If smoking is not allowed in Heaven, I shall not go.Mark Twain
There is nothing quite like lighting up a premium cigar after a long, hard day of work. Or when relaxing on the weekend. Or WHENEVER.
Premium cigars provide an unparelleled smoking experience. Unlike machine-made cigars, cigarellos and cigarettes, premium cigars are artisinal handmade products crafted from leaf tobaccos. The result is a pure smoke that takes you back to a less complicated time.
Premium cigars are distinguishable for three main characteristics.
1. Premium cigars are handmade from seed to cigar.
Torcedores – cigar rollers – are specially trained for years to expertly roll cigars to perfection. And quality producers reserve their best torcedores for their signature lines and vitolas.
2. Premium cigars are made from 100% tobacco.
This means there are no non-tobacco filters, tips or mouthpieces. Premium cigars feature a blend of various tobacco leaves and nothing else.
3. Premium cigars contain long leaf tobacco.
Filler leaves are folded accordion-style, binded with a long leaf, and finished with a smooth, tasty wrapper leaf. The various “blends” that producers use contain various numbers of leaves from different plant varieties, as well as the different sections of the tobacco plant, to produce the desired flavor for each cigar.
From Tobacco Farm to Premium Cigar
1. Planting Tobacco
4. Sorting & Stripping
The United States imports over 300 million premium cigars annually.
Three countries dominate the U.S. cigar market: the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Notably missing from this list is Cuba due to the U.S. embargo. Should the embargo be lifted, some estimate that Cuba would capture up to 70% of the U.S. market for premium cigars within five years.
Cigars come in all shapes and sizes.
The two main shape classifications are parejos and figurados.
Parejos are straight from head to foot.
Figurados are shaped in some way. This can be a tapered tip at the head (belicoso and piramides) or tips at both ends (perfectos).
Common lengths are churchill, londsdale, toro, corona, and robusto. But even within these common lengths are varieties. For instance, churchills can run anywhere in the seven to eight inch range.
And beyond these common lengths, there are sizes that can range from just a few inches to over nine inches.
Premium cigars come in various thicknesses called ring gauges.
The measurement is based on 1/64ths of an inch. Thus, a cigar with a 48 ring gauge is 48/64ths of an inch in diameter or 3/4 inches.
Different cigar types (called vitolas) have certain common ring gauges. However, like with lengths, there is some variation. For instance, robustos can come with ring gauges anywhere from 48 to 54.
How to Smoke a Cigar
First things first: you need a cigar cutter. Do not even think about biting off the end of your cigar. It will crush the leaves and ruin the draw.
There are four main classifications of cutters: guillotine, punch, v-cutters, and scissors.
Guillotine cutters are perhaps the easiest to use. Usually coming wiht two blades, you insert the cigar into the guillotine and slice off the cap of the cigar.
Punch cutters are used to cut (or punch) a small hole in the end of the cap.
V-cutters are used to cut a deep wedge shape into the end of the cigar.
Scissors are used like guillotines to slice the cap off the cigar but are more difficult to use.
Lighting a cigar is one of those great pleasures in life.
First, take your cigar and observe it with all your senses. Admire the characteristics of the cigar. Smell the tobacco. Feel its constructions.
Second, break out your flame. Stay away from lighters with liquid fuel that can destroy the flavor of the cigar. Butane lighters and torches work best. If smoking outside, invest in a good windproof torch lighter.
Third, toast the foot of the cigar. Do this by holding the cigar close to but not touching the flame. Rotate the cigar to produce an even burn. Blow on the end to visually check whether the entire foot is lit red and ready to smoke.
As you’ve probably heard, smoking a cigar does not involve inhaling. If you do, you’ll probably end up in a nasty fit of coughs.
Instead, slowly draw in a good amount of smoke. Hold it in your mouth. And exhale.
Some people enjoy “chewing” it a bit to observe various subtleties of flavor. Others suggest “retrohaling” which is a fancy way of saying exhale the smoke through your nose. Do whatever suits you.
With premium cigars, take care to draw only one to two times per minute. Drawing faster than that can result in a hot burn that can ruin the flavor of your cigar.
One of the great things about cigar smoking is breaking out a nice drink to go with it.
Drinks can absolutely enhance the flavors of your cigar. And the drink you choose does not have to be alcoholic. It could be coffee or tea.
The key is to think about the flavor characteristics of both your cigar and your potential drinks.
Strong cigars call for a stronger drink so that one does not overpower the other. For instance, full bodied cigars pair well with smokey single malt scotches or Irish whiskey. Medium bodied cigars pair well with bourbons and cognac. Light bodied cigars pair well with beer, wine, and martinis.
Try out different combinations and go with what you like.
Once you really start enjoying cigars on a regular basis, you’ll want to invest in some cigar storage.
At home, this usually consists of a cigar humidor. These boxes range in sizes from small 25 cigar capacity boxes to huge 500 cigar capacity masterpieces with glass panels, multiple drawers, and divders.
The common denominator among all these humidors is that their purpose is to keep cigars in a standard humidity of between 68-72%.
For travel, there are a ton of different options for cigar storage. Some people take small desktop humidors. Others use hard shell waterproof plastic cases that can hold 15 cigars or more. Others still are happy with leather or steel cigar cases or tubes that hold 3-4 cigars — perfect for a quick weekend getaway.