I am a little embarrassed to confess this little passion of mine in this blog, because it’s so old-fashioned, unhealthy, annoying and ..
… simply marvellous: I love to smoke cigars.
It all started when I was 17. When you are young, you try a lot of strange stuff, like taking snuff or smoking lianas from the neighbors wild bushes.
I tried everything of these, plus I smoked my first cigar. The funny thing was: I liked it and continued to buy cheap cigars, until someone in my family gave me the Zino Davidoff Cigar’s Brevier for christmas. This book broadened my horizon, and I clearly discovered, that there is only one country to smoke cigars from: Cuba.
Finally in the year 2000 I managed to travel to this wild country, and fell in love with the people, the music, in particular Compay Segundo and the Buena Vista Social Club – a movie I have seen more then a dozen times. (And even Leon likes to listen to his music day and night).
If you’ve never tried to smoke cigars and you know this experience just by inhaling passively ugly smoke from a cheap cigar, you will hardly understand the passion and joy that only a true Aficionado (cigar lover) feels: rolling the tobacco leaves between your fingers and listening to the sizzling noise, smelling the buffalo dung odors of this heavy piece of art, cutting the end with a sharp knife or guillotine, burning the other end for a few seconds to pre-heat it, and then finally … lightening it fully … and taking the first wave of smoke inside your mouth. (Never in your lungs, btw!)
There are so many little details to discover: The smoke from the burning end is grey, but the one that leaves your mouth is blue. The formats vary and have all a different name by itself, from the short and thick “Robusto” over conic “Tornados” and the classic “Corona” to the massive “Churchill”. We watch the banderole with the little brand symbol and its elaborate beautiful printing. The colors and patterns of the main leave, the wrapper. The mystic clouds of smoke that escape your mouth.
Unfortunately the “Puros” from Cuba are not only the best, but also the most expensive ones. And like all cigars they need a lot of care: No direct sun, a temperature of 18-19 degrees, and a humidity of around 70%. Especially the humidity is important, because the cigars are drying out very fast. And dry cigars are something you don’t want to smoke.
There were times in my life, when I could not only afford a good humidor for the perfect storage, but also really nice Cuban cigars, like Cohibas, Partagas, Montechristo .. unfortunately (in this sense) these times are over.
Tip No. 1 : José L Piedra
Since we are now traveling and living on a budget, I had to make compromises.
To enjoy a cigar every two days, she can’t cost more the 2 Euros – which absolutely limits your choice. There is only one brand that fulfills my wish for both Cuban heritage, full flavour and cheap price: José L. Piedra is selling the stronger Brevas for 2 Euros, and the milder Cremas for 1,80 Euro a piece. They are of course not handmade, but who cares .. I even like the better flow of air, and the fact that you don’t have to make the lightening a complicated ritual with pre-heating the cigar. They last about 45 minutes – not as long as a heavy, hand rolled cigar, but still enough to enjoy an awesome sunset or your favorite CD.
Tip No. 2 : travel humidor
A good humidor is made of Spanish-cedar wood, because this wood holds moisture and can repel the tobacco beetle. In our case, if you don’t store cigars for more then 3 months – the only feature a humidor really needs to have is a high humidity to keep the tobacco fresh and soft.
To avoid the disadvantage of the heavy wood and the big form of regular humidors, we choose a cheap tupperware from the supermarket, long enough for our preferred cigar format. Ideally it has safety catches, but also a simple rubber seal will do.
At home, take a little slice of an apple, wrap it into silver foil and place it in the box, together with your cigars.
The apple is a great idea of my friend Kurt and by far the best method I have encountered so far.
Regular sponges need to be filled with distilled water (who wants to carry that around?) and make it hard to release the right amount of water into the air. At first it is too wet, and later easily too dry. But the apple slice keeps the humidity at a perfect level – just change it every 3-4 days to avoid mould or drying out.
Tip 3 : The right way of smoking
If you are used to smoke cigarettes, you need to find a different tempo. Smoking a cigar needs a good amount of leisure-time. Put your cigar down from time to time, and let her burn alone for 1-2 minutes. The glow will last much longer, and in this way the cigar will never become too hot. Pulling too often in a row will make the smoke too hot and the taste strong and unpleasant. Put the cigar down when you don’t like the taste anymore. Sometimes this can be at half of the length, but what sense does it make to finish something that you don’t enjoy? (think of this speech in all life matters 🙂 Don’t extinguish it like a cigarette, because it will smoke like hell, make you dirty and you show that you are a rookie on the cigar. Just leave it in the ash tray and watch it with love wile it loses it’s heat. Meditate about the ephemerality of all form.
I hope these tips make you feel like trying a new potential addiction. There is nothing better then smoking a cigar in a hammock or armchair with seaview btw.
If you want to know more about the history of cigars, brands, rituals and the right storage, read the Zino Davidoff book. It’s the standard.
Love you, brothers and sisters, even if you are no Aficionados yet.