Monday, May 17, 2010

Cigars - A Love Story

The question is, what exactly is a good cigar? Every single person out there who smokes cigars has their own personal favorite. It might be because of the price, it might be because of the way the cigar fits into their hand. Some cigar smokers choose their favorite because they like the taste of the cigar, or the area where the tobacco was grown. And the growing area does have a huge part in the final product as different areas produce tobacco with different flavors.

I currently am in love with maduro cigars, with a ring guage of 48 to 50, and a length of around 6 inches. A cigar of this size is known as a Toro. I talk about the various sizes later in this article. The toro fits my hand the most comfortably and the length gives me a good hour of smoking pleasure. A maduro wrapped cigar has a sweet, smoky flavor to it. It is the kind of cigar that I enjoy in the evening with a tumber of good Kentucky bourbon.

Cigar tobacco can grow pretty much anywhere, but most tobacco that is made into cigars predominantly comes from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras. Of course tobacco is also grown in Cuba, but with Cuban cigars being illegal in the US I have no reason to include them in this article. Africa, the US, Mexico also grow tobacco that is made into premium cigars, but The Dominican Republic produces most of the cigars smoked in the US.

Cigars can either be hand rolled, or machine made. As a general statement, machine rolled cigars are just that, and might not contain 100% tobacco. On the other hand, a hand rolled cigar is not always 100% hand rolled, but could have had the outer wrapper hand rolled over a machine produced interior. Hand rolled cigars will always be more expensive than machine made. That is just the way it is, though hand rolled cigars don't have to break your bank either. There are more than just a few moderately priced hand rolled cigars out there to choose from.

And I am not just talking about length here, I am also talking about girth, known as ring gauge. The ring gauge of a cigar is measured in 64ths of an inch. So a cigar with a ring gauge of 32 is 1/2 an inch in girth, and a cigar with a ring gauge of 64 is one inch in girth. That is a lot of cigar to smoke. The lengths of a cigar have specific names to them, and they are:

Corona with a ring gauge of 42 to 45 and a length of 5 1/2 to 6 inches

Panetela with ring gauge of 34 to 38 and a length of 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 inches.

Lonsdale with a ring gauge of 42 to 44 and a length of 6 to 6 1/2 inches.

Churchill with a ring gauge of 46 to 48 and a length of 6 1/2 to 7 inches.

Robusto with a size of 48 to 50 and a length of 4 1/2 to 5 inches.

Toro with a size of 48 to 50 and a length of 6 to 6 1/2 inches.

Presidente with a size of 52 to 60 and a length of 7 to 8 1/2 inches.

Torpedo with a size of 46 to 52 and a length of 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 inches.

Depending on the type of wrapper and filler tobacco that you might have in any particular cigar, that is a lot of cigar pleasure right there.

That all being said, the way to choose a good cigar is to go buy one. Smoke it, and if you like it keep buying it. Or if you don't like it, try to figure out what you don't like about it and choose another kind. There are so many to choose from you can spend years finding that elusive cigar that will ultimately be your favorite.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cigars, really good cigars, great cigars

Cigar smoking can be an obsession. Those of us who are always searching for that perfect cigar know this. Cigars are a subjective hobby. The cigar that you consider too mild to be worthwhile might be the perfect cigar for one of your friends. I have found this to be true in my cigar smoking history. I started out with mild bodied cigars. Romeo y Julieta's were that starting point. After a few months of smoking them and the occasional Macanudo a friend handed me a CAO Brasilia. After smoking a full bodied cigar I was sold.

I still smoke mild cigars in the morning if I have the opportunity, and I smoke the fuller bodied cigars in the afternoon and the evening. Seems like a good balance to me. The best cigars, though, are the ones that you have smoked, liked, bought more of and stored in your humidor. Like how I snuck that back in there? A good humidor is an absolute if you smoke cigars. Unless you just buy them and smoke them immediately. But a good humidor can help you enjoy your cigars that much more. Buying your cigars and storing them in a humidor for a period of time before you smoke them can help enhance your cigar smoking pleasure. I have a friend who is bringing cigars he has had in his humidor for over a year tomorrow. I can't wait to try one of them.

That all being said, as I stated earlier cigar smoking is a subjective science. You have to try different cigars to find out what particular cigar works for you. Believe me, it can be a pleasurable hunt.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cigars and Humidors - How to Ruin a Cigar in One Easy Step

Every cigar smoker knows you have to treat your cigars well. And I have talked before about cigar accessories that you must have. That being said, I want to tell you a story about a cigar that was abused and had to be destroyed. This is a sad story of a good cigar treated badly.

I have a neighbor who is much younger than I am. We have talked every now and then about cigars, and beer. I ran into him the other night and he was all proud when he got out of his truck, wanting to show me the cigar that a friend of his had brought him back from Jamaica. My friend kept telling me that it had to be good because it was from the Dominican Republic.

Now the Dominican Republic produces many, many fine cigars. But any cigar is going to be nasty if it has been stored in the cab of a pickup truck. Because that is where my neighbor had been storing his. In his truck. Consequently the cigar was dried out and looking bad. The wrapper had started to separate from the binder, and it was just looking sad. I asked how long he had had the cigar in his truck, to which he replied a couple of weeks. I cringed. I wouldn't treat a dog rocket as badly as he had treated that cigar. But I was gentle with my friend as he needed instruction, not abuse.

Cigars need to be kept at 70% humidity. The most efficient way to do this is to store you cigars in a good humidor. To not do this to your cigars is a sure path to having to throw them away. Because a dry cigar is just going to smoke like a pile of leaves, and break up in the process.

Let this be a lesson to everyone.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Real Good Cigar - A love Story

I can't think of too many of my friends who will spend much time talking about a bad cigar. Yeah, we will mention it to our cigar smoking buddies, and if we have a good relationship with our tobacconist we might mention it to him. And I do have a really great tobacconist. Most times cigar smokers just talk about the really good cigars that they have found and want to share with their buddies.

And the cigars I want to share with you are Panacea Red and Black from Flatbed Cigar Company. I have had both of these cigars and they are absolutely delicious from the start. Both are 560's. 5 delicious inches long, with a 60 ring gauge. I have smoked both on the way home from work when I have needed a smooth, comfortable smoke to relax with. Both of these cigars hit the mark. Flatbed Cigar makes their cigars in the Dominican Republic, while the company itself is based in Bucks county, Pennsylvania. This unfortunately means that you might not be able to get them where you live unless you order them through the mail. Flatbed offers a Connecticut Natural, and a Brazilian Maduro in the Panacea Black, along with a Mauro/Habano in the Panacea Red, and the just releases a Panacea Green made with Pennsylvania Broadleaf. I have had only the Red and the Black. I am looking forward to trying the green as soon as I can.

Anyway. Cigar smoking buddies share good cigars. And that is what I did today with you. You have got to try the Panacea selections from Flatbed Cigar Company.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Cigar - another day another cigar

I am tempted to just write cigars, cigars, cigars, cigars, cigars. I don't know why I stopped at writing 5 cigars, it just seemed to be the right number to stop at.

I was in a quandary today as I got ready for work. Do I have a cigar on the way, or should I wait and have a cigar coming home? Or should I have a mild cigar this morning on the way to work, and then have a bolder one on the way home. Decisions, decisions. So just to be on the safe side I went to my favorite humidor and got a milder cigar, and then a bolder cigar.

Can't be too prepared for when the cigar muse needs to be appeased. And I merrily started on my way to work. I got up the road a bit and decided, what the heck. It is a nice day and I really could use a good cigar right about now. So I nipped the cap off of a Punch Gran Puro and fired it up. The Punch brand of cigar is another of my favs. I have never had a bad cigar from them.

And this cigar did not disappoint. A really nice flavor from the get go, held on to the ash quite well, creamy smoke, with a good draw. There is nothing worse that a cigar with a bad draw, though that usually means that the cigar could use a few more days in the humidor getting its moisture evened out. Or the cigar could have just been rolled a little too tight.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Good Cigar - But Not Today

A good cigar seemed to be in my grasp today. The sun was shining, the weather had warmed up and I had a few errands to run. That always seems like the best time to lit up carefully chosen cigar from the humidor. At least it seems like that to me, and since I am the one who is doing the smoking I feel it only fair.

Moving on.

I had a really good cigar the other day. A Panacea Black which is a Brazilian maduro wrapped cigar. Made in the Dominican Republic and sold by Flatbed Cigar Company. It smokes just as well as my favorite cigars, the Gurkha line, does. Nice creamy smoke, good draw, and tasty right down to your fingers.

But it wasn't to be on this errand day. A lot of short trip errands which doesn't lend itself to enjoying a good cigar, and why waste it on having to light, and re-light all the time. But I still have that cigar waiting out in my truck. Waiting for that time when a good cigar will hit the spot.

And I am hoping that that time is tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Good Cigar - On The Way Home Edition

The other day I was talking about one of my favorite cigars, A Gurkha Masterblend. That cigar was really, really good. Today I was driving home after working without a day off for the past 5 days and lit up another cigar that I am going to have to add to my list of favs.

This cigar was called a Panacea. And it is made in Pennsylvania. I was blown away by that. And to make it even better, this was one helluva good smokin' cigar. The Panacea is a 5 inch x 60 ring gauge cigar. That is a lot of cigar to smoke. But this one was smooth right from the start. It lit strong with a great draw. And it just tasted like a cigar should taste.

Just talking about it makes me want another one.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Good Cigar - Maybe

It could have been a good cigar. As a matter of fact it should have been a good cigar. It was from a good manufacturer. It had the right wrapper, and the right long fillers.

It should have been, but it wasn't a good cigar because one very important part of the equation had been missing. Humidity. It had not been stored in a good humidor while it was waiting for me to come buy it. And due to it not being stored at the correct humidity this potentially good cigar dried out.

I first noticed it being dry when I took it out of its wrapper, but didn't think too much of it. I was tired after work, and just wanted to get it lit so that I could start to relax on my drive home. And then the outer wrapper started to separate. That was when I knew I had a problem. I thought I could at least enjoy half before it got too bad, but that was not to be. I didn't even get a quarter of the way into it before I had to throw it away.

And that is a horrible thing to have to do with a good cigar. So let this be a lesson to all of you out there. Make sure the humidity on your stored cigars is at 70%, or else you are just drying your cigars out and you will end up throwing them away.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Good Cigar Requires a Good Humidor

A good cigar needs a good home. That whole a place for everything, and everything in its place concept that our parents told us about. And with cigars, the concept is absolutely true. You want to keep your cigars in an environment where the temperature and humidity are stable at 70 degrees, and 70% humidity. Why, you might ask? Good question. But don't also forget about where. And we will touch on that in a bit.

First, lets talk about tobacco and humidity. Tobacco needs to be kept humid so that it does not dry out. Makes sense, now doesn't it? A dry cigar will burn faster, and hotter completely changing the taste and complexity of the tobacco. Cigar makers blend different types of tobacco together to create specific tastes. They use tobacco that has a humidity level of 70%. To hold that cigar at lower levels of humidity means that what was made for a specific taste will no longer taste that way. And that sucks.

What is a guy to do? Get a humidor, is the answer to that question.

Just exactly is a humidor? It is a storage device, usually a box with Spanish cedar lining. This box has a device to hold the humidity and temperature at a constant level. That device is either an electric powered humidifier, or it is a passive humidifier.

How long your cigars should stay in the humidor until you smoke them is up to you. I follow this line of thought: if I buy my cigars from a smoke shop, they go into the humidor for a good 2 weeks before I even think of smoking them. Why? Because smoke shops have sketchy humidity devices at best, and I want to make sure that my cigar has been re-humidified before I smoke it. I do shop at a tobacconist who has a walk-in humidor where I can read what the temperature and humidity levels are. When I buy there, I know I can smoke my cigar right away If I so choose.

The long and short of it is, if you are going to smoke cigars you need to have a place to keep them where they aren't going to dry out like autumn leaves. You need to buy a humidor.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Good Cigar and Sunshine

After what has seemed like weeks of cold, snowy weather yesterday finally gave us a peek of what Spring looks like. And of course a good cigar is part of the equation.

A friend and I were doing a partigyle brew yesterday. I cover what the heck that is on another site, you can click the link above if you are interested in what it means. For this site I want to talk about the cigar, of course. I have made it my responsiblity to smoke as many different kinds of cigars as I can afford. That being said, in the 2 or so years I have been smoking cigars, I have found my favs. Those cigars I save for just the right time. Just like yesterday.

The day started out kind of blustery. The sun was out but there was a chill wind blowing with it, and as I brew out on my carport i was more than a little concerned with being out there for the length of the boil. Yes, I am a cold wimp. Don't like it and if I don't have to be out in it, I choose to stay somewhere it is nice and warm. Don't judge me. Anyway, as the day wore on, the wind died down and allowed the sun to warm my chilled bones. Which gave me the perfect opportunity to break out a new cigar. It was a Gurkha Masterblend. And oh my god was it good. I have had a number of Gurkha cigars, not all that they make mind you, but a few and I have never had a bad one. Every one has a good draw, the binder stays tight, they smoke evenly down to the nub, and they are truly good cigars.

So imagine making beer in the snow, with the sun warming your bones, and a good cigar in your hand. Tell me that that isn't the best day ever.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Good Cigar Today

I started writing a good cigar not as a way to name specific cigars. I started writing this to evoke a feeling. That feeling you get with the stars align into the perfect place in time and space where everything clicks. The mood is right. The music is right. Or the silence is just that....silent.

That place where the lighting is perfect. The temperature goes unnoticed. That place where the cigar you have right now is a good cigar.

Maybe it is The Good Cigar. You know. The perfect one. And we could talk brands all day, we have all smoked a good number of cigars in our day. But when everything hits that perfect moment in time you have a good cigar.

My good cigar would be sitting in front of a fire on a nice winter evening. The snow is falling outside, it is bitterly cold. Inside it is nice and warm, with a fire crackling in the fireplace. A good bourbon in my glass, and a good cigar in my hand.

That is a good cigar, my friends.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Good Cigar along for the Ride

I had to traipse The Princess to a practice the other day so I thought that I would get a good cigar in there as part of the process. And I succeeded.

The wrapper on a good cigar is tight with good veins. There are no holes in the cigar that would suggest insects. There are no loose places in the outer wrapper that would suggest drying of the cigar. Either of these problems turns a good cigar into a bad one immediately.

The draw is easy on a good cigar, not to suggest that if your cigar draws hard that it is bad. Quiet the contrary, if your draw is hard it could be suggested that you return that cigar to your humidor so that the moisture in it can be evened out over the course of a few days. The draw is also effected by how tightly the cigar was rolled. Mistakes do happen with premium cigars because they are hand rolled.

I chose a madura wrapped cigar as my treat that day. Nice, tight wrapper, sweet smell of the madura wrapping. Good draw with creamy smoke. A good cigar indeed.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Good Cigar on a Good Day

It is always interesting to me, one of my many revelations, how little of my own homebrew that I actually drink. This came to light just yesterday when a friend and I were discussing getting our families together for an impromptu picnic along with enjoying a good cigar. I say impromptu because we husbands were the ones who did all of the planning. And the planning went something like this:

The players are myself, Phil, and my friend, Scott.

Scott: Phil the girls were talking about getting together on Sunday. Are you off?

Phil: Yep, and I have a new beer that I want you to try. Double Simcoe IPA from Weyerbacher brewing.

Scott: Cool. I picked up a variety pak from Appalacian Brewing that I will bring over.

Phil: Excellent. How did you like that Thunderhop from Church Brew Works I gave you a couple of weeks ago.

Scott: It was really good. A little toned down from what I like, but it still went down well.

Phil: I have to turn you on to Blithering Idiot sometime too, but I just drank my last 2 bottles last night.

Scott: I picked up a couple of cigars the other day too. You want me to bring them over?

Phil: Naw, I have a couple of Romeo y Julietta Maduros we can smoke, or you can just rummage through the humidor and see if there is something you like. I have a friend who has been getting some really good cigars for a guy at work, and he has been passing some of them on to me.

Scott: We better plan the food or else we are going to forget all about it. We have chicken we can bring.

Phil: Great, I am working tonight so I will get some corn, salad, and desert.

Scott: So how much beer do you think I should bring over?

Phil: Whatever you can drink

So you get the gist of the conversation. We spent a good 15 minutes talking about beer and cigars, and all of about 3 minutes talking about food.

It was after this conversation that I actually realized that I hadn't said anything about my beer. Sadness. I try to brew to a taste. And I end up giving most of the beer I make to friends. They try it, tell me that they like it, or not. We discuss that pro's and con's and I put that into the recipe for the next batch.

I need to start drinking more of my own beer. Especially since I am going all grain this coming fall. This is important.

And have I mentioned that I am going to a kegerator system? I don't think so. A friend called me up the other day saying his parents had a refrigerator that they want to get rid of, would I be interested. Hell yes I would be. I am picking that puppy up on Monday and converting it to a two draft system.

More as the story develops.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This is a Good Cigar

There are a number of elements that go into a good
cigar. But lets look first at what shouldn't go into one.

Loose outer wrapper. A good cigar should have a firm, slightly oily feeling outer wrapper. Anything else means that your cigar was not held at the proper level of humidity. In other words, you allowed it to dry out. A dry cigar is not fun the smoke, as it is like smoking leaves. A cigar held at the proper humidity will actually have a pleasant taste when smoked.

A badly stored cigar will also not give off the same kind of smoke that a good cigar will. A good cigar has thick, white smoke and plenty of it.

And the taste. A good cigar has the taste of a good bourbon, or a good beer to it. A taste that tells you that you are smoking something that is meant to give you pleasure.

My good cigar today was a Excalibur 1066 Black Prince. It was a very good cigar. Nice tight, slightly oily outer wrapper. A good draw to it once I cut the cap off. And the only thing missing in the taste was a good beer to go with it. But seeing as I was driving, a good beer just would not have been proper.

And that is what a good cigar is.