Cigar Chat with "Mr. Smoke"

Spring is Here!

After a long hard winter spring is finally here, a lot of us see spring as a time to tidy up the house and do some much-needed cleaning. When I was a kid my mom would have me go around the house and pull all the furniture off the wall so she could clean the baseboards behind them. Dad would have me up on a ladder changing all the batteries in the smoke alarms. I guess it was sort of programming me for adulthood because now I find myself doing the same things as an adult. Why stop there you need to think about your cigar accessories the same way as any other household item that needs maintenance.

When I became a cigar smoker  only a few months went by before I started collecting accessories to go along with my cigars. When I bought my first Humidour I asked the owner of the store how do I use this. The owner explain to me that you need to season it to get it started and then keep the humidification element full. Being a newbie I then asked him what does seasoning mean, he took a few minutes and explain to me the process of wiping down the humidor with distilled water to get the humidity up faster. After that I was on my way,I went home seasoned the box and kept the humidification element full, easy right.

Things went well through the summer, fall and winter, But when spring rolled around I began to notice that the humidity in my humidor would not stay at the 70% mark like it had been doing for months and I noticed that I had to fill up the humidification element almost every week instead of once a month. So what changed ,why am I having trouble keeping up the humidity and if you sit and think about it logically nothing changed except the season. Most of us that live in cold climates have forced hot air heat, it's one of the most efficient ways to heat a building, but it's also very dry air.

After a long winter your humidor is tired and getting very dry because your forced hot air heat has been running for months, so every spring I add it to my list of spring time chores and re-season my humidors. I've had the same desktop humidors for over 20 years and since I started re-seasoning every year I have never had a problem.  It is also a good idea to rotate your cigars around so that the cigars in the middle of the box get moved to the outside and the cigars on the outside get moved to the middle. I usually find a cigar or two that I completely forgot I had when I rotate cigars. It's like finding money in an old pair of pants.

Some other things I would recommend adding to your chore list would be purging and cleaning your cigar lighter along with cleaning your cigar cutter with alcohol, after all it does cut the cigars that you are about to put in your mouth.

cut your cigar

What's the Best Way to Cut Your Cigar?

Quite often customers will ask, "What is the best way to cut your cigar?", and we tell them the truth, which is what ever way you prefer. 

For those of you who don't understand the question, let me spell it out for you. There are a wide variety of cutters on the market. There are straight cutters, bullet cutters, V cutters, and everything in between. There is even a cutter made by Brizard called a spear cutter that drills tiny holes in the back of the cigar to allow you to draw smoke through it. 

You see there really is no right or wrong way it all comes down to personal preference. 

The very next question they ask is, "Which way do you cut your cigar?", and the truth is, I only believe in using a straight cut. 

A straight cut removes the entire cap from the head of the cigar allowing you to draw the maximum amount of smoke through it. Sure most of the other styles of cutting cigars are cleaner when it comes to smoking them and by that I mean there's less chance of you getting bits of tobacco in your mouth, but the problem is they all cut a much smaller hole in the back of the cigar, which tends to concentrate the smoke coming out. This causes the cigar to taste harsher than it was intended to.

I've actually tested this theory and smoked three of the exact same cigars at the same time, cut three different ways and they all tasted different. If that's not enough to convince you, there is yet another problem. Some cigar manufactures first form a pigtail on the cigar and then push it back into the head before capping it. Small diameter punch cutters do not always cut enough off the cap for this reverse pigtail to be removed, and your cigar will not smoke very well at all.

But in the end the choice is up to you and you should cut your cigar which ever way you prefer. 

There is one other thing I would like to point out when it comes to cutting a cigar. You should have your own cutter and you should bring it with you to your local cigar store. I know there are thousands of cigar stores in the country and every store has some sort of cutting station with various cutters for customers to use. So you might say, "Why should I bring a cutter to a cigar store?" That's like taking sand to the beach right? Well let me ask you this... when is the last time you saw someone in the cigar industry or someone working in a tobacco shop using the cutters that are out for the public? The answer is probably never! 
The reason for this is we watch thousands of cigar smokers a year use those cigar cutters, and we've seen it all, from the little lick to the complete down the hatch like a sword swallower, and of course it's always right before they use the cigar cutters. I don't know why they think licking it will give it a better cut but thousands of them do. Of course we clean the cigar cutters periodically but not after every use. 

So take it from me. Don't use the a.k.a. "slobber cutter." Buy a nice cigar cutter and bring it with you when you plan on smoking.

Women and cigars

How to get Your Wife/Girlfriend Involved in Cigar Smoking

So as we all know the majority of cigar smokers are men, which brings up the question, "Why don't more women smoke cigars?"

I think a lot of it has to do with the stereotype that only men smoke cigars... play cards smoking cigars, go to the race track smoking cigars, sit at this Sports bar in the casino smoking cigars, and so on and so forth. This is what's been drilled into our head for many years. And both women and men now believe it.

I think this is partially why most women hate cigar smoke and hate the fact that their husbands, sons and boyfriends smoke them, but when you really think about it, it's not the cigar they hate, it's the fact that they're totally left out. It's something that men do together which doesn't necessarily have to be the case.

The holidays are right around the corner, and this is a time that many gatherings take place in which brothers, uncles and sons will most likely be huddled in the garage after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner enjoying cigars together while their wives, sisters and aunts clean up the enormous mess they just made. I'm not saying it's right, but it's probably true.

So what can we do to change this? I think instead of just buying cigars for you and your dad, maybe you should think about buying a small cigar for mom to try. Let's include mom instead of leaving her out.

You'd be surprised at the reaction you get just by including someone.

The reason I bring this up is because a couple of years ago we had a woman stop by the cigar shoppe to buy cigars for her husband and son. While she was here, she asked for a small mild cigar for her. I was completely shocked and intrigued by this request. I asked her if she ever smoked a cigar before and she replied, "No, this will be my first one." When I asked her why she wanted to try one she replied, "My husband and son always get together on the weekends and after dinner they go out to the backyard and have a cigar together and I'd like to be part of that too." So before she left we gave her a crash course in "Cigar 101." We told her, "If you're going to smoke cigars with them, you're going to be the expert." So we showed her the proper way to cut and light a cigar and how to properly Ash in the ashtray. She has now been coming in for years and knows much more about cigars than her son or husband.

So what I'm trying to say is if you make cigar smoking more enticing for the women in your life, they might not give you such a hard time about smoking cigars yourself.

Here's a few more pointers you can take to the bank. Look around at your cigar paraphernalia. Are you still using the same ugly cheap cutter that you've had for 10 years and never cleaned? FYI I know we think it's fine, but women see it as disgusting.

How about your ashtray? If you even use one is it that black plastic ashtray that you got at the dollar store? Is it overflowing with cigar butts? Not very appealing to the ladies.

Let's face it. Women are not like us. We will wear the same shirt every day if it's on top in the drawer and comfortable, even if it has a hole in it and a great big stain. Women like nice things, so if you want them to be on board with your cigar smoking and maybe even join you for one, let's clean up your act. Get yourself some new cigar toys that are pretty and shiny and keep them clean.

And remember no one likes to be left out. You might find yourself a new smoking companion to talk to instead of sitting on the porch by yourself. Who knows, maybe someday she'll even let you smoke in the house.

Touring public lounge

Do Cigars Really Bring People Together?

I work almost every day in our cigar shop in some capacity. It may be on the sales floor helping customers, or doing maintenance on humidifiers... there's always something that needs to be done.

I do most of the maintenance in the building, so I find myself all over the place in many different areas of the shop quite regularly. It allows me to see and hear many of the interactions between the customers in our lounges. Just when I think I've seen and heard it all, something else pops up that is a total shock. For example, just last year two customers met by chance at the cigar shop and are now engaged to be married. I've also seen the chief financial officer of McCormick smoking a cigar with the man that works on the production line packaging goods. It's really funny when you see a millionaire smoking a $30 cigar enjoying conversation with a regular Joe who's smoking a $3 bundle cigar.  They didn't come in together but they met in the lounge by chance and both enjoy cigars. I've even seen Steelers fans smoking cigars with Ravens fans. If you can put that rivalry aside, cigars must be really powerful! We even have a group of customers that met by chance here at the Humidour Cigar Shoppe that now plan regular camping trips together.

So what is it about cigars that brings all of these people from all different walks of life, together?

I've pondered over this question for years and I think I finally found the answer. I don't really think it's about the cigars. Sure cigars are what starts the conversation and gets people here in the first place, but I think it's more about the comradery. Let's face it, there's not a lot of places left where people can socialize. Barbershops are basically a thing of the past — now you make an appointment at a salon, no more sitting in a barbershop talking with other customers and waiting for your turn to get your hair cut. Life has become so fast-paced that there really isn't a lot of time to interact with anyone; it's go get what you need, go to your next appointment or your next job.

Smoking a premium cigar usually takes about an hour or two to smoke. It forces us to slow down and relax, and if you don't want to freeze your butt off or sweat to death, cigar shoppes are pretty much all we have left in the state of Maryland and most of the country, due to smoking ban restrictions.

So the desire to smoke a premium cigar brings a customer into our shoppe, and he then notices we have a lounge and asks the question, " We can smoke in here?" And from there his journey begins. Some of the guys in the lounge strike up a conversation with him. The next thing you know he comes back to the shoppe a couple of days later to smoke a cigar in the lounge. He sees some of the same people and some new ones and friendships begin. Before you know it, his cigar friends become like family to him. Now he not only has a family he has a "cigar family."

So who would've thought that cigars could make such a difference in someone's life? It's made a big difference in my life, and also made a difference to hundreds of customers that have come through our doors. Cigars really do bring people together.

Woman relaxing with cigar

Should There Be a Price Tag on Relaxation?

Almost every day a customer comes into the store and asks for help picking out some cigars. We ask them the normal questions like, "What have you been smoking lately?",  What size have you been leaning toward?" and so on and so forth. We take all of the details that they give us to come up with our recommendations that we know they would enjoy.

I'll give you an example. My friend Phil came in and asked for recommendations. He told us that he's been smoking larger cigars in Churchill sizes, full-bodied, a lot of stuff with Nicaraguan filler and he has really been enjoying San Andres wrapper. I asked him if he if he has ever smoked Padron 1926, to which he replies, "No, I've never tried them." I recommend he try a 1926 no. 1. He looks at  the cigar and says what a beautiful wrapper, how much are they. The  answer to that question is roughly $18 and change. Phil said, "Hold up  partner... I can't spend that on one cigar. I was thinking something priced in the $10 range. (I've always been amazed at how people set monetary  limits on enjoying themselves.)

Phil quickly put the cigar back In the box. He then asked me what else I had like that? I said, "Phil, let me ask you a question. When's the last time you went to the movies?" He answered, "Just last week." "What did you spend, about 20 bucks?", I asked. He answered, "More like $22 after I got snacks for the movie." "How was  the movie?", I asked. "OK", he said.

So I guess my point is that he spent $22 on a movie that he thought was OK, it took an hour and a half maybe two hours if you count the previews, and you did all of this with the hope that he would have an entertaining and enjoyable two hours? So why not spend $18 on a cigar that will take one to two hours to smoke?! If you put it in math terminology, he was willing to spend $11 an hour for enjoyment. Therefore, the Padron 1926 no. 1 would fit the bill.

What I'm trying to say is when I find time to sit down and relax, forget about work, and the stresses of life, I don't see the difference between $10 and $18. It's really about enjoyment and  entertainment.

After a long day of dropping the kids off at school, working all day, picking the kids up, scrambling home to cook dinner and get everybody fed..when everyone finally goes to bed, I sit down and have a cigar to enjoy myself. I look through my humidor to find the perfect cigar, I cut and light my cigar. Sometimes I smoke a $10 cigar and sometimes I smoke a $30 a cigar. It's all about what I'm in the mood for, not the  price. Occasionally you get a bad cigar, or a cigar that maybe you just weren't in the mood for. OK, your fault for making a bad decision. That's when I open my sliding glass door and throw it out on the lawn to be chewed up by the lawnmower for fertilizer. Why suffer through a cigar like it's punishment just because you spent $10 or $30 on it?

For me it's not  about the money, it's about enjoyment and relaxation. Because for me that's why I smoke cigars in the first place.

Cuban Embargo

So What Does Lifting the Cuban Embargo Mean to You & Me?

Since President Obama's announcement to lift the Cuban embargo, it has become a great topic of discussion here at The Humidour.

The day that he announced lifting the embargo, the phone started ringing before he was off the air..."When will the Cuban cigars be in?" Well I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but so many things have to happen before we ever get Cuban cigars, it is going to be a long wait.

For starters it will take an act of Congress to lift the Cuban embargo, and we all know how well Congress is at getting things done.

Secondly, there will be a lot of issues involving trademark disputes. As we all know, many cigars that are marketed in the United States bare Cuban names, such as Cohiba, Montecristo and Punch, just to name a few. Because of the embargo, the United States does not recognize Cuban trademarks. Therefore, in their ultimate wisdom, they granted trademarks to many companies for the names of Cuban cigars in the United States. The legal battle for these trademarks has been going on since 1997 and has still not been resolved.

Thirdly, don't forget about the FDA. They haven't figured out what to do as far as option one or option two are concerned for the cigars that are already marketed in the United States. Once you throw Cuban cigars into the mix, it gets even messier.

Now let's put that all aside and assume Cuban cigars are now legal to purchase in the United States. The Cuban embargo has been in place since 1962 (as we know when the The Communist Party of Cuba took over many Cubans fled to United States.) The majority of the premium cigars manufactured in Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican republic are owned and operated by Cuban families and refugees that fled Cuba many years ago, taking with them their knowledge and skill of producing the finest cigars in the world. That being said, the quality and construction of Cuban cigars is not what it used to be. Anyone who has recently smoked a Cuban cigar knows what I mean. There is a great analogy that my friend, Michael Kidd, likes to use: "Cuban cigars are manufactured by the government of Cuba. How good do you think your cigar would be if we let the DMV produce them?"

Taking all of this into account, I'm not that excited about Cuban cigars becoming legal in the United States. What I am excited about is what will happen once Cuban tobacco is available for Master blenders to work with. When we start to explore the possibilities of Cuban tobacco being blended with Nicaraguan, Dominican, and Honduran tobacco, the possibilities are very exciting.

Cellophane

Do cigars age faster if you take them out of the cellophane?

This is a question that comes up a lot here at The Humidour Cigar Shoppe on the Hill. The quick answer is, “Yes…cigars do age slightly faster if you take off the cellophane.” But let's put that aside for a moment and talk about aging cigars.

Cigars are a lot like wine. The more body the cigar has the longer it can be aged. Likewise, if you age a cigar too long, it peaks just like wine and begins to lose flavor shortly thereafter. The main thing to know is when the cigar has reached its peak and it is ready to be smoked. To help you determine this, I recommend using the same system I use when I am aging wine.

When I purchase wine that I am going to age, I never buy a few bottles. Instead I usually purchase two or three cases because this allows me to open a bottle every six months to see if the wine has matured. Once I believe the wine has reached its peak we’ll begin consuming the rest of the bottles over the next year. The same goes for cigars. You should never buy one or two cigars to put away for a long period of time. Instead you should purchase one or two boxes so that you can test the cigars every 4 to 6 months to see if they have reached their peak.

It’s important to remember that a lot has changed in the premium cigar world over the last 25 years. During the cigar boom of the late 80s and early 90s, some manufacturers were caught with their pants down. Many cigars were being manufactured at an alarming rate to keep up with the demand and unfortunately this did not leave enough time for the tobacco to age. Therefore, it was very common during those times to age your cigars before you could smoke them.

Fortunately for all of us, supply has caught up with demand and the need to age your cigars isn't really necessary, but if you would like to have some fun and experiment with aging your cigars, I go back to the original answer — cigars do age slightly faster without cellophane, but I would recommend leaving the cellophane on for this reason.

To properly age your cigars for many years they will need to be rotated in your humidor many times. This means taking the cigars from the bottom of your humidor and moving them to the middle, top, bottom, sides etc. Cigars are placed in cellophane mainly to protect the wrapper leaf — typically the most fragile leaf on the cigar. If you're properly rotating your cigars during the aging process without cellophane there is a very good chance that you will damage the wrapper leaf.

So sure, you can remove the cellophane and your cigars will age slightly faster. But I leave you with this question: “What good does a well-aged broken cigar do you?”

Enjoying cigars on vacation

"I had this awesome cigar when I was on vacation, can you get them for me?"

Funny you asked… First off, the answer is almost always ABSOLUTELY. If a cigar is able to be imported into the United States, we usually have the connections to get it here.

But, I have to be honest here…once or twice a month a customer comes in and tells me all about a little shop they visited while on vacation at some magnificent resort. The story usually starts out like this:

“My wife and I were walking through the shopping district of a little village on a remote island and stumbled upon a small cigar store. Inside the shop there was a man rolling cigars on a table right there in front of us. It was the coolest thing I've ever seen! I'm ashamed to tell you this but I bought one and smoked it while we were walking around, to my surprise it was really good so before we left that day I went back and bought a box. The cigars were so good I smoked all of them while we were away and did not have time to go back and get more. I did save one of the bands though, do you think you can get me another box of them?”

Now, not to throw a wrench in anything — but you know what they say, “What happens on vacation, stays on vacation.” Unfortunately, that also often applies to the taste of a great vacation cigar.

While we’re happy to order anything you like, we often find that after we order our customer’s beloved vacation cigar, he’ll come in to pick it up and eagerly open the box at the counter, look at the cigars and say, “You guys did it! These are the cigars I had on vacation!” He eagerly takes the box home and I follow up with him, “So how was that cigar?” The customer’s reply is almost always the same: “It was good, but the taste wasn't exactly what I remembered.”

So, it’s not that while you were on that little island, you didn’t have the most wonderful cigar. You did. But the moral of the story is that what made that cigar amazing may not have been the cigar itself, but the sunny skies, the sound of the ocean, no work, no cell phone, no kids, etc. With the right setting, the right people, no stress, and having the time of your life, everything tastes a little better.

Everyone needs to get away from it all now and again and enjoy a good smoke. You may not even need the sand between your toes. Maybe you can just do it right here in Baltimore. Take some time and disconnect.  Put down the phone. Get away from traffic. Get away from work. Pour yourself a tall drink. We’ll supply the best cigar you ever tasted and even provide the best cigar lounge in town. We’ll do our best to make sure you have the time of your life, no matter which cigar you choose.

Humidour

8 Easy Steps to Season Your Humidor

  1. Remove all your cigars from your humidor.
  2. Place your cigars in a large Ziploc bag with a 72% Boveda pack (this is important because you will not be returning your cigars to your humidor for a few days).
  3. Moisten a clean white cloth or sponge with distilled water. ( it is important not to wet the cloth or sponge too much, you need to apply a very light coating)
  4. Wipe the entire inside of the humidor making sure you wipe where the box seals (it is very important that The wood around the seal swells to maintain an airtight close).
  5. Close the lid and allow time for the Cedar to absorb the water (usually a couple of hours is sufficient and good practice).
  6. Repeat this process three or four times (you can do it all in the same day if you are crunched for time but doing it over a couple of days is a better idea).
  7. Once you're finished the wiping process, place your Boveda pack or whatever type of humidification device you use in your humidor and close the lid. You must wait 24 hours for your humidor to stabilize.
  8. Now that 24 hours has passed it is safe to put your cigars back in your humidor.

    If in doubt, for our customers we will re-season your humidor free of charge. Just bring your humidor into the shoppe and leave it for Daddy Jim. It will take 3-4 days.
Humidour Front of Building

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