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?
Please bear with me while I climb on my soapbox and rant for a minute or two to give you my two cents on how to properly extinguish cigars
On occasion, while enjoying a cigar in mixed company, my nostrils have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous odor. This is a direct result of stubbing out of a cigar like a cigarette, a process that transforms the intoxicating aroma of even the finest cigar into a malodorous, offensive affair. That stench is capable of turning-off even the most die-hard aficionado. It’s also terrible form.
An office-mate of mine (who really ought to know better, mind you) has a habit of not using the proper technique to extinguish cigars. When he finishes smoking, he dutifully grinds it down
into the ashtray before walking out of the room, thus escaping the foul stench he has just created. I’ve since brought the matter to his attention, and I’ll admit he has seen the error of his ways.
Good form dictates than when one is finished with his cigar, he lays it down in the ashtray to die a dignified death. This method of simply laying it down is the only proper way to extinguish cigars, and is just common courtesy and good cigar smoking etiquette. After all, hundreds of hands have worked together to produce your beloved vitola; it is a product born of the earth and enjoyed in a moment of leisure and relaxation. Surely it deserves a kinder fate than that of a cigarette.
But perhaps more important is that the gases and tars contained within a cigar are mashed up and expelled when ground out. Cigars that are stubbed out aren’t going to go out any faster than those that are left to go out by themselves, so unless you’re doing it for dramatic effect, leave the stubbing out to cigarette smokers.
If your cigars give you cigar breath, no problemo, amigo. There are several effective ways to combat “cigar breath.” The key to ridding your palate of all that foulness is to reduce the amount of smoke residue from your cigars while you’re smoking, as well as afterwards.
Citric acid is one of the best remedies. You’ll find it in fruits like oranges, lemons and limes. You want as much of the natural fruit juice as possible, so avoid lemon, lime, orange and other fruit-flavored sodas. They’re way too sweet and don’t have enough juice to cut it. If you insist on a carbonated drink, you’re better off with tonics and mixers. My tonic of choice with my cigars is Bitter Lime. It’s strong enough cut through almost any cigar residue, and leaves a fresh, clean lime flavor in your mouth. Bitter Lemon is also a good drink to have with cigars, and tends to be less sweet than Bitter Lime. (Schweppes and Canada Dry are the best in this category. Stay away from bargain brands.) Mix them with vodka or gin, and the alcohol will help the process along, too. You can even make up your own concoctions. One good cigar smoking buddy of mine likes to mix lemon juice and quinine water.
Another way to combat bad breath from cigars is to keep something chewy nearby. Nuts are great for snacking on with a cigar. Almonds are my personal favorite, but cashews, walnuts, peanuts, and even macadamia nuts are a welcome complement to the cigar smoking experience.
Cheeses, especially sharp, hard cheeses are also a good way to keep cigar breath at bay, not only while you’re smoking, but before you light-up. So in addition to, or in lieu of nuts, you might want to have some of good gourmet cheeses on-hand.
Most mouth odors, regardless of what you eat or smoke, collect on the tongue. Therefore, in addition to the citric acid and nuts, etc., it’s important that you also brush your tongue after putting down your cigar. Even better is a device called a tongue scraper. Many dentists today hand them out with the complementary toothbrushes, or you can pick one up at your local pharmacy. Tongue scrapers have tiny little teeth that literally scrape all that goo off your taste buds. Moreover, after a good tongue scraping your mouth really does feel cleaner, and will help prepare your palate for your next cigar of the day.
Remember, if you really want to stave-off cigar breath, make sure you use all or a combination of the above solutions after you’re done smoking your cigars.
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.
Anti-smoking legislature is fraught with problems, not the least of which is the erosion of personal liberty. I can understand anti-smoking laws in schools and hospitals, and even government buildings. But if you thought that banning smoking in privately-owned restaurants and clubs was an overstep of authority, wait until you get a load of this.
The “City that Never Sleeps” is currently considering legislation that would expand anti-smoking laws to include to the city’s parks, beaches, and other public outdoor locations, including Times Square. The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) and New York Tobacconist Association have formed a partnership to oppose the measure. Continue reading
Given today’s anti-tobacco legislative and tax climate, the LAST thing we need is snobbery. That old image of cigars as a rich man’s diversion has got to go; if anything, it’s just another arrow in the quiver of the anti-smoke Nazis. Despite what “they” would have you believe, cigars are more blue collar then blueblood.
A couple weeks ago I got a call from Rob Heming of the Blowin’ Smoke Podcast. He had received several emails and phone calls decrying cigar snobbery, specifically that old gem, “if you can’t afford to smoke brand x, you have no business smoking cigars.” These guys always do a great job talking cigars, but this podcast in particular is worth a listen.
That argument is the kind of horse$#!t spewed by cigar “smokers” more concerned with status than enjoyment. If a cigar is good, does it matter what’s on the band? Famous Smoke Shop buyer Jeff set the record straight.
Famous Smoke Shop is but one company striving to make cigars affordable to those who enjoy them. Smart buying allows us to pass on the savings, which is exactly why we:
- create private labels with manufacturers like Don Pepin Garcia and Rocky Patel, many of which are identical (or nearly identical) to national brands.
- buy up seconds and closeouts of perfectly good quality.
- obtain exclusivity on formerly-national brands like CAO CX2, CAO Vision, Carlos Toraño Signature, and Perdomo Cuban Parejo.
So the next time you’re at the shop or a herf and hear someone waxing classist, take a moment to educate them. Cigars are about tobacco, not marketing, and anyone who thinks otherwise has clearly got a thing or two to learn.
It happens. You reach into your humidor for that great cigar you’ve been looking forward to all day and you notice the wrapper is starting to peel away from the roll. If you light-up, the peel will only get worse. So what can you do? Using saliva seems like a practical solution, but rarely, if ever, works. Some cigar smokers also resort to using bee’s wax-based lip balm, but there are no guarantees with that either because it never really dries.
Unraveling cigars are best fixed with acacia powder, better known as gum arabic, or vegetable gum. This is what cigar rollers use for preparing the wrapper leaf and cap when they roll cigars. Gum arabic, which can be found in the baking aisle at some supermarkets, spice shops, and online, comes in powdered form. When mixed with distilled water to the right consistency, it can be a real life saver, or to put it another way, a real cigar saver. It’s also odorless and colorless. Simply apply a modest amount of the liquefied gum to the wrapper and carefully “roll” the detached portion of wrapper leaf back into place.
Another product that can be used for repairing unraveling wrappers is Pectin. Pectin comes in both powder and liquid form, and you might already have some in the house. Normally used for canning jams and jellies, when applied carefully to the wrapper leaf as described above, you should get similar results.
What about cigars that are cracked in the middle or at the foot?
When a cigar is cracked in the middle, in some cases it may be minor, but any crack in a wrapper leaf, no matter how small, is going to leak smoke and may negatively affect the way the cigar draws and burns.
The best way to repair this type of crack is to take a small piece of wrapper leaf (it could come from a cigar stub of the same blend or another cigar with the same type of wrapper leaf),
and use it to “patch” the crack, not unlike the way you’d fix a blown tire.
First, cut a piece of wrapper leaf to the approximate size you need to completely cover the crack. Then lightly wet the piece of wrapper leaf with gum arabic solution, paste it over the trouble spot and let it dry. In the meantime, go get another cigar.
If the crack starts at the foot of the cigar, first see how far up the length of the cigar the crack goes. If it’s less than an inch you might be better off cutting the cigar as cleanly as possible just above the crack. The cigar will be shorter, but you might still be able to get a decent smoke out of it. If you go that route, make sure you use a really sharp and powerful double blade cigar cutter. If the body of the cigar fits comfortably in the hole and the cutter is very sharp, snap the cutter as quickly as possible for a clean cut. Sometimes you get a rough edge, but it’s better than tossing the cigar.
If you’d rather not take any chances, repeat the process described above for repairing a crack in the middle of a cigar.
Remember, if the wrapper is cracked and you don’t have gum arabic or pectin, there is very little you can do to repair it. By having a small jar of gum arabic in the house, at least you know there’s hope.
In this series of blogs, I’ll explain how these sampler programs work, what the benefits are, and hopefully, make the case for you to give them a try.
Earlier this week, I wrote about “Best Of “Cigar Samplers. Today we’ll focus on another unique cigar sampler program, Wise Buys. Of special note is that all Wise Buy Samplers are on sale this weekend only, Friday October 1st through Sunday, October 3rd.
Many cigar smokers don’t realize that they could be saving literally hundreds, while still enjoying cigars of similar quality, made in the same factories, by the same tabaqueros, using tobaccos of identical or near-identical quality.
Wise Buys offer one-part cigar comparison, and one-part entertainment. Each sampler contains 5 cigars from a highly-rated national brand, and 5 comparable Famous Value Priced Alternatives. What’s more, each is named after a gangster with a description to match.
The Famous alternatives were chosen by our crack team of cigar-chomping employees, and each makes a very convincing case for our Famous Value Brands!
- The mild, sweet-tipped Baccarat Rothschild is paired with Pai Gow Robusto in the Bugsy Wise Buy.
- The Little New York Wise Buy pairs up 5 medium-bodied Romeo y Julieta Bully cigars with 5 La Campiña Robustos.
- 5 full-flavored Cohiba Robusto cigars are paired up with 5 CAO CX2 Rob in the Turk Wise Buy.
With 20 Wise Buys samplers (and more on the way),
there’s surely a Wise Buy sampler to suit your flavor and strength preference. If you can find it, you could find yourself with a lot more money in your pocket!