My name is Chris. As of now I have not ever smoked a cigar, well, at least not while sober. Growing up I have always been surrounded by cigar smokers so there is a comforting appeal to the smell. It has always fascinated me but I never took the opportunity, not even when my daughter was born which would have been the traditional thing to do, and now feel in my mid-thirties I think it’s about time I should give it a try.
Thankfully through the magic of the internets I have access to an expert now so I can ask Cigar Choice a bunch of questions I have about cigars and cigar smoking 🙂
Chris: Cigar smoking doesn’t seem to have the negative connotation cigarette smoking has, why do you think that is?
Cigar Choice: The only purpose of a cigarette is to deliver nicotine. Cigarette smoking is an addictive habit. Having quite five years ago I can attest to their addictive power first hand. Cigars aren’t typically smoked for that reason. They are used as a way to celebrate a special occasion or to relax after a long day. Your typical cigar smoker usually smokes less than five cigars a week and doesn’t have the same physical addiction to cigars as a cigarette smoker does to cigarettes. I fear much of that is going to change soon though as the cigar industry is coming under increasing attack.
Chris: How would you start with cigars? Buy a selection or would you go for a particular cigar?
Cigar Choice: Try and find a good local shop where you can ask some advice and also check out some of the great cigar websites out there for ideas on what to try. I’d definitely buy a selection, and take some notes on what you like and dislike. If you choose to order online most places offer samplers.
Chris: Is it an acquired taste? something you need to practice?
Cigar Choice: Cigars vary in flavor profile and strength so much I believe certain cigars are an acquired taste. Your tastes will change over time, but I’ve liked cigars since the first one I tried. I started out with some milder cigars and now smoke some stuff that are so strong they would have left me green five years ago.
Chris: How do you smoke a cigar? Light it and start sucking on it?
Cigar Choice: Cutting a cigar is the first step. Typically you want to take no more than 1/8 inch off the cap. Matches are the more traditional route, but I prefer using a butane torch lighter. Don’t get the flame too close to the foot, as this will burn the cigar, and your aim is to just lightly toast it. Once the foot is warmed, you want to start lightly puffing on it and rotating it to get a nice even burn. When the cigar is lit you’ll want to go slow. The rule of thumb is take a puff or two about once a minute, as this keeps the cigar from getting too hot and can help subtle flavors become more noticeable.
Chris: Inhale/don’t inhale? People I talk to say that you shouldn’t, but most of them do anyway?
Cigar Choice: I strongly recommend not inhaling a cigar if you can help it. Inhaling too much will quickly turn you a lovely shade of green. I end up inhaling some especially if I’m trying to exhale the smoke through my nose. Your nose does a better job picking out nuances than just your tongue. I’m still trying to get the hang of this myself.
Chris: Do you get what you pay for, or is it like wine where price isn’t always a great measure of quality?
Cigar Choice: Cigars are exactly like wine in that respect. By looking out for small unknown brands I’ve found $4 cigars that I think are much higher quality than some $10 cigars. Many of those $10 are that price because too many people think price equals quality or the company has spent a large amount of money marketing it.
Chris: What’s the deal with Cuban cigars?
Cigar Choice: Cuban cigars do have a unique flavor you’ll only find in a Cuban cigar. This is often referred to as the Cuban “Twang” and I can recognize it when I smoke one but I can’t describe it. The embargo definitely added to the mystique. Some are better than what you can get in the States and some are worse, most of that comes down to personal preference. Though in my opinion you haven’t had a cigar until you’ve had a Cuban Partagas Serie D No. 4 that’s been aged for a few years.
Chris: There seem to be lots of accessories and fancy gizmos, necessary? Do they add to enjoyment?
Cigar Choice: Depends on your geek factor! 🙂 I love gadgets to begin with so cigar smoking introduced to me to a whole new realm of gadgets. But honestly they don’t really add any enjoyment factor to the experience. Some wooden matches, a cutter or in a pinch a razor blade is all you need. My preferred method of upping the enjoyment factor is some good company or a good book along with a good drink.
Chris: So is it an expensive thing to do?
Cigar Choice: You can get started fairly cheap. A plastic air-tight food container or cooler can work as a humidor if you plan to keep cigars for more than a couple days. Right now my favorite lighter is a Ronson torch lighter- one of the best cigar lighter. The only thing that is worth dropping the extra cash on is a good cigar cutter. A bad cutter can destroy your cigar by damaging the wrapper, maybe even rendering the cigar unsmokeable. I learned to set a budget for myself to keep it from getting too expensive. Some of the cheaper bundled cigars can be had for under $2 a cigar. Typically these are short filler and use the scraps from the more expensive cigars.
Chris: Which is your all time favorite?
Cigar Choice: My all time favorite is the Partagas Serie D. No 4 from Cuba. A close friend of mine gave me one that was nearly five years old and I’ve never tasted a cigar that good again. Pair something like that with some really good rum and it can make for a fantastic evening.
Thanks Chris for putting together these questions together. If any readers have some recommendations or additional advice please feel free to post a comment.
This is a guest post/interview provided by Chris Garrett. Chris is one of the pro bloggers that I read on a regular basis for new ideas and blogging strategies.
I was asked by a few friends if I would blog about the construction of my closet humidor. I thought that it was a great idea and that it might be of some help to others. So here goes:
After researching and making several calls across the county. And speaking with friends who own cigar shops and walk in humidors in there homes. My dream is happening , my very own closet humidor.
My first call was to the David at Habitat Monitor to order my Habitat Monitor and Evaporative Humidifier. I chose the HM-HAC-XL(R) . I chose Habitat Monitor after hearing nothing but great things. I decided on putting in a Evaporative Humidifier, model HM-HAC-XL(R), because it has a 6 gallon reservoir and I wanted to fill it up by hand rather then using a RO system .
My second call was to order my Breezaire WKL 2200 unit. This unit is made for wine coolers and is also perfect for a cigar walk in/closet humidor for temperature control. I believe tempature/humidity control is one of the most important things for aging cigars.
My third call was to the electrician to wire up plugs in the closet in different areas and to set up some lighting. I would recommend hiring a licensed electrician to do any electrical work in your house.
My fourth call, and also one of the most important things is insulation. After speaking with my dad, Glenn Sorrention, of Lord Chesterfield Constuction he recommended that I use closed cell insultation. This stuff is amazing !!!! Here is some info on the difference between close cell insulation and open cell insulation. Take a look at this video. Part 1
The videos should explain everything needed to know.
My fifth call was to ordering some spanish cedar. After speaking with David of Habitat Monitor he recommended that I speak to Fabiola of Wood Projections, Inc . With the help of my dad we presented some measurements to Fabiola and asked for some recommendations. Well after talking and deciding on what to order we came up with this:
3/4″ X 4′ X 8′ Spanish Cedar Plywood for the walls and Solid Spanish Cedar shelfs. Pictures coming soon .
Sixth Call: Sliding glass doors . Not a big deal. Pictures will also be posted soon will some more info.
There is plenty more info to add, so stay tuned. I will be updating this with pictures and updating info as it happens. If you have any questions please leave a comment.
1) Ordered Spanish cedar switch plates.
2) Painted all exposed studs with white mold/mildew proof paint. (Pics Below)
3) Installed mold/mildew resistant drywall. (Pics coming)
4) Called and ordered Granite for the floor. (Pics coming)
5) Granite installed and Spanish cedar has been delivered. (Pics coming)
6) Spanish cedar walls installed and shelving installed. (Pics Coming)
7) Final pics coming soon!!!!
I want to take this time to thank people who gave me some amazing ideas to make my dream come true.
Glenn Sorrentino owner of Lord Chesterfield Construction
Bill & Lynn Davies owners of Tobacco Locker
Matt Uebelacker owner of Granite Enterprises of S.W. Fl., LLC
Jason Wager owner of JW Insulation
When it comes to having access to cigar information for some, either the Internet either just won’t do, or it takes a backseat to the good ol’ fashioned book. Understandable, considering that enjoying a stick is a textural experience as much as a visual, which is also the description of reading a book. With that in mind …
There are a number of excellent books for cigar enthusiasts. Whether a novice or a seasoned cigar pro, there are informative and beautiful books that any stogie hobbyist can enjoy. The following is a guide to choosing cigar books and the information they each contain. From cigar journals to detailed histories, there’s something for everyone in this guide.
The Ultimate Cigar Book by Richard Carleton Hacker is the best selling cigar book of all time. It features descriptions of every cigar available in the world, including rare and obscure brands. It also features over 150 beautiful photographs in both color and black and white. It includes a guide to buying cigars and identifying counterfeits. Another wonderful feature of the book is a guide to matching cigars with alcoholic beverages. Other topics featured include how cigars are made and stored.
Cigars: Revised and Updated contains detailed information about tobacco harvesting and the cultural importance of cigars. It also features a convenient buying guide for consumers, listing the best websites, shops, and clubs to purchase cigars.
A second volume of the book contains information on the sensual elements. It includes reviews and ratings of the sensual elements of a number of cigars.
Cigar Dossier is an excellent book for the enthusiast who wants to record reviews of the cigars he has smoked. The beautiful journal has room for hundreds of reviews. Each entry contains a number of prompts including the brand, cost, wrapper color, and size of the cigar. It also has a special area for pasting the cigar’s band. The book allows consumers to learn which cigars they enjoy best and the factors that influence their enjoyment.
The Illustrated History of Cigars is an excellent coffee table book for cigar lovers. It contains a number of beautiful illustrations featuring some of the most popular brands of cigars. It also features interesting and intriguing explanations of cigar production and social significance. The book is meant more as a conversation piece rather than an informative guide, but cigar enthusiasts will enjoy the illustrations and amusing histories of their favorite cigars.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars is one of the best books for those just starting out in cigar smoking. It provides the basics needed to purchase, store, and smoke cigars. The book outlines a number of factors that influence the taste of cigars including length, circumference, ring size, and country of origin.
It’s designed to train the consumer where to buy, what to buy, and how to purchase cigars. Those who are more experienced with stogies may not find the book particularly useful, however, it may still provide valuable information about finding brands with the desired taste.
It is not uncommon for people who are just learning how to smoke a cigar to feel sick during their first smoking session. Nothing to beat yourself with, even old-time aficionados do get sick sometimes from smoking very strong cigars they are not accustomed to.
What causes cigar smoking sickness?
Simply put, nicotine overdose. A stick of cigarette contains around 1 milligram of nicotine. A large cigar (a torpedo or a Churchill for example) contains nicotine that’s equal to 2 packs of cigarettes or even as much as 400 milligrams of nicotine.
Ok, here’s the lowdown on nicotine. According to 3DChem.com, a leading authority on the composition and molecular structure of chemicals, nicotine is a naturally-occurring substance found in the tobacco plant. It is a “potent” nerve toxin and is actually a common ingredient in many insecticides!
Ingested in small doses, nicotine is a stimulant that affects both our central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. Depending on how much and how often you smoke, nicotine can both relax and invigorate a smoker. This “biphasic” effect of nicotine is not uncommon, according to Ann Meeker-O’Connell, an expert at How Stuff Works. This is also what makes the substance highly addictive.
Nicotine overdose (or poisoning) may cause “vomiting and nausea, headaches, difficulty in breathing, stomach pains and seizures, dizziness, lightheadedness, numbness in hands/feet/lips, headaches, double or fuzzy vision, dry mouth, hyperacidity, constipation, diarrhea, chest pains, shortness of breath, muscle twitching and spasms, dry mouth, and generalized weakness.”
Ok, that’s the worst of it so far. If you’re still with me, and you still want to learn how to smoke a cigar, let’s move along and see how you can avoid cigar smoking sickness or nicotine overdose.
James Yee, a leading expert on Cuban cigars, offers the following tips for cigar smoking beginners not to get sick from their first cigar smoking experience:
Don’t inhale – as we noted above, cigar smoke contain inordinate amounts of nicotine (compared) to cigarettes. When you inhale this smoke, the nicotine build-up in your blood stream becomes more rapid, and this will cause you to get sick. As I mentioned in our lead article “How To Smoke A Cigar,” you can still enjoy the aroma and taste of your cigar without inhaling the smoke.
Avoid getting smoke in your eyes or nose – Smoke from your cigar can irritate your eyes, makes you teary-eyed and uncomfortable, and according to Yee, “quicken your smoking pace.”
It can cause your sinuses to “burn,” can invite a bout of coughing, and worse, you could inhale the smoke through your nose. Yee advises to lean back if you can in a comfortable reclining chair, so that the smoke wafting up don’t get to your eyes and nose.
Smoke on an empty/full stomach – Personally, I like smoking my cigar, after a meal or a light snack and many of the cigar smokers I know are also most comfortable with smoking with a full stomach. However, as Yee observed, some people just feel the opposite, and would enjoy their cigar best with an empty stomach. It’s up to you. As you progress along in your cigar smoking, observe how your body reacts and find your comfort zone.
Smoke outdoors – In my article on cigar smoking etiquette, I observed that it’s best to smoke outside, so as not to befoul your house with the tenacious smell of cigar smoke. Yee, explains, that smoking in tight, enclosed space with little or no ventilation is a cause of cigar smoking sickness.
Take your time – “Speed smoking” leads to cigar smoking sickness for many who are just learning how to smoke a cigar because this might cause you to inhale the smoke inadvertently. Smoke slowly, take your time. One puff a minute is just about right. Veteran aficionados can smoke 2-3 puffs per minute handily but I say a fine cigar is like your favorite gourmet dish, it’s best enjoyed when you take it in slowly.
Be relaxed – Cigar smoking is most pleasurable when you’re also relaxed while doing it. Try to find a cozy place in your house, in a patio or a deck, for instance, listen to your favorite soothing music. Smoking a cigar in a stressed uncomfortable environment like walking in 100 degree heat while playing golf, thirsty and half-dehydrated, just won’t cut it. Smoking a “powerhouse” cigar that way would certainly kick your butt.
Have a glass of ice water with your cigar – While most aficionados would enjoy their cigar with a glass of their favorite drink (scotch, cognac, espresso, etc), Yee explains that a glass of ice water can in fact “do wonders” for the beginner and make the cigar smoking more enjoyable. “Taking one or two sips between draws/puffs will make a cigar feel less strong as the water refreshes your palate. As a result, you should be able to smoke an entire cigar without getting sick.” He also cautions against alcoholic beverages as this might upset further a cigar-sensitive stomach.
I also find drinks like an ice cold 7up as having the same clearing effect as James glass of ice water. Perhaps, the most effective measure of preventing sickness for someone just learning how to smoke a cigar is sugar-loading. Of course, this won’t do if you have sugar-averse health conditions (like diabetes mellitus), but sugar is an antidote to nicotine overdose.
In fact, if you try to observe the old cigar smokers in the Caribbean, they carry cigar cubes with them and just pop one as soon as they start to feel a bit queasy from cigar smoking. You can ingest raw sugar when you feel like getting sick or, if you’re not comfortable with the idea, just sweeten your espresso a notch higher or have a sugary drink while you smoke.
Over time, as you mature from a beginner learning how to smoke a cigar to a veteran cigar smoker, you’ll also observe that you have progressively developed a high level of tolerance to nicotine. This is gradual, however, so beginners are better off following Yee’s advice and starting with the mildest cigars until they are able to handle the stronger ones. Even among veteran cigar smokers, an occasional unfamiliar cigar comes along that can bring out more than a light buzz.
Why is it that cigar enthusiasts break out into a big smile, whenever you mention “cigars” to them? It’s because cigars usually mean a lot more to them than just a stick of wrapped tobacco. For his first blog post here at Cigar Choice, David Mayar takes us back to his first cigar, and shares the reasons why he likes not only cigars themselves, but what they represent to him.
I don’t remember the first cigar I smoked, although I remember the situation. It was my best friend’s high school graduation party. His neighbor was a cigar aficionado—still is, too—and he gifted us two fine handmade cigars. He walked us through the process of cutting and lighting, and warned us not to inhale.
It was all downhill from there. In trying to be cool and hoping to impress some ladies, we probably looked like fools. Nevertheless, that party marked the beginning of an enjoyable vice.
Over the next fifteen years and up to now, I have smoked my share of cigars. While I haven’t smoked as many as a lot of guys out there, I can honestly say I have enjoyed every cigar I’ve had.
I can remember several different moments in my life that involved a cigar. They are as clear as day in my mind; for the life of me, though, I couldn’t tell you exactly what I smoked in any of those situations.
There was a touching moment with a grandparent; the interesting, yet awkward drink with an ex-girlfriend’s fiancé; the rare opportunity to smoke a Cuban cigar legally while on my honeymoon in Germany; and finally, a reunion cigar with my best friend after seven years apart.
It never mattered to me what I was smoking at those times, just that I was able to.
On a more recent note, I have had the time and money to smoke more in the last eighteen months than ever before. I have also taken to hanging out at my local brick and mortars more. In this time, I have met some great people. Can’t say I know all their names, but we all recognize each other when we meet up at the shop.
There have also been a few that I have had the pleasure of getting to know and herfing with other cigar lovers on a semi-regular basis. It still amazes me how cigars can bring people together. When the smoke is in the air, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living, where you live, or what you drive … we are all friends.
In my mind, there is more to cigar smoking than just the cigar itself. It is the appreciation of the work that went into the cigar, the people with you (or the ones who are not or cannot be there), and the situation in which you find yourself as a whole.
What’s your favorite cigar story? Do cigars evoke special memories for you? Let us know in the Comments section of this post.