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.
We get a lot of questions from cigar aficionados who are just starting out. This is why I wrote this comprehensive guide for newbies planning to learn how to smoke their first cigar.
Smoking a cigar is a timeless sign of class: Winston Churchill smoked cigars. So did Babe Ruth, Mark Twain, and King Edward VII. Modern celebrities and politicians who enjoy lighting up a stogie include David Letterman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bill Clinton. If you want to look as classy as these gents when you are smoking your first cigar, though, you’re going to need to do some reading first. Fortunately for you, everything you need to know to get started is outlined below. Not only will reading this brief guide ensure that you won’t look like a fool when you light up, but you’ll also enjoy your first cigar if you don’t make common newbie mistakes!
Let’s get started!
Buying Your First Premium Cigar
The word “premium” may send you running for the hills if you’re new to the world of cigars, but don’t mistake “premium” for “expensive.” A lot of premium cigars are very reasonably priced, and you can buy a great beginner stogie for three to five bucks. Ignore that impulse to purchase your first cigar from the checkout counter at the liquor store. If you do that, I guarantee you will not enjoy it.
Go to a tobacconist, and pick a cigar out of a humidor which has been properly taken care of and kept at the right temperature and humidity. I suggest a cigar which is mild or medium; while some newbie smokers enjoy full-bodied cigars right off, many find the experience overwhelming. Don’t forget that a cigar is a slow, leisurely experience, very different from a cigarette. It will probably take you about an hour to smoke your cigar. Here are some recommendations for your first cigar:
Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente. This is a medium-bodied cigar with a natural or maduro wrapper. Both are excellent, and retail for around $4.00.
Brickhouse. This cigar is also medium in body and has flavors of honey, nutmeg, and cedar. It retails for around $5.00.
Torano Master Series. This cigar sells for around $6.00, and is perfect for a dessert lover; flavors and aromas include butterscotch, gingerbread, dried fruit, and nuts.
Flor de Oliva. This cigar is very cheap, only about $2.50 per stick. The quality is excellent, with great construction and a simple, but pleasant flavor profile both woody and sweet.
I also suggest you ask the tobacconist for suggestions. Many tobacconists are very friendly, knowledgeable people, and your local tobacconist can probably provide you with some outstanding advice.
Parts of a Cigar
There’s no point trying to explain how to cut, light, and smoke your cigar until you know the basic terminology. The body of your cigar has three components. The outermost leaf is called the wrapper. It’s the part you see. Inside it are the binder and filler leaves. The binder, as you might guess, contains the filler leaves. All three contribute flavor (check out our cigar flavor wheel) to the cigar, and the quality of the binder usually determines how even the burn will be.
The body of the cigar is enclosed by the head at the top and the foot at the bottom. The foot is the part of the cigar where ash will form (it’s also where you light the cigar). The head is the part you smoke, and it will be covered by a cap when you buy it. The cap is a round piece of tobacco that has been attached to the head to keep the wrapper from falling apart. If you look closely, you will see a clear line here. Finally, the label which names the cigar company is called the band. You generally should remove this, but only if it will not damage the cigar (generally not a problem).
Cutting and Lighting Your First Cigar
Another thing you will have to buy before you smoke your first cigar is a cutter. There are a number of different types of cutters on the market, but I recommend you get a simple guillotine cutter. You’ll see a wide price range, but look at the lower end and you can get a perfectly efficient cutter for under $10. To use the cutter, put the cutter flat on a counter or table, and then insert the cigar vertically. The area you are aiming for is just before the cap, which you’ll find at the head of the cigar, not the foot:
If you overdo it, your cigar might start to fall apart. So if in doubt, be conservative at first. If you need to cut more, you can, but you can’t undo a cut you already have made. You want the head of the cigar to be open, but not loose. Note that cutting torpedo shaped cigars (the ones with the pointy ends) is more challenging than cutting standard parejo shaped cigars. So you may not want to purchase a torpedo on your first go. Another tip is to try wetting the cap with your lips before you cut. This usually makes the cap come right off with minimal effort, resulting in a cleaner cut.
At this point, you’re ready to light your first cigar! Avoid cigarette lighters, because the fluid can taint the flavors of the cigar, and you don’t want that. Some smokers use standard matches, while others opt for butane torch lighters. Do not try to light the cigar with the head in your mouth. You may eventually learn how to do this, but you won’t want to try on your first go. You’re bound to do an uneven job of it if you can’t see what you’re doing. There’s also a chance you’ll make the burn too hot. Hold up the cigar in front of you and pay attention to what you’re doing as you light the foot. Get the burn nice and even. You can do this by rotating the cigar.
Text & pictures not very clear? Watch Penthouse model Aria Giovanni light a cigar:
Smoking Your First Cigar Like a Pro
First-time cigar smokers often make mistakes while smoking because they assume that smoking a cigar is similar to smoking a cigarette. These mistakes include:
Smoking too fast. Your cigar was designed to provide a pleasant, relaxing experience. Many cigars take around an hour to smoke, and some take even longer. So don’t try to rush it. Otherwise, the cigar will end up burning hotter than it is meant to, and that will ruin the experience.
Smoking too slowly. Don’t overshoot and smoke too slowly, because this will cause your cigar to go out. If it does, don’t worry about it. Just relight and start again. You’ll get the hang of it.
Don’t inhale the cigar smoke! This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Cigar smoke is potent, and if you inhale, you’ll feel like your lungs are on fire. The flavor and aroma of a cigar is meant to be enjoyed in the nose and mouth, not in the lungs. Many a newbie smoker who has inhaled by mistake has been put off of cigars—even though this was not the intended experience.
Now that you know the basics of how to smoke a cigar, here are some additional tips which you’ll find helpful as you explore the world of stogies:
When you finish your cigar, don’t put it out by squashing it in an ash tray. You may tap off your ash into the tray as you smoke, but this is simply not how you put out a cigar. If you just set it down in the tray, it will eventually go out. This is basic cigar etiquette, but not something a beginner would necessarily know.
Have a glass of water with you. You can choose another beverage, but beverages all impact the flavor profiles of cigars (and vice versa). So I recommend you go with something simple for your first cigar. Later you can learn all about pairing cigars with drinks.
Don’t expect to be smoking like a veteran cigar aficionado right from your first stogie, and if the experience suffers a few hiccups, try again and don’t get down about it. It takes most people at least several cigars to learn how to smoke comfortably and really get into the experience. Following these tips should get you off to a great start!