Smoking a cigar involves much more than just stuffing tobacco leaves in your face, lighting and sucking. While it’s likely true that anyone who can walk to the fountain and get a drink of water can also successfully smoke a cigar, there are some techniques that will allow you the greatest enjoyment of the flavors, aromas and other nuances of your smoke. So let’s take a deeper look and see how to enjoy and smoke a cigar
Unlike a cigarette, a premium cigar contains 100% pure tobacco product. There are no additives, reconstituted or expanded tobacco and neither is there a cellulose acetate filter. The moisture content is between 14-17%. Because of these characteristics, a premium stogie will burn cool and slow and most of the tobacco will burn incompletely. Based on his/her experience with cigars with these essential properties, the seasoned cigar smoker will typically gravitate toward certain techniques for obtaining the greatest pleasure from smoking a choice cigar. Let me list and explain a few of these techniques (these are in no particular order).
Don’t Chew The Cigar – Smoke A Cigar
Granted, there are some people who would rather eat cigars than smoke them (my brother-in-law, as an example), but for optimal smoking enjoyment you shouldn’t chew your cigar. Chewing will crimp the flow within the cigar and swell the tobacco so that the smoke won’t draw as evenly through the cigar. It will also make it easier for the tars of the tobacco to build up causing a nasty taste or delivering too much nicotine to your bloodstream. Instead, after puffing on a cigar, take it out of your mouth and hold it, or better, place it in an ashtray between puffs for safekeeping.
Below: Put your cigar down between puffs
Smoking quickly can cause your cigar to burn too hot, increasing off tastes and increasing the likelihood of a bitter smoke. A hot burning smoke can result in the filler, binder and wrapper leaves burning out of sync with one another, which will negatively affect the burn characteristics and flavor. If you tend to smoke too quickly, try waiting 30-60 seconds between puffs. Try placing your cigar in an ashtray between puffs. Pace yourself while smoking and your cigar will burn better and you’ll likely enjoy it more.
Allow ash to form
The ash on the end of a burning cigar, besides providing you information about the construction of the cigar and the quality of the tobacco, will help to keep the burn of your cigar even. The ash cap at the foot of your cigar keeps excess oxygen away from the burning coal and helps to keep the smoke cool and the burn slow. I usually allow at least an inch of ash to form before tapping off. True, some people like to see how long an ash they can coax out of a cigar, but this is unnecessary and may lead to a not so desirable “lap dance” if the ash falls unexpectedly.
The flavors and nuances of a cigar will not be experienced in the lungs. Besides the obvious health implications of inhaling, the basic differences in the acid-base balance between cigarette and cigar tobacco favor a better experience without inhaling. The inside of your mouth is very sensitive to flavors, textures and other distinctions. I usually take 2-3 puffs on a cigar and then allow the smoke to remain in my mouth a few seconds before slowly expelling the smoke and savoring the flavors on my palate. Be sure to draw slowly and evenly on the cigar.
Learn to Retrohale and Purge your Cigar
Retrohaling is another technique that complements your palate and allows you to experience all the flavors and aromas a cigar has to offer. This technique is highly recommended and has been explained in my article Retrohaling Your Cigar Smoke. Purging is yet another technique that can help to rid a cigar of any of the built up chemicals that may arise from the incomplete burning of the tobacco and is a way to freshen and sweeten the taste of your cigar.
Enjoy Your Cigar – The Art of Smoking a Cigar
Finally, whatever you do, try to use the time you spend smoking a cigar to enjoy the process. Cigar smoking is full of ritual. The cutting, lighting and smoking process can be meditative. And, the time alone, or with others, can be a very relaxing experience. Put away distractions and problems and allow yourself 45- minutes (or more) to relax, recuperate, regenerate and enjoy the company of others.
Lighting a cigar is one of the most crucial processes in enjoying a great smoke. Besides being a perfect opportunity to show off your collection of torches and to see who has the longest… flame, your lighting technique will in large part determine the quality of your cigar smoking experience. I think learning how to light a cigar with a torch lighter is an important step in getting the perfect smoke.
Along with the trim, the initial toasting of your cigar represents the most critical aspect of the ritual of enjoying a fine cigar. Keep in mind that an improper light may result in an uneven burn, a lousy draw and a nasty taste in your cigar.
Let’s start with the proper instrument for the light. There are many tools that have been used to light the foot of a cigar: matches of various kinds, lighters, candles, blowtorches, and even outdoor propane heaters have been used with varying levels of success. For a variety of reasons, the butane torch lighter is my favorite when it comes to the task of lighting my cigars. Butane is colorless, odorless, flavorless and it burns hot. It is also easy to control the flame so you can get the heat exactly where you want it.
No matter what you use to light your smoke, it is very important not to scorch the foot of the cigar. If you char the filler tobacco, you will draw all the soot through the length of the cigar creating that nasty flavor associated with anything that is burnt.
To light your cigar with a torch lighter, first find a place that is relatively free from wind and that is relatively dark. A strong wind can play havoc with your torch flame and, since butane burns so clean, the flame is very difficult to see in broad daylight. Ideally, you should light your cigar out of direct sunlight and in a windless environment.
Light Your Cigar With a Torch Lighter
Next, light your torch and hold the very tip of the flame about a half-inch away from the foot of the cigar. As I said earlier, the torch flame is extremely hot and is the hottest at the very tip, sometimes reaching as high as 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. This is much hotter than a match or a soft-flame lighter. Use the tip of the flame to gently toast the foot of the cigar, kind of like roasting a marshmallow. You want to slowly rotate the cigar so that you heat the foot evenly without charring the foot.
Once you get the tobacco at the edges of the cigar glowing, blow gently on the foot of the cigar to make sure the edges are completely lit, and then (important!) put the cigar in your mouth and blow out through the cigar (i.e., “purging”). This will clear any foul chemicals that were produced if you accidentally over-torched the foot. Then, puff gently while again heating the foot with your torch. At this point you may see flames leaping from the foot of the cigar as you take each puff. Try not to let this get out of hand, you don’t want to scorch the foot of the cigar, so back the flame away from the foot as you continue to gently puff.
When you think you have the cigar well lit, take a look at the foot and blow gently. The perfect light should result in an evenly glowing foot. If the foot is glowing evenly, you can sit back and enjoy your smoke. If the foot seems not fully lit, put your flame over the unlit section and gently toast for a couple of seconds and then repeat the puff and toast routine.
The following scenario is all too common and can affect even the most experienced cigar hobbyist. You open up your humidor and to your horror you see some white fuzzy stuff sprouting from your cigars, cigar mold!
You’ve got problems, my friend… Trust me. On the other hand, you also might run across a fine, white, powdery film that covers your cigars, a highly prized development on cigars called, “bloom” (also called “plume”).
What Cigar Bloom Looks Like
Bloom refers to the condition of the tobacco when the oils in the wrapper leaves disperse congeal and then dry-out on the surface of the wrapper. These “essential oils” congregate and dry on the surface of a cigar and appear like very tiny crystals. In fact, you can sometimes shine a light on the cigars and the crystals will shimmer a bit as they reflect the light. These dried crystals can eventually make the wrapper look slightly “dusty” with a powdery white finish.
What should you do if your cigars have bloom? Nothing. Bloom is harmless and is a common feature of cigars that have optimally aged for long periods of time, especially cigars with oily wrappers. I would keep an eye on it though, unless you have a doctorate in fuzzy growths, because it may turn out to be something else. Some retailers prize the appearance of bloom and I’ve heard that some retailers “special order” their cigars with bloom from the factory!
How To Spot Cigar Mold
There is another substance that can appear on your cigars, that is not so benign as bloom. I’m talking about mold. Mold is a fungus that appears on your cigars when they are over humidified. It can be found in various colors, including white, gray, blue-gray, or blue-green. The best way to describe mold, as opposed to bloom is that mold appears as “fuzzy patches” on your cigars, which are 3-dimensional, like miniature cotton balls. Mold occurs most often on the wrapper, but can also occur on the foot (see photo below) and/or within the filler of a cigar.
How To Tackle Cigar Mold
What should you do if your cigars have mold? First, get the offending smokes away from your other cigars. Second, check your other smokes for signs of mold. If you have a bunch of cigars with mold and you want to try and salvage them, at least wipe off the mold (away from your other cigars) and move them to a different container.
I would not humidify these smokes for about 12 hours or so. They are already too wet and need to dry out a bit. Third, check your humidor and humidifier for signs of mold. If you have developed mold on the wood of your humidor, remove all your cigars and use isopropyl or denatured alcohol to kill mold spores. And let it air out a bit before putting cigars back into it. If there is mold in your foam humidifier, either replace it, or remove it and flush it with water and leave it out to dry. When it’s dry, recharge it with a mixture of propylene glycol (PG) and distilled water.
The PG will help impede mold growth. Finally, prevent the humidity levels in your humidor from getting too high in the future. Use a digital hygrometer and check temperature and humidity levels frequently.
Should you toss out a stick that has mold on it? Well, to be absolutely safe, yes. Many people simply wipe the mold off the stogies and smoke them. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do the same, however, mold comes in different varieties, some of which can cause illness if they are allowed to culture in the wrong place, like in your mouth or in your lungs.
There are millions of varieties of mold in the world and not every type of mold causes human illness. But some kinds of mold are able to serve as pathogens in the body and can cause respiratory or other medical conditions. Mold spreads by producing spores, these spores then spread the fungus to you or to the rest of your smokes. SO, if you want to take your chances, brush off the mold and smoke them, otherwise just get rid of them.
I am often asked how I use the terms, “body,” “flavor” and “strength” in my cigar reviews and also how I define those terms. Body, Flavor and Cigar Strength represent three different sensory inputs that I reference when smoking a cigar. As a cigar reviewer, I attempt to describe a cigar’s characteristics and I use these three terms separately to refer to different aspects of the experience of smoking a premium cigar. Below, I will describe why and how I’ve come to my definitions.
Any reference to “body” must include a description of the cigar’s impact on the palate and nasal mucosa. We experience “body” through the effect the tobacco components have on the touch and taste receptors in our mouth and nose. But when we describe those sensations, we do so using metaphors like, “texture,” “richness,” “weight,” and overall “mouth feel.”
I rate the magnitude of a cigar’s body as light, light-to-medium, medium, medium-full or full. A full-bodied cigar will feel heavy in the mouth and nose while a very light bodied cigar will feel the opposite. The greater the “impact” one feels in the mouth and nose, the greater the body of the cigar.
To our senses, the tobacco may feel thick and honeylike, or it may prickle the tongue or the inside of the nose when retrohaled. It may also present as viscous, dry or harsh.
You will note that I include the nose as an organ that helps us to determine “body” in a cigar. More specifically I am referring to the retronasal olftactory system and the mucus membrane in the nose. I mention these because many cigar smokers will “retrohale” cigar smoke, which will have a great impact, not only on the experience of “flavor,” but also on the experience of “body.” The same components that present as “full” or “heavy” on the palate, will also present that way on the nasal mucosa when you retrohale cigar smoke. If you don’t believe that, try crushing a hot pepper under your finger and stick it in your nose. Okay, don’t do that, but you get the idea. The mucus membrane in your nose will pick up on the weight, feel and texture of whatever passes over it.
Not only is pepper perceived as hot or spicy to the membranes in our mouth and nose, but the smell associated with that pepper will give sensory data about the spicy feeling it will elicit even before we eat it. Try cutting a lemon and sticking it up to your nose for a whiff. This will not only give you a clear indication that its taste will be sour, but it may start your salivary glands working overtime in preparation for the puckering stimulus.
After you gargle with a mouthwash, you may sense the same chemical mint coolness on your nasal mucosa that you experience on your palate. This is because the molecules that stimulate olfactory receptors are still floating around in your mouth and often proceed up through your internal nasal passage and stimulate the neurons located in the olfactory bulb.
A working definition of “flavor” within the context of our discussion is: “The distinctive taste of a cigar when smoked. A cigar’s flavor can be discussed in two forms: distinctive taste and magnitude.
The magnitude of a cigar’s flavor can be rated as light, light-to-medium, medium, medium-full or full. It boils down to the intensity of one’s perception of the flavor. If a cigar displays weak flavors or just slight nuances of a flavor, then it would be rated as a light-flavored cigar. Conversely, if the intensity and clarity of flavors are bright, pronounced and focused, then it could be rated as medium-full or even full-flavored.
We perceive the distinctive taste of a cigar through our senses of taste and smell. In part, our ability to detect flavor is a result of the density of the taste buds on the surface of the tongue. Each of us has a different number of taste buds and about 25% of the population have an abnormally large number of taste buds and have been dubbed “super-tasters.”
Just as different tastes are sensed on different parts of the tongue, so different smells and textures are distinguished in different areas of the nasal mucosa. There are about 1,000 different types of nasal receptor proteins, which are sensitive to different odors or aromas. The taste receptors in the mouth pick up basically 4 types of tastes: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. When we use descriptors like bitter, sweet and salty, these descriptions are the result of the chemical constituents in the tobacco influencing the taste receptors on different parts of the tongue.
But when one describes other flavors like alfalfa, cedar, cinnamon, barnyard or coffee, these reflect complex interactions between the senses of taste and smell and any memories of experiences with these items in the past. Not only must we detect flavor and odor molecules on our taste buds and olfactory receptors, but we must then associate that input with a flavor memory and verbalize that flavor.
The bottom line is that, it takes both taste and olfactory senses to distinguish flavors. You can’t really separate the senses of taste and smell because both are active when we identify and describe flavors.
I used to make fun of people who could taste all kinds of outlandish flavors in cigars. But after having studied the field of sensory perception and after having smoked many cigars to determine the flavors in them, I realize that it is possible to TRAIN one’s senses to recognize and describe flavors. People who are trained to identify flavors and aromas (e.g., wine experts or coffee experts) are not necessarily any more sensitive with their palate or nose, but in many cases are just better at retrieving names of tastes and smells from memory. Like anything else, one becomes better with practice.
We experience the “strength” of a smoke through our internal senses in the same way we experience the effects of drugs and alcohol. When one smokes a strong cigar, he or she will feel the effects of the nicotine. These effects may be exhibited through an increase in respiratory rate, or the dilation of blood vessels (to become flushed). One may feel the “strength” of a cigar in the gut or esophagus as a result of gastric reactions to the tobacco. Or the sensations may feel it in the head as a woozy feeling or light-headedness. Strength is related to the overall experience of the effects of the tobacco and how strong those effects become.
The magnitude of a cigar’s strength can be rated as light, light-to-medium, medium, medium-full or full.
If you want to improve your ability to identify and label flavor, body and strength, you will need practice. I have developed a flavor chartto help people think about the kinds of flavors they experience when smoking a cigar.
If you think you note a flavor that is sweet, woody or chemically, look more carefully at those sections of the chart and see if you can’t narrow down the flavor to something more specific. If you use this chart consistently, I truly believe you will become more adept at labeling the flavors in your cigars.
To summarize… Body is the weight, texture or feel of the constituents of tobacco on the palate and nasal mucosa. Think of it as the “impact” that is perceived on your palate and in your nose. These sensations that are produced in the mouth and nose can be either more or less prominent, representing fuller or lighter body.
The experience of Flavor utilizes the senses of taste and smell and the extent to which one can recognize and describe the flavors is a result of the number and type of sensory sensory organs that are possessed. But, flavor identification also requires practice and it is possible to train to enhance one’s ability to verbalize the flavors in a cigar.
Strength is the reaction of one’s internal biochemical receptors to the components in a cigar, especially the active chemical compounds like nicotine. Nicotine and other chemical compounds will cause physiological effects like sweating, respiratory changes and increased heart rate. It is not uncommon to “feel” the strength of the tobacco in your gut, or in your head as either gastric reactions or a feeling of wooziness or lightheadedness.
Some More Interesting Reading on Cigar Strength, Flavor and Body
There are many people who know how to smoke a cigar. But would you believe if I told you that maybe only half of them know how to smoke like a gentleman. How to hold a cigar is just as critical as how to light one. Below I will take you through my top ten rules that any gentlemen should always, without a doubt, follow. Get ready to familiarise yourself with some cigar etiquette.
Not everyone looks to smoking cigars as a way of enjoyment. That’s why it’s crucial you ask permission to light one of your smokes from people surrounding you. Whether it’s the smell, respiratory problems, or just disgust, have a bit of consideration for those around you.
If someone replies with a no, don’t consider question them or demand a reason why. Whatever the situation, you have a duty to ensure that your surroundings feel comfortable with you. The motive of asking permission from others isn’t so that you can interrogate them if their answer is negative.
Sharing is Caring
Cigars are like tires – you always have spare. There’s nothing worse than an ungenerous cigar smoker. You have to be sure that when you’re smoking a cigar in public, no one is going to ask for a spare. That’s why you always bring a few more with you. Don’t get me wrong; handing out $50 torpedos at an event is just going to get you some concerned looks. Just make sure you present generosity.
All you’ve got to do is silently open your cigar case and et the person you’re offering decide themselves. There is no need to hassle them ore seem pushy in any way. The more smoothly you do it, the better received it will be.
A Gentleman Never Lights Another CigarFor Them
Unless specifically requested to do so, let others light their own cigar. The reason being, you man ruin the flavor accidentally by forcing that person to draw too hard on their stogie. It is of course an easy mistake if you’re new to the whole smoking a cigar practice. You may think it’s polite but never be too sure.
Know When to Remove Your Band
I don’t think there is any need to argue over this, but in the past, there have been some strong debates over whether or not a person should know when to remove their band. Having the most expensive cigars and shouting about it can be somewhat uncouth. The argument is just getting old now, though.
A lot of the time, the heat from the cigar can have an effect on the glue sticking the band down. Therefore some think it’s reasonable to remove the band when you’re halfway from finishing it. This does make it easier to remove without damaging the cigar in any way. In contrast, others believe leaving the band on for the duration fo your smoke is ‘a form of bragging’. I think that’s a bit dramatic. You should be proud of your collection. Don’t draw attention of course but smoke with dignity.
I believe there isn’t an official rule over bands, but what I would consider doing is just checking your surroundings when smoking. Of others have all removed their bands, it might befit you if you remove yours a swell. All in all, the respect of those around you is the key to your behavior.
Know How to Hold Your Cigar
You usually hold a cigarette between our index finger and middle finger. That is not the case with a cigar. A cigar should be held between your thumb and your index finger. Never ever point or gesture your cigar to another person or object in the distance. It’s risky and not what the cigar is intended for. Practice how to hold your cigar as well as yourself, you’ll develop a cigar etiquette that suits you as well as an occasion through time and experience.
Gentleman Never Chew Your Cigar
Who wants to look like a slobbery mess when smoking your cigar? When you chew on your cigar, you’re making the wrapper moist. In any case, your cigar might actually fall apart when you attempt to smoke it. You’ll also end up with yucky buts of tobacco stuck in your teeth, which isn’t a pleasant sight. Tobacco gets damp and heavy when you make it moist. If I may say, you really should save the $6 on something more substantial and try investing in a pack of gum. Lastly, don’t talk with your cigar in your mouth. Please – you’re asking for some nasty looks. It’s extremely rude and disrespectful.
Remember it’s a Leisurely Activity
A cigar is a gift. It’s no harm to smoke a stogie after a tough day of work or after some good news. Am I right? It’s not something you should smoke when walking, talking, or working. Set aside a time to enjoy a smoke, and focus on the more important things. Then you have something to look forward to. A distracted smoke isn’t a good smoke. Make sure you experience the flavor, the taste, and most importantly that oh so good feeling of utter relaxation.
Always Take Your Time
You’re risking your beautiful stogie if you smoke it too quickly. If I were you, don’t draw more than once a minute. You’re looking for maximum flavor and taste and so you must select the best time for your smoke and appreciate what you have. That’s how to enjoy your cigar. Besides, what’s the rush?
Develop a style and panash of your own, the way you smoke your cigar say something about you. Perhaps consider retrohaling your cigar, it’s a nice way to enjoy a cigar and looks dignified if done well.
A Gentleman Doesn’t Chain-Smoke Cigars
Don’t get me started on chain-smoking. It’s almost as sacrilegious as chewing on your cigar. Cigars are expensive – treat them with care. Many of my friends always say you should wait for about fifteen minutes between each smoke. However, I’ve always thought differently. Thirty minutes is probably better. It’s even better if you going to smoke a different brand from the one you smoked earlier.
Gentleman Don’t Crush Cigars in Ashtrays
When you smoke a cigar, the cigar wrapper contains the tobacco and oils and tar which is collected and stored in there. Don’t stub your cigar into an ashtray because the wrapper will literally split and then you’ll find your cigar will smolder. Then you’ll experience a foul-smelling puff of smoke and well, who wants that? If you’ve had enough with your cigar, just let the cigar go out on its own.
One other thing I wouldn’t suggest doing is stubbing your cigar and then relighting it because all you’ll taste is the ash from the astray – yuck! It’s then devoid of flavor and taste.
RetrohalingCigars is the process in which you release the smoke from your nose. I’ve sometimes noticed that the flavor of the cigar changes substantially when I practice this. The normal way of smoking a cigar would be to expel the smoke from the mouth. Throughout the cigar industry, clients of mine have practiced the art of retrohaling, and many of them remark on how much better the taste and experience is that they receive when doing so. In my opinion, if you haven’t released smoke out of your nose when smoking a stogie, you’ve never really experienced the true flavor and freshness of a cigar. My question I will be answering in this article today is: Does retrohaling work and if so, how and why?
Under no circumstances should cigar-smoking be inhaled into the lungs. This causes all sorts of problems concerning the respiratory and worsens them in many cases. It is extremely bad for your health and may in fact introduce oneself to nicotine addiction.
The word ‘retrohale’ is often split into two other terms: retronasal olfaction and exhale. This is how we end up with retrohale. I find this term is far more accurate compared to the old phrase ‘exhale through the nose’. This is simply because it is not recommended to inhale cigar smoke and inhaling is the opposite term to exhaling. When the body retrohales, the smoke completely misses the lungs and instead makes its way from the mouth to the nose and out again.
New smokers must be asking how retrohaling cigars affects the taste of the cigar and to answer that for you, we must first take a look at the two primary senses that are stimulated when you drawing on a cigar. These senses are gustation (taste) and olfaction (smell). When combining these two senses you produce flavor.
Gustation: This term refers to the sensation you receive from your taste buds and taste receptor cells. These are mostly found in the tongue and throughout your mouth.
Olfaction: This term refers to the other sensation you feel in your olfactory neutrons found in your nose. Your nose is full of nerves and tiny bones. But within all this structure, the main area of sensitivity is coming from the olfactory bulb (it’s the yellow section of the picture above). The air particles coming from the cigar smoke can reach the olfactory bulb through two different paths – orthonasal and retronasal olfaction.
The orthonasal olfaction area of your nose receives the aromas traveling through your nose and this is where we get the term ‘smelling’. However, retronasal olfaction is where the sensations that come from the aroma particles travel through the throat into the nasal cavity. Retronasal olfaction has one primary purpose and that’s to act as a last-minute warning signal to your brain if it thinks there’s something harmful you are about to swallow.
In many cases, there could be no molecules being transmitted to the olfactory bulb compared to how many molecules are usually transmitted to the orthonasal olfaction via the retronasal olfaction. If there are aroma particles being transmitted through the retronasal olfaction, they only have a small channel to move through and in actual fact, they have a further distance to travel to get to the olfactory nerves.
On the contrary, the particles of smoke travelling through the nasal cavity and being released through the nose drastically increases the number of aroma particles transmitted to your olfactory nerves. This increases the pleasure dramatically.
The Difference Between Orthonasal and Retronasal Olfaction
There are several differences between these types of olfaction that are quite important. For those of you wondering, “Why should I put the effort into learning how to blow smoke out my nose when it just leads to the same effects as pulling the smoke in through my nose by sniffing?”
The difference in the composition of the aroma particles is probably one of the most important differences we should take into account. For instance, when you sniff the air around you, you may smoke through your nose, but with it also the aroma particles of your cologne, the scent of flowers you pass by, or even somebody’s odors. This is what can happen if you smoke the air via your orthonasal olfaction (basically sniffing). You take in the aroma particles surrounding you. However, uring retrohalation, you only smoke the aroma molecules drawn out of the cigar through the mouth that reach the olfactory receptors.
Secondly, another big difference is how the two types of olfaction can affect the location or source the smell if coming from. There have been a number of scientific experiments where the results have shown that orthonasal olfaction triggers the perception that the source of the smell is located in the outside environment whereas retronasal olfaction causes the perception that the particles causing the aromas are in the mouth. Sometimes we believe our sensations produced by retrohaling are a part of taste. For instance, when we taste food and say it’s spicy or fruity. These aren’t sensations detected by our mouth or taste buds but are more likely to be the sensation coming from your nasal cavity or retronasal olfaction nerves. In most cases when you feel a spicy sensation in your mouth, most people would think that’s our mouth responding to the flavor but in actual fact, it’s our nose. In cigar terms, some smokers think they are tasting a ‘leathery’ sensation in their mouth but it’s most likely to be triggered in your retronasal olfaction.
My last reason regarding the promotion of retrohaling is that when you are smoking ambient air, that smoke is most likely not going to be missed by your lungs. When retrohaling, not only will you experience a more pronounced flavor, you will also benefit your lungs by not inhaling.
How does it work?
First, you draw the cigar smoke into your mouth, then close your mouth. Hold the smoke and your breath. In order to retrohale properly, open your throat valve and let the pressure inside your lungs force the smoke through your nose. Your body will; do this naturally – the key is to hold your breath and build pressure in your lungs. To help channel the air through to your nasal cavity, use you diaphragm muscles.
Be slow when letting the air out of your airway. It’s kind of like holding your breath underwater. All you’re doing is allowing pressure to buid inside your lungs then slowly allowing thet air pressure to be exhaled through the nose. As with any other art, retrohaling does take a bit of practicing. When I first began to retrohale, I used to blow out 70-80% of the smoke from my mouth and then trying to open my throat to retrohale the excess air.
It doesn’t take long, and once you’ve got the hang of it, your body kind of remembers the whole process. That ‘back door’ is only used in retrohaling and once opened lets in a whole new experience and flavor that enhances your enjoyment and pleaure. If you haven’t found that secret back door yet – and don’t worry if you haven’t ‘cos it always gonna be there – keep searching and one afternoon in your back porch you may find yourself divulging into a brand new shot of extreme flavor!
Ever since a young kid, I’ve always seen cigar smoking as a sign of success. I believe it’s been that way since the 1800s. This often left me asking myself the question I wonder what the most expensive cigars in the world are?
Furthermore, these small bundles of joy have been a common feature at many a gathering. The cigar – I believe – represents elegance and experience. Mind you; I am quite a traditional figure in society. I look at things in a vintage context many would say. Cigars are almost always the most splendid way to celebrate an occasion. In my opinion, the culture, the country, the makers, the quality of leaves, and of course, its origin of the cigar all affect the quality and ultimate value of the smoke. I still think there are some beautiful cigars out there on the market today, but I don’t think it gets anymore fancier than what I’m about to present to you below. If you are looking for ultimate craftsmanship and style, then listen up ‘cos your in for a treat. Let’s take a look at some of the most expensive cigars in the world.
Fuente Don Arturo AnniverXario
When the 100th anniversary of the Arturo Fuente Cigar Company, the owners decided to launch a limited edition of smokes. Within this edition, with the price tag of $7,500 for a box, this magnificent product was designed with supreme aged tobacco. This exquisite box set comes to your doorstep rolled in sun-grown wrappers and seven-year-old tobacco – aged to its highest standards. The unique kick of spice and flavor will most certainly provide you an extremely relaxing experience.
Arturo Fuente Opus X BBMF
Where do I begin? This one can be quite a controversial topic as luxurious as it is. This particular cigar can actually make for an excellent collector’s item. What really does pull the trigger for a supposedly sophisticated product is where BBMF is the acronym that means Big Bad Mother F***er. Yup – this cigar was quite popular during its 1995 release surprisingly as they are found in local cigar stores.
These fabulous Cuban cigars are priced at $50 per stick and are produced by the Goldwin Metropolitan Company. They are well known for the unique Rosado wrappers also. Nicaragua is where the smokes are produced. I believe this is where their hint of spice and cocoa originates from. These cigars are quite large at about 6 inches long with a sixty ring gauge. Just to add to that fone luxury, the band of the cigar fashions a portrait of Louis XIV.
Arturo Fuente Opus X “A”
Priced at a hefty $79 apiece, they are still to this day a popular choice of smoke. However, they are also extremely rare. Produced in the Dominican Republic, they accommodate a slight jalapeno taste. Unsurprisingly they can only be found in the finest cigar stores around the world.
Gurkha Black Dragon
Believe it or not, only the best tobacco leaves are used to produce this exquisite cigar. Made in the depths of Honduras, it’s very well-known for its strong flavorful kick. Get ready everyone ‘cos this cigar comes priced at a whopping $115,000! The ring gauge is 52 and is 8.5 inches in length. You know what you’re getting fro your money though – trust me. These smokes are specially handcrafted in a limited edition camel bone box. This choice of the cigar is made for only the true cigar enthusiasts.
King of Denmark
These babies cost a beautiful $75 a pop. You heard me – 75… a cigar. You may think this sounds ridiculous but the company that sells these only manages to produce thirty a day! However, depending on the customer’s choice, you can have it wrapped in gold foil with the name of the client on it. If you wish of course but hella, I would love that! Heck, if that’s not up to your standards, then try this. The company can also accommodate a silver, gold or diamond crown for only $4,500 more. Now your talking!
You won’t be able to pull up your socks when you find out the price of this beauty. $470 …each. The very first release of Cohiba behike cigars was when the size was 7.5 inches with a 52-inch ring gauge. 2006 was the initial release date but when they came out, the popularity was absurd and so overwhelming, the brand began by producing just 100 pieces to now having developed different brands of the same cigar type but just less expensive.
Gurkha His Majesty’s Reserve
My one downside to this is that you have to wait a bloody long time for these babies to arrive at your doorstep. The brand actually only manages to produce just under 100 boxes a year. On top of that, pre-orders skyrocket when the public realizes the company has released a new ’round’ of them. Without a doubt, these smokes are of some of the finest on the market. Wrapped in aged Conneticut Maduro and binded and filled for 12 years in the Domincan Republic, the filler tobacco is then infused into an entire bottle of Louis XIII Cognac per box, it really is no wonder why these smokes are so expensive.
Gran Habano no. 5 “El Gigante”
I thought it convenient to save the most expensive to last. Which brings me to the Gran Habano no.5 also nicknamed “El Gigante”. I’m not kidding you, the size of the cigar is practically as large as the sum of dough you must spend to receive such a thrilling gift. Weighing over 1,600 pounds and equipped with a 1,920-inch ring gauge, the actual price tag for this whopper comes at $200,000. This smoke was snuggled into a handcrafted wooden case. It is said that 40 people can smoke the cigar ll at the same time.
Concluding on Most Expensive Cigars in The World
Now I can tell you for a fact these are rare beauties and not everybody is going to be paying anywhere near those whopping prices whether it is online or in-store. However, if you do, in fact, have a little extra bit of dough of your hands, why not lose yourself in one? My final question though – Would you do it?
Premium cigars – or in other words no filter cigars – are just such a work of art. I can assure you, the very cigars we smoke today will have had many people involved in the process of producing them. A hand-rolled cigar has to undergo many procedures and tests so you can imagine the number of hands that will have touched and prodded it along the way. All in all, make sure that whatever hand-rolled cigar you choose to smoke, make sure it is the finest you can afford. Some issues do, however, arise, particularly around cigar burning. Let’s take a deeper look at cigar burning problems and how to fix them.
Tunneling, canoeing, runners, and more. Have you heard of any? I’m sure you have. I want to uncover the reason for these common cigar burning issues if you are like me and can get frustrated with these issues come and join me in this investigation.
Picture this: it’ been a hectic day at work and you’re just leaving to go home. Your thoughts wander whilst driving home and then you rest your thoughts on a particular cigar you’ve been interested in for quite a while. The closer you get to home, the more you consider smoking that cigar. You give in to your mind’s demands and choose to smoke it tonight to let your thoughts rest. You’ve been stressed all day, what do you expect?
You enter your house, shoes off, bag away and you take in the silence that lingers eerily through your home as you realize the kids are staying at your mom’s tonight. Now you take advantage of these peaceful hours you rarely receive and dig into that cigar.
Then you snuggle into your favorite chair in the living room. A gentle fire crackles in the background. You light the foot of your cigar and, as it gets darker and darker you, take a couple of puffs until your cigar starts to glow a sunset red. That overwhelming stress slowly fades until every muscle in your body turns to jello.
This situation I have just described comes as a rarity for me but when that special moment arrives at your door, I snatch it away. There’s nothing better than a peaceful smoke where the day is about to come to an end and you’re finally allowed to let go. It’s just me, myself, and I time.
Lately, I’ve been mesmerized by the cherry glow burning at the tip of my cigar. Occasionally I’ll experience a bad burn but for the most part, I get fascinate myself with the way the actual cigar burns.
I am in sorts a book worm; I try to get my hands on anything I can find on the bookshelf. Non-fiction, to fiction to autobiography. I’m truly baffled by the little information I find on burn issues regarding my cigars.
My biggest question: What does a bad burn look like? And how do I avoid it?
The Correct Cigar Lighting Technique
A bad burn’s most typical characteristic is known as the variation in the blue line. If the burn line is more than 3/8 of an inch, it’s most likely gonna be a bad burn. The perfect burn is so rare, especially in a hand-rolled product. I believe that’s why this figure is used nowadays.
Avoid Cigar burning issues by properly lighting your cigar.
If you rush through the beginning stages of smoking you stogie like lighting your cigar, you may find that’s why you suffer from bad burns.
You can always avoid a bad burn by taking care when toasting the foot of your cigar. If you’re looking for a proper toast, you must hold your cigar between your thumb and middle finger. Ensure your palm of your hand is at a forty-five-degree facing the floor. Using your free hand ignite the lighter and slowly, carefully bring the flame closer to the foot of the cigar. Any form of discoloration or bad smoke coming from the cigar, and blow out the flame. You’ll see a small puff of smoke leave your cigar, only then should you stop moving the flame closer to your cigar.
Allow yourself time to get the flame in the correct distance from the foot of the cigar. Then you should start rotating the cigar between your fingers. This is quite important as it helps avoid overheating a part of the foot of your cigar. When it comes to extinguishing the flame, ensure the foot is equally darkened on all parts and you have a thin ring of glowing red.
Take a couple of puffs – only gentle – once you’ve successfully got your cigar burning. Ensure you’re rotating the cigar in your mouth as you puff as well. The way to tell if you actually have an even cigar burning is by gently blowing on the foot of your cigar. Repeat the lighting process again if you are unsuccessful in lighting it evenly. By doing this process – and it can seem quite long – you hugely lower any further risks of severe burns.
Unfortunately, you still have a small chance of developing burn problems even if you feel satisfied with properly lighting your cigar. A common burn is when you have some wind – this causes what’s known as an erratic burn. As you puff on your cigar, sometimes the wind can blow along a side your cigar, therefore, increasing combustion.
Another example of cigar burning variation is uneven humidity throughout your stogie. This is a typical mistake where sometimes you can put down a no-cellophane cigar on a moist surface. Similar to a sponge, the cigar absorbs the excess moisture off the surface it lies on and that moisture rests in the inner tobacco. When that cigar is then lit, the more moist side burns slower than the dryer side. Once that happens you are left with a burn varitaion.
In other cases, some burns are caused by the rolling process. When cigars are rolled by the apprentice roller, this problem arises occasionally. It just depends on how badly they roll it. Sometimes they roll it too loosely, or too tight. In any one of these situations, you will not only experience draw problems but you’ll have variation in combustion too. If this is suspected among some of your cigars, watch out for the draw on your cigar. The tobacco has been rolled incorrectly if you undergo tight to loose variations in a draw.
Related burn problems can be corrected – don’t worry. Touching up a cigar is when you light the slow-burning side of the cigar. Avoid over puffing while touching up the burn. It speeds up the slow burning side. Over time this can correct the burn variation – jus be patient and you’ll get there.
By now, I’m hoping you feel a bit more confident in distinguishing a good burn from a bad one. You should further know how to correctly light a cigar, avoiding some major burn problems.
More Serious Cigar Burning Problems
If caught out early, some of these more severe burn problems can be prevented. However, in order to catch one early, you must first understand what to look out for.
One of the most common problems I see arise often is called ‘canoeing’. This occurs when the burn line somehow gets a bit out of control and ends up burning deep into one side of the body more than the other.
Like I mentioned earlier, this problem can be caught out early you by paying close attention to your burn line. A good burn should be thin and even all the way around the cigar. One of the early signs of canoeing is if the burn line is becoming irregular or wide on one part of the cigar. On general terms, this just means the cigar is getting overheated and or is heating unevenly which leads to a faster combustion rate on one side of the cigar. The faster the rate of combustion, the faster that diagonal shape will appear (see photo above), and the hotter the one side of the cigar will get compared to the other side.
Fixing a Canoeing Cigar
A good way of preventing the canoeing is to slow down the rate of smoking. Try puffing lighter and less frequently. By doing so, you allow the over-heated side to burn across the foot of the cigar. In order to accelerate the burning side, I suggest touching the cigar on its one side.
If the canoeing has taken its toll and cannot be prevented any further, simply place it down and let it go out in its own time. Use a guillotine-style cutter to clip the foot of the cigar so that you can start again once the cigar is cool. Once you have done so, allow yourself to gently exhale through the cigar therefore taking away any other harmful or smelly chemical flavors that have lingered due to the combustion rate. You may enjoy your cigar once again after repeating the lighting process.
This one actually looks like its name itself. It’s basically where the fuse has burnt the inner part of your cigar and left the outer layers of tobacco leaves creating a hole straight through the middle of your stogie. It’s just like some sort of void in the middle of your cigar! The filling is slowly burnt from the inside out leaving the ash to fall out.
If you are a slow cigar smoker and you enjoy taking your time, you may have experienced this problem a few times as it only really occurs with slow smokers. It usually happens when you leave you cigar in the ashtray for too long and you don’t puff it enough. The still-burning foot of the cigar partly goes out. The filler is left to smolder as the outer foot goes out. As it’s left to smolder, overtime it continues to burn throughout the cigar. When the smoker comes to puff again, the filler is still lit and continues to burn. When the smoker chooses to leave the cigar to go out on the ashtray, the burned filler falls away into ashes leaving behind a strange tunnel going straight through the center of the stogie.
A common sign of this type of problem is a gradual lack of smoke while puffing. In addition to the lack of smoke, the ash will cease to progress down the cigar. To remedy a tunnel, the easiest thing to do so is immediately touch up the foot and begin to smoke at a slightly faster rate. A purge is also recommended at this point as the partially burnt tobacco may begin to leave an unenjoyable flavor on your palate.
Just like a canoe that is too far gone, you can allow the cigar to cool and go out, then clip and re-light the foot to resume your smoke.
Coning is the complete opposite of tunneling. It looks like a sharp-pointed spike sticking out of the cigar. If you’re in a rush and you accelerate the speed at which you smoke your cigar, the cigar is being puffed frequently and not being left enough time to cool down sufficiently. As this process, is repeated, the wrapper and binder are burnt away by a super hot filler. Since the filler stays hot and keeps burning slowly round the surrounding tobacco, it stays by the foot and protrudes away from the binder and wrapper.
One thing to remember is that if the tobacco is dense and full or resins, this will speed up this process and accentuate the problem as it doesn’t burn as readily as other less dense types of tobacco.
Any signs of gradual harshness of the smoke is usually a common sign of coning. The filler gradually becomes overheated and the tobacco surrounding it also. If you taste any hot or nasty flavors during your smoke, this could be another sign.
The first thing I recommend doing after realizing you are experiencing some coning issues is setting down the cigar and allowing it some time to properly cool down. Once you feel satisfied with that, you can always resume smoking but make sure you smoke at a much slower rate. All you’re doing is allowing the filler to remain cool and allow itself to catch the burn rate of the binder and wrapper.
There is another way to help prevent this type of situation. All you must do is allow the ash to remain on the foot of the cigar until it appears as though it is going to drop off. You’re limiting the actual airflow then by doing so and this helps keep the foot of the cigar cool. And that in turn helps slow down combustion rates.
I saved the worst one till last I’m afraid. You wanna know why? Runners are the most likly to succeed in destroying the cigar end of. What’s worse, is it can happen in a matter of minutes. When this type of cigar burning occurs you tend to find there is a massive change in burn line and typiaclly speaking only appears to run down the one side of the cigar.
One of the most common reasons why a runner occurs is if there is a large vein in one of the wrappers. As that vein begins to burn, it kind of acts like a fuse that travels all the way down one side of your cigar. Once it starts to burn down the fuse, the wrapper slowly deteriorates. Imagine unzipping your coat, that’s what happens with the fuse as it slowly burns the length of the cigar wrapper. It moves in the line of the vein (a predictable line). The wrapper begins to pull apart and this leads to the destruction of your cigar.
In most cases, a tunnel begins to form off-center and close to the wrapper. The heat increases as the tunnel get worse. A small hole will eventually come into view. Often it’s about an inch away from the burn line. Unfortunately, the hole gets bigger as the burn line progresses. When the cigar is finished, you jsut left with a large gaping hole in your cigar with much of your wrapper exposing the burnt filler and binder. Quite a nasty sight really.
Fixing a running cigar
If your cigar becomes victim to this deadly burn, the best and well only way to act is by letting the cigar cool down and then try relighting it. If the runner is caused by a heavy vein, wet the tip of your finger and s=carefully apply some saliva to the vein – yuck! I know. This will help slow the burn and hopefully, finger crossed tight it may stop the burn.
However, if this doesn’t work, have a peek at it and see if the vein presents any clear signs of getting smaller or stopping. If it’s a negative, discontinue use of the cigar. However, if there is a sign of stopping or getting smaller in size continue smoking it in the hopes that the runner will stop in its tracks.
For me, I find it hard to tell if the runner will occur and when it will occur. However, I’ve smoke cigars with large veins in the past showing no signs of runners so that just goes to show that there is no clear guarantee they will cause burn issues.
I hope what I’ve explained above gives you a little bit more strength in diagnosing and dealing with burn issues. Be patient with yourself and the cigar. And, remember, no matter the complexity or seriousness, you’ve just gotta take your time.
Nuisances While Smoking
Burn Nuisances – where do I start! Just kidding – I’ve written a ton already! But nonetheless, I’m hoping you have a bit of a stronger grasp of what causes burn problems and how to correct them and now I will outline some nuances. These don’t occur often for me but when they do, boy oh boy are they annoying.
An unattractive site is bubbling or blistering at the burn line. This doesn’t really lead to any major damaging; it’s more on account of ugliness. This happens as a result of over humidified cigars. The extreme temperatures will mean it might flash boil the extra humidity left in your cigar. Gradually the water turns into vapor and the wrapper and binder begin to swell.
Once this occurs, a number of other issues occur with it. You could get cracks in the wrapper – that’s a common one – or tobacco expansion. However, this only happens to the weaker tobacco leaves. It’s less likely to happen to stronger leaves.
Slowing down the rate you smoke at will help correct the problem extensively. You’re basically allowing any extra moisture to turn to steam but at a much slower rate.
Over Humidified Cigars
An over humidified cigar can also lead to your cigar not lighting properly which in my opinion is one of the most frustrating nuisances. The excess water trapped in the cigar when heated turns to a sort of smolder. The tobacco will constantly go out. There’s nothing more that I hate doing than having to relight a cigar. Have constant attention on the burn line.
Keeping your humidor at 65-70% RH will ensure your cigars don’t get overqualified. You can always solve a problem like this before they develop into something else.
If your cigar is rolled with too much tobacco – which can happen – it will worsen the results of over humidified cigars.
In the end, it’s always easier to dump the cigar and grab a new one. The tips I have outlined above may help. Hopefully by helping you to correct common burn issues, you can still enjoy your smoke.
Conclusion on Cigar Burning Problems
As wordy as this article has been, I hope you found it helpful along the way and you’ve learned some good tips. Due to the extreme lack of resources regarding the topic, this article has become one of my longest ones yet! I now feel much more comfortable when it comes to diagnosing and correcting problems even though it took me hours of researching cigars!
Step 1. First of all, find the refill nozzle and flame adjustment screw.
Step 2. Clear out any leftover fuel in the lighter. I use a pen for this part but you can use any small item lying around your home.
Step 3.Then twist the flame adjustment screw clockwise all the way – be gentle here – and this will shut off all fuel flow. Look out for the plus and minus signs. They are usually located around the adjustment screw. Plus means open and minus means close.
Step 4. Ensure the fuel refill nozzle is pointing up, and then you can go ahead and press the can of fuel down into the nozzle. Take your time. The lighter will take some time to refill. Patience is a virtue! Fifteen seconds or so, and you should be there. Under no circumstances should you pump the fuel can into the lighter. On a cheaper lighter, the tank could possibly rupture – and that means you are going to have to get a brand new one.
Step 5. Once you tank has been refilled, leave the lighter alone for a bit. This just lets it reach room temperature. The fuel is usually cold when your first pour it in. I usually like to speed up this process by wrapping my hands around the lighter therefore warming it up using my hand temperature.
Step 6. Before you do anything further, turn the flame adjustment crew 1/2 anticlockwise (+ sign) and attempt to light it up. As you go along, make subtle adjustments whilst you keep slowly and carefully turning the screw open in small amounts. Once the lighter has lit up you can have fun turning the screw to the height you want your flame to be at.
A crucial tip I give to all of my customers and readers that I believe truly does make a big difference is to use the best butane there is to buy. I can tell you now, you aren't going to get any benefits by using cheap butane. Yeah, you'll save money... but you ain't gonna get a better light. You really should be looking out for the butane that burns the cleanest. A common decent butane is triple-refined, but knowing myself, I had to get the best one I could find, and that ended up being butane refined five times. The quickest way to tell how much your butane has been refined is by looking at the container it's in.
Bleed the Chamber before Refilling
When you come to refilling your lighter, ensure that you have removed all leftover butane and are from the lighter. It's never a good sign if you find out you have trapped air bubbles in your fuel chamber. When pushing in the valve, I use the smallest screwdriver I have. Less damage is done if any. Over time I found out that the best way to let the excess bleed is by resting the lighter right side up.
Try Not To Wave the Flame Too Near to the Cigar
This tip always gets me, because my friend has had far too many near burns to his fingers and eyebrows because he always lights his cigar up too near the foot, pushing the flame right into the end of the cigar. Never do this, because firstly, you risk yourself a nasty burn, and secondly, you risk clogging up the lighter itself. If you didn't know already, the flame at the very tip of the torch gives out the greatest heat.
Cleansing the Jets
One thing I always do when I can't seem to get the lighter to light is to blow into the jets. Occasionally you'll find bits of ash stuck in them and I always find blowing it out really does do the trick. If you're looking for something with a bit more quality, I would try buying a can of compressed air. I advise a good 3-4 blasts of air should do the trick. That is if your lighter suffers from consistent clogs but in that case, I would look to getting a new one.
Use Your Lighter As Much As Possible
Frequent use of your lighter helps maintain it actually. It really should be used a lot instead of being set aside and only used periodically. If you own more than the odd one like me, try alternating the use of each one you have. That should leave you with pretty decent functioning lighters.
My World of Lighters
By now, I'd have to say I probably have more lighters than any average cigar smoker. How to refill a torch lighter is often one of the first things you learn how to do as a cigar a smoker. It tends to stay with you.
I do enjoy collecting the odd one or two smart lighters. I've had many a customer come to me complaining of their torch lighters.
I've had comments from short flames, to inconsistent lighting, to not working at all. I thought it would also be helpful if I added some steps I use to refill my torch lighter. And there you have it. Hopefully, these tips have helped a bit. Now you can enjoy lighting your cigars with a top-knotch lighter. Enjoy!
The Culebra – what a cigar? You may have heard strange stories circulating the cigar world. It’ history, production, and purpose are somewhat different from what all these myths keep going on about.
I’ve been quite interested in the history of the Culebra. In the article below, I will cover the ancestry of the Culebra. I hope you find my research and history interesting as uncover the origins and task of producing such an exquisite but strange cigar.
I find it so frustrating when I can never research or find all information covering a topic. After I had discovered several sufficient articles providing the information I was looking for, I decided to make it my own. I still don’t have all the proper evidence but it didn’t stop me from providing what I think is top-notch history.
The Spanish word for snake is Culebra. The obvious way to tell apart a Culebra from other cigars is to look out for three coiled cigars interlocked forming what looks like three snakes. This only goes for the ‘finished’ Culebra. On normal circumstances, a standard Culebra is braided and tied off at either end of the shape and made up of 3-4 under-filled Panatelas.
From the evidence of Culebra’s origins I did manage to discover an old and genuine article basically stating that the ‘Compania General de Tobacos Filipinas (est.1881) was supposedly already producing Culebras by 1890’ New Zealand’s Auckland Star. Furthermore, I found more research explaining, I quote, ‘The Culebra first appeared in the Philippines circa mid 19th Century, a Philipines cigar industry invention.’
On the other hand, I also managed to discover some dated research showing signs of Culebras being produced here in the U.S. at least as far back as 1890. This is surprisingly around the time the Philipines were making them. The photo in the top left above shows a box produced by F.P Filbert Cigar Company in Eaton, Ohio. This gives me clear evidence that there were Culebras being produced in America. If you look closely at the wording on the box above ‘Ohio’ you may be able to see “Filbert’s Twisters”. This I believe is what the company called them. There are other examples but this time located in Wisconsin like the “Cuban Twist”. This dates back to the 1920s and the “Twisted Smoke”. I think it’s safe to say Culebras were being manufactured in the U.S. as far back as 1890 and from the research I gathered. I believe Culebras originate from the Philipines.
Why Make The Culebras?
I’ve found many different views with authors expressing their many opinions. I found one interesting view suggesting the produce of Culebraas was an attempt to stop any thievery or black market ‘after-sales’.
“That may be the ‘story’ but in viewing hundreds of pictures of Cuban factory workers, I’ve yet to see anyone smoking Culebras.”
Another writer expressed his views stating he thought it would be ‘cost-inefficient’ to give the rollers the permission to produce such a special cigar if the numbers of factory rejects outnumbered the ration of cigars per day per roller.
I also found some interesting comments suggesting that he or she thought the Culebra to be a form of packaging rather than an individual ‘vitola’. They stated,
“Culebras were created based on the theory that a thicker cigar can mature better. The Culebra was designed to enable a small ring gauge cigar to mature as well as a thick ring gauge cigar.”
I don’t really understand why putting small ring gauge cigars together was for the purpose of helping them mature better. Because wouldn’t it be a lot more efficient if you boxed or bundled those cigars in groups of 20, 25, or 50. You would get a far better outcome of a fine set of well-aged cigars.
I believe the Culebra was actually a novelty form of packaging. This answer seems more valid and based on another article I found in the Auckland Star I showed you earlier, the Culebra was,
“A novelty… formed of three cigars plaited together.”
“The Cuban cigar industry never took the Culebras seriously and very few Culebras were manufactured in the pre and post-Revolution era.”
This is a statement I found a while ago above. The writer then goes on to say that Cuban H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, and Partagas were the only brands that had produced them since the Revolution. We’ll get to this later.
Because these cigars were very rare in the Cuban cigar industry. I belive they were made for more for novelty than anything else.
How Are Culebras Constructed and Produced
I smoke with a Culebra roller once and he was able to explain to me hoe these amazing smokes are made. First, find 3-4 panatela sized cigars and then make sure the cigars are underfilled so they braid together in their unique shape without any cracks or breaks. Moisten the tobacco more than usual. It needs to be flexible so they can twist and be braided.
Tie the cigars with a ribbon individually about 1/2″ down from the cats of the cigars. this holds them in place. Then the fun but also hard but – trading Braid them together. The number of twist goes for the length of each cigar. A second ribbon or string (I prefer ribbon – looks sharper) is then wrapped around the group of cigars again 1/2″ from the foot of the cigar. By tying them together the shape and form will keep even whilst aging. You have the option to print your cigar brand on the cigar. You may find some companies actually put a large-cap over the tops of the three cigars. This allows a more finished look.
There finishing look remind me of a strand of Medusa’s hair. The Culebra has such an interesting look about it. What’s more, is the draw which allows such a delicous and enjoyable cigar.
Ever since the 1800s these magnificent Culebras have been produced and were invented by the Ohullipine cigar industry. I believe it was a novelty form of cigar packaging. I tried time and time again to find a sufficient story documenting how these Cuebras were being used to rationalize or in other instances, control the cigar inventory.
When I first came to look for any sort of factual evidence regarding Culebras in general, I was shocked at the search results I was receiving. Regarding if Culebras were made in Cuba, I unsuccessful in finding a source explaining if they were or not.
Culebras are very rare in Cuba and, since the Revolution, only three brands have produced them: H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, and Partagás. This was what I was explaining earlier. All in all, I think it fits the puzzle.
Like I said earlier in this article my interest in Culebras has grown exponentially ever since my respect for the topic started. How they smoke so well in there tangled strange shape is fascinating. We smokers really do owe it to the rolling craftsmen. The heart-felt designing process of the Culebra allows us to share a stogie with our friends by splitting the figure into its original three cigar structure. Whether it’s a 3 or 4 cigar Culebra, it always feels like more fun when you can have a joyous smoke with more than just yourself and a glass of red. You allow yourself to experience every part of the flavor, taste, and nuance. I believe the Culebra is very successful in doing so.
Some Current Regular Production and/or Limited Production Culebras
Brun del Ré: Culebra Grande (7 x 44), Culebra Pequeña (5.75 x 26)
Davidoff: Special C (6.5 x 33)
Drew Estate: Medusa (6 x 44)
Illusione: Illusione 23 “tre in uno” (6.5 x 33)
Johnny-O!: A Culebra (9.5 X 47), Culebra (7 X 44), Churchill Culebra (8 X 47), Forbidden Xtasy (6.5 X 42), Magnum (7 X 47), Gold Medal (6.5 X 42).
La Flor Dominicana: Culebra Especial (6.5 x 30), Culebra Gorda (6.5 x 38), Double Ligero Culebras (7.5 x 39) [Limited to Puff ‘N’ Stuff]
Partagas (Cuba): Culebra (5.625 x 39)
Tatuaje: Tatuaje Black, “The Old Man and the C” (7.5 x 38), El Triunfador “The Old Man and the C” (7.5 x 38)
If you have read about our ‘Guide to Cigar Sizes‘, you may have found the information somewhat overwhelming. In any case, I find when studying cigar sizes and trying to remember countless measurements, it does become quite perplexing. However, you’ll be glad to hear that cigar shapes are much more straightforward to understand in context. The key thing here to remember is that there are only two shapes, and those are the ‘parejo’ and the ‘figurado.’ The parejo is the more standard figure with straight sides and a round head. The parejo is what the majority of cigars look like. A figurado is any shape that doesn’t look like a parejo. However, over time, manufacturers have come to subdivide the figurados cigars into more specific categories. Like any other popular item, cigar shapes have become more and more exotic and unique in the figure. There are also many nicknames associated with different cigars, which I think in part is why the manufacturers did so. Many of the shapes I will refer to them by their common names.
This cigar is one of many that tapers quite sharply at the head. If you didn’t know already, the English equivalent would be ‘bellicose’ which means inclined to fight or go to war. I believe this form of saying it is the slang version meaning the cigar looks a bit like munition. Some people tend to get a bit mixed up with a pyramid and a belicoso. The difference is that the belicoso tapers at the head whereas a pyramid tapers right from the foot. However, just be wary this is my way of distinguishing these cigars. Some retailers may disagree.
I’ve always found this shape to be quite unique and interesting. As you can see below, the Culebra is made up of three cigars that sort of braid around each other to form a twisted vine shape in my mind. The word Culebra means snake in Spanish. When you operate the three cigars they all look a bit like three snakes. Oh – and also make sure you separate the cigars before you smoke this type of cigar!
This cigar is a perfect-shaped cigar very similar to a Salomon. The key difference is its slightly longer and thinner in shape.
Some of my favorite cigar shapes are associated with the ‘exotics.’ Ever since the computer-generated mold machines were invented, manufacturers have no limit to the shapes they could construct. Below are some of the most unique and weirdly shaped cigars. They can be decorated with various embellishments to any part of the cigar so there really is no limit.
As I mentioned earlier, a figurado refers to a cigar that is any shape other than parejo. Manufacturers tend to go mad when making a figurado! Examples are the belicoso, pyramid, and torpedo.
The word parejo means ‘flush’ or ‘straight’. it just refers to the standard shape of the majority of cigars. Straight sides and a round head.
I tend to get a lot of comments saying some perfecto shaped cigars look like ‘nipples’ at the foot. Basically a perfecto shaped cigar tapers at both ends. The share can vary however. For example, you could get a cigar that gently tapers toward the foot and then abruptly is trimmed straight.
Pyramid (Spanish, “Pirámide”):
It’s thickest around the foot of the cigar and tidily tapers toward the head.
Salomón: (See also Perfecto)
This cigar is quite large in size that has a tapered but ‘flush-cut’ foot. A Diadema is often referred to when the Salomon cigar is longer ins size and so has a closed foot.
The Torpedo is a very popular cigar that has a tapered head with a sharp point. Manufacturers will all have different opinions on the name and shape. Some modern shaped torpedo cigars should really be referred to as pyramids. Some manufacturers would call a torpedo a belicoso as well because of their similar shapes.
I don’t understand why, but many retailers tend to change or make exceptions to the rules above. For instance, there seem to be quite a few cigars supposedly called a belicoso that actually looked pyramid-shaped or perfecto-shaped. In short, you can make up your own rules if you wish. But it’s just not that easy to decide on the exact names for each cigar if the rules are constantly varying.