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Cigar Tip: Celebrate the New Year with Cigars and Champagne

31 Dec 2018

[In order to help our readers ring 2019 in right, we’re republishing this tip about how to pair cigars and champagne. Enjoy!]

Pairing brown liquor with  cigars is the more obvious choice, but champagne (or other sparkling wines) can go surprisingly well with a smoke. Not to mention the celebratory nature of the bubbly. To enhance your champagne and cigar enjoyment, here are a few basic tips:

Save the top-dollar champagne.

Champagne can be fantastic, but unless you have unlimited funds, the vintage Dom Pérignon should be held back if you’re smoking a cigar. You pay a price for the champagne name (meaning it’s from the Champagne region of France). There are plenty of good champagne-style sparkling wines that can be had for a reasonable cost. Spending $50 or $100 on brand name French bubbly will probably be a waste (considering you’re going to lose some of the complexities due to your cigar). Spanish Cava, in particular, can be had for a fraction of the price. Prosecco is also a nice option.

Stick with mild cigars.

Champagne doesn’t have the heft of rum, whiskey, or even beer or coffee. The best champagnes are the most subtle, so the same subtlety is needed in the cigar you pair with your sparkling wine. Stick with mild cigars that have balance. Some Connecticut-wrapped cigars can feature bitterness, so look for those with age and balance. Extra-aged Cubans can be a great pairing, and a special mention is deserved for the Illusione Epernay, which is named after the Champagne region and was blended with a champagne pairing in mind.

Age your cigars and your champagne.

Smoking a cigar with champagne calls for a cigar that is smooth, mild, complex, and subtle, all of which can be the result of aging a cigar. Some cigars just lose their flavor with age, so be careful. Others others are enhanced by months or years of aging properly in a humidor. Some of the same things happen to aged champagne which, while not for everyone, loses some of its bubbly crispness but adds creaminess and depth along the lines of a well-aged white burgundy. Usually you pay extra for vintage champagne. But if you can get some of those same qualities by just putting aside a good champagne and waiting, don’t be afraid to give it a try. (Not long ago I had some non-vintage Champagne Tattinger with a decade of age, and the result was very impressive.)

Cheers, and happy 2019!

Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr 

Cigar Tip: Cigars and the Common Cold

10 Dec 2018

[Editor’s Note: The following commentary first appeared at StogieGuys.com on April 7, 2010. Since the author is currently suffering from a head cold, and since he’s not feeling well enough to smoke, he thought today would be a good day to revisit the topic. Conveniently, re-posting an old article would also get him out of having to write anything new for the day. He figures if you’ve been publishing for overa decade, you deserve a little break now and then. By the way, take note of two specific cigars that get mentioned below; in the author’s eyes, at least, they really date this article.]

Some call it a sinus infection. Others call it the common cold. The medical community recognizes it as a “viral upper respiratory tract infection.” No matter what the name, the symptoms are usually the same: runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, mild fatigue, and possibly a fever. And, like the summertime blues, there ain’t no cure.

The average adult experiences two to four colds per year. I got my first (and hopefully last) case of the 2010 cold this weekend. In typical fashion, it came overnight with a scratchy throat, stuffed up my nose for a few days, and left just as quickly as it arrived. No big deal, but enough to cause me to cancel a few weekend activities.

One activity I cut back on while sick is cigar smoking. I’m not really concerned that cigars will prolong the cold’s duration (although doctors say smokers tend to have longer colds—but then again, doctors say a lot of things). I just find cigar smoking a lot less enjoyable when my throat is sore or my nose is clogged.

I’d never attempt to review a cigar when my nose—the best cigar tasting instrument I have—is out of whack. Recently, though, I conducted an experiment. I fired up a Rocky Patel Vintage ’90 Toro to see if I could identify the flavors I normally associate with this cigar (cocoa, spicy wood, etc.). I couldn’t.

Not even close. I could have been smoking pretty much anything and it would have tasted like chalky, billowy air. As expected, this was a reminder of the huge role our sense of smell plays in cigar tasting and how important it is to routinely smoke through the nose.

Aside from being an impediment to appreciating premium tobacco, my cold also reminded me that I’m far from addicted to tobacco. I went a solid five days without smoking (and I’ve gone much longer under different circumstances, like when I was training for a marathon). Never once did I experience cravings, headaches, nausea, anxiety, or other symptoms common to those trying to quit cigarettes. Sure, I missed not being able to thoroughly enjoy a cigar. But it wasn’t an epic battle to lay off the leaf for awhile.

Now I’m feeling much better. I took my nose for a test drive with a 601 Red and everything seems to be back to normal. Health permitting, I’m looking forward to catching up on some new reviews and Quick Smokes in the weeks to come.

The next time I get a cold, I’ll probably get lots of sleep, drink lots of fluids, and avoid cigars—at least expensive ones. I suggest you do the same.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Have a Happy Thanksgiving… with Cigars (2018)

21 Nov 2018

 

With football on the TV, turkey in your stomach, and family gathered, Thanksgiving is a great day to enjoy a cigar (or several). So as we have every year for each of the past eleven years, today the StogieGuys.com team tells you what cigars we’ll be firing up after our big meals.

Patrick A: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (with its fireworks, barbecues, baseball, and beer, the Fourth of July is a close second). That’s why, despite being smoked in a way-too-cold Chicago garage, my post-dinner smoke on Thanksgiving is probably my favorite cigar experience of the year. So there’s a lot riding on picking a consistent smoke that’s well-suited to the situation. This year I’m going with the Mi Querida Fino Largo (6 x 48, about $9). Crafted at the NACSA factory for Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, Mi Querida sports a blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos surrounded by a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. Full-bodied flavors of espresso, cinnamon, nougat sweetness, damp wood, and leather will provide the combination of power and harmony I’ll be craving after a huge dinner—and (hopefully) a Bears victory.

Patrick S: I’m visiting family in New York, where the high on Thanksgiving is expected to be below freezing and where any cigar will have to be enjoyed outdoors. So while I’m still looking forward to a post-turkey cigar, brevity is very much appreciated. This year I’m going to be lighting up a Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary Short Robusto. The small (4.5 x 52) cigar packs all the complexity and flavor of the larger Connoisseur size. Think full-bodied flavors of rich oak, toast, black coffee, spice, salt, and pepper. I’ll probably pair it up with a peaty single malt (Lagavulin or Arbeg), which should be ideal for the harsh conditions.

George E: The weather down here in Florida nearly always makes for a terrific Thanksgiving, unquestionably one of the best holidays. This year is no exception, with the forecast calling for a couple degrees below the average high (77°) and little chance of rain until late in the night. So, I’m almost certain to end the day outside with a large cup of coffee (Starbucks Italian Roast) and a cigar. Looking back through some of my previous Thanksgiving selections, it seems I’ve often opted for high-powered cigars. For 2018, that’s not really changing. I’ve decided to light up one of the few My Father Limited Edition 2011 sticks (6.5 x 52, $20) remaining from the box I bought at an event when they were released. It’s been more than a year since I last had one, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Previous cigars the StogieGuys.com team designated as Thanksgiving smokes include:

 

Not a bad list, eh? If you’re so inclined, feel free to let us know what you’ll be smoking tomorrow in the comments below. And be sure to have a safe and joyous Thanksgiving.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Cigars on a Plane

6 Nov 2018

travel-cigar

If you’re reading this and will be traveling for vacation or work, you’ll probably want to take some cigars, especially since traveling may mean a lack of access to cigars (or a lack of access to the authentic cigars you want to smoke).

And even if you think you’ll pick up some cigars on your trip, bringing a few along for the ride is probably a good idea. So here are some tips to make your air travel with cigars smoother.

Protect Your Cigars

Plane travel can be a traumatic experience for cigars, between the pressurized air and the fact that your bag is probably going to be forcibly jammed in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. (Don’t check your cigars, as the cargo hold of the plane can have some pretty extreme temperature changes that can do serious damage.) The natural solution is a hard plastic cigar case like those made by Xikar or Cigar Caddy. Each comes in anywhere from a five to fifteen-count, or sometimes more.

If you don’t have a case, or if you can’t fit all the cigars you want to bring in the case you have, a sealed Ziplock bag will do fine. But you’ll want to put the bag in a hard tube or box to make sure they don’t get crushed. If you are traveling for more than few days, throw a small Boveda pack in with your cigars to help stabilize and maintain proper humidity.

Bring a Lighter, Avoid Confiscation

Torch lighters are great, but the TSA will take them from your carry-on or checked luggage. Trust me on this. I’ve accidentally left them in my bag and had them confiscated. But you can bring a soft flame lighter in your carry-on. You can also bring a single box of matches. So I like to stuff one box of wooden matches to the brim as a backup. (Or, more likely, one in each of my carry-on luggage pieces.)

My go-to soft flame lighter is the Djeep, which is dependable and has decent capacity. It’s also cheap, so if some ornery TSA agent on a power-trip takes it you won’t be too upset. (Every year or two I buy a 24-pack.) If you really want a torch lighter, you might consider a Soto Pocket Torch, which can convert a regular cheap lighter into a torch. But bring the lighter in your carry-on and leave the Soto in your checked bag to make sure it isn’t confiscated.

Also, for all lighters and matches, know that other countries might have different rules. (Nicaragua, of all places, is known for taking all lighters when you depart from Managua. On the other hand, I’ve brought Ronson JetLite torches through U.S. TSA security multiple times.) So no matter what you bring, make sure it is something that, if push comes to shove, you won’t feel too bad about leaving behind.

Don’t Forget a Cutter

Bringing most cutters on a plane shouldn’t be a problem (according to the TSA, blades smaller than four inches are good to carry on), but you never know how the rules are going to be enforced. So fancy cutters, if you must bring them, should go in checked luggage.

Travel is the perfect time to bring along that cheap cutter you got as a throw-in. And remember: If all else fails, you can always cut your cigar with your fingernail; just don’t use your teeth.

Be Weary of Fake Cubans

Traveling overseas means you’ll probably have access to cigars from that island south of Miami, but don’t assume you’ll easily be able to find legitimate Cuban cigars. For years, Americans have been buying and smoking Cubans overseas, even though this practice violated the Cuban embargo. Now, with restrictions being eased, it is perfectly legal for an American to smoke a Cuban cigar while abroad.

Fake Cuban cigars are everywhere, especially at vacation spots visited frequently by Americans (the Caribbean and Central and South America, especially). The best way to ensure you are buying authentic Cubans is to shop at an official Casa del Habano. Beyond that, here are two easy tips to avoid the most obvious fakes: (1) If the price is too good to be true it is certainly fake, as prices are fixed and nobody’s relative or friend is getting them at a discount straight from the factory; and (2) There has never been any Cuban cigar made with a glass or plastic top box. (I still see pictures of glass top Cohiba boxes in cigar groups on Facebook, only for a dozen or more people to tell the poster the unfortunate news that they were swindled. Repeat after me: All Cuban cigars in a glass top box are fake.)

Carry on Some Booze

Unless you are heading to a country that doesn’t allow alcohol (like Saudi Arabia or Iran), there is nothing wrong with putting a bottle or three in your checked bag. But what is often overlooked is that you can actually carry on booze in small amounts.

When carrying on, alcohol is subject to the same rules as other liquids, meaning no container more than 3.4 ounces and all liquids must fit in a one-quart sized bag. Mini bottles (usually 50 ml.) are well under that limit, and you can fit five or six in one Ziplock. (You can even fill your own 2 oz. sample bottles if you want to bring something special.) If you are planning on cracking these open on the plane, know that most airlines have a rule against alcohol not served by the flight attendants.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Twelve Cigar-Friendly Halloween Costumes

29 Oct 2018

Looking to pull together a last-minute Halloween costume? We’re here to help. In an effort to make trick-or-treating a lot more tolerable, here are a dozen costume ideas, each that will let you smoke a cigar as part of the costume:

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Whether you’re going as The Governator or one of his gun-toting movie characters, a big cigar won’t look out of place.

2. Groucho Marx. Sure, it’s a little dated, but this American icon loved his stogies.

3. Mark Twain. America’s cigar-smoking author.

4. Scarface. Say hello to my little friend.

5 Bill Clinton. The president who got into trouble with cigars.

6. Mike Ditka. See photo of Patrick A from (more than) a few years ago.

7. Ernest Hemingway. The famous author loved his cigars.

8. Winston Churchill. Leading (and smoking and drinking) England through World War II, this prime minister is by far the manliest British dude ever. By far.

9. A cigar-chomping communist dictator. Any Pinko Commie like Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il, or Che Guevara will do.

10. The Babe. Maybe the greatest slugger in baseball history, Babe Ruth was known for his love of food, drink, and cigars.

11. Al Capone. If we’re talking mafia bosses, why not be the original? Capone was known for his enjoyment of cigars, booze, and women. Just don’t get syphilis.

Got a few costume ideas that we missed? Let us know in the comments.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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 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