Monday, November 17, 2008

Cigar Basics

It you think that all you have to do to exude an air of class while smoking a cigar is inhale (which should not be done) and exhale, do not go near a cigar before reading this. Cigar smoking is a culture in itself. You must know how to choose a cigar, cut, light, and finally smoke it.

Choosing a Cigar
When purchasing a cigar, either from a tobacco shop or a website, there are certain things you should keep in mind:

The length and diameter of the cigar is related to the intensity of the cigar. If you're a novice cigar smoker, you may want a longer, thinner cigar (with cooler smoke) rather than a small stubby one, which may make you cough. Verify the quality of the cigar by squeezing it slightly to make sure there are no lumps in it, and check to ensure that the tobacco at the end of it is not discolored. Avoid purchasing cigars with discolored wrappers.


Cigar Types
Although cigars are broken down into groups, depending on where they're made and the tobacco leaves used, here are several categories of cigars classified by their shape and size.

Churchill
Measures 7 inches by 47-ring gauge (refers to the measurement for the diameter of a cigar). Named after Winston Churchill himself, who made the cigar one of his trademarks.

Corona (not the beer)
Measures 6 inches by 42-ring gauge. The standard by which other cigars are manufactured, the corona has an open foot (the end you light) and a closed head (the end you smoke), which is usually rounded.

Pyramid
Has a pointed, closed head.

Robusto
5 inches by 50-ring gauge.

Torpedo
Has a pointed head, closed foot and a bulge in the middle.

Panatelas
At 7 inches by 38-ring gauge, these are usually longer and thinner than coronas.

Culebras
Three Panatelas braided together to form one cigar.

Diademas
8 inches or longer, this large cigar usually has an open foot.

Perfecto
Similar to the torpedo, except that it has two closed ends with a bulge in the middle. A rounder cigar.

Cutting the cigar
The aim of cutting the cap on the head of the cigar is to create enough of an opening to smoke the cigar comfortably, while maintaining the original shape of the cigar.

Biting the cigar is not a cutting method. Not only is this ineffective since your teeth are not real cutting tools, but you will look nothing like a gentleman while you're spitting out the leftover tobacco.

Straight cut (most recommended): Use a single-bladed cutter to horizontally slice off the head in one quick chop. With this single, swift motion, you lessen the probability of tearing the cigar's wrapper.

Before cutting, bring the blade down towards the cigar, just enough to tap the it, to ensure that your blade is positioned properly and aiming at the right spot on the cigar. The bull's eye is right where the cap of the cigar meets the wrapper, leaving sufficient space to ensure that enough of the cap is left surrounding the wrapper, preventing it from falling off.

With a double-bladed cutter, chances of making a clean cut are increased and you're less likely to tear the wrapper with the blade, since the cigar is being cut from both sides simultaneously.

Lighting the Cigar
Now that you've come this far after choosing your cigar and cutting it to perfection, you don't want to mess up all that work or tarnish your image by lighting the cigar the wrong way. It's best to light a cigar with a cigar lighter, as the sulfur from matches may spread to the cigar and alter its smell and taste.

If you must use matches, use longer ones - short ones make it hard to light a cigar, especially on the first couple of attempts.

Before lighting the cigar, you must "toast" it. Hold the cigar between one and two inches above the open flame, and rotate the cigar so that the tip of the flame barely touches the foot's edges. This warms the foot, allowing for a more even burn upon lighting. As you light the cigar, rotate it so the flame lights every part of the foot evenly - this is important, as an even light will help keep the cigar from burning unevenly.

Finally, smoking it
Proper etiquette calls for removing the band at some point whilst smoking the cigar. The reason you need to keep it there before smoking it is to prevent the tobacco from tearing, but once the cigar's lit, you don't need the band anymore.

Enjoy and savor the cigar, but do not inhale! After 12 puffs or so, remove the band, which will probably be falling off on its own thanks to the heat. Finally, sit back with your cigar in one hand and a glass of port, cognac, bourbon/scotch, or wine (preferably cabarnet sauvignon or mourvedre) in the other.

The Editor contributes frequently to Liquid Ether, and would like more contributors to this publication. Intersted parties can reach him via electronic mail.

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