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Cigar Tip: Newcomers, Don’t Try This at Home — Or Elsewhere

11 Aug 2014

At StogieGuys.com, we try to appeal to the entire spectrum of cigar smokers. But, aware of the fact that many cigar sites and forums may appear intimidating from the outside, we try particularly hard to pass along tips and thoughts to those just getting into the hobby.

Cigars at Drew Estate

To paraphrase Harry Truman, the only cigar advice that’s new is what you haven’t learned yet. So, if you’re a cigar novice, hopefully these negative commands will help you on the road to greater pleasure. And if you’re a seasoned vet, maybe they’ll remind you of a thought or two you might reconsider.

Don’t worry about laying in a large supply. There are thousands of selections out there. These aren’t 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coins or 1954 Oldsmobile F-88s. There are plenty on the store shelves. No need to stock up before you really know what you want.

Don’t focus on getting “more for your money.” Smaller sizes, particularly for a new smoker, often offer a better way to sample a new cigar and make it easier for you to concentrate throughout the smoke. Right now there’s a trend towards huge, thicker ring gauge smokes, but many seasoned cigar vets and cigar makers alike prefer to more regularly smoke thinner, smaller sizes like lanceros and coronas.

Don’t worry about aging. Nearly all quality cigars these days use aged tobacco and are sold with the intent that they be smoked, not stored. And even if you wait six months to a year or more, you’ll probably not notice the difference, anyway. One exception to this rule might be Cuban smokes. But I would first focus on exploring all that Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras have to offer anyways.

Don’t make judgments too quickly. That cigar you love today may not seem the same a week from now. Your tastes will change the more you smoke. Better to concentrate on variety than end up with cigars you find you don’t really like.

Don’t forget why you smoke. Smoking cigars is about enjoyment. It’s not a contest or a competition. Relax and have fun. Slow down. And remember the StogieGuys.com Cigar University is a great resource to further your cigar education.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: A Cigar Guide to Paris

5 Aug 2014

There’s little question Paris is one of the finest destinations for fine dining and shopping, but it’s also a fine city for cigars. I recently spent a week there (though I’ve been a few times before) and put together a few notes for enjoying cigars in the City of Light.

A Rich Tradition of Cigars

SEITA, the French tobacco giant, is part of what is likely the largest cigar company in the world, since it merged with the Spanish tobacco monopoly to form Altadis. Altadis owns a 50% share in the Cuban cigar distributor Habanos and is also the parent company for Altadis USA, which makes the non-Cuban versions of Montecristo, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, and many others.

SEITA also created (along with Habanos) the Quai d’Orsay cigar line, which is named after the street where the SEITA headquarters are. The line was blended to French tastes and calls for a milder blend. Quai d’Orsay can be hard to find outside of France, but within Paris shops you’ll find it regularly.

A-La-Civette

Where to Buy Cigars?

Tabacs are everywhere in Paris, though most have only a few premium cigars, if any. (All the “Tabac” designation denotes is the store is licensed to sell tobacco.) Those that do carry cigars stock their shelves with mostly Cubans, though there are some other brands you’ll see regularly like Davidoff and Flor de Selva. Prices are tightly controlled so there is little variation in cost from shop to shop.

One of the things I’ve found in Paris cigar shops (though not the two listed below) is that cigars are often kept at a slightly too high humidity. It isn’t so high that the cigars develop mold, but it does mean you’ll often run into burn issues if you immediately smoke a cigar after purchasing.

À la Civette is the oldest cigar shop in Paris (founded in 1716) and a place I always visit. The walk-in humidor doesn’t have a huge selection by American cigar shop standards, but it has a nice selection of Cubans including all the recent French Regional Edition cigars and quite a few Limited Edition Cubans. Located just a block from the Louvre and across the street from the entrance to the Palais-Royal, the shop’s customers over the years have included Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, Voltaire, Churchill, and Micheal Jordan. (After you buy a cigar here, head over to the interior garden at Palais-Royal and light up under the trees on a park bench or at one of the outdoor cafes.)

Publicis Drugstore is a small, high-end department store on the famous Champs-Élysées just down the street from the Arc de Triomphe. I visited it for the first time in a previous visit on the recommendation of Tatuaje owner Pete Johnson, and it didn’t disappoint. In addition to an excellent selection within their recently renovated Cave à Cigares, you can eat at one of the finest restaurants in the city (L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon) and check out a superior selection of wines and luxury goods.

Where to Smoke Cigars?

Like so many places, Paris has been hit with a smoking ban that limits the indoor spaces where you can enjoy your cigar. There was a time not long ago when a cigar cart was a staple in the city’s fine restaurants. Now, sadly, you’re limited to a few indoor spaces specifically designated as cigar bars. The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Carlton is currently being renovated, but it should return to being a great locale when it is completed. (Speaking of Hemingway, Paris Walks offers a two-hour English tour of Hemingway’s Paris that has an interesting glimpse, for just 12 euros, into the famous cigar smoker’s time in the city.)

Despite the limited indoor smoking locales, as long as the weather is nice there are plenty of places to enjoy a cigar outside. And unlike in the U.S., Parisiens aren’t likely to shoot you a dirty look for enjoying a fine cigar in their vicinity. The city’s plentiful cafes practically all have outdoor seating where smoking a cigar with a cup of coffee or an adult beverage is not out of place at all (just let them know your plan so they can seat you accordingly). In addition, there are lots of great outdoor public spaces, like the Luxembourg Gardens, Tuileries Gardens, or the previously mentioned Palais-Royal where you can grab a chair (the recliners that are in many public parks are actually quite comfortable) and do some good people watching.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Maintaining Proper Humidity with Boveda Two-Way Packs

28 Jul 2014

In a perfect world, I would have one large humidor, preferably a walk-in, with all the cigars easily accessible, sorted by name, and labeled with received dates. It would make aging simpler, humidification easier to monitor, and my whole stash more organized.

Reality is much different. At any given time I have anywhere from five to seven humidors. The variance is explained by the fact that, depending on inventory, I sometimes outfit two large Tupperware containers with Spanish cedar to store spillover smokes. While I’d love to just have one humidor instead of a handful of medium- to small-sized humidors, the five traditional wooden humidors all carry sentimental value (i.e., the one I got for my wedding that’s engraved with the wedding date), so I just can’t bring myself to consolidate.

One challenge with this setup is monitoring the humidification levels of each individual humidor. Each humidor seems to hold humidity differently, and that can make proper maintenance difficult. My solution? Once every so often (more often in the winter, when the natural air humidity is lower) I examine and rotate the cigars in each humidor. I also check to see if the humidification device in each humidor needs to be “recharged.” The whole process can easily take upwards of an hour, sometimes two.

Boveda Pack

So I finally broke down and decided to start using Boveda packs instead of the humidification devices that came with the humidors. In all, since I started using Boveda about a year ago, I’ve found my humidity to be more reliable, and there’s much less effort demanded of me to keep my cigars fresh. (Before I get into the details of my experience, I’d like to point out that Boveda is not a sponsor of StogieGuys.com, and the company did not provide any product for me to review. I’m simply trying to solve a personal humidity control need, and I paid my own money to get the product.)

ChartThe process of ordering Boveda is easy. Simply consult the chart to determine how many packs you’ll need, select your level of relative humidity (62%, 65%, 69%, 72%, 75%, or 84%), and the packs arrive in a few days. It’s preferable to order more packs than you think you’ll need. “It’s impossible for Boveda to over-humidify beyond the RH on the pack,” according to the Boveda website. “That’s why our usage instructions talk about minimums, not maximums. There’s no such thing as using ‘too much.’ More than the minimum will just last longer.”

Once you’ve arranged the packs inside your humidor(s)—feel free to lay them directly on the cigars—you can essentially forget about the hygrometer (which is likely mis-calibrated anyhow) and only worry about changing out your Boveda packs once they’ve dried up. It’s easy to tell when the packs need to be changed because they feel like dry wafers instead of liquid pillows.

When I placed my first Boveda order, I didn’t get enough packs, and most of them dried out after 60 days. In my experience, buying more packs helps drag out the pack life to 90 days. Still, since these packs are $4 apiece, if you need to buy 10 packs every quarter you’re looking at $160 a year just to keep your cigars humidified. That’s a lot of money considering my old method of using distilled water was essentially free, albeit time-consuming.

I generally like Boveda, but haven’t quite come to terms with the cost. So I’m open to suggestions on other, more cost-effective ways to maintain proper humidity without wasting a lot of time. I encourage you to offer suggestions in the comments below.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys / Boveda

Cigar Tip: Submit Your Comment to the FDA to Protect Handmade Cigars

19 Jun 2014

FDA-cigars-large

In April the FDA took a big step towards regulating cigars in a way that could be devastating to the handmade cigar industry, and initiated a public comment period that will run until August 8. With time running out to submit your comment, here are a few tips to use when you register your comment here.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Goal

The point here is to protect cigars, not just vent anger at the FDA. If your comment includes lots of words in ALL CAPS, multiple exclamation marks, or frequent references to nazis and fascism, it may make you feel better when you hit submit, but it will probably be more easily dismissed by the bureaucrats at the FDA. Unfortunately, the FDA has already been granted the authority to regulate cigars, so the only questions now are if it will use that authority, and, if so, what form the regulations will take and what exemptions the FDA may create.

Don’t Bury the Lede

I doubt I’m going to single-handedly disillusion any readers about our government here, but odds are your comment won’t individually get a careful, thorough consideration. Rather, the FDA uses the comment period to hear from prominent stakeholders and to generally gauge the opinions of those who take the time to comment. So be clear upfront about your position. And feel free to repeat it at the end.

Emphasize the Key Points

Cigar Rights of America has a helpful list of message themes here. You should definitely read the whole thing and feel free to borrow from it while writing your comment. (There are no extra points for originality.) To their excellent points, I would add two additional ones. First, there is no reason for treating flavored or infused cigars differently from non-flavored premium, handmade cigars (for more on that point check out this piece I wrote a few weeks ago). Second, given the FDA’s limited budget and the fact that it has only ruled on 34 of thousands of outstanding new tobacco products waiting for approval, the agency’s resources would be better off focusing on products other than handmade cigars. Of course, most of all, be sure to point out that you are a responsible adult who smokes in moderation.

Pause Before You Hit Submit

Proofreading is important. A comment full of spelling or grammatical errors or, worse yet, sentences that don’t make sense, will undercut your message. As someone who edits quite a bit of writing, I can tell you it’s always tougher to edit and proof your own writing, so don’t hesitate to ask a friend to look it over.

Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow

A rhetorical masterpiece complete with citations to relevant scientific research is great if you can pull it off, but lets not kid ourselves: This is in large part a numbers game. A short, to-the-point comment is infinitely more helpful than the long, in-depth comment you never get around to actually submitting. To that end, if you know someone who would be willing to submit a comment but probably doesn’t have the time to write it up, send them a comment they can use along with the link where they can submit it.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Check Out The Cigar Clip

4 Jun 2014

Today I’d like to introduce you to a new cigar accessory that I found recently, which has really revolutionized my smoking experience. I was in the lounge the other day when our local Pinar del Rio representative made an unexpected stop-in. As an employee of the store (and since I’m known there for writing reviews) I was invited to sit in on the chat with our rep, and try some of the PDRs he was handing out. Side note: Those sticks were all winners, and I’ll be posting some info about them in the near future.

The Cigar ClipAfter we had smoked a few cigars, the rep let slip that he manufactures his own cigar accessories on the side. Of course, the owner and I were interested in trying them out, and a few minutes later I was using Joseph Gangemi’s The Cigar Clip, the tool that will be the focus of this article. It’s a really simple-looking accessory, but when I used it, it kind of blew my mind. The clip is rounded at the end, with a coating so it does not slip in your fingers, and then the ends create a pincer, almost like pliers or salad tongs.

The idea is this: Instead of using a nubbing tool that stabs into your cigar, this one wraps around it. That has a few benefits. First, you do not need to actually puncture the cigar and risk breaking it. Secondly, the clip fits around two fingers really comfortably, so you can hold it just like you would any other cigar you’re smoking. I found this really great for driving, as I can have both hands on the wheel, except for when I’m actually taking a puff. The clip adjusts for down to a 37 ring gauge, and up to a 60 easily, but it should be able to hold just about any cigar on the market. I was also worried that the cigar might slip out, but this was not a problem on any of the three that I’ve used this on.

Let’s talk about a few flaws really quickly. Since the prongs on the end of the Cigar Clip are metal, they can get a little hot when the cigar is really close down to the end, and if your lips touch them, you’ll notice. Now, they aren’t going to burn you, but it’s not exactly comfortable when this happens. Also, when I first received mine I needed to spend about three minutes working the metal. What I mean by this is making the adjustable portion less rigid, so that it can go down to the 37 and up to the 60.

Those are really my only complaints, and for the price (just $10), I can’t be too unhappy. I believe we’re going to start carrying this is in the store, and I think it’d be a fantastic gift to give any cigar smoker. I can tell you that I’ve already considered purchasing a few this Christmas to throw in the gifts I give to the cigar smokers I know. While nubbing is a nice feature of this accessory, and the main one, there are a few other uses Joe pointed out to me that I figured I’d throw in here. The driving one is a big plus for me, and the other feature is that if you’re doing an activity that might cause your hands to be dirty, you can use this to not have to touch the cigar (the example he gave was using this while fishing so that you can touch your bait and fish without having to worry about touching the smoke).

Overall, I was really impressed with Joe’s clip, and I’d recommend you all try to find one in a store near you to add to your accessory collection. If you can’t find a store, they can be ordered off of The Cigar Clip website. If you guys have any cigar tools you regularly use, or if you’ve used this one before, let me know in the comments.

Full disclosure: This accessory was given to me for free by the creator of The Cigar Clip as a sample. In no way does this affect my review, and I want you all to know I was completely honest in my opinion here.

-Joey J

photo credit: The Cigar Clip

Cigar Tip: Keep It Short

5 May 2014

These days, many of you probably have one eye on the rising thermometer and the other on those Churchills and 60-ring gauge behemoths that have been resting in your humidor through the frigid winter months. What, after all, is more pleasant than a long, sunny afternoon relaxing with a fine, good-sized smoke?

Smaller CigarsBut that doesn’t mean you should forget all about smaller cigars. The need for a quicker smoke can crop up any time. Be prepared. So here are three suggestions for cigars that offer smoking satisfaction in small packages. They’re a testament to the fact that smaller smokes don’t have to be lesser creations. Each of these lines is consistent, excellently constructed, widely available, and reasonably priced.

Partagas 1845 Corona Extra. A 4.5-inch beauty that showcases an oily, reddish Ecuadorian Habano wrapper that’s highlighted by a 46-ring gauge. The Dominican and Nicaraguan filler is aged in rum barrels. It’s power-packed and not quite as smooth as its larger brethren.

Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story: Everyone’s favorite diminutive perfecto. Whether you’re smoking the sweet and spicy Cameroon wrapper version or the more difficult-to-find maduro, the 4-inch Short Story is a guaranteed pleaser. If you have a little more time, try the Between the Lines or Best Seller vitolas.

Aging Room F55 Stretto: The 4.5-inch, 46-ring gauge stick’s big brother was Cigar Aficionado’s top non-Cuban of 2013. This one’s nearly as good, though it can become a bit harsh if not smoked very slowly. As you might expect from a vitola with a musical name, this is one harmonious blend, setting off the aged Indonesian Sumatra wrapper and Dominican filler.

So, select your favorites and keep a supply on hand. Don’t get caught up short. And let us know what some of your preferred short smokes are in the comments.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Beyond the Basics of Humidity

24 Apr 2014

There was a time when I stressed over keeping my cigars at a perfect humidity. These days, I’m not so fussy about monitoring my humidors on a day-to-day basis.

cigar-humidity-tip

When you first get into cigars, you read often that 70/70 (humidity/temperature) is the ideal way to store your cigars. Soon, though, you probably realize that a slightly lower humidity (62-65%) is better, especially if you are storing cigars for long-term aging.

We’ve covered the fundamentals of proper humidity before, but as the outside temperature gets hotter it’s a good time to recap. Anywhere from 62-70% is generally fine. (You can even go all out and build your own temperature-controlled humidor.)

It’s often a matter of personal preference if you like your cigars a little drier. On the low end of that range, your cigars are certain to burn easily, but possibly a bit quick and hot.

Of course, the first step in proper humidity is making sure your hygrometer is properly calibrated, especially for the inexpensive spring-loaded hygrometers that come with most humidors. For that you want to to use the salt calibration test.

Eventually, though, you might get to the stage where you don’t even need a hygrometer. I now keep most of my cigars in humidors without one, since I can tell by feel, and by how my cigars are smoking, when it’s time to add a little more distilled water or humidor solution.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m really only concerned about keeping a select few cigars at their ideal humidity. Over time I’ve found certain cigars smoke better at slightly higher or lower humidity levels. Thick broadleaf wrappers, in particular, tend to benefit from a slightly higher humidity. This is especially true of Liga Privada, which will produce smoke like a chimney at almost any humidity. (Sometimes I’ll leave a 70% or 72% Boveda pack in a box with these cigars within my larger humidor.)

Other cigars, I may pull out of the humidor a few hours before smoking to let the humidity drop a bit before lighting it up. Cigars with a closed foot, which is becoming more common, tend to hold moisture more easily than a traditional foot so they may benefit from this. The same goes for cigars with a particularly firm draw.

Ultimately, it’s a case of trial and error, and you may want to experiment a bit. Tweaking the humidity won’t make a bad cigar good, but it might just make a favorite of yours a little bit better, so give it a try.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys