Leaf & Bean | Strip District

Cigar 101

What is the proper way to light a cigar?

You can light a cigar with a gas lighter or matches, but a gasoline lighter will affect its taste. You can find special cigar matches, which light up slowly, but an ordinary match will do. The most important thing is to take your time to light your cigar. Hold the cigar horizontally in contact with the flame. Rotate the flame around the foot of the cigar (the open end) until it starts to burn, then puff lightly. Make sure the burn is regular to avoid one side from burning faster than the other. Exhale gently over the foot of the cigar to assure a regular combustion. Some like to use a piece of cedar to light their cigars. Next time you buy a box of cigars, break off a piece of the cedar between the layer of cigars and try lighting your cigar with it.

While smoking a cigar... do I have to inhale all the smoke? ... Or just a little?

How about…none at all! You should not inhale the cigar smoke. The high alkalinity and poor amount of nicotine will make you cough and besides, you can enjoy a cigar’s flavor and body without inhaling.

How long should it take me to smoke a cigar?

To really appreciate your cigar, smoke slowly and not draw too frequently, which will heat it and spoil the taste. You should take about a puff a minute. To smoke a corona should take about one half hour, and the bigger cigars such as a Churchill or a Double Corona can take more than an hour.

What should I do if my cigar stops burning?

Do not worry, this is normal, especially if you have smoked more than half of it. Make the ash fall and light it up while burning the end of the wrapper. Next, exhale to chase out the cold smoke and light up your cigar as you would a new one. By doing this, you can smoke a cigar until two hours after you put it off; after two hours the whole cigar will have acquired the taste of the cold smoke. The longer sizes can be smoked the day after if less than half of it has been smoked.

I have been told it is bad form to shake the ash of a cigar, why?

That is because the better the cigar has been made the longer the ash. However, it is not necessary to shake the cigars to make the ash fall prematurely, nor is there need to try to keep it as long as possible: too long, it obstructs the airflow and irregular combustion develops. I will admit that I have been guilty of this because it is fun to see how long you can keep the ash!

How do I know when I should put down a cigar? I read on the Internet that you should never smoke more than half.

When a cigar begins to let off too much heat and leaves an aftertaste in your mouth (generally during the last 2 inches), it is time to put it off. You don't have to put off a cigar like a cigarette by crushing it on an ashtray: just let it stop burning by itself inside the ashtray. Do throw it away soon to avoid impregnating the room with the tenacious odor of cold tobacco.

Aging Cigars

By: Jerry Bezdikian

A cigar is constructed from tobacco leaves. While it is true comparatively speaking, that certain types of tobacco will 'age better' than others, the fact remains that all tobacco, by nature, is living matter - and as such, will steadily alter over a period of time. Veteran smokers will for example select specific Habanas for long-term aging due to decades long experience with that particular blend; it is a simple fact certain blends of tobacco yield greater results from aging than others. Some cigars, it has been found, will mature over a period of time, then cease to offer any added advantage with increased aging. In those cases, it's not as if the cigars stop aging (remember, the compositional evolution is on-going), it's only that with certain cigars, no greater enhancement will be realized after a period of time. Yet, other blends continually improve with greater, and greater maturation.

Key in this argument is the issue of 'proper' maintenance. Even with cigars that are known to 'age well', with long term storage (5, 10, 20 or more years), proper maintenance (humidity/temperature) is extremely critical. It's one thing to practice haphazard storage with a box of cigars that are to be consumed within a month or so after purchase - it's an entirely different issue when one is considering the storage of cigars for even six months -- let alone 6 years.

We should not confuse long term aging of cigars with short term maturation. These days, more often than not, cigars are brought to market in a 'green' state; to derive any measure of enjoyment from a 'fresh' cigar, requires a bare minimum of 3 to 4 weeks just to marry the tobaccos, smooth off the roughness in taste, and bring the cigars up to par. On the other hand, long term aging is a process that will mature a cigar to a highly refined state, that greatly alters a cigars character. In Europe (particularly in England), the aging (or laying down) of cigars is a time honored practice, that is just beginning to find popularity in North America.

How long will it take to properly age my cigars?

3 weeks will stabilize the mechanical tensions and moisture of a cigar, making it smoke better. 3 months will allow the oils to begin to migrate and flavors of the blend to marry. 2-3 years (in a suitable environment) will allow some of the more complex chemical processes of true aging to take place, and create subtile flavor changes...

...and are there any special incidentals I need to know?

The tobacco in most premium cigars is aged for 18 months to 2 years before rolling. In high-end premiums it's often aged 3 years, and some special blends use tobacco up to 15 years old! Regardless, many manufacturers will roll cigars from this aged tobacco, and then hold them (now rolled) for another 1-2 years before shipping. It's unfortunate that so many of the new "boutique" cigars becoming popular are in such demand that their manufacturers are shipping them directly off the roller's tables, without this necessary "post-rolling" aging. This leaves it to either the distributers or the end smokers to hold these "green" cigars until they stabilize, marry, or age - whatever your pleasure.

Should I remove the cello wrapper for proper aging?

A good cigar will certainly age in the wrapper, just as a good wine will age in the bottle. Aging cigars, as wine involves very complex chemical processes. Oxidation, slow chemical changes, blending of essential oils are all involved. If you age a number of similar cigars, then removing the wrappers will allow different cigars to "marry", resulting in more consistence from one to another, but will not make the individual cigars any better or worse.

When aging cigars in your "daily" humidor, you're better off leaving them in their wrappers for another reason. Frequent opening and closing (exchanging the air) will result in faster evaporation/dissipation of the essential oils which give a good cigar its taste.

Many people keep a broad assortment of cigars in their humidors. With an assortment of different types, you are best off leaving the wrappers on. You don't want the spiciness from those Jamaicans mixing with the muskiness of the Hondurans. The Dominicans are mild - You don't want them to acquire any "power" from those Cubans!

Keeping the cello on also slows down the transfer of humidity. Your stored cigars remain stable - even with opening and closing the humidor frequently. You'll notice that the end of the cello is never sealed, it's just folded over. This allows the ambient humidity to slowly infiltrate the cigar. It also protects them from transfering problem like mold or bugs (shudder).

Now, if you're only keeping one or two similar brands in your humidor, you might consider unwrapping them - just so the flavors "marry". This will produce better consistency from cigar to cigar.

What's this about cigar's flavors "marrying"???

The phenomenon called "marrying" is a common, and well-known fact of tobacco production. It's what makes LGC's taste "green" until the 3 tobacco's in the blend mix sufficiently. Some of this transfer is by smell (airborne ethers), but much of it is caused by direct contact - transfers of "essential oils" in the cigar's tobacco. These oils migrate through the cigar and can be transferred readily.

Marrying can be good or bad. If your humidor is full of the same (or very similar) types of smokes, it will guaranty a consistent smoke. If you inter-mix mild or spicy blends with strong or earthy blends, the mixing is quite noticeable. This is why you should consider leaving the cello on when mixing a broad range of cigars in one humidor (or removing it if they're all the same). Some smokers go one step further, and leave their Cuban's in a completely different box from their others.... ;-)

But will these "essential oils" travel through the cigar's wrapper?

The wrapper is just another leaf. Vapors and oils migrate through this layer as quickly as they travel from any adjacent leaves (such as the 3 tobaccos in a LGC's blend). Wanna see how well it protects 'em? Put a drop of water on the wrapper - after a minute, it'll soak right in to your stogie! The essential oils which give a cigar its taste travel just this readily from layer to layer, cigar to cigar. Just as the humidity will stabilize in a closed box, the essential oils of the cigars will eventually migrate and stabilize.