Archive | Tips RSS feed for this section

Tip: Pairing New Years Champagne with a Fine Cigar

30 Dec 2019

A decade ago, I offered some tips on pairing cigars with champagne. With New Years Eve a day away, here’s an update (including a decade worth of additional experience).

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). Very pleasant 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: Holiday Guide for Giving the Gift of Cigars

12 Dec 2019

gift

Including today, there are only twenty shopping days left until Christmas. I say “only” because, while that may seem like a long time (to my three-year old it seems like an eternity), rest assured the holiday will be here before you know it.

If you’re like me, you loathe shopping and haven’t bought a damn thing yet. I can’t help you with that. But if you have a cigar enthusiast or two on your list, I am more than happy to offer up some guidance in the form of the following tips:

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.

Many cigar lovers also enjoy bourbon. Cigars and bourbon go together like peanut butter and jelly. I would strongly encourage you to check out our bourbon gift-giving guide, our A-Z Bourbon Guide, and our extensive archive of spirits reviews (all of which also include pairing suggestions). You could do a lot worse than a nice bottle of bourbon and an accompanying cigar or three.

Don’t forget to treat yourself. Lots of cigar purchase opportunities come with a free gift (i.e., a five-pack, a table lighter, a cutter, etc.). Go ahead and take advantage of the offers. You’ve earned it.

Need help? Ask. Find a local tobacconist and don’t be afraid to ask an employee for guidance or suggestions. Any good cigar shop will have helpful, patient, knowledgeable staff. Even if you aren’t a regualr cigar smoker yourself, your visit needn’t be intimidating or unfruitful.

Have other ideas for helpful cigar gift-giving tips this holiday season? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Tip: How to Travel with Cigars on a Plane

3 Dec 2019

travel-cigar

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


Cigar Tip: The Ultimate Guide to Picking a Thanksgiving Cigar

27 Nov 2019

We have been giving Thanksgiving cigar picks for over a decade. After a large serving of Turkey and a gravy-filled meal, a cigar (or a few) is the ideal way to sit back and digest, whether you are visiting with  family or escaping them.

You may pick a cigar because it is small (it’s cold outside, you don’t have much time, etc.), because it’s American-made (Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday), or because it’s special (don’t let that special cigar sit in your humidor too long). We all have our own reasons. Here are the cigars we’re planning on lighting up after the big meal this year:

Patrick A: I usually turn to an old, tried-and-true favorite on Thanksgiving, but this year I’ve decided to light up a cigar I only found very recently: the Blue in Green Corona from Gran Habano. Its excellent construction and flavor of creamy cashew, dry oak, cereals, and floral notes will go well with a post-dinner cup of black coffee in a cold Chicago garage.

Patrick S: This year I’m planning on lighting up the RoMa Craft Tobac Aquitaine Pestra Muierilor. The small (4 x 46) smoke will work well in the yard after enjoying Thanksgiving with a family full of non-cigar smokers. This “sparkplug of a little smoke” will cut through the heaviness of a heavy meal, and pair perfectly with a peaty whiskey and some football.

Need more suggestions? Here’s every cigar we’ve ever recommended for Thanksgiving, dating back to 2007:

2018: Mi Querida Fino LargoPaul Garmirian 25th Anniversary Short RobustoMy Father Limited Edition 2011

2017: Futuro Selección Suprema, Hoyo de Monterey Petit Robusto, Davidoff 2017 Year of the Rooster Diadema

2016: Señorial Corona Gorda No. 5Paul Garmirian Soirée Short Robusto, Casa Fuente Corona Gorda

2015: Neanderthal SPGIllusione Epernay Le PetitEl Güegüense Robusto

2014: Joya Red Robusto, Tatuaje Saints & Sinners Verocu Robusto, Davidoff Colorado Claro Short PerfectoTatuaje Black Corona Gorda

2013: Leccia Tobacco White 650, Joya de Nicaragua Cuatro CincoEiroa Toro

2012: Emilio Cigars Series H Maduro Robusto, Tatuaje Mummy (Halloween 2012)Aging Room F55

2011: E.P. Carrillo New Wave Connecticut Divinos, Tatuaje Petite Cazadores Reserva, PG Symphony 20th, Arturo Fuente Double Chateau Sun GrownSancho Panza Double Maduro

2010: J. Fuego 777 Corojo Robusto, Padrón Serie 1926 No. 35 Maduro, Romeo y Julieta Churchill Tubo, Padrón Family Reserve No. 45 Maduro

2009: Tesa Havanitas Connecticut No. 1, Tatuaje Reserve J21, Padrón Serie 1964 Exclusivo Natural, Illusione 888

2008: CAO America Monument, PG Gourmet 15th Anniversary Blend Belicoso Extra, SEO 601 “Red” Robusto

2007: Don Kiki Brown Label Toro, Tatuaje Reserva SW, Camacho Corojo Churchill

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

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