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Tip: How to Travel with Cigars on a Plane

13 Jul 2016

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Whether you’re taking a week-long vacation to a beach paradise or just flying off for a few days in a distant city for work, you’ll probably want to take some cigars.

Depending on where you are going, you may not have easy access to a cigar shop. Or you may not have access to reasonably priced cigars (taxes can be very high in certain states and countries). Or you may only have access to Cubans, and you may not be sure of their authenticity.

Even if you think you’ll pick up some cigars on your trip, bringing some cigars along with the tools necessary to enjoy them 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.

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. 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 if the TSA agent figures out what it is. 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). 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.

Check or Carry On 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 is great as you 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 technically this violated the Cuban Embargo. Now, with restrictions being eased, it is perfectly legal for an American to smoke a Cuban cigar while abroad. (Bringing Cubans into the U.S. is still illegal, expect for a small quantity directly from Cuba.)

Fake Cuban cigars are everywhere, especially at vacation spots visited frequently by Americans. 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, there is nothing wrong with putting a bottle or three in your checked bag (though you may have to pay taxes on them). 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. 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. Practically speaking, though, if you are discrete about it you probably won’t get caught.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys


Tip: Father’s Day Gift Guide 2016

25 May 2016

Fathers Day Gifts

Father’s Day is less than a month out, and chances are you’re still looking for a gift for pops. If your father happens to enjoy his cigars (or whiskey), here are some suggestions you can have ready for dad to open on June 19th:

Cigars

Giving the gift of cigars is not as easy as it sounds. Personal preferences can be finicky and there are so many cigars to choose from. Ideally, you’re giving him a cigar he wouldn’t usually buy for himself. (Think a Padrón Anniversary or a Fuente Opus X if he usually smokes standard-issue Padróns or Fuentes, respectively.) For more ideas, read our Guide to Giving the Gift of Cigars. One specific suggestion always worth considering is a Cigar Rights of America (CRA) sampler, which includes ten high-end cigars plus a free membership in CRA.

Cigar Accessories

Every cigar enthusiast needs a great table lighter, travel lighter, cutter, ashtray, travel case, humidor, etc. Instead of buying cigars, think about giving the gift of a cigar accessory that can last a lifetime. Many regular cigar smokers I know won’t spring for a nice case or lighter, so it makes the perfect gift. Lately, I’ve really been appreciating this Lotus triple-flame lighter and my Stingray Skin Tampa Fuego case.

Whiskey

There are lots of good bourbons being made these days, but some old standbys are becoming harder and harder to find. Sure, who wouldn’t want a bottle of Pappy as a gift? But the increasingly exorbitant prices you’d pay ($1,000+ for a 20 Year Pappy) make it hard to justify. One good bourbon you can still find with relative ease is the nine-year-old Knob Creek Small Batch (~$32). Full of caramel, oak, and a little spice, it is a bourbon novices and connoisseurs alike can enjoy. For rye fans, the new Pikesville Six Year Rye is a full 110-proof flavor bomb. Any single malt fan would appreciate Glendronach 15 which, although it has been discontinued, can still be found and is the closest thing to Macallan 18 available for under $100.

A Good Book

A good book is always appreciated. If you are looking for a specific recommendation, you could do worse than The Cigar: Moments of Pleasure, an informative and visually appealing coffee table book. In his recent review of the book, my colleague wrote: “Spectacular. That is the only word I can think of to adequately describe this large-format, colorful book that explores every imaginable facet of cigars.”

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Tip: Sensibly Shaving Your Cigar Spending

23 Mar 2016

cigars-shelf

Soon after the new year is when many cigar manufacturers announce price increases, so the spring seems like an appropriate time to consider some ways to stretch your cigar budget.

To that end, here are a few suggestions for ways I’ve gotten more cigars for less without having to cut back on enjoyment.

Go low. Try some of the lower-priced entries from quality manufacturers. But not just any of them. Look for cigars you enjoy that the big online retailers frequently mark down as come-ons. Two that I almost always keep in my humidor are Perdomo’s Lot 23 Robusto and Holt’s Old Henry Robusto, a house brand made by My Father Cigars for the Philadelphia-based retailer. Lot 23 Robustos can almost always be found for around $4.50 each by the box, but 5- and 10-packs show up on sale at considerably less. Holt’s usually offers Old Henry Robustos at $4 apiece by the box of 25. But they almost always have a freebie attached that lowers the per-stick cost even more. Sometimes it’s a sampler pack, though lately it has been a triple-flame torch lighter.

Look for a new look. Keep abreast of manufacturers changing the look of their cigars. A redo in packaging often means big price reductions on the cigars with the old look that are still on tobacconist shelves. Retailers need to move them so they can display the latest incarnation. I got terrific bargains on numerous old Avo vitolas when Davidoff discontinued some and dressed the others in new bands and boxes. A similar situation developed when Davidoff redesigned the Camacho line a couple of years ago.

Back of the pack. If your tobacconist has a discount table or holds periodic sales, be prepared beforehand. You can do this by keeping an eye on what cigars aren’t selling. In other words, don’t look just for what’s new. Look for what’s old. Try one and, if you like it, watch for them to hit the bargain bin. I recently scored a box and a half of La Jugada Habano Double Coronas at half price. I knew I liked La Jugada with some age, and I’d have been willing to keep them for a while. But in this case, I not only got a bargain, but the tobacconist had kindly aged them for me because they’ve been sitting on the shelf for close to two years.

So, what tips and tricks do you have to save money on cigars? Share the wealth so we can all do better.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Tip: Six Ways to Enjoy Cigars More in 2016

3 Feb 2016

Version 2

We all know about beginning-of-the-year resolutions. Lose weight, exercise, get more sleep… And we all know how most of them end up. Broken. (Statistically, by now, over a third of resolutions are already broken.)

But cigar resolutions are different. They can be easy to keep because they increase your enjoyment. Here are a few suggestions for 2016:

Take better care of your cutters and lighters. Neither of these tools requires all that much maintenance, but a little work will pay off. Keep your cutter clean. A blast of canned air will push out tiny bits of tobacco that can jam the mechanism and dull the blades. And while you have the compressed air handy, shoot a little in your lighter to eliminate debris and keep the butane flowing freely.

Venture outside your comfort zone. Try something from a manufacturer you never smoke, pick up a cigar with a different wrapper or blend, spring for an ultra-premium when it’s time to celebrate, or dig into the bargain basement once in a while. Sure, you will come up short on occasion, but you might find a new favorite. At the least, you’ll learn more about your likes and dislikes.

Clean up. Dump the ashtrays when you’ve finished smoking. Without fail. No one—and I mean no one—likes the sour, nasty smell of old ashes and butts.

Check out some oldies. New doesn’t always mean better. There is a reason some smokes have been around for years and years. People like them and buy them regularly. It’s also nice to know that a cigar you enjoy will always be available.

Introduce someone to the joys of cigars. We’ve all got friends who have never tried a premium cigar. Can they really turn down an invitation to watch a game, enjoy a drink, or just chew the fat at your local shop or in your backyard?

Enjoy. Whatever you find best about cigars, do a little more of it this year.

You likely can come up with more resolutions of your own. No matter what you decide, here’s to the best cigar-smoking year ever!

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Tip: How to Take Care of Your Butane Lighter

20 Jan 2016

Did Santa leave you a new lighter under the tree? A butane-burning beauty that will make you feel like a true connoisseur when you light up your prized cigars?

Congratulations. Now it’s up to you to treat it right.

We’ve all read and heard sad tales of expensive lighters that too soon ended up as non-functional paperweights. The good news is that these days lighters seem to perform much better than they did not so long ago.

You can increase the likelihood that your new lighter will age into a reliable, trusted old friend through the years by following a few simple tips.

Read the instructions. Yes, I know this runs counter to just about everyone’s instincts. But spending a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the lighter’s ins-and-outs will pay off in the long run. After all, do you really want to set your hair on fire because you turned the flame adjustment the wrong way?

Use top-grade, multi-refined butane. It is expensive, but worth it in the long run. Butane lighters have tiny openings and the smallest bits can create clogs. Butane that has been refined multiple times means cleaner fuel.

Pay attention to the fill indicator. Don’t increase pressure by trying to squeeze in more fuel than the lighter is designed to hold. It might not cause damage, but why take the chance?

Bleed before refilling. Usually this is accomplished by pressing the fill valve and allowing the remaining butane to escape, but be sure to follow your manufacturer’s directions. Again, ignoring this might not create a problem, but investing a few seconds can’s hurt.

Compressed air is a great tool. A quick blast from the can periodically will keep the lighting mechanism clean and reduce the possibility of a clog.

Finally, enjoy your lighter. And if Santa missed you this year, you can always buy yourself the gift you want.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Celebrate the New Year with Cigars and Champagne

30 Dec 2015

[In order to help our readers ring 2016 in right, we’re republishing this tip about how to pair cigars and champagne. Enjoy!]

Champagne_uncorking

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.

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. Too often Connecticut-wrapped cigars 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, but others are enhanced by months or years 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!

Patrick S

photo credit: Wikipedia

Cigar Tip: Guide for Giving the Gift of Cigars

17 Dec 2015

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On Tuesday we offered up some tips for giving the gift of bourbon for the holidays. Today, with one week until Christmas Eve, we provide some suggestions for picking the right cigar gift for the cigar smokers in your life:

Only give a box if you’re sure. Some cigar enthusiasts are completely loyal to one brand or one specific blend. If this is the case, you can’t do wrong by buying a box he or she is sure to love. Maybe this isn’t the most original idea—and maybe the box won’t be much of a surprise—but any cigar smoker will tell you that you can never have enough of your favorite smokes, especially if they’re made in limited quantities.

Samplers offer variety. Many cigar enthusiasts don’t have just one favorite cigar. For these folks, we don’t recommend buying a whole box. Instead, samplers are terrific. When you give a sampler of ten different cigars, it’s like giving ten different gifts. The recipient might not love all ten, but chances are he/she will really enjoy at least a few, and you might even be responsible for turning someone on to a new favorite.

Consider cigar accessories. Every cigar enthusiast needs a great table lighter, travel lighter, nice cutter, good ashtray, travel cigar case, humidor, etc. Instead of buying cigars, think about giving the gift of a cigar accessory. Many accessories can be personalized and, unlike cigars themselves, are likely to last for years to come.

Don’t forget cigar rights. Most cigar smokers have a fervent passion for defending cigar rights and opposing tobacco taxes and smoking bans. For these folks, a membership to Cigar Rights of America is an excellent gift. Benefits of membership include supporting professional lobbyists who fight for cigar freedoms, discounts at cigar shops, free cigars, and more.

With all that in mind, we thought this year we’d make one specific recommendation: a Cigar Rights of America sampler. It’s a perfect gift that covers two of our specific recommendations as both a cigar sampler and tangible support of CRA (each sampler includes a card they can send in for a free CRA membership).

Each sampler boasts ten cigars, including cigars that can only be found in the sampler and collectively would cost you way more than the $100 sampler price tag even if they were for sale elsewhere. The most recent version features such sought-after cigars as a special toro-sized Tatueje Black, the super premium Fuente Forbidden X, La Flor Dominicana Factory Press, and a Winston Churchill by Davidoff. These limited samplers can only be sold by CRA Platinum-Level Great American Cigar Shops, so find one near you and ask them if they have any in stock. Or, if one isn’t in your area, you can purchase one online.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: CRA