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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

Cigar Tip: How to Spot an Excellent Tobacconist (Updated)

18 Dec 2017

[Editors’ Note: This article first appeared at StogieGuys.com in September 2014. We felt it worthy of re-publication and an update since (1) last time it generated a good conversation in the comments, (2) the concepts are still relevant today, and (3) now is a great time to be thinking about these things since the winter months often necessitate an indoor cigar sanctuary. As always, we look forward to your opinions, comments, and feedback.]

I travel a fair amount for work, staying a few nights here and there with meetings during the day and (sometimes) little to do in the evening. So, naturally, wherever I go, I try to find a good (non-private) cigar lounge or tobacconist where I can enjoy a smoke, catch up on some emails, do a little writing, and perhaps even have an adult beverage or two.

Cigar Store Indian

While there are lots of great lounges and tobacconists across this fine nation, believe me when I say that sometimes a good locale is hard to find. I’ve been mentally compiling a list of attributes common among the good shops/lounges. Today I thought I’d share them.

Maintains a good selection at fair prices. This one is obvious. I assume I’ll be paying more than I otherwise would online—and I’m completely OK with that, especially since the shop is offering me a place to smoke. But I don’t think it’s necessary to charge crazy mark-ups, either. And the selection should be big enough to require more than a few minutes to peruse, with the usual suspects and hopefully some hard-to-find smokes as well. House blends, when done right, can add an exclusive touch. The best shops bring in the brands their regulars are clamoring for.

Serves coffee and/or liquor, or implements BYOB. I realize local ordinances and laws may make this impossible, but nothing goes better with a fine cigar than coffee, bourbon, rum, wine, scotch, etc. I’m happy to pay the shop/lounge for drinks, if possible; BYOB is a great alternative. If nothing else, providing coffee or water for free, or for purchase, is a great idea.

Has a friendly, attentive staff. Nothing is worse than being rushed, watched like a hawk, completely ignored, or assumed to be a petty thief. I love it when the staff says something like, “Welcome. Would you like some assistance picking out your cigars, or would you prefer to browse the selection yourself?” It’s a simple question that’s rarely asked.

Stays open later. Time and again I find many shops and lounges close early in the evening—like an hour or two after a normal work day. I understand it isn’t always possible, but I love it when they stay open late enough to have a post-dinner smoke. Bonus points for shops that recognize there are important sporting events that need to be watched, and that often merits staying open later if there’s a crowd.

Provides comfortable seating with access to power outlets. I don’t need decadence, but I don’t want to sit in a lawn chair, either. Plentiful, spread-out seating with solid ventilation is preferred. This is what makes me want to hang out, spend money, and come back.

Makes cleanliness a priority. I’m not asking for much. Empty the ash trays, dust the surfaces, and vacuum after those three guys got pizza crumbs everywhere. Also, the bathroom shouldn’t look like the opening scene of Saw.

Takes good care of the product. The cigars you sell should be in perfect smoking condition at the time of purchase. Period. Too often I’ve purchased a cigar that, once lit, proves to be under- or over-humidified. This should never, ever happen.

Values entertainment. Good TVs, WiFi, and maybe even a poker table. These touches go a long way.

Hosts great events. These days, many cigar consumers follow their favorite cigar makers on social media. They surely notice pictures and posts from cigar celebrities who visit shops across the country, often bringing with them exclusive cigars, branded merchandise, and a chance to make a more personal connection. Good cigar shops attract the best events and offer event-only deals.

Provides valuable consultation. There are tons of cigars on the market, and smoking them all is just not possible. The best shops can make educated suggestions about cigars to try based on a particular customer’s current tastes and interests.

What am I missing? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Tip: How to Smoke a Cigar Without Embarrassing Yourself

29 Nov 2017

Cigars are first and foremost about relaxation, which is why I hesitate to even write this. There really aren’t many hard and fast rules. That’s one of the best things about cigars: Smoking is ritualistic, but you determine the ritual that suits you best.

Still, I often get asked for tips from friends or acquaintances who rarely, if ever, smoke cigars. Inevitably, they are about to find themselves in a situation where they will be smoking a cigar with a regular cigar smoker they’d like to impress. Perhaps a potential business client, future father-in-law, boss, etc… They aren’t trying to pass themselves off as cigar experts; they just want to relax and not worry about embarrassing themselves.

So, if that situation describes you, or if you’re a more seasoned smoker who gets asked that from time to time, here are a few helpful suggestions to ensure what could be a stressful situation is as enjoyable as it should be.

Select Your Cigar

It may seem obvious, but let your host pick your cigar. If they are leading the charge, let them select a cigar they think you’ll like. Just ask them: What do you recommend?

If you’re tasked with selecting a cigar, my recommendation is stick with the classics, like Arturo Fuente, Ashton, Davidoff, Montecristo, or Macanudo. (If you’ve had one of these before and enjoyed it, stick with what works.) If you’re asked what size you want or which size to buy but are unsure, the robusto is a best-selling size for a good reason and is middle-of-the-road in terms of length and ring gauge.

Pick Your Cut and Light

If someone offers to cut your cigar for you, let them. If you are asked, go with a standard straight guillotine. If you have to cut the cigar yourself, the same straight guillotine cut is the easiest to execute properly. No matter the cigar size, just cut where it is still tapered, as opposed to where it is completely cylindrical. When it comes to lighting, nothing fancy is needed, just remember to light the foot, not the sides.

Don’t Inhale

Smoking without embarrassing yourself is easy as long as you follow one easy rule: Don’t inhale. Cigars aren’t meant to be inhaled (that’s why, health-wise, you are far better off being a regular cigar smoker than a cigarette smoker.) Even if you are a cigarette smoker, don’t inhale because a cigar produces far more smoke than a cigarette. Turning green is the opposite of what you are going for.

Don’t Stub Your Cigar

One way to spot someone who probably doesn’t smoke cigars is that they frequently ash their cigar by forcefully rubbing their ash off on the side of an ashtray. A decently made cigar will hold its ash longer than you think, so wait a little longer then tap the cigar with your finger to gently knock the ash into the ashtray. Similarly, when it comes time to put your cigar out, just put it down in the ashtray, don’t stub it out.

Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr