Q. Should I take the cellophane off my cigars before I put them in my humidor?
It depends. Removing the cellophane allows your cigars to breathe better, which in turn will allow them to age faster. Removing the cellophane will allow any excess moisture contained within the barrel of the cigar to wick away quicker, resulting in a better burn and draw.
On the other hand, leaving the cellophane on protects the wrapper from chipping or splitting. If you constantly move your cigars around, leaving the cellophane on can save you from considerable wrapper damage. Leaving the cellophane intact also makes it easier to take the cigar wherever you wish.
Q. How do you measure ring size or ring gauge?
Ring gauge is the diameter of a cigar in 1/64ths of an inch.
For example, a 48-ring-gauge cigar is 48/64th of an inch in diameter or reduced 3/4" in diameter.
Q. Why do some cigars require further aging?
Some cigars are to be enjoyed young, while others benefit greatly from being put away and enjoyed later.
All handmade cigars require a few months of aging to allow the excess moisture introduced during the process of their bunching and rolling to be wicked away. You will find that many blends marry when allowed time to age and, typically, the heavier the blend, the more aging they need to improve them.
Some blends actually go through a period of time after they are made where the tobaccos have yet to marry and meld within the blend, and when you smoke the cigar it may actually taste bad. This period can last upwards of year in the heaviest of blends. In addition to a more luxurious, mellow, and richer smoke, you will find that cigars allowed to age for a year or more will burn and draw better.
Aging will improve your discount bundle cigar immeasurably and we encourage everyone to try setting some cigars aside to be enjoyed later.
Q. What are the different tools used to cut the cap off the cigar?
Cutters: A cutter is a guillotine style device used to slice the cap off of the cigar. It is the most common type, and is available as a single, double, and triple blade. The single and double blades are the most common. Most double blades cutters are more expensive than the single blades, but they will last far longer, as they are self-sharpening. Most single blade cutters are disposable, and should be thrown away once they have stopped making a clean, sharp cut.
Scissors/Clippers: These scissor-action clippers work the same way that the double blade cutter does. However, they are not self sharpening, and can crush or tear the head off the cigar if they are not kept at peak sharpness. They do not fit comfortably in a pocket, and therefore the lack of portability makes them attractive for home use only.
Wedge Cutter: These cut a "V" down the center of the cap, about an 1/8-1/4" deep. Typically, they work very well on thin (less than 40 ring size) and tapered (torpedo shaped) cigars. They do not give a clean cut on the thicker heads.
Punch: A punch cuts a small circle into the cap. A well designed one can have an ejection spring to push out the cut tobacco. The punch does not work well on thin cigars. It works well on thick cigars, especially the oversized ones of 54 ring gauge or more. Often a guillotine cutter can not accommodate these mammoths. Also, the punch hole in these giants relieves you from having to put the whole cigar in between your lips, which can be uncomfortable on the jaw. Rather, you can "sip" the smoke through the punch opening.
Poker/Piercer: This is a pin-like rod that just pokes a hole in the cap. It does not allow a good draw, which can cause the cigar to burn improperly, or provide its full flavor. It also causes a build up of bitter tars at its opening, once you have been smoking the cigar for a while.
Q. What makes a proper lighter for cigars?
There are 2 critical features you should look for. First, the type of fuel it uses. It must be a clean burning fuel such as butane. Most other lighter fuels give off a chemical or kerosene-like odor that will alter the taste of your cigar. Secondly, the lighter must provide a large enough flame to light the whole cigar. The "blowtorch" style lighters have become very popular, because they burn at an extremely high temperature, and can do the job from several inches away. Remember, to properly light the cigar, you never want to actually put the foot directly into the flame. The larger and hotter your flame is, the further away you can keep the cigar from it and gently draw the heat up.
Q. What do the two numbers mean when applied to cigar sizes?
They are the length and ring gauge (diameter). The length is measured in inches. The ring gauge is measured in units of 1/64th's of an inch. For example, a cigar that is "8 x 48" is 8 inches long and 48/64ths of an inch in diameter.
Q. Does the cigar's name indicate its dimension?
There are some basic shapes that fall within certain size parameters. These shapes are given names, so that there is some degree of parity. These descriptive dimensions are approximate. Some guidelines are: Short is less than 5.5 inches. Long is greater than 6.5 inches. Thin is less than 42 ring size.
Thick is greater than 47 ring. Below are the most common shapes.
Robusto: Short and thick
Lonsdale: Thin and long
Corona: Medium length and medium gauge
Churchill: Long and thick
Please note that these are only generic shape names.
There are other shapes that fall between and around these basics:
Toro: Somewhere between robusto and churchill.
Panatela: A skinny lonsdale.
Rothchild: Somewhere between a robusto and a corona.
Presidente: Either a little larger or smaller than a churchill
Manufacturers can also add one of these common adjectives to the name that help you to envision the size. Gorda, grande, gran, larga, extra, doble, or double always mean they are adding on to the size. Petite, slim, finos, or demi indicate some sort of reduction to the size. For example a "Corona Grande" is a long corona, and would be close to a londsdale.
On top of all this we will now add the Figurados. Here are the basic definitions. Note, you will find more disparity here among brands than you can imagine. When you are dealing with parejos, you can be positive that robustos from different brands will always resemble each other to some degree. However, with figurados, almost anything goes. One company's torpedo will be another's piramide or perfecto. These are the most common descriptions for the shape names on today's market. Remember, all dimensions described are approximations.
Torpedo: The cap is a sharp point, the foot is open. The shape does not begin to taper until the last 2 inches near the cap. The foot will measure between 46 to 54 in ring size. The length can range from 5 to 7 inches.
Piramide: The cap is round, the foot is open. The cigar will immediately taper from the foot right down to the cap. For this reason, many piramides will be described with two ring sizes. For example, 7 x 36-50. This means that it is a seven inch cigar, and the tuck is 50 ring, and it drops down to 36 by the time it reaches the cap.
Triangulo: Similar to a piramide, but the cap is pointed.
Belicoso: Similar to a torpedo, but usually a little shorter. Also, the taper will occur even more quickly than the torpedo, typically occurring within the last 3/4" near the cap.
Perfecto: The perfecto will have both ends closed. The cap can be round or pointed. The tuck is typically tapered to the width of a cigarette. On some brands, you light the foot as is, and with others, if it is more than 3/8", you clip off a bit to expose the filler. The sides can be straight, or there can be a bulge in the first half of the cigar near the foot. The length of a perfecto can vary from 4-8"
Diadema: Traditionally, this is a giant perfecto, measuring at least 8" long. However, it is can be used to name any huge scale version of the figurados described above.
Culebra: Three panetelas twisted around each other and held together with either ribbon or a large cigar band. The segments of a traditional culebra will be composed of all ligero filler, not mild seco and volado fillers of a regular panetela. You must separate them before smoking. Do not attempt to straighten out the wavy shape. Smoke them in the curved way that they have been cured.
Q. What are characteristics of a good humidor?
There are several key points that all good humidors share. First, the interior lining should be made of Spanish cedar. A very small percentage of humidors on the market use a mahogany interior as an acceptable alternative. The next important feature to look for is the seal between the lid and the rim of the box. It should be tight but not purely airtight. Lids that are very heavy, relative to the rest of the box, help to promote a sufficient seal.
Another critical element to look at is the hinges on the lid. They must be heavy duty, and be secured with good anchoring. Often, as described earlier, the lids can be very heavy, and the hinging must be sturdy enough to support the stress that a heavy lid will put on them. It is very important to have good seals and hinges.
Q. Why are wrapper leaves so special?
The wrapper is a very delicate leaf, and is only one layer thick around the cigar. It contributes a large percentage to the overall flavor of the cigar. Wrapper leaves can be grown in many places on the globe, and each variety contributes its own characteristics towards the cigar's flavor. A wrapper leaf is evaluated on the thinness of its veins, its oily sheen, its even coloring, and most importantly, its unblemished appearance
Q. What is Maduro?
Maduro, translated from Spanish, means "mature" or "ripe". On a cigar, it applies to the wrapper leaf that is medium or dark brown. The two most common styles of maduro are Colorado (medium brown), and Oscuro (dark brown, almost black). There are several methods used to achieve these shades, depending on the hybrid of plant. Some are fermented for longer periods of time, while others are merely left on the plant unpicked until the very end of the plant's annual growing cycle. Most maduro shaded wrappers are grown in Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Cameroon.
Q. Can I store my cigars in my refrigerator?
No, as they will dry out quickly. This used to be common and sound advice, but it no longer holds true because almost all of today's refrigerators actually dehydrate their interiors to prevent condensation from forming on their exteriors.
Q. Which is worse: low humidity or high humidity?
High humidity is of greater concern than low for a few reasons:
1. High humidity can cause some cigars to split.
2. Cigar won't burn or draw as well at high humidity, i.e. a cigar stored at 65%RH will typically smoke great, while one at 75% is likely to be tight and burn unevenly.
3. High humidity greatly increases your chance of mold.