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Tip: Eighteen Things Every Cigar Smoker Should Do In Their Lifetime

5 Nov 2019

[We’ve updated an article from a few years ago that was titled: “Sixteen Things Every Cigar Smoker Should Do In Their Lifetime.”]

Cigar smokers can live a long time. Just ask Richard Overton, a WWII veteran who lived to be 112 and smoked dozens of cigars a day. That gives you plenty of time to do lots of amazing things.

To help out, we brainstormed a list of eighteen cigar-related activities every cigar smoker should accomplish in their lifetime:

1. Smoke a cigar in a rental car. (There may be a cleaning fee involved.)

2. Make your own cigar blend, then smoke it. (Be prepared for it not to be very good, but that isn’t the point.)

3. Smoke a pre-embargo Cuban. (No, cigars made with a portion of pre-embargo Cuban tobacco don’t count.)

4. Visit a cigar factory abroad. (And a tobacco field while you are there.)

5. Smoke two cigars at once. (It’s actually a good way to develop your palate.)

6. Visit Cuba. (It’s easier than you think.)

7. Give someone their first cigar. (Maybe on their 18th birthday?)

8. Enjoy a cigar and drink at Casa Fuente in Las Vegas. (Try the Don Carlos Caipirinha.)

9. Buy the cigar you’ve always wanted to smoke, no matter the price. (Spend $30, $50, $100, or more.)

10. Light up a cigar someplace you shouldn’t. (Act shocked when you are told you can’t enjoy your cigar there.)

11. Pair Pappy Van Winkle bourbon with your favorite cigar. (Bourbon that costs $100 an ounce must be amazing, right?)

12. Smoke a cigar on the beach. Either early morning after an AM surf or camping out on the beach late at night, it’s the perfect place.

13. Buy a friend “It’s a boy/girl” cigars to celebrate a birth. (Remind the new dad, he should give them out, not smoke them all.)

14. Visit Calle Ocho in Little Havana. (It’s kinda like Cuba, but still in America.)

15. Wake up early to read the newspaper with a cigar and coffee. (Your local paper, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, National Enquirer… it doesn’t matter.)

16. Smoke cigars with friends around a bonfire you made. (Bonus points if you chopped the wood for the bonfire yourself.)

17. Light up a celebratory cigar when your favorite team wins the championship. (Hopefully you aren’t a Browns fan.)

18. Smoke with your dad or son. There’s nothing quite like generational bonding over a premium cigar.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Seinfeld

Tips: Five Cold-Weather Drinks to Pair with Cigars

16 Oct 2019

Monday was Columbus Day, which means summer is in the rear-view mirror. With autumn’s arrival, temperatures will be dropping. And if you’re smoking cigars outdoors, you may be looking for a drink pairing that works with the season. Here are five suggestions:

Single Malt Scotch — It is exceedingly rare that I drink scotch when the temperature is warm, but this time of year I find myself pouring scotch to pair with a cigar more often. Depending on your taste, peaty scotch or sherried single malt whiskey both have unexplained warming qualities. Some of my favorites (Laphroaig PX Cask, Ardbeg Uigeadail) are actually both sherried and peated.

Hot Toddy — A classic that can be made with scotch (save the single malt, use a blend), bourbon, brandy, or even mezcal. It’s simple to make. Just add sugar, lemon, and cloves to boiling water and your spirit. Hot toddies pair well with Connecticut-wrapped, milder cigars.

Stonewall Jackson — An American classic consisting of hot cider and bourbon (but rye, Tennessee whiskey, or even spiced rum fill in nicely). As I’ve written before, it’s a late fall drink that pairs with stronger cigars, like the 601 Green or Fausto.

Hot Buttered Rum — Serially underrated (especially by those who have never tried it but think butter in a drink is just weird), hot buttered rum is a little more complicated to make than other hot cocktails. After you make it a few times, though, you’ll find it’s really not too difficult. Drink yours with a medium-bodied Honduran or Nicaraguan cigar, or anytime you are outdoors and it is snowing.

Coffee — Still a classic, coffee (in its many forms) is a perfect pairing for cigars. Coffee in the morning with a mild cigar is a great pairing, same for a Cuban coffee in the afternoon or evening. If you don’t want caffeine late at night give decaf a try. (My bias against decaf stopped me from drinking it for years, but lately I’ve found some excellent decaf roasts from a local coffee shop.)

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Turn Your Zippo into a Cigar Torch with a Zippo Butane Insert

14 Oct 2019

It’s well-known that a standard Zippo lighter uses lighter fluid as its fuel. It is also widely understood—among cigar enthusiasts, anyway—that lighter fluid is ill-suited for cigars. This is because, unlike butane, the preferred cigar ignition fuel, lighter fluid (naphtha) contains chemicals and odors that may alter the taste of your fine cigar. You should avoid it, much like you would avoid using a stovetop, a candle, or paper matches.

In order to modify a Zippo lighter for cigars, the first thing you’ll need is… well… a Zippo lighter. Mine comes courtesy of Zippo from the new Woodchuck USA collection. There are eight lighters in the series, each available in brushed chrome with wooden “emblems” on the front and back. Woodchuck has a “buy one plant one” policy, so each lighter sold contributes to the restoration of forests. Mine, a Compass that retails for $45.95, came with a “find your tree” code that can be entered at the Woodchuck website to see where my lighter’s corresponding tree was planted. In my case, it’s Villamatsa, Madagascar.

Inside the decorative Compass shell is a standard Zippo lighter fluid insert. Removing this is as easy as sliding it out of its chrome shell.

When it comes to replacing it, you have two options: a single-flame butane insert, and a double-flame. The former retails for $14.95, and the latter for $16.95. Both are metal, guaranteed for two years, and—once inserted—equipped with the familiar Zippo snap action.

Out of its package, the double-flame butane insert looks like this. It can be filled (and re-filled) with butane via a valve on the bottom, much the same way you’d fill any butane torch. This is also where you’d adjust the flame size with a small flathead screwdriver.

Installing the butane insert is, as you’ve probably guessed, just as easy as sliding it back into the shell. What you end up with is a stylish, simple, reliable, well-functioning torch. At $62.90 assembled (for the double torch, which is my personal preference) this definitely isn’t the cheapest way to light a cigar. But it’s got to be one of the sharpest. What’s more, and while I’m happy to report back later after I’ve used this for several months, I have every reason to believe this will be a reliable torch for many cigars to come.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Cigar Tip: Control Temperature and Humidity with the NewAir CC-300H Humidor

3 Sep 2019

When the folks at NewAir inquired with me about my interest in checking out the CC-300H (yes, they sent me one free of charge to make this review possible; no, their generosity in no way impacts my opinion of the product), I decided to take them up on the offer. I’ve often longed for a large, centralized cigar storage system to help me get over the complications of managing many small- to medium-sized humidors. I was hopeful this unit would be solution that finally motivates me to donate many of my other humidors to family and friends. I’ve only had it for a couple weeks—I’d like to see how it fares through a Chicago winter before rendering a final verdict—but so far so good.

The CC-300H retails for $549.99 and arrives in a big-ass box (22.6 inches x 25.6 x 32.3, to be precise). It boasts a 400-cigar capacity (I believe this claim) and has a power consumption of 70 watts. Other features include a cooling/warming system for a range of 54-74°F, a lockable drawer, and Spanish cedar shelves.

Fresh out of the box, there’s virtually zero assembly required (which is great). There are, however, several steps needed to prepare the CC-300H for your cigars. First, it’s recommended you wipe down the interior with lukewarm water and a mild detergent (not the Spanish cedar) to help get rid of the “factory odor,” which is basically a plastic-like smell. Next, the unit needs to remain upright for several hours before first use. Finally, you need to bring the device up to the proper humidity level, which can take up to three days. After that, you can select your desired temperature and add your cigars.

First, the PROS: The seal on the door is tight, and the unit holds its humidity well, as long as you’re not opening the door often. The temperature also holds steady and is easy to change. The cedar drawers and shelves provide ample space. These are the main things you look for in a large, temperature-controlled humidor, and the CC-330H checks those boxes well. Oh, and it has a blue light!

And now for a few CONS: Since it cannot be stored in a garage, basement, or in direct sunlight, finding a place to put this contraption is likely to yield several hot-tempered conversations with your wife. It includes no humidification device, save for a plastic tray for distilled water (as you can see above, I’m employing several Boveda packs and anticipating they will last a long, long time, given the aforementioned seal). It includes no hygrometer (I borrowed a calibrated one from another humidor and positioned it so I can see the readings without opening the door). Finally, while it comes with a lock and two keys, the door can still be pried open at the top when locked, which is not ideal.

Overall, I’m quite happy with my new humidor and its home in the living room, nestled out of sight between a piano and a wall (compromises, folks). Assuming the humidity holds well in the winter (I’ll report back in a few months), the CC-330H should be a welcome addition to my cigar setup for years to come.

UPDATE: If you’d like to invest in the CC-330H, NewAir is offering StogieGuys.com readers $100 off the retail price. Please use this link and enter “PATRICK100” as the discount code.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Humidity and Just Focus on Enjoying Cigars

28 Aug 2019

cigar-humidity-tip

There was a time when I stressed over keeping my cigars at a perfect humidity. These days, I’m not so fussy about monitoring my humidors, as I’ve learned to keep all my cigars smoking well without worrying on a daily basis about the readings of my hygrometers.

When you first get into cigars, you read that 70/70 (humidity/temperature) is the ideal way to store your cigars. Soon, though, you probably realize that a slightly lower humidity (62-65%) is often better.

We’ve covered the fundamentals of proper humidity before, but as the outside temperature gets hotter it’s a good time to recap. Anywhere from 62-70% is generally fine. (You can even go all-out and build your own temperature-controlled humidor, or just buy one.)

It’s often a matter of personal preference if you like your cigars a little drier. On the low end of that range, your cigars are certain to burn easily, but possibly a bit quick and hot.

Of course, the first step in proper humidity is making sure your hygrometer is properly calibrated, especially for the inexpensive spring-loaded hygrometers that come with most humidors. For those you can use the salt calibration test.

Eventually, though, you might get to the stage where you don’t even need a hygrometer. I now keep most of my cigars in humidors without one (or I have one but rarely consult it).

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m really only concerned about keeping a select few cigars at their ideal humidity. Over time, I’ve found certain cigars smoke better at slightly higher or lower humidity levels. Thick Broadleaf wrappers, in particular, tend to benefit from a slightly higher humidity.

Other cigars I may pull out of the humidor a few hours before smoking to let the humidity drop a bit before lighting it up. Cigars with a closed foot, which is becoming more common, tend to hold moisture more easily than traditional cigars, so they may benefit from this. The same goes for cigars with a particularly firm draw.

In the end, it’s a case of trial and error, and you may want to experiment a bit. Of course, you’ll want to keep an eye on humidity, and when it comes time to add humidity you shouldn’t hesitate to do so. My favorite way to do this is adding the extra large 320-gram Boveda packs, which do an excellent job maintaining humidity for months at a time, even for the largest humidor.

Ultimately, it’s about checking on your cigars enough to start to know when it is time to add humidity. Once you know how a cigar smoked properly, smoking them (or, at the very least, checking on them regularly) is the best way to keep your cigars smoking ideally.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Storage Wars (Multiple Humidors)

19 Aug 2019

[Editors’ Note: In the coming weeks, I will be writing about my experience consolidating my cigar storage setup. As a precursor, today I am republishing an article I wrote about managing multiple humidors. It originally appeared here on April 25, 2012.]

Wouldn’t it be nice to have one large humidor in your home, preferably a walk-in, with all the cigars easily accessible, sorted by name, and labeled with received dates? It would make aging simpler, humidification easier to monitor, and your whole stash more organized.

Sometimes I think those of us who regularly visit the online cigar community, or those of us who write for it, automatically assume every reader has one elaborate cigar storage setup that costs thousands of dollars. I’m sure some do. But I don’t. And chances are you don’t, either. That said, I want to be clear that I’m not complaining. As I’ve written before, I’m fortunate to have a wonderful cigar den that allows ample room for my humidors, as well as nice space for indoor smoking during those cold Chicago winters. While I may not have a walk-in teeming with the world’s rarest and most expensive smokes, I’m certainly happy and thankful for what I have.

All this isn’t to say that my setup doesn’t present some challenges. It does, and I think many of the challenges apply to the average cigar consumer. So I figured I’d outline my top two challenges—and the solutions I’ve concocted to confront them—so the information can help others (or with hopes that you have comments and suggestions about how I might improve my own setup).

First, let me say that at any given time I have anywhere from five to seven humidors. The variance is explained by the fact that, depending on inventory, I sometimes outfit two large Tupperware containers with humidification beads and Spanish cedar to store spillover smokes. In a perfect world I would only have one very large humidor to worry about, not a handful of medium- to small-sized humidors. But because the five traditional wooden humidors all carry sentimental value (i.e., the one I got for my wedding that’s engraved with the wedding date) I can’t bring myself to consolidate. Plus, given the space I have in our condo in Chicago, one very large humidor would be a lot tougher to make space for.

One challenge with this setup is monitoring the humidification levels of each individual humidor. Each humidor seems to hold onto humidity differently, and that can make proper maintenance difficult. My solution? Once every so often (more often in the winter, when the natural air humidity is lower) I examine and rotate the cigars in each humidor. I also check to see if the humidification device in each humidor needs to be “recharged.”

The second challenge—especially with all the rotation—is keeping track of which cigars are stored where. I combat this by keeping brands together (i.e., Tatuaje with Tatuaje, PDR with PDR, etc.) and then noting in a spreadsheet which brands are in which humidor. This isn’t perfect because it requires me to reference a document if I’m looking for something in particular. But I’ve found it helpful. I’m considering doing something similar but, instead of organizing the cigars by brand, organizing them by type (i.e., cigars that need to be reviewed, golf course smokes, special cigars for special occasions, etc.).

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how to improve my setup. Or, if you have a completely different setup/strategy, please feel free to share in the comments below as well.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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

29 Jul 2019

[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 and (2) the concepts are still relevant today. 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