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Tip: How to Take Care of Your Butane Lighter

20 Jan 2016

Did Santa leave you a new lighter under the tree? A butane-burning beauty that will make you feel like a true connoisseur when you light up your prized cigars?

Congratulations. Now it’s up to you to treat it right.

We’ve all read and heard sad tales of expensive lighters that too soon ended up as non-functional paperweights. The good news is that these days lighters seem to perform much better than they did not so long ago.

You can increase the likelihood that your new lighter will age into a reliable, trusted old friend through the years by following a few simple tips.

Read the instructions. Yes, I know this runs counter to just about everyone’s instincts. But spending a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the lighter’s ins-and-outs will pay off in the long run. After all, do you really want to set your hair on fire because you turned the flame adjustment the wrong way?

Use top-grade, multi-refined butane. It is expensive, but worth it in the long run. Butane lighters have tiny openings and the smallest bits can create clogs. Butane that has been refined multiple times means cleaner fuel.

Pay attention to the fill indicator. Don’t increase pressure by trying to squeeze in more fuel than the lighter is designed to hold. It might not cause damage, but why take the chance?

Bleed before refilling. Usually this is accomplished by pressing the fill valve and allowing the remaining butane to escape, but be sure to follow your manufacturer’s directions. Again, ignoring this might not create a problem, but investing a few seconds can’s hurt.

Compressed air is a great tool. A quick blast from the can periodically will keep the lighting mechanism clean and reduce the possibility of a clog.

Finally, enjoy your lighter. And if Santa missed you this year, you can always buy yourself the gift you want.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Celebrate the New Year with Cigars and Champagne

30 Dec 2015

[In order to help our readers ring 2016 in right, we’re republishing this tip about how to pair cigars and champagne. Enjoy!]

Champagne_uncorking

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). 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: Guide for Giving the Gift of Cigars

17 Dec 2015

large-cra_sampler_2015

On Tuesday we offered up some tips for giving the gift of bourbon for the holidays. Today, with one week until Christmas Eve, we provide some suggestions for picking the right cigar gift for the cigar smokers in your life:

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.

With all that in mind, we thought this year we’d make one specific recommendation: a Cigar Rights of America sampler. It’s a perfect gift that covers two of our specific recommendations as both a cigar sampler and tangible support of CRA (each sampler includes a card they can send in for a free CRA membership).

Each sampler boasts ten cigars, including cigars that can only be found in the sampler and collectively would cost you way more than the $100 sampler price tag even if they were for sale elsewhere. The most recent version features such sought-after cigars as a special toro-sized Tatueje Black, the super premium Fuente Forbidden X, La Flor Dominicana Factory Press, and a Winston Churchill by Davidoff. These limited samplers can only be sold by CRA Platinum-Level Great American Cigar Shops, so find one near you and ask them if they have any in stock. Or, if one isn’t in your area, you can purchase one online.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: CRA

Cigar Tip: Guide for Giving the Gift of Bourbon

15 Dec 2015

bourbon

With Christmas next week you may be scrambling to pick out some last-minute gifts. If your giftee imbibes, here are a few suggestions depending on the type of gift you want to give. (Note: While Pappy Van Winkle or any number of other rare bourbons make for an amazing gift, I’ve limited options to things you are actually likely to find on the shelves of a well-stocked liquor shop.)

Non-Whiskey Gifts

A bourbon gift doesn’t need to be booze. Here are some ideas Amazon will deliver for you:

Glencairn Whisky Glasses – The gold standard whisky glassware is designed to bring out the best in bourbon, rye, and single malt (it’s also good for drinking cognac and aged rum). Even if they already have some, a few more will let them taste some side-by-side, or host a tasting with friends.

A Good Bourbon Book – For a good overview of the the story of bourbon from the 17th century to present, I can recommend Chuck Cowdery’s Bourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey. Although I haven’t read it (yet), I’ve only heard good things about Reid Mitenbuler’s new book, Bourbon Empire. Finally, for a next level bourbon drinker, even a particularly well-versed aficionado will enjoy Cowdery’s follow-up, Bourbon, Strange.

Inexpensive Bourbon

Bourbon has some great values, so inexpensive doesn’t mean it isn’t good. For under $20 you can’t go wrong with Four Roses Yellow Label ($18), Evan Williams 1783 ($16), or Old Forester ($20, 1L). They are perfect for your office Yankee Swap (if your office is fun) or a secret santa gift with a spending cap.

Bourbon for the Cocktail Aficionado

For a proper cocktail you want something that will hold up and is flavorful but won’t break the bank. Old Grand Dad 114 ($23) and Wild Turkey 101 ($24) fit the bill. Also consider a nice set of cocktail bitters.

Fine Bourbon

Now we’re getting to something special. No real bourbon drinker will ever turn their nose down at Eagle Rare 10 Year ($30) and Four Roses Single Barrel ($40). Blanton’s ($55) is an excellent bourbon that also looks great on a shelf with its distinctive bottle. Booker’s ($60) is barrel-proof and not for amateurs, but it’s consistently excellent, especially for the bourbon-on-the-rocks drinker.

Bourbon to Make an Impression

Well-aged bourbon is in demand these days, especially since people tend to identify older bourbon as better, which has, in turn, made such bourbon tougher and tougher to find. Two such bourbons that you can actually find, though you’ll have to shop around a little more, are the recently released I.W. Harper 15 Year ($75) and Blade and Bow 22 Year Old ($150). Each comes in a fancy bottle (the I.W. Harper’s decanter bottle is particularly sharp) and fortunately the bourbon inside is excellent too. These will impress your bourbon collecting father-in-law or boss.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Winter Is Coming

2 Dec 2015

Winter

December is upon us. Before you know it, most of us will be in the throes of the coldest time of the year—a time that isn’t particularly friendly to cigar smokers or humidors. So I thought today might be a good time to reflect on some of the winter-related content we’ve published over the past (nearly ten!) years as we all brace for the drop in temperature.

First up is an article from January 2007, written by my colleague while he was vacationing in Belize. There’s an absurdity associated with writing an “Ode to the Cold Weather Smoker” from such a tropical location, and I suppose most people would also call standing outside in the winter just to smoke a cigar absurd. But, as he puts it, “To brave inclement weather shows true dedication to the wonderful hobby that is cigars… When many might close up the humidor until late spring, the cold weather smoker bravely smokes on.”

Next we have a piece I wrote in December 2007 about the strategy of smoking shorter, quicker cigars to minimize your exposure to the elements. My recommendations at the time (which now seem very dated) included the Punch Champion, Montecristo Petit Edmundo, Fuente Hemingway Short Story, and the Oliva Serie G Special. And don’t forget length isn’t the only determinant of the time it will take to smoke a cigar; thin ring gauges should also be favored in the colder months.

Of course, if you have an indoor smoking sanctuary—or a great cigar lounge nearby—you can feel more confident lighting up that large Churchill. But such spaces can be really hard to find, depending on where you are. Government-imposed smoking bans have outlawed many bars, restaurants, and other establishments from offering cigar-friendly accommodations. In certain municipalities, private residences in multi-unit buildings have even been targeted. The result? In the winter, a multitude of cigar smokers must either curtail their cigar consumption until the weather improves; smoke out in the cold; build some kind of cigar sanctuary at their home, if possible; or find a welcoming cigar lounge, however far away.

Whether indoors or out, it’ll be a good idea to keep a warm beverage by your side. Here are our five favorite winter drinks, including the hot toddy, hot buttered rum, and the Stonewall Jackson—an American classic consisting of hot cider and bourbon (but rye, Tennessee whiskey, or even spiced rum fill in nicely).

Finally, this article from 2012 is full of holiday-specific tips, including winterizing your humidor, giving cigars as gifts, traveling with cigars, and sharing favorites.

Here’s wishing you a safe, happy, healthy, and cigar-filled winter. If you have any other articles, resources, tips, etc. to help us get through the cold months, feel free to leave a comment below.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

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 StogieGuys.com 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 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: Four Things To Do In Autumn

8 Oct 2015

fall

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 StogieGuys.com. 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