Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The biggest factor in blowing good smoke rings is practice. With that in mind, Try this technique.
First, you need a cigar with dense smoke, and a place with still air. Do not waste your time trying to blow smoke rings in a breeze!
Draw a thick puff of smoke into your mouth. Hold it there and open your mouth slowly. Make an "O" with your mouth, (maybe more of a rounded "oh"), definitely not a pucker like a kiss. Curl the tip of your tongue down, and pull your tongue all the way back.
Now, when blowing a ring, you are actually not exhaling. You are just pushing out the smoke in your mouth with your tongue in short bursts, like a piston, only in a relaxed way. It is actually a really gentle motion. Push forward with your tongue, with perhaps a slight recoil at the bottom.
Keep at it, it is like riding a bicycle... Once you "get it" you will wonder what the problem was!
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
CAO, one of the worlds foremost premium cigar manufacturers, was selected as the exclusive cigar brand to be gifted to a select list of A-list celebrities at the Miami Vice Premiere Party Luxury Lounge, hosted at one of Miami’s hottest nightclubs, Mansion, on July 25.
The movie that stars Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, and currently holds down the #1 spot in the countrys box office rankings, was screened to a select viewing audience and was followed with an exclusive after party at the popular Miami nightspot, Mansion. The party featured live performances by Nelly Furtado and SoBe recording artist, Brooke Hogan. VIP guests of the backstage luxury lounge received an assortment of CAO and flavours by CAO cigars, along with headwear provided by CAO M.E.R.C.H. The list of celebrities that received CAO product included Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Mya, Brooke Hogan, Hulk Hogan, Gloria Estefan, music producer Scott Storch, former heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis, clothing designer Richie Rich, Eva Longoria, Nicky Hilton, and Jessica Simpson. In attendance for CAO were Chief Marketing Officer Jon Huber and Regional Sales Manager David Cimino.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Theres nothing new about people buying pre-Castro cigars at auction. But post-smoked cigars? Thats a rarity. A private collector from Liverpool recently paid £365 ($673) for a cigar butt that had been smoked by Sir Winston Churchill, perhaps historys greatest cigar smoker. The famed British statesman consumed untold boxes of cigars in his lifetime, many, if not most, paired with vast quantities of fine liquor, and typically smoked where he pleased. But according to the auction house quoted by several news sources, this cigar was one of the few he was prohibited from consuming fully. Upon arriving for a 1950 speech at Blackpools Winter Gardens, he was told that his cigar was not allowed in the ballroom, so he handed the half-smoked cigar to an aide, R.C. Giles, who saved it as a souvenir. Churchill was dubbed "Man of the Century" by Cigar Aficionado in 2002 after readers voted him their favorite cover subject in the magazines history. He adorned the cover twice, most recently on the 10th anniversary issue. His name, of course, is now also known as a large cigar size, 7 inches long by 47 ring gauge.
- Little Bro
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Cigar smoking is currently a popular trend in the United States, especially among young men and women. It is fueled in part by the efforts of the tobacco industry to glamorize cigars and the willingness of movie stars and athletes to be photographed smoking cigars. Especially for women, the industry seems to have tapped into an impulse among some to be slightly outrageous, to do something a little over the line, to be freed from old restrictions and stereotypes. Teenagers and young adults may be particularly vulnerable because of the mistaken idea that cigars are a safe alternative to cigarettes. In reality, cigars greatly increase the risk of lung and oral cancers; and they deliver a large, addictive dose of nicotine.
- Little Bro
Saturday, July 01, 2006
CAO has announced a new cigar line called Vision that will launch at next months Retail Tobacco Dealers of America annual convention and show in Las Vegas. The CAO Vision is the first Dominican-made CAO cigar. The Vision will be available in three sizes: a 5×50 Robusto, a 6×50 Toro, and a 6.25×52 Torpedo. The cigars sport a Dominican Corojo wrapper, and a Dominican Piloto Cubano (cuban seed) Binder. The filler is a blend of Dominican, Nicaraguan and Brazilian tobacco. The box is actually a scientifically calibrated humidor designed to hold the cigars at the ideal 68-70% relative humidity optimal for storage. CAO calls the packaging "the most technologically advanced state-of-the-art desktop/travel humidor ever made" and their slogan for the new release is "Vision: The CAO cigar that will change how cigars are made and packaged forever."
- Little Bro
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger enjoys a cigar in the capitol building courtyard, so much so, that he had a smoking tent built. Now, a bill approved by a state Assembly committee Wednesday threatens to halt this practice. The measure aims to ban smoking of any tobacco product in an outdoor area enclosed on at least three sides by a public building or buildings. The bill would amend existing law, which prohibits smoking within 20 feet of a public building's entrances, exits or windows. An Associated Press report quoted Assemblyman Juan Vargas (D–San Diego), who introduced the bill, as saying the bill is not aimed at Schwarzenegger, but would cover him. He said smoke can get trapped in courtyards, posing health risks for nonsmokers. The governor's office has not issued a statement on the proposal. After 1998, California became virtually smoke-free. Smoking was banned in all restaurants, bars and nearly every all-indoor space.
- Little Bro
Monday, June 19, 2006
Nashville - CAO, one of the worlds foremost premium cigar manufacturers, today announced its "Party Like a Rock Star with CAO in Vegas" Essay Contest. The announcement arrives on the heels of CAOs recent consumer promotion in which the cutting-edge cigar company opened up the gates to its annual RTDA Party, historically closed to the general public, to 500 lucky winners. The 500 tickets to the CAO bash, billed as "The Ultimate Cigar Party," sold out within 72 hours. To be held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Pool & Beach Club on July 17, The CAO RTDA Party 2006 will feature rock icon Tommy Lee and DJ Aero headlining as guest celebrity DJ Duo, CAO Family, CAO Flavourettes, open bar, CAO Cigars and more. The topic of the national essay contest is, "My Most Memorable Las Vegas Moment." One Grand Prize Winner will receive a three-day/two-night trip for two to Las Vegas, accommodations at The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 2 tickets to the sold out CAO RTDA Party 2006, and a private VIP Guest Cabana during the party. CAO created "HRH" banded cigars to commemorate the Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos 10th Anniversary last year. CAO also provided cigars for socialite Nicky Hiltons 21st birthday party held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
- Little Bro
Friday, June 16, 2006
- General Cigar and Maxim took the plunge into "Maximony," the wedding-themed Super Bowl bash thrown by the top-rated mens magazine. A kick off to the Big Game, "Maximony" was the hottest ticket in Jacksonville. As the official cigar of the A-list Super Bowl party, General Cigars top brands, including Macanudo Vintage 1997, Partagas Limited Reserve, Diablo, Excalibur Royal Sterling, Punch and Helix, were distributed to scores of models, athletes, VIPs and corporate power brokers. Apparently, now that General Cigar and Maxim have tied the knot, our companys cigars will be the sole stogies at many a Maxim shindig.
- Little Bro
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
True to its Cohiba tradition in every detail, Cohiba XV is the most full-bodied expression of the brand's uncompromising standards. From its rich, lacquered box of mahogany to its dark Capa Corona wrapper of the most thoroughly aged Ecuadoran Sumatra, Cohiba XV stands for Extra Vigoroso. And in keeping with the cigar's superior quality, it can be made only in limited quantities. The most distinctive leaf of a Cohiba XV cigar is its sun-grown Sumatra wrapper from Ecuador. Harvested only from the tops of the tobacco plants, each of these wrapper leaves is aged in tercio for three years. The flavor is then enhanced by aging all of the leaves again for six months in crates of fragrant cedar. In crafting Cohiba XV cigars, the most flavorful Nicaraguan Ligero and Dominican Piloto Cubano Ligero are bound with the richest three-year-old Connecticut Broadleaf. The result is a cigar that is made, not only to please, but also to impress.
- Little Bro
Widely heralded as the producer of some of the worlds finest wines, olive oils, and truffles, Italy has been largely overlooked as a source for premium cigar tobacco. "Historically, there have been two types of tobacco seeds that thrive in Italy," said CAO Vice President, Tim Ozgener. "The Geudertheimer seed is grown and used primarily for machine made cigars. The seed grown for CAO Italia, however, is an Italian Habano seed originally brought to Italy from Cuba some forty-plus years ago. This seed is grown in the Benevento region of the southern portion of Italy, located between Rome and Naples. We have experimented a great deal with Italian tobacco and we believe it lends a very unique earthy-sweetness to the blend, one that rounds out the robust, full-bodied flavor profile that is CAO Italia." The CAO Italia will be available in three shapes: Ciao (5 x 56), Gondola (6 ¼ x 54 figurado), and Piazza (6 x 60). The Italian Habano seed filler is complimented by filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Peru, and finished with a Habano seed Honduran-grown wrapper and binder.
- Little Bro
Thursday, June 08, 2006
The Zino Mouton Cadet line, which was originally created for Baroness Philippine de Rothschild by Zino Davidoff, has been extended by the addition of of the new Zino Mouton Cadet "Torpedo". A new blend of tobacco, specially developed for the Torpedo cigar, is somewhat stronger than the classic Zino Mouton Cadet blend, and is comparable with the flavor and aroma of No. 8 of this line. The conical Torpedo shape also lends the cigar a unique, aromatic note.
The Mouton Cadet Torpedo is available in packs of four or boxes of twenty-five.
Mouton Cadet Torpedo Length: 13.2 cm / 5 ¼ inches Diameter: 22 mm / 54 ring gauge
Wrapper leaf: Connecticut Ecuador
Binder leaf: Honduras tipo Habano
Blend: Honduras tipo Habano tobaccos
- Little Bro
Thursday, June 01, 2006
4 Weeks - Cigars should be smoked within a few weeks of being rolled if you desire that "chincales" or "fresh roll" type of flavor.
6 Months - 1 Year - After 4 weeks, I think it is important to allow cigars at least 180 days of rest if they are not smoked directly after their manufacture. I strongly suggest 6 months for milder blends and at least a year for stronger ones. Without exception, cigars smoke and taste better when allowed a year to age.
1 - 2 Years - This is a good time to start smoking those heavier Nicaraguan and Hondurans. This is also the peak period for many Dominicans, and most light bodied smokes.
2 - 5 Years - These are the peak years for most other cigars. Typically the stronger, full-bodied cigars age better over a longer duration. This is why Bolivar Fuertes, Ashton VSGs, and many Havanas are all considered cigars that age beautifully. The same logic applies to cigars of substantial strength regardless of their country of origin.
7 - 10 Years - This is about the maximum aging time for me on almost all cigars. After this point, I find most cigars become too mellow and too pale in body for me to enjoy.
10+ Years - At this point we enter the realm of "vintage" cigars in my book. Many of these cigars will be so flat and boring they are worthless to smoke, while others will take on unique characteristics that will make them enjoyable smokes. One such trait is a musty smell and a taste that is similar to snuff. Another rarer long-term aging trait is cigars taking on an odd scent that is commonly referred to as the "stinky cheese-like smell." This odd reference is due to their pre-light bouquet being faintly similar to a wheel of Stilton cheese. Though it may sound unappealing, these cigars are a delight to smoke and are highly prized by vintage cigar collectors worldwide. Many pay top dollar to secure these smokes. Regardless of the flavor characteristics of vintage vitolas, rarely do any of these cigars maintain any quantitative strength at this level of aging. Also, only the fullest bodied cigars have any chance of being worthwhile smokes after this many years.
- Little Bro
Friday, May 26, 2006
Cigar cutters are used to remove or penetrate the cap of a cigar before smoking it. There are three basic types of cuts, the straight cut, the wedge (or V) cut, and the hole punch. The type of cut to make is based on personal preference and the size and/or shape of the cigar. Experienced cigar smokers may not always make the same type of cut or use the same kind of cutter. The straight cut is the most common, and is always preferred on cigars with a small ring gauge (thin cigars).
1) Straight Cutter
The most basic type of cutter used to make straight cuts is the single blade guillotine. The double blade guillotine is preferred by many aficionados because it usually makes a cleaner cut. Cigar scissors are also used to make straight cuts, and may be the best choice for cutting the cigar at the exact spot you intend. However, the guillotines are usually the most practical, the least expensive, and can be easily and safely carried in the pocket of your shirt or trousers.
2) Wedge Cutter
The wedge or "V" cutter resembles the guillotine cutter, but the shape of the blade slices a wedge into the cap of the cigar instead of cutting it completely off. The cutter is designed to slice from one side, and at the same depth, so there is no danger of cutting too deep.
3) Hole Punch
The hole punch is used to put a hole in the cap of the cigar, instead of cutting it off. If the hole is not large enough for the cigar, the draw of smoke through the cigar can be impeded. Also, as the cigar is smoked, tar can accumulate near the hole, also affecting the taste as well as the draw. Here's a hot tip: In a pinch when no cutter is available, or to sample a hole punched cigar without buying a hole punch device, a hole cut can be made in a cigar using a pen or pencil.
- Little Bro
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
By David Savona from Cigar Aficionado - The attorneys general of 40 states petitioned the U.S. government yesterday to change federal regulations on "little cigars." Calling the smokes "cigarettes wrapped in brown paper," the group said it wants the Department of the Treasury's Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to change the way little cigars are taxed and regulated.
Little cigars are taxed under a different classification from cigarettes and face different restrictions in many states. They are quite popular in the United States. According to numbers provided by the attorneys general, who attributed them to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 3.8 billion little cigars were smoked in 2005 in the United States, up nearly 1 billion units from 2004.
"The coordinated press releases and the petition by the states show a lack of understanding about little cigars," said Norman F. Sharp, president of the Cigar Association of America. "In addition, the petition filed by the states is misleading in their assertion that the states tax little cigars at a lower rate than cigarettes. In 22 states little cigars are taxed at either rates the same as cigarettes or even higher. In 19 of those states, the rates are higher."
A little cigar (top), a cigarette, and a big cigar. Most little cigars are made by machine using a mixture of chopped tobacco and flavorings, and some have filters, such as the one shown in a photograph supplied by the attorneys general comparing some little cigars to cigarettes and larger cigars.
There is a very small portion of the little-cigar market that is targeted to premium cigar smokers, and these smokes are quite different. They are mini versions of big cigars that are often handmade and typically contain only tobacco and do not have filters.
- Little Bro
Monday, May 22, 2006
When you imagine cigars being smoked does the image of seasoned, robust, and wealthy foreign men sitting around with brandy swishing in their snifters come to mind? That is probably not an uncommon image, but it is not accurate for this modern age of cigar connoisseurs.
These days it would not be surprising to find a group of women in a cigar shop. More commonly there will be men. It could be men from every walk of life, every income bracket, and any age all enjoying cigars. And you thought all cigar smokers were alike? No more than all cigars are alike. That idea would actually offend many people in the right circle.
Obviously there are your run-of-the mill cigars. There are also cigars that are costly, aromatic, and have a life all their own. In researching the time and consideration that goes into creating the latter type of elite cigars you might be amazed that the process is quite similar to that of wine production. The finest cigars begin with the tobacco plant from which it originates. The grading moves forward to encompass where it is grown and when it is harvested. The truly great cigars end with it totally mattering if a master handler is at the wheel for the curing process.
Cost for the primo cigars will vary greatly. Taste will also vary. People who have humidors in their home might be true connoisseurs but anyone who appreciates a good smoke can benefit from the variations available. Both cost and taste are affected greatly by the care and attention master tobacco handlers provide. Knowing when and how many times to turn the tobacco leaves is an essential part of the totality of a great cigar. There is a true gift to knowing when the leaves have sweated properly.
The leaves are graded and separated. Each grade level produces different taste and cost of cigars. Many specialty shops throughout the United States offer cigars in all sizes and grades to the public. And in a society where smoking in public has fast become an invasion of air space these shops offer a place to smoke. Enjoying really good cigars indoors with other people around you is not a far-reaching dream.
- Little Bro
Friday, May 19, 2006
A humidor is any kind of box or room with constant humidity (and often, temperature as well), used to store cigars. For private use, small wooden or acrylic glass humidor boxes for a few dozen cigars are appropriate, while cigar shops often have walk-in humidors, sometimes covering a whole floor. Humidors of all sizes use hygrometers to keep track of the humidity levels.
The ideal humidity in a humidor is around 65-70%, with the box filled close to the rim. The more empty space, the more readily the humidity will drop.
Humidors are made of Spanish-cedar wood, or plastic. Spanish-cedar is suitable for aging cigars for three reasons.
It holds more moisture than most woods, so it helps maintain humidity.
The aroma imparts itself to the cigars if they are retained in it for long enough. That is also why some cigars are wrapped in Spanish-cedar sheets when you buy them. Tobacco blenders use this to give cigars an extra dimension in flavor.
Spanish-cedar wood sometimes repels tobacco beetles, although there have been instances where the beetles have eaten through the wood. These pinhead-sized beetles can ruin entire stocks of cigars. They eat the tobacco and lay eggs, causing further infestation. These beetles can also be discouraged by ensuring the humidor does not get hotter than 20°C. The beetle eggs usually only hatch at around 25 °C, although there are also instances where they will hatch at cooler temperatures if the humidity is too high.
Each humidor has to be seasoned after being bought or having been dry for a while. Take a moist cloth and wipe down the interior to remove any dust. Then place a shot glass or a container of similar size in the humidor and fill it with distilled water. Keep the humidor closed overnight. If the water is gone or mostly gone, then repeat for another 24 hours. When the humidor is not absorbing any more humidity, the cigars can be placed in it. The humidifying element or "sponge" keeps the wood moist, which in turn keeps the cigars moist.
- Little Bro
Thursday, May 18, 2006
This is one great smoke. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good stogie for that special occasion.
Gurkha is responsible for some of the top brands rolled today. In conjunction with the famous Torano Family, Gurkha uses only the best tobacco grown to make super premium cigars. Their cigars have been commissioned by royalty and are smoked by aficionados who only enjoy the very finest cigars.
The Gurkha Regent is one of the most popular Gurkha lines. After 5 years of intensive blending, Kaizad Hansotia, Gurkha President, finally settled on a mixture of tobaccos that was worthy of the Gurkha name. The regent begins with an attractive silky brown wrapper that encases premium long filler tobaccos from Honduras. The medium bodied and full flavored smoke make for the perfect smoking experience. The balance between leather and wood aromas brings a deliberate taste to the palate with a nice solid finish. This line is limited, don’t miss your chance to smoke what many consider to be the finest cigar made by Gurkha.
- Little Bro
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
With the unprecedented success of the Macanudo Café line, came the introduction of the Macanudo Maduro. Like the classic natural wrapper line, the Maduro offers a very smooth and mild flavor with the addition of a sweet Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. This combination gives the Maduro version a bit more flavor and complexity then its Café counterpart.
Produced today in the Dominican Republic and sold as a brand in the portfolio of General Cigar, Macanudo is the best selling cigar in America and is one of the most recognizable names in cigars. Often times, cigar aficionados compare Macanudo cigars with baseball, as both are considered a great American passion and past time. The Macanudo maduro is mild to medium bodied, featuring a damp flavor with caramel undertones and a very short finish.
- Little Bro
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
CAO is the maker of some of the highest rated brands in the world. Previously best known for making premium pipes, the Nashville based company broke into the cigar industry with authority. The attention they have attracted has not just been from their first rate tobacco either, their concepts and cigar packaging and trendy, appealing to the new generation of cigar smokers.
For years CAO dreamt of a cigar that uses premium Brazilian tobacco, but finding good Brazilian leaf at the end of the cigar boom was not an easy task. At the time Brazilian tobacco was not at the top of its game. However, CAO stumbled on a beautiful dark wrapper leaf from the coveted Bahia region and the rest is history. After its launch this cigar brought attention back to Brazilian tobacco and essentially was the rebirth of Brazilian cigars in the US cigar market, as other cigar makers flocked to South America in attempt to recreate CAO’s success. The rich Brazilian wrapper gives the CAO Brazilia a full bodied and full flavored aroma that carries a long and spicy finish. It is a truly unforgettable cigar, and a powerhouse addition to the humidor.
- Little Bro
Monday, May 15, 2006
Industrial Press cigars are attractive handmades from Drew Estate. Industrial Press is a traditional beauty made in Esteli, Nicaragua with outstanding Sun-Grown wrappers from Ecuador together with Connecticut binders, and all-Nicaraguan long leaf tobaccos. The result is a fantastically rich smoke layered with flavors, including chocolate and coffee undertones that are smooth from start to finish. Enjoy a complex handmade that burns slow, emitting clouds of thick, gray smoke.
Industrial Press lineup:
Industrial Press Drew Supreme (5"x42)
Industrial Press Brickk (5"x54)
Industrial Press 5 Point Figurado (6"x57)
Industrial Press Mass (6"x58)
- Little Bro
Friday, May 12, 2006
The Fuente OpusX is the rarest non Cuban cigar currently in production. The supply of these cigars is extremely small and they are typically not available anywhere in the United States until the Holidays and Father’s Day. In addition to being the worlds top cigar maker, Carlito Fuente is also heavily involved in the Dominican Republic and has launched a charity campaign to raise money for schools, clothing, and medicine for the people there. To help raise funds, Carlito makes several ultra rare OpusX cigars in non traditional OpusX sizes that are thinly distributed. These cigars are the cream of the crop, the rare of rare, the best of the best
- Little Bro
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Smokin' Up The Cigar World
Jonathan Drew Takes Drew Estate To New Levels
In the sometimes stodgy world of cigar aficionados and manufacturers, Drew Estate stands out as a forward-thinking, edgy company that has set the cigar world on its ear, and redefined the specialty cigar market.
The company, founded in 1995, manufactures ACID brand cigars. Featuring exotic tobacco blends never before seen by the industry, the cigars have quickly become a favorite among both newbies and serious cigar smokers. Next week, Drew will unveil its newest creation, ACID Five, to the world at Maxwell & Dunne's Steakhouse in Plainview (Maxwell & Dunne's is operated by the publishers of the Long Island Press). ACID Five is a special cigar rolled with an exotic 5-year- old limited blend of tobacco.
The Cigar Lounge at Maxwell & Dunne's, site of new Acid Five release.
The company is the vision of Bay Shore native Jonathan Drew, who founded Drew Estate with college friend Marvin Samel. The company has come a long way from its humble roots in a New York City apartment, where Drew and Samel began to experiment with new flavors and blends that would become the signature of the Drew Estate operation. The company now produces millions of cigars in a given year, and there is no end in sight to its growth.
That is good news, because the specialty cigar market is on a roll. "The [industry] is doing extremely well," says Tom Wallace, CEO of TNG Cigar Company. "ACID is really making a mark. Anything different is great. They have a great market, a well- made product, and the company's advertising and marketing are incredible."
Wallace, who only sells cigars he manufactures, knows Drew Estate well. He believes the company has a good bead on the market. Currently, Wallace sells seven flavored cigars, and is currently working on new offerings.
Drew Estate has several cigar lines, including ACID, Natural, Ambrosia, Subculture, Industrial Press and La Vieja Habana. The aggressive marketing approach that Drew has implemented has helped each brand reach cigar enthusiasts and leave lasting impressions.
"Drew Estate definitely holds a unique position [in the industry]," says Ted Hoyt III, editorial director of Smoke magazine. "They do not just do straight flavored cigars, but rather 'botanical infusion,' which puts them in their own category."
One of the earliest breaks for Drew Estate cigars came with the development of a signature exclusive cigar for its retail location at the World Trade Center Mall. The cigar was an instant hit, a tobacco blend unlike any other in the industry at the time. The next challenge was finding a vehicle to sell Drew Estate cigars. After beefing up the sales staff, Drew took to the road, visiting city after city, going inside cigar stores and pitching their product. The efforts paid off, and by 1997 Drew had choices to make: Either stay the same size, or move the operation to Nicaragua. Drew chose the latter, and operations are conducted out of the South American country to this day.
It wasn't easy running the company from Nicaragua. Drew worked day and night in the factory, proving his dedication to the art of cigar making and earning the respect of wary local tobacco growers.
Around this time, Drew was once again experimenting with his cigars, adding ingredients like coffee and rose petals, oils, herbs and other organics. Drew Estate began to import tobacco from all over the world to achieve the unique flavor that Drew had envisioned when he started the company. It took more than a year before ACID cigars were ready for the world, and once released they became one of the most exciting smokes on the market.
Wallace says the flavored cigars may not be for purists, but the younger crowd can't seem to get enough of them. "They love them. They appeal to more people, too, including women," says Wallace.
Many of the big companies are following the example of Drew Estate. "I see more of the manufacturers who in previous years had never gotten into the specialty biz now coming out with flavors, and those that had flavors are expanding," says Bob Olesen of Smoke and Smoke Shop magazines.
ACID Five promises to up the ante for Drew Estate. As Drew and his colleagues have shown, the company will continue to innovate. But for the moment, Drew is excited about the new release. You can be sure that he won't rest on his laurels for too long.
- Little Bro
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Virtually all cigar aficionados enjoy the practice because of the rich and varied flavors one observes when smoking, although some eschew the connoisseurial qualities in favor of other factors. For those drawn by taste, each brand and type of cigar carries different qualities of taste. Generally, cigars with lighter colored wrappers are milder in flavor and have less of a smoky aftertaste. Darker wrappers are typically richer in flavor, although the specific flavors are not unique to any particular style or type of tobacco.
Unlike cigarettes, cigars taste very little of smoke, and usually very much of tobacco with overtones of other tastes. A fine cigar--especially one of Cuban origin prior to 1990--can have virtually no taste of smoke whatsoever.
Some of the more common flavors one observes while smoking a cigar include:
Cocoa / chocolate
Peat / moss / earth
Non-smokers subjected to second-hand cigar smoke typically describe the smell in far less flattering terms--one comparison being to a charnel house on fire.
The most ardent enjoyers of cigar smoking will sometimes keep personal journals of cigars they've enjoyed, complete with personal ratings, description of flavors observed, sizes, brands, etc. The qualities and characteristics of cigar tasting are very similar to those of wine, Scotch, beer, cognacs and tequila. Within a given specification, there are endless varieties. This dynamic is part of the appeal to which cigar smokers are continually drawn.
- Little Bro
During the mid- to late 1990s in the United States, numerous cultural phenomena caused the popularity of cigar smoking to skyrocket. Lavish dinner events, or "smokers", were held in virtually every metropolitan area of consequence across the United States. Celebrities, radio and television talk-show hosts, politicians, blue-collar workers, and even a large number of women were drawn to the allure of the cigar. The sudden resurgence in cigar smoking created demand that was difficult to supply. Additionally, the significance of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba – imposed some 30 years earlier, before many of the new aficionados were born – suddenly became very evident. Cigar retailers, a good number of them new establishments looking to capitalize on the craze, could name their price on virtually every type and brand of cigar. Some even refused to sell any one customer an entire box at a time, regardless of the fact that only a very few could afford to, as a courtesy to their other customers.
In the rush to meet demand, the quality of many premium cigars suffered for brief periods of time. Eventually, consumer demand so far outpaced supply that many of those who took it up had to cease the practice altogether. For many, this was mainly due to either lack of supply or overinflated prices. For others, the newness of the fad had simply worn off. By 2005, cigar prices had descended to reasonable levels, and supply of the best brands is abundant for those who continue to enjoy cigar smoking, even in the face of public scrutiny and disapproval
- Little Bro
Friday, May 05, 2006
The indigenous inhabitants of the islands of the Caribbean Sea and Mesoamerica have smoked cigars since at least the 900s AD, as evidenced by the discovery of a ceramic vessel at a Mayan archaeological site in Uaxactun, Guatemala, decorated with the painted figure of a man smoking a primitive cigar. Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus is generally credited with the introduction of smoking to Europe, an action which is often termed the "discovery" of smoking, despite his having borrowed the practice from the indigenous Americans.
Two of Columbus's crewmen during his 1492 journey, Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, are said to have disembarked in Cuba and taken puffs of tobacco wrapped in maize husks, thus becoming the first European cigar smokers.
In the 19th century, cigar smoking was common while cigarettes were still comparatively rare. The cigar business was an important industry, and factories employed many people before mechanized manufacturing of cigars became practical. Many modern cigars, as a matter of prestige, are still rolled by hand; some boxes bear the phrase Hecho a Mano, "Made by Hand", as proof.
- Little Bro
Thursday, May 04, 2006
The cigar became inextricably intertwined with political history on February 7, 1962, when The United States President John F. Kennedy, intending to sanction Fidel Castro's communist government, imposed a trade embargo on Cuba. Americans were thus prohibited from purchasing what were at the time considered the finest cigars on the market, and Cuba was deprived of a large portion of its customers. According to Pierre Salinger, then Kennedy's press secretary, the president ordered him on the evening of February 6 to obtain a thousand Petit H. Upmanns Cuban cigars; upon Salinger's arrival with the cigars the following morning, Kennedy signed the executive order which put the embargo into effect.
Cigars obtained prior to the embargo are not considered contraband, and became known as "pre-embargo Cubans". As of 2006, it remains illegal for Americans to purchase or import Cuban cigars. As is usual with embargoes, there exists a lively smuggling trade, coupled with elevated prices and rampant counterfeiting.
Due to the increased use of home computers and the advent of the Internet, it has become much easier for people in the United States to purchase illegal cigars online from neighboring countries such as Canada where there is no embargo against Cuba. The full impact of computers and the Internet on the embargo is not known. As with all illegal activity, there is a higher risk of being taken in a scam, either by receiving counterfeit goods or nothing at all.
- Little Bro
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
There are many special times that are conducive to celebrating with a fine cigar. Here is my Top 10 List of special occasions for smoking cigars.
1) Weddings - Especially Your Own
Weddings are the best occasions for smoking cigars. Celebrate with family and friends, and smoke any kind of cigar, even the machine made cigars wrapped in "Just Married" cellophane wrappers. Weddings make for the best photo opportunities, with cigars in hand (and mouth).
2) Birth of a Baby - A close second to weddings, it is customary for the new father to pass around cigars to family and friends. Like weddings, machine made cigars wrapped in "It's a Boy" or "It's a Girl" cellophane wrappers will do just fine.
3) New Job, Promotion or Major Accomplishment - It's time to celebrate one of life's milestones by firing up a fine stogie.
4) New Year's Eve - An old year is almost over, better kiss it goodbye with a premium hand rolled cigar. A new year is about begin, better start it off right with a premium hand rolled cigar.
5) While Gambling - Not just the mandatory cigars required at poker games, but also while enjoying those free cocktails when playing blackjack or the slots at a casino.
6) Your Birthday - It's your day, do whatever you want, as long as you celebrate.
7) While Enjoying an Aesthetic Experience - Smoking a cigar will enhance and prolong an aesthetic experience. Do you remember that movie about a Vacation starring Chevy Chase, the one where he and his family visited the Grand Canyon on their trip west? They drove all that way to get there, then after taking just a quick look he says something like, "Well, there it is", then they drive away. With a view like that, you have to stop and smell the cigar smoke.
8) After Thanksgiving Dinner - After enjoying the biggest meal of the year, you need to relax with a fine cigar and a dessert drink to help digest all that food.
9) It's the Weekend - It's time to celebrate, relax, and just enjoy a smoke.
10) The Fourth of July - Celebrate your freedom, that is what cigar smoking is all about. Besides, a lit cigar is the best way to ignite fireworks.
- Little Bro
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Anytime a new cigar comes out from the Graycliff, there is reason for excitement. If your looking for a cigar company that doesn't care about quantity, and solely focuses on quality, Graycliff is your home.
The Graycliff Cigar company has a maverick reputation of doing the unexpected. They started making super premiums cigars in 1998 at the end of the cigar boom. They enlisted the help of Cuban master roller and blender Avelino Lara, who was responsible for the Cohiba line and Castro’s personal cigars. Since 1998, they have produced cigars with body and flavor with out sacrificing balance or being overly harsh. They have surprised us again with the new Chateau Gran Cru line.
Unveiled at the 2005 RTDA, the new Chateau line appears positioned in the number one spot at Graycliff Cigars. The big news is that the Chateau line is made with estate tobacco. Yes, Graycliff is now in the tobacco production business. This gives them more control over the blends.
Many of the blend details remain known only to the Graycliff folk. As this information filters out, we will update this review. The Chateau line will come in 3 shapes similar to the other lines, the PG Robusto, the Pirate Torpedo, and the President Churchill. Graycliff will also have a small petite corona with a belicoso tip called the Scooter, along with the unbelievably delicious new Salamone size.
We believe the Graycliff Chateau Gran Cru is a great cigar period. We tried a small selection of these cigars including the Scooter, Salamone, Presidente, and Pirate. This cigar has typical Graycliff construction… near perfect. The Gran Cru might be the most complex and flavorful smoke to come out of the Graycliff factory. But the taste is a total departure from previous lines, lacking their signature spiciness. A mix of complex earthy flavors with a floral and grassy aroma create a great smoking experience. Additionally, this is a cigar that can be appreciated by the novice and experienced cigar smoker alike.
For those of you that stayed away from the Graycliff line due to the spiciness of their cigars, this is a must try. Actually, that doesn't sum it up, this is a must try for everyone. If your looking for a cigar that refuses to attack your palate while consistently delivering a smooth yet complex taste, these are wonderful smokes.
You have to concentrate on this cigar when you smoke it. We found ourselves often overwhelmed by all the different flavors materializing from these cigars. Do yourself a favor when smoking a Graycliff Chateau Gran Cru...don't walk, run, mow the lawn, or anything else, sit down and devote some time to this cigar, and you'll find it pays you back in tenfold.
Vital Statistics: - PresidenteSize: 7 x 48Shape: Churchill
Vital Statistics: - PirateSize: 6 x 52Shape: Torpedo
Vital Statistics: - PGSize: 5 1/4 x 50Shape: Robusto
- Little Bro
Monday, May 01, 2006
We all know the difference between a machine made cigar and a handmade cigar. Machine made cigars are typically made with scraps of homogenized tobacco and are mass-produced. But when it comes to handmade cigars, there is an important distinction within this category. Cigars that claim to be handmade may include both those made entirely by hand and those that are machine-bunched but hand-finished. Often, only price enables one to tell the difference between a machine-bunched & hand-rolled cigar and a true hand-rolled one, as the draw, feel, and construction appears much the same. Machine-bunched cigars have been made since the 1950s. While they are usually less expensive, it can be hard to distinguish because these are also often described as handmade cigars. It is not necessarily a misnomer, however, because a great deal of hand labor does indeed go into each product. The draw is often as good as that of a true handmade cigar, often even better, because a machine is more consistent in forming the bunch than a human. Cuba is particularly notable for producing a large number of such machine-bunched and hand-finished cigars, and these sometimes are made with short filler. A typical way of making this cigar would be to feed the pre-blended filler leaf into a machine that automatically bunches it. While this is happening, another worker places a rough-cut binder leaf over a template, whereupon a mechanized blade trims the leaf precisely to the required form. The binder is then picked up mechanically and glued with clear vegetable gum to hold the filler leaf, which is rolled into the binder before the finished bunch tumbles gently onto a conveyor belt. This is then picked up by hand, trimmed, and placed into the cigar moulds and pressed. Then, the machine-bunched cigar is treated exactly like a handmade one. It goes to the hand-roller who applies the wrapper the same way as he would for a totally handmade product. The cigar then follows the standard steps of manufacture, including the quality inspection, color-sorting and aging processes.
- Little Bro
Friday, April 28, 2006
Drew Estate Kahlua Cigar Review
I figured I'd start throwing in a cigar review every now and then. Here's my first, enjoy.
Drew Estate Kahlua Corona 5X42
Wrapper: Connecticut Shade
Construction: Nice smooth wrapper with no large veins. Firm to the touch. Nicely done cap.
Prelight: Nice tobacco aroma with just a subtle hint of Kahlua. It had a sweetened tip, but i've got kind of a sweet tooth, so I enjoyed that. Nice easy draw.
Burn: Lit very easily. Somewhat irregular at times, easily corrected. Firm light grey ash that held over an inch and a half before falling.
Smoking Notes: Right off the bat, a very smooth and creamy smoke with nice subtle hints of Kahlua. Not overbearing like some flavoreds. The flavor stayed consistent for the first half. The tobacco and coffee flavors picked up in the second half. Burned down to about an inch. Burned a little hot at the end, but I was smoking a little fast.
Overall impression: I thoroughly enjoyed this smoke. So smooth and creamy. The aroma in the air was incredible. Almost like pipe tobacco. It was very mild in strength, but medium-full in flavor.
I fully recommend this cigar!!
- Big Mike
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Even if nobody really knows where and when tobacco was first planted, we're sure the first people to cultivate and smoke tobacco were the American Indians.
According to history, tobacco was first discovered on the island of Cuba when Christopher Columbus first arrived in 1492. But, some trace of tobacco has also been found in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
By the 16th century, the Spanish conquistadors had introduced tobacco in Spain and Portugal, and Jean Nicot, the French ambassador in Portugal, (from whose name comes the word nicotine) in the rest of Europe.
Some people believe that the word "Tobacco" came from the name of the island Tobago and others from the Mexican region called Tabasco. The Tainos, natives of the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, named it Cohiba or Cojoba. On the other hand, the word Cigar come from a Maya verb sikar which means "to smoke".
The first tobacco fields appeared in Virginia in 1612 and in Maryland in 1631, but the crops were mostly used for pipe tobacco. We think that cigars first appeared in America in 1762, when Israel Putnam came back from Cuba where he had served under the British army. Back in Connecticut, he brought with him cigars and a big quantity of tobacco. So, the first cigar manufacture appeared in Hartford at the same time that tobacco from Cuba, now known as Connecticut tobacco, was planted.
In the 19th century, the "Smoking Jacket" was designed to protect clothes from smoke during high class dinners. At the end of the 19th century, wives used to quit the table while men would drink Cognac and smoke a good cigar. It is in the middle of the 19th century that the cigar ring and cigar box made their apparition.
In the United States, cigar smoking really started after the Civil war. At this time, the most expensive cigars, which were hand made with Cuban tobacco, were called "Habanos", like those made in Cuba. The word "Habanos" is now a generic name. The word "Stogie" comes from the cigar manufacturer of Conestoga in Pennsylvania, well known for its famous cigars. At the end of the 19th century, smoking a cigar was a symbol of high social status (the reason why some famous people like Henry Clay, a U.S. Senator, gave their names to famous brands). In 1919, Thomas Marshall, Vice-president of Woodrow Wilson, declared to the Senate : "What this country really needs is a good five-cent cigar".
- Big Mike
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Art of Making A European Hand-made Wooden Humidor
The selection and preparation of the solid wood used are of great importance. Indeed, before it can be used, the wood must cure for at least ten years in the open air, sheltered from bad weather. It must neither be cracked nor warped. It must be uniform and have a fine grain.
The beauty of an "objet de luxe" also depends on the way the essences of precious wood veneer are used. Certain natural imperfections in the wood, such as knots, dark spots, holes, cracks, are part of most veneers, notably burls. Only the most beautiful grained veneers is chosen to avoid what the uninitiated might consider a "defect."
Marquetry is made by assembling and gluing together different essences of geometrically cut precious wood, creating, through their varying tones and forms, a multitude of motifs.
Numerous fine coats of varnish is applied to every one of the creations. Their inimitable brilliance and transparency are obtained by successively sanding and polishing eight times by hand.
- Big Mike
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Hand Made Cigars
Handmade cigars have three main parts - the filler, the binder, and the wrapper. Each of the parts has a different function when the cigar is actually smoked.
The outside wrapper dictates the cigar's appearance. It is grown under gauze and fermented separately from other leaves to ensure that it is smooth, not too oily, and has a subtle bouquet. It also has to be soft and pliable so that it is easy for the roller to handle.
Wrapper leaves from different plantations have varying colors (and thus subtly different flavors more sugary if they are darker, for instance) and are used for different brands. Good wrapper leaves have to be elastic and must have no protruding veins. They have to be matured for between one year and 18 months the longer the better. Wrapper tobacco might come from Connecticut, Cameroon, Sumatra, Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica, or Nicaragua. The wrapper is the most expensive part of the cigar.
The binder leaf holds the cigar together and is usually two halves of coarse sun-grown leaf from the upper part of the plant, chosen because of its good tensile strength. The filler is made of separate leaves folded by hand along their length, to allow a passage through which smoke can be drawn when the cigar is lit. The fold can be properly achieved by hand and is the primary reason why machine-made cigars are often less satisfactory. This style of arranging the filler is sometimes called the "book" style - which means that, if you were to cut the cigar down its length with a razor, the filler leaves would resemble the pages of a book. In the past, the filler was sometimes arranged using the "entubar" method - with up to eight narrow tubes of tobacco leaf rolled into the binder, making the cigar burn very slowly.
Three different types of leaf are normally used for the filler (in fatter ring guages, like Montecristo No. 2, a fourth type is also used). Ligero leaves from the top of the plant are dark and full in flavor as a result of oils produced by exposure to sunlight. They have to be matured for at least two years before they can be used in cigarmaking. Ligero tobacco is always placed in the middle of the cigar because it burns slowly. Seco leaves, from the middle of the plant, are much lighter in color and flavor. They are usually used after maturing for around 18 months. Volado leaves, from the bottom of the plant, have little or no flavor, but they have commendable burning qualities. They are matured for about nine months before use.
The precise blend of these different leaves in the filler dictates the flavor of each brand and size. A full-bodied cigar like Bolivar Fuerte will, for instance, have a higher proportion of ligero in its filler, than a mild cigar, such as Don Diego, where seco and volado will predominate. Small, thin cigars will very often have no ligero tobacco leaf in them at all. The consistency of a blend is achieved by using tobacco from different harvests and farms, so a large stock of matured tobacco is essential to the process.
- Big Mike
Monday, April 24, 2006
Machine Made Cigars
A machine made cigar is basically a bundle of tobacco that is rolled into a tubular shape. This bundle is called the filler. The filler is held together by the binder. The binder and filler are covered by the wrapper. The entire process of making this type of cigar is automated. There are some very good machine-made cigars.
Machine made cigars are produced in most cigar-producing countries and are the least expensive. They are offered in cigarette stores, newstands, gas stations, etc. They are usually sold in cellophane wrappers. Most are small to medium in size. Some have a hole in the cap or head of the cigar. Although some machine-made cigars have great taste and draw well, they are not able to offer the complex taste that develops with a quality handmade cigar made with long-leaf filler.
The following are advantages of machine made cigars:
1. Prefect draw
2. Uniform appearance & taste
- Big Mike
Friday, April 21, 2006
Stale Cigars and Aging
From time to time, friends, acquaintances, and customers will state that a cigar is "stale" and therefore not up to par. I usually just shake my head and keep on trucking with whatever I am doing. But enough is enough. Let's set the record straight–there is nothing worse then telling a tobacconist that he is selling "stale" cigars. Cigars are not like bread, pretzels, or potato-chips; they do not go "bad" after a certain amount of time. As a matter of fact, they often improve with age, just like wine, given proper storage. If a cigar is dry, cracked, or falling apart, it is not because of the amount of time elapsed since they were rolled but because it was not properly humidified, were handled carelessly, or swings in humidity have caused the tobaccos to expand and contract repeatedly. If the cellophane covering your cigars has a yellowish tint, be happy, it is likely you have a cigar that has been aging for several years in its box; and if properly humidified, is usually an improved smoke.
Want to know more about how age affects a cigar? Well I've got you covered–follow along and you are on the way to becoming an aficionado. Typically, aging makes a smoother, more pleasant, “round” cigar. Most experts agree that aging does not necessarily make a cigar better, but simply rounder, producing a mellower character with a less sharp tobacco taste. If any of you have smoked a cigar months after the actual purchase date - after they've had some TLC in your humidor, you more than likely noticed a mellower taste and strength. Another characteristic of an aged cigar is typically a more even, gentler burn and draw. A freshly rolled cigar will sometimes be a little too moist and those two characteristics can suffer. Laying them in your humidor can give cigars time to dry out allowing the long-filler tobacco to loosen up considerably. The tobaccos will marry and create a more refined taste. In fact, some cigar enthusiasts buy full boxes or bundles - not to smoke them right away, but to age or “rest” in their humidor. Many have the patience to let them stay for a year or more! Patience is indeed a virtue when it comes to aging your cigars.
Interested in aging your cigars? The amount of time you age cigars is a matter of personal preference. In general, age them at least a year for optimum effect. Of course, some low-quality cigars won't see much improvement with aging - remember "garbage in, garbage out." However, keep in mind that some cigars will have pleasantly rich flavors after aging, even though today they might smell like a dumpster - much the same way that good wines for aging are too tannic to drink when young. Certain cigars are just naturally better suited for aging. An example is larger ring-gauge cigars. The thicker the cigar, the greater the variety of tobacco leaves and hence, the more complex the final flavor of the aged cigar. The extreme insides of larger cigars tend to be somewhat shielded from the outside environment, less affected by fluctuations in humidity and temperature. This added stability is highly desirable for long-term aging. Some cigars, on the other hand, don't benefit from aging. Maduro-wrapped cigars, for example, which are artificially "cooked" or "cured" to achieve the dark coloration of the wrapper, are essentially "fixed," and thus any further benefits of aging have been stunted. It is different with each cigar, but there does come a point when the cigar is optimum and any additional aging simply won’t enhance the cigar any further.
- Big Mike
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Have you been witness to a debate questioning the proper etiquette regarding removal of the vaunted cigar band? Just as there is no complete agreement on the origin of the band, differences of opinion exist on contemporary band manners. Etiquette guides of 19th-century England, the land from which most manners were dictated, insisted that only "lower classes" failed to remove the band. These same guides did approve, however, of turning the face of the band toward one's fellows if "the cigar was of sufficient quality to impress them." Most modern U.S. tobacconists tell customers that band removal is strictly a matter of choice. Interestingly, the majority of tobacconists queried said they personally removed bands so as not to show favoritism, except, predictably, those smoking their own house brands who view the display of the band as inexpensive advertising. Why remove it? The arguments range from the potential of the band damaging the wrapper to the steadfast belief that only the most naive smokers would actually leave the band on. Most experts, including Zino Davidoff, believe that the removal of a cigar band is a "personal choice," claiming that in today's world there is no shame in leaving the band on a cigar, citing references to both practices in literature as evidence. He personally removes his bands, but only after a few puffs, when the cigar is well-lighted and "running." Waiting a few minutes allows the heat of the smoke to make the gum on the band less adhesive and easier to remove without tearing the fragile wrapper. One country does still take a rather strong view with respect to the band - the British. They still consider it "bad form" to advertise the brand you are smoking - as you wouldn't want to embarrass another gentleman smoking an inferior brand. No matter whether you decide to remove the band before, during, or not at all be prepared to support your choice. There have been more than a few stories contemplating the origin of the cigar band - here are three: First is that of the Russian Queen, Catherine the Great who ordered all of her cigars to be wrapped in silk in order to protect her fingers. In an effort to mimic the queen all cigars in Russia eventually had the same bands applied. But, why would Cubans be influenced by the extravagances of a queen over 5,000 miles away? Story #2 stems from the need to keep white gloves in England from being soiled. There are three reasons this most likely is not the origin. For one, a properly rolled and smoked cigar would not stain fingers. Secondly, smokers most often did not wear these gloves while smoking (as shown in photographs of the period). And third, keeping in mind your own experiences, how often have you ever noticed anyone actually holding the cigar by the band while smoking? The third story suggests the most logical development of the cigar band counterfeiting. During the 1800's as the popularity of the cigar was steadily increasing, the demand for Cuban cigars overwhelmed the supply. Don Francisco Cabanas (owner of a prestigious brand of Cuban Cigars) estimated that "for every one of the 2 million Cuban cigars that I ship to Europe, 6 million are being sold there." So in an effort to combat the fake Cuban cigars, a local factory owner named Gustave Bock, a European immigrant well versed in the practices of Old World Merchants, ordered that a paper ring with his signature be placed on every cigar intended for export.
- Big Mike
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Flavored Cigars: They ain't what they used to be
Veteran cigar smokers often belly-laugh at the thought of smoking a flavored cigar - or at least snicker. To some, flavored cigars are like wine coolers to wine drinkers. Hell, many look over their shoulder before taking a peek at one in a cigar shop - and probably will even skip this article. But increasingly, there is a sort of flight to quality among flavored cigars, so don't necessarily dismiss them out of hand. Believe me, I was one of them just a short time ago.
I can't tell you how many customers pick up a small flavored cigarillo, smell it, notice it's only 50 cents, and buy it on a whim. More often than not, they can't even finish the damn thing, throw it away, and vow never to try another flavored cigar again. After trying many samples, I don't blame these guys. I have noticed that most flavored cigars are extremely mild, sickeningly sweet, cloying, poorly constructed, and rarely taste like the intended flavor anyway.
Most people think of flavored cigars as small tobacco trimmings soaked in a cherry or vanilla flavored 'brine' and covered in a sugar soaked wrapper leaf. As disgusting as this may sound, it can be true with your lesser-known brands. However, the tides continue to change and the market for flavored cigars has been flourishing at an enormous rate over the past 1-2 years. And with brands like CAO Flavours, the Gurkha Louis XIII, Toraño, ACID, and Alec Bradley entering the 'flavored family', you wouldn't expect anything less. Using new technologies within the curing process, the bar of quality has been raised to new heights. Need some examples? That's why I am writing this article!
Let's talk about the flavoring process. More specifically, let's talk about the new and improved process being used by some of your better known brands. Some brands such as CAO Flavours and the Gurkha Louis XIII line imbue - rather than soak or spray - aromas in the tobacco over time to impart a subtle and pleasant taste. Carlos Toraño has implemented the use of so-called 'reaction flavors' to create their flavored line, Rum Rumba. Reaction flavors are created specifically for tobacco products, causing the blend to gain flavor as the cigar burns. This is an improvement, as many flavored cigars lose their sweetness and flavor only to gain a bitter harshness towards the end. ACID cigars employ a slightly different process: an "aroma room" is lined with over 200 essential herbs, oils and botanicals to infuse a highly aromatic taste.
Alec Bradley - maker of Trilogy and Occidental - has a flavored series called Gourmet Dessert Cigars. These are also created with a unique twist. Using all-natural flavorings frequently used within the baking industry, Alec Bradley significantly improved the flavor of the cigars as well as extended the flavored life of the cigars. Prior to these improvements, some flavored cigars were known to lose their added flavor even as they sat on the shelf waiting to be purchased.
So what's the point of this article you ask? Well, even if it's not your everyday cup of tea, why not try a flavored cigar, or give it another try if your first experience wasn't great? You may actually be impressed, and find a nice 'change of pace smoke' along the way. Even if you have to get your wife to buy it for you and then smoke it in a locked room with the lights out and shades drawn, it's worth a shot.
- Big Mike
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
The Process of Cigar Rolling
If you ever get to visit a cigar factory, you’re in for a treat. In fact, you’ll probably leave thinking it’s a minor miracle that cigars don't cost $20 apiece. The manufacture of handmade cigars is a truly extensive process, which includes the growing, harvesting, and curing, to the leaf selection, rolling, and quality control, to the banding, packing, box-making and so on. Fortunately, from time to time, we host “rolling events” at our retail store, and this gives a small glimpse into the art of cigar rolling itself (and you don’t have to travel to Central America to see it!). Each rolling event typically features a master roller from some of the top factories in Central America or the Caribbean. The process is fascinating. At one of our recent events, Roberto, a master roller from Victor Sinclair, gave us a blow by blow description of the rolling process.
First, he prepares the fillers, which you might be tempted to think consisted merely of bunching leaves together. However, Roberto displayed an old method called entubar which originated in Cuba and is performed to achieve superior air flow through the cigar. It entails painstakingly folding each individual leaf onto itself prior to bunching to promote an even burn and draw, then surrounding it with a coarse binder leaf which holds it together. This sounds easy enough, but done by a novice your cigar would look more like a wadded up newspaper than a cigar!
After properly shaping the filler, the bunch is placed into a cedar mold where it will remain for 30 to 45 minutes. During this time, Roberto unfolds a moist towel, uncovering the most expensive part - the high-quality wrapper leaves.
Roberto clears the cedar rolling platform - which is actually a sliver cut from a tree trunk - of any loose tobacco and debris before beginning the important task of applying the wrapper. He takes pride in his rolling platform, as it has been passed down for generations throughout his family. After cautiously inspecting the leaf, Roberto chooses the best part of the leaf and uses his chaveta (roller's knife) to masterfully sculpt it into the optimum shape for wrapping his cigar. Like his platform, the chaveta is also a family heirloom. He applies a small amount of vegetable glue, better known as pectin, to ensure that his wrapper will remain secure.
The wrapper is now primed and Roberto removes a perfectly shaped bunch from the mold. After cutting it to length, he applies the wrapper carefully from foot to head, retracing any ‘mis-rolls’ along the way. With the cigar wrapped, the cap is ready to be applied. Traditionally, caps are formed by using a knife similar to a large punch cutter to cut a circle shape out of the wrapper leaf. This circle is then applied to the head of the cigar. [Roberto has a flair for the dramatic, and decides to create a pigtail at the head of the cigar by holding the cap and spinning the cigar. Using his chaveta, he tucks the end of the pigtail to form a knot, delighting onlookers.]
Finally, the moment we have been waiting for: the application of the cigar band. Again, using the vegetable glue, he applies the band to the cigar and holds it up for the crowd. Almost from seed to smoke, the master roller passes the tradition and pride of his family to a stranger through his hands.
- Big Mike
The Origin of Bundles
A big part of the cigar business today is that of "bundles." Those newer to the joys of cigars probably don't realize that bundles were, until fairly recently, non-existent. Premium cigars have always been known for their distinctive packaging, including cedar or paper decorated boxes. But today, bundles are a major part of the premium cigar business. Bundles originally appeared in the early 1960s as "value cigars." Most bundles were actually manufacturer's seconds, in that there were small blemishes on what were otherwise good quality wrappers. Originally, cigars within a given bundle often did not match each other in color or in taste. Some were machine-made, some hand-made, and the quality was often inconsistent. The main benefit to bundles was the cost savings in labor and raw materials. Before cigars are boxed, they are sorted by color. Due to slight variations in wrapper colors, after they are rolled, they're individually handled and grouped according to color. This is why, if you look at the cigars within a given box, they should look identical, but if you open 2 different boxes, the wrapper colors may vary slightly from one box to the next. In the beginning, bundles were, by convention, not sorted by color. Therefore, costs could be cut by eliminating the need to hand sort each cigar. Plus, by avoiding the use of a costly cedar box, more savings was passed along. But these days, it's a different story. Today, the word "bundle" is not synonymous with second quality. Bundles have become so popular that manufacturers now plan specifically for that trade. Manufacturers are not just packing seconds in bundles anymore, but are making cigars specifically for the bundle market. In fact, most bundles today have the same consistency as boxed cigars. You're as likely to find a premium cigar packaged in a bundle as a second. As beautiful as most cigar-related packaging usually is, bundles are a wonderful development for those looking to maximize value. After all, you don't smoke the box!
- Big Mike
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Mark Twain on Cigars
My friends for some years now have remarked that I am an inveterate consumer of tobacco. That is true, but my habits with regard to tobacco have changed. I have no doubt that you will say, when I have explained to you what my present purpose is, that my taste has deteriorated, but I do not so regard it. Let me tell you briefly the history of my personal relation to tobacco. It began, I think, when I was a lad, and took the form of a quid, which I became expert in tucking under my tongue. Afterward I learned the delights of the pipe, and I suppose there was no other youngster of my age who could more deftly cut plug tobacco so as to make it available for pipe-smoking. Well, time ran on, and there came a time when I was able to gratify one of my youthful ambitions -- I could buy the choicest Havana cigars without seriously interfering with my income. I smoked a good many, changing off from the Havana cigars to the pipe in the course of a day's smoking. At last it occurred to me that something was lacking in the Havana cigar. It did not quite fulfill my youthful anticipations. I experimented. I bought what was called a seed-leaf cigar with a Connecticut wrapper. After a while I became satiated of these, and I searched for something else. The Pittsburgh stogy was recommended to me. It certainly had the merit of cheapness, if that be a merit in tobacco, and I experimented with the stogy. Then, once more, I changed off, so that I might acquire the subtler flavor of the Wheeling toby. Now that palled, and I looked around New York in the hope of finding cigars which would seem to most people vile, but which, I am sure, would be ambrosial to me. I couldn't find any. They put into my hands some of those little things that cost ten cents a box, but they are a delusion. I said to a friend, "I want to know if you can direct me to an honest tobacco merchant who will tell me what is the worst cigar in the New York market, excepting those made for Chinese consumption -- I want real tobacco. If you will do this and I find the man is as good as his word, I will guarantee him a regular market for a fair amount of his cigars." We found a tobacco dealer who would tell the truth -- who, if a cigar was bad, would boldly say so. He produced what he called the very worst cigars he had ever had in his shop. He let me experiment with one then and there. The test was satisfactory. This was, after all, the real thing. I negotiated for a box of them and took them away with me, so that I might be sure of having them handy when I want them. I discovered that the "worst cigars," so called, are the best for me, after all.
excerpted from Mark Twain's Speeches, 1910
- Big Mike
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Cigars and Alcohol
The traditional match for a good cigar is often a strong spirit - perhaps the subtle sweetness of an aged rum or brandy, or the heady, smoky nose of a fine single malt Scotch or whiskey are faithful and true cigar companions. But what about the often overlooked cigar pairing - beer?
Pairing any strongly flavored comestibles isn't easy, and there are of course both good and bad choices to be made. You probably wouldn't enjoy a cigar with a crisp Hefeweizen any more than you might drink a tannic red Chianti wine with raw oysters in lemon vinaigrette. Give me that refreshing pale Hefeweizen with those oysters and that's a good match. And if you want to drink that young Chianti, fire up the pasta pot and load on the Bolognese sauce. A hearty Italian dinner would also be a fine time to pop a rich deep stout with the strength to carry its own weight under the load of acidic tomatoes and savory, spicy chunks of sausage.
The average non-beer drinker may not know the difference between, say, a lambic, a wheat beer and a smoked porter, and wouldn't have a clue what foods or what other beers they would and wouldn't pair well with. "Beer's beer, and it all tastes like Budweiser, right?" Similarly, the average non-cigar smoker can't make heads or tells of taste differences between, say, an earthy Mexican puro, a smoky-sweet Honduran maduro or the rich and complex savor of a classic Cuban. Of course, there are distinct differences, but it can take time to educate your palate enough to be able to taste and appreciate the flavors and aromas. They do exist, and they are appreciated by cigar lovers in much the same way that the different flavor profiles of various beers can be enjoyed. Pairing them together is a feat that takes some thinking about which flavors and textures will best complement the others. Of course, to some a cigar will simply taste like a burning leaf. And to others, a beer will always taste like a Bud, and nothing more. But there is a lot more to beer, and a lot more to cigars, as fans of either will happily tell you.
The immediate effect of a cigar on your taste buds is potent. If you plan to eat or drink during or immediately after smoking a cigar, your choices need to be made carefully to avoid a mismatch. The smoky, cedary bouquet of a strong cigar can linger on your palate for hours, and it will continue to contribute to whatever you are eating or drinking. Paired properly with the right food and beverage, say a dark barley wine or a peaty single malt scotch, this match may be made in heaven. The peaty-rich nose and the finish of perfectly ripe apricots offered by a barley wine, in combination with a cigar's potent contribution of a creamy smooth taste with hints of cedar and spice, can be a wonderful combination.
The bottom line is that you can match cigars with beer, wine, food or spirits - all you have to know is what combinations you do and don't enjoy, which is simply knowledge gained through experimentation. It goes without saying that your own taste buds are the final arbiter of what is right on your table.
- Big Mike
Monday, April 10, 2006
It is said that the real tobacco taste comes with a cigar that lasts its aroma longer. Because of their special preparation, cigars are very fragile and needs a special storage to give you the lifetime smoking taste. Therefore, a variety of cigar boxes are available to keep the cigar fresh and classy.
Cigar BoxesGenerally made of wood, a cigar box can come in many shapes and sizes. It can also hold cigars from five or six items to a complete pack containing hundreds of cigars. Cigar boxes serve both the purpose of protecting and preserving the contents. It also displays cigars in an attractive & elegant setting. For giving gifts, cigar boxes make an excellent choice.
Types of Cigar BoxesNowadays, cigar boxes are made very similar to cigar humidors that feature climate-controlling system. The climate controlling system optimizes the temperature and humidity to protect the cigar’s original fragrance and look. For a better look, cigar boxes are hand-crafted to suit the exact décor of the buyer’s home.
Antique cigar boxes are also in vogue these days. They are also available in a large variety. In fact, cigars Aficionado are spending in hefty prices for containers that date back to the turn of the century or even earlier.
Online Cigar BoxesOnline cigar stores are the perfect place to buy some attractive cigar boxes. In a discounted price, these cigar stores offer boxes at reduced rates, and they can often be shipped to the customer overnight. Besides, cigar boxes, these stores also provide you other cigar accessories to compliment a cigar box in many brands and styles of lighters, cutters and ashtrays.
Cigar Boxes as GiftsFor gifting purpose, cigar boxes are a perfect choice. With their great looks and design, they can surely earn praises from cigar aficionado. So, just click the mouse and choose your kind of cigar box. Select the one that matches your persona and style well.
- Big Mike