How To Buy Cigars As A Gift
Is there a cigar aficionado on your gift list? Wondering how to choose a decent cigar for a friend or loved one? Even if you know nothing about cigars or choosing a good cigar, just learning a few basics can help you sniff out (sometimes literally) a good cigar to give to a friend.
Fortunately, cigars have now entered the mainstream. Once the symbol of the rich and powerful, it's easier than ever for just about anyone to purchase a good cigar. Of course, you probably won't be able to buy your friend a box of top-tier Cuban cigars, but you can definitely buy them a good quality cigar that will put a smile on their face.
First, visit your local tobacconist or specialty smoke shop for the best quality and widest selection. Avoid 'drugstore' cigars. Although they may be inexpensive and convenient to purchase, drugstore cigars are usually filled with preservatives and generally of poorer quality. They may contain, at minimum, saltpeter, paper, glycerin, and other preservatives and irritants. You should make sure that the cigars you purchase are made of 100% tobacco. If you have any questions regarding the cigars ingredients, ask the salesperson. An experienced and knowledgeable sales clerk will be able to tell you extensive information about the ingredients.
Your local tobacco shop is a good place to shop because you will generally be allowed to smell and touch the cigars. Squeeze the cigar gently. A good quality cigar will give a little when squeezed. The cigar should be firm, with no excessively soft or hard spots. Never buy a lumpy cigar. Look at the wrapper. If you notice any drying or discoloration, best not to buy it. Ideally, the wrapper should be tight and smooth. Inspect the color of the tobacco to make sure it is even. Do this by inspecting the end of the cigar. Some color variation is normal, but if the color changes abruptly, chances are the cigar was not rolled properly. A cigar that is not rolled properly may result in an uneven burning and unpleasant odors.
If you're not sure how much your friend smokes, choose a longer cigar. Longer cigars tend to have a 'cooler' taste
How To Properly Age A Cigar
Experienced cigar enthusiasts know well the pleasures of a well-aged cigar. The subtle flavors and complex constitution of a well-aged cigar is indescribably and unforgettable. Like wine, many cigar aficionados swear by the process of aging. A great cigar, the argument goes, is an aged one. How can you attain a well-aged cigar that provides the mellow, complex flavors you crave? You can always fork over a good deal of your money and purchase a box of expensive vintage cigars. If you would rather save the money and experiment with aging on your own, here are a few tips to help you get started.
First, know that you will have to be patient if you want a properly aged cigar. You will have to age your cigars for about a year in order to achieve the flavors and complex subtleties of a well-aged cigar. Also, know that in order to achieve the rewards of a well-aged cigar; you must begin the process with a high quality cigar. If you try to age a lower quality cigar, chances are any amount of aging won't improve their flavor significantly. Many high quality cigars that you find too strong or odorous are perfect candidates for aging. In fact, almost all high quality cigars can be improved through the process of aging.
To age your cigars, purchase a good quality humidor. Cigars must be stored in a constant and stable environment. Follow the 70-70 rules. That means the humidity must be at a constant humidity of 70%, and at a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Of course, the environment in which they are stored is crucial. Follow the usual 70-70 rules for temperature and humidity. Any more and your cigars will get moldy; any less and the aging process begins to be stunted. Maintaining a stable environment for your cigars is key - a constantly fluctuation environment can be disastrous. Swings in temperature and humidity cause cigars to expand and contract, cracking their wrappers and it may disrupt the aging process. Ideally, the space in the humidor should be about twice the volume of cigars. The lining should be cedar - cedar wood is highly aromatic wood, full of its own oils. With the passage of time, the interaction of the tobacco oils amongst themselves, and with the cedar oil of the wood it leads to a mellowing and blending of flavors resulting in that subtle complexity you can only get from proper aging.
Cigar Smoking 101
What are the basics of cigar smoking? How do you light a cigar? How do you draw on the cigar properly? Do you inhale? What are the dos and don'ts of cigar smoking? If you have ever pondered any of these questions, read on. Here is a simple and accessible primer designed to help you gain familiarity with the sometimes confusing, always enigmatic world of cigar smoking.
First Step: Lighting Up
First, all new cigar smokers should learn how to properly light a cigar. Use a clipper designed for cigars to clip off the edge of the head (the section you put to your mouth). If possible light the foot of your cigar with a cedar match. Avoid regular cigarette lighters. They produce a nasty odor that can linger and ruin a good cigar. If you must use a lighter, use butane lighter. These will keep the odor to a minimum. However, you should always strive to use a wooden match because lighters can easily taint the foot of your cigar. How do you light up? Simply strike a match and hold the edge of your cigar over the flame. Avoid touching the cigar to the fire, simply hold the cigar over the flame and draw deeply until the cigar is lit.
Second Step: Burn it down to a nub?
Should you burn your cigar down to a nub? Experts recommend you leave at least two inches to your cigar. Even the finest cigars will tend to get bitter if you let it burn all the way down. What about ashes? Should you knock the ashes off of your cigar? Rather than knocking the ashes off the edge, let the cigar rest in the ashtray when you're not smoking it. The ashes will fall off naturally.
Third Step: Relax and Enjoy
A cigar should never be rushed. By design, cigars should be savored, preferably after dinner and with a glass of good brandy. Hold the cigar between your thumb and fingers
A Short History Of Cigars And Tobacco
Have you ever wondered where cigars were first produced? It is widely believed that cigars were first produced in Spain. But before cigars became all the rage in Europe, tobacco was needed to make them. Tobacco is indigenous to the Americas, where native peoples have produced it for hundreds of years. It is believed that the Maya of Yucatan peninsula in Mexico and parts of Central America cultivated tobacco, and even smoked it! Tobacco use spread to other tribes, both north and south. It is believed that its first use in the United States was probably among the tribe along the Mississippi. It wasn't until Christopher Columbus sailed his famous voyage to the Americas in 1492 that the rest of the world came to know tobacco.
It is said that Columbus was not impressed by tobacco or its use among native peoples, but many sailors grew found of the strange plant. Soon it quickly caught on in Spain and Portugal. From there, it spread to France, where the French ambassador Jean Nicot lent his name to the scientific name for tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). The origins of the word tobacco itself are still suspect, although many believe it is simply a corruption of the word Tobago, which is the name of a Caribbean island. Still others believe it comes from the word Tabasco, a region (and now state) in Mexico.
The first tobacco plantation in the United States was established in Virginia in 1612. More tobacco plantations followed in Maryland soon after. Although tobacco became a popular crop, it was only smoked in pipes. The cigar was not introduced to the United States until the late 18th century. Israel Putnam, an army general who had served in the Revolutionary War, is credited with introducing the cigar to the United States. He had traveled to Cuba after the Revolutionary War and returned with a box of Cuban cigars. Their popularity quickly spread, and soon enough cigar factories were established in the area of Harford, Connecticut, where General Putnam resided.
In Europe, cigar production and consumption did not achieve widespread popularity until after the Peninsula War in the early 19th century. British and French veterans returned to their homelands after years of serving in Spain with their tobacco pipes in tow. Among the rich and fashionable, the favored method of taking tobacco was the cigar. Cigar smoking remains a habit associated with the rich and discriminating of upper society.
The Parts Of A Cigar
What are the different parts of a cigar? Many long-time smokers enjoy their stogies without learning the basic parts of their cigar. While it's true that you can enjoy a cigar without knowing how it was put together, learning the basic parts of a cigar can be instrumental in helping you choose the best quality cigars.
The first thing many smokers notice about a cigar is the wrapper, the layer of tobacco on the outside of a cigar. A cigar's wrapper is very important because it provides much of the flavor of the cigar. The best quality tobacco leaves are usually used to construct the wrapper. They range in color from very clear (claro) to very dark (oscuro).
Binders are known as the 'intermediate leaves.' They are used to hold the tobacco filler together. Binders can vary considerably.
Last but certainly not least is the filler used to make a cigar. The filler is the tobacco. Generally, filler can be either long or short. Long filler consists of whole tobacco leaves, while short filler consists of scraps.
Drugstore Cigars A Good Buy
The sheer diversity of cigars can be confusing for new smokers. Many new smokers want to know: is it OK to buy cigars from their local drugstore or chain store? What is the quality of these cigars? Can you expect to get good flavor from these cigars?
While of course, it's perfectly OK to purchase these cigars, be aware that these packaged cigars are usually of poorer quality. Most 'drugstore' cigars contain preservative or other non-tobacco ingredients. Common ingredients found in packaged cigars may include paper, Glycerin, and saltpeter. High quality cigars will contain only tobacco. Packaged drugstore cigars will generally contain these extra ingredients designed to keep them stored on the shelves for extended periods of time.
In order to get the best quality cigars, you will have to visit your local tobacconist. While many mail order businesses do carry good quality cigars, be aware that they usually will not sell singles, thus you will have to purchase whole boxes. Visiting your local tobacconist allows you to test different brands before settling on a box.
How To Choose The Perfect Single
Wondering how to choose the perfect cigar? If you're a newcomer to the world of cigar smoking, here are a few tips to choosing the best cigar.
First, note the texture of the cigar. Squeeze it gently. Is very soft, or rigid? Ideally, the cigar should give slightly, but not too much. Very gently, squeeze the length of the cigar to check for lumps. A good cigar will have a consistent texture.
Next, inspect the cigar for flaws. Any cracks or discolorations are the signs of a lower quality cigar. The cigar's wrapper should be wrapped smoothly.
Finally, look at the ends of the cigar. Pay particular attention to the exposed end where cigar is lit. If you're new to cigars, it can be difficult to gauge the quality of the tobacco. The simplest way to judge the tobacco quality of a cigar is to inspect the color of the tobacco. If you note any abrupt color changes, this may indicate that the tobacco leaves were not laid out properly. Look for a cigar with a smooth blend of tobacco.
4 Tips For Lighting A Cigar
For new smokers, lighting a cigar can seem as daunting as learning to choose a good single. Here are four tips to guide you in lighting a cigar for the first time.
1. Use cedar matches, if possible. If you prefer to use a lighter, make sure it's butane lighter to avoid strong odors.
2. Warm the open end of the cigar (aka 'the foot' of the cigar) slowly over the flame, without touching it to the fire. Let a black ring form around the end.
3. Place the cigar in your mouth and draw in slowly. Hold the cigar over the flame, about half an inch above it, again without touching. Continue to draw in until the cigar draws the flame. Turn the cigar slowly, spinning it to establish an even burn.
4. Once your cigar is lit, take it out of your mouth and observe the burn you have established. If the burn appears to be uneven, simply blow on the unlit sections to draw the burn, and then take one or two draws from the cigar to reestablish an even burn.
Why Use A Humidor
If you are not an experienced cigar smoker, you may be wondering why cigar aficionados use humidors. Humidors are used to store and protect cigars so that they are kept at their peak flavor. A humidor works by keeping a cigar at a constant temperature, somewhere between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and about 70-72% humidity.
Many cigar aficionados claim that the ideal temperature for storing cigars is 70 degree F. Any lower will tend to age the cigar, rather than keep it at a constant level. Humidors are not meant to age, but rather to preserve the integrity, flavor, and color of the cigar.
What should you look for when purchasing a humidor? The good humidor should close completely, with a tight fitting lid that will keep the cigars well kept from the elements and prevent any exchange of moisture. Seams should be smooth and well fitted for cigars. Cedar, especially Spanish cedar is ideal for the interior of the humidor. Of course, make certain your brand of cigars fits well into any humidor you are considering purchasing.
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