FIRST THINGS FIRST.
In order to know how to best store cigars we need to know what the optimum storage values are, for this we look at two things: Temperature and Humidity.
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FIRST THINGS FIRST.
In order to know how to best store cigars we need to know what the optimum storage values are, for this we look at two things: Temperature and Humidity.
As we fast approach a potential record-breaking week of temperatures across New Zealand, I thought a quick BLOG-TIP on storing your cigars is in good order;
First up - do you own a humidor?
It is not necessary but if you were a casual cigar aficionado and now find yourself with several zip-lock bags with cigars in them; it might be time to look at a humidor.
Humidors are lined with Spanish Cedar (spoiler, it's not actually Spanish cedar) which helps regulate humidity (a little bit) and helps with aging/storing process through it being a neutral wood.
If you store more than a handful of cigars at a time, it's well worth the investment to protect your cigars (let's face it, they're not cheap).
Next - if you do, how do you regulate the humidity?
The key to cigar storage is humidity, temperature and RH (relative humidity) play a big part here; in the cigar world you will hear the term 70/70 (70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% humidity) which is considered the "ideal" conditions for cigars.
There are three basic types of humidity solutions;
Oasis florists block with 50/50 solution - provides humidity as the solution evaporates but doesn't provide any regulation at all (hit & miss)
Gel-jar with 50/50 solution - much like the oasis block but the gel-jar's do attempt to control the humidity a bit more; but they cannot re-absorb humidity if/when the weather and RH (relative humidity) changes.
Boveda packs - now considered to be the best solution for cigars, these packs have a unique solution within them and can increase and decrease the humidity to provide an exact level (69% and 72% are considered the best for cigars).
They are the first 2-way humidity solution.
Overall though the key is outside temperature and RH will alter the humidity levels within your humidor; with my controlled room I never see any major changes in humidity; but if there is a prolonged period of rain or dry days, I will see it alter a bit.
Too much humidity, your cigar will swell and split; too little humidity and it will be dry, possibly crack but worst of all, it will not taste as great as it can when stored correctly. Same also applies when you pluck a cigar out of a 20 degree room and perfect humidity and sit outside on a cold day or extremely hot day; the cigar will react with the environment - after all, it is just 100% pure, natural tobacco leaf and it's going to react to changes, quickly.
Temperature - this is the big thing this week
Regardless of using a zip-lock bag, Tupperware container or a humidor; this week it's all about the heat I'm afraid.
Anything over 21 degrees (70 Fahrenheit) and you start to run risks of tobacco beetles and large humidity changes.
The majority of cigars I import have been frozen before export, so the risk of tobacco beetles is a lot less than say Cuban cigars that do not go through that process; so that's good a start.
That being said, there aren't many places this week that will be able to avoid massively high temperatures.
Luckily I have a temperature controlled room for my cigar storage and before Christmas I moved my personal humidors in there also (currently live in a house that can easily heat up as much as the days temperature).
So, if you have Air-conditioning, you will probably be running that all this week and your cigars will enjoy staying in a relatively cool and stable temperature.
If you don't - you need to find the coolest place in your house quickly and move your precious cigars there; you might not get them down to 20 degrees, but they'll be less than the maximum of the day.
Another trick I used to do (back when I had just 10 or so boxes of cigar stock) was to place the cigars and/or humidor inside a chilly-bin; the insulation of the chilly-bin will keep the cigars another couple of degrees cooler; it's better than nothing...
It might sound silly, but if you have air conditioning at work; take your humidor to work for the day!
Other quick tips:-
I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to have accurate information; throw the analogue hygrometer away and get a reliable digital one, TODAY!
Again, take the guess work out of your humidor and get some Boveda-packs, they last 6+ months and ensure your cigars are near-perfect
This is also really easy and must be done every 3 to 6 months; using your 50/50 solution, re-season the lips of your humidor; it makes a huge difference in the storage and seal of your humidor
When the cold winter weather hits and your heat pump kicks in, this can have a detrimental effect on all but the most robust professional humidors.
Where you keep your humidor/cigars is crucial during winter (and summer, but that's another blog post).
From temperature fluctuations (like my 1970's house with with a fire) - cold during the day, toasty hot at night; to dry but stable temperature (heat-pumps); to just downright cold (your man cave or garage); cigars get a hammering during winter!
During the winter cigars kept in your carrying case and even your humidor are prone to experience accelerated drying with the reduction in humidity levels. Cold temperatures drop humidity levels.
You may also find that forced heated air will draw the humidity from your humidor also.
SO if you are struggling to maintain 68-71% humidity inside your humidor then here's a few suggestions;
Or simply take the guess work out of it and have perfect cigars any month of the year by purchasing a LIEBHERR ZKes 453 electronic humidor
Cigars can be enjoyed all year round- take care of them and reap the reward.
So, if your cigar is hard to smoke, wrapper splitting or feels a bit mushy to handle, please spend some time today to protect your valued cigar collection!
I want to be sure you undersand the difference between a machine made and a hand made cigar, and the pros and cons of each.
Hecho a mano - Made by man (human hand)
Hecho a wrecko - (made that one up) Machine made
Made by hand- you'd think that there'd be a lot more mistakes made because of human error, but this is what makes it an art form. Artisans and skilled torcedores making each cigar by bunching up carefully selected and blended long leaf tobacco. It's set and placed into wooden molds, pressed under special hydraulic or screw compactors, then masterfully wrapped in the final outer wrapper leaf. It's capped, trimmed and there's your Churchill, Robusto, Lancero, Corona or whatever the length of the day is.
Think about it. We live in an era where we get to experience this delicacy on demand.
How many large agricultural industries have been swallowed up by computer automation, machines, robots and no human touch? Think about how lucky we are! This could very well be the next disappearing art form- hand made cigars.
Maybe a cigar roller could be compared to a 3 star Michelin chef where they are being tested with everything they create. Flavour, presentation, ingredients, timing, expectation, critics, enjoyment, and infallible consistency.
Take Maccas- you know what the Big M will taste like, smell like, leave you feeling like, but sometimes you just gotta reach for the machine made food. Same goes for the cigar. You know what you're gonna get and you can't bitch or complain about it because it is what it is. How do you pontificate over that? You can't. However, most machine made cigars do not need humidification or clipping, so your fast-food fix is at the ready.
So despite the subtle imperfections one encounters with hand made cigars it's all very interesting and completely subjective. Only you know what something tastes like. That's what makes it so irresistible. It's a process of discovery every time. You might question the simile to a Michelin chef. There is one factor unaccounted for- you are dealing with take-aways of the highest order. You have a responsibility to care for and nurture this cigar and therefore all the blame cannot be placed on the maker or the factory of origin if it goes awry.
Are leftovers the same compared to the way the food was delivered and presented at the restaurant? Perhaps supplying cigars is more like a catering business. The food leaves the premises but is still delivered to you in an appealing and acceptable manner. It's delicious, as intended by the chef, and you are happy with the food.
Buying quality cigars means you need to consider where you are purchasing them from and are they being cared for, handled properly and stored under ideal conditions. How are they shipped to your door? When you open your courier package are you confident they have been under the care of a professional or the brunt of a bad joke.
Go reputable. If a cigar dries out there is no coming back from the dead. Yes you can re-hydrate it in a humidor but that's like taking dried mushrooms, soaking them in water and expecting them to taste like fresh mushrooms. Do you want be a serious cigar connoisseur or just some Fun-Guy (fungi)?
MY FIRST CIGAR.
Copyright (C), 1893, by The S. Brainard's Sons Co.
Words and Music by M. Le Roy.
'Twas on a quiet afternoon one lovely autumn day,
I sat upon an old ash box and drew and puffed away;
And as the silv'ry smoke arose and flitted through the air,
I suddenly grew awful sick, it was my first cigar.
But puff, puff, puff, puff, don't stop, for 'tis no sin,
But puff, puff, puff, puff, the second time you'll win;
No matter if it makes you sad, and fills you full of pain,
Just puff, puff, puff, puff, puff, puff, puff, and try it on again.
I fell across that old ash box, grew sickly, ghastly green,
I gasped and threw up many things that you and I have seen;
Ah! what did I, at such a time, for smoking seem to care,
Alas! the scalding tears proclaimed it was my first cigar. -Refrain.
I've swallowed quarts of castor oil and took pills by the score,
Been jerked and twisted inside out a hundred times or more;
But sickness I have never felt which could with that compare,
When on that quiet afternoon I drew my first cigar. -Refrain.
Cuba this, Dominican that, Nicaragua over there...it's like a Chinese menu- so many choices, you don't know what to order.
Look, if it's your first cigar, get out your wallet, and get yourself a good cigar to try one. If you don't like it, try a different one. If you still don't like it try a better one. If you still don't like it, you've gotta be doing something wrong - get help. First bit of critical info- cigars are not meant to be inhaled.
If you talk to any veteran cigar smoker and ask what cigar they would recommend you start with you'll get a different answer every time. Because it all boils down to what THEY like. But we all started somewhere.
My advice comes from over 20 years experience and appreciation for fine cigars. So here's my recommendation.
I think your first cigar is like telling a good joke, you get more out of it when there's someone to laugh with. And if the other person has a bit of experience on how to cut and light your cigar, it can help make a huge difference. Or you could YouTube search for the answers to your questions and try it on your own. But let's start with the 'share with a mate' strategy for the sake of this post.
What you're dying to find out is what cigar to smoke.
BRAND- eg. Alec Bradley; indicates the quality to expect. Trusted brands are a great place to start. Google these names to explore the story behind the name. (Alec Bradley is named after Alan Ruben's two son's, Alec and Bradley)
STYLE/LINE- eg. American Sun Grown; alludes to the type of tobacco that makes up the cigar. Yes, many different types of tobacco leaf can be used in one premium cigar (some up to 10 different tobacco varieties).
VITOLA/SIZE- eg. Corona (5 1/2" by 42); the shape and size of a cigar is often referred to as a vitola. They are measured by two dimensions: its length (in inches) and its ring gauge (diameter in sixty-fourths of an inch) . To give you an example- a cigarette is about 3.5" x 20.
TASTE- that's right- taste the smoke don't inhale; fill your mouth with smoke, hold it there for a few seconds, blow out. What does it taste like? Check our previous blog on tasting notes.
MONEY- in NZ you can expect to pay from $20 each stick (for a good cigar). Around half of that is made up of government tobacco duties (tax). You will find Premium Cigars (or non-Cuban's) are well priced, they are in the most part made by smaller, boutique businesses and not a government controlled dictatorship that sets an inflated price.
TIME- Give yourself 60-90 minutes to enjoy your cigar; never rush a cigar. In fact I'll go so far as to say if you are in a rush, don't bother. A rushed cigar will burn hot, taste bad and won't improve your temperament.
If you think you can smoke a cigar in 20 minutes, you're going to be a poor candidate for the pleasures in life. Yes, you can get through a small cigar but what are you looking to do? Just to say you've smoked a cigar? Then grab yourself a White Owl. You'll have a hoot. Not.
TOBACCO CONTAINS NICOTINE- And even by not inhaling you will get the transfer into your system via your mouth and tongue. It's not uncommon to feel a bit woozie the first couple of times. This is normal. Just stop. Let the cigar go out by itself. There are no chemicals added to keep it burning like cigarettes. Simply wait awhile, brush off the ash and relight. Pro-tip, always have a good meal before a cigar and it pays to have a sweet drink nearby - over the many years of smoking cigars, I have discovered a glass of Cola will cure that "woozie" feeling. Now I'm no scientist, but I figure there is a relationship between nicotine and your blood sugar levels.
TOOLS- You'll want a basic cigar cutter at the very least. A cheap double blade guillotine cutter will do the trick if you're just experimenting. But the double-bladed, medical grade stainless steel Xikar cutter is what you will want to have if you want to get serious. It will last a lifetime. Or for $9.95 buy the Double-blade guillotine cutter with your first order. You'll look like a pro. Check out our previous blogs for more on this.
CUTTING- You will find a closed-end (head/cap) and an open-end (foot); you want to cut about 2mm off the head/cap (so you can draw though the cigar); if you are smoking a Torpedo, you will want to open up about 3-4mm of the head of the cigar (remember, you can always make another cut, but you can't glue it back on).
LIGHTING- Ultimately, the proper way to light a cigar is by using Cedar Spills as this provides a cool flame, which won't roast/char your premium cigar. Luckily my best friend makes these at Commonwealth Cedar Spills and we always have 1,000's on hand. In NZ, you will mainly want the Short Spill, as there is always a breeze blowing. Pro Tip - got a special occasion coming up? We can custom-brand spills and spill boxes to mark your wedding, retirement, graduation, baby birth or any other special day you'd like to celebrate.
Remember, we all start somewhere. Are you ready for a new experience?
Enjoy your first cigar. Relax, Celebrate & Enjoy!
Common Cigar Sizes (see also our Glossary of Cigar & Pipe Terms)
Churchill: Traditionally, the churchill is held to be a larger cigar made popular by Winston Churchill. Normally it is 7 1/2 inches long with a 50 ring gauge.
Cigarillo: A small cigar around the size of a cigarette.
Corona: Traditionally this cigar is 6 inches with a 44 ring gauge.
Culebra: Three cigars of any size braided together form this shape. Yes you pull them apart before smoking!
Double Corona: A larger, but not quite double, corona cigar that is 7 inches long with a 50 or more ring gauge.
Esplendido: Made popular by the Cohiba, this size is about 7 1/2 inches with a 50 ring gauge.
Figurado: Any shaped cigar such as a torpedo or perfecto.
Giant or Gigante: A huge cigar 8 or more inches long with a 52 (or more) ring gauge.
Longsdale: A longer thinner cigar that is 6 inches by 42 ring gauge.
Panatela: A long thin cigar that is 6 1/2 inches by 28 ring gauge.
Perfecto: A classic shape that has a 48 ring in the middle and tapers on both ends.
Presidente: A larger cigar that is 8 1/2 inches long and a 52 ring gauge.
Pyramid: A cigar with a larger ring gauge end that uniformly tapers to a small ring gauge end.
Robusto: A short fat cigar about 5 inches long and with a 50 ring gauge.
Rothschilde: A short version of a robusto, usually 4-4 1/2 inches with a 50 ring gauge.
Torbusto: A new shape that combines the torpedo, toro, and robusto shapes. Made to date only by Altadis.
Toro: A new shape that is 6 inches long with a 50 ring gauge.
Torpedo: The bulk of the barrel is a larger ring (often 50+) that after 3/4 of the cigar tapers to a point.