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Cigar Tip: Cure Your Lighter Woes with the Z-Plus 2 Lighter Insert

8 Jul 2019

If there’s one thing most cigar smokers can agree on, it’s that, while butane torches are great for lighting up, they can also be among the finickiest, most unreliable, most erratic of accessories. Finding one that works well is often a quest.

For several months, I’ve been using a Z-Plus 2 insert in a Zippo case. I’ve been impressed.

Z-Plus inserts come in single- and double-flame varieties with a price difference of only a couple of dollars. I paid less than $25 for both a new Zippo and a double-flame insert. (Note: This article is not the result of any request by a manufacturer, distributor, or any other entity besides my own curiosity; I paid for the inserts myself.) I chose a standard Zippo brushed chrome case that doesn’t appear to have changed since I carried one in high school to light Marlboro cigarettes.

One of the first things most cigar smokers learn is to not use a conventional lighter with petroleum-based liquid fluid. The concern is that the fluid’s smell can get transferred to the tobacco. Butane, on the other hand, is an odorless gas at room temperature and has virtually eliminated lighter fluid as the preferred fuel supply for cigar lighters.

But, as noted earlier, butane lighters can be dicey to keep working over the long haul—or sometimes even over the short haul. Most use an electronic spark to ignite the butane, and that can become misaligned. Or the flame valves can get clogged. Sometimes, though, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what’s wrong, other than the darn thing won’t light. It can be terribly frustrating, especially since many of these lighters cost an arm and a leg.

My Z-Plus has ignited consistently. The only lighting problem I’ve encountered was my own fault. After filling the lighter and sliding it into the case, I found the flame would die only a few seconds after igniting. Finally, it dawned on me that it was probably shipped with the flame at its lowest setting and should be adjusted. Since adjusting that? No problems.

They’re made by the Lotus Group, one of the major lighter and accessory manufacturers. There’s little visual difference in the single- and double-flame models, though the single’s casing is opaque so you’re not able to see the fuel level.

Another attraction of the Z-Plus insert and competitors such as Vector’s Thunderbird line is for collectors. The variety of Zippo cases is seemingly endless.

Zippo itself tried the butane market a few years ago with a distinctive lighter it called Blu. Apparently, it never really caught on and even ran into legal trouble over the name. Finally, the lighter, by then called the more-prosaic Zippo Butane Fueled Lighter, was discontinued in 2016. (My colleague, Patrick A, had a Blu, but it was eventually confiscated by a TSA agent.)

I have only one real complaint with the Z-Plus, and it’s rather minor. Though there’s no problem depressing the ignition when the lighter is upright, it can be a little tricky to keep your fingers out of harm’s way when used at an angle for a touch-up.

Overall, I highly recommend the Z-Plus 2 as a low-cost butane torch. It’s worth a try—especially if, like me, you’ve had problems with other torches.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Rediscover the Cigars You Used to Smoke

19 Jun 2019

Here’s an easy suggestion for anyone who has been smoking handmade cigars for more than a few years: Revisit those that were your favorites but you don’t smoke as often anymore.

If you’re like many cigar smokers (including me), there were certain cigars you used to smoke frequently that you just don’t anymore. You probably haven’t even thought much about why they aren’t in your regular rotation anymore. They just aren’t.

There are lots of good reasons why you no longer smoke certain cigars. Maybe your tastes have evolved. Maybe the blends have changed. Maybe your cigar budget changed.

All those are true for me. But this year I decided to make an effort to smoke more of the cigars that were go-to smokes back when I really got into cigars well over a decade ago. The results are interesting.

Some were disappointing, or at least not as good as I remembered. Despite my colleague’s recent high praise, I found the Gurkha Regent underwhelming. The Rocky Patel 1992, a cigar I often cited as a favorite back in 2005, was pleasant but not as interesting as I remembered. Same for the Maria Mancini, which was the first box I purchased nearly 20 years ago.

Others have stood the test of time. Joya de Nicaragua Antano 1970 is still an excellent full-bodied smoke. The Ashton Classic remains a well-made, mild smoke, even if that profile isn’t one I turn to as often. CAO Brazilia, another go-to from long ago, is still enjoyable, even if it isn’t as full-bodied as I thought it was at the time.

In other words, the result of my exploration of the cigars I used to smoke is a mixed bag. But the exercise was thoroughly enjoyable. Some I plan to smoke more often, others I’ll probably leave alone.

Your experiences may vary, but revisiting cigars from your past is a fun, interesting exercise. Go ahead and try it out and let us know how it goes.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Six Basic Go-To Cigar Accessories

21 Feb 2019

You could spend almost as much time learning about cigar accessories as the cigars themselves. There’s a long history of cigar gadgets, with many of them being mostly useless.

That said, you do need some accessories for a cigar; after all, you won’t get far without a way to cut and light your cigar. To that end, here are five simple, inexpensive accessories worth using.

Djeep Lighter

A lighter is as simple as it gets, and the Djeep is pretty simple. It’s also dependable, has a large capacity, and it’s cheap, especially when you buy in bulk .

Jetlight Torch

Soft flame lighters are great for indoors (or when you’re traveling on a plane), but sometimes, especially outdoors, a butane torch works best. I’ve had a ton of torches over the years, including some very expensive ones, many of which have worked flawlessly. But when it comes to dependability (the key to a good torch), none other than the Ronson JetLite do so much for so less. You can find one for less than $5.

Palio Cutter

There’s nothing worse than a dull cutter that rips a cigar rather than cleanly slicing it. Many fulfill that purpose, though lately I’ve been really enjoying a Palio cutter I managed to pick up for just $10. Not only do the double blades effortlessly and effectively cut my cigar, but the concave design makes it an excellent resting place for a cigar.

Leather Cigar Case

I’ve had this particular case forever. Honestly, I have no idea where I got it. What I like about it is the versatile size (you can fit three coronas just as easily as three Churchills) and the low profile (it fits neatly in the inside pocket of a suit coat). Here’s a similar case on sale for $22.

Travel Case

When it comes to protecting cigars while traveling, nothing works better than a hard plastic case (like one from Xikar or Cigar Caddy). I’m especially a fan of the five-cigar size, which easily slips into a work or golf bag and holds enough cigars to get anyone through a day.

Boveda

Boveda packs aren’t the cheapest way to keep your cigars properly humidified, but they are the easiest. As long as you change them out when they dry out, they will work flawlessly.

Any other accessories you can’t live without?

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Smoke Two Cigars at Once

13 Feb 2019

[Many cigar enthusiasts eventually come to a point where they go from being someone who enjoys cigars without thinking about it too much, to someone who enjoys cigars and wants to know why they enjoy one cigar or another. For that person, I recommend a suggestion we first made eight years ago: “Develop Your Palate by Smoking Two Cigars at Once” (which is as true today as when we first published it).]

Developing your palate for tasting cigars comes down mostly to one thing: smoking lots of cigars and paying close attention to the flavors you notice. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to accelerate the learning curve.

For one, you can make sure your palate is clean. Sure, a neat scotch or a good rum on the rocks may be my preferred drink pairings, but there is no substitute for for some sparkling water when I want to make sure I’m picking up the full spectrum of flavors in a cigar.

An excellent, but less traditional, way to improve your ability to pick up nuances in cigar flavors is to light up two at the same time. By that I obviously don’t mean drawing on two cigars at once, but rather lighting up two and alternating tastes to pick up differences and similarities. The concept is standard in wine, where multiple similar wines are sampled either vertically (the same wine in different vintages) or horizontally (where multiple wines of the same vintage and type are sampled). The results can be striking. By tasting similar wines, it becomes easier to focus on the nuances and subtle differences.

The same holds true for cigars. The best way to taste multiple cigars is by smoking similar cigars. (Like tasting a champagne against a full bordeaux, you’re not likely to learn much by tasting a mild Connecticut-wrapped cigar against a full-bodied Nicaraguan puro.)

Light up a full-bodied Nicaraguan cigar and you’re likely to pick up the same general flavors: earth, spice, maybe leather or cedar. However, light up two different full-bodied Nicaraguans (as I recently did in the photo above) and you’ll notice more specifics, such as the type of spice (sweeter cinnamon versus black pepper). Secondary flavors, like cocoa, coffee, and clove will also begin to stand out.

As long as you continue to keep your palate clean, you’ll be amazed at what flavors you can “discover” in a cigar when searching for differences between two cigars that smoked alone would be described in very similar terms. Plus, alternating between two cigars forces you to smoke each slowly, which will also help you notice the distinct qualities of each (smoking too quickly will overheat the tobacco and taint the flavor).

You certainly wouldn’t want to smoke most of your cigars this way, because the fun of cigars is relaxing and reflecting, not having to worry about keeping multiple cigars lit or concentrating on the small details of the flavors. Still, if every so often you smoke two (or more) at once to exercise your palate, I think you’ll find it easier to enjoy all the depth and complexity that fine cigars have to offer.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Four All-Time Great Cigars Before They Were Discontinued

31 Jan 2019

Most discontinued cigars were discontinued because they didn’t sell. Look at the cigars introduced at the IPCPR Trade Show five years ago and you’ll find many that aren’t around anymore, or have been relegated to close-outs.

But other cigars have been discontinued for other reasons. Today we look at four cigars that were discontinued despite being considered excellent.

Cuban Bolivar Gold Medal

This Cuban lonsdale was a cigar connoisseurs appreciated, even though it apparently never was a big seller. Not only is it a bold and full-bodied Cuban, it features iconic gold foil packaging. The pre-1960 release was first discontinued in 1992 only to be brought back in 2007 and then dropped again in 2011. Given its history, don’t be shocked if it makes it back as a limited edition release.

Cuban Davidoffs

Legendary cigars until they were discontinued in 1991, Davidoff was the last company that wasn’t controlled by the Cuban government to make cigars with Cuban tobacco. Davidoff pulled out of Cuba in 1991 because of reportedly sub-standard tobacco, which Zino Davidoff dramatically and symbolically burned to show that it wasn’t up to his standards. Still, prior to that, Davidoff Cubans were the perfect combination of capitalist production standards and the ideal climate for growing tobacco. Today, old Cuban Davidoffs are a preview of what could come when Cuba finally embraces economic liberalization.

Pepin-made Padilla 1932

Production of the Padilla 1932 didn’t stop when Pepin stopped making Padilla cigars in 2008, but the cigar has never been the same. Later versions of the Padilla 1932 were nice cigars, but the original 1932 was one that made me appreciate just how complex, balanced, and exquisite a cigar really can be. (If you want to identify the Pepin-made Padilla 1932, look for “Padilla” in block letters, as opposed to script in later versions.) I smoked many of these cigars before they were discontinued; I wish I had scooped up a few more boxes when I had the chance.

Tatuaje Black Corona Gordo “Ceramic Jar” Release

Not so much discontinued but introduced as a limited edition, the Tatuaje Black line has only expanded over the years, but none match the original 2007 Ceramic Jar release. (Not even the follow up jar release.)  Only 1,000 original jars of 19 were made and, from the dozen or so I smoked, no other Tatuaje quite compares (high praise when you look at all the high ratings Tatuaje has received). One of the overlooked facts about early Tatuajes is that before Pepin and Eduardo Fernandez’s 2010 lawsuit, these cigars included tobacco from Aganorsa farms. As good as many of today’s Tatuaje cigars are, the combination of Aganorsa and Pepin was something really special, even though the subsequent litigation means it probably won’t happen ever again.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Can That Excess Humidity

28 Jan 2019

For a lot of you, high humidity isn’t much of a concern, except in the depths of summer. Here in Florida, though, it is basically a year-round problem.

I’ve been fighting—and usually losing—the battle against high humidity ever since we moved here in 2005. Finally, I believe I’ve found a weapon that works: a desiccant canister designed primarily for gun safes from Liberty Safe and Security Products.

Now, I’m not a fanatic about humidity levels. For one thing, years of monitoring have shown me that it is virtually impossible to maintain an exact point. But there is certainly a danger in cigars being ruined by far too much or too little humidity. Generally, I aim for a range of about 61-67% relative humidity. However, achieving that is no small task.

Since high temperatures are also a major concern here, I’ve used a cooling unit from the start. I ran through a couple of coolidors, which did OK, but didn’t seem to last too long. Then, about seven years ago, I purchased a Cooled 1200 Refrigerated Cigar Cabinet from Avallo Humidors in Nashville. I’ve been pleased with the unit and the service from Matt Allen, the owner of Avallo.

In addition to cooling, the Avallo also has an automated system to measure and add humidity. Of course, it’s rare that I have to add moisture. Getting rid of it is my problem.

The list of what I’ve tried seems endless: tons of beads, mountains of kitty litter, jars and jars of gel, a self-contained dehumidifier—and anything else that seemed like a possible solution.

None of it really worked.

I have a Xikar PuroTemp Wireless Hygrometer System with a sensor on each of the two sliding shelves to monitor temperature and humidity so I can easily tell when either is getting out of control.

For the past couple of years, I have resorted to DampRid or a similar absorbent material when humidity spiked. While it does reduce humidity, it also involves guessing how much to use and frequently checking the rising water level to make sure it doesn’t overflow.

Recently, I did another internet search to see if there was something I hadn’t tried. That’s when I spotted the Liberty canisters.

They come in three sizes (40 grams, 450 grams, and 750 grams), with prices ranging from $6.49 to $15.99. Rather than wait for an online order, I checked gun shop websites for local availability. Fortunately, a shop nearby stocked them, and I bought the large canister. All that was required to put it to use was to heat it in the oven for a couple of hours while the material inside dried out.

When it was cool, I put it in the humidor and… Voila! It sucked the moisture out of the air. I removed the canister when the humidity was down to an acceptable level, ready to re-heat and re-use again when necessary.

So far, I’ve employed it several times, and it has worked like a charm. No worry about water spilling, no wondering why nothing is happening.

Right now, it’s my favorite cigar accessory.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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