Some Thoughts About Cigars

platterOne of the problems with having a busy mind is the ongoing flood of random thoughts. I wish that I had the discipline to write them all down, but I would probably wind up with carpal tunnel syndrome if I did. I’ve had a number of thoughts lately about cigars, so I’m just going to throw them out here for you to enjoy, berate, or ignore.

I think that it’s commonly accepted that the wrapper leaf of a cigar has more influence on the flavor than any other component, especially in smaller ring gauges, but why is that? Is it because there’s more air around it during combustion? The wrapper is often not the strongest tobacco used in a given cigar, so why does it have so much impact? I think that a possible answer may lie with a certain cigar – the Joya de Nicaragua Cabinetta. This is an unusual series because the primary wrapper is an Ecuadorian Connecticut shade leaf, but from the band to the cap, it’s covered by a piece of a sun-grown tobacco. The result is a smooth and creamy smoke, but there’s a bit more flavor and depth, so is it possible that some of the influence of the wrapper comes from the fact that your tongue touches it? I think that it’s probable. Another reason for my conclusion is flavored cigars. I cut a piece off a CAO Moontrance and stuffed it into a pipe and I could taste some sweetness, but nothing like smoking the cigar. When I lit up a petit corona, smoking it as I normally would, the flavor was exponentially more noticeable.

Most cigar smokers have puffed too fast or too often on a cigar and noticed that the flavor changed, usually for the worst. The smoke becomes harsh, acrid and may pick up a chemical taste. Obviously, the best thing is to slow down, but there are other things you can do to avoid the problems associated with smoking too hard. Holding the cigar in your hand or resting it on an ashtray might help, because even when you’re not actively puffing, you may be drawing on the cigar without knowing it. Want proof? Keep the cigar in your mouth, but don’t puff. Now, take a deep breath through your nose. Take the cigar out of your mouth and push the air out of your cheeks. You’ll be surprised at the amount of smoke you had in your mouth. The negative pressure caused by inhaling through your nose will cause some airflow through the cigar, so you’re puffing without even knowing.

Another help is to start off as cool as possible. It’s pretty obvious that a torch flame is hotter than a soft flame. The color tells you that. Yellow flames will not be as hot as blue. But matches and soft flame lighters both have yellow flames. Even so, wooden matches burn cooler than gas, and cedar spills have an even lower burning temperature. So unless the wind conditions don’t allow it, spills or matches are the best bet, followed by a soft flame lighter, and the torch is best for blustery conditions.

The oft-repeated line when a customer asks about the best conditions for storing cigars is “70 degrees, 70% relative humidity”. But I know an awful lot of cigar smokers who keep their humidity (as much as possible) around 65 to 67 percent. I happen to be a member of that group. There are a few reasons. I find that if the humidity is a bit too high with cigars that aren’t tightly rolled, they get spongy. You may think that soft cigars are poorly made, but there are some nice sticks that get soft at 70 percent. Also, caps don’t cut as cleanly at higher humidity. The last reason is that slightly moist cigars not only burn more unevenly, but you get more accumulation of gunk around the opening of the cap, and that tastes pretty horrible. But that’s why I use an active electronic system for humidifying my box – it’s more accurate and adjusts more quickly after you open and close the humidor, and I can set the level to exactly where I want it.

I think I’ll cap this post off with one of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain – “I smoke in moderation. Only one cigar at a time.” I find this useful and sage advice. Until next time.

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About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at or by calling 1-800-494-9144.