History of Cigars
The first modern observation of the cigar occurred with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World. On October 28,
1492, Columbus noted in his log reports that the natives of San Salvador burned and inhaled the leaves of a local plant. Rodrigo
de Xeres, a lieutenant on Columbus's expedition became the first European to smoke the Indian's form of a cigar. Rodrigo smoked
on every subsequent day of the expedition. The Indians in South and Central America did not smoke cigars as we know them
today. The natives smoked tobacco wrapped in maize, palm or other native vegetation.
Origin of the word "Cigar"
The Spanish created the cigar industry, and are given credit for creating the modern cigar. The Origin of the word cigar comes
from the native language of the ancient Mayans. The Mayans called the cigar a "Ciq-Sigan" which the Spanish word "Cigarro" is
derived from. The New English Dictionary of 1735 called the cigar a "seegar", and was later adapted into the modern word "cigar".
Cigar seeds are selected for growing. It takes approximately six weeks to germinate seeds before transplanting to a field; six
weeks to grow the tobacco plant to maturity; six weeks for a complete harvest, followed by a series of periods of fermentation.
In the fermentation stage, workers pile slightly moistened tobacco in huge bales or stacks; temperatures inside the bales reach as
high as 140¡ as the cigar "sweats" during the early stages of the fermentation. Some tobacco may be "turned" up to three of four
times and re-moistened before fermentation finally ceases. The process releases ammonia from the tobacco affecting overall
nicotine content. The fermented tobacco is wrapped in bales, usually surrounded by burlap, to age. Standard aging time is 18
months to two years, although some manufacturers keep inventories of tobacco as old as 10 years. Prior to releasing the bales to
the rollers for manufacturing, the bales are moistened again to make the leaves supple.
Manufacturing process of the cigar
The tobacco that is rolled into cigars is primarily grown in the tropical regions of the world. Africa, Brazil, the Canary Islands,
Connecticut, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Sumatra are world renown in growing the quality tobacco
that is used in the various components of a cigar. Tobacco is planted in late September and generally takes two months to reach
maturity. Harvesting begins before the plants flower and can take several months as the leaves are harvested in different
phases. Once the tobacco is harvested the leaves are sent to "tobacco barns" where the tobacco is dried. Leaves are tied in
pairs and hung for the curing process. The tobacco barn faces from west so that the sun hits one side in the morning and one
side at night. The doors at either side can be opened or closed to keep the temperature constant. The tobacco is kept in the barn
for approximately 2 months while the leaves change color from green to yellow to brown. After the leaves are dried, they are
carefully laid into large piles for fermentation, where they are kept for several months. The piles are moistened and covered in
cloth and are watched closely as the temperature can rise and harm the tobacco. The fermentation reduces natural resins,
ammonia and nicotine present in the tobacco leaves. The fermented tobacco is taken to warehouses, stored in large bales and
allowed to slowly mature. The aging process can last from several months to many years depending on the quality desired. Once
the aged tobacco reaches the factory, the leaves are graded according to size, color, and quality. Leaves that are torn or have
holes are set aside and used primarily as filler. Finally the leaves are de-veined by removing the center vein from the leaf. There
are three basic components that make up a cigar. The filler - The binder - The wrapper. Handmade cigars are composed of filler
tobacco bunched together with a binder leave and finally covered with the wrapper leaf. Cigars with long leaves bunched
together as filler are called "long filler" cigars. Cigars with short, fragmented leaves bunched together as filler are called "short
filler" cigars. The binder holds the bunch together and is enclosed with the wrapper leaf in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
Choosing A Cigar
Choosing: Each country's cigar production has its own taste and character. Cigars are made all over the world, with tobacco
grown in different soils, cured by different processes, and rolled with different techniques, each element contributing to the taste
and flavor of individual brands and types. These are not hard and fast rules, but you'll have something to go by when you're
faced with a humidor full of cigars from which to choose.
-- Cigars from Jamaica are usually considered mild.
-- Cigars from the Dominican Republic are mild to medium in strength.
-- Cigars from Honduras and Nicaragua are stronger and heavier smokes.
-- And cigars from Cuba are considered to be some of the richest and creamiest in the world!
How to judge a cigar (the 3 C's)
Construction - How well is the cigar made? How does it feel to the touch? With a firm, but soft grip feel it from end to end. Does it
feel consistent all the way through? Are there any hard or soft spots? A cigar that is too hard, too soft, or inconsistent will not
draw properly. Condition - Cigars should be well conditioned before smoking. Cigars should be aged for several months to
several years at the proper humidity (70% RH) and temperature (70° F). A dry cigar will burn hot, fast and can taste harsh. A
damp cigar will be hard to light and can be hard to draw. Causality (cause and effect) - How does the cigar taste? How does the
cigar make you feel? Does the cigar build in taste, flavor and complexity as it burns? Or is it the same all the way through? Do you
feel relaxed and calm after finishing it? Machine made cigars are generally produced using short filler. A processed tobacco
binder which resembles brown paper is used as the binder, and in most cases a natural wrapper is used to complete the cigar.
Cigar Taste & Flavor
Each country's cigar production has its own taste and character. Cigars are made all over the world, with tobacco grown in
different soils, cured by different processes, and rolled with different techniques, each element contributing to the taste and
flavor of individual brands and types. One of the biggest challenges facing cigar manufacturers is providing consistency in their
blends; a feat almost impossible given all the variables that contribute to a finished product. The only agreements among makers
seem to be that a wrapper has the greatest potential impact on overtones and undertones of taste, and filler (the heart of the
cigar) determines overall strength or weakness (or fullness of body). As no two cigars taste exactly the same, adding a stronger
tobacco one year and a weaker one the next to achieve the same balance creates the illusion of consistency; no such thing ever
really exists. Generally speaking, a binder, even one of relatively weak tobacco, will have some impact on the quality of the
smoke, while the filler will determine overall strength; the wrapper will add a great deal of character, or not much at all, depending
upon its condition, seed origin and type. The aging process also contributes to taste and flavor although the impact on overall
quality is considered less important. Although the aging process changes the taste of tobacco, it doesn't affect its quality; in some
countries, people smoke and enjoy younger tobaccos. Conversely, the manufacturing process can have a dramatic effect on the
taste, flavor and quality of a finished cigar. Here is where a beautifully made cigar of a modest blend can compare favorably or
better than a fine blend used in an improperly made cigar. While the experts may differ in their opinions of which element cause
what effect, they all seem to agree on this. Taste is not acquired because we know the chemical analysis of the tobacco. Its the
romance in the encounter that makes a great cigar. Knowing some basics will add to experience. And yes, sometimes a cigar is
just a cigar.
How to cut a cigar
The first step involved in preparing a cigar for use is to open a passage way allowing air to circulate from one end to the other.
Some smokers elect to bite the tip off the cigar; its quick and easy solution and there is no need to carry around any tools along.
Most cigar connoisseurs however use specialized clipper that provide a clean, manicured cut. If a cutter is used, the incision
should be made quickly and decisively. The cutter should be placed just above the cigar's cap line (the curved area that covers
the head of the cigar) and clipped in one swift motion. This produces a clean cut which is desirable for smoking a cigar. Once the
cigar has been clipped using the smokers preferred method, it is ready to be lit. Types of cutters. The "Guillotine" or "Traditional"
Cut This cutter takes a straight slice across the cigars cap line. It is the best cut to create an easy, well circulated draw; however
residue and tar from the burning tobacco will come in direct contact with the smoker's mouth. The "Bullet" or "Punch" Cut A bullet
cutter pierces a small hole into the cigars cap. Depending on the diameter of the cutter, air circulation may be restricted and the
smokes tar and residue can accumulate around the opening. The "V" Cut The V cutter creates a wedge shaped notice in the
cigars cap. This cut allows proper air circulation to occur. The smokes tar and residue accumulate on the sides of the wedge
keeping the bitter taste away from the smoker's mouth. It can be difficult to keep a V cutter sharp because of its unique shape.
How to light a cigar
Tobacco will absorb any aroma or fragrance that it comes in contact with. Paper and sulfur based matches or the use of a fluid
based lighter can leave the cigar with an unpleasant taste. The preferred method to light a cigar is the use of a butane based
lighter. A lit wooden match can be used once it has burned off the chemicals used in the ignition process. Once the cigar is cut,
hold the open end of the cigar over your flame and slowly rotate it. This will "Toast" the cigar and prime it for lighting. While it is still
warm, place the cigar in your mouth and hold it at a 45° angle over the flame. Slowly puff and rotate the cigar while maintaining
slight contact with the flame. A Good cigar will light easy and burn evenly.
How to store cigars
Cigars should be kept in a controlled environment. A cedar lined box, called a humidor is traditionally used for storage. The cedar
helps flavor and age the cigar. Cedar also holds moisture well which helps keep humidity at a constant level. Cigars kept at 70%
RH and 70° F offer the best smoking experience. Tobacco burns smoothly and tastes the best when kept with in this range. A dry
cigar burns fast and has a harsh flavor. A damp cigar will be hard to keep lit and can grow mold while in storage. Humidors
should always close tightly, providing a seal that keeps the atmosphere inside at a constant level. A reusable moisturizer should
be used to aid in the humidification. A gauge that monitors temperature and humidity can be helpful to keep optimal conditions
Drinks that Complement Cigars
Like love and marriage, spirits and wine go together with cigars like the proverbial horse and carriage. Your choice of beverage
depends on personal taste, and it can vary according to the occasion. Here are some popular favorites. You pick the time and
place. The Martini: Have it any way you want, this is a classic partnering. Bourbon/Scotch: In the world of spirits, small batch and
single barrel Bourbons and single malt Scotches are super premium products that have the complexity and depth of flavor to
stand up to a cigar. Port: Port is a traditional partner for a great cigar. The sweetness and alcoholic power of vintage port blends
perfectly with a full-bodied smoke; even younger vintage ports are appropriate because their strong tannins stand up to a spicy
smoke. Cognac: The most popular traditional drink with fine cigars is cognac or brandy. Wine: Complementary wines include
Cabernet Sauvignon and Rh™ne varieties such as Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre.
Blowing Smoke Rings
Blowing the Perfect Smoke Ring with your Cigar The biggest factor in blowing good smoke rings is practice. With that in mind, try
this technique. First, you need a cigar with dense smoke, and a place with still air. Don't waste your time trying to blow smoke
rings in a breeze! Draw a thick puff of smoke into your mouth. Hold it there and open your mouth slowly. Make an "O" with your
mouth, (maybe more of a rounded "oh") - definitely not a pucker like a kiss. Curl the tip of your tongue down, and pull your tongue
all the way back. Now, when blowing a ring, you're actually not exhaling. You're just pushing out the smoke in your mouth with
your tongue in short bursts - like a piston, only in a relaxed way. It's actually a really gentle motion. Push forward with your
tongue, with perhaps a slight recoil at the bottom.
The brand is the designation the manufacturer gives to a particular line of cigars. You'll find the brand name on the cigar band,
which is generally wrapped around the "head," or the closed end, of the cigar. However, depending on which country you're in,
even those well-known names can be a source of confusion. Some brands were first produced in Cuba. After Castro's
Revolution in 1959, many cigar manufacturers fled and believed they could take their brands with them. The Cubans argued that
the brands belonged to the country. So today, you have a Punch made in Cuba and one made in Honduras. You can usually
determine which is which by a small Habano or Havana inscribed on the band.
Cigar Wrapper Color
The color refers to the shade of the outer wrapper leaf. In the past, manufacturers used dozens of terms for the wrapper leaves
which were grown in Cuba, Sumatra, Brazil and the United States; US cigar makers often describe eight to ten different shades.
Today, there are six major color grades in use. And wrapper is grown today not only in the countries mentioned above, but
Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Cameroon as well. Here are the six basic shades: Double Claro "DC" - Also known as the
"American Market Selection" (AMS) or "Candela," this is a green wrapper, and is rarely found today.
Claro "CI" - This wrapper has a very light tan color, almost beige, and is usually from Connecticut.
Colorado Claro "CC" - This wrapper is medium brown, and found on many cigars. The most popular are "Natural" or the "English
Market Selection" (EMS). This shade of wrapper is grown in many different countries.
Colorado "Co" - This shade is greatly recognizable by the obvious reddish tint color.
Colorado Maduro "CM" - This wrapper is darker than the Colorado Claro in shade, and is often associated with African tobacco,
like wrappers from Cameroon, or Havana Seed tobacco. Maduro "Ma" - Maduro is very dark brown or even black. This category
also includes the deep black "Oscuro" shade. The Maduro wrappers are grown in Connecticut, Mexico, Nicaragua, and also
Cigar Size and Shape
Most cigars come in boxes with a front mark that tells you the shape of the cigar, such as Punch Double Corona or Partagas 8-9-
8. As you come to know shapes, you also can make some assumptions about size, such as knowing that a double corona is not
a short cigar. Cigar Size. The basic measurement standard, however, is the same; the only variations are whether it is expressed
in metric or U.S. Customary systems. Length, therefore, is listed in inches or centimeters; and girth or diameter, or ring gauge as it
is commonly known, is in 64ths of an inch or millimeters. So, a classic corona size is 6 by 42, which means it is six inches long
and 42/64ths of an inch thick, but many manufacturers today produce their coronas with a 44 ring gauge, as opposed to a 42.
Simply put, ring size is measured in 64ths of an inch. Thus, a 48 ring cigar will measure 3/4 inch in diameter. Cigar Shapes. If
you're searching for common denominators to use as a starting point for shape, it helps to know that all cigars can be divided into
two categories: parejos, or straight sides, and figurados, the irregular shapes. Simply, parejos are straight-sided cigars, the kind
with which most smokers are familiar. There are three basic groups in this category: coronas, panetelas and lonsdales.
A corona (the classic size is 6 inches by 42 ring gauge) has traditionally been the manufacturers' benchmark against which all
other cigars are measured. Coronas have an open "foot" (the end you light) and a closed "head" (the end you smoke); the head is
most often rounded. A Churchill measures 7 inches by 47 ring gauge. A robusto is 5 inches by 50 ring gauge. A double corona is
7 1/2 inches by 49 ring gauge. Panetelas (a standard size is usually 7 inches by 38 ring gauge) are usually longer than coronas,
but they are dramatically thinner. They also have an open foot and closed head. Lonsdales (6 3/4 inches by 42 ring gauge) are
thicker than panetelas, but slimmer and longer than coronas. The irregular shapes, or figurados, encompass every out-of-the
ordinary shaped cigar. The following list comprises the major types:
Pyramid - It has a pointed, closed head and widens to an open foot.
Belicoso - A small pyramid-shaped cigar with a rounded head rather than a point.
Torpedo - A shape with a pointed head, a closed foot and a bulge in the middle.
Perfecto - These look like the cigar in cartoons with two closed rounded ends and a bulge in the middle.
Culebras - Three panetelas braided together.
Diademas - A giant cigar 8 inches or longer. Most often it has an open foot, but occasionally it will come with a perfecto tip, or
Remember, even with these "classic" irregular shapes, there are variations among manufacturers. Some cigars called belicosos
look like pyramids, and some called torpedos look like pyramids because they do not have a perfecto tip
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