If you’re an avid cigar smoker, even as a novice, chances are good by now you’ve had a few bad stogies that weren’t stored properly at the optimal temperature and humidity. Maybe your humidor malfunctioned or you didn’t have one yet, or you purchased a cigar from behind a counter at some convenience store.
If cigars are not stored properly, they develop problems.
Cigars that become too damp through high humidity:
May form patches of mold
May be hard to light
Can go out suddenly after they are lit
Sometimes may have a tight draw
Cigars that become too dry through low humidity:
Lose aroma and flavor through the evaporation of essential oils
May burn hot
Can become harsh
The wrapper may also crack
Just as you need to control the humidity level your cigars are stored in, you also need to maintain control of the temperature.
During the last couple of months, we've posted two excellent articles originally published in an Italian cigar magazine called CigarsLover: "The Bands: the Whole Colour of Tobacco" and "Lighting a Cigar: the Method of Jacques Puisais". Another issue of the magazine was recently released (download it here - there's even an article written by yours truly!) and we're back with another featured article, written by Didier Houvenaghel, that covers the cigar ash and its different aspects.
The white spots that sometimes appear on the ash
Those white spots show that the burn is more complete in those particular areas. That means that, for some reason, the combustion is either improved in those spots or worsened around them.
Stocking up on supplies for your first humidor? Building a wineador? One essential you absolutely must buy is a hygrometer. A hygrometer measures the level of humidity in your humidor, and lets you know if it is too high, too low, or just right. If your humidity drops too much, your cigars will dry out. If your humidity rises too high, your cigars will get musty, possibly even moldy, and may even attract pests. Hygrometers come in two main types: analog and digital. Analog hygrometers work using a spring which tightens or loosens depending on the humidity level. Digital hygrometers are electronic sensors. How do you know which to choose?
I just received the following question from a reader:
“How far should one smoke a cigar? Down to the band? Or, until you need to be hospitalized for 3rd degree burns on your fingertips?”
Good question, and one with varying answers.
If you turn to “cigar etiquette” sources, you might have heard you should never smoke more than half a cigar (downright ridiculous, if you ask me). Another common “rule” is that you should set your cigar down and let it burn itself out (not snuff it out) when three finger-widths are left, measured from the end.
Of course, that really only matters if you are smoking in the company of people who care more about arbitrary and rather questionable rules on etiquette than they do about reaping all the enjoyment they can out of a good stogie. You pay a lot for your cigars, so you should be able to enjoy them to their fullest.
There really are no hard-and-fast rules on how far down you can smoke your cigar. A lot of it depends on the cigar in question, as well as your personal tastes. Some cigars get hot and harsh well before you reach the nub. Some of those cigars you might very well want to abandon before you get even halfway. Others taste great right to the very end, and with those, you may very well decide it’s worth the risk of burning your fingers to take it down to the nub. With time and experience, you’ll know which cigars you’re likely to be able to burn down all the way.
If pain isn’t your thing and you’d rather not burn your fingers, there’s a handy device you can purchase for less than $15 called the Havana Saver Cigar Tool. When you’re getting down toward the nub, you can insert the Havana Saver into your cigar and use it to hold your stogie. It doubles as a cigar holder at the golf course and a draw poke, and it’s highly rated by customers.
So how far down should you smoke a cigar? As far down as you want!
Today we've got another guest post from Nikki Glenn, a cigar aficionadafrom St. Louis and a violinist entertainer for private, corporate and special events worldwide. She loves learning about and smoking cigars as much as possible.
Many female smokers are introduced to cigar smoking by way of the flavored cigar. I've enjoyed smoking cigars for quite a few years, and I still remember my first cigar smoking experience. I was on a gig, and one of the other musicians was smoking what I thought was a cigarette, but it smelled great. When I asked what it was, he explained it was a cigarillo. I tried one and was immediately hooked. I loved the flavor and the aroma, and to my twenty-something self, I thought I was so cool doing it. Now, this was not the most expensive cigarillo ever made – it was an Indiana Slim, special because they were rum-flavored (again, awesome-sounding to my younger self). From cigarillos, I graduated straight to flavored full-sized cigars – vanilla, chocolate, rum, you get the picture. These were the designated “women's” cigars at the time, and I'm pretty sure that these are still considered “ladies” cigars.
However, while flavored cigars are definitely a more gentle introduction to the world of cigars, there are some delightful smokes that go beyond the basic flavors, that I encourage lady smokers to try. I've utilized a gradual approach in incorporating these cigars into my smoking regimen, and I wanted to share with you five of the cigars that have become my “go-to” cigars, both flavored and unflavored.
Drew Estate's ACID cigars are my top flavored pick. They are infused with flavors through some closely guarded, super-secret recipe I imagine is something like KFC's 11 herbs and spices. My two favorite smokes are the ACID Toast and the ACID Cold Infusion, both of which I find mild and sweet, with enjoyable aromas while smoking, and a pleasant taste in the mouth. The ACID line really can't be defined in terms of specific flavors like “vanilla” or “rum” flavor – they are more like flavor “experiences”, but I think that the complexity is very appealing. I encourage the ladies out there to give these a try.
I would like to take this time to point out that I'm still learning my palate when it comes to unflavored cigars, so I cannot speak to the hints of cinnamon, elderberry flower, or whatnot that many more experienced smokers can detect in the following cigars. I can tell you that I enjoy them, and I think you will too. That being said, if you're not in the mood to smoke a flavored cigar, or you are ready for something different, I recommend the Alec Bradley Family Blend, the Nat Sherman Timeless No. 2, or the Oliva Serie V.
The Alec Bradley Family Blend was one of my first unflavored cigar smokes, and I instantly loved its smooth, toasty taste. The Alec Bradley is my choice for end-of-the day smoke to enjoy, just enough body without being too strong. The Nat Sherman Timeless No. 2 is also medium-bodied but has a little more complexity of flavor to me, tasting more of warm spices. This is a cigar that I would definitely suggest to accompany an evening of drinking fine spirits and enjoying the company of friends. My current favorite is the Oliva Serie V, which is a smoke with great body, and somehow reminds me of a rich cup of coffee without really being coffee-flavored. I found myself smelling this cigar for quite a while before I actually smoked it, and really wanting to linger over the smoke. This is definitely my most recommended cigar of the moment.
I encourage lady smokers to be unafraid to explore cigars past the usual “ladies” cigars. Talk to your fellow cigar smokers, to your tobacconist, and don't be shy about discovering what you really like, and don't be ashamed of what you like either. The wonderful thing about cigar-smoking is that everyone's experience is unique and personal. Happy smoking to you!
I was recently contacted by Luca Cominelli, editor of an Italian magazine about cigars, CigarsLover. They are at their 6th issue now and the current issue has been translated into English. I checked out the magazine and I can say that CigarsLover's team is doing a great job - there's a lot of interesting content. You will find below an article from this issue about cigar bands, written by Paolo Topa. You can download the full issue here.
The band represents an iconic image for the contemporary smoker, influenced by different factors including the marketing operations of a brand and their need to distinguish themselves from others.
In the past, cigars didn’t have this accessory. They were just packed with the origin label. In 1830, Gustave Bock, head of a Cuban cigar firm, came up with the revolutionary idea to introduce a recognition system for cigars, in order to avoid counterfeiting when exported to the European continent. His idea was simple and very close to our modern copyright: put a paper band with his signature on each cigar so that no one could steal his work. From that moment on, the band became a necessary element to distinguish one cigar from another. Some people believe the band has a second, more practical, aim: protecting smokers’ gloves. In this context we can compare the band with the “Smoking” – born as a smoking jacket aimed to preserve gentlemen’s clothing.
I recently started smoking cigars and I feel it's time to buy my first humidor. Which one should I choose?
At some point fairly early on in your journey as a newbie cigar smoker, you are going to need to look into buying a humidor. The need will strike you when you start browsing in your cabinets for cigars to smoke and find yourself running across dried-up or moldy cigars that have suffered from the natural climate of your home. Some cigars that have not been well cared for can be salvaged, but many cannot, and no matter what, they will lose at least some of their quality.
Once you know you love smoking cigars, it becomes a necessity to buy a humidor and save your cigars from this unhappy fate. Yes, if you have a very small collection, you can keep them in zip-lock bags. If you have a cooler you do not use for other purposes, you can even use that as a humidor, but it will never function as well as a real humidor. Ultimately, protecting your cigars by keeping them in a climate-controlled environment saves you money, so you can think of a humidor as an investment. When you purchase a humidor, you will need to think about type, material, size, and price.
One of the more confusing topics in cigars concerns the classification of tobacco primings. Not a lot of cigar smokers are able to talk in-depth about the leaves on a tobacco plant, how they are harvested, or which leaves on the stalk are used to make premium cigars. So you’ll be well equipped to lead the discussion the next time you’re at the cigar parlor enjoying a stogie with your fellow cigar aficionados after you read this article.