One of the main things experienced cigar enthusiasts learn is that there’s always something new to learn about cigars. The exchange and passing along of cigar knowledge is a time-honored tradition in world of cigar smoking, as experiences BOTLs and SOTLs share their experiences, tips, and tricks with new smokers just starting to become interested in the hobby. We put together this little test so you can see how much of an expert you are, pit your knowledge against your smoking buddies, and maybe teach you something new! Continue reading
How’s this? You’re hanging out with your compañeros, enjoying some cigars, drinks, snacks, etc., and you reach one of those moments when everyone goes silent. Here are my picks for the top 10 cigar smoking tricks you can do with your cigars to liven up the mood. Continue reading
It’s fair to assume that if you smoke cigars you already have a lighter; maybe even several of them. Cigar lighters are sort of like pens. Odds are you’ve got a number of them at your disposal, but there’s probably one you use most often. That said, if you’re not sure which lighter to use for your cigars, what follows is a brief description of the options available to you. Continue reading
It’s no secret. By purchasing your premium cigars online you can save a lot of money. There’s only one catch; you have to wait for your cigars to be delivered. As a result, I’m often asked how long mail-order cigars should be allowed to rest before smoking them.
Technically speaking, premium handmade cigars should be ready to smoke right out of the factory box when they arrive at the store. If everything was done right at the factory, including the aging time, and the cigars were properly stored by the vendor, your cigars should be OK when they arrive at your house.
Cigar tunneling, a circumstance in which a cigar’s wrapper leaf doesn’t burn, causing a cave-like formation in the foot of the cigar, can be caused by several factors: The purpose of the binder leaf is to help all of the tobaccos burn at approximately the same rate. Therefore, if the wrapper is too moist, too thick, or too oily, it may not burn at the same rate as the filler and binder. (Maduro and Oscuro wrappers tend to be much oilier than most shade grown and other “natural” wrapper leaves.)
There are many different tricks and theories on how to light a cigar. I wanted to share one of my favorite tips that will help you get the most from your smoke. When toasting your cigars, etiquette dictates that you’re not supposed to let the flame touch the tobacco at the foot. Rather, the flame should be held close enough to the tobacco to get the foot glowing without it catching fire. Once you see red (so to speak), gently blow on the foot until the entire surface is glowing all the way out to the last ring.
Have you ever noticed how many things are seasonal? Fruits and veggies, sports, ice fishing – even beers are seasonal. You might opt for an IPA or a refreshing pale ale during the summer, and a Porter or Stout during the winter. Could the same be said for premium cigars? Why not?
Using the beer example above, bolder cigars would be smoked during the late fall and winter months, while lighter-bodied cigars would be smoked during the late spring and summer. As always, it’s a matter of personal preference. So what cigars are best for smoking during different times of the year? To tell the truth, I’ve never thought about it all that much; I just smoke whatever I feel like regardless of the season. Moreover, I would guess most cigar smokers have a similar routine. Then again, there are cigar smokers who like to change things up every now and then; if not seasonally, then perhaps for a couple of weeks to a month. I tend to move back and forth from full-bodied to milder cigars. Yet, this is something I do year-round, so it’s not “seasonal” in my case.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that most cigar smokers do smoke milder cigars in the Spring/Summer months and robust cigars in the Fall/Winter months. Here’s the logic: again, going back to the seasonal beer example, during the summer, you tend to smoke more cigars. Therefore, one might prefer to smoke more mild cigars than full-bodied smokes, whereas during the winter months, one might prefer a stronger cigar. Why? It all comes down to the amount of nicotine one can handle, or for that matter, prefer. Generally speaking, smoking one or two full-bodied cigars in a sitting during the winter, would be equivalent to smoking four to five mild-to-medium-bodied cigars in the summer.
Then what about those who live in states like Florida, Arizona, or southern California? It would be unfair to assume that cigar smokers in those parts of the country are smoking mild and medium-bodied cigars year-round, because it’s not true. I think this “seasonal cigar” theory may apply more to occasional cigar smokers like those who smoke a few cigars a week. True-blue cigar smokers smoke cigars of every strength, and I think it’s fair to assume in their case, that they smoke whatever they like depending on their mood. After all, you’re always going to have cigar smokers who prefer mild and medium-bodied cigars year-round, while the same can be said for those who prefer the hard-core, headier cigars, regardless of their locale.
If you think there is any validity to this theory (or not),
or this is something that you practice, please be sure to leave a comment. In the meantime, I think I’ll do a survey about this on CigarAdvisor.com and find out what the real deal is.
I recently ran a survey question on Cigar Advisor asking if smokers rotated their cigar accessories. After all, you rotate your cigars, so why not your accessories? As of this writing, 37% did not rotate their cigar accessories, per se, they just wait until one or the other breaks and buy a new one. But running second at 31% was “It depends on the cigar.”
This may sound like an off-beat topic, but as I get a lot of my subject matter, it came from my own personal experience. One night, I was about to light-up a cigar in my “man cave” (a/k/a the basement), and instead of using my usual “everyday” lighter, I took out my dual torch lighter. As I was doing this I wondered, Do other cigar smokers rotate their cigar accessories?” And so, there it is.
I’ve got a decent amount of cigar cutters and lighters I’ve collected over the years. They include a few Xikar cigar cutters, several other double-blade guillotine cutters, a couple of V-cutters, and a pair of small folding cigar scissors. I suppose I should also include the punch cutters built-in to two of my lighters, but they’re not that sharp. Speaking of lighters, I have several single jet torch lighters (one of which I keep in my car for emergencies), a double and a triple jet model, plus a Zippo.
What’s interesting is that each of these tools can serve a specific purpose. For example, one of the reasons I switched to my twin torch was because the cigar I chose that night had a 50 ring, and the two flames seem to work better, especially during toasting. For even wider cigars, I might even pull out the triple flame. Sometimes I’ll opt for a V-cutter to clip a Torpedo, rather than a double blade. Or, I’ll use a punch cutter to make a “figure 8″ or “cloverleaf” cut in the head of a 50+ ringer.
That said, one might be inclined to presume that a good number of cigar smokers also rotate their lighters and cutters. According to the survey, only 18%. rotate their cigar accessories for the sheer purpose of giving them “equal usage.” However, if 31% of smokers are using different cigar accessories depending on the type of cigar they plan to smoke, then they really are rotating their cutters and lighters. I suppose I would be a member of this group.
What I find even more surprising is that 14% of the cigar smokers polled so far had only one cutter and lighter. Huh! I figured that even the one to three cigars-per-week smoker would have at least a couple of cutters and lighters. In my opinion, it is to every cigar smoker’s advantage to have a few couple or even a few of each. You never know when your lighter is going to fire-off its last round ever, or when your cutter has become so dull, you might as well use a butter knife to clip it (though the latter is easier to gauge.)
As I write this, Thanksgiving is behind us and we’re officially into the Holiday season. If you’re among those who only have one cutter and lighter, with all the sales happening, now’s a great time to add at least another of each to your collection of cigar accessories. If you have a single flame lighter, pick up a dual or triple flame. If you prefer buying cheap cutters, be adventurous and pick up a high quality blade that will last more like two years rather than two months.
Finally, if you’re in the camp that has a good variety of cigar accessories, more power to you. Whether you intentionally rotate them is not all that important. It’s more like, if you got ‘em, you might as well use ‘em.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re on vacation or traveling for business outside the United States. You see a cigar store and you decide to walk in. Sometimes, the store will even have a sign outside or in the window advertising Cuban cigars with an oversized Cuban COHIBA cigar band. You browse around and see that they have a decent supply of Cuban cigars: COHIBAS, Romeo y Julietas, Partagas’s, etc. The prices aren’t too bad, or maybe you haggled a little with the shopkeeper and he agreed to sell them to you at the negotiated price. You light one up and it tastes pretty good. You fly home, get through U.S. Customs without a hassle, and you can’t wait to tell your cigar-smoking friends that you got your hands on some genuine Havanas. But did you?
My reason for touching on this subject is that within the last several months, I’ve heard from two readers who were certain they had lucked into some wonderful Cuban cigars, only to learn from Yours Truly that they were not the real deal.
The first victim, Bob, wrote: “My daughter just returned from the Dominican Republic and brought me a box of Romeo & Julietas Churchills. The box was cello sealed, the 2 seals from Dominican Republic were on underneath the cello. I opened the box to find a very strange R & J label which says HABANA on them all. (Pictures attached.) What is this, Cuban cigars being exported illegally? Or just knock offs? I have smoked one and it is great, no complaints there. Just curious.”
I wrote back: They may be swapping out the boxes and filling them with Habanos, as you suggest. However, the bands on your cigars do not match the band in my Cyclopedia of Havana Cigars. Those have a thinner brown band with the two black rule lines above and below, but the Cuban version says “ROMEO Y JULIETA” (all caps) in a small font, and the word “CHURCHILL” below in a bold, all-caps font, with the word “HABANA” to the right in small type in all caps. So, there is a chance they could be knock-offs. If they were Dominicans, they wouldn’t go through the trouble of printing Habana on the label. If they smoke well, taste great and you got them as a gift, then perhaps it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re real Cuban cigars.
However, the detective in me had to be sure. So I wrote to my source at Altadis U.S.A., the company that produces both Dominican and Cuban Romeo y Julieta cigars. I included Bob’s message and pix, and here’s what she wrote back:
“They are probably knock-offs. I can’t imagine why anyone would put real Cuban cigars in a Dominican marked box. The packaging nor the cigars appear to be from our Dominican Factory, TDG, which is the manufacturer for all RyJ cigars legal in the US.”
My assumption was, the clerk told her she was buying the Cuban version, and they put them in a Dominican-made box to get the Cuban cigars through US Customs. Since his daughter believed she was buying the genuine article, no harm no foul, but she probably overpaid for them. The good thing was that at least Bob liked the way they tasted, and he took it all in good spirit.
Then, just last month, I got an email from Cliff, who wrote that he had run across “a full box of Cuban Cohibas,” and even went so far as to send me two of them. One was an Espléndido and the other was an Ediciôn Limitada 2010. I figured I’d save the latter and lit up the Espléndido. It tasted fine to me; very smooth, mild, earthy, and I thought “Pretty good.” However, my colleague Hayward, scrutinized the bands and wasn’t satisfied that the cigars were authentic. So, I went to our “Master Tobacconist,” Jeff Brown (now manager of Leaf Cigar Bar & Restaurant), since in a former job he had spent a lot of time in Argentina and Cuba. After that Jeff traveled extensively between The Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua sampling and buying cigars for Famous Smoke Shop. I handed him the cigar and let him have a few puffs.
“They’re Dominicans,” said Jeff.
I hated to do it, but I just had to write back to Cliff. “Please don’t shoot the messenger, but I (actually We),
believe that these Cohibas are counterfeits. The bands are wrong. I’m smoking the Churchill now and it tastes very good, but according to our master tobacconist, it’s not a Cuban, but more likely a Dominican. Now I am glad you sent these, but I just hope you didn’t overpay for them.”
Like Bob, Cliff took the message in stride, and now all’s well in Mudville.
If you’re ever in a store that sells “genuine” Cuban cigars, it’s in your best interest to have the clerk open the box before completing the sale, especially when buying cigars in the Caribbean and Mexico. You’ll have much better luck in Canada, and European countries like Germany, Switzerland, and the U.K. Though you may pay more, it’s more prudent to buy Cuban cigars from a genuine tobacconist or the duty-free shops at the airport.
In the long run, it’s safer to stay with websites and stores like Famous Smoke Shop that sell “legal” cigars at discount prices than to risk your money on what could possibly be something phony. Plus, I’m pretty confident that the embargo will be lifted in the not-too-distant future.
Finally, here are some useful links Hayward found that will help you identify authentic Cohibas and other Havana-made cigars.
In September of 2010 I wrote an article on aging Seconds and Bundle cigars. As I was writing that piece I went off on a tangent I began to write about some of the misconceptions about bundles. Realizing I had the makings of a follow-up article, I saved my notes.
Misconception #1: “All bundle cigars are seconds.”
Wrong. Not all, but a lot of bundle cigars are “seconds,” and there are a number of reasons for this. For one, many bundles consist of cigars rolled by apprentice torcedors. After all, what would you expect from a trainee? But even experienced torcedors can produce cigars that draw poorly, are rolled too tight, too loose, or have bunching issues. In some cases, the wrappers may be too veiny or unevenly matched in color; the cigars could have plugs, etc.; all things that usually don’t pass “first” quality level inspection. So, these cigars are sold as “seconds,” which is also why they’re much lower in price.
Alternately, many bundles are made specifically as “firsts.” One of the best examples I can think of are my all-time “go-to” everyday cigars, Flor de Oliva. As the “bread ‘n butter” line for Oliva Cigars, they can’t afford to make “cheapo” cigars, nor would they ever consider it.
Moreover, many of the top-tier factories produce bundled “firsts” if for no other reason than to cut costs. (Remember, you also pay for the box.) Other good examples of bundled firsts are La Floridita, GH2 by Gran Habano, Siboney by Alec Bradley and Occidental (also from Alec Bradley),
Imperial, and of course the Famous “Value Line” and “Thousands” series cigars.
Misconception #2: “Bundle cigars taste bad.”
Well, a lot of boxed cigars taste bad, too. I think this comes from the idea that the tobaccos used in bundle cigars are of lower grade. Most of the bundles, especially those from the better factories, contain the same filler tobaccos used in the higher-priced boxed brands. No doubt, there are manufacturers who will use lower grade tobacco for filler, but the farms don’t have specific tobacco fields for bundle cigars and others for boxed cigars. As the tobacco is sorted, the factory supervisor decides which leaves are used for each blend. All of the tobacco is eventually used regardless of the length of the leaf. For example, one of the better “mixed-filler” bundles (long, medium and short filler) are the Flor De Gonzalez Bundles.
No doubt, there are plenty of toss-away bundle sticks made with low-grade ingredients, but a lot of bundles are also surprisingly tasty. Moreover, seconds of already popular brands should taste as good as the original, even if they’re not as pretty.
Misconception #3: “Bundles are not premium cigars.”
Almost all bundles are “premium cigars” by definition. Unless the cigars are entirely machine-made, hand-bunched and rolled cigars are considered “premiums” even if it doesn’t say “hecho a mano” on the package.
In some circles, “seconds” are not considered premiums. But like anything else, some seconds are better than others, too. Good examples of these are the Rocky Patel Seconds, Factory Selects, and Originals. Technically they’re seconds, but mostly due to imperfections in the wrappers, not necessarily because of construction. And since these cigars are seconds of some of Rocky’s bestselling high-priced cigars, they are premiums in every way. Supervisor Selection is another great “seconds” buy since it is identical to another highly popular Alec Bradley mainline edition.
Misconception #4: “Bundles are only for middle-class cigar buyers.”
Class warfare has no place with regard to what a given cigar smoker prefers to put to their lips. To each his own, as they say. There are plenty of upmarket and luxury cigar smokers who buy bundles for any number of reasons; from being able to smoke a decent cigar when a high-priced stick is not in order, for handing out to friends, smoking on the golf course, etc.
The reverse is also true. By buying bundles, a lot of so-called “middle class” cigar smokers usually save enough money to pick up a box of a high-priced box brand they want for those special occasions. By the way, there are plenty of cigar smokers who are so loyal to their bundle brands they’d just as soon pass on a box of anything else.
Finally, and this is not a misconception, bundle cigars can serve as an economical introduction to many a brand’s premium cigars. As mentioned above, popular brand seconds will give you a good, yet cost-effective taste of what you can expect, not only from the boxed version, but the overall quality of the manufacturer. If they make a good bundle cigar, chances are other cigars in their stable will be good as well.