Whether you are one of the Chairmen, or a potential member, or just a guest, we are delighted to provide a little advice while you are here.
When you are looking fer a cigar, you are faced with a range between cheap (Swishers, Backwoods, or machine-made sticks), all the way to the ultra-premium branded names. One of our boys really likes the Backwoods brand, and believe me, he can afford anything he wants. They burn quick, and taste right - fer him. So don't think you have to drop $20 or $25 on a stick for it to be good. Some tips:
Individual Cigars or 5-packs are the more expensive way to buy.
Bundles are cheaper than boxes for the same quality.
Labels: Cigars without a label can be quite good: they may be seconds (with cosmetic flaws), or extras from a batch of sticks that would normally sell in a box. The label costs money, so omiting the label allows these to go to bargain deals.
The optimal construction of a cigar consists of a number of long leaves individually rolled into thin straws as the filler, then bound up together and somewhat compressed by a strong binder, and finally finished with an unblemished, pretty leaf, called a wrapper. But in a fine cigar these three types are all long leaves, so you end up lighting the tip of the leaves, smoking toward the stem.
Cheaper cigars can be a mix of long-filler and short-filler (essentially chopped bits). This style is called a Cuban Sandwich Roll. The bits of tobacco can flake into your mouth, but may allow you to enjoy a good tasting blend from the parts of better cigars that were cut away to fit into a box. Nothing goes to waste. A tip: when lighting a Cuban Sandsich roll, use a punch cut. More on cut styles, later.
Fully machine made cigars are mostly short filler, and may omit any effort to make them pretty.
It's the combination of Filler, Binder and Wrapper that make the final taste. Each are different types of leaves, and may even come from different countries. A cigar made of just one of these types is almost always a bad experience and a foul tasting cigar.
Sun Grown cigars are the most potent, as the flavors are concentrated. Even for veteran smokers, as one of our pallys put it, "I avoid 'em; they kick my ass." Their tobacco comes from the leaves that endured the most sun.
Light wrappers are often grown under gauze. A common source for these in years past has been Connecticut, a name that indicates lightness. They are milder and the gauze allows the growers to avoid blemishes. A mid-color wrapper is a Habano, while a Maduro simply means dark. A maduro isn't stronger, it's just more earthy, or rich tasting, which is a product of the curing process.
One interesting style of cigars appears with a green wrapper. This is a natural style that keeps the original color, and is called a Candela. They are tasty.
Sometimes cigars come in a "Box Press" shape, noting that they are tighly packaged and come out in a square form. While asthetically pleasing, the only way the cigar can keep this shape is that it is a little looser inside, thus less tobacco. There are other construction tricks that your finer cigar store can explain, like ragged cut, or triangular press.
Width is measured in ring gauge. Cigarillos are the smallest type, both in gauge and length, just a bit bigger than a cigarette. A Lancero is a long, thin cigar, where the predominant flavor comes from the wrapper and binder, and might be a 38 gauge. A middle-width cigar is commonly a Churchill, measuring maybe 7 inches with a 43 ring gauge. Fat cigars are called Toros (50 ring) or Gordos (60 ring).
Generally, the darker the cigar, the more earthy or leathery it is. You should sample these to find out what you like. There are flavored cigars, either with a little cognac or scotch, or coffee, or a fruit infusion, all of which have their place. Some cigars are infused with other forms of nastiness, as is common with the Acid brand of smokes. One of our boys likes a particular Acid smoke called a Kuba Kuba, and outta respect to his age (not his taste buds), we won't pick on him too much. They say Kuba Kubas are infused with herbs and botanicals, but I think they simply use drug store aftershave. But I note his tastebuds may have been ruined over the years. The man also likes Laphroaig scotch, fer Pete's sake. --We ask him to stand downwind.
The most common way to cut the end of a cigar is with a Straight Cut. A regular smoker will carry one in his travel humidor. An option to this, which keeps more of the cap of the cigar in place is a V-cut, where a notch is taken out. A third type is a Punch ut, a tool which may come on the end of a better lighter, fer convenience. When smoking a Cuban Sandwich style stick, or a machine made cigar, use a punch cut or V-cut, allowing the cap to hold in the loose tobacco. Light the other end, and away you go.
Note that on a Cuban Perfecto roll, both ends come to a point. Cut the one nearest the main label, but then simply light the other end. In two puffs it will burn through and begin to burn nicely.
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