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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

Cigar Tip: Three Things You Can Do to Protect Your Cigar Freedoms

3 Jul 2018

FDA-cigars-large

The Fourth of July is a good time for cookouts and fireworks, but also a time to reflect on what Independence Day celebrates. There is, of course, plenty to think about when it comes to the principles of freedom. We’re a cigar website, though, so let’s use the opportunity to look at what each of us can do to protect our cigar freedoms.

With that in mind, here are three tangible, easily achievable things every American cigar smoker can do:

Tell the FDA to Not Regulate Premium Cigars

The FDA is currently reconsidering its regulation of cigars. As part of it’s new regulatory approach, the FDA announced earlier this year it was opening up a new comment period. That period ends at the end of July, so you shouldn’t put it off anymore.

Cigar trade groups should be preparing to overwhelm the FDA with an abundance of scientific evidence for why it makes no sense for handmade cigars to be regulated the same as cigarettes, especially when the stated goal of the FDA’s tobacco regulation is overall public health and tobacco use by minors. But the volume of comments also helps, and you can be sure the anti-tobacco lobbyists will be trying to drive as many people to leave comments against rolling back cigar regulation.

You don’t need to write an essay. Here are four things to cover in your comment (copy and paste them if you want):

  1. The FDA has limited resources and its regulations should be focused on where it can best achieve overall goals, not occupying considerable resources on handmade cigars.
  2. Handmade cigars are an inherently inefficient way to deliver nicotine, which is why those simply looking for nicotine won’t choose cigars over other tobacco products.
  3. There is no evidence that youth are drawn to handmade cigars, especially considering the price.
  4. Handmade cigars are an artisan, handmade product, which renders any regulation particularly burdensome.

Leave you comment here before July 25.

Write to Your Congressional Representatives

Once you’ve left your comment with the FDA, copy it and send it to your senators and congressman. Tell them you just asked the FDA to leave cigars alone, but ultimately the responsibility to fix the current problem lies with Congress.

Tell them the issue is important to you and that their stance on it is an important factor in winning your support. Tell them specifically to commit to co-sponsoring the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act. Leave the bill number (H.R. 564 for members of the House, and S. 294 for senators).

Join Cigar Rights of America

Cigar Rights of America is the only consumer-oriented group devoted to fighting for cigar rights. The more members they have, the more their voice is paid attention to on Capitol Hill.

Joining is just $35 for a year, and you get two limited edition cigars plus other benefits. Or you can buy a CRA Sampler of 10 limited edition cigars for $100, which includes a one-year membership.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Check Out the New Smart Sensor from Boveda

5 Feb 2018

As we recently reported, Boveda, the Minnesota-based “global leader in two-way humidity control,” has introduced what it is calling “the best innovation for premium cigars since the invention of Boveda.” Called the Smart Sensor, the device syncs up your humidor’s humidity and temperature levels with an app on your phone or tablet.

When Boveda asked me to take the Smart Sensor for a test drive, I jumped at the opportunity. After all, I’ve been trusting Boveda with my humidification needs in my various humidors for years. Over that time, the only way I’ve been gauging humidor health is to monitor the many Boveda packets I employ and replace them when they feel like they’re starting to dry out. It’s a sub-optimal, unscientific process, but one that has proven to work. (I don’t trust the hygrometers in my humidors anymore; I’ve been too lazy to perform the salt calibration test for some time, and I found them to be fickle, unreliable instruments in the first place.)

The Smart Sensor is currently available at BovedaInc.com. It retails for about $40, or $50 if you also want four large humidification packets and a calibration kit (you probably do). Once the Sensor arrives, getting started is easy. The first thing you’ll want to do is download the free app and link your Sensor (a process that took me no more than a few minutes.

Next, you’ll want to calibrate the Sensor by placing it in a Boveda-provided sealed bag with a small Boveda packet. After a two-point calibration is completed, the device will be accurate within +/- 1.5% relative humidity; the accuracy goes down to +/- 2.5% with a one-point calibration.

After 24 hours, the Smart Sensor will be ready for use. Simply place it (or mount it) within your humidor. You can now check on your humidor without opening its lid from a range of about 100 feet (or, if you want to extend the reach to anywhere in the world, you can use a second device).

Here are my impressions of the product after a few weeks of testing:

  • The app is beautifully designed and easy to use.
  • The Boveda Knowledge Base, found within the app, is a nice value-add, featuring FAQs about cigar humidification.
  • The sensor is small and unobtrusive; it will not hamper your cigar storage capacity.
  • Cheers to Boveda for including an idiot-proof user guide and accompanying video; setting up the Smart Sensor could not have been easier.
  • One of my favorite features is that the app can be customized to alert you to humidity or temperature changes exceeding a user-defined threshold of acceptability.
  • The app also allows to you create a profile for the humidor (or humidors) you’re monitoring, including a name, picture, quantity of cigars, and notes.
  • The only drawback? As I’ve written before, I operate with multiple humidors. The app is perfect for this, but my setup would require me to spend about $200 on Smart Sensors alone. (This is especially concerning because I think I might do just that.)

As always, please note that while Boveda provided me with one Smart Sensor (and calibration kit), their generosity in no way impacts my opinion of the product. On its own merits, Smart Sensor is a wonderful device that will be enjoyable and satisfying to thousands of tech-centric cigar enthusiasts.

Patrick A

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: StogieGuys.com’s Guide to the Holidays

20 Dec 2017

gift

The holidays can be hectic and stressful. But StogieGuys.com is here to help. Over the past decade plus, we’ve written plenty of articles that can help you survive (and thrive) during this time of year.

We’ve scanned our archives to bring you our best holiday-related tips and suggestions:

Been procrastinating and need a last-minute gift? We’ve got suggestions. Cigars (obviously) can be a great gift, and here’s how to avoid the pitfalls of cigar gift-giving. (We also covered some dad-specific gifts here.)

Booze also makes a great gift. Our extensive archive of spirits reviews (all of which also include cigar pairing suggestions) is full of excellent suggestions. Also, check out our bourbon gift-giving guide and our A-Z Bourbon Guide.

Depending on where you are, it can be very cold this time of year, which provides many challenges. Here are some tips for surviving the cold (and here are some additional suggestions).

Looking for new cigar suggestions? The end of of the year is a good time to see if there is a cigar you missed from the past year that you should have tried.

When you’re celebrating New Year Eve, here’s how to pair champagne with a cigar. And if you’re thinking about which cigar to smoke, consider it might finally be time to light up that special cigar.

Finally, looking for resolution for 2018? Take cigar inventory. Maybe watch your cigar budget. Run a marathon, if you want. But whatever you do, don’t quit smoking cigars.

Here’s to a safe, cigar-filled holiday season.

Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr