Cigars Main Page

Overview:

I learned the passion of cigar smoking from a neighbor. When I would walk by, always I saw him with a cigar in his mouth, so I inquired what was so enjoyable about it. I tried a few, and my best explanation is that it is a lot like wine, all the nuances of flavor and aroma are very analogous in cigar smoking!

There is the shape, the texture, the smell, and the whole ritual of selecting, cutting the tip and lighting and smoking it. Another cool thing is that you can smoke 3 or 4 a day and you are not drunk!

I have a taste for strong cigars, and my everyday cigar is normally a stong Cuban.

The Cuban cigar mystique is a funny thing. By now, everyone has heard of them. There are good ones and bad ones just like anything else. So just having a Cuban is not enough. I've picked out what I most enjoy, on the strong side, and that express the unique flavor and taste that is unlike tobacco from any other location.

Storing and maintaining cigars

You need to provide the correct environment, or you will wind up destroying your purchases. Since many cigars improve with age, proper storage environments are very important.

Humidity:

This is by far the most critical storage aspect.

70-71% is ideal in my book. The cigar is supple, flexible, draws well, and tastes good.

75% and above makes the cigar soggy, draw hard (tobacco expands) and hard to light. The swelling of the tobacco will cause the cigar to burst eventually. Leave them this way for a long time and they will grow mold, the wrapper will stain. They can be dried out by leaving out for a few days.

66% and lower will make the cigar dry, burn hot. The wrapper will crackle, and usually come apart. Leave them this way for a while and they will be ruined. If your cigars get too dry, you can re-humidify them, but you need to do it gently and slowly.

How about temperature?

Next to humidity, the most important thing is too keep the cigars cool. All cigars have microscopic tobacco beetle eggs. All of them. From my research, they hatch at or above 75 degrees. If these little bugger hatch they drill nice holes in your cigars, and they go "pop" when you smoke them.

OK, so how do I provide the proper environment?

Humidity

First, you need to measure the humidity accurately. A calibrated humidity gauge is a must. Analog and digital gauges are most often used, but note: NONE are ever calibrated right when shipped. (I don't care how much you spent for that pretty meter that has a name brand on it.)  Many are off by 10 to 20 percent. If your humidity is off by this much, it is eventual death to your cigars.

Again, if you have a thousand dollars worth of cigars at any one time (3 boxes of Cubans!) you should get it right!

I purchased a high precision digital meter, and use it to calibrate all of my gauges. Below is the one I use, about $153 on the web. I STRONGLY recommend doing this. It reads both humidity and temperature.

 

A quality analog gauge can be serviceable, but I prefer the digital gauges. You can find reasonably priced ones at Target, a bit bigger than the smaller more expensive ones. In terms of accuracy, they are all about the same, so why spend a lot?

Once I "calibrate" a gauge, I put a label on it indicating if it reads high or low and by how much, like "reads 5% high"

Humidification devices

There's all different ways, from simple "sponge/foam" type to powered units. I prefer using distilled water only, I am suspicious of the "glycol based" solutions or  often sold. I use simple foam type, and have an internal circulating fan (more on that later). I had some powered units, but they did not regulate well. There are nice large expensive units, but I use multiple small humidors, so that did nto make sense for me.

The humidor itself

The ability to maintain the proper humidity is related to the ambient humidity, the humidor itself and the humidifying unit. In a well-designed "typical" wooden humidor, it breathes, such that you lose humidity at a slow, predictable rate. The wood itself retains moisture, and gives you a "buffer" or type of "shock absorber" of "reserve" moisture.

You can also use something not as pretty but better "sealed". With less moisture escaping, less moisture needs to be added, it should be very little at all.

I know people that also try small sealed plastic boxes. My experience is that the plastic is not as "forgiving as the wood, and it's too small a space to keep in balance, kind of like putting a lot of fish in a small aquarium, keeping balance is difficult.

I have found some inexpensive solid state 1 cubic foot refrigerators. These use a peltier junction device (solid state) to cool the inside. What is a huge advantage is that the cooling inside is spread out over a larger area, usually the back, or entire inside of the unit is aluminum.
What is the difference? Well, a typical refrigerator has a small area for cooling, which being very cold, condenses the moisture (humidity) out of the air. So what happens is that it is very hard to maintain humidity. So you have cold, dry cigars. The "less cool" walls of the solid state unit, while getting the inside just as cold, condense less moisture, thus MUCH easier to maintain humidity. These units run on 12v DC normally, so I put them on a variable DC supply, and lowered the voltage such that they stay at 70-72 degrees. Perfect.

Maintaining temperature:

It's more critical to not get to 75 degrees, cooler is ok, although some people put theirs in a refrigerator (about 37 degrees) and they just aren't "right" at that temp. Keep them in a place that is always cool, especially in summer.

Fans / circulation:

I noticed some strange humidity readings in my humidors when I first started. Sometimes high, sometimes low. After calibrating my meters, still something was strange. It all came to light when a gauge in the lid read differently from one lying at the bottom of the humidor a difference of only five inches!

Then, a revelation: Since a humidor is a closed box, the humidity in it is different (very different) from top to bottom. Why? Very simple, NO air movement! If you don't believe me, put a gauge on the lid and one on the bottom... they can be several percent different, in just a few inches!

Solution? I have found a little battery-operated fan used in RV fridges, they run a month or two on D cells. What a difference! All my friends are sold. When I started, all the "experts" I talked to poo-poohed this.. now, if you buy a temperature and humidity controlled humidor, guess what? they all come with circulating fans, and even "extra fan" options. Hah!

This is what I use, a couple of D cells good for a few months: (Valterra products, Fridge Cool A10-2604)


My Favorites

Montecristo #2 (havana) - often counterfeited, usually pretty consistent, they are great, big belicoso style, large ring gauge, wonderful full bodied taste with complex flavors. Lately they have been more consistent, but maybe not as good as the "good ones" when they were less consistent.

Cohiba Robustos (havana) - another heavily counterfeited cigar, but wonderful when real. Cohiba is riding high on their reputation, and they are inconsistent, but again when good, they are great. Not as strong as the Montys or the Bolivar royal coronas, but a classic.

Cohiba Esplendidos (havana) - probably the most counterfeited cigar in the world, but a great smoke, complex, tasty, full bodied. Inconsistent and the counterfeits are often with real boxes and bands and a lot of time with Cuban tobacco. Not super strong but another classic. Less popular lately with the new sizes and premium offerings from Cohiba.

Cohiba double corona - great big cigar, very nice.

Bolivar royal coronas (havana) - a longer corona that kicks butt! One of the strongest cigars I have ever smoked, and pretty darn consistent. Have not run into any counterfeits yet. Wonderful, but not for the beginner, even experienced smokers can be a bit woozy. Just plain yummy!

Vegas Robania (havana) - A relatively new company, one of the few since Castro took over. The belicosos can be wonderful, draw like a Monty #2, strong as a Bolivar. Not quite as complex as the Cohiba. Lately they have been hard to find. The Don Alehandros are a double corona and can be great, or cna be way too tight of a draw. Gotta check one out before you buy several.

Montecristo Robusto Limited Edition (havana) - WOW! Too bad they were only made from January to June 2001. Do not over humidify these, the draw will be too tight. 71% or less they are outrageous. Prices are going out of sight.

Partagas Short Story - wonderful strong short smoke in a torpedo shape, one end larger than the other. Stong and well made. Hard to find on the shelves, should be about $8 each, but you will see them up to $15 due to scarcity. Keep them around!

Some Pictures

Here's a few, a Montecristo "A" (wonderful), and Cohiba Pyramid limited edition 2001, and a Hoyo de Monterrey (mostly for size comparison)

 

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The Big Kahuna

Here's a picture of the largest cigar I have, a Puros Indio "Chief", 66 ring gauge, and 18 inches long! It took about 4 hours to smoke!

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The Big Kahuna Redux

Here is the beginning of the 4 hour smoke! 

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