Some Observations About Cigars

I have smoked a lot of cigars, and still do. Some of them I smoke for enjoyment, while others I smoke for evaluation purposes. As a tobacco blender, I think I’ve got a fairly keen palate, and a strong memory for flavors and aromas. A number of the cigars I’ve tried out to help us decide what to buy have become new favorites, while others are best suited to fumigate cockroach infested buildings, but you have to take the good with the bad. I’ve recently had some random musings about cigars that I thought I would share with you.

Things that I have never tasted in a cigar that some reviewers claim to taste:


Pencil lead



The only reasons that I can think of for people claiming to taste these things in a cigar are: 1) a very vivid imagination. or; 2) a few too many martinis at lunch prior to lighting up. Actually, I’m fairly certain that they write those things to make the reader feel stupid, since they can’t notice those flavors, and to elevate their palates in the eyes of the subscriber. In any case, if these people really believe they can taste these flavors, they’re either delusional or have a very bad sinus infection.

A bit about cigar etiquette:

If you find yourself without a cigar cutter and you ask to borrow one, please don’t lick the cap of the cigar before cutting; it’s unsanitary and rude. Beside that, I’ve seen more damage by trying to cut a cap that’s too moist than one that’s slightly dry. Damp caps will tear and pucker, especially if the cutter is dull. If you have a problem with caps shattering, the cigars might be too dry, but the better bet is that you’re cutting too far down on the cap. If you just try to shave the top of the cap off, it shouldn’t crack, and you’re less likely to get small bits of tobacco in your mouth.

If you’re enjoying a cigar with a group of people, please don’t stub out the butt. The cigar will flare like a flower, exposing the still-lit cigar to more air, and you’ll soon be in the middle of a huge cloud of smoke.

If someone tells you that they really know cigars…

…odds are they only think they do.

If someone gives you a Cuban cigar… polite and thank them, but bear in mind that the chances are good that it’s a counterfeit. It’s actually fairly easy to spot a counterfeit, especially if they’re still in the box, but a lot of folks who travel outside the country and who aren’t dedicated cigar fanciers will think they’re doing something nice. That said, some of the fakes aren’t bad cigars, and you might actually enjoy them. When I’m offered an obvious counterfeit, I thank the giver and tell them that I’ll save it for a special occasion. I’d hate to light it up in front of them and have it turn out to be a dog rocket and not want to finish it.

It doesn’t matter, Cuban cigars will be back soon.

Not so fast there, Bucky. The recent actions taken were an attempt to slowly reestablish diplomatic relations, but the embargo is still in place. People who travel to Cuba will be able to bring back up to $100 worth of cigars, but that will only amount to four or five sticks, and not everyone will be allowed to go there. Trips will be approved for family, humanitarian, business and educational purposes, but there are no guarantees that the government will approve a visa.

Even if the embargo was lifted today, it may still be years before any cigars make it to the US. The problem will be with the trademarks. In the US, General Cigar owns the trademark for brands like Cohiba, Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey and others, while Altadis owns Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo and more. Cuba won’t be able to use those trademarks in the American market, unless they strike a deal with the US trademark owners. The only other solution would be for Cuba to come up with all-new brands just for us. No matter how you look at it, don’t make space in your humidor just yet. It will be a while before the Habanos come back.

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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.