Lighting the Cigar

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This pre-smoke ritual is one of the most enjoyable aspects of cigar smoking. First, prime the cigar by rotating the end just above the flame, allowing equal exposure to the entire foot of the cigar. This allows the natural oils in the leaves to heat up and prevent a burning haystack of a smoke! Then, without letting the flame actually touch the cigar, hold the flame ½" from the end and draw gently while rotating the cigar to ensure an even burn. Check out our selection of available cigar lighters!

Cutting the Cigar

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Truly a grand moment. To prevent a difficult or tight draw, or an unraveling of the wrapper, be sure not to cut too shallow or too deep. Using a guillotine style cutter, snip the cigar at the shoulder, where the head begins to slope toward the body of the cigar. If you prefer a punch-style cutter, simply poke the sharp end into the head of the cigar, gently twist and remove. Although both of these moves sound like something you'd see in Braveheart, these simple techniques will enhance your enjoyment of fine smokes. Check out our selection of Cigar Cutters!

What does Ring Gauge mean?

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Ring gauge simply measures a cigars thickness. The larger or thicker the ring gauge, the fuller the flavor; the longer the cigar, the cooler the smoke. In technical terms, it's a measure of a cigar's diameter where one "ring" equals 1/64th of an inch. So, a 48 ring gauge is 48/64, or 3/4, inch in diameter.

Download and print an actual-size ring gauge guide and ruler.

Smoking Cigars - When to Smoke?

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Smoking a cigar is best done: anytime! Whenever it feels like a good time for a smoke, it usually is. Generally, smoking enjoyment can be optimized after a great meal. Unless you're a long-time connoisseur or are very familiar with the cigar you are about to smoke, don't smoke on an empty stomach, as you may experience some discomfort. Don't inhale either - concentrated cigar smoke in your stomach is no fun. As you smoke, the flavor changes as the cigar becomes shorter, thanks to the intensity and burn of the smoke. Smoke down to the nub? Your choice, but the taste will get pretty hot and harsh down that far.

Evaluating a Cigar

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There are no rules for selecting that perfect cigar, only guidelines. Discovering a cigar that is perfect for you is a matter of taste. How does the cigar look and feel in your hand? Is it oily, dark, light, moist, consistently firm or does it have soft spots? These are a few characteristics that will help determine if a cigar is worthy of being your favorite. Plus, different cigars are appropriate for different occasions. I enjoy short quick smokes in early afternoon, long, flavorful cigars on the golf course, and thick, spicy robustos in the evening. We have samplers and 5-packs to help you widen your horizons if you want to branch into some other brands.

A Plugged Cigar

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Plugged cigars are a fact of life, and most are not salvageable. Because they are made by hand, there will be inherent imperfections. The source of such plugs is usually along the cigar where the band is. The roller usually adds extra leaf to the filler near this area to support the smoker's grip. Also, some are not necessarily plugged but just seem to have a tougher draw - this sometimes happens with "well-filled" cigars and overly moist cigars.

Cellophane on Your Cigars - To Remove or Not?

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Some cigars arrive individually cellophaned, while others are "naked." Here's the scoop on removing the cellophane - it's up to you. The argument against: if you have several brands in your humidor, the flavor of each brand will intermingle and "marry," and the uniqueness of the cigar will be diminished over time. The cellophane will also help trap in moisture to a certain degree for shorter storage periods. The argument for: if it's the only brand you plan to store in your humidor and you feel like it, then go ahead, because they will age better in the cedar-lined environment if left naked.

Storing Your Cigars

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The only way to preserve your fine handmade cigars is to maintain the proper moisture content and temperature. Dry cigars burn hot and harsh, and you'll feel like you're smoking a bundle of hay. On the other hand, overly moist cigars will give you a migraine while you draw and taste like a sour lemon! If you don't have one, you need a humidor. When I first started, I used a tupperware container, and left a moist hand towel inside but not touching the cigars - something like this will work fine as a makeshift but sooner or later, you'll need to upgrade. Need an upgrade? Check out our fine selection of humidors!

Countries of Origin

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Every cigar has its own taste regardless of origin. Cigars are made in a number of different countries, from tobacco grown in various soils and rolled using different techniques. However, there are general rules. Here are a few characteristics of each of the best-known cigar countries:

  • Jamaica - Mild
  • Dom Rep - Mild to Medium
  • Honduras - Medium to Full
  • Nicaragua - Full and Rich
  • Cuba - Rich and Creamy

Construction of Cigars

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There is an art to blending cigars, so the interplay of the various types of tobacco and the quality of the leaves from different regions will determine the taste and flavor of your cigar. Cigars have 3 basic components which affect the cigar's taste: binder, filler and wrapper. The binder is the intermediate layer which holds the "bunch" of filler leaves together, and is usually a slightly lower quality leaf. The filler is the bunch at the center of the cigar, and determines the strength of the smoke. Long-filler refers to whole leaf filler, which runs head to foot in the cigar, and these are premium cigars. Lower quality, "short-filler" cigars use scraps of tobacco (the hot dogs of cigars) pressed together, and chemicals and additives are added to these. The wrapper is the outside layer and provides the primary flavor elements. These are the highest quality leaves and range in color from claro (light) to maduro (dark). Wrappers come from Connecticut, Indonesia, Central America, Caribbean, and Africa.

Properly Aging Cigars

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You know the taste of a well-aged cigar: that subtle complexity, that certain :"Je ne c'est quois," that light kiss of tobacco flavor left gently lingering. Aging is often what makes a good cigar a great one. Cigars change as they age. Some prefer cigars young and fresh while others appreciate a mellower, more experienced cigar. To those who prefer the flavor of aged cigars but don't want to choke up the duckets for aged Vintage cigars, your next question is probably "How can I age my own cigars properly?" The amount of time you age your cigars is a matter of personal preference. In general, age them at least a year for optimum effect. Of course, some low-quality cigars won't see much improvement with aging - remember "garbage in, garbage out." However, keep in mind that some cigars, after aging will have pleasantly rich flavors, even though now they smell like a dumpster. It is much the same way that good wines for aging are too tannic to drink when young. But certain cigars are just naturally better. Some, but not all, Maduro-wrapped cigars are artificially "cooked" or "cured" to achieve the dark coloration of the wrapper and the distinctively strong, sweet flavor. Due to such curing, they have essentially been "fixed," and thus any further benefits of aging have been stunted for many Maduros. Therefore, because the wrapper provides the lion's share of the cigar's taste, aging will not significantly affect the taste of such Maduros.

Another example is larger ring gauge cigars. The thicker the cigar, the greater the variety of tobacco leaves and hence, the more complex the final flavor of the aged cigar will be. The insides of larger cigars tend to be somewhat shielded from the outside environment, less apt to be affected by fluctuations in humidity and temperature. This added stability that larger cigars provide is highly desirable for long-term aging.

Of course, the environment in which they are stored is crucial. Follow the usual 70-70 rule 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 enviromnent 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.

Breaking in a New Humidor

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It takes time, patience and a little know-how to get a new humidor ready to hold cigars. You're trying to recreate the tropical environments where most cigars are made, and you can't rush the process. Putting cigars into a dry humidor can ruin good smokes. Your humidor has an interior of untreated Spanish cedar, the preferred wood for humidifying and aging premium cigars. The wood needs to be humidified, or seasoned before the box is ready to hold cigars:

  1. To season your humidor, take a new sponge - make sure that it is unscented and free of soap - and wet it with a liberal dose of distilled water.
  2. Wipe down all the exposed wood, including dividers, and the interior lid. Avoid using a paper towel or a fraying cloth; these will literally leave a paper trail on the wood.
  3. After you've wiped down the wood, squirt the sponge with more distilled water. Then place it inside the humidor on a plastic bag - to avoid direct contact with the wood - and close lid. Use only distilled water. Tap water contains minerals that will destroy most humidification systems by leaving deposits that will clog the humidor element.
  4. Once the humidification element is filled be sure to wipe it down to remove any excess water. Rest it on a hand towel for approximately 30 minutes. Close the humidor with the humidifying element and the damp sponge, and leave it over night.
  5. The next day refresh the humidification device (It may not need it) and check the sponge. If it is fairly dry, add more distilled water. However, if very damp, leave it alone.
  6. Let the humidor sit another night, and then remove the sponge and the plastic bag. The walls of the humidor have now absorbed all the water they need, and now you can safely store your cigars.

Calibrating Hygrometers

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Some humidors don't come with a hygrometer. For those that do, no analog hygrometer is perfect. In fact, they are not meant so much to provide a precise reading but to give you a close approximation. Often, they need to be calibrated, they are very touchy. Sometimes analog hygrometers need a "jolt" every once in a while. Do this by wrapping in a moist cloth and leave out overnight (away from cigars). The needle should register a high level of humidity by morning. If the needle has not moved, it is defective.

A digital hygrometer is much more accurate than an analog.

Hygrometer Problems

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Often, a hygrometer may read 40%, but it's not really that low. Before tossing it in the garbage, check the folowing:

  1. Make sure to recharge the humidification device regularly by refilling with distilled water.
  2. Calibrate the hygrometer so it will read more accurately.
  3. Take out the cigars, wipe down the interior cedar, let it dry and repeat, then put the cigars back in, this often does the trick.
  4. Squeeze test - between forefinger and thumb gently squeeze the cigar, it should have a slight give, but not be mushy nor should it be hard - This is often the best test if someone is worried that their cigars are going bad.
  5. Certain climates, parts of the country, and seasons are drier than others - You may need to buy an additional humidifier to put in your humidor, or put a slightly damp piece of sponge in your humidor (not touching the cigars) to help increase the humidity.
  6. Make sure it is not near an AC or heater, this will affect the environment inside the humidor dramatically - humidor should be in a relatively cool, dry place.