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Cigar Tip: StogieGuys.com’s Guide to the Holidays

20 Dec 2017

gift

The holidays can be hectic and stressful. But StogieGuys.com is here to help. Over the past decade plus, we’ve written plenty of articles that can help you survive (and thrive) during this time of year.

We’ve scanned our archives to bring you our best holiday-related tips and suggestions:

Been procrastinating and need a last-minute gift? We’ve got suggestions. Cigars (obviously) can be a great gift, and here’s how to avoid the pitfalls of cigar gift-giving. (We also covered some dad-specific gifts here.)

Booze also makes a great gift. Our extensive archive of spirits reviews (all of which also include cigar pairing suggestions) is full of excellent suggestions. Also, check out our bourbon gift-giving guide and our A-Z Bourbon Guide.

Depending on where you are, it can be very cold this time of year, which provides many challenges. Here are some tips for surviving the cold (and here are some additional suggestions).

Looking for new cigar suggestions? The end of of the year is a good time to see if there is a cigar you missed from the past year that you should have tried.

When you’re celebrating New Year Eve, here’s how to pair champagne with a cigar. And if you’re thinking about which cigar to smoke, consider it might finally be time to light up that special cigar.

Finally, looking for resolution for 2018? Take cigar inventory. Maybe watch your cigar budget. Run a marathon, if you want. But whatever you do, don’t quit smoking cigars.

Here’s to a safe, cigar-filled holiday season.

Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

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

18 Dec 2017

[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, (2) the concepts are still relevant today, and (3) now is a great time to be thinking about these things since the winter months often necessitate an indoor cigar sanctuary. 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

Tip: How to Smoke a Cigar Without Embarrassing Yourself

29 Nov 2017

Cigars are first and foremost about relaxation, which is why I hesitate to even write this. There really aren’t many hard and fast rules. That’s one of the best things about cigars: Smoking is ritualistic, but you determine the ritual that suits you best.

Still, I often get asked for tips from friends or acquaintances who rarely, if ever, smoke cigars. Inevitably, they are about to find themselves in a situation where they will be smoking a cigar with a regular cigar smoker they’d like to impress. Perhaps a potential business client, future father-in-law, boss, etc… They aren’t trying to pass themselves off as cigar experts; they just want to relax and not worry about embarrassing themselves.

So, if that situation describes you, or if you’re a more seasoned smoker who gets asked that from time to time, here are a few helpful suggestions to ensure what could be a stressful situation is as enjoyable as it should be.

Select Your Cigar

It may seem obvious, but let your host pick your cigar. If they are leading the charge, let them select a cigar they think you’ll like. Just ask them: What do you recommend?

If you’re tasked with selecting a cigar, my recommendation is stick with the classics, like Arturo Fuente, Ashton, Davidoff, Montecristo, or Macanudo. (If you’ve had one of these before and enjoyed it, stick with what works.) If you’re asked what size you want or which size to buy but are unsure, the robusto is a best-selling size for a good reason and is middle-of-the-road in terms of length and ring gauge.

Pick Your Cut and Light

If someone offers to cut your cigar for you, let them. If you are asked, go with a standard straight guillotine. If you have to cut the cigar yourself, the same straight guillotine cut is the easiest to execute properly. No matter the cigar size, just cut where it is still tapered, as opposed to where it is completely cylindrical. When it comes to lighting, nothing fancy is needed, just remember to light the foot, not the sides.

Don’t Inhale

Smoking without embarrassing yourself is easy as long as you follow one easy rule: Don’t inhale. Cigars aren’t meant to be inhaled (that’s why, health-wise, you are far better off being a regular cigar smoker than a cigarette smoker.) Even if you are a cigarette smoker, don’t inhale because a cigar produces far more smoke than a cigarette. Turning green is the opposite of what you are going for.

Don’t Stub Your Cigar

One way to spot someone who probably doesn’t smoke cigars is that they frequently ash their cigar by forcefully rubbing their ash off on the side of an ashtray. A decently made cigar will hold its ash longer than you think, so wait a little longer then tap the cigar with your finger to gently knock the ash into the ashtray. Similarly, when it comes time to put your cigar out, just put it down in the ashtray, don’t stub it out.

Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Have a Happy Thanksgiving… with Cigars (2017)

22 Nov 2017

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

Patrick A: My first post-dinner cigar on Thanksgiving is always one of my favorite smokes of the year. Filled to the brim with turkey and wine and surrounded by family, I’ll grab a mug of strong black coffee and head to my parents’ garage with my father and brother-in-law. This year, the three of us will be smoking the Futuro Selección Suprema (5.6 x 46) from Kyle Gellis’ Warped Cigars. This TABSA-made cigar sports a reddish-brown Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 wrapper, Nicaraguan Criollo ’98 binder, and Nicaraguan Criollo ’98 and Corojo ’99 filler tobaccos. Its rich, balanced, creamy, bready flavors of oak, light spice, and honey will pair well with coffee (and probably also set the stage for a second cigar to pair with bourbon). I can’t wait.

Patrick S: This year I decided to select a Cuban: the Hoyo de Monterey Petit Robusto. While I’m not one to get caught up in the Cuban hype, this Habano hits all the right notes for me: woodsy and spicy, with cream and roasted notes. Also, the cigar’s small format that won’t have me sitting out in the cold too long, since I’m visiting family and smoking indoors won’t be an option (and I’ll want to get back inside to watch the Giants-Redskins game). I brought a few of these back with me (legally) from a trip to Europe this summer, and it should go well with some vintage port that tends to get opened after Thanksgiving dinner.

George E: My plan is to light up a cigar that’s been in my humidor for nearly a year: the Davidoff 2017 Year of the Rooster Diadema. When I reviewed it at the start of the year, I awarded it four and a half stogies out of five, and I’m curious to see whether age adds or subtracts from the experience. I plan to pair it with after-dinner coffee.

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: Flickr

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

1 Nov 2017

Cigar smokers can live a long time. Just ask Richard Overton, the oldest living WWII veteran who, at 111, still smokes a dozen cigars a day. That gives you plenty of time to do lots of amazing things.

To help out, we brainstormed a list of sixteen 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. 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.)

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

14. 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.)

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

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

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Seinfeld

Cigar Tip: Ten Do’s and Don’ts for New Cigar Smokers

6 Sep 2017

When you’ve been writing about cigars for as long as we have at StogieGuys.com—more than 11 years, actually—it can seem like every subject imaginable has been covered. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back and remember that not all of our readers have been with us for years, and not everyone is a seasoned cigar veteran.

So this one is for the beginners. Those smokers who’ve just gotten into the hobby. After all, we like to think of our site as free of snobbery, judgement, or condescension. New smokers are most welcome here and encouraged to ask questions (either via comments or otherwise).

In honor of you, the new cigar smoker, here are ten do’s and don’ts addressing some questions you may have and, hopefully, helping you get off on the right foot.

Don’t ask your local cigar shop for Cubans. Now, let’s be honest. Some shops may have a stash of Cuban cigars for regular customers. But it’s still illegal, and you can get off on the wrong foot by bringing up the topic.

Don’t bring your own cigars into a shop to smoke. It’s in poor taste, and a slap at the store owner who has to pay rent.

Don’t buy too many cigars at first. Your tastes will almost certainly change along the way and so will the cigars you enjoy. Also, focus more on samplers and less on boxes.

Don’t obsess. Whether it’s humidity levels or finding a new limited edition release, don’t let pursuit create stress. That’s the polar opposite of the mental state cigars should help create.

Don’t flick the ash like it’s a cigarette, and don’t stub out the cigar when you’re done. Just leave it in the ashtray to die on its own.

Do pay attention to what you like and dislike. Note things like the blender and tobaccos. That can help suggest other cigars to try and to avoid. Keeping a simple cigar journal can help with this.

Do experiment. There’s a vast world of cigars out there, and if you limit yourself too soon you run the risk of missing out.

Do listen to informed smokers to gain information and insight, but don’t take anyone’s word as gospel. Remember: The best cigar in the world is the cigar you like the best.

Do select a cigar size appropriate to the time you have for smoking. And when you have it lit, take your time. Smoking is not a race, and you don’t want to overcook the tobacco.

Do enjoy yourself. That’s what it is all about.

For further learning that’s a little more structured than search engines and perusing blogs (all of which are great resources, by the way), check out our Cigar University.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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

19 Jun 2017

[Editors’ Note: The following article was first published at StogieGuys.com in May 2015, though the advice it contains is as sound now as it was two years ago. It is reprinted today in anticipation of the fast-approaching 2017 IPCPR Trade Show.]

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 StogieGuys.com 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