TIPS AND SECRETS
The appreciation of fine cigars, like the appreciation of fine wines, is an exceptional form of art. Enjoying a cigar is a sophisticated pastime. The true connoisseur is refined. He does not “smoke”, he savors; every draw is an experience of succulent pleasure to the palate as the rich bouquet of varied tobacco flavours bloom.
There are a few well-protected secrets to enhancing your cigar appreciation. If you have more you’d like to share with us please email us.
The most superior cigar in the world is invaluable! It is the one you prefer at a distinguished moment, allowing you to relax and savor that which enhances you with the utmost enjoyment.
Price is not a factor for the experienced aficionado. His choice is based both upon personal preference and on time available, so he can cherish all the qualities of the cigar at his leisure.
Experimenting with Havana brands will introduce you to their different styles of flavor and allow you to establish your preferences. Once familiar with them you can choose the right brands to suit your tastes on any occasion.
If you smoke more than one Havana a day, it is generally recommended to smoke subsequent cigars of equal or fuller flavor in order to appreciate the unique strength and taste of each cigar.
The size, or vitola, of the cigar you choose should be guided by how much time you have available for its enjoyment. A Havana’s flavour develops in the course of smoking and often its true potential is not revealed until the halfway mark, so choose a vitola you will not be forced to part with at its most enjoyable stage.
Heavy gauge cigars tend to offer fuller, richer, flavours than slender ones, even within the same brand, as thicker girth (diameter) allows more tobacco to be used in the filler.
Although there are no standard sizes for each shape, there is a basic measurement standard. Length precedes diameter and is read in either metric or U.S. If metric, dimensions are in millimeters; if in US, length is in inches and the diameter is 64ths of an inch. Thus a 5 x 50 Robusto is 5″ long and 50/64″ (roughly 3/4 inch) thick.
Havanas are delicate products that develop and mature if kept in the right environment, protecting them from changes in humidity, changes in temperature, light and intrusive odors. Their flavours become rounder and mellower with time. Preserving the optimum moisture balance in the cigar keeps it at the peak of aroma and flavour. Furthermore, a Havana must be in perfect condition at the time of smoking otherwise it will burn badly and taste harsh. Therefore, it is essential that Havanas are stored correctly right up until the moment of smoking.
To keep Havanas properly they should be stored between 18-20°C and in a relative humidity (RH) of 70-72%.
Placing your Havanas in a humidor that is designed to provide the correct level of RH is the best way to look after them. Good humidors have built-in regulators that automatically maintain the interior or the case at a constant ideal humidity and temperature. Distilled water should be used to fill your humidifier to avoid precipitated mineral dust from settling on your cigars. Storing your cigars otherwise is improper. Just as you would take care to store fine wines in climate-controlled conditions, so too should you do for your cigars, especially for what they cost.
A simple and reliable way to test the condition of a cigar is to hold it between your thumb and index finger and squeeze gently. If it feels firm but springy then it is in good condition; hard and brittle means too dry, soft and spongy means too wet.
How the sealed end or head of a cigar is cut ultimately determines the quality of the draw, the subtlety and intensity of the cigar’s aroma, in addition to assuring that the cigar remains evenly lit.
The head of a handmade Havana is sealed with a cap of tobacco which helps to secure the wrapper leaf in place. Before lighting you need to create a broad opening in it, a job efficiently done using a guillotine cutter or special cigar scissors. Make your incision across the shoulders of the cigar, leaving the bottom part of the cap in place to avoid the wrapper unraveling. The cut should be clean and large enough to permit a proper draw.
Piercing the cigar is discouraged as the small hole it leaves offers a poor draw and can focus heat and oils. The ultimate cigar-cutting instrument is the single-and double-edged guillotines or cutters, yielding a clear and neat circular cut regardless of the cigar’s diameter.
Lighting is about following two simple rules: take your time and do a thorough job.
The whole of the foot of the cigar must be alight before you settle back to enjoy smoking, otherwise the cigar may burn down unevenly. The fatter the cigar, the more time will be needed to light it.
Lighting may be done with a wooden match (once the head containing sulfur has burned off) or butane lighter, as both of these have odourless flames. Petrol lighters and wax candles should be avoided as their flames release aromas which interfere with the tobacco flavours of your Havana.
- The flame should barely touch the cigar. Hold the cigar just above the flame at a 45-degree angle so that the heat, not the flame, causes combustion.
- Rotate the cigar so that the outer ring of the foot is evenly lit.
- Bring the cigar to your lips. As the ring burns toward the center, blow out lightly through the cigar. This will dissipate any fumes from the lighting material.
- Rotate the cigar through the first few puffs to assure an even burn.
To revive a cigar that has died, simply knock off the ash carefully, then slowly rotate the end of the cigar in a flame until all the accumulated tars have burned off. After such priming the cigar will re-light at once with a few vigorous puffs and smoke like a fresh one. If in doubt, always re-light; otherwise you will be disappointed if you try to smoke a Havana that has partly “died”.
To enjoy a Havana you should not inhale the smoke. The true pleasure is to be found in appreciating the composition of tobacco flavors and these are best detected on the palate by your sense of taste. Relax with your Havana, and mull over its flavors. Do not try smoking a Havana that has half gone out, as it will only offer a disappointing mixture of hot air and thin smoke.
There is no need to stub out your Havana. Just lay it to rest in an ashtray when you feel you have had enough. It will self extinguish.