I’ve had a bunch or random thoughts about cigars and cigar smoking lately, so I thought that I’d toss out a handful of these reflections; it’s up to you to decide what, if anything you want to do with these little tidbits. Let’s go, shall we?
Warm up before lighting up – Volatile organic compounds are what give cigars their aroma and the vast majority of their flavor. Often you’ll hear people refer to these as aromatic compounds. If you put a little time into preparing a stogie, you can get more flavor from your smoke. To kick up the flavor a bit, after removing the cigar from the cellophane, wrap your hand around the stick, covering the wrapper from the foot end up as far as possible, holding it gently as if it were a baby bird. Now, here’s the tricky part- hold it. Just hold it lightly for a few minutes before cutting and lighting. You could also put it near a window with sunlight streaming in for about five minutes, or set it down on a desk under a desk lamp for a while.
What you’re accomplishing is to allow the aromatic oils to begin to release their essences. As a result, the pre-light draw will be more flavorful and the initial puffs will deliver more of a full bouquet. The best part of this little tip is that it costs nothing. It’s even more noticeable with smooth, full-bodied cigars like the Camacho Triple Maduro or the Liga Privada #9. Try it. You’ll be surprised.
Brandy or Cognac – One of the old images of cigar connoisseurship is dipping the head of the stick into a snifter of fine brandy or cognac. Even though I’m pretty much an ordinary Joe, I have to admit that every so often I like to enjoy a nice measure of Remy Martin, Hennessey or Martel XO with a great, rich cigar. And, in my opinion, this is the optimal way to do it- Smoke the cigar and drink the *$%#@ liquor, damnit! Dipping the head in the cigar weakens the integrity of the stick by making the cap loosen up, and as the filler soaks up the liquor, it will expand and cause it to put pressure on the wrapper from inside which could result in a split stogie. Besides that, the wet filler will hold onto some of the smoke particles and so, instead of making for a sweet taste when your tongue touches the head, it will eventually become bitter and acrid.
If you really want the essence of brandy or cognac in your cigar, try smoking a cigar that has been flavored with the liquor in advance. There’s also a neat little technique you can use to get some of the flavor into your favorite stick. Pour yourself some nice cognac or brandy into a snifter (this works best in a traditional round-bottomed, narrow-topped glass). Hold the snifter by putting the stem between your middle and ring fingers, cupping the glass in the fingers and palm and just hold it for a few minutes, which will allow the liquor to warm up and release its vapors (recommended by connoisseurs even when just drinking these fragrant spirits). While holding the glass, knock the ash off your cigar completely. Don’t leave any flaky pieces (tap the cigar gently on the ashtray to make sure). Now, being careful not to touch the cigar to the snifter, lower the cherry into the opening and take a couple of gentle puffs. You’ll be drawing the fumes into the foot which will combine with the smoke to give you both essences at the same time, while not making the cigar into a sloppy mess.
Playing the angles – One of the neat little oddball cigar smoking techniques popularly used while smoking one of the chisel-headed sticks originated by La Flor Dominicana and extended to their super-premium Litto Gomez series is, instead of clipping the end off the flattened chisel point, some folks like to punch a hole in the flat side of the head and then will smoke it with the hole facing the roof of the mouth so the smoke swirls around inside the mouth rather than hitting just the tongue. But very few companies make a chisel, so what can you do to get the same effect with your favorite stogie? You can be a dick. Don’t be offended, let me explain: a number of years ago, there was a gentleman who sold cigars to stores up and down the West Coast. My memory is not completely clear, but either the salesman’s first or last name was Dick, and he had developed a special way to cut a cigar so he got the same result – directing the smoke stream toward the palate, not the tongue. He would cut the head on a bias, completely cutting the cap away on one side, but leaving it mostly intact on the other (see illustration).
Now, all you have to do is turn the cigar so the long side of the cut is on the bottom with the short side turned toward the roof of your mouth. It’s a similar result to the chisel/punch, but can be done with just about any cigar. Figurados (torpedos, belicosos, perfectos, pyramides, trompettes and any other pointy headed cigars) are a bit trickier to cut this way, but the results actually seem to turn out a little better.
Well, there are a few oddball thoughts for you to play with. If you have any concepts like the above, leave them in the comment section below. Enjoy!