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Cigar Tip: Have a Happy Thanksgiving… with Cigars (2015)

25 Nov 2015

With football on the TV, turkey in your stomach, and family gathered, Thanksgiving is a great day to enjoy a fine cigar (or several). So, as we have for the previous eight years, today the team tells you what cigars we’ll be firing up after our big meals.

Patrick A: After the big meal, I’m not sure if I’ll be in the mood for some strong black coffee or a dram of full-bodied bourbon poured neat. Probably both, I suppose, and probably in that order. Either way, I think the Neanderthal SPG will be an excellent pairing choice—not to mention a bold smoke for a sure-to-be-full stomach. This Mexican San Andrés-wrapped power-bomb from Skip Martin’s RoMa Craft Tobac is loaded with all the pepper, oak, and espresso I’ll be craving. I look forward to celebrating my favorite holiday with Neanderthal’s intensity and strength, as well as its significant dose of nicotine to get the metabolism moving.

Patrick S: Spending Thanksgiving with family is great, but it does make smoking a post-dinner cigar less convenient. I’ll probably just pop onto the back deck with a whiskey sometime after dessert and  hope it isn’t too chilly. For that reason, I’m planning on sticking with one of my favorite smaller format cigars, the Illusione Epernay Le Petit. The small (4.5 x 44) petite corona shouldn’t last more than 45 minutes, but if the 100+ previous Le Petits I’ve smoked are any indication, the ligero-free Nicaraguan puro will feature a balanced combination of coffee, wood, and creamy notes in the mild to medium range. That should be just right before joining the family inside to watch the conclusion of the Turkey Day football showdowns. Of course, if it isn’t too chilly out, I’ll follow it up with a second, more full-bodied cigar and stream the game on my phone.

George E: Our plans for Thanksgiving are somewhat unsettled, and so is my cigar smoking. I’ll undoubtedly fire one up sometime during the holiday, but when and where I’m not sure. A lot depends on the dining schedule. If we eat at home, I’ll likely smoke on the deck (the forecast is near perfect here in Florida) and my choice will be Nick Melillo’s El Güegüense Robusto. I have smoked only one Robusto, but it was among the best new cigars I’ve had this year—a spicy, strong, smooth Nicaraguan puro. If we go out, I may traipse to the nearby cigar shop afterward to light up and watch a little football. Since I haven’t been there in nearly two months, I’m sure there will be many new offerings to tempt me. If so, I’ll let you know what I had.

Previous cigars the team designated as Thanksgiving smokes include:


Not a bad list, eh? If you’re so inclined, feel free to let us know what you’ll be smoking tomorrow in the comments below. And be sure to have a safe and joyous Thanksgiving.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: N/A

Cigar Tip: Four Things To Do In Autumn

8 Oct 2015


October. Playoff baseball. NFL in full swing. Hockey is starting. Leaves changing colors… It’s now clear summer is in the rearview mirror and winter is coming.

Fall is an exciting time for cigars and bourbon, and it’s also a good time to do some housekeeping in preparation for the colder months to come. So here are four things to put on your to-do list:

Prep Your Humidor for the Winter

People seem to know that the heat of summer can make maintaining proper humidity a challenge, but the truth is winter can do the same. The combination of dry air and artificial heat can lower your humidity in a hurry if you aren’t careful. So if you use Boveda packs or humidification beads, now is a good time to swap in some new ones. If you rely on distilled water/humidor solution to keep proper humidity, now is a good time to do the salt calibration test to make sure you are getting the proper readings from your hygrometer.

Check Out the New Cigars

Summer is a flood of announcements of new cigars, but by now people have actually had a chance to smoke them. Frankly, there are too many for one person to have smoked already. There are lots of reviews of new cigars online, including quite a few here at So find a reviewer you trust and read up to see what sounds good.

Visit Your Local Cigar Shop

Many people buy their boxes online to save a few bucks. However, with so many new releases now on the shelf of your local cigar shop, now is a great time to visit. For all those reviews you just read (see above) find the handful or so that sound most intriguing and pick up one or two each. A week or two later, once you’ve smoked through them, you may have found a new favorite.

Try to Hunt Down Some Rare Bourbon

Right now is prime time for finding rare, limited release bourbons. Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (George T Stagg, William Larue Weller, Sazerac 18, Eagle Rare 17, and Tomas H. Handy), Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, and Parker’s Heritage have all either just begun arriving at stores or will be in the next month. Finding them at close to retail price (all sell for under $100, except for the 20 and 23 year Pappy which are $150 and $250, respectively) is always tough. But now is the best chance you’ll have. (Here are two tips: Either get to know a local shop owner or look for out-of-the-way shops.) And if you strike out on these hard-to-find whiskies, you can always check out our list of best bourbons under $30.

Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Tampa’s Rich Cigar History Still Worth a Visit

17 Aug 2015


Tampa’s cigar past lost a prominent feature recently when one of its old-time factories, long vacant, burned to the ground.

But don’t despair. If you’re interested in the history of cigars, Tampa still has lots for you to see. Most of it is in Ybor City, which was once the center of the industry that gave Tampa its nickname, Cigar City.

First, though, you’ll need to venture off 7th Avenue, nucleus of Ybor’s entertainment these days and home to several small cigar rolling shops and other retailers.

Next, you’ll need to hone your expectations. You’re not going to be seeing large cigar-making operations like those now operating in Central America. In fact, there’s only one true functioning cigar factory left in Tampa: J.C. Newman’s, where workers and machines produce mass market smokes.

The factory, often called El Reloj for its iconic clock tower, has gained quite a bit of attention as Newman has made keeping it open central to its fight against potential U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation that could shut it.

Most of the other Tampa area factories lost their fights to stay open decades earlier as cigar smoking declined. Some have come back in renovated form for other uses; many sit empty.

Perhaps the best way to check out Tampa’s cigar factory history is to follow in the footsteps of local cigar expert Tom Ufer, who compiled an incredible resource on the factories’ histories as well as a fascinating and detailed, easy-to-follow tour. You’ll find all that and more at Tom’s site.

Tom did this work in 2009 and 2010, so a few things have changed. One of the most notable changes has taken place at what’s known as the Charles the Great factory. It’s now been renovated and serves as offices for the Arturo Fuente organization. Tampa Sweethearts moved out three years ago to its own beautiful casita just off 7th Avenue.

Wallace Reyes has also written extensively on the cigar history of Tampa in “Once Upon a Time in Tampa … Rise and Fall of the Cigar Industry” and this year’s “Cigar City Architecture and Legacy” has a substantial section devoted to cigar factories.

So whenever you visit Tampa, be prepared to spend a little time getting to know more about Ybor City and its fascinating past. You’ll be amazed at what’s just right around the corner.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Trying to Taste More

29 Jul 2015


Perhaps no topic generates more interest among new smokers—and many long-timers—than the question of how to detect flavors in cigars.

“Isn’t it all just tobacco?” is a typical inquiry.

Well, yes, it is all tobacco. But you can say the same for a lot of other things we experience with our taste buds. They’re all apples, for example, but a Granny Smith has a vastly different texture and taste than does a Golden Delicious. Or, it’s all wood, though who would confuse the aroma of Aromatic Red Cedar with American White Oak.

Opening your mind—and, consequently, your nose and taste buds—to the potential of discovery is, I believe, the first step to expanding what you perceive in your cigars.

There are any number of ways to do that. You can explore flavor wheels, fill out tasting sheets, sniff spices in the cabinet, and take numerous other approaches to improve your palate. And they’re probably all worth trying.

One caution, though: While exploring tasting processes in other areas, such as wine, spirits, or coffee, bear in mind that they’re often done with several examples simultaneously. Few of us smoke more than one cigar at a time.

My goal here is to provide some context for your approach, and to broaden your viewpoint as you explore cigar aromas and flavors.

Don’t look for exact matches. Think more of what you taste as suggesting a flavor, not replicating it.

1. Concentrate at first on common flavors, such as coffee with a maduro, pepper with a Nicaraguan puro, or grass with a Connecticut wrapper.

2. Try to focus on smell as well, since that’s a significant component of taste.

3. Roll the smoke around in your mouth before you exhale to increase the exposure to your taste buds.

4. Don’t try too hard. Everyone’s senses differ, and our perceptions are not always the same. Some have a higher developed capacity of taste, while others don’t. It’s not a contest to see who can pick out kala jeera or fennel pollen.

If you pay attention and note what you detect, I can almost guarantee you’ll find yourself discovering more and more with each cigar.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Read and Try Before You Buy (Trade Show Edition)

22 Jul 2015

When I first started attending the IPCPR Trade Show in 2008, the primary reason was to get news about new cigars I couldn’t get elsewhere. These days that news isn’t so hard to come by. The basic details of pretty much any new cigar can be found online a few days after the convention starts.

Still, there are good reasons for me to go to the Trade Show. First, walking the floor and speaking with cigar makers  in person gives us a perspective that simply cannot be achieved otherwise and is immensely helpful when writing about cigars for the rest of the year. Second, frankly, it’s the easiest way to get samples of pre-release cigars that in many cases won’t be for sale for weeks or even months. (We don’t go around asking for samples, but they are almost always offered.)

If you regularly read our site and others, you’ll probably read lots of reviews of brand new cigars in the coming months. And while I’m sure we’re all flattered when people go out and buy a box of cigars based on a review without trying them first, my advice is: Don’t!

This is good advice always, but especially noteworthy when there’s a flood of new cigars about to hit the market. Unless you have an unlimited budget and are willing to repeatedly donate the 19 cigars from that box you didn’t really like to the troops, save your hard-earned money and only buy boxes of cigars you are certain you enjoy. Plus, cigars are rarely discounted heavily when they are first available; if you wait a little you might be able to find a better deal.

If you read this site (thanks for that, by the way) and others you probably find reviews a helpful way to decide which new cigars to try. But even so, you should ask yourself a few things. First, is the reviewer truthful and willing to say unflattering things about a cigar if it is warranted? (If not, why are you even reading the review?) Second, do you find you generally enjoy the same things as that reviewer? (A “great cigar” is rarely great for everybody, because everyone’s palate values different qualities.)

Next, wait for the cigar to come out and head to your local tobacconist and buy one or two. (If you can’t find it locally, split a five-pack with a friend.) Because if you can find it for sale one day, you can almost certainly find more next week.

There’s a saying on the Trade Show floor: It’s not hard to to get a retailer to order a new cigar once; the challenge is getting them to reorder it, again and again. The same goes for consumers: Being the answer to the proverbial “What’s New?” question may sell a cigar once, but only your experience with that cigar can get you to buy more.

But don’t just take it from me. Take it from Steve Saka of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (who in many ways was the original online cigar writer for his site called Cigar Nexus long before he was a cigar maker):

Patrick S

video credit: The Cigar Authority

Cigar Tip: Don’t Get Slammed on the New-Release Treadmill

18 May 2015

Cigar Shop

One of the great things about cigars is the incredible choice available. Unfortunately, it’s one of the not-so-great things as well.

Every day seems to bring news of a new release, a limited edition, a store special—or, more likely, several of each. One email I received recently touted five new limited cigars. As we approach the annual summer trade show, the stream of new announcements will almost certainly become a flood.

A dedicated cigar lover could go crazy, and broke, trying to keep up.

I suggest you don’t. Go crazy or broke, that is.

Now, I’m not recommending you forgo new cigars. Far from it. I’m just advocating a little thought and preparation to maximize the enjoyment potential of the purchases you do make.

First, remember that selling cigars is not like selling most other consumables. The premium cigar market is small and barely growing, if at all. A large percentage of cigar smokers have only a handful of sticks a week and rarely venture beyond a few brands.

Two companies—Altadis and General—dominate the market; add in a few other big players like Padrón, Fuente, and Rocky Patel, and you see why smaller manufacturers face a tough battle. They’re fighting for a thin slice of a not-so-big pie.

For many of those small manufacturers, social media has had a huge impact. Even though the cigar digerati is a relatively small subset of the market, it’s a vocal and influential component. Generating buzz and producing the next hot stick can make the difference between being a success and an also-ran. All of which leads to more releases, more limited editions, more store exclusives, and on and on.

Here are three thoughts to help you evaluate your purchases:

1) Pay attention to the manufacturers you really like. As any regular reader knows, I am a big fan of Aging Room cigars. Their blends just about always appeal to my taste. I’ve even gone so far as to violate a basic rule of cigar purchases by buying a box of a new offering before I’d tried one. Other favorites, like Fuente and My Father, also always get a close look from me.

2) Pay attention to tobaccos. Think about those you like and those you don’t. This can be tricky, I’ll be the first to admit. For example, I generally dislike San Andrés. But there are some using it, like E.P. Carrillo’s La Historia, that I think are terrific. Still, given the choice between a new smoke featuring that Mexican leaf and one that doesn’t, I’ll usually pick the cigar without it. Similarly, recognizing tobaccos you usually enjoy can be a deciding factor.

3) Look at the manufacturer’s output. Some companies put out so many new cigars, it is difficult to believe they all can be special. On the other hand, when someone like Padrón puts a new smoke on the market, it is worthy of special notice.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: XIKAR PuroTemp Wireless Hygrometer System

14 Apr 2015


Who among us hasn’t, at least at some point, worried about humidity and their cigars?

Some become obsessive about maintaining conditions, some opt to simply gauge it by feel and instinct, and many fall somewhere in the middle.

I confess I probably am closer to the first category, though more by necessity than temperament.

Florida’s extreme heat makes a cooled humidor almost a necessity. And extraordinarily high humidity levels also can play havoc with humidor conditions. I’m sure many of you in other parts of the country have dramatic weather conditions to contend with as well.

For me, this has meant lots of futzing through the years with ways and means to keep my cigars in shape. The latest: the Xikar PuroTemp Wireless Hygrometer System.

Here are the basics:

There’s a base unit, with stand, that displays the time and, from up to three remote sensors, temperature and relative humidity readings from inside the humidor. The base can also be programmed to beep a warning when temperatures or humidity levels rise or fall to selected points. A button allows you to select displays from each remote unit. The package comes with one sensor, and sensors also are sold individually.

Unlike most better thermometer/hygrometer units, there’s no way to adjust the readings on these. According to Xikar, the company opted instead to invest the time and attention necessary in the factory to get the temperature and humidity settings correct from the start.

It is important to recognize that the wireless technology isn’t WiFi. You can’t interface with a smartphone or computer, so there’s no way to automatically chart the readings over time.

I’ve been using and evaluating my PuroTemp system for about three months and, overall, I’ve found it to perform as advertised. The one caveat occurred about a week or so after I got it home. That was when the connections between the base and the remotes began to drop frequently and then fail to reconnect for a long time, if ever.

I contacted Xikar, and they had no qualms about honoring the lifetime warranty and had me ship the components to Kansas City, Mo. About a week later, I heard from Xikar’s Ken Dolinger, who’d supplied me with information earlier as I prepared this review.

“It was tested by our head engineer, he found that your sensors are working great but something was wrong with your base unit,” Dolinger emailed. “So I will be sending your sensors back and a new base unit.”

Since getting the new base, I’ve experienced no problems.

I tested the unit in numerous ways, including remotes side-by-side in my filled Avallo Cooled 1200 cabinet humidor; remotes individually and together in a sealed container with a 69% Boveda pack; and remotes together and individually in a desktop humidor without cigars and several 69% Boveda packs.