Driving in my Car, Smoking my Cigar

February 22, 2012 · Posted in Cigar 101, Deep Thoughts · 2 Comments 

Allison Krauss’s haunting voice is singing Trampled Rose, the windows are down and the speed of my car is increasing. It may be sunset but this is Southern California where the yins and the yangs are extreme opposites. Sure, the taxes are murder but the weather is amazing.

If I lived in Minnesota or some other place that is in the running for a scenic “White Christmas” photograph I couldn’t do what I do most days after work: smoke in my car. It may be a little impractical and I definitely am not getting the best out of the cigar but that misses the point. Smoking a cigar on my drive home from work is pleasurable; a ritual that brings a little bit of joy to my heart.

This certainly isn’t for everyone. If you have a nice car that you do not want to despoil or you have to chauffeur people who cringe at the mere thought of the smell of finely aged tobacco then you probably shouldn’t be smoking in your car. People with short commutes, an inability to multitask and those who “feel a need for speed” may also want to think twice about lighting a cigar before they start their car. Oh, and those poor bastards who start their mornings by scraping ice off their windshields may also be excused from smoking a cigar in their car.

I’m not going to BS you and say that I’m smoking great cigars while driving, far from it. There’s no reason to do that because your mind should be at least nominally on the road and not on your cigar. Why smoke an Opus or an Avion 11 when you can’t dedicate more of yourself to it? It just doesn’t make sense emotionally or financially.

By no means am I suggesting seeking out crappy cigars to satiate your vehicular smoking habit because there are some very respectable cigars that are very cheap. Recently I’ve been smoking a lot of Diesel Unholy Cocktails, Nestor Miranda 1989s and Joya de Nicaragua Antano Machitos on rides home from work (and while walking the dogs, but that’s another story). These are solid cigars that are a joy to smoke sitting at home while listening to music or reading a book. They are also strong enough to withstand the elements.

Even though this is Southern California and the weather is great it can still get a little cold. Some nights it feels like the temperature drops all the way down to the high 50s when I have my windows rolled down! Weak, pathetic cigars won’t offer much under ideal circumstances but when you add in the wind, the (relatively) cold temperatures and the fact that you are driving a vehicle they just aren’t worth the trouble. By all means, if you accidentally came by some really awful cigars that you dread smoking then you can smoke them while driving or, better yet, “gift” them to somebody you don’t like.

Another tip I have for this would be to smoke a cigar that you are familiar with. Familiarity is great in this circumstance because you won’t have to devote much brainpower to deciphering the flavors of the cigar; you already know the recipe. It’s also a good idea to smoke cigars with good smoking characteristics: i.e. a good draw and burn. It takes a modicum of skill to correct a recalcitrant burn line while cruising down the 5. (Alright, it takes more than a little skill to do that and doing just that almost ended up with me rear ending somebody. Incidentally, the smell of burnt rubber doesn’t go well with cigars.)

Driving in my car while smoking a cigar is a ritual I have come to really enjoy. It may not be for you but, then again, you may find out that you really like it.

Strength can be Subjective

December 2, 2011 · Posted in Cigar 101 · 4 Comments 

You have a friend who is asking you about this or that cigar. You know that this cigar is right smack in the middle of the medium bodied spectrum and that is what you tell him. But then, much to your chagrin, your friend doesn’t like the cigar because it is too strong. What happened here?

One thing that could have happened was that your friend is a newer cigar smoker and their idea of medium bodied is your idea of mild. After they have smoked more cigars and become accustomed to the strength of different cigars their perceptions might also change.

Another thing that might have happened here is that your friend just hasn’t had enough to eat throughout the day. Cigars, like liquor, affect you differently based off of how much you have had to eat during the day. If you are smoking a Joya de Nicaragua Antano in the morning and on an empty stomach you are not going to like it all that much unless you have some serious amount of tolerance built up. Even then, it is the rare person who can smoke a cigar with that kind of heft without feeling much if any of its strength.

On the other hand some cigars just affect people differently. Some people might be able to smoke a Camacho Coyolar without any problem but when they light up a La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Chisel they tend to get a little queasy. My guess is that there is something unique going on with a person’s physiology to account for a difference like this. Some people can drink a lot of whiskey but when they drink a little vodka they get sick, same thing with cigars. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) the only way you are going to be able to find out about these differences for yourself is by smoking more cigars.

So, what is the point of all this? Well, I guess the first point would be to be self aware. If you know how you react to different kinds of cigars you will know what cigars to pick in the future. This would hopefully prevent you from picking a cigar that is just too strong or too weak for your taste.

Having a better grasp of strength in cigars will also help you give better recommendations to your friends. For example, your friend asks you about this cigar you know to be in the medium-full bodied range. You like it and it is comfortably within your strength range but your friend, who has been smoking a couple of cigars a week for a couple of years, probably would not like this cigar because he sticks with cigars medium bodied or milder. What you could do in this situation is tell your friend to smoke this medium-full bodied cigar after dinner; hopefully, the meal will help ameliorate the affects of a strong cigar.

Basically, the moral to this story is that the more you know about your and your friend’s cigar smoking preferences the better the smoking experience for everybody.

Cigar Deal Sites

October 5, 2011 · Posted in Cigar 101 · 3 Comments 

HyperinflationChances are that if you have shopped for cigars online you have come across some deal sites (or pages) for cigars. There are also email specials that can offer good value from time to time but, for the purposes of this post, I will focus on the actual sites/pages. Here is a list of the pages that I visit to find good deals online.

Cigar Monster

This site, powered by Famous Smoke Shop, has three distinct parts to it: cigar deals, accessory deals and a name your own price for cigars section. First, the cigar deals page is actually one of the more complicated deal systems around. A new cigar, a sampler pack or a box of cigars is available either every hour or couple of hours depending on the time of day (during the night a cigar can last four hours or so on this page). The time is set by the proprietor and is easily visible on the actual page. In addition to this, every deal gets lumped in together in what they call the Cigar Monster Mash-up for one hour at 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. and all the deals of the week get put into a mash-up every Friday for the whole day. These mash-ups also include the deals on accessories for the appropriate time periods.

If the deal is really good chances are the deal will get sold out so the more often you check in on the site the better your chances are of picking up a cigar that you like. More often than not, however, the cigars featured on this site tend to be more of the value variety. You will not find many rare cigars here nor very many high priced cigars. On occasion I have picked up some Camacho Triple Maduros, Joya de Nicaragua Antanos and some other pretty great cigars from this site but don’t expect those deals to pop up every day or even every week.

The last part of this site is the name your own price section. It works as it sounds: you put in a price, go through the whole check out process and then, after you have done all that work, you find out whether or not they have accepted your offer. Many of these items are boxes but there are also single cigars up to bid on. On this section of the site you are more likely to find more sought after cigars… as long as they are still available. Unfortunately, the better cigars have a penchant for getting themselves sold out very early on in the Cigar Monster day, which starts at midnight EST. The best strategy to use for this site is to pick out the price you are willing to pay for that cigar and then subtract some money from that, preferably an amount that you are sure they won’t accept. And then, once they have rejected your first bid, go up in small increments: $1 increments for boxes and smaller increments for singles (maybe as low as $0.10, I’m not sure of the exact amount but that’s what I would go with). After going through the checkout process the first time it will go more quickly each successive time you try a bid.

My problem with this kind of deal is that unless you are in complete control of your emotions you might be tempted to go over the amount you are willing to pay for that cigar. And Heaven forbid you pay more than you could have paid somewhere else – that would just be stupid. But I’m sure it happens. So, before you start bidding on a cigar make sure that you know how much you can buy it for somewhere else.

One note of caution about this site and especially for the name your own price section of it: unless the product has a UPS picture on it then you do not receive free shipping. Without free shipping some of these “deals” evaporate into thin air. So make sure that you get free shipping. If you do find a product that doesn’t have free shipping then you can put it in your cart and wait for the rest of the day to find a product on that site or on famous-smoke.com that does have free shipping. When you purchase a product without free shipping in conjunction with a product that does have free shipping your whole order will ship for free unless you are ordering a special item (usually you cannot get free shipping when ordering a humidor).

Joe Cigar

This site is a little more straightforward than the aforementioned Cigar Monster in that it mostly behaves like a traditional deal of the day site. Most days it is just that: deal of the day. On Tuesdays they have the “2-fer Tuesday”, which, as far as I can tell, is doubling up on the savings for an everyday-type smoke. Most days you will find that this site has one cigar (sometimes in a five pack, sometimes ten, sometimes twenty) on a deal and they always have free shipping, which is nice.

But then there are those special days when there is a Jam going on. Basically, Cigars International, the parent of Joe Cigar, will put out a cigar on a deal and they will only put out a specific quantity of that cigar. They don’t tell you the exact number available but they do provide you with a little bar that decreases in link as more purchases are made. Once the quantity has been exhausted they will move onto the next cigar. So be careful and get your order in quick because if they sell out before you get your order in the deal is gone and you are left out in the cold without that special deal.

Jams can sometimes be elusive creatures not appearing for days at a time. And then WHAM! there will be two jams in a row. So check in every night at midnight EST to see what is going on.

Cigar.com

Unlike its parent (Cigars International) Cigar.com’s daily deal site is just a page on its site. Even though that might look like they aren’t putting in much of an effort nothing could be further from the truth because it is one of the best daily deal sites around. Every day they line up three deals for you and each deal usually consists of the pairing of two different cigars both in quantities of three or five. If memory serves, sometimes a deal can be a sampler as well. And your order ships free. Sometimes, when the deal is especially nice, a deal will sell out. So, again, check in at midnight EST to see what is going on there.

Atlantic Cigar

Every week from Tuesday to Monday Atlantic Cigar Co. has a dozen or so different deals to choose from. Each deal is usually a box or a bundle and there are some good cigars in the mix. Most of these deals do not come with free shipping but if the item has a little truck next to its picture then that means that it does come with free shipping. Even without the free shipping a lot of these deals would still make sense.

Jack Schwartz

These deals go up on Friday and last all week unless they get sold out, which happens. This site offers some of the more premium cigars in its deals and, depending on which week it is, there can be a couple of dozen deals to choose from. The deals range from single sticks to boxes and amazing samplers. If you have $100 pegged for some cigars do yourself a favor and check out this site before making a purchase because you might find something great.

Cigars International

What we have here is seven weekly deals offered by Cigars International. Most of these deals are not that great but there are sometimes good deals to be had. Here they are in list format:

Cigar Heist

Here is another daily deal site and this one is brought to you by Stogie Boys. These deals are for either cigars or accessories and come with free shipping. Most of the deals here aren’t of the premium cigar variety but I have talked with the owner of this place and they do have plans for improving their stock in the future. So check in from time to time to see if there is something worthwhile available.

Thompson Cigar

Another deal of the day site. Personally, I do not have much experience with this site but it does come with free shipping and that is a good thing.

I’m willing to bet that there are other sites like the ones I have listed so feel free to add them in the comments section to help everyone out. Thanks!

[Image: Surfing the New Normal]

How to Hold a Cigar

September 3, 2011 · Posted in Cigar 101 · 4 Comments 

Personally, I like to hold my cigar between my middle finger and my ring finger. I have seen it done other ways but that is the way I like to hold a cigar. Iconoclast? No, that honor would have to go to someone like the Iraq War-supporting Christopher Hitchens. But it is different; you have to admit that.

The most popular way to hold a cigar is between your forefinger and your middle finger. I don’t know why this is the case but, to save space, that is just the way it is. I guess most guys, I’m sorry, people, like to hold cigars betwixt the forefinger and the middle finger. There’s no reason to argue, there’s no deep down analytical way to argue it, like pitch f/x in baseball, that is just the way it is.

Maybe it is more comfortable for most people. I don’t know. All I know is that it is the way most people hold their cigars. Thumb and middle finger or, for that matter, forefinger, makes more sense. It is more stable and results in less slippage, but forefinger and middle finger just seems to be the way it is done. Enough said.

Right now I am watching the great Halloween season 2 episode of The League and holding a Pinar del Rio 1878 betwixt my forefinger and middle finger. That is what is comfortable for me. Sure, the forefinger is useless, like the appendix, but that is just the way that I hold a cigar. It’s a stubborn idiosyncrasy of mine that I do not give up until a cigar comes near the nub, which, at that point, I use the forefinger and either the thumb or the middle finger.

How you hold a cigar is a personal choice. Travolta, in the underratedly awesome Swordfish, holds what looks like a panatella to me between his thumb and forefinger.  That is cool, a terrorist sure, but an American terrorist. A kind of 21st century privateer. Who can argue with a guy who blows up the pleasure yacht of the Sheik of Badistan? I thought naught.

Basically, the point of this alcohol-induced post is that you can hold a cigar anyway you damn well please. If you are the type of person who has their cigar held by a $100 hooker from Cuba (I am told that is what they cost), that is fine. If you hold your cigar between your ring finger and your pinky, while being effete, that is alright as well. If you are that person, however, make sure that you are smoking something better than the PDR 1878, it just isn’t that impressive of a cigar.

Wet Toothpick + Dry Cigar = Winning?

August 26, 2011 · Posted in Cigar 101 · 4 Comments 

The other night I was at a cigar dinner when the conversation got around to dry cigars. One of the guys who was sitting at the same table I was seated at had a cigar wrapper basically explode on him; which always sucks. It’s never any fun trying to smoke a cigar that is falling apart on you and that is especially the case when it is a quality cigar that was, most likely, improperly cared for.

He asked me what I thought was the problem with the cigar and I said it was most likely a result of being too dry. That’s a problem that becomes more likely in the summer out here in Southern California because the humidity level is usually pretty low and the temperature, while relatively mild this summer, trends towards being hot. Shelling out a little bit of money to take proper care of your cigar (humidor, humidification device – Boveda is best – and a hygrometer/thermometer) is a must if you are planning on storing any cigars. Evidently, this cigar was not properly stored.

After my diagnosis the poor chap with the dry cigar inquired about what can be done for a dry cigar. The short answer is to put the dry stick in a humidified environment and gradually increase that humidity level to about 67-70% RH (long answer here).

And then there was the toothpick solution.

Evidently, a fellow at an adjacent table, it was a small event so the capacity for accidentally overhearing others’ conversations was pretty easy, boldly proclaimed that there was another solution: the wet toothpick. I must confess, from the outset I was extremely dubious – in fact, I still am because I have not tried this procedure as of yet. But I listened anyway and here’s what he had to say:

“I have this friend [already I'm thinking "Uh-oh"] from Cuba ["So this must be good because we all know cigar smoking is something all Cubans are universally good at"] who, when faced with a dry cigar, will wet a toothpick and stick it in through the foot of the cigar. This way the humidity gets to expand from the inside out and evenly humidifies the cigar. He still puts the cigar in his humidor but the toothpick is the key. I’ve tried it and it works in a couple of days.”

Even though I was dubious we all thanked him for his advice and went on with our meal. The thing is that even though the meal was delicious and I was smoking some properly humidified cigars I just could not get the stranger’s advice out of my mind. On the face of it the whole idea of a wet toothpick just does not make sense to me: the toothpick will make the filler tobacco too wet, the toothpick might somehow screw up the bunching of the tobacco, the toothpick is too short to evenly humidify the filler tobaccos from cap to foot and what happens if you forget about the toothpick and smoke the cigar? “Damn, this cigar has a cheap woody flavor that is ruining the delicate balance between the spice and sweetness” – yeah, that would suck.

Then the self recriminating began. Really, is it so far fetched that a wet toothpick could save a dry cigar? Maybe not. People use those draw enhancing things whenever they get a poor draw from their cigar and they seem to like the results. Maybe the toothpick cannot get so wet that it gets the filler tobacco damp. Maybe this guy’s Cuban friend is licensed and bonded as a cigar doctor. It could work!

Or maybe not.

Personally, I’m going to stick with properly humidifying my cigars and if some get too dry I’ll just plop them into the deep recesses of one of my humidors so that they don’t have to suffer the indignity of getting a stick shoved up their… foot.

Hey, if you want to try it though, be my guest. And if it works come back to this post and share your experience with all of us.

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