The Famous Cigar Blog… We’re Baaaaack!
So the Famous Cigar Blog is back here at Famous Smoke Shop and it’s truly better than ever. Why do I say that? Because this is Famous – we do everything bigger and better than anyone else out there, and we say that with a proud confidence. We love cigars, we live the lifestyle and immerse ourselves in the culture.
For some reason, the powers that be picked yours truly to write this Welcome Back Blog, hopefully because of my witty and whimsical Polish / Italian north Jersey persona… or it could be that the other writers are stuck in traffic this morning. But hey, whatever the reason, if you know me at all, you know that I am one passionate son of a bitch when it comes to talking about the world of the hand rolled tobacco goodness. Continue reading
Not too long ago, I wrote an article for CigarAdvisor.com about how I used an ordinary household condiment to repair a wrapper that was unfurling on my cigar. The way it happened was, I had mistakenly clipped the cap of my cigar a bit too low. I’ve seen some guys chop their cigars below the shoulders and the wrappers have remained intact. However, more often than not, over-cutting the cap will result in unraveling of the wrapper leaf, which is what happened in my case. Even more annoying is when this happens to a really fine (and not to mention, pricey), cigar. Continue reading
It’s happened to everyone who smokes premium cigars – the bad burn caused by poor cigar construction. Whether it’s the cigar going out on you too fast, canoeing, or the wrapper coming undone, a bad burn is one of the most frustrating things that can happen. Since a bad burning cigar requires so much extra work, maybe a better word would be “irritating.” Often times, you’ve spent so much time getting the cigar to straighten out, you don’t even remember how the darn thing tasted.
There are several factors that contribute to a bad burning cigar. Some of these I’ve touched on in past articles. For example, it could be the wrapper was too delicate, too thick and oily, or just an inferior quality or poorly cured leaf. Other factors can be a wrapper leaf that’s too dry, which tends to cause the leaf to unravel. It could also be due to poor rolling. Either the bunch wasn’t rolled carefully enough, or during the bunching process some of the binder, which aids in the burning of a cigar, got tucked into the filler. The result is a canoeing cigar, because there’s nothing in those spots to help the wrapper along. Continue reading
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?
One of the more familiar elements of smoking cigars is that some tend to taste bitter in the late innings. Bitterness can be caused by any number of factors. It could be the blend itself, or it can come from drawing too hard or too often on your cigar while smoking. The latter tends to draw the tars up the length of the cigar, which can lead to bitterness. So, as I’ve noted in previous posts, take it easy when you draw, and let your cigar rest for a minute or so between puffs.
Another thing that often happens when you’re smoking cigars is they will go out on you. Speaking for myself, even when my cigar goes out, perhaps just out of habit, I tend to pick it up and draw on it. Moreover, those first few draws are usually a bit harder just to see if there’s any live smoke still in there. After that, I tend to let it sit in my mouth until I realize nothing’s happening, and at that point I put it in the saddle of the ashtray until I’m ready to relight. For lack of a better term, I’ll refer to this as “dry drawing” a cigar that’s already been lit, as opposed to “cold drawing” or pre-drawing on a fresh, unlit cigar.
When I relight, sometimes I find that the cigar tastes bitter, even if it went out in the first inch. My theory is, by pacifying on a cigar after it’s gone out, you could be drawing tars into the core. One solution may be to cut the cigar far enough behind the ash to expose fresh tobacco. But to be perfectly honest, sometimes I just don’t feel like shortening the cigar, or I’m just too lazy to bother and I’ll take my chances.
So, for those of you who also do this, I’ll put the question to you. Would you agree that sucking on your cigars between relights has a negative effect on their flavor? Please let me know by leaving a comment.
Exactly 2 Fridays ago I enjoyed one of the finest cigars I’ve had in years. What was it, you ask?
Truth be told, it was nothing special: an old El Rico Habano Corona Gorda – admittedly a good cigar, but not exactly a “super premium.” What made the cigar so fantastic was the context.
In the North East, winter had finally broken its grip around the throat of our collective sanity. Temperatures soared into the 70′s. Windows were rolled down, smiling faces everywhere; budding trees and barbeques proclaimed the rebirth we’ve so long awaited. In short, you could smell spring in the air.
I cut out of work right on the dot and met my wife and kids for empanadas and ice cream al fresco. We took a nice walk around the block afterward, and finally made our way home. After tucking everyone in, I found myself profoundly satisfied, and not the least bit tired.
At that late hour, all of my buddies were already out-and-about. I looked at the dog and decided on a walk. Adding a cigar was an easy decision.
The vitola was gorgeous; despite a low constant wind, it burned flawlessly. Rich, earthy flavors dominated, and the aroma was intoxicating, offering wafts of delicate spice and charred wood. I walked for nearly two hours, and by the end, had reached the nub.
Now that box of ERH has been sitting in the humidor for roughly two years; certainly plenty of time to acclimate and even out, but enough time to take on all the incredible qualities I enjoyed that night? I found myself increasingly forced to admit that there is really something to smoking cigars in life’s most satisfied moments. The perfect set of circumstances can turn a good cigar into one of the finest cigars with ease.
Days later, Old Man Winter cut our reprieve short with one last desperate lunge. But let this serve notice: There is a warm light at the end of the tunnel heralding those heady days of cigars outside. And I can hardly wait.
It happens, and fortunately it happens rarely; but when it does there are few things in life more irritating. I refer to the odd, plugged cigar. Nothing is more of a buzz kill than lighting-up one of your favorite cigars only to realize you’re probably going to need a shop-vac to get any smoke out of it. Since it’s more the exception than the rule, cigar smokers aren’t usually prepared to deal with a cigar that refuses to let go.
The question is, what do you do when it happens? Depending on where you are, like away from home, you may not have the necessary tools handy to deal with the situation. I’ve read a lot of emails in which the “victim” simply trashed the cigar. Even more upsetting is reading that the majority of the box or bundle was plugged.
Although it may be necessary in some cases, trashing a plugged cigar doesn’t have to be the only option. There are a number of products on the market to help you deal with cigars that don’t draw properly. My theory is, even if the tool doesn’t solve the problem, it’s always better to try than give up.
The most popular of un-plugging tools is the Drawpoker. Due to its size, you can’t just stuff it in your pocket and carry it around. However, it has a vise-like section that holds your cigar steady while the needle is inserted through the center of the cigar.
Another item that’s a bit more portable is the Maverick Quick Draw Cigar Awl. It’s little more than an ice pick that you can get at discount super store for about 97¢. It also comes with a smaller skewer-like awl for smaller cigars, which is a nice plus. One piece of advice: If you’re traveling by plane, leave it home or put it in your check-on, because TSA will snatch it up in less than a nanosecond.
Perhaps the most convenient cigar-unplugging solution is the Havana draw enhancer pen. Because it looks like and is the size of the average pen, you can slip it into your pocket and take it anywhere. What also makes this tool more effective is, unlike the two aforementioned devices, the needle has little serrations on it which literally slice through the tobacco leaves going in and coming out.
The one thing to be aware of when using any of these tools is you have to have a surgeon-like approach. Work slow and steady. Many a cigar that could have been saved has been toe-tagged DOA because the tool was inserted too quickly and either caused the cigar to expand and tear the wrapper, or it popped out through the side of the cigar. (Oops.)
I advise starting at the foot, and try to center the needle as best you can. Work it in slowly while turning it, and don’t push your luck. Get as far as you can, then remove it and try puffing. If it hasn’t improved that much try doing the same starting from the head. If the plug is in the middle, you could be out of luck, though the Drawpoker is designed to ream the entire length of the cigar.
There’s often no need to buy a tool at all for unplugging cigars. Sometimes all you need is a large paper clip or an ordinary toothpick. Believe it or not, while writing this article I had a plugged cigar and I used a mini screwdriver that I keep around for adjusting and bleeding my cigar lighters.
Cigar smokers are also very resourceful. If you follow the CigarAdvisor newsletter, some of the solutions offered by the readers in the Tips section range from using a small drill bit to a three-inch drywall screw. Just remember, the thinner, the better. Moreover, the advantage to the drill bit and the screw is, like the Draw Enhancer Pen, they also chew up some of the surrounding tobaccos.
One last piece of advice: Regardless of the tool you use to clear the plug, if you get even a little more relief from the draw, try to stay with it. You may find that eventually the cigar will burn past the affected area and clear up on its own.
As dictated by tradition, cellos should be removed from your cigars before placing them in your humidor. The primary function of cello wrappers is to protect a premium handmade cigar’s often delicate wrapper during packaging and transit to the retailer. Moreover, they help keep greasy fingers off the merchandise while customers are inspecting them in a cigar store. Yet, there is a belief among cigar smokers that by storing your cigars this way, the flavors in the tobaccos will “marry” causing your cigars to taste differently.
I’m not sure if it’s the main reason a Cigar Advisor survey showed that cigar smokers keep the cellos on their cigars by a margin of almost 2-1. It could be as simple as they just don’t want to take the time removing the cellos every time they buy a box of cigars. Fair enough (though it would be interesting to learn why most of them do).
Some cigar smokers may feel that the likelihood of all the different tobacco flavors marrying with the other cigars in their humidor is reason enough to keep the cellos on. I can only go by my personal experience, which is to say that I remove almost all of the cellos from my cigars and have never noticed a significant flavor shift. If anything, the cigars improve in flavor with age by being “au natural,” and some of my cigars have been in my humidors for years.
There’s a very simple way to test this “myth” of marrying flavors. The next time you buy a box of cigars, if they have cellos on them, remove the cellos from at least five of them and place them in your humidor with your other cigars. Let them sit there for a good month or two. In the meantime, continue to smoke the balance of the cigars at your regular pace. After about two months, smoke one of the un-celloed cigars from your humidor and compare. Chances are they’ll taste better just from having aged-up a couple of months, but they should have the same core character as the celloed cigars. The point is, most cigar smokers keep all of their cigars together, with and without the cellos.
For the record, your cigars will age-up nicely over time even if they are kept in their cellos until lit. I believe that if there was any truth to the “marrying” myth, at least from a negative standpoint, you’d hear a lot more about it. Yet, so far I’ve only heard the sound of silence.
One of the side effects of cigar smoking is a tendency cigars have for turning stronger and bitter in the last couple of inches. If this is something you can relate to, there’s actually something you can do about it.
Construction, burn and draw issues aside, all cigars, regardless of their strength, build up in tars, nicotine and moisture as they smoke. In many cases, at least with some of the more complex blends, the flavors will improve and taste great right down to the knuckle, while in others, the cigar will begin to “turn,” leaving a sour taste on the palate, at which point you’re probably better off letting the cigar go. If you paid around $5 or more for the cigar, you might be hesitant to trash it, and there are some cigar smokers who will puff-on as long as possible, even if the cigar tastes crappy, if only to get their money’s worth out of it. I have three words for that: not worth it.
There are a few things you can do to help alleviate this problem and get the most bang (you’ll excuse the expression) for your buck.
The first thing you need to do is take notice of how you smoke your cigar. If you tend to hit on it a lot, the faster those tars will build up. If you draw strongly on your cigar, that may have a negative effect on its taste in the middle and latter stages. Cigars were made for relaxation, so do it! Take your time when you smoke a cigar, and let it smoke itself for a minute or so between puffs. This will allow the flavors to caramelize more slowly, and therefore, offer a much more flavorful smoke that will hold-up longer, as well.
The other thing you can do is when you clip your cigar, try to expose as much cap as possible. The more narrow or smaller the cut, the more likely the concentration of flavors will increase, hence more tars and nicotine, too. If you normally use a piercer, punch cutter or a V-cutter for clipping your cigars, they will tend to be stronger and hotter as you smoke. That’s because the small cut size restricts the amount of smoke coming through the head.
One the other hand, cigars with tapered heads such as Torpedoes, Pyramids and Belicosos are purposely designed to do this. However, they also tend to be wider in ring gauge, so you have a lot more tobacco to filter the smoke.
Using a single or double-blade guillotine cutter or cigar scissors naturally exposes more cap, thereby allowing more smoke to get through and helps decrease the buildup of bitter tars, excess moisture and nicotine.
As noted above, the ring gauge, and even the length of a cigar can determine how much tar and nicotine will build-up. If you smoke Coronas, try smoking a Robusto or a Toro. If you smoke Lanceros, try a Lonsdale. Most cigar smokers tend to settle into a particular shape after a while, so if you’re not willing to change your shape, try doing some of the other things mentioned above and you’ll significantly extend the enjoyment of your cigars.
So there you are enjoying your cigar, and you realize it’s not burning properly. The cigar appears to be burning only on one side. This is called “canoeing” for the dugout canoe-like appearance your cigar has taken on.
There are a number of reasons cigars will canoe or just burn funny. First, it could be the way the cigar was lit. If you were in a hurry, chances are you didn’t get all of the foot. Well-made cigars will usually correct themselves after that first half-inch or so. Maybe you didn’t clip enough of the cap. The cigar may feel like it’s drawing well, but if it’s not drawing evenly, that can factor-in to a poor burn.
The cigar could also be improperly humidified. If some areas of the cigar are drier than others, the cigar will burn poorly.
Another reason could be the bunching. Sometimes the ligero (the slowest burning of the tobacco leaves) will be bunched off-center, or the binder will be “double-bunched” (folded over itself). Because the binder burns faster than the other leaves, your cigar will begin to canoe. You may notice that this canoed section is also quite hard when you try to “ash it” off. Usually, it’s the ligero and the wrapper leaf holding it together.
The most common method of fixing this is to burn the canoed section off with a torch lighter. I call this “the flame thrower option.” If you don’t mind getting your cigar cutter a little dirty, a better way to go would be to clip the excess leaf off at the ash.
Imperceptible holes in the wrapper can also cause a cigar to leak smoke. These holes have a negative effect on the burn because when you draw on your cigar you’re also drawing air through those little holes.
One way to test if your cigar is leaking is to place it in the ashtray saddle, or hold it with the unburned side facing you. Starting at the foot, take a torch lighter and hold the flame close to the wrapper, then work back toward where the canoed section meets the ash. As the leaf ignites, you may see tiny smoke trails emanating from the still unburned portion of the cigar. That may be where the problem lies. If this is the case, it means the smoke is not being properly contained and will prevent the cigar from burning “clean.”
If the holes are close to the ash, let the cigar continue to burn normally (so to speak). Once the burn gets past the holes the cigar should correct itself. If you see numerous smoke signals rising at various points along the remaining length of the cigar, you may just have to toss it.
Look for signs of holes or cracks in the wrapper during the toasting process, too. Since your eyes tend to be focused on toasting, you may not be paying attention to any wisps of smoke that appear along the body of the cigar. The holes may even be on the underside where you can’t see them.
You can also do this at various intervals during your smoke even if the cigar appears to be burning fine. After ashing, apply the torch flame to the center of the foot. That will force the smoke out through any holes, cracks, and even gaps that may exist between the seams of the roll. I wouldn’t recommend doing this too often, as it could turn your cigar bitter from overexposure to flame.
Finally, a poor burn is usually the exception to the rule. Most premium handmade cigars are pretty well sealed once they’re rolled. If you do have a burn issue, you now know at least one way of finding the source of the problem.