, even one month after I removed them, the humidor still smells of cinnamon, which is affecting my other cigars. How can I get this smell out?"
There are a lot of cases where something like that may happen. Maybe you have a situation similar to our reader’s, and some stogies you stored with a particularly strong aroma are starting to affect the other cigars. Or maybe you just bought a brand new humidor and the cedar smell of the wood is particularly strong, and that is impacting the flavor and aroma of your cigars. Or perhaps you were using your humidor for some other storage application, and whatever you had in there previously left an odor behind it.
Whatever the situation, there is a solution! Or several solutions, as it turns out.
- Let it air out. Sometimes, this is all it takes! Just leave the humidor open for a few days and let the smell die down. This works very well with new humidors that have an overly strong wood smell and can work great in other situations too. Placing the humidor outdoors during this process can work very well so long as you do not need to worry about precipitation.
- Wipe down the inside of the humidor with isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol. You do not need to use a lot. Wait for the box to dry (leave it open so that it can air out thoroughly). After about a day, the aroma will hopefully be gone.
- Baking soda may also do the trick. You may already use this to keep odors out of your fridge. Keep it in a container so that it doesn’t spill, and take out your cigars before you place the baking soda inside. Remove the baking soda as soon as the odor is gone and put your cigars back. This process could take up to a week, but it works great for a lot of odors.
- Try a glass of whisky or brandy. If airing out the humidor doesn’t get rid of the smell, this non-conventional tactic may work to clear out the old smell. The “drawback” is that the new smell will linger for a long time even after you take the glass out again. The reason I say “drawback” is because some people actually like the impact this has on their cigars, and deliberately put a few drops of whisky in their humidors whether they need to get rid of an odor or not. Close the humidor when you try this technique.
- I've also heard people say that placing thinly sliced potatoes inside a closed humidor for a few days can also help you get rid of unwanted smells. Disclaimer: I haven't tried this technique.
As you can see, there are a number of different options you can try, so there is no need to give up on your old humidor. Just be sure to take care of your cigars during the process. In the future, it would be wise to store flavored cigars elsewhere (this part you have probably figured out on your own!).
What tricks have you used to successfully clear out unwanted odors from your humidor? Please share in the comments below!