Cigars

Old vs. New: Choosing the Right Cigar

Are you confused about old cigars versus fresh cigars? What does this mean, exactly? If you’re new to the world of cigar smoking, these terms can be a little perplexing. Basically, know that cigars are never really fresh. That is, you generally can’t purchase a cigar just after it has been produced. Most tobacconists store their cigars at the proper temperature and humidity before they are stored. Also, the tobacco in most premium cigars is usually aged for about one to two years before it is rolled into a cigar.

Many smokers prefer old or vintage cigars. Why? Older cigars are not inherently better than newer cigars. This is simply a matter of personal taste and preference. How long can vintage cigars last before they lose flavor and integrity? Cigars that are properly stored at a constant temperature of approximately 70 degrees, and about 70% humidity, can be stored indefinitely.

What happens if an old cigar is not stored properly, and begins to dry out? Although the integrity of the cigar will probably be damaged, it can be restored significantly by re-humidifying it. This process must be done slowly and with great care to restore the cigar’s flavor and consistency

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Making the Perfect Cut on Your Cigar

How to clip a cigar properly? Although every cigar aficionado has their own proven method, here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

First, examine the head, or closed end, of the cigar. This is the part of the cigar that will need to be clipped. Determine where the ‘cap’ is. The cap refers to the part of the cigar where the tobacco leaf was used to close the cigar. Once you’ve found the cap, determine its length. As a general rule, you should not cut any further than the end of the cap. If you cut further than the cap, there’s a good chance your cigar will unravel!

Use a good quality clipper to cut the head at the cap. You don’t want a cheap cutter that will result in frayed or split cuts. You can purchase a special cigar cutter at your local tobacco shop that is designed to make clean cuts. Once you have your cutter, hold your cigar at eye level and make a fast and decisive cut just above the cap. Less is more when cutting—if you find your cut is too superficial, simply cut down a bit more.

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How to Spot Fake Cuban Cigars

Everyone knows that Cuban cigars are the most coveted cigars, renown worldwide for their smoothness and rich flavors. Indeed, Cuban cigars are so prized that many illegitimate dealers have been known to sell fake Cubans to unsuspecting cigar smokers. How do you tell if what you have is a fake or the real thing? First, make certain that you purchase your cigars from a legitimate dealer. Buying from your local tobacconist or a reputable mail order business can protect you from forking your money over for a box of fake cigars.

If you have an opportunity to purchase a box of purported Cuban cigars, but have your doubts, take the time to examine the box before purchasing it. Here are a few tips to help you spot the fakes from the real thing.

The most important thing to examine is the box. Authentic Cuban cigars will contain a green and white warranty seal on the left front side of the box. The seal will contain an insignia that has a picture of a shield and a hat. On the upper right hand corner of the box, you should find a white sticker that is placed diagonally with the word ‘Habanos’ printed on it. The overall appearance of the box should be neat and clean. If the box appears damaged, smudged, frayed, or marked, avoid it. If the color of the box is dull, don’t buy it. Even if the cigars are the real things, their quality may have suffered in transport. If you are in the market for Cohiba, Trinidad, or Q’dorsay brand cigars, know that all authentic Cohiba’s will contain the green and white warranty seal on the right hand side of the box.

On the bottom of the box of cigars, you should find a heat stamp with the words ‘Habanos.’ The heat stamp should be impressed onto the bottom of the box. Fake Cuban cigar boxes often find other ways to imprint this label, such as using rubber stamps or paper labels. You should also find a factory code stamp at the bottom that is stamped in green, blue or black ink. This stamp will tell you when and where the cigars were rolled.

If you can open the box, take the time to smell the tobacco. Cuban cigars will have a deep, rich aroma, unmistakable to dedicated cigar aficionados. If the smell is off, or very weak, chances are you do not have a box of authentic Cuban cigars in your hands. The cigars should be facing the same way, and the top row may appear slightly flattened. The caps on all the cigars should appear identical, and the foot of each cigar should be cut clean. The bands on all the cigars should also be identical, and should be arranged so that they face the same direction. If allowed, test the cigars out by pressing down on them. Feel along the entire length of each cigar, checking for soft or hard spots. The cigars should feel firm yet pliable.

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How to Purchase Cigars from Cuba

Every cigar aficionado knows that the very best cigars come from Cuba. Unfortunately, buying the best can often be a risky proposition. But many cigar enthusiasts are willing to take the risk to get a taste of the very best. If you’re wondering just how one would get their hands on a box of Cubans, read on. Because of the relationship between the United States and Cuba, know that there are a lot of people looking to take advantage of cigar aficionados. Purchasing Cuban cigars should be done with great caution in order to avoid getting duped.

First, know that importing cigars from Cuba is considered illegal. The United States placed economic sanctions on the Cuban government in 1963. Ever since then, Cuban cigars have become the holy grail of cigar enthusiasts. There is, however, one loophole: visitors to Cuba who return from a sanctioned and licensed visit are allowed to bring back cigars. However, visitors are not able to bring back more than $100 worth of cigars, and they must be intended for personal use, and not for resale.

Any other ways of obtaining Cuban cigars is considered illegal. It is in fact illegal to buy, sell or trade Cuban cigars in the United States. Fines for illegal trading, buying or selling of Cuban cigars may face up to $55,000 in civil fines. This type of fine, however, is quite rare. The more likely scenario is that you’ll have your cigars confiscated.

When purchasing a box of Cuban cigars, be prepared to fork over quite a bit of your cash. Prices can range from about $150 to $500 or more. If you’re offered a box below these prices, chances are it may not be the real thing. Most Internet businesses that sell purportedly genuine Cuban cigars tend to be imitations. Always avoid shops or retailers that offer « discounted » Cuban cigars.

How to get your hands on the real thing? The easiest way to get a box of authentic Cuban cigars is to head north to Canada. Buy them in Canada and repackage them so that they are not in their original Cuba packaging. Remove the rings and place the cigars in a different box. Customs agents tend to not inspect cigars carefully, and it is generally not considered a serious offense to bring Cuban cigars into the United States. In fact, many clerks at tobacco shops will even offer to repackage Cuban cigars for you.

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How To Properly Age A Cigar

Experienced cigar enthusiasts know well the pleasures of a well-aged cigar. The subtle flavors and complex constitution of a well-aged cigar is indescribably and unforgettable. Like wine, many cigar aficionados swear by the process of aging. A great cigar, the argument goes, is an aged one. How can you attain a well-aged cigar that provides the mellow, complex flavors you crave? You can always fork over a good deal of your money and purchase a box of expensive vintage cigars. If you would rather save the money and experiment with aging on your own, here are a few tips to help you get started.

First, know that you will have to be patient if you want a properly aged cigar. You will have to age your cigars for about a year in order to achieve the flavors and complex subtleties of a well-aged cigar. Also, know that in order to achieve the rewards of a well-aged cigar; you must begin the process with a high quality cigar. If you try to age a lower quality cigar, chances are any amount of aging won’t improve their flavor significantly. Many high quality cigars that you find too strong or odorous are perfect candidates for aging. In fact, almost all high quality cigars can be improved through the process of aging.

To age your cigars, purchase a good quality humidor. Cigars must be stored in a constant and stable environment. Follow the 70-70 rules. That means the humidity must be at a constant humidity of 70%, and at a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of course, the environment in which they are stored is crucial. Follow the usual 70-70 rules for temperature and humidity. Any more and your cigars will get moldy; any less and the aging process begins to be stunted. Maintaining a stable environment for your cigars is key – a constantly fluctuation environment can be disastrous. Swings in temperature and humidity cause cigars to expand and contract, cracking their wrappers and it may disrupt the aging process. Ideally, the space in the humidor should be about twice the volume of cigars. The lining should be cedar – cedar wood is highly aromatic wood, full of its own oils. With the passage of time, the interaction of the tobacco oils amongst themselves, and with the cedar oil of the wood it leads to a mellowing and blending of flavors resulting in that subtle complexity you can only get from proper aging.

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How to Pair Cigars and Alcohol

The cigar has long been viewed as a luxury of the rich and powerful. Images of well-to-do men puffing on a stogie and swirling a glass of good brandy have been well documented and memorialized in films and TV. If you are just becoming interested in cigars and would like to relax with a stogie and drink after a long day’s work, here are a few tips to get you started.

Traditionally, the cigar has been paired with a strong drink. Popular spirits include rum, brandy, or whiskey. Some argue that a good cigar should always be paired with a strong drink that has a hint of sweetness. Indeed, cigar smokers have long enjoyed these popular pairings. For years, the idea of pairing cigars with beer has gone overlooked. But why overlook good old beer? Recently, the trend has been to pair cigars with various varieties of beer. It seems that as cigars have entered the mainstream, it has been democratized and popularized. What better way to enjoy a puff of this newly popularized treat than to pair it with beer?

Pairing a good cigar with a good beer is not an easy feat, but when accomplished, it is well worth the effort. Much of the pairing has to do with your experience level. If you are a novice, you will probably need help in pairing your specific cigar with an appropriate beer. If you have a more experienced palate, and you know what you like, you can probably make connections between certain types of cigars and beers.

Because cigars are so strong and flavorful, one of the challenges in pairing is to find a beer that complements the intensity of most cigars. Most cigars will pair nicely with a good barely wine or a single malt scotch. If your cigar can be described as woody, spicy, with hints of cedar, try pairing it with a barley wine. The fruity hint of barely wine should complement nicely with the spicy flavor of your cigar. The combination of a spicy cigar with a slightly fruity beer can create an overall creaminess that enhances the flavors of each significantly.

If you have no clue as to what flavor combinations might work, experiment. First, find a cigar that you enjoy. Try to identify the characteristics that you enjoy about it. Then, find a beer whose flavors you think might ‘match’ or complement the cigar. Many incredible discoveries have been made in much this same way.

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How to Choose the Perfect Single

Wondering how to choose the perfect cigar? If you’re a newcomer to the world of cigar smoking, here are a few tips to choosing the best cigar.

First, note the texture of the cigar. Squeeze it gently. Is very soft, or rigid? Ideally, the cigar should give slightly, but not too much. Very gently, squeeze the length of the cigar to check for lumps. A good cigar will have a consistent texture.

Next, inspect the cigar for flaws. Any cracks or discolorations are the signs of a lower quality cigar. The cigar’s wrapper should be wrapped smoothly.

Finally, look at the ends of the cigar. Pay particular attention to the exposed end where cigar is lit. If you’re new to cigars, it can be difficult to gauge the quality of the tobacco. The simplest way to judge the tobacco quality of a cigar is to inspect the color of the tobacco. If you note any abrupt color changes, this may indicate that the tobacco leaves were not laid out properly. Look for a cigar with a smooth blend of tobacco.

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How to Buy Cigars as a Gift

Is there a cigar aficionado on your gift list? Wondering how to choose a decent cigar for a friend or loved one? Even if you know nothing about cigars or choosing a good cigar, just learning a few basics can help you sniff out (sometimes literally) a good cigar to give to a friend.

Fortunately, cigars have now entered the mainstream. Once the symbol of the rich and powerful, it’s easier than ever for just about anyone to purchase a good cigar. Of course, you probably won’t be able to buy your friend a box of top-tier Cuban cigars, but you can definitely buy them a good quality cigar that will put a smile on their face.

First, visit your local tobacconist or specialty smoke shop for the best quality and widest selection. Avoid ‘drugstore’ cigars. Although they may be inexpensive and convenient to purchase, drugstore cigars are usually filled with preservatives and generally of poorer quality. They may contain, at minimum, saltpeter, paper, glycerin, and other preservatives and irritants. You should make sure that the cigars you purchase are made of 100% tobacco. If you have any questions regarding the cigars ingredients, ask the salesperson. An experienced and knowledgeable sales clerk will be able to tell you extensive information about the ingredients.

Your local tobacco shop is a good place to shop because you will generally be allowed to smell and touch the cigars. Squeeze the cigar gently. A good quality cigar will give a little when squeezed. The cigar should be firm, with no excessively soft or hard spots. Never buy a lumpy cigar. Look at the wrapper. If you notice any drying or discoloration, best not to buy it. Ideally, the wrapper should be tight and smooth. Inspect the color of the tobacco to make sure it is even. Do this by inspecting the end of the cigar. Some color variation is normal, but if the color changes abruptly, chances are the cigar was not rolled properly. A cigar that is not rolled properly may result in an uneven burning and unpleasant odors.

If you’re not sure how much your friend smokes, choose a longer cigar. Longer cigars tend to have a ‘cooler’ taste—an excellent choice for beginners. If you know your friend is an experienced and regular smoker, choose a cigar that is greater in diameter. These cigars tend to have a richer flavor that experienced smokers will appreciate.

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How to Blow Smoke Rings with Your Cigar

Do you yearn to blow smoke rings with your cigar like a pro? Stogie aficionados often speak of the ceremony-like deliberateness of smoking a good cigar. Blowing smoke rings is the mark of a smoker who enjoys the smooth and relaxing effects of smoking. But how do you blow a good smoke ring? Some argue that it cannot be taught—that it will simply come to you with time and practice. Regardless, here are a few tips to get you going.

Veteran smokers note that in order to blow a good smoke ring, you will need to create dense smoke. Draw a deep, dense smoke puff into your mouth. Hold the smoke there and then open your mouth slowly and deliberately. Open your mouth, shaping your lips into a rounded ‘O.’ and pull your tongue back as you expel the smoke.

Keep in mind that you are not exhaling the smoke, but simply pushing it out of your mouth. Also keep in mind that this maneuver will not work if there is even a slight breeze in the air. Make sure you try it in a location with still calm air.

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Fighting the Beetles: Protecting Your Cigars from Infestation

Your cigar box may be at risk of a secret predator. Many cigar aficionados have been shocked and repulsed at finding their treasured cigars infested with Lasioderma Serricorne, also known as tobacco beetles. This dreaded beetle feeds on your precious cigars. They don’t care if your cigars are drugstore mass-market brands, or imported beauties.

What is the tobacco beetle, and where does it come from? The tobacco beetle exits in all countries where tobacco is produced. It thrives on tobacco plants, infesting their leaves before it is processed. Tobacco beetles thrive in hot climates, and especially in the warm countries Caribbean countries where much of the world’s tobacco is produced. Tobacco beetles lay larvae that are white and up to 4 mm long. When the larvae hatch, they produce moths that proceed to hungrily eat their way through the tobacco leaves. Unfortunately, the tobacco beetle has been known to survive the process of fermentation and production that is used to make most cigars. Although many countries have made the effort to rid their tobacco crops of this dreaded pest, mostly by spraying crops with gases, the tobacco beetle has proven highly resistant.

If the tobacco beetle survives into the finished product, many cigar enthusiasts may open their cigar boxes to find that their cigars have been eaten through. Sometimes the presence of the tobacco beetle can be detected through the presence of small puncture-like holes on the wrapper. The holes can make an average cigar resemble a flute.

What can you do if you find your cigars infested with the tobacco beetle? Research has shown that your microwave may be your best defense in destroying the tobacco beetle larvae. Before using your microwave, remove and dispose of any infested cigar from your collection. The rest of your cigars can be treated. In order to rid the remaining of your collection of this pest, you should make sure to microwave your cigars together, never individually. Microwave them for about three minutes. After being warmed, immediately place the cigars into the freezer. After freezing them for 24 hours, remove them and allow them to thaw at room temperature. After they have thawed completely, place them in a humidor. This treatment has proven effective in removing the presence of the tobacco beetle. Before removing a cigar from the humidor to be smoked, examine each cigar individually. If the cigar shows no evidence of infestation, it is safe to smoke.

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