Please find some frequently asked questions about the art of smoking a cigar. You can also click on the tabs below Cigar 101 to learn more about the history of the cigar, selecting a cigar, cigar terms, etiquette and proper storing of cigars.
Should I age my Cigars?
As a general rule, most cigars need some time to age. Many of the higher end cigar manufacturers take care of this process for you by aging the cigars before they're released for retail sale. However, some cigars come fresh from the rolling table to your door within a matter of weeks! If you enjoy one of these brands, the best thing to do is to let the cigars "age" in a charged and calibrated humidor for 6-12 months before enjoying them. This allows the cigars to "rest" and rid themselves of any offensive gases or odors which may have built up in the cigar during the rolling process. Over time, you may notice "plumes" or whitish spots appearing on your cigars. Don't panic! This is a natural part of the aging process as oils in the tobacco leaves used to make the cigar are released by the aging and rise to the surface of the cigar. You can easily brush or gently scape these plume crystals off the wrapper of the cigar.
Storing Your Cigars and Charging Your Humidor.
A humidor is a necessity of you enjoy cigars on a regular basis. In order to properly store a cigar, a fine balance must be maintained between the humidity and temperature at which they are stored. Your humidor should maintain a humidity of between 65-70% humidity with a temperate of 70 degrees Farenheit. The rule of thumb is 70/70. Your humidor should be lined in cedar which helps maintain the flavor and aroma of the cigars. A good humidification system is a must. The best personal humidification systems on the market are made by Paradigm Systems and come in a number of sizes to accommodate both large or small humidors. These humidifiers are very easy to maintain. Another item to consider is a hygrometer. The hygrometer will allow you to check the humidity level of your humidor at a glance. If you are using a humidor for the first time, it's also very important to allow it time to "charge" . This could take anywhere from a few days to a week or more depending on the size of your humidor. Simply place your humidifier and hygrometer in the humidor then periodically check until the humidity level reaches between 65-70%.
Do I Need a Special Solution for My Humidifier?
It is recommended that you use a 50/50 solution of distilled water and propylene glycol (PG), usually referred to as activator solution. PG is a hydroscopic substance that absorbs moisture from the environment (like a salt shaker does in humid weather). The distilled water evaporates until the ambient humidity approaches 70%. At that point the PG won't allow any more moisture in the air. Conversely, if there is too much moisture in the air, the PG solution absorbs the excess, bringing the system down to 70% as well.
How do I Calibrate My Hygrometer?
In order to calibrate your hygrometer, you will need a Ziplock bag, salt and a small shallow open container, like a bottle cap. In the shallow container, place about a teaspoon of salt and add a few drops of water to get it wet. Don't add too much water, just enough to get a moist pile of salt. Remember, you don't want a salt water solution, just damp salt. Place the container in the bag along with the hygrometer. Close the bag with some air trapped inside and let it sit. Allow this to stabilize for at least 6 hours (don't rush it). After it has stabilized, check the hygrometer reading without opening up the bag. It should be exactly 75%. If not, you can simply adjust the reading by turning the dial on the back of the hygrometer with a small screwdriver, if your hygrometer permits.
How Do I Restore a Dry Cigar?
Patience is the name of the game when it comes to restoring cigars that have been dried out due to a lack of humidification. Time and a slow re-hydrating process are the two essential elements required to restore the cigars to their original state. Start by placing the cigars in a sealed box for a few days to allow them to breathe and adjust to their environment. After a few days, introduce your humidifier to the environment with a partially filled humidifier. Let the cigars rest and re-adjust to the new environment. Repeat this process during the course of the next few weeks until the cigars are supple to the touch. WARNING: Remember to be patient! If you introduce the cigars to an environment with too much humidity (like your already-charged humidor) you will shock the tobacco and it will cause the cigars to absorb too much humidity causing the wrappers to burst and you'll end up with cigars that will never be usable.
Is There a Way to Add a Flavor to a Cigar?
Sure, with time and a little ingenuity. Let's say you want to add a slight flavor of vanilla to your cigars. The best way to accomplish this is to take one cigar and peel off the wrapper leaves. Add a few drops of vanilla to the leaves to moisten them then place the leaves in one corner of your humidor. The other cigars in the humidor will become infused with the flavor of the vanilla over time. You can use this process with cognac, peppermint oil, etc. but remember that whatever flavor you introduce to your humidor will become infused in all the cigars in the humidor!
What's This? My Cigars Have Little Holes!
Uh oh! If you open a box of cigars and find little holes on them, you've got a tobacco weevil problem! This happens when the weevil eggs or larva are not cleaned from the leaves before the cigar is rolled. The best way to deal with this problem is to immediate isolate the infected cigars. If you can afford to, throw them away -- if not, place them in your freezer for at least a two weeks. This will kill any live weevils living in the cigars and ensure that their eggs do not hatch.
How do I Properly Cut or "Punch" a cigar?
A sharp cutter is a must if this is the technique you use to open your cigar. Position the cutter about 3 millimeters from the smoking end of the cigar and rest the tip of the cigar in contact with the cigar. Using a quick, decisive motion, slice off the end of the cigar. If you prefer to "punch" a cigar, a sharp punch is a necessity. Place the cutting end of the punch in contact with the end of the cigar and gently twist while pushing down into the tobacco with a firm motion. This will cut out a little plug of tobacco from the end of the cigar.
How to Properly Light a Cigar.
Smoking a cigar should be an experience full of romance and enjoyment, and properly lighting a cigar is an important part of this process. Once you have the end of the cigar either nipped or punched, the best way to light a cigar is to use a wooden match or lit sliver of wood. Without allowing the flame to actually touch the end of the cigar, gently roll the edges of the cigar close to the flame until it is lit. In time the binder will catch fire and you'll notice bluish wisps of smoke rising from the end. Continue to roll the cigar until the entire rim is lit then gently blow on the end of it. Once the entire end of the cigar has a light grey ash, softly blow OUT on the cigar to clear any soot and ash. Your cigar should now be ready to smoke!
How to Properly Smoke a Cigar.
Rule number one: Enjoy it! Savor the moment. Smoking a good cigar is like drinking a glass of fine wine or vintage Cognac. Pull the smoke into your mouth and savor its flavor. Take long draws on the cigar instead of short puffs. This will help ensure that the cigar burns evenly from end to end. Rolling the cigar in your fingers as you smoke is another way to help ensure a smooth and even burn. Eventually you'll have a big head of ash on the end of the cigar. Don't knock the ash off! Let nature take its course and allow the head to grow until it's ready to fall off in it's own time. If you knock the ash head off, you'll end up with a "spike" of glowing tobacco filler sticking from the end of your cigar!
Should My Cigar Have a Different Flavor ?
As the tobaccos in a cigar heat up, you'll experience bursts of different flavors as they catch fire. Wood, leather, spice, pepper... there are myriad of different flavor experiences you might enjoy while smoking a good cigar.
How Should I Extinguish my Cigar?
Again, let nature take it's course. Once a cigar has run its course, it should naturally extinguish itself. It's poor cigar etiquette to "butt out" a cigar as it will create an unpleasant odor for everyone around you.
Want to learn more
Click on the tabs below Cigar 101 in the menu bar to learn more about the history of the cigar, selecting a cigar, cigar terms, etiquette and proper storing of cigars.