Have you seen any of the news this past week? The calendar is kind of weird right now – since 4th of July fell on a Wednesday I’m sure that many people made it a 5-day weekend (and more power to you). In case you missed it, there was another jobs report, and much yelling and screaming ensued; everyone yelled at each other about whether “the Mandate” was a tax or a penalty. Gov. Romney was riding a jet ski, and the President was riding a bus. It’s been a little (too) quiet, though, about where the effort stands to exempt premium, hand-rolled cigars from FDA regulation. So as we wrap up another week full of political news/noise, I thought it was a good time to drop in a few recent updates on the standing of the legislation pending in Congress, HR1639/S1461 – The Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act. Continue reading
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.
During the Holiday Season it’s so hard to keep from tripping over ads and articles on “Great Gift Ideas!” I figured I might as well get in on it too, with my own guide to finding the perfect cigar gift. So, I’ve kept it simple. Here are five great gift ideas in five respective categories and various price points, that you can hint at to your wife, girlfriend, best friend, business colleagues or, you can tie a string around your finger like Uncle Billy in It’s a Wonderful Life, so you can remember to buy them for yourself. These are just suggestions, there are plenty more great gift ideas and deals to be found as well. I left the prices out, because they are subject to change and may even be on sale or include offers.
A sampler always makes a great gift. Here’s a dynamite collection for the cigar smoker who’s just starting out or has been smoking cigars for decades. I like this sampler because it’s got lots of cigars (16 in all!), big brand variety, and the price is extremely reasonable. Plus, they’re all made by the best in the business like The Fuentes, Eiroas, Garcias, Ozgeners, Toraños, Padróns, Perdomos, and Plasencias. Ranging from mild to muscular, these are “must-smokes” no cigar smoker should be without.
Cutters: Xikar Xi2 Fiberglass Cigar Cutters
CLACK! That’s the sound of a Xikar Xi cutter opening. When it comes to cutters, I’ve seen more Xikars in the hands of cigar smokers than any other make. That’s because they’re cool-looking, ultra sharp, guaranteed for the life of the cutter, and most importantly, they work! The Xi2 fiberglass series is very affordable, and the tear-drop shape provides maximum grip strength for the cleanest cuts ever – even up to a 56 ring. Don’t fiddle with the cheapo cutters. Get yourself or your giftee something they’ll appreciate for years to come.
I recently purchased this Vector Heatran lighter for myself and I love it. IMO, Vector has proven to be one of the more reliable makers of cigar lighters, and this triple flame is especially good for toasting and lighting cigars from a 50 to 60 ring gauge. It comes in several colors, is very affordable, and it has a fuel viewing window, which I would suggest you look for in any cigar lighter you buy. It really comes in handy. This lighter also has a handy cigar punch on the bottom, in case you forget your regular cutter.
Here’s a humidor that says, “I love the leaf.” The tobacco leaf on this well-made, dark maple humidor is bordered by hand inlays, that add an attractive touch of class to this case. Features include Spanish cedar lining, brass hardware, quadrant hinges, a large rectangular oasis foam humidifier, brass/glass analog hygrometer, top tray, plus a lock & key with a yellow tassel. Its affordable price and 125 cigar capacity also make it a great value. Cigar smokers always need more room eventually, and this humidor will allow you or your giftee’s collection to grow without having to buy another humidor sooner than you wanted.
Cigar & Accessory Kits: Horn of Plenty Super Sampler
For the cigar smoker who wants it all, THIS is a very cool gift at a ridiculously low price. Perfect for the new cigar smoker, this item comes with just about everything but the kitchen sink. You get our bestselling Capri humidor plus 20 cigars chosen from among the world’s best-known brands such as Alec Bradley, CAO, E.P. Carrillo, Oliva, Macanudo, Romeo y Julieta, Tatuaje, Cohiba, and too many more to mention. But that’s not all! You also get a guillotine cutter, torch lighter, seasoning kit, humidifier, humidifying solution, and much more. This is a fantastic gift idea valued at over $296, for way less than you’d expect to pay.
So, check your list twice, take a look at these items, and browse around. There’s something for every cigar smoker at affordable prices, and you can do all your cigar gift shopping without having to deal with mall mania.
Note: Thanks for visiting our 2011 holiday gift guide – but you need to get with the times! Check out our cigar gifts guide for over 15 ideas perfect for any cigar smoker on your list!
Make no mistake: the Department of Health, through the FDA, is crusading to erase tobacco, including cigars. Don’t believe me? According to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius:
Until we end tobacco use, more people will become addicted…Now is the time to fully implement proven and effective interventions… to help end this public health epidemic once and for all.
Only 3 years ago, Deputy Secretary Bill Corr worked as an anti-smoking lobbyist. Are THESE the people you want in charge of cigars at the federal level?
FDA regulation of cigars will begin with a ban on mail-order sales, but even your local smoke shop isn’t safe. Take a good last look at your local walk-in humidor, because under the new FDA regulations, displaying cigars will be illegal. Instead they’ll be kept in a stock room, under lock and key. You can forget browsing for cigars – you’ll have to ask for them by name.
But hey, at least it’ll be easy to keep track of new brands: FDA regulations will force manufacturers to spend upwards of six-figures just to get new a blend approved. Your favorite boutique cigar brands will wither and die, leaving only the largest manufacturers to introduce a new blend or two per year.
Don’t expect to sample those new blends, either: free samples will be illegal, as well as cigar events. Even if you’re brave enough to buy a box sight unseen, the FDA is likely to mandate near-zero levels of nicotine. How do you suppose THAT cigar will taste?
To add insult to injury, if passed, YOU will be paying for all this new regulation in the form of income and new cigar taxes. Surely the Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves!
When a government acts against its citizens’ interests, it’s time to make your voice heard. Urge your Senator and Representative to support the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act today.
Click the button below, even if you’ve already done so. Your voice counts, and it ONLY TAKES A MINUTE!
Imagine walking into a smoke shop (for argument’s sake, let’s call it “Leaf“). You’re greeted by the friendly folks at the retail counter. You wade past wood shelves neatly lined with humidors, pull open a heavy wooden door, and proceed into the 2,000 square foot humidor.
“Can I help you find anything?” the clerk behind the counter asks.
As you ponder the myriad of cigars before you, how are you feeling? Confident? Confused? Excited? Overwhelmed? There’s no right answer; but I’d like to address a couple cigar misconceptions I’ve noticed are held by many beginner to intermediate level cigar enthusiasts.
The first misconception is that many cigar smokers focus too much on wrapper color. Believing that the wrapper color is indicative of the cigar’s strength, the tendency is to reach for an extra-pale shade grown wrapper. This is one of the cigar misconceptions that can cause a smoker to take a pass on a stick they might really enjoy.
While there may be a slight correlation between strength and wrapper color, it’s unreliable at best. The color of a wrapper has more to do with the actual flavors of a cigar than with its strength. That comes from the filler blend, and the ligero leaves, in particular. Located at the top of the tobacco plant, these leaves receive the most nutrients and sunlight, and are therefore the strongest and fullest-flavored.
The second of the cigar misconceptions I’m addressing today is that smaller cigars are less potent. Anyone who has ever smoked a fresh Fuente Fuente OpusX “Power Ranger” can tell you this one is dead wrong. Sure, a smaller vitola may look less imposing, but its diminutive diameter makes for a stronger smoke.
Counter-intuitive? Sure, but if you think about it, the smaller ring gauge means that you are smoking a greater ratio of wrapper leaf to filler blend. The result is more concentrated flavors than offered by its larger-ring counterpart. While a Churchill may have more total tobacco than a Lancero, its milder-tasting smoke may be easier on the novice- or occasional-smoker’s palate.
One final word: there’s no substitute for experience, but good advice goes a long way. Never be afraid or embarrassed to ask for advice from the guy or gal behind the counter. High-quality smoke shops like Leaf take pride in training their staff to cater to your taste preference and experience on a personal basis.
AS AN AVID CIGAR SMOKER you’ve probably heard a lot about FDA regulation of premium cigars. The fact is that earlier this year, the Federal Drug Administration was given the authority to regulate tobacco products. According to a recent report from Cigar Rights of America (CRA):
In the July 7 Federal Register, FDA restated its authority to issue regulations deeming ‘other tobacco products’ to be subject to their domain [when the legislative intent was cigarettes and smokeless products]. They further stated ‘The scope of the proposed rule deeming cigars to be subject to FDA’s jurisdiction that was previously included in the Unified Agenda is being broadened to encompass products that meet the statutory definition of tobacco product.
Therefore, unless action is taken quickly, the FDA plans to start their new timetable for such regulations this coming October.
Fortunately, House Bill H.R.1639, the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act, was introduced. This bill seeks to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to clarify the Food and Drug Administration’s jurisdiction over certain tobacco products, and to protect jobs and small businesses involved in the sale, manufacturing and distribution of traditional and premium cigars. At last count H.R.1639 had at least 45 co-sponsors in The House. Recently, added support of the bill is due to the fight not only from CRA and The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR),
but from concerned citizens like you who have taken the time to write your representatives in Washington.
Thankfully, another major hurdle was cleared when co-sponsors Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) of Florida. introduced S1461, the companion bill to HR1639. S1461, like HR1639, seeks to separate cigars from cigarettes and other tobacco products in order to keep them safe from FDA regulation. Like The House version of this bill, it is called the “Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2011.”
Should the FDA regulation include premium cigars under their umbrella here’s what will happen:
- You’ll pay extremely higher prices for premium cigars.
- Flavored cigars will disappear.
- New blends would be subject to inspection, testing, and approval by the FDA, virtually tying the hands of manufacturers.
- Cigar box artwork will be disfigured by health risk warning labels.
- Marketing of premium cigars and in-store tasting events would be muzzled, nor would cigar stores be permitted to have walk-in humidors, and finally…
- NO MORE MAIL-ORDER CIGARS
And that’s just for starters.
Please contact your U.S. Senators today! The last thing you want is the FDA having a say in how your favorite premium cigars are blended, imported and sold. In the meantime, we will continue to keep you updated on any further developments about these bills that come our way.
Cigar retailers including Famous Smoke Shop desperately need House and Senate support for and co-sponsorship of HR1639 and S1461 respectively, and we need you to urge them! It’s the best thing you can do today to help save your cigars from being regulated by the FDA; and believe me, as if government wasn’t big enough already, the last thing you want is the FDA having a say in how your favorite premium cigars are imported and marketed.
Right now is the perfect opportunity to tell your Senators about how FDA control of cigars will affect you as a consumer. To do so, simply follow these steps.
- Go to IPCPR’s Legislative Action Center
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and on the right side of your screen, you will see a text box for entering your zip code. Enter it and click “Go.”
- On the next screen, you will see your two U.S. Senators and under them you will see a pre-fab letter you can use or edit to add your own wording.
- Finally, preview your message, and if it’s satisfactory, click the “Send Message” button.
Luckily, Congress is listening to us. We have a great opportunity to nail this one down, so don’t delay, and pass this blog on to your cigar smoking amigos.
After taking the cigar world by storm several years ago with the introduction of two unprecedented “firsts” for premium cigars, Sam Leccia has struck out on his own with a new line of cigars produced and distributed through his new, aptly-named Sam Leccia Cigar Company.
Gary Korb: What was the first cigar you ever smoked, and what do you remember most about it?
Sam Leccia:. I actually remember my first cigar quite well. I was in 10th grade. Me and my two buddies, Vince and Tom, pitched-in and bought a box of Phillies blunts. I can remember opening that box when we got home. I had cigar boxes around the house with baseball cards and matchbox cars in them; this was the first one that I had with actual cigars in it. We were so pumped to smoke them. Then we got into other cigars, like hand-rolled cigars. I remember my first hand rolled. It was a Macanudo and I spent $6.00 on it, which on a 15 year-old’s budget was insane, but I felt like I was on top of the world smoking it. I used to always go into the cigar store at the local mall just to enjoy the aromas of the walk-in humidor. I was hooked. The funny thing is, growing up my Dad always insisted that I didn’t smoke or drink, and yet my career has been both in the liquor and now tobacco industry. Sorry Dad.
GK: How did you decide on the name “Debut” for your first release?
Sam: Names are not easy to come up with, and usually are more important to the company using it rather than everyone else. I gave a lot of thought to various names. Some I will probably use down the road, but this is my first solo release, so what better than Debut?
GK: Where is your company and factory based?
Sam: My company is based in Pittsburgh, Pa, still out of my garage, but the factory that’s making Debut is in Honduras.
GK: Can you give us some background about the tobaccos used in Debut blend and how you developed it; for instance, when you knew it was ready, etc.?
Sam: I am excited about the blend. It’s the most fun of the entire process. The blend consists of tobaccos from Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Santo Domingo. The wrapper ages well and the oils really rise to the surface after some aging. I love a good oily wrapper, and this truly delivers beyond my expectations. As far as ‘when I knew it was ready,’ just like finding your soul mate, you know when you know.
GK: Why did you decide to go with 60 gauge ring sizes for two of the three Debut frontmarks?
Sam: Well it’s no secret that I like a 60 ring. I wanted to put my twist on traditional sizes. I didn’t want to come up with some new name for a size, I like the length of both the Robusto and Churchill, I just gave them more tobacco. Though, the figurado is a traditional 6 ½ X 52 Torpedo.
GK: How much of a part will social media sites like Facebook and Twitter play in marketing your cigars?
Sam: I enjoy Facebook and Twitter. I have reconnected with so many people: old Navy buddies, school friends, and I can stay in touch with people I meet in my travels. I don’t really build a strategy around using Facebook or Twitter, rather, I just use it like everyone else does to update my friends on my life. It just so happens my life is cigars, so it turns into to some form of marketing, but that’s not truly why I use it.
GK: The cigars that brought you to prominence were true “firsts.” Does the Sam Leccia Cigar Company have plans for producing something just as unique in the future?
Sam: You know, I look at things differently now. I am different. I am a nonconformist by nature. I like to try new things and have fun. The goal is to just bring some excitement to an industry that I am excited about being in. I could easily make traditional blends in traditional sizes but that’s just not who I am. I honor tradition by creating new cigars. I have lots up my sleeve.
GK: Since going rogue, what has been the most surprising thing that has happened?
Sam: Your question makes me sound like some kind of Sarah Palin (laughs),
but the answer is, I enjoy the freedom. It’s liberating.
GK: What do cigar smokers seem to misunderstand about you?
Sam: I can probably write a book based on this question alone. Some people expect me to be a 6-foot 6-inch hard-ass, but I’m a soft spoken, 5-foot 7-inch regular Joe. I’m a creative thinker and I’m kind and generous. I certainly don’t think of myself as any sort of ‘celebrity.’ I say this all the time but, I have no paparazzi on my lawn; no one bothers me in grocery stores or the mall; and I highly doubt anyone tells Kid Rock that he “looks like Sam Leccia”. I’m as real as it gets and I enjoy meeting and hanging out with the cigar smoking nation.
GK: Will you be introducing Debut at the upcoming IPCPR show in Las Vegas this summer and doing other major cigar events?
Sam: I am currently taking pre-orders and plan to start shipping before the show. I’m in kind of a difficult situation, as my first run looks to have already been pre-sold. I know that sounds like a good thing, but I want to meet the demand without sacrificing quality. I will be at the IPCPR, and I can’t wait to hit the road and reconnect with all of my cigar smoking friends.
GK: I heard that you are not using a traditional wood box for your cigars. How will they be packaged?
Sam: I am using a box made from thick chipboard. It is made from 100% recycled materials and manufactured here in the USA. I don’t profess to be ‘green’ but I can sleep better at night knowing that I am not responsible for one tree cut down in the rain forest to make my boxes. Central America’s rain forests are being depleted; I am proud not to have a hand in that. I’m very excited about the boxes; they look amazing and I hope others follow suit.
GK: If you could compare yours cigars to one of your favorite bands, which would it be, and why?
Sam: Wow. That’s a tough question. I love music to no end – I am an amateur singer and lyricist, but to compare what I do to any of the music and bands that I love, I just can’t do it.
Pre-orders and general inquiries about the Sam Leccia Cigar Company: SamsDebut@SamLecciaCigarCo.com
You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”
- Marie Browning (Lauren Bacall) in To Have and Have Not
A while back I blogged about cigar lighting techniques. In the article, I referred to one of the methods as “The ‘Overkill’.” “…using this method, the smoker keeps hitting the blackened areas of the foot with the torch flame until they glow like a branding iron. All this does is cause the tobacco to produce more tars, which may turn the cigar prematurely bitter,” I wrote.
As a cigar smoker, one thing you need to remember when using torch lighters is that the flame is highly concentrated. Moreover, the reason torch lighters are so effective is that the blue inner cone (about 1/16 of an inch inside the flame), is the hottest part of the flame, and therefore, much hotter than the white flame of a match or “soft flame” lighter. That’s also why you should be even more careful when toasting your cigars.*
The secret to properly toasting good premium cigars is to hold the flame from a torch lighter just shy of the tobacco until it turns black. You want to do the same during the lighting stage, until you see the core tobaccos glowing. Note that you may only see a portion of the core glowing. At this point you would normally blow gently on the foot to spread the fire throughout the entire width of the foot.
Here’s where the torch flame overkill usually comes in. If after blowing on the cigar, the remaining core doesn’t catch quickly, many a cigar smoker will hit it again and even hold it until they get the aforementioned “branding iron” effect.
The reason not all of the tobaccos take right away usually has to do with the amount of moisture in the tobaccos, and/or how much ligero is in the mix. Ligero is the oiliest of the leaves and it’s one of the reasons the more combustible binder leaves are part of the blend; they help get your cigars started and keep them burning evenly. Therefore, if you absolutely have to hit it again, you may be better off concentrating on the ring where the binder is, just inside the outer wrapper leaf.
Suffice it to say that, rather than holding the foot to the fire (so to speak),
continue blowing on it. If it’s a well-made cigar, eventually the entire core will take. You don’t need more flame; what you need is more patience.
* Author’s note: When I first published this blog, I incorrectly stated that the white part of the flame from torch lighters was the hottest.
If you’re a cigar-smoking Mom or Dad, I want to hear from you.
Like any good father, I want what’s best for my kids. With my oldest still under 4, they’re still pretty far removed from chats about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. But sooner or later, they’re going to start asking material questions about cigars and why I smoke them. The issues surrounding cigars and fatherhood are complex, and they’re going to receive a lot of information from a lot of different sources about cigars and tobacco products in general.
My oldest already knows what cigars are. He saw a cigar in the ashtray and asked me what it was, and I answered him frankly. I’m not about to insult his intelligence by pretending not to hear his question, or by spouting off some falsehood.
I guess the bottom line is this: I’m not interested in indoctrinating him in any way, but neither am I about to hide my cabinet humidor.
I DO consciously abstain from smoking in their presence. While I’m not ashamed of cigars, smoking is not a behavior I wish to normalize in their worldview. Besides, with few exceptions, actually enjoying one when they’re about is near-impossible.
Do I look forward to sharing a cigar with my kids someday? Sure, when they’re 18 and old enough to know the difference between occasionally enjoying a fine cigar and chain-smoking cigarettes. I plan to teach them about enjoying cigars responsibly, and make sure they’re aware of the health risks associated with tobacco. I believe that adults have the right to make an informed decision about tobacco use, and when it comes to cigars and fatherhood, I plan to help inform my children so they can make their own choice when the time comes.
How do/did you handle the smoking question vis-à-vis cigars? Are there any tips on cigars and fatherhood that you can give to a relative rookie Dad? Thanks in advance.