Stogie Tips: Practice Proper Cigar Etiquette

15 Aug 2018

[Editors’ Note: From time to time, StogieGuys.com will reach back into its extensive archives to update and re-publish some of our oldest articles, many of which focused on cigar basics. Our hope is to encourage a discussion among readers and reacquaint the community with important cigar fundamentals.]

Cigar smokers are all Wall Street fat cats who are condescending, elitist snobs that are out of touch with everyday, hard-working Americans.

That’s how Hollywood often portrays us lovers of the leaf, and many non-smokers simply accept this stereotype as reality. While you and I know that nothing could be further from the truth—that cigars are an affordable luxury enjoyed by wearers of blue collars and white collars alike—it’s important to keep this stereotype in mind. We should do our best not to reinforce it, especially when we’re around non-smokers. This is best accomplished by adhering to a reasonable code of conduct.

Where to smoke. When you’re smoking on your own property alone, you can obviously feel free to smoke away. But if you have a non-smoking guest in your presence, it never hurts to ask. “I’d like to smoke a cigar. Do you mind?” In my experience, rarely, if ever, will the guest object. But he or she will always appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Be a good patron. If you happen to be off your property, perhaps at a bar or restaurant that isn’t covered by a smoking ban, follow the rules of that establishment. Some places allow cigarette smoking but prohibit cigars. Others allow cigars in only certain sections. Most forbid cigars altogether. Whatever the case, ask the owner or an employee what the policy is, and then follow it politely. (That said, if I’m in a rare setting where cigar smoking is allowed, I won’t ask other patrons for permission; if the permission is granted by the rules/owner, that’s good enough for me, and there are plenty of other places for people who are offended by cigar smoke.)

Share, don’t impose. Whether you’re about to smoke at home or out on the town, don’t hesitate to offer others in your group a cigar. But remember that offering is a lot different than pressuring. Conversely, if you’ve accepted the gift of a cigar, be sure to reciprocate the generosity next time. No one likes a mooch.

Ash in an ashtray. Floors, potted plants, and toilets are not ashtrays and should not be treated as such. Be respectful of your surroundings. If you’re somewhere falling ash won’t be a problem (say, on a golf course), go ahead and let your ash accumulate for an inch or more. But if you’re at a fancy cocktail party standing on a $15,000 Persian rug, ash early and ash often.

Remove the band when you want to. While some say it’s showy and impolite to leave the band on your cigar while you smoke it, I couldn’t disagree more. In my experience, leaving the band on is a great conversation starter that helps cigar aficionados meet one another. It also minimizes the risk of the band’s glue from tearing or unraveling a fragile cigar wrapper.

Don’t accept a cigar you don’t want or don’t have time for. If you’re lucky enough to be on the receiving end of cigar generosity, politely decline if you don’t have the inclination or time to fully enjoy the smoke. It can be perceived as rude to accept a cigar and then set it down at the halfway mark.

Be a good cigar customer. When visiting a cigar shop, handle the merchandise with care and follow the proprietor’s rules. Damaging the cigars (even slightly), shoving the product up your nose, disrupting the display, taking un-purchased merchandise into the bathroom, smoking cigars in the shop/lounge you purchased elsewhere, and other errors of common sense should be avoided.

On the whole, cigar enthusiasts are among the nicest, most personable people on the planet—a far cry from how we’re portrayed in movies or on TV. Let’s all do our part to keep it that way. Pass on the knowledge you’ve accumulated, but be open and mindful of other opinions. Pay generosity forward. Treat others as you would like to be treated. And have a great time.

Patrick A

 

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: E.P. Carrillo Interlude Maduro Carrillitos

13 Aug 2018

I’ve been working my way through the Interlude line from E.P. Carrillo this year, thus far writing reviews on the Natural Rothschild Jr. and the Maduro Rothschild Jr.

At first, my attraction to the pint-sized cigars was inspired by the temperatures of a Chicago winter; more recently, I’m drawn to the cigars for their ability to pack a premium cigar experience into a short time period—a plus when you’ve got two small children and a third on the way.

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo launched Interlude in 2016. There are two blends each presented in two small formats: Carrillitos (4 x 38) and Rothschild Jr. (3.75 x 48).

The Natural version of “Ernesto’s shortest cigar ever made” sports a Connecticut wrapper (same as the New Wave Reserva) around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The Maduro boasts a Mexican San Andrés wrapper (same as La Historia) around an Ecuadorian binder and Nicaraguan filler.

Both were hard to blend “because the dimensions limit the amount of tobacco that can be used,” Ernesto Perez-Carrillo shared via email. “So the proportions have to be just right to get the flavor profile sought.”

I smoked a handful of cigars in the Interlude Maduro Carrillitos format for this review. This cigar is neatly presented in a regal five-pack that retails for $15 (or $3 per cigar). The beautiful packaging is offset by the rustic, wrinkled appearance of the wrapper leaf. It is veiny, toothy, and mottled with moderately loose seams.

The firm, lumpy Maduro Carrillitos has a stiff cold draw and pre-light notes reminiscent of cocoa powder and damp earth. A single match is all that’s needed to establish an even burn. Once underway, I find a medium- to full-bodied profile of black pepper spice, cherry sweetness, dark chocolate, and cedar.

After a quarter-inch or so, the draw mercifully opens up nicely. At the same time, there is a shift in flavor away from spice and towards creaminess. Here, flavors include dry oak, marshmallow, and café au lait. This is where things remain until the final third, which is characterized by a reprise of black pepper and cedar spice.

The physical properties are outstanding. All of my samples exhibited straight burn lines, sturdy ashes, and good smoke production. The only blemish is the tight draw at the outset.

When I started to get serious about cigars about 12 years ago, the most challenging scarcity was the cost of the hobby. Now, the biggest constraint is time. I can’t seem to carve out 90 to 120 minutes nearly as often as I would like.

That’s why the Interlude series strikes a chord with me. E.P. Carrillo found a way to deliver much of what I love most about cigars into more manageable formats. For that, I’m thankful. I’ve especially been impressed with the San Andrés-wrapped Maduro Interlude cigars. Like the Rothschild Jr., I’m awarding this one a very solid rating of four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: L’Atelier Imports Extension de la Racine ER13

12 Aug 2018

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

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Released in 2013, this cigar from Pete Johnson’s L’Atelier Imports was built to have the same dimensions as the Cohiba Siglo VI (5.9 x 52). That said, its makeup—a Nicaraguan sun-grown Criollo wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos—doesn’t yield a flavor profile that resembles the famed Cuban smoke. Still, it’s good in its own right, with excellent combustion qualities and a balanced taste of rich caramel, cream, and dry oak with a bready texture. It originally sold for $9.25. If you can track one down, pick it up.

Verdict = Buy.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Avo Heritage Toro Tubo

10 Aug 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Introduced last year, this Avo Heritage vitola can be tough to find. It doesn’t seem to appear on the brand’s website, and a lot of shops don’t have it in their inventory. That’s a shame. It is a terrific cigar, and a near-prefect example of what Avo set out to accomplish with the Heritage line: a stronger smoke that retained the best of Avo. With a sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper and Dominican binder and filler tobaccos, it begins with familiar notes of grass, mushrooms, and a hint of spice. Along the 6-inch, 50-ring gauge frame those flavors wax and wane as they interact with sweetness, a little chocolate, and some pepper. I found it stronger and bolder than other Heritage sizes I’ve smoked, but Davidoff assured me the blend is the same. At $10, the Heritage Toro Tubo is a bargain.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Villiger Flor de Ynclan Lancero Especial

8 Aug 2018

Last summer, Villiger Cigars introduced the Flor de Ynclan line. Actually, it was more of a re-introduction. Villiger originally debuted the line, which takes its name from an old Cuban brand, back in 2007.

Eleven years ago, a “small batch” of La Flor de Ynclan was crafted by Villiger with unsatisfactory results, leading to a decision to cease production. The 2017 re-introduction, therefore, wasn’t merely a second go-around with the same recipe. It had been re-blended by José Matias Maragoto—overseer of all Villiger-made product in the Dominican Republic—to feature an Ecuadorian wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos.

Villiger got it right this time, according to Heinrich Villiger, chairman of Switzerland-based Villiger Soehne AG: “The La Flor de Ynclan cigar has been an ongoing labor of love for us. We feel that there is a difference between a good and great cigar, [and] Matias Maragoto and I hope you feel the same.”

La Flor de Ynclan is handmade at the ABAM Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic. It has three regular-production formats: Robusto (5 x 50, $11), Torpedo (5 x 52, $12), and Churchill (7 x 48, $12).

In addition, this year a limited edition Lancero Especial (6.75 x 43, $11) was added; only 500 boxes of 25 will be made annually. This vitola has a pigtail cap and, like its 2017 predecessors, sports a metallic band of silver, blue, red, and black (in case you’re wondering, the 2007 La Flor de Ynclan band depicts an enrobed woman posing with two spears and one hand atop a globe).

In terms of flavor, the Lancero Especial can be thought of as a more concentrated, slightly stronger version of the Toro I reviewed over a year ago. The core profile of oak, cream, and cinnamon is very similar, though the body is decidedly medium instead of mild- to medium-bodied. In the background, attentive smokers will notice hints of citrus, vanilla, and almond. The texture is bready.

The cinnamon spice becomes more prevalent toward the midway point. Here, I also find a taste of white pepper. In the final third, there is a shift back to oak and citrus, and the spice is more reminiscent of black pepper.

Across both samples I smoked for this review, the physical properties left little to be desired. Despite being spongy to the touch, the Lancero Especial exhibits a near-perfect burn behind a sturdy ash. The draw has some resistance but is mostly clear. The smoke production is average.

All told, I give the slight edge to the Lancero Especial over the Churchill—but not enough of an edge to change the overall score. I’m sticking with my (very admirable) rating of four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Evaluating New Cigars

6 Aug 2018

After smoking several thousand cigars and reviewing hundreds, I have a pretty good idea of what I do and don’t like. That, of course, doesn’t make my opinions any more valid that yours or anyone else.

But it does mean I have a lot of experience. And some of what I’ve learned might help you in evaluating cigars you’re trying for the first time.

These three tips are among those I consider most important.

— Unless you thoroughly dislike a cigar from the get-go, I recommend you hold off on making a determination from a single sample. Most reviewers smoke several cigars, and there’s good reason for that. Obviously, premium cigars are a handmade product and, therefore, subject to some differences along the production line. A poor burn, for example, could be because the cigar was too wet or because a leaf was improperly placed in the bunch. There’s another reason that can be even more important. The situation in which you smoke can exert a profound influence on how you feel about the cigar. Lighting up a celebratory stick after getting that promotion you wanted? It’s almost certain to go well. Trying to smoke while being interrupted by phone calls, unexpected diversions, or your neighbor jackhammering his patio will invariably make the experience less than ideal. An easy way to see this is to picture yourself lighting up as you watch your favorite sports team. They’re off to an early lead and play superbly to the end. Good cigar, right? Now, imagine that same cigar as your team is down almost immediately and hammered constantly to the end. Not nearly as enjoyable a smoke, is it?

— Beware of confirmation bias, the psychological term for the all-too-human tendency toward wanting something to be true and, therefore, deciding it is without weighing the evidence. With cigars, this occurs most often when one of your favorite manufacturers has a new release. You love their cigars, and you know you’re going to love this one, too. Maybe. But maybe not. The reverse can also happen. You pick up one from a brand you haven’t enjoyed—or maybe have just heard or read negative things about—and you subconsciously conclude beforehand that it isn’t good.

— Concentrate, but don’t go overboard. Not only will this help you deal with confirmation bias, it will also put you in a much better position to reach a reasonable conclusion. Getting in the isolation booth and doing nothing but puffing may help you find a somewhat obscure flavor or two, but that isn’t how most of us smoke cigars. I think that approach can actually diminish your evaluation. Smoking cigars should be about pleasure, not subjecting yourself to a tobacco version of the SAT. Enjoy yourself, enjoy your smoke.

And when you’re done, hopefully you’ll have a good idea of whether you want to smoke more of those cigars or not.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Flor de las Antillas Toro

5 Aug 2018

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

My Father’s Flor de las Antillas blend is a Nicaraguan puro from the Pepin family featuring a sun-grown Nicaraguan wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. The cigar has garnered high ratings from both Cigar Aficionado (which named it the top cigar of 2012) and Stogie Guys. The 6-inch, 52-ring gauge, box-pressed Toro features notes of coffee, earth, nutmeg, bread, and a hint of damp cardboard. Combustion is excellent, but I can’t help but feeling that this cigar doesn’t fully deliver compared to past editions.

Verdict = Hold.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys