Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Change of Season

$34.95 www.cigartender.com
Last week, to kick off October in style, Cigartender held a contest to giveaway a free Xikar Outdoorsman gift pack.  The set consists of a blaze orange Xi Case with a cool, flashy camouflage accent and a hunter green Stratosphere lighter.  These two accessories go together very well.  Both of them are rugged and built for tough conditions.  The Xi Case is crush proof, waterproof, and perfectly suited to store 5 of your cigars up to Churchill size.  The Stratosphere lighter is one of our very favorites because it is engineered to work at higher elevations, and is a must have when heading out on a skiing vacation.  The lighter also is windproof so you’ll get solid performance in any conditions you throw at it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Caution: Fragile! Really?

Premium cigars are hand crafted masterpieces of tobacco, skill, and just a smidge of vegetable paste to glue everything together.  They are painstakingly assembled from cured tobacco leaves.  They are one small jewel in Nature’s crown of wonderful discovery and creation.   Cigars are an all natural, centuries old product.

So how fragile are cigars?  The answer is: extremely fragile, and surprisingly tough.  Cigars are a lot like an egg.  All things considered, an egg is remarkably strong for being composed of a thin outer shell.  Cigars are bunched tobacco leaves bound in a binder leaf and finished with a generally very beautiful wrapper leaf.  The wrapper is a truly unique leaf.  It gets selected because it tastes good, it looks good, and it can stand up to the rigors of being the outermost layer of the cigar.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Who Broke the Seal?

Surely you have heard of counterfeit cigars.  Whether it is counterfeit bands that are placed on impostor cigars of inferior quality, or authentic bands that were stolen and placed on illegitimate product, the risk is out there.  The type of cigars most commonly counterfeited are Cuban brands that are illegally smuggled into the states and sold to unsuspecting buyers who fell prey not only to the notion that Cuban cigars deserve their somehow enduring mystique, but also to thinking their fake product was the real deal.  Non-Cuban brands are also often counterfeited.

For some fun, cruise on over to the Cigar Aficionado Counterfeit Gallery and take a look at just how impressive some of the counterfeit bands really are.  But, for every well made band there are probably dozens of dismal impostors that are almost comical, unless you bought the cigar that is.

A key way to ensure you have bought authentic product are the seals on the boxes.  Sure, these can be counterfeited as well, but, beyond that, what if you receive a box on which the seals are broken.  Take a deep breath.  Pick your heart off the floor, and relax.  In the vast majority of instances the seals will always be intact and unbroken on a box of cigars you purchase.  In quite limited occurrence will the seal be broken and for valid reasons.  A box of cigars that has security seals affixed and cellophane tightly enclosing the outside can only reveal some rather speculative details about the actual cigar provenance.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Session Cigars? Go on...try it!

We’re happily mired in a beer renaissance.  It seems as though never before were we presented with this many options of excellent beers, from start-up brew pubs and small brands that are brewing awesome beers, to even the big commercial breweries realizing that if they are going to compete for our adult beverage dollars they’re going to have to earn it with better beer.  This isn't all that different from the cigar renaissance that started to heat up in the mid-1990's.

You may have noticed that for quite some time now there has been a trend towards brewing craft beers that are intensely strong in flavor as well as pretty stout in terms of alcohol content.  Again this has happened in the cigar industry with the craze for trying to cram as much potent Ligero tobacco into a blend that it can sometimes seem like you’re smoking a habanero pepper instead of a Habano wrapper.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How to Resurrect that old Zippo

So, you remembered that somewhere in an old cigar box is your granddad’s trusty old Zippo lighter.  You know the one, engraved with that secondary passion of his besides smoking, whether it was mallards headed towards cattails, the Harley Davidson logo, or his branch of the military.  Odds are it is burnished from years of being daily tucked into his pants pocket or into his Carhartt.  What more fitting of a tribute could you have than to use that lighter, his lighter, each time you get to light up a great cigar.

STOP!  Before you do so, and heaven help you if you flick open a Zippo-style lighter in front of any stuffy purist cigar smokers, pay close attention to a few bits of background and an awesome solution that you've been searching for.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What’s in a Name? CIGAR

CIGAR - 1995-96 Horse of the Year
(source: Wikimedia http://tinyurl.com/kaozctv)
What would another $187 get you?  If it was the 1990s and you were Allen E. Paulson, owner of the superhorse named Cigar, you would be the owner of a horse that won $10 million.  Instead Cigar retired with having locked in lifetime purses worth $9,999,813, which still stands as the top earnings for a Thoroughbred.

You may not know that I love horse racing but you have probably gathered that I love cigars.  So, it came as some slight disappointment to learn that this magnificent horse was not named after the object of my true favorite pastime.  Instead, this horse, which had blood of 1977 Triple Crown winning grandfather Seattle Slew coursing through his veins, was named after the aeronautical navigation fix “CIGAR”.  This nav fix happens to be out in the Gulf of Mexico about 147 miles West Southwest of Ybor City.

Paulson named many of his horses after these five letter waypoints and for good reason as he owned Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, which is still the manufacturer of perhaps the finest business jets in the world.  While Cigar had a bit of a slow start in his career, when he began to come into his own under the exceptional guidance of Bill Mott he hit his stride and never had to look back.

While Paulson didn’t directly name his horse after the highest form of the art of tobacco, that waypoint was named as a nod to Ybor City and that horse was named for that waypoint.  In the end Cigar can truly be our favorite horse, or at least one of them.  Great cigars and horse racing is a pair beyond compare.  The Sport of Kings lends itself perfectly to the enjoyment of a great cigar.   I frequently smoke a toast to both. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

One of the two greatest cigar debates: band on or off? – Part 2

This is part two of the first of the two greatest cigar debates: band on or off?  The first part of this discussion made the profound case for leaving the band on the cigar.  But, what about the contrary position?  Surely there must be some merit to it as well, right?

Proof that I can play devil’s advocate, allow me to plead my case that you should remove the cigar’s band shortly after you lift it from its slumbers in your humidor.  Being a true connoisseur of premium cigars and the exceptional tobacco that goes into them, you have made a commitment that it is the leaf, the richness thereof, and the expert blending that should be celebrated about a cigar.  Akin to hanging a great painting by one of the old masters in an inappropriate frame or on an unworthy wall, it’s a tough challenge to put a band on a cigar that would not take away from the excellence in hand.  Conversely, if a cigar is mediocre at best but has a stellar band, do not be fooled, dear mortal, by the finery on that disaster of a stick.  Look straight at it and see that it truly does look like a dead autumn leaf.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

One of the two greatest cigar debates: band on or off? – Part 1

Your cigar band collection accumulates quickly.

Something that has always been fun about working in this great industry, with the best customers in the world, is the various preferences, opinions, and debates that arise.  Everyone has their own, deserved, opinion of a myriad of cigar topics.  Two that are perhaps the most recurring are the great debates of: cigar band on or off while smoking; and cellophane on or off while storing in the humidor.  Let us tackle that first one first.

How should you properly smoke a cigar?  Is one to leave the band on the cigar, brandishing the brand name for all to see, admire, scoff at, or acknowledge?  Or is it better to remove the band, either discretely or ceremoniously, in order to smoke the cigar and experience only the important part –the tobacco?  Here is an answer in two parts.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It's Only Polite!

One of the results of a passion for cigars inevitably is the collection of cigars that you will amass.  This can range in size from a choice assortment of sticks in a desktop humidor in your office, through multiple humidors stored on every shelf of a bookcase (I’ve done this), all the way to multiple cabinet humidors which signifies your acceptance of this pursuit.  The only difference is the degree to which your collection grows.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What's in a name? Partagas

Old Cuban Partagás Band

Jaime Partagás worked for a number of years in the Cuban cigar business before he ventured out on his own to establish a factory to make his own brand.  Partagás cigars were born in 1845 Cuba.  After  Jaime became the unfortunate victim of murder, presumably out of retaliation from an affair, his son, José assumed control of the brand.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Just Let it Die

Cigars vary in their ability to be smoked down to a nub.  Some cigars remain amazing consistent, with great flavor right past the band, until you are burning your finger tips.  Other blends are less accommodating and may even begin to lose their optimal flavor around the halfway mark.  When you finally call it quits, do everyone a favor, and let the cigar die with dignity. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What is this wacky term Retrohale? (your nasal passages can do this?)

Retrowhat?  Retrohale.  It’s a term you may have already encountered and been puzzled by.  If you have never heard it, listen for it and you will.  Any serious discussion among a couple of cigar fiends will doubtlessly end up with at least a mention of the retrohale of the cigar.  In short, retrohale is, as its name hints at, a reverse, or retro, inhale.  So it’s a backwards inhale, also more plainly known as an exhale, but with one important distinction: while you draw the smoke in through your mouth –and never inhale it into your lungs- with your mouth closed, you exhale some amount of smoke through your nose.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Day

New Year’s Day is a fun day of bowl games, cooking, relaxing, perhaps a few beers, and certainly a couple of cigars.  January 1 also marks the start of the modern cigar industry.  January 1, 1959 marked the culmination of the so called Cuban revolution that was unleashed on the island by Castro’s 26th of July Movement that began with the attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba.  Batista had fled and Castro had seized the country.  He then set about seizing the personal property and businesses of the citizens.