Friday, June 12, 2009

The Basic Types of Cigars

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Tips for Lighting a Cigar

For new smokers, lighting a cigar can seem as daunting as learning to choose a good single. Here are four tips to guide you in lighting a cigar for the first time.

1. Use cedar matches, if possible. If you prefer to use a lighter, make sure it's butane lighter to avoid strong odors.

2. Warm the open end of the cigar (aka 'the foot' of the cigar) slowly over the flame, without touching it to the fire. Let a black ring form around the end.

3. Place the cigar in your mouth and draw in slowly. Hold the cigar over the flame, about half an inch above it, again without touching. Continue to draw in until the cigar draws the flame. Turn the cigar slowly, spinning it to establish an even burn.

4. Once your cigar is lit, take it out of your mouth and observe the burn you have established. If the burn appears to be uneven, simply blow on the unlit sections to draw the burn, and then take one or two draws from the cigar to reestablish an even burn.

A Short History of Cigars and Tobacco

Have you ever wondered where cigars were first produced? It is widely believed that cigars were first produced in Spain. But before cigars became all the rage in Europe, tobacco was needed to make them. Tobacco is indigenous to the Americas, where native peoples have produced it for hundreds of years. It is believed that the Maya of Yucatan peninsula in Mexico and parts of Central America cultivated tobacco, and even smoked it! Tobacco use spread to other tribes, both north and south. It is believed that its first use in the United States was probably among the tribe along the Mississippi. It wasn't until Christopher Columbus sailed his famous voyage to the Americas in 1492 that the rest of the world came to know tobacco.

It is said that Columbus was not impressed by tobacco or its use among native peoples, but many sailors grew found of the strange plant. Soon it quickly caught on in Spain and Portugal. From there, it spread to France, where the French ambassador Jean Nicot lent his name to the scientific name for tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). The origins of the word tobacco itself are still suspect, although many believe it is simply a corruption of the word Tobago, which is the name of a Caribbean island. Still others believe it comes from the word Tabasco, a region (and now state) in Mexico.

The first tobacco plantation in the United States was established in Virginia in 1612. More tobacco plantations followed in Maryland soon after. Although tobacco became a popular crop, it was only smoked in pipes. The cigar was not introduced to the United States until the late 18th century. Israel Putnam, an army general who had served in the Revolutionary War, is credited with introducing the cigar to the United States. He had traveled to Cuba after the Revolutionary War and returned with a box of Cuban cigars. Their popularity quickly spread, and soon enough cigar factories were established in the area of Harford, Connecticut, where General Putnam resided.

In Europe, cigar production and consumption did not achieve widespread popularity until after the Peninsula War in the early 19th century. British and French veterans returned to their homelands after years of serving in Spain with their tobacco pipes in tow. Among the rich and fashionable, the favored method of taking tobacco was the cigar. Cigar smoking remains a habit associated with the rich and discriminating of upper society.

All Styles and Sizes: The Basic Types of Cigars

For the new smoker, the different styles and sizes of cigars can seem mind-boggling. It helps to know that all cigars can be divided into two broad categories: parejos and figurados.

Parejos refers to cigars that are basically straight. They are subdivided into three categories: coronas, panatelas, and lonsdales. Coronas come in a variety of styles and famous brands. They are known as cigars with an 'open foot' (or tip) and a rounded head. Panatelas are generally longer than coronas, are thinner. Lonsdales are also longer than coronas, but are thinner than panatelas.

The second basic category consists of the figurados. Figurados refers to cigars with that are irregular or somehow hand-shaped so that they are not strictly straight. The smallest type of figurados is the belicoso cigars, which are known for a larger foot and a smaller, rounded head. Another basic figurado cigar is the pyramid, which have pointed heads that taper to a large foot. The perfecto is a figurado cigar that is tapered on both the head and foot, with a thinner middle. The largest figurado is the diademas, known as the 'giant' of cigars because it is always eight inches or longer.

Check the Ashtray: Using Ashes to Determine the Quality of Your Cigar

How to tell if your cigar is of the highest quality? Check the ashtray—the ashes left behind can speak volumes about the quality of your cigar. Here a few simple tips to determining the quality of your cigar.

First, note how fast your cigar burns. A cigar that seems to burn too quickly or disposes ashes that break apart easily is probably a lower quality cigar. If the ashes seem too messy, and don't break apart together, this may also indicate a lower quality cigar. Also, check the color of the ashes. If the ash color seems to change, the tobacco leaf mix may be of poorer quality.

The highest quality cigars, those that are well packed, will burn very slowly and burn stiff ash. The 'stiff ash' can remain intact up to two to three inches long, and remain on the cigar without breaking apart. A high quality cigar can be burned down to the nub. Even high quality cigars may vary in taste, especially when they are smoked down to the nub. Many times, you can usually get 'burn past' these bitter spots by letting the cigar burn on its own for a few minutes.

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Choosing the Best Ashtray for Cigar Smoking

Is an ashtray just an ashtray? Unlike regular cigarettes, cigars need their own special space to support their girth and ashes. Many cigar aficionados swear by the pleasures of finding the proper place to hold their cigars and ashes.

So what are the characteristics of a good ashtray? First of course, make sure the ashtray you buy is big enough to hold your cigars. Cigars come in varying sizes, so you will want an ashtray that can accommodate the single of your choice. Next, consider your personal style of smoking. Do you produce a lot of ash? Do you let your cigar rest for extended periods of time? These are all important considerations when choosing your ashtray.

Look for ashtrays made of metal, heavy glass, or ceramics. Ideally, you will want the ashtray to be big enough to hold the ashes for two cigars.

Where can you find the best ashtrays for your cigars? Many cigar aficionados swear by antique ashtrays. Search out flea markets and antique stores for good deals. Tobacco shops, mail order catalogues, and Internet shops are also good places to look.

Cigar Smoking 101

What are the basics of cigar smoking? How do you light a cigar? How do you draw on the cigar properly? Do you inhale? What are the dos and don'ts of cigar smoking? If you have ever pondered any of these questions, read on. Here is a simple and accessible primer designed to help you gain familiarity with the sometimes confusing, always enigmatic world of cigar smoking.

First Step: Lighting Up

First, all new cigar smokers should learn how to properly light a cigar. Use a clipper designed for cigars to clip off the edge of the head (the section you put to your mouth). If possible light the foot of your cigar with a cedar match. Avoid regular cigarette lighters. They produce a nasty odor that can linger and ruin a good cigar. If you must use a lighter, use butane lighter. These will keep the odor to a minimum. However, you should always strive to use a wooden match because lighters can easily taint the foot of your cigar. How do you light up? Simply strike a match and hold the edge of your cigar over the flame. Avoid touching the cigar to the fire, simply hold the cigar over the flame and draw deeply until the cigar is lit.

Second Step: Burn it down to a nub?

Should you burn your cigar down to a nub? Experts recommend you leave at least two inches to your cigar. Even the finest cigars will tend to get bitter if you let it burn all the way down. What about ashes? Should you knock the ashes off of your cigar? Rather than knocking the ashes off the edge, let the cigar rest in the ashtray when you're not smoking it. The ashes will fall off naturally.

Third Step: Relax and Enjoy

A cigar should never be rushed. By design, cigars should be savored, preferably after dinner and with a glass of good brandy. Hold the cigar between your thumb and fingers—anything else might be considered bad taste. Also, don't inhale deeply. The smoke should not reach your lung. This is very bad for your health, and it will not help you taste the cigar any better. Of course, you should always be considerate of those around you. If possible, smoke in the company of other cigar smokers. A good cigar can be enjoyed alone and even more so with friends.

Cigar Smoking Etiquette

Smoking cigars may be a great source of pleasure in your life, but the courteous smoker knows that not everyone enjoys the taste (or smell!) of a good Cuban. With the fervor of anti-smoking campaigns still in full swing, the importance of enjoying a good stogie while not offending others cannot be stressed enough. Simply remember that while you are smoking a cigar, it can be difficult to gauge the smell that others are experiencing. And don't forget that cigar smokes can leave a mighty strong residue on clothing, furniture, and even the walls! In order to enjoy your stogie without a heavy conscience, learn to become a considerate and courteous cigar smoker.

If you live with non-smokers, try to find a well-ventilated area of your residence where you can smoke comfortably. Although it may be tempting to lock yourself away in an office or bedroom, it's probably not a good idea to smoke in an enclosed area unless it has a window. Make sure you have easy access to the window. Never smoke in a closed area! You are more likely to inhale the toxic air from your own cigar. If possible, go outside to smoke. Pull up a lawn chair; relax on the porch, or any other open area where you can smoke comfortably. Get as far away as possible to non-smokers, especially children and the elderly. Remember that cigar smoke contains many carcinogens that can be easily inhaled by non-smokers.

If you must smoke a cigar outside your home, remember that the courteous and respectful smoker will only light up where legally permitted. Do no light up in a bar, hotel, or restaurant where smoking is clearly prohibited. The courteous cigar smoker will also make sure to smoke in the company of other smokers. If you are with someone who does not smoke, ask his or her permission. If they agree, be considerate about it. Make sure the smoke isn't wafting in their direction. Sit near an open window or space. Make sure the air conditioner or current is moving the smoke in their direction! Also, make sure no one around you is eating. The secondhand smoke from a discourteous smoker is a surefire way to ruin a meal.

A courteous cigar smoker will also be aware of their ashes. If you must smoke outside your home, make certain to dispose of your ashes in a safe and appropriate container. Don't forget that ashes can easily blow away, especially in lower quality cigars. Don't litter with ashes, and be careful they don't blow near anyone around you.

Cigars 101: An Overview of Cigars

Cigars have long been associated with the rich and powerful, with relaxation and rich flavor. Cigar aficionados have created a culture around the art of smoking, assembling various theories and accessories to debate and facilitate smoking. Much like wine tasting, cigar smoking has been seen as a diversion of the upper echelons of society.

It is believed that cigars were probably first produced in Spain, and then quickly caught on in other European countries. Although many different countries manufacture cigars, Cuban cigars have long been highly regarded as one of the most flavorful and rich of all cigars. This is due to regional microclimates that are said to produce the highest quality tobacco, as well as the skill of the country's cigar makers. Other countries that produce significant amounts of tobacco and cigars include Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, Cameroon, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, and the United States. Why have cigars long caught the attention of so many? Many speculate that the cigar's main attraction is in the way it is manufactured. High quality cigars are always wrapped by hand. Unlike cigarettes, cigars undergo a lengthy process of fermentation and aging (much like wine), resulting in subtle flavors and textures. They are highly individual and the best cigars will provide no smoky aftertaste at all.

The taste of cigars is much more complex than cigarettes. The majority of all cigars are created by wrapping three different layers of tobacco leaves together. High quality cigars usually contain long leaves of nicotine as the filler, although they may also contain a combination of scraps. This results in subtle variations, different textures, and complex flavors. Cigarettes, on the other hand, are mass-produced and generally only contain one type of tobacco. Cigars also come in an incredible variety of flavors. The dedicated cigar aficionado can find chocolate, vanilla, apple, and even coffee-flavored cigars!

Although cigars have long been lauded for their smooth and complex flavors, they can also pose a great health risk. All tobacco contains nicotine. We've all heard about the negative health risks of nicotine, but what does it do exactly? Nicotine is a stimulant that produces a sense of euphoria. Even the casual smoker cannot escape the fact that nicotine is highly addictive and contains various toxins, carcinogens, and irritants. Although most connoisseurs of cigars will avoid inhaling the smoke, they are still at risk of developing various types of oral and larynx cancers.


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