Gifting cigars: sticks you can’t go wrong with

About once a week, I receive an e-mail from somebody who wants to offer cigars to one of his/her friends and does not really know how to proceed. The question is always the same: "what cigars should I offer to my smoking buddy?". I would reply with 2-3 suggestions that were first to come to mind, but realized that they often depended on my mood and on my recent experiences. So, not only in order to save time but mostly to provide a longer list of recommended smokes, I decided to write this blog post. Many thanks to brothers from Cigar Asylum for helping me out.

Below you will find a list of smokes that most of cigar smokers will like to receive as a gift, whatever their smoking experience. I tried to select cigars that are more or less available across the country, fall within a reasonable budget (with a couple of exceptions, of course) and are suitable for every kind of smoker (i.e. no powerhouses). I think that this list might be useful not only to non smokers, but also to beginners who have smoking friends with longer experience. As for me, from now on I will only have to paste a link when replying :)

Oliva

Oliva Serie V Torpedo

Oliva Serie G [review / compare prices] and Oliva Serie O [review / compare prices] are very good smokes for less experienced smokers. More seasoned smokers would probably prefer the Oliva Serie V [review / compare prices], one of my all-time favorite cigars.

Padron

Padron 1926 Serie No. 2 Maduro Belicoso

The X000 line is probably one of the best price/quality ratios available on the market. My personal favorite is Padron 2000 [review / compare prices]. If you are willing to spend more money on your gift, you can have a look at 1926 / 1964 series. I'm fairly sure that EVERY cigar smoker will appreciate getting a box of Padron 1926 [review / compare prices]. However, please note that this is the most expensive cigar in this list.

Don Pepin Garcia

Don Pepin Garcia is a legend in the cigar business and while some of the blends are quite pricey and may be difficult to find, the Cuban Classic [review / compare prices] is widely available and is not too hard on the pocket. Many smokers enjoy its flavors with a touch of sweetness.

Arturo Fuente

Arturo Fuente Short Story

Almost anything from Fuente is quality, however our choice here goes to the Hemingway line. Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story [review / compare prices] is an excellent smoke, but you can also check out Work of Art and Best Seller lines.

CAO

CAO Gold Vintage Crémant

CAO is another well-known brand that makes quality sticks. It appears that the two blends which will suit everybody's palate are CAO Gold - including CAO Gold Vintage [review / compare prices] - and CAO La Traviata, a great budget stick. The latter one is pretty tough to find, so if you see it at your local Brick & Mortar store, don't think twice.

Ashton

Ashton VSG

Another major brand in our selection is Ashton. Ashton VSG [review / compare prices] is the second most expensive cigar in this list, but it's definitely a great gift.

Brickhouse

Brickhouse Churchill

Elected as the Best Bargain Cigar of 2009 by Cigar Aficionado, the Brickhouse line [review / compare prices] is actually good. A decent budget alternative.

Cubao

Cubao No. 3

Both natural and maduro versions of the Cubao [review / compare prices] deserve the good press and high ratings they earned. The price is also acceptable.

Avo

Avo Domaine 20 Perfecto

Avo cigars are usually very reliable in terms of construction and provide an enjoyable though slightly one-dimensional flavor. The typical example is the Avo Domaine [review / compare prices] which scores very high in the looks and construction departments.

This list should give you enough choice for your gift. Feel free to bookmark it for future use & share it with your friends. We hope that you found it useful.

PS And, of course, feel free to add your suggestions below. Your feedback is, as always, appreciated.

Cigar Tip: Cutting a Torpedo

Cutting a Torpedo

Cutting a cigar cap can be tricky. We need to cut just enough cigar to open its end, but not so deep as to cause the wrapper to unravel. This is particularly true with a torpedo type vitola. These pointy-end cigars are some of the hardest to roll because the head is elongated, making it’s construction more challenging than a parejo (standard cigar shape). This elongated head means the windings of the cap are spread out over a larger area of the cigar.

Click here to read the full article...

What’s in a shape? Cigar shapes & sizes

At first I thought this would be an easy enough task. Just list the range in cigar shapes and sizes. But the more I thought of this, the more work it became. But that's okay. I want to bring you the reader (all three of you) a comprehensive list of shapes and sizes from both the Domestic and International markets.

I'll start with general shapes and sizes. I will also discuss more of the unique shapes and sizes available.

Parejo

Avo Signature Lonsdale

A cigar with a cylindrical body and straight sides, basically a "normal" looking cigar.

Pigtail CapParejos can also have a pigtail cap. There are often found on lanceros for some reason. The Cuban Trinidad line has all sizes finished with a pigtail cap.

The main sizes within the Parejo shape are (length in inches x ring gauge):

  • Corona : 5.5 x 42
  • Robusto : 5 x 50
  • Toro : 6 x 50
  • Lonsdale : 7 x 42
  • Churchill : 7 x 48

These sizes are approximate, a lot of manufacturers would still call any cigar measuring 4.5-5.5 inches long, with a ring gauge of 48-52 a robusto.

Also, parejos may be box-pressed, to even such extremes as wafer thin, and even may be triangle-pressed. A good example of a box-pressed cigar is the Padron Family Reserve No. 85, pictured below:

Padron Family Reserve No. 85 Maduro

Figurado

A cigar with a non-standard shape. There are several basic styles to figurados. They will be listed below. The sky is the limit on figurados, a lot of manufacturers like to tap into their rollers' creativity in creating a myriad of shapes from pipe-shaped cigars to baseball bat and chili pepper shaped cigars. (Check out vitolas.net for an array of funky shapes and sizes).

Oliva Serie V Torpedo

  • Torpedo / Belicoso - The most popular of shaped cigars, the torpedo is simply a parejo with a pointed head (pictured above is the Oliva Serie V Torpedo). A torpedo may also be box-pressed.

Pyramid

  • Pyramid - The most misnamed of all the shapes. A pyramid is tapered from head to foot. Many manufacturers and smokers falsely name torpedoes as pyramids.

La Aurora Preferidos

  • Perfecto - A perfecto is narrow at the head and foot (usually to a point at both ends) and bulbous in the middle, like the La Aurora Preferidos above. Odd variations of the perfecto look like a snake has swallowed a mouse.

Arturo Fuente Short Story Maduro

  • Diadema / Salomon / Presidente - basically a parejo or a perfecto with a closed foot. Domestically diademas and salamones are most bulbous closest to the foot just prior to the closed tip of the foot. A good example is the Hemingway series from Arturo Fuente, like the Short Story (above).

Unusual shapes

Partagas Culebras

  • Culebra - Three intertwined cigars tied together at both ends by twine or string. Culebras have an interesting back story as they are growing in popularity and currently are used in higher end cigars (the most famous being Partagas Culebras, pictured above) but were initially used to ensure that rollers, who were allotted three cigars a day to take home, were not taking any extra with them. The cigars were rolled together so that they would be recognizable outside of the factory. Any rollers smoking a parejo would then be guilty of theft.

La Flor Dominicana Air Bender Chisel

  • Chisel - I've added this size in honor of Litto Gomez who is a true innovator in the industry. The chisel has a head like a torpedo but is pressed in a way that resembles... a chisel. Want an example? Check the La Flor Dominicana Air Bender Chisel.

 

Returning cigars… don’t be shy

Returning cigars... don't be shy

No need to smoke a brick.

Readers have often asked how to unplug a clogged cigar. I know from experience that no amount of poking, squeezing, or picking will make a plugged cigar fun to smoke. My advice has always been to simply exchange the stick for another. It’s rare that an entire line of cigars will be plugged and it’s pretty safe to exchange one for the same make and model.

Click here to read the full article...

Cigar Tip: Dry Boxing Cigars

Cigar Tip: Dry Boxing Cigars

There is nothing like a moist, fragrant cigar. The wonderful aroma we sense upon opening our cigar humidors is mouth-watering to a cigar lover. But sometimes that aroma can indicate we are getting too much of a good thing.

Long term cigar storage needs to be in the 68% to 72% RH range (at a temp close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). But that moist environment can cause some cigars to burn poorly. Additionally, an overly moist cigar can have a bitter taste giving the smoker the wrong impression of its quality. This is where dry boxing comes in.

Click here to read the full article...

What is retro-haling?

I received three contact form messages during the last week from users who wanted to know how to retro-hale and I decided to answer the question in a blog post.

First of all, what is retro-haling? According to the tobacconist university:

Retro-haling is the act of moving smoke from the back of the mouth, up through the sinuses, and exhaling through the nasal passages.

Now, why would one want to smoke a cigar through the nose? Well, it is simply because we have so many flavor detectors in our noses - much more than on the tongue that can only distinguish basic flavors. Smoking through the nose will maximize the flavors you will get out of your cigar.

Final question - how do you do it? That's the tricky part, quite difficult to explain. Former cigarette smokers will certainly know how to retro-hale and I'll try to describe it as concisely as I can. First of all, take a good puff on your cigar and release approximately half of the smoke through the mouth as you normally do. Do not inhale or swallow the remaining smoke. With your mouth closed, gently push the smoke to the back of the cavity with your tongue and at the same time start exhaling through the nose. That's it!

Make sure you try this with the mildest cigar you can get and go slowly or you might end up coughing quite a bit. I usually do it a couple of times in each third but there are aficionados who retro-hale every single puff.

What is your experience with retro-haling? Have you noticed that it helps to detect more flavors?

Charging a humidifier in a humidor

I recently received a newsletter from BuyLighters.com with a nice video called How to troubleshoot a lighter. I started browsing through all their videos on YouTube and found a really good one on how to charge a humidifier in a humidor. Dave Sabot from CheapHumidors.com explains it really well - I decided to post it here. Enjoy.

Cigar Tip: wet the cap before cutting

When I light a cigar with friends who are not regular cigar smokers, I often see them damaging the wrapper near the cap when using a guillotine cutter. While it may seem obvious to some of you, a very simple tip is to wet the cap a little with your lips, then carefully apply the cutter. The cap (especially true if it's a Cuban triple cap) will come off without effort, leaving even edges without damage to the wrapper.

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