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Cigar Tip: Frequent Cigar Questions Asked and Answered

10 Dec 2014

Cigar forums offer a lot. A chance to learn from more experienced smokers. Hear directly from manufacturers and industry leaders occasionally. Arrange a herf with other members. Get involved in trades and box passes.

Aging Cigars

But there are some topics that come up over and over, and I’d like to help address them. I’m sure this article won’t prevent the queries from arising again, though if it results in even a small reduction I’ll consider it a success. Here are three questions I see all the time:

Cellophane on or off?

It’s up to you. Manufacturers use cello to protect cigars against damage in shipping and handling, as well as when they’re on display in shop humdiors. Cellophane offers you that same protection. Don’t worry about the impact on aging. Cellophane allows air to pass through it, slowing the transfer so little you’re unlikely to notice the difference (unless you measure your aging in decades).

Humidity at 60, 65, or 70?

Again, that’s up to you. Most smokers have to experiment to determine the level they prefer. For one thing, the ambient humidity and temperature where you live and smoke can have a strong impact. Nowadays, too, the old 70/70 “rule” isn’t as applicable, since newer humidification methods permit much greater control. But recognize that precisely measuring relative humidity is notoriously difficult, and even good hygrometers can easily get out of whack.

What bundle cigar tastes like a Padrón Anniverary or Opus X or Davidoff or …?

What Japanese compact drives like a Ferrari? What off-the-rack suit fits like one from Savile Row? What budget hotel accommodations match Four Seasons? Sorry, no cheap smokes come any closer in replicating the best in the business. Yes, some cigars are overpriced, but that doesn’t mean all expensive cigars are overpriced. The storied brands have earned their reputations and value through hard work, meticulous attention to detail, and use of the finest materials.

I hope this helps. If you want more on any of these—or other—topics, just click on Tips at the top of the page or use the Search function at the top right for a wealth of information.

P.S. Yes, always store infused cigars separately from regular sticks.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Host a Whiskey Tasting

9 Dec 2014

Tasting multiple cigars in a sitting can be tricky. An entire cigar needs to smoked for it to be properly judged, but smoking full cigars one after another can overwhelm your palate.

Most cigar tastings, to the extent they aren’t just a single cigar, will consist of several specially made mini pure grade cigars (made entirely of one type of tobacco). This is a valuable educational experience, but what you taste isn’t actually a finished cigar.

whiskey-tasting

Whiskeys, on the other hand, are perfect for tasting side by side. Pick two whiskeys, or five, or a dozen, and get to it. Observe the color, take in the nose, experience the taste (on the palate and the finish), and keep notes so you can come back to them later. While the basics aren’t hard to understand, here are a few tips to improve your whiskey tastings:

Select the right whiskeys – It sounds obvious, but it’s also crucial. Tastings are great because you can compare and contrast, so focus on a selection with both similarities and differences. Here are just a few suggestions: wheated bourbons, Indiana-distilled ryes, barrel-proof bourbons, sherry cask-aged single malts, etc. In the photo above, I decided to taste the first three Orphan Barrel bourbons, all of which are at least 20 years old.

Proper glassware – I’m a big fan of Glencairn whiskey glasses, which were specially designed for whiskey tasting. You don’t have to go that route, but tasting from similar glasses is important because the shape will impact what you pick up. Along those lines, shot glasses or big tumblers are poor choices, but a medium or small wine glass can work well.

Keep your palate fresh – Much like cigar tasting, I like to use club soda or sparkling mineral water to cleanse the palate. You’ll also want some spring water on hand. No ice is allowed (it dulls your taste). Try and taste it all neat first, then add a drop or two of water at a time to see how that impacts flavor. For a food to help keep your palate fresh, keep some bread or lightly salted crackers on hand.

Bring friends  – Of course, drinking with good friends is fun, but there are more reasons why this is preferable. First, you can compare notes. Second, with the help of friends, all but one person can taste blind. Because that’s the real test: Do you enjoy a particular whiskey even without knowing what it is and what it costs?

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Give the Gift of Cigars this Christmas

3 Dec 2014

Like it or not, the Christmas shopping season is upon us. And if you’re a regular StogieGuys.com reader, changes are you have a few individuals on your list who are lovers of the leaf themselves. But sometimes shopping for cigars for gifts can be intimidating and confusing—even for the most seasoned cigar veterans.

Christmas Presents

Never fear. Cigar smokers need not be a difficult crowd for which to buy presents. Their passion for the hobby makes it easy to narrow down gift choices. This holiday season, you can be virtually assured of gift-giving success if you follow some simple rules of thumb.

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, I can’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 his/her new favorite.

Consider cigar accessories. Every cigar enthusiast needs a great table lighter, travel lighter, nice cutter, good ashtray, 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. My wife gave me a wonderful alligator skin cigar case years ago and I’ve cherished it ever since.

Cigar access can be invaluable. Many cigar smokers don’t have ready access to a good indoor lounge where they can light up without fear of temperature, wind, or precipitation. If there’s a members-only indoor lounge near him/her, you might look into buying him/her a seasonal or year-round pass (or maybe even a private locker). This gift would obviously be expensive, but no doubt appreciated.

Think drinks. Cigars pair excellently with all sorts of libations, including coffee, wine, bourbon, rum, and scotch. Maybe that cigar smoker on your list would really enjoy a French press to make the perfect brew. Or perhaps a nice bottle of something special. Feel free to peruse our many musings on spirits; most of these articles include recommended cigar pairings to help make the gift complete.

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.

I hope these tips are helpful as you shop for that cigar smoker on your list. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a tip of your own that you’d like to share. And happy holidays.

-Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Have a Happy Thanksgiving… with Cigars

26 Nov 2014

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 seven years, today the StogieGuys.com team tells you what cigars we’ll be firing up after our big meals.

Patrick A: This year I was lucky enough to purchase a box of the new Tatuaje Monster Series, The Jekyll. As tempting (and trendy) as it would be to name that cigar my go-to stick for Thanksgiving, I’ve decided on a smoke that’s much less rare: the Joya Red Robusto. In addition to loving this blend since it was released earlier this year, I think its medium-bodied, balanced profile of citrus, dry cedar spice, roasted nuts, black pepper, and toasty notes will pair well with a warm up of coffee after a huge meal. And given its availability and modest price point, I won’t have any misgivings about sharing the same cigar with interested family and friends.

Patrick S: Family, friends, football, good food, fine drink… They all call for a fine cigar. This year I’ve decided to select one of the Verocu cigars from the 2014 Tatuaje Saints & Sinners smoke kit (I’m leaning towards the robusto size). I’ve tried both of the two Verocu sizes from this year’s kit, and they are both outstanding (reminiscent of the excellent East and West versions). They feature all the chocolate, earth, and wood of the regular Havana VI line, but with a delicious added kick of spice and complexity. It should be just right with a coffee or a whiskey (or both) after dessert.

George E: Thanksgiving will be, for me, a rare two-cigar day. Rather than dine at home, we’ll eat at one of the local Greek restaurants. So, I plan to step up and celebrate before and after. For the first cigar, it’ll be a Davidoff Colorado Claro Short Perfecto, a great little smoke. That evening, I plan to light up an Opus X, though I don’t know which one. My local shop has a good selection, and I’ll make my choice in the humidor.

Joey J: I’ve really been debating what I should smoke after Thanksgiving dinner. Of course I’ll be watching the Cowboys-Eagles game, and I’ll probably be (at least) a few glasses of wine/bourbon in at that point, so whatever cigar I choose won’t have my complete attention. I was thinking of smoking a Lost City Lancero by Arturo Fuente just because I really enjoy a full-bodied smoke after a large meal. But I think I’m going to play it safe, and stick with the Tatuaje Black Corona Gorda. Since I reviewed this cigar, I’ve smoked my way through a jar—and then some. Over 20 cigars in, and I still haven’t been disappointed in the least.

Previous cigars the StogieGuys.com 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: How to Spot an Excellent Tobacconist

10 Sep 2014

These days I travel a fair amount for my regular job, staying a few nights here and there with meetings during the day and little to do in the evening. So, naturally, wherever I go I try to find a good (non-private) cigar lounge or tobacconist so 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 good selection, fair prices. This one is obvious. I assume I’ll be paying more for the sticks than I otherwise might be able to find online—and I’m completely OK with that. 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.

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?”

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.

Values entertainment. Good TVs, WiFi, and maybe even a poker table. These touches go a long way. Cigar events are great, too.

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

-Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Newcomers, Don’t Try This at Home — Or Elsewhere

11 Aug 2014

At StogieGuys.com, we try to appeal to the entire spectrum of cigar smokers. But, aware of the fact that many cigar sites and forums may appear intimidating from the outside, we try particularly hard to pass along tips and thoughts to those just getting into the hobby.

Cigars at Drew Estate

To paraphrase Harry Truman, the only cigar advice that’s new is what you haven’t learned yet. So, if you’re a cigar novice, hopefully these negative commands will help you on the road to greater pleasure. And if you’re a seasoned vet, maybe they’ll remind you of a thought or two you might reconsider.

Don’t worry about laying in a large supply. There are thousands of selections out there. These aren’t 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle coins or 1954 Oldsmobile F-88s. There are plenty on the store shelves. No need to stock up before you really know what you want.

Don’t focus on getting “more for your money.” Smaller sizes, particularly for a new smoker, often offer a better way to sample a new cigar and make it easier for you to concentrate throughout the smoke. Right now there’s a trend towards huge, thicker ring gauge smokes, but many seasoned cigar vets and cigar makers alike prefer to more regularly smoke thinner, smaller sizes like lanceros and coronas.

Don’t worry about aging. Nearly all quality cigars these days use aged tobacco and are sold with the intent that they be smoked, not stored. And even if you wait six months to a year or more, you’ll probably not notice the difference, anyway. One exception to this rule might be Cuban smokes. But I would first focus on exploring all that Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras have to offer anyways.

Don’t make judgments too quickly. That cigar you love today may not seem the same a week from now. Your tastes will change the more you smoke. Better to concentrate on variety than end up with cigars you find you don’t really like.

Don’t forget why you smoke. Smoking cigars is about enjoyment. It’s not a contest or a competition. Relax and have fun. Slow down. And remember the StogieGuys.com Cigar University is a great resource to further your cigar education.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: A Cigar Guide to Paris

5 Aug 2014

There’s little question Paris is one of the finest destinations for fine dining and shopping, but it’s also a fine city for cigars. I recently spent a week there (though I’ve been a few times before) and put together a few notes for enjoying cigars in the City of Light.

A Rich Tradition of Cigars

SEITA, the French tobacco giant, is part of what is likely the largest cigar company in the world, since it merged with the Spanish tobacco monopoly to form Altadis. Altadis owns a 50% share in the Cuban cigar distributor Habanos and is also the parent company for Altadis USA, which makes the non-Cuban versions of Montecristo, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, and many others.

SEITA also created (along with Habanos) the Quai d’Orsay cigar line, which is named after the street where the SEITA headquarters are. The line was blended to French tastes and calls for a milder blend. Quai d’Orsay can be hard to find outside of France, but within Paris shops you’ll find it regularly.

A-La-Civette

Where to Buy Cigars?

Tabacs are everywhere in Paris, though most have only a few premium cigars, if any. (All the “Tabac” designation denotes is the store is licensed to sell tobacco.) Those that do carry cigars stock their shelves with mostly Cubans, though there are some other brands you’ll see regularly like Davidoff and Flor de Selva. Prices are tightly controlled so there is little variation in cost from shop to shop.

One of the things I’ve found in Paris cigar shops (though not the two listed below) is that cigars are often kept at a slightly too high humidity. It isn’t so high that the cigars develop mold, but it does mean you’ll often run into burn issues if you immediately smoke a cigar after purchasing.

À la Civette is the oldest cigar shop in Paris (founded in 1716) and a place I always visit. The walk-in humidor doesn’t have a huge selection by American cigar shop standards, but it has a nice selection of Cubans including all the recent French Regional Edition cigars and quite a few Limited Edition Cubans. Located just a block from the Louvre and across the street from the entrance to the Palais-Royal, the shop’s customers over the years have included Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, Voltaire, Churchill, and Micheal Jordan. (After you buy a cigar here, head over to the interior garden at Palais-Royal and light up under the trees on a park bench or at one of the outdoor cafes.)

Publicis Drugstore is a small, high-end department store on the famous Champs-Élysées just down the street from the Arc de Triomphe. I visited it for the first time in a previous visit on the recommendation of Tatuaje owner Pete Johnson, and it didn’t disappoint. In addition to an excellent selection within their recently renovated Cave à Cigares, you can eat at one of the finest restaurants in the city (L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon) and check out a superior selection of wines and luxury goods.

Where to Smoke Cigars?

Like so many places, Paris has been hit with a smoking ban that limits the indoor spaces where you can enjoy your cigar. There was a time not long ago when a cigar cart was a staple in the city’s fine restaurants. Now, sadly, you’re limited to a few indoor spaces specifically designated as cigar bars. The Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Carlton is currently being renovated, but it should return to being a great locale when it is completed. (Speaking of Hemingway, Paris Walks offers a two-hour English tour of Hemingway’s Paris that has an interesting glimpse, for just 12 euros, into the famous cigar smoker’s time in the city.)

Despite the limited indoor smoking locales, as long as the weather is nice there are plenty of places to enjoy a cigar outside. And unlike in the U.S., Parisiens aren’t likely to shoot you a dirty look for enjoying a fine cigar in their vicinity. The city’s plentiful cafes practically all have outdoor seating where smoking a cigar with a cup of coffee or an adult beverage is not out of place at all (just let them know your plan so they can seat you accordingly). In addition, there are lots of great outdoor public spaces, like the Luxembourg Gardens, Tuileries Gardens, or the previously mentioned Palais-Royal where you can grab a chair (the recliners that are in many public parks are actually quite comfortable) and do some good people watching.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys