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.
With about an inch to go, I put the matchstick in the stub.
When it comes to table manners, remember how your Mom would tell you that there are only certain foods you can eat with your hands such as hot dogs, fried chicken, pizza, fries, etc. I wonder if there are such rules when it comes to smoking cigars down to the nub. For example, is it proper to use a tool to get those last few puffs out of a really good cigar?
I bring this up because of something that I did a few nights ago. I was smoking an Oliva Serie O Perfecto, which is a bit short to begin with, plus it has a tapered head. The cigar was smoking beautifully and offered a lot of flavor. When I got down to the nub I didn’t want to let it go, but I didn’t want to burn my fingers either. In the ashtray was a cedar matchstick that I had used to light a scented candle. So, I plucked it out of the ashtray and inserted the charred sharp end into the nub at just
Another look at the stub as it begins to form an ash.
under a half-inch. I found that this works best if you twist the match in about a quarter of an inch. I also noticed that smoke does not escape from the hole, and the cigar continued to smoke perfectly. So, would this technique be acceptable amongst a group of cigar smokers? You may get a couple of funny looks, but I see no reason to cease doing this. If you can get more out of your cigar, more power to you. The only reason I can offer for not doing this is if the cigar has turned bitter by the time it gets down to nub-size length.
Useful tools for uber-nubbing your cigars are toothpicks, paper clips (though they can cause the nub to spin on you), a jeweler’s screwdriver, and of course, the old, reliable forceps that are normally used for nubbing something else.
There is also one other thing I learned by doing this. Normally, when your cigar is still mostly intact, you should let your cigar rest a minute or so between puffs. This helps prevent it from getting too bitter too soon.
Finished with less than half-an-inch left. Now THAT’S a nubber!
Now, assuming the cigar still has some good flavor coming from it, you need to let the nub rest about 2-3 minutes. Remember, the nub is going to be pretty hot, so the longer you let it cool, the less chance it will tar up and go sour on you. Just try not to let it go out on you.
As you can see by the photos here, I smoked the cigar down to the matchstick. Whether the credit goes to my technique or to Oliva for making such a great-tasting cigar, even that very last puff was delicious.
Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any cigar smoker try this in public. Then, I’ve never heard any cigar smokers say it was uncouth, either. If you’re at a cigar bar, ask the bartender for a toothpick and go for it. Practically speaking, if you can, why shouldn’t you try to get all of your money’s worth out of a great cigar?
If you’re like a lot of cigar smokers who buy their cigars online, you’ve probably spoken with Customer Service at some point. It could have been about a return, an offer, new cigars or accessories, shipping, out of stock items, or to place an order because you’d rather talk to a human being than a video monitor. Sometimes the call is to make CS aware that the website copy about an item is erroneous. (Ouch!)
Whatever the reason for calling, even though the Famous Smoke Shop website has helpful answers to commonly asked questions, the Customer Service Department is the frontline, and in many cases, the “face” of the company. How the agent “appears” to the customer can often be the difference between losing or keeping a customer for life.
One of the things Famous Smoke Shop is best known for, maybe even more so in some ways than our competitive prices on cigars, is customer service. The primary reason for this is that Famous Smoke Shop customer service sets the bar higher than any other industry competitor. That’s why consumer shop & compare sites like BizRate.com have awarded Famous “Gold” status for customer service excellence.
“Our most important goal is to make sure the customer is 100% satisfied with their experience from beginning to end,” says Famous Call Center Manager, Cory Reinhard. “If a customer has any issues anywhere in the chain of an order, I insist on being notified so I can make it right.”
Bad experiences from website issues, order or product problems, general complaints, or shipping issues happen. Therefore, the faster the customer’s problem is handled and rectified the more satisfied the customer will be. Most important is patience and politeness. Nothing turns a frown upside down faster than an agent who’s courteous. Of course, there are some customers who just want to pick a fight no matter what the agent says.
“In a business where we are at the mercy of our vendors’ products and timelines, we need to make sure we stand out,” says Reinhard. “If a customer wants us to check the items they’ve ordered, I personally inspect them and place a signed business card with inspection date in the package to give the customer the proof that it is something I would personally smoke or use without question.”
Returns are common with any online business and can often be overwhelming. The advantage to Famous’s return policy is quick turnaround and offering replacement products or credits to customers “hassle free.” Within minutes a return shipping label is generated and e-mailed (or mailed) to the customer to expedite the process. In certain situations replacement products are sent to customers to avoid “down time.” If a customer feels they have to go to another site to purchase their items just to tide them over, it can be a death knell.
Famous also provides a variety of shipping options; from free shipping promotions to overnight service, everything in-between, and even international orders are fulfilled with ease.
As for me, when I have to speak with a customer service person from a company for something I’ve purchased, it’s because of Famous’s excellence in customer service that I hold the agent to a higher standard. Sure, low prices on cigars are great, but if you can’t get good customer service when you need it, you’re wasting your time and your money.
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Want more proof? See this press release.
Why is it when we have a problem with our cigars the first thing we want to do is blame the manufacturer? Bad cigar or not, It’s unbelievable, the number of Customer Service emails I’ve seen, which include claims against a factory, based on a customer’s belief that the cigars didn’t taste as good as the box before, or they were too dry, or too moist, or the factory must have changed the blend; and so it must be the factory’s fault.
Sure, factories make mistakes – even the best of them. They mislabel Natural boxes as Maduro, or Coronas as Robusto; they ship cigars that are under-fermented, or the “odd bad box” (as I refer to them), with cigars that were rolled too tightly, too loosely, or just improperly. After all, they make a LOT of cigars, and the factories are supervised, and cigars are rolled by human beings (I’m talking premium handmades, not machine-mades) so it’s not too surprising that things go wrong every so often. However, this is the exception and not the rule. If you’re an experienced cigar smoker, you know this by now.
Perhaps some of the psychology behind this blame game stems from the fact that most better cigars average close to $100 a box and a lot of customers just expect every stick to be perfect. I can’t speak for cases in which the cigars were rolled poorly, mislabeled, or under-fermented, but there are cases in which the fault for the bad cigar actually lies with the consumer.
Many of the questions I’m asked have to do with proper humidification. This tells me that even though a lot of cigar smokers tend to follow the rules with regard to keeping their temperature and humidity at the proper levels, many are still not sure, or are unable to control their conditions consistently. To be fair, any number of factors having nothing to do with the smoker could contribute to storage problems.
Even I’ve been tripped-up by this. I had a box of cigars I bought from a very well-respected manufacturer. No matter how many I smoked, they kept “exploding” on me. Once I got through the first inch, they would crack open. I have patience for one or two, but by the time you get through half the box you begin to wonder, “Who the hell made these?” As it turns out, my hygrometer was off, and even though the cigars felt OK before lighting, they just had too much moisture in them. There are other factors like extra-juicy ligero that can cause this, so I wrote to the factory.
At this point, let me interject that when you complain to the factory, I’ve rarely found a manufacturer that didn’t do everything possible to find the source of the problem. Moreover, in some cases they’ll go around the retailer and just send you a complimentary box. After all, they really do want you to be satisfied, lest we not forget that a lot of pride goes into the making of premium cigars. I’ve even seen some factories bend over backwards to help out a customer, and even then, the customer wasn’t satisfied. Well, when it comes to some people, all you can say is “go figure.”
There are also some retailers who don’t properly store the cigars they keep in stock. You certainly can’t blame the factory for that. But not unlike the manufacturers, most retailers will do everything in their power to make good on a “bad” sale.
The point is, before you jump to conclusions about who’s at fault when you get that odd bad box, cigar sampler, or even a single bad cigar, consider the possibility that the fault is yours. Here are a few pointers that may help before you find yourself smoking through your ears rather than your mouth:
- If you order from an online cigar store, give the cigars a few days or even a week to settle in your humidor. You’d be surprised what a difference this makes in a lot of cases.
- If you buy from a brick & mortar store, try to check out the conditions in which they keep their cigars. Maybe they’re not doing their job.
- Make sure your humidor is consistent in terms of it’s temperature and humidity. (Remember to rotate your cigars every couple of months, too.)
- If you tend to smoke a lot of the same blend, don’t be surprised if they taste a little different every so often. Unless the factory announces a specific blend change, the blend never varies in terms of its leaf type content, and that includes the pre-bunching weight of the tobaccos. Just realize that tobaccos will vary from harvest to harvest, and if the factory is doing its job, the smoke, if not entirely consistent, should be in the ballpark 99% of the time.
Here’s a nifty topic that crosses my path every now and then – rotating cigars in your humidor. According to a poll administered by Cigar Advisor Magazine, 54% of cigar smokers surveyed said they rotate their cigars on a regular basis. So what is “rotating cigars,” and what are its benefits?
Not unlike the way tobacco leaves are rotated on pilons in the cigar factory during fermentation, rotating cigars is simply moving the cigars in the lower rows of your humidor to the upper rows. There are areas in your humidor that can restrict moisture from getting to your primos. And because air circulation is important during the aging process, rotating cigars allows them to get a more equal distribution of moist air. This is also why it helps to leave some space between your cigars. Trying to pack them in tightly like they are in their factory cigar boxes can be detrimental to their survival. There’s no specific method to rotating cigars, as long as you’re able to shift the majority of the sticks from point A to point B.
Here’s how I do it: About every 6-8 weeks, I bring the humidor out to a table where I have plenty of room to spread out. Because I’m kind of a neatnik, I lay the cigars out by row on either paper towels or wax paper. The latter is better because wax paper won’t leave any lint on the cigars. Noting which cigars were taken from the top row, I begin placing them back in the humidor. Sometimes I replace them by size, but mixing them up can also help create more air flow around the cigars.
One hitch is, if you happen to have a high-capacity humidor that’s well-stocked, it can take a while before you get through all of them. So, sometimes I enlist the help of my younger son, and he actually enjoys it because he
says they remind him of Lincoln Logs. The other hitch is, if you remove the cellos from your cigars, you have to be careful. I’ve damaged several good sticks during the process over the years, so now I keep the cellos on my most expensive cigars.
Although it’s still a good idea to rotate your cigars on a regular basis, if you can get the air circulating in your humidor 24/7 you may not have to rotate them as often. Some cigar smokers actually add small computer fans to their humidors to help circulate the air. However, Cigar Oasis, a company that makes electronic humidifiers, includes fans in all of their models.
Many aspects of enjoying premium cigars have to do with patience, and though rotating your cigars may be a bit time-consuming, as the saying goes, “The end justifies the means.”
This winter was, in a word, brutal. Between record snowfalls and cold temps, the northeast was all but pounded back into the last ice age. Smoking cigars outside became a near-impossibility, and with the exception of my desk at work, I found myself restricted to petit coronas.
Thankfully that snow has turned to rain, and temps here have become bearable. There’s no doubt about it: the check’s in the mail! Spring will be upon us before we know it, and with it comes the glorious moment of another smoking season beginning. Those of you who live in climates that are warm year round get the benefit of smoking outdoors whenever you want, but you’ll never truly understand how it feels to finally be able to smoke outside again after a long, dark, cold winter until you’ve experienced it first-hand.
As I mentioned in A Cigar for Every Season, many of us are forced to be seasonal or near-seasonal cigar smokers based on where we live. For those of you who live here in the north east with everything finally thawing out, have you given a thought as to what you’ll be smoking in the coming weeks? I sure have! All winter long I always miss sitting on the porch, in the yard, or around the fire, with a beer or whiskey to complement my cigars.
There really is nothing like the first cigar of the Spring that you can smoke outside without worry about getting too cold, and just being able to relax and enjoy in the open air. It elicits both the feeling of familiarity in returning to the hobby, as well as the newness and feeling of rebirth associated with the start of Spring and another new seasonal cycle beginning.
I have a Padrón Family Reserve 45th Anniversary all lined up for the first warm-ish night of the season, to be torched by the chiminea with a few fingers of Glenlivet 18. What about you?
So you’ve just purchased your first premium handmade cigars. Congratulations. Now what do you do? Smoke them, of course! But there’s more to smoking cigars than clipping, lighting-up and puffing. Some cigar smokers tend to approach it as if it were an art, but although there are several steps involved, how to smoke cigars is really very simple.
While cigar smoking is the kind of hobby that even the most experienced enthusiasts will continue to learn even after many years, it’s not as difficult as it looks to get started. How to smoke a cigar is actually a very easy thing to learn, requiring just a few steps before the uninitiated newbie is puffing away like a pro. It can be intimidating for a new smoker to light up in the presence of BOTLs or SOTLs with lots of experience, which is why we’ve put together this handy guide so you can have a clue what you’re doing before you fire one up for the first time. However, don’t worry if you forget a step! Those savvy vets you’re smoking around are most likely extremely friendly, non-judgmental, and more than happy to help you enjoy your early cigar experiences. The vast majority of cigar smokers take great amounts of pleasure in sharing their passion and helping others, so if you’re not sure how to smoke a cigar properly – just ask a friend who knows! Continue reading