Walking Dogs While Smoking a Cigar

June 30, 2011 · Posted in Cigar 101, The Perfect Draw · 1 Comment 

Theoretically smoking a cigar while walking the dogs always goes so smoothly and is a wonderful joy for all involved. I am at the park smoking a good cigar and the dogs are galloping around and not getting muddy from the tip of the their noses to the end of their tales. Alas, that never happens.

My first problem is that it’s inevitably windy at the park and it wrecks havoc on the lighting of my cigar. I have to crouch in a ball and say a prayer to get my cigar lit well enough. When I do this I must look a lot like a gigantic armadillo in the presence of a predator. Then, once it’s lit the burn line will almost always give me problems. It burns a little to fast on this side and on the other side it doesn’t burn fast enough. Rotating doesn’t work because it seems like the winds can sense me turning my cigar and will shift itself accordingly.

But that isn’t where my problems end, oh no. The taste of the cigar is off too. It’s not like the cigar is waste, it still tastes good, but it’s different. Whether it be to the smells of the park, the walking around or thanks to the helping hand my friend the wind has given me the cigar always seems to lack as much flavor as when I’m smoking it sitting down.

There’s more. Now that I have my cigar lit and have started to walk my dogs, two chocolate labs weighing 75 and 95 pounds, have already sprinted off to make sure their scent is still on that tree and the thousand others at the park. No bother, I say to myself, no one else is here! And that is usually the case except for when it’s not.

Sometimes other people will show up at the park and sometimes they will have the gall to bring their dogs as well. And then sometimes they will have the temerity to ask me to leash my dogs. Well, I think you can see the beginnings of a problem here since I have two dogs and three things to hold: my cigar, with its misbehaving burn line, and my two substantial dogs with enough energy to run for miles. Oh, and the bag I have to carry that holds leashes, water bowl and an Epipen since the more substantial dog is deathly allergic to bees and wasps.

So what choices do I have? I can either throw the cigar away, which is a cheaper cigar but it’s still a cigar, or I can sling the bag under my left arm, hold both of the leashes in my left hand and continue smoking. More often than not I choose the latter option because I’m stubborn.

That’s usually the worst that happens when I’m walking my dogs with a cigar. Occasionally things are worse. As was the case the other day when within a couple of minutes of getting to the park my boys find a girl dog in heat. And I’m smoking a cigar. And all the dogs are off leash. So here I am pulling 170 lbs of dog away from the thing they most want in this world with a cigar in my mouth.

Once I have finally separated them from the female dog I am dumb enough to let go of them for a minute so that I can get leashes on them. As you may have guessed, that was stupid of me so I had to do my best impression of history and repeat myself. But this time the leashes were ready and the cigar was safely resting on a picnic table not made out of wood (the likelihood of starting a fire if I had put my cigar on a wooden table is basically zero but still not worth it).

In the end I just let the cigar go out and walked my horny dogs on leash for the remainder of the walk. I was somewhat angry with them at the time but that was pretty dumb because they are dogs and I don’t think they could have stopped themselves from doing it like they do it on the Discovery Channel if they had tried. And it’s not like either of them was about to try that Herculean task of self restraint either.

One of the other negative situations I am faced with while smoking a cigar while taking my dogs on a walk is when my dog walking friends are also at the park. They aren’t the kind of people who will complain about dogs being off leash since their dogs are also off leash but some of them are the kinds of people who will overtly hint at their disgust of cigar smoke.

For a while I would just politely let my cigars go out whenever a nonsmoker dog walker would pop by but then I realized that I just don’t like some of these people. Fortunately, the ones I like are also smokers, mostly cigarette smokers, but they will at least not pretend to need to cough when they get within a country mile of cigar smoke. So, for this situation at least, there is an ancillary benefit to smoking a cigar while walking my dogs.

Oh, I almost forgot about the one thing that unites, or at least should unite, all dog walkers: the poop bag. For whatever reason, my dogs have decided that the park is the best place to take a crap. Actually, they usually take many craps down there. So I have to hold the cigar in my mouth, take out the blue plastic bag, open it up and turn it inside out with my hand inside, take the cigar out of my mouth so that when I bend over to pick up the poop I don’t choke on the smoke and pass out into my dog’s feces, pick up the poop, stand up and put the cigar back in my mouth, tie the poop back together so that it won’t smell so bad in the trash can and then throw it away in the trash can. Yes, it’s a complicated process but it’s the right thing to do. I always hated stepping in crap when I was a kid at the park.

I guess now is as good a time as any to make your reading of this post of dog walker angst worth your while. So here are some tips if you too want to smoke a cigar while walking your dogs:

  • Bring one of your cheaper cigars along since it won’t be as good as it would be if you were sitting down.
  • Bring a cigar with a little extra body to it because mild cigars will end up tasting like nothing at the park.
  • Know your dogs, if they are going to be a pain in your butt most of the time then don’t smoke that cigar.
  • Light your cigar in the car so that you can mitigate the wind’s interference.
  • Keep your lighter on you because you will probably need to do some burn line maintenance along the way.
  • Watch out for other people with dogs because if your dogs are anything like mine they will get more unruly around other dogs.
  • Go at a time when the park will be almost completely empty like early morning, the afternoon or at night.

Do you have any dog walking stories?

Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Cigar Smokers

June 12, 2011 · Posted in Cigar 101 · 1 Comment 

Father’s day is a week away and you don’t know what to get dear ol’ dad. If he happens to be a cigar smoker I’m sure he would love to get something from this list:

  • Xikar Cigar Scissors: Whether your dad is smoking cigars at his buddy’s house or at home he will absolutely love these scissors. The blades are sharp, he will get a clear view of the cigar as he’s cutting it and there are some extra tools attached for things like adjusting cigar lighters or opening a bottle. What is really special about these cigar scissors is that when you are done with them they fold up so they will take up less space and your dad won’t accidentally cut himself. I use these scissors along with many other cigar smokers I know.
  • Blazer Cigar Lighter: This is another one of those necessities for the father on the go. The Blazer Little Buddy cigar lighter is a cigar lighting dream with it’s compact size, dependably robust flame, ease of adjustment and it’s also a breeze to refill. I recommend getting your pops the clear one so that he can see how much butane is left in the lighter – even though he won’t need to refill it all that often thanks to it’s large fuel reservoir.
  • Cigars: If your father likes the best cigars then you need to head on over to Cigars Direct’s page featuring samplers for cigars like: Arturo Fuente Opus X, Padron 1964 Anniversary and Ashton. Or maybe you could sign the old man up for their Cigar of the Month Club. For every month you give your dad he will receive eight premium cigars and you will receive 10% all of your purchases at their site.

If your dad were to receive one or a combination of the above gifts I’m sure he would be ecstatic. So make it a special day for him and get him something nice!

ROTT in Hell

May 9, 2011 · Posted in Cigar 101 · 4 Comments 

It’s like Christmas morning for a cigar smoker: the delivery truck guy drops off a box of cigars, you open up the box to find some delicious cigars and then you take one of those cigars out of their cellophane wrapper, cut the head off, light the foot and then… You get disappointed. The flavor is all wrong, the cigar doesn’t burn right, your expectations are not met and you are now bummed.

Smoking cigars Right Off The Truck (ROTT) is a bad idea for a number of very simple reasons. Here are some that I can think of right off the bat:

  • Cigars are not properly humidified while they are in transit
  • Cigars have been exposed to wild fluctuations in temperature while they were in transit
  • Cigars may not have been properly cared for before they were even shipped
  • In rare cases, the delivery company will damage the package – accidentally of course
  • Maybe the cigars were properly cared for but are still just too young to be smoked

I know it might be hard to put away some cigars that you have been looking forward to trying for a while but that is what you should do; especially when you are ordering cigars from an online retailer. When you are ordering online you have no way of knowing how those cigars that you ordered were cared for either in the retailer’s humidor or in transit. Personally, I have not had a problem with the quality of the cigars I have received from any of the online retailers that I have used as long as I have let my cigars rest in my humidor. But rest is the key.

How long should you let your cigars rest? I have found no hard and fast rules here as some cigars have been very good ROTT while others didn’t start tasting good until more than a month after I received them. Generally speaking though, I will give whatever my value, go-to cigars at least two weeks of rest after I have received them and for the more special cigars I will let them rest for at least a couple of months. I have some cigars in my not-too big humidor collection that have been resting for over a year, but that is more for finding the right occasion to smoke those cigars as opposed to giving them extra rest. (To see a review that compares the same cigar with different periods of rest go here.)

There are times, however, when I don’t stick to those rules. For example, I recently got shipments of two different kinds of very good cigars. One was the Cro Magnon and the other was the Man O’ War Puro Authentico. I smoked the smallest vitola from the Cro Magnon line ROTT and it was pretty awesome. Tons of flavor and a good balance to the flavors even though it nearly knocked me on my ass power-wise. Likewise, I smoked a Man O’ War Puro Authentico ROTT and was severely disappointed. It was harsh and the flavors were pretty bad.

Since then I have let both lines of cigars rest. Both have gotten better and the Man O’ War Puro Authenticos have become pretty good cigars with lots of flavor and nuance. If only I had rested them all ROTT I would not have wasted a cigar due to my impatience.

Cigar Humidification Tip #1

March 30, 2011 · Posted in Cigar 101, Cigar Accessories, Humidors · 4 Comments 

The other night one of the gentlemen I was smoking cigars with asked me what he should do about this (Cuban) Cohiba he had. To my horror, the Cohiba has not been properly humidified in a couple of months. This, I told him, was a problem and it is a problem for many people who smoke cigars infrequently. Letting a cigar dry out leads to cracking of the leaves, the cigar smoking too quick, harsh flavors and an overall bad experience.

For his case, which is that he has this one cigar and it needs some TLC, I told him to:

  • Get a plastic sandwich bag (i.e. Ziploc)
  • Put the cigar in the bag
  • Put a Boveda Humidification pack with 69% relative humidity (RH) in bag with cigar because it is foolproof – it keeps the environment at that humidity level for as long as it still has juice left
  • Close bag and let rest for a month in a place that doesn’t have wild swings in temperature (like a desk drawer or in a closet – someplace safe) and it’s best to find a place that is around 70°F
  • Every few days check to see if the Boveda pack is completely spent (if you touch it and it’s hard then it’s no longer providing any humidity) and if it is spent put a fresh pack in the plastic bag
  • After a couple months of doing this the cigar should hopefully be ready to smoke again – feel the cigar to determine if it’s good to go; if it no longer feels dry to the touch and you cannot hear the tobacco leaves cracking when you roll the cigar with your fingers then it’s good to go

Is this the right advice? Should I have told him to start out with a Boveda pack that maintains a 65% humidity level and then go up to the one with the 69% humidity level as a way to ease the cigar back to health? Is there a better way to do this?

Obviously, my solution isn’t all that elegant but I think it should get the job done and the cigar will be saved.

Variety in Cigars

August 16, 2010 · Posted in Cigar 101 · 1 Comment 

During my La Aurora trip in May I relearned something that is very important to anyone who is serious about cigars: variety matters.

The first full day there we all visited La Aurora’s factory and once we were all settled into one of their conference rooms Jose Blanco commenced our taste test of cigars. Each one of those cigars were created using only one specific kind of tobacco. I have already talked about this so there is no need to go on further about the process but there was one really important thing about that experience that I hope I can convey to you.

Unless you are willing to smoke a variety of cigars you will never understand what you really like in cigars. Take my experience as an example. When I first started out smoking cigars I was lucky enough to smoke some Fuentes. Solid cigars, medium strength, very good flavors, they are the epitome of what a dependable cigar is. But what if I just stuck to Fuentes? Even though Fuentes are great cigars, and I do recommend them highly, I would eventually have gotten bored with cigars and I seriously doubt I would still be smoking cigars with any regularity.

My first tentative steps away from the venerable Fuente brand were largely hit and miss. I think I took a road that many novice cigar smokers take: I got a lot of samplers along with a couple of sticks I had read about in Cigar Aficionado and on the cigar blogs. The samplers, which were largely comprised of crummy cigars (and by that I mean cheap) accounted for a lot of my “misses.” But that was good for me because I found out I don’t like most of the cheap cigars from Ghurka (there are some very good Ghurkas out there, which surprised me after my initial experiences with their cigars) and that just because the cigar’s brand name is the same as a Cuban brand it isn’t necessarily a good cigar (far from it).

Some of the samplers ended up working out and those successful forays into the unknown of the cigar ecosystem spurred me on to find out more about cigars and to be more adventuresome with my cigar selections. That is when I discovered some of the great boutique cigars like Tatuaje.

So go out and get some cigars that you haven’t tried before. Who knows, you might find some new cigars that you like.

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