Q - Does size matter?
A - A cigar's size, especially its diameter, can significantly affect its smoking qualities. In fact, two cigars from the same brand or blend family will seem very different if they are of different thickness. At Nat Sherman, we urge people to disregard so-called "rules" about cigar shape (there's a particularly silly "rule" that says thin people should avoid larger-ring-gauge cigars) and instead to smoke what they like.
It's important to remember that the longer the length and the fatter the diameter, the cooler and fuller tasting the cigar will be. Shorter cigars tend to get hotter faster, as the smoke has less chance to cool down as it travels toward the mouth. Additionally, thinner cigars use fewer filler leaves than fatter cigars, allowing the wrapper leaf's characteristics to be more dominant. The fatter the cigar, the more filler leaves used, and the less influential the wrapper leaf becomes.
Q - How far down do you smoke a cigar?
A - The choice of how far down you smoke a cigar is very personal. While we suggest about two-thirds of the way down, many people like to smoke them to the very end. It is much like drinking wine – some people like to go right down to the dregs of the bottle and other people like to stop somewhere above that. Tobacco is its own best filter, so a cigar becomes somewhat stronger and more pungent near the end. To some people, this is the best part. Again, the choice is personal. For us, two-thirds of the way down is the best flavor. Beyond that, it gets a little strong.
Q - Do you take the band off or leave it on?
A - We suggest, and it is considered proper, to leave the band on, since taking it off could chip or tear the wrapper, breaking the integrity of a cigar. The vegetable paste that is used to put the band on sometimes spills over onto the cigar. While trying to get it off, you could possibly tear or damage the delicate wrapper.
Q - If I don't finish my cigar can I save it for later?
A - When one smokes a cigar, a chemical reaction occurs, and a solid turns to a liquid and gas. As you smoke a cigar, the smoke moves through the long-filler leaves onto your palate. The long filler leaves, will retain some of the oils and tars helping to develop the flavor of the cigar from start to finish. Once a cigar goes out, and then cools down, the cigar turns back into a solid. When you reignite the cigar- you're smoking an "altered" version of what it was. While the cigar is certainly "smokeable", there is often a bitter, acrid taste to the smoke, and it's never as enjoyable as it originally was. So, we always recommend selecting an appropriate size cigar for the amount of time you can enjoy it.
Q - How long should the ash be?
A - There is no special rule or any real benefit about the length of an ash. While it is true that a long ash can sometimes indicate a well-made cigar, it is more often a measure of the smoker's patience and skill. Our suggestion: an ash should not be allowed to reach such proportions that it will fall on the carpet or your best suits, causing subsequent damage. Do remember, however, not to knock the ash off, but to tap or roll it gently. Remember, the cigar knows what to do.
Q - At what temperature and humidity should I keep my cigars?
A - General rule of thumb is 70/70. In other words, 70% humidity at 70° F. In reality, the standard temperature one maintains at home is quite sufficient for short-term storage in a traditional desktop humidor. Humidity, on the other hand, is quite important. Here, a range of 68% to 72% is an appropriate benchmark. It is important to note that cigars have very different constructions. Note: do not, as some may tell you, put your cigars in the refrigerator. The modern-day refrigerators are "frost-free," and therefore take the humidity out automatically.
Cigars that are box-pressed in a thirteen top or other similar packaging are rolled with a different consistency than a cigar that is bundled (for example, in an 8-9-8 packaging). You may like one to have more or less humidity than the other. Personal taste is the only accurate barometer. Our suggestion: throw away the dials and learn to feel with your fingers. I have never seen a cigar maker with a hygrometer under his bench.
Q - How can I refresh my dry cigars?
A - Humidors will maintain a cigar in proper condition. However, they will not bring it back from being dry. Once a cigar dries out completely, the essential oils within the leaves have evaporated. While you may be able to re-humidify the leaves, you cannot replace the essential oils, and therefore the cigars cannot be replaced or restored.
Q - My cigars have a white mold on them - what can I do?
A - It is probably not mold, but rather "plume" (a.k.a. "bloom"). This is a natural reaction of the humidified tobacco, as the tobacco's oils rise to the surface. You can simply brush the plume off using your finger or a soft cloth. If the plume does not brush away, then it could be mold, in which case, be sure to check all of your cigars as well as the interior of your humidor and humidifier to be sure there is not a more severe problem of excessive humidity.
Q - What is a good Cigar - How can I choose one that's right for me?
A - A good cigar is the one you like best. There is no right or wrong, there are no set rules, and there is no mantra that dictates correctness. It is a matter of personal choice. Choosing one that is right for you is your own exploration into a world of pleasure. Certainly a good tobacconist will help describe flavors for you, but the choice of shape is personal and the response of your palate to the blend is strictly personal. Do not let anyone tell you that one shape is better than another. The feel of a cigar, the look of a cigar, and certainly the taste are things only you can decide for yourself.
Q - What are some of the different wrappers used in cigars?
A - Tobacco is tobacco. Once tobacco is harvested, it's analyzed and classified for use. Aesthetically perfect leaves, which are sound, elastic, even in color, and with great combustion, are the most common attributes for wrapper. Wrapper can come from any country or seed variety, though typically it comes from the center or lower portions of the tobacco plant.
Q - What is the bunch or the filler and how many packs of tobacco go into that?
A - Bunch is the term for the filler tobaccos, placed in order, and rolled into its binder. Though only one binder is generally used on a cigar, there can be as few as three or as many as seven or more filler leaves used to create the desired ring gauge. Filler tobaccos can come from any country, seed variety or leaf position.
Q - Why does a cigar burn unevenly?
A - If a cigar does not draw properly, whether due to a plug or over-humidification, it will burn poorly. Also, if a particularly high "priming" tobacco is used for the wrapper or binder, it may burn more slowly than the filler tobaccos, causing "tunneling" to occur. Finally, if the filler tobaccos are not positioned correctly, meaning that the strongest ligero tobaccos are positioned in the center of the bunch with the lower primings falling to the outside, then the cigar will consistently burn unevenly since the lower primings burn much faster than the higher ones.
Q - What is the difference between long leaf filler and short filler?
A - Premium cigars are all made of long filler, which means full pieces of the tobacco leaf that run from one end of the cigar to the other. They are hand-rolled together in accordion fashion so as to permit you a smooth, proper, and even draw of the cigar. Short-filler cigars are made with chopped tobacco, much like a cigarette, and are often held together with a homogenized binder.
Q - How do you put a cigar out?
A - Leave it in the ashtray and let it die with dignity. It is as simple as that. Do not snuff out a cigar.
Q - Are dark cigars really stronger?
A - Not necessarily. While the wrapper is a very important component to a premium cigar's flavor, the binder and filler are also important in creating the overall impact. Very dark Maduro wrappers, are in fact milder than one might think, as this wrapper undergoes a longer, hotter fermentation process that creates more sweetness. Always ask your tobacconist.
Q - Can I keep my cigars in a wine cellar?
A - It depends. The ideal conditions for cigar storage are 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit and 65-70% relative humidity. This maintains the essential oils within the tobaccos, and ensures proper draw and combustion when the cigar is smoked. That said, lower temperatures can be compensated by higher humidity, however it's difficult to achieve the optimal balance when you consider many cellars are maintained at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. But- when storing cigars long term, cooler temperatures are actually ok, as is slightly lower humidity, however it's important to expose them to these elements gradually, and equally important to gradually bring them back to 70/70 prior to smoking. Severe shifts in temperature and/or humidity, whether in their storage environment or the immediate heat of combustion, may cause the cigars to crack, burst, burn unevenly or burn at very high temperatures, all of which are unfavorable.
Q - Is it ok to dip my cigar in Brandy?
A - While it is certainly possible, it is not recommended. The "pairing" of a cigar with any beverage should occur on the palate after a puff has been enjoyed, and a sip has been swallowed. When enjoying a chef's tasting, one wouldn't enjoy the first course by pouring their wine into their gazpacho first. The same principle applies. If the cigar maker wanted the end of their cigar to taste like brandy, they would have done it for you. And if the spirit maker wanted bits of tobacco in their beverage, rest assured it would be there. We advise to puff, sip and repeat.
Q - Are spirits the prefered cigar pairing?
A - In many traditional settings, cigars were enjoyed at the end of a long meal, as are many spirits... a match made in heaven. But cigars can be paired with many different beverages. There are two schools of thought when pairing, matching (red wine with red meat, white wine with fish) or contrasting- (white Burgundy with a Filet or a Rioja with Black Bass). In the end a pairing is meant to achieve balance. Sure a full bodied, spicy Churchill goes great with a Single Malt or Cognac, but big bodied wines, ports and coffee are equally satisfying, and- with lower alcohol content, the palate can better "taste" the nuances and subtleties of a cigar.
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-Last updated on July 28th, 2015