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Commentary: Coming to Terms with Winter

17 Feb 2020

Think you love cigars? Let’s put your adoration to the test. Go out and smoke a cigar in the cold. And, no, I don’t mean 40 degrees. I said cold. Let’s put it at 20 degrees or less (not including windchill). Bundle up, plant yourself in a chair with a cup of hot (not for long) coffee, and fire up a smoke. If you’re sitting still—and if you’re not cheating with, say, a heat lamp or something—I bet you won’t be able to get through a toro. Maybe not even a robusto or a corona.

At some point in the process, you’ll find yourself pondering the futility of the exercise. Isn’t the whole idea behind cigars to enjoy yourself? How can you fully appreciate the enticing aromas, delicious flavors, and handmade craftsmanship when your core bodily processes are shutting down and frostbite is trying to take hold of exposed skin? How can you revel in the complexities of the profile—which surely includes anise, cream soda, and pencil shavings—as your shivering turns into slowed, shallow breathing and, eventually, total loss of consciousness?

Maybe you never have to ask yourself these questions. Perhaps you live somewhere where it never gets legitimately cold, at least not for a whole season. Or, if you do, perhaps you can smoke inside your home. Or there’s a good lounge nearby with decent hours. Or perhaps you commute via car and don’t mind smoking in your vehicle (side note: smoking a cigar while driving is not all it’s cracked up to be).

I used to have a cigar room in my condo in the city.. Now I have a bunch of kids and a house in the suburbs.


Personally, I live in Chicago. Winter can be rough, and this one is no exception. I have three small children and no place to smoke inside my home. There are a few lounges nearby, but the hours typically don’t work for me (it’s usually 10:30 PM or later by the time the kids are all asleep, the dishes are done, etc.). And, while I’m often on the “L” or on my way to an airport in an Uber, I’m rarely in my own car. So where and when do I smoke, you may ask?

Honestly, I smoke much, much less in the winter. I really don’t have a choice. It may not be fashionable for a member of the online cigar media to admit this, but it’s true nonetheless.

When I do smoke, it’s usually one of two things: (1) I’ve gotten permission from the wife to be at a lounge for a couple hours, which is a welcome respite that will have to be repaid in some (often painful) way, or (2) I’m traveling for work someplace warm and/or there’s a late-hours lounge nearby.

I write this not to ask for your sympathy (I don’t deserve any, and I’m not complaining) but to share a few unintended consequences of my wintertime lull in cigar smoking. First, when you smoke less, you enjoy the cigars you do smoke more. The law of diminishing returns is absolutely at play here. If you smoke cigar after cigar after cigar, the next one won’t be nearly as enjoyable. Anyone who’s ever gone on a cigar rampage—or taken a leave of absence—would probably back this up.

Second, having fewer opportunities to smoke results in a renewed focus on deciding what to smoke. Time is more precious, and the cost of making a bad decision is higher. In the winter, I’m likelier to turn to old favorites and shun new experiences. Any new cigar that gets selected is often the result of a fair amount of review-reading—or, at least, much more research than would be required in the summer.

Finally, less time to smoke should mean more time for something else. In my case, the inability to smoke as often as I would like has not extinguished my passion for cigars. So I’ve been catching up on cigar-related reading (both mainstream publications and, yes, other websites), making some purchases, organizing my inventory, and keeping the humidors functioning properly (which is no small task this time of year).

I guess you could say I’ve come to terms with a seasonal approach to cigar enjoyment. That being said, where the f*#k is spring, and when will it get here?

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

10 Responses to “Commentary: Coming to Terms with Winter”

  1. Stan Walker Monday, March 11, 2019 at 12:17 pm #

    We moved to KC area from Chicago and have had a mixed bag of winters here over the last 40 years. And this year, we had a “real” winter for here. Extended period in the 20’s and some below zero thrown in for good measure. Lucky for me, I live about 10 minutes from a great cigar shop and lounge. And since I’ve been retired, my wife wants me out of the house for a while, so win win. I go smoke cigars and watch a game. Otherwise, not much smoking outside this winter for sure. Thanks for the article.

  2. Thomas Huxley Monday, March 11, 2019 at 6:34 pm #

    I live about 2 hours south of Chicago, and it gets plenty cold here, too. I never smoke indoors, so I just take a cigar hiatus between late October and mid-April. The break causes me to enjoy a good cigar even more.

  3. Nick Miller Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 8:23 am #

    Minneapolitan here. I feel your pain and am also eagerly awaiting spring.

  4. Chad Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 8:13 pm #

    I’m up here in Appleton, WI…Go Pack! Agreed, the winters are brutal here and I really hate the cold snow. But it does make those stogies taste even better when I’m on the golf course in summer!

  5. Ted Langly Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at 3:34 pm #

    Winter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin does not lend itself to frequent cigar smoking. I find it actually kind of nice to smoke less in the winter. I do however find opportunities to enjoy a cigar in winter. On the warmer days (above 32 degrees) I will enjoy a short smoke out in the garage. I spend time snowmobiling in northern Wisconsin at a friend’s cabin. He graciously permits us to smoke in his cabin. I play outdoor hockey at a friends backyard rink and we enjoy cigars around the fire pit after our games. In short, I love winter and find that I can add occasional cigar smoking to winter life.

  6. Cigar Seeker Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at 6:12 am #

    I used to wait out the winters too. But this winter the wife gave me permission to smoke in the garage. So I crack the door open an inch or two, fire up a floor heater, and I’m in business. But my personal temperature limit is 40 degrees. If it’s not at least that warm, I forget about it. And by the way, I’m in Rhode Island so there are plenty of very cold days. But it’s rather surprising how often it is above that 40 degree threshold.

  7. Joe M Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at 10:33 am #

    I live in NJ and it has not been as cold this year but I can’t wait for winter to be over.I only smoke a cigar if the temp is 30 or above. The wind needs to be 5 MPH or less when it hovers in the 30’s or else it is too uncomfortable and cold for me. I started to use 2 heating pads in the winter. I put 1 heating pad on my chair to sit on and 1 on my lap to keep my hands warm. If you bundle up the rest of your body the heating pads help. I can’t smoke in the house and I don’t really like smoking in lounges with poor ventilation.

    • Ted Langly Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at 2:45 pm #

      Joe-I agree that many cigar lounges generally have poor ventilation. One of my local stores recently built a fantastic stand alone new store with large lounge. My brother and I recently met to enjoy a cigar. I was amazed at how poor the ventilation was. I would have thought given the expense of the new building that they would have made air quality more of a priority.

  8. Paul G Sunday, February 23, 2020 at 10:23 am #

    I heard (admittedly second-hand but coming from a supplier) that some cigars don’t burn the same in very cold temperatures. I’ve had several cigars that I know I like which taste bitter when it’s pushing the freezing mark. CT shades are apparently particularly sensitive to the cold. It would be interesting to see a back to back taste test trying the same cigar inside and outside in the cold to see if there’s really a discernible change in flavors.

    • Joe M Tuesday, February 25, 2020 at 2:54 pm #

      Paul, I agree that some of of my favorite cigars that I know are good do not taste the same smoking in cold weather.