Cigar Culture

Selecting A Cigar

A cigar worth smoking first appeals to the eyes. The subtle variations in color, delicate texture and elegant curves of a perfectly hand-rolled specimen should be enough to make your mouth water in anticipation. The natural wrapper (lighter brown) delivers a classic cigar flavor. The maduro wrapper (darker, often nearly black) is fuller, heavier, richer. Maduro compares to natural like molasses to honey. Hand holding Cigar

Choose your smoke the way you choose your close friends: i.e., instinctively. When a cigar catches your eye, don't walk away from it. Pick it up. Hold it as if you were about to light it. With experience, you'll be able to tell a lot about a cigar just by how it feels in your hands. It will not be considered rude by your local tobacconist if you gently squeeze the cigar at its midpoint. It should feel firm, yet somewhat spongy. Conversely, a stale cigar will feel hard and may even crack when gently squeezed. While we do not recommend that you smoke such a cigar, it may be possible for you to revive one for smoking at a later date if it is placed in a humidor for a period of time.

If it looks right, if it feels right, and if it comes highly recommended, chances are you have found a great smoke. Put it under your nose for one final reality check. You'll know for sure that you are onto something special if you reflexively close your eyes and sigh "ahhhhhhh!"

Proper Storage

You can take the cigar out of Cuba, but you can't take Cuba out of the cigar. Cuba is humid most of the year - and generally very pleasant. At least, it is in the shade. These same conditions that are ideal for cigars (and most social interaction, by the way) can be found in a good humidor. The relative humidity will fluctuate between 65 and 75 percent. The temperature, between 65 and 75 degrees. The conversation will be warm and lively all of the time. So to enjoy your cigars at their best, always smoke them fresh out of a humidor. Personal humidors are available in all sizes, including those designed for travel. In a pinch, you can place a fresh cigar in a ziplock-type baggie and place that inside another ziplock-type baggie along with a moist paper towel. This will suffice for short periods but is not recommended as a long-term solution.

Opening And Lighting The Perfect Cigar

The skill involved in finishing the top of a masterfully made cigar - the end that you draw smoke from - takes an experienced cigar maker many years to perfect. It takes an inexperienced cigar smoker only a few seconds to mangle or completely chop it off in a maligned attempt to open the cigar for smoking. Too small of an opening and you will be doing everything but smoking your cigar. Too large of an opening delivers hot smoke and plenty of tobacco in your mouth. There are many cigar cutters that, in the right hands, can do justice to a premium cigar.

After you've opened the cigar, moisten the top and test the draw prior to lighting it up. Use wooden matches whenever possible. A quality wick lighter is also fine. Bring the tip of the flame right up to the end of the cigar, but try not to envelope it in the fire. A well-cared-for cigar is highly combustible and does not need to actually touch fire in order to light. cutter
Excessive fire makes for a hot draw which can actually destroy some of the flavor-bearing oils in the tobacco - as well as add unwanted flavors from the source of the flame.

Rotate the cigar over the flame as you light it. Get it right the first time and you will enjoy an exceptional smoke. Miss the mark and you may experience a less enjoyable smoke, be bothered by uneven burning, unexpected ash fallout and, quite possibly, the need to relight it many times.

Advanced Tasting

The quest for perfection always comes down to one thing: will you set aside the time that is required to enjoy that which you have sought - and have found? Life is too short if you never "stop and smell the roses." We eat on the run, meet on the run, work on the run. Our advice: don't smoke a fine cigar on the run. You will miss the very nuances that you have, to this point, gone out of your way to experience. The only answer: select as much of a cigar as you can afford the time to smoke (See Cigar Recommendations). Then take the time to enjoy it.

Complements To Smoking

Even if smoking were possible in a vacuum, it wouldn't be much fun. The ideal smoking experience includes friends and far flung places. A great cigar is also ably complemented by fine spirits, including single malt scotches, bourbons, ports and ales. Strong coffees including espresso, and distinctive teas such as Earl Grey, likewise play well off the palate that is permeated with fine smoke. There are many great books and articles available on this topic. Be sure to visit the Hemingway Club for all the latest postings, cigar-restaurant events and other smoking-related pleasures.




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