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Posted: 4/1/2008 8:21:44 PM EST
[Last Edit: gaspain]
Thanks to these folks that authored the FAQ:
Cigar Terms authored by: Gaspain
Info ONLY IM Gaspain if you have a contribution.
Unlocked for editing
How to make a coolerdor and frigerador.
Why build a coolerador or a frigerador? Because they are airtight and thermal insulated and can be made really huge! To reduce “swings” in your cigars, you need those features. Swings in humidity and temperature are what stresses cigars and reduces their full potential. Think of a cigar as a controlled decay of organic cellular plant matter. Plants are made of cells and binding material, and every time you have any humidity in the cells and the temperature changes the cells expand and contract. You want to minimize this expanding and contracting, because each time it does this it literally tears itself apart on a microscopic level and pumps out its vital oils. If the plant was alive, this would be good for the plant because this is how it breathes. Not so good when it’s a cigar and you need it to stay together and tasty.
Here is a chart describing swings. I used a logging temp/humi meter for the data. The graph is approximated.
Coolerdor build instructions:
Step 1: Buy new cooler at a store. Don’t go cheap and get a used one. Used coolers have mold spores and bacteria that may be impossible to remove and can ruin your cigars and your day.
Step 2: Wipe down cooler with soap and water. Rinse well.
Step 3: Leave the lid open for a week for the plastic to gas off. Prop up the lid with a stick and tape, so that if a house pet or child gets in there the lid wont trap them.
Step 4: (optional) Line the interior with Kiln Dried Spanish Cedar. You can get it on ebay.com or use old cigar boxes for the wood. /warning/ Spanish Cedar dust is a toxic irritant to your lungs. USE A PARTICULATE MASK. Glue the sanded ¼” or 1/8” Spanish cedar boards or cigar box wood. Use Elmers PROBOND water activated / water proof poly glue. Use clamps because it foams to 5x its size. Leave it to air out for a week, then season the humidor wood (see humidor care FAQ). If you use any metal hardware to attach things, use stainless steel or brass because they don’t corrode.
Step 5: Install an automatic Electronic Cigar Oasis or Humi-beads for humidification. Don’t use small green “pucks” because they are inadequate for a coolerdors size.
Step 6: Install a humidity and temperature monitor. You can find nice electronic ones at cigar stores online or at Radio Hack.
Step 7: Fill with boxes of cigars!
Frigerador build instructions:
Steps: Same as the coolerdor instructions but with these additions:
A glass front wine cooler is a good choice because you can set the temp to 65, and they usually look quite nice.
If you use a fridge with a lower thermostat, you will have to replace the thermostat with an external Johnson model that adjusts up to 65 degrees, they run about a hundred bucks. Or you can do like I do and just leave the fridge unplugged. I choose to do this to save on my electrical bill. My frigerador is in effect a nice looking coolerdor.
What’s an ISOM? More appropriately the question should be Where, not what. ISOM; Island South of Miami, so use your imagination where it is. The reason people use the term ISOM as a code word for cigars that have an embargo on them and are illegal in the states, and they think that by referring to them in code it will not attract the attention of the law. Whether or not this code employment is effective is unknown to me, perhaps it was effective before publishing this faq. If that’s the case, I apologize to every ISOM cigar smoker across the USA.
Lets talk about that embargo and how it affects cigar economics. An embargo is a ban on goods coming from a country. Its purpose is to change behavior and/or reduce capitol from entering the embargoed country. It is essentially a ban or a prohibition, and we all know how ineffective those can be. People will still get the goods they want from the embargoed country, but it will be though black market avenues and the cost will be driven up because of risks the seller has to take and due to the smaller market. So this high price and black market with little controls opens up a new market, the counterfeit cigars market. It is now profitable for persons to fake ISOM cigars and sell them at the higher price that the embargo made. So what happened? The embargo drove up the price on cigars, it then made a new market for fake cigars of which the quality of the cigars may be as high as the original or it may be very low, and could possibly contain ingredients other than tobacco because there are no controls or oversight in place. A good analogy is the moonshine from the 1930’s. Some of it was bad stuff and could kill you due to the high content of lead in the shine because some folks used old lead soldered auto radiators for their distillate cooling. Now, you are not going to die or go blind by smoking an ISOM, but who knows what else may be in the cigar?
Now, on the other side of fake ISOM’s is that some of the fakes can be actually quite good. This is speculated because some poor cigar rollers may take some cigar leaves or cuttings at the end of the day and roll up some cigars and resell them, some even have real bands. It’s not only ISOM’s that have been counterfeited; I have heard reports of Opus-X’s and Padrons being faked.
Basically it comes down to; any cigar of questionable lineage worries me. I want to know that I am smoking 100% tobacco, not some mix of tobacco and whatever the fake maker decides to throw in to give it some Cuban like kick, er…I mean ISOM kick. Thus, I stick to reputable brands and retailers and present this faq so that you can (usually) tell the difference between a fake and the real deal. I am not telling you how to engage in violations of the Trading with the Enemies Act. That is up to you to decide. This is for informational and health concern purposes only.
Check out these links for identification and examples:
A common question by many new cigars smoker is the difference between Mold & Bloom? This is a very important distinction because if you don't know the difference you may easily throw away some very good cigars.
Most molds found on cigars in any type of humidor are nearly always Green or Blue though sometimes other colors including white. If any of your cigars contain a dusting or growth of what appears to be mold you'll need to throw them away. Mold growth will normally be clumped together on a particular area of a cigar. From what people have told me in the cigar industry these molds are toxic, so just cleaning off the cigar and deciding to smoke the cigar is not a good idea. You'll probably make yourself very sick. A common reason why a cigar will have mold is humidor that has to much humidity. If your humidor has over 85% humidity then you'll start risking mold growth.
Bloom is often confused for mold because of the similar appearance the two have. Bloom is nearly always white of a light cream color. I have found it normally grows near veins in the wrapper on the cigar. Bloom growth is also normally spread out over an entire cigar. Though bloom growth is different on every cigar. Bloom is caused by the natural oils in the cigar wrapper drying over a period of time. Bloom is considered by many to be an excellent sign of a well aged cigar. More commonly I have found that cigars stored in metal tubes have a much higher chance of having bloom. Since most tin cigar tubes are not air tight, air can still move in and out, thus allowing for a lot of bloom growth. This is because not cigar not being disturbed by outside air blowing across the cigar.
If you are uncertain take your cigar to your local smoke shop and seek assistance from your local tobacconists.
I would like to add that there can be white molds too. The key to discerning if it is mold, is that mold grows in colonies and has a structure. Bloom looks like someone sprinkled sugar on the cigar.
And if anyone has any pics of bloom or mold, please submit them. I can host them if needed.
Flavored cigars in recent years have grown leaps and bounds not only in popularity but also in quality. When I first started selling cigars nearly a decade ago what few flavored cigars that were available were of dismal quality and production. Most were soaked in flavor syrups, but burned poorly and didn't last long.
Today with companies like Drew Estate (ACID's, Java, & etc...) & CAO flavored cigars have begun to become a mainstream item at most cigar shops. The quality of some of the newer cigar companies is far ahead of their predecessors (especially Drew Estates) though there has always been a major draw. Storing them with other cigars.
This is my opinion and others may have their own advice these are the rules I follow for storing flavored cigars.
1. Never store flavored cigars with regular cigars unless completely sealed in glass tube. Glass is really the only method a cigar can truly be stored in and not influence other cigars. Flavored cigars are often produced with flavor syrups, oils, spices, and other ingredients. These can easily be transfered to other cigars in a humidor.
2. My personal method is to buy a fairly large cigar box and a humidifier that matches its size. A cigar box is essentially a mini humidor. Don't use a flavored cigar box because if you store other types of flavored cigars in that box they will become flavored to that type of flavor as well.
3. If you have purchased multiple types of flavored cigars store them in separate ziplock bags in the humidor. Since I don't know anyone who ages their flavored cigars this mostly keep the different cigars from mingling with each other. If you age your flavored cigars you'll need to really only keep one type of cigar in the box.
The smell of a burning cigar.
Label around the cigar.
The body of the cigar.
Beetles that eat tobacco. They thrive at temperatures above 75f.
A single leaf of tobacco wrapped around the filler to hold it together.
Specks on the wrapper caused by oils in the tobacco rising to the surface. Also, called Plume. May look like sugar crystals. Often confused with mold. Plume will uniform across the surface, and mold grows in patches.
The body of the cigar. Also may be a descriptor of smoke density and flavor intensity.
The smell of an unlit cigar.
Square cigars. Made by using a square mold.
The circular piece of wrapper leaf placed at the head of the cigar to secure the wrapper.
Cellophane cigar packaging. Much debate exists as to storing cigars with the cellos on or off is best.
Electronic active humidifier. Set it and forget it.
Humidor made from a new soda cooler and inexpensive parts. Features active or passive humidity controls, and passive temperature control.
The process of removing moisture from harvested tobacco.
Filler tobacco consisting of chopped pieces most common in machine-made cigars.
A device for clipping the end off a cigar. Ex: scissors with curved blades; guillotines, V-shaped notch.
The flow of smoke from a cigar. It can be too easy (hot) or too tight (plugged)
The tobacco that makes up the center of the cigar. There are two main types of filler, short and long.
Also called the "tuck," it's the end of the cigar that is lit.
Humidor made from a wine cooler or mini-frige and other parts. Features active or passive temperature and humidity controls.
A cigar made entirely by hand with high quality wrapper and long filler.
The end of the cigar that is placed in the mouth.
A cigar which has a quick, loose draw. This is caused by the cigar being under filled or under-humidified. It is usually accompanied by harsh flavor or mouth feel.
HUMIDITY BEADS / CRYSTALS
Beads that when charged with distilled water slowly releases humidity.
A box traditionally comprised of Spanish Cedar and other woods. Also humidors are also available as home made "Coolerdors" and "Frigeradors". The ideal environment should be 69°F and 69% relative humidity +/- 2.
Island South of Miami.
Whole leaves selected and rolled by hand to create a looser and easier draw of smoke.
Cigars made entirely by machine.
An evil fungus that forms on cigars when they are stored at too high a humidity. Mold will grow in colonies or patches that are usually white/grey. Also a device used in making cigars that gives it shape.
A hard plastic portable humidor that holds either 5 or 10 cigars.
A brand of cigar cutter.
Used to glue the band and the tobacco cap of a cigar.
A knot in a cigar that prevents a proper draw.
Small humidifier that looks like a hockey puck.
A round cigar hole cutter, used instead of a standard cutter. Also a cigar brand.
A cigar whose filler, binder and wrapper come from the one country.
The diameter of a cigar. 1 gauge equals 1/64 of an inch.
The wrapper leaf is grown under tents and is not exposed to direct sunlight.
Chopped scraps of leaves, the result is a tight draw.
A crack down the side of a cigar, usually due to over humidification or rough handling.
Tobacco which is grown in direct sunlight. This creates thicker veins and a thicker leaf.
A cigar that is packaged in a metal or glass tube.
The rib of the tobacco leaf.
The outermost tobacco leaf of the cigar, not the cellophane.
Manufacturers or cutters and lighters.
A cigar is measured by length and ring gauge (diameter). In US, the length is measured in inches and the diameter or ring gauge is measured in units of 1/64th of an inch. (Both length and diameter are measured in mm internationally) A 64-ring cigar would be one inch in diameter. Most cigars are between 32 and 52-ring size. For example, classic Churchill are 7 X 48, which means the cigar is 7 inches in length and 48/64 (3/4) inches in diameter. In general, the larger the ring gauges, the slower, “cooler” a cigar smokes, and the more room for the cigar maker to blend in different flavors. Also, the longer the cigar, the “slower” the flavors would build up, but tend to hold the flavors longer, and let the cigar maker blend in more complexity into the cigar. The size of a cigar has NO bearing on its body and strength, just the amount of time the smoker willing to “burn”.
In general, cigars can be categorized into two basic shapes: Parejo and Figurado (irregular shapes). Parejo are straight cigars with a round cap.
There are some basic shapes that that share common names. These shapes are given names, so that there is some degree of universality in the industry, but lately, the cigar makers are trending away from the standard names. Also most manufacturers uses these shapes as loose guidelines more than strict rules, for example, you can find Churchill ranges from 47 X 7 (standard Cuban Churchill size) to 52 X 7 (Gurkha’s Churchill size, larger than a Cuban Double Corona).
These following descriptive dimensions are approximate, but here are some guidelines: Short is less than 5.5 inches, long is greater than 6.5 inches. Thin is less than 42 ring size and thick is greater than 47 ring. Manufacturers also add common adjectives to the shape name. Gorda, grande, gran, larga, extra, doble, or double means they are adding on to the size. Petite, slim, finos, or demi means some sort of reduction to the size.
Belvedere, Ascot, Demitasse – less than 5 inches in length with a ring gauge between 30 and 36.
Petite Corona – between 4 1/2 to 5 inches in length and a ring gauge between 40 and 42.
Robusto or Rothschild – approximately 4 ½ to 5 ½ inches in length and a ring gauge of 48 or higher.
Corona – approximately 5 1/2 inches long and a ring gauge of around 42.
Corona Extra or Corona Royale - 5 3/4 inches in length and a ring gauge between 44 and 46.
Panatela – about 6 to 6 1/2 inches in length with a ring gauge between 34 and 39.
Lonsdale - about 6 inches in length and a ring gauge of approximately 43.
Corona Grandes, Toro - 6 to 6 ½ inches in length and a ring gauge between 44 and 46.
Churchill – named after Sir Winston Churchill (rumor to be his favorite size cigar and have RyJ Habano specially made these cigars for him) is 7 inches in length with a ring gauge of 47 to 48.
Double Corona, Long Panatela - 7 1/2 to 8 inches long and a ring gauge of 49 to 52.
Gigante, Presidente, “A”, Giant or Immensa – at least 8 1/2 inches long and a ring gauge ranging from 48 to 54+.
Diademas – at least 8+ inches long with a closed head and foot. The ring gauge increases towards the foot.
Belicoso - approximately 6 inches long and a ring gauge of 48 with a pointed cone shaped cap.
Petite Belicoso – less than 5 inches long and a ring gauge of 40 with a pointed cone shaped cap.
Pyramid - 6 to 7 inches long and tapers down from a ring gauge of 52 at the foot and 42 (~7/10 inch) at the head with a pointed, cone shaped head.
Perfecto – varies in length and ring gauge. Has a rounded shaped head, bulge in the body, and a closed foot.
Torpedo – varies in length and ring gauge. Has a pointed cone shaped head, bulge in the body, and a relatively flat foot.
Culebra – Three cigars each 5 to 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 34 (~1/2 inch) that are intertwined. The cigars have to be unwound to be smoked. In order to avoid breakage, cigars must be very well humidified.
There are other special made figurados (for example Opus X BBMF, LMMF, Shark) that are not one of the “standard” sized for special releases that is beyond references of this text.
Another confusing point, the numbered cigar like Monticristo #2, Anejo #77, Siglo VI, these are numbers used exclusively by the individual cigar maker. There are no standard numbering system that describes sizes and shapes. Here are some examples:
Monticristo #1 is more or a Petite Corona but a Davidoff Anny No. 1 is a “A” size cigar.
Anejo #77 is a Pryamid with a ring gauge of 77 at the foot.
Just about the only “uniform” number is #2, which is basically a Belicoso.
Reference: JR Cigars, Cheaphumidors.com, and cigar.com
There are two purposes of a humidor. The primary purpose is to store the cigar in an environment similar to when the cigar is rolled and aged, which ideally is 70/70 (70 degree F and 70% humidity). The second purpose is to age the cigars, and with aging, any cigar gets better with aging.
70 degree F and 70% humidity is a close approximation of the weather in cigar producing countries like Cuba, Dominican Republic…etc. At that temperature and humidity, the oils of the cigar tend not to evaporate and surpress the hatching of the tobacco bug, and the cigar stay good for extended period of time (years to decades). So a humidor is basically a mini weather chamber in which your cigars are stored. There are other temperatures and humidity settings, which will be addressed in the Humidor and Hydrometer section.
Types of Humidors
There are several types of humidors, including coolerdors, traditional Spanish Cedar humidors, fridgerador, cabinet humidors and walk-in humidors. Coolerdors and Fridgedors were addressed in another posting, so this post mainly addresses Spanish Cedar box type and cabinet type humidors.
Box Type Humidors
Box type humidors are designed to hold up to 500 cigars, and some of them are large enough to hold boxes. The price range goes from $0 (giveaways) to several thousand dollars, depending on where the humidor was made, workmanship, details, and exterior finishes. For example, JR Cigars routinely gives away 50 count humidors for free when you place an order with them, where-as a presentation grade 25 cigars DuPont, Davidoff, or Ashton humidor starts over $1,000.
Cabinet humidors are designed to hold up over 500 cigars, and most are intended to hold complete boxes with drawers for individual cigars. The price range goes from several hundred dollars to over ten thousand dollars, depending on where the humidor was made, options, workmanship, details, and exterior finishes. For example, Cheap Humidor sells a tower cabinet for several hundred dollars, where-as high end cabinets like Aristocrat cabinet humidors with active humidifier, coolers, circulating fans, and electronic controllers can cost more than $2,000 each.
These are large humidors that can accommodate hundreds to thousands boxes of cigars. Chances are, your local cigar shop should have one. These are a custom build humidor that require a skilled builder(s), and is beyond the discussion of this FAQ.
Selecting a Humidor
Here are some guidelines for selecting a humidor:
Humidors are sized with counts, from 5 cigars to thousands, but the counts are not standardized. For example, a 50 count box humidor can accommodate 50 corona or robusto size cigar, and might contain maybe 35 or less churchills, double coronas, and much less if it comes to size “A” cigars. Rule of thumb, always purchase a larger size humidor than you think you wanted
What finish does the buyer want, if the humidor is going to be displayed like a piece of furniture, then the good finish is required. Good wood finish requires quality wood, and hours of skilled work. A genuine piano gloss black or polish walnut finished 50 count humidor can command thousands of dollars. On the other hand, if the humidor is not going to be displayed, then a plain laminate finish like the Chinese made humidor should do well.
Seals and Joints
It is very important a humidor have very good seals and joints. Joints can be inspected by looking at the internal finishing details (gaps in the Spanish cedar are signs there are potential problems). To check for gaps in a humidor, place a flashlight (we all have Surefire) in the humidor, close the lid and turn off the light to look for any light leakage.
The lid seal of a desk top humidor need to be examined carefully. Pieces of Spanish cedar protruding into the inset of the lid might not do seal very well, as compared to machined matching grooves between the lids and box. For most cabinet humidor, a good quality door seal is required, plus how true the door was hung. A thick foam seal will do a good job, but the best cabinet humidors have “D” or “P” type seals.
Look for construction details like well deburred and rounded corners, which are signs of how much attention the manufacturer paid when putting together your humidor. Other details to pay attention to are the hardware, make sure they are either brass or stainless steel, due to the elevated humidity. If your humidor have glass, pay attention to the joint of the glass and wood, which are potential leakage points. Other details like paint overspray inside the humidor will guarantee that your cigars will have a paint chemical smell.
I highly recommend an electronic unit instead of the analog dial. Some electronic units have a calibration dial, some don’t. The hydrometer (either electronic or analog) can be calibrated using a salt solution or use a Boveda EZ calibration kit. I have not used the salt solution step, but have used the Boveda EZ kit to calibrate several electronic and analog hydrometers.
The Boveda kit only requires you to toss in the package and hydrometer in a zip lock bag and wait for a day or so. At that point of time, the humidity in the bag should reach approximately 75.5%, and you can adjust or note the difference.
Prepare, and Seasoning the Humidor
Before tossing in your cigars into the humidor, the humidor needed to be prepared and seasoned. Venting or airing out the humidor for 2-3 days may be needed to get rid of the smell of a brand new humidor, cause by months, if not years, of shipping and storage. The cedar would absorb a stall air which needed to be air out. All you have to do is to open the humidor in a well ventilated area for a few days.
After airing out the humidor, wipe down with dry cloth to get rid of any dust, and you are ready to season the humidor. There are several methods being discussed, I knew of four:
Wipe down the interior of the humidor with a damp cloth (distilled water), and place a dish of distilled water in the humidor together with the hydrometer and let it sit for a few days.
The last method is only applicable to active humidifier like Cigar Oasis. Just place the humidifier in the humidor and set it to 80% for a few days.
If the humidor was not seasoned before storing the cigars, the wood will absorb the moisture off both the humidifier and the cigars.
There are basically four different methods to maintain humidity in a humidor:
The first method is let the natural air maintain humidity, but of course, this method is only applicable to areas that are close to the cigar production region.
Ideally, a humidor should be kept at 70F and 70% humidity (70/70), but this is not absolute numbers. In general, if the humidor is intended to hold cigars that will be smoked soon (less than a year), the humidity could be kept at 65-68%. If the humidor is intended to age the cigars (more than a year), the humidity could be set to 68-70%, and lowering the temperature to 60-65F.
This is the most common way to maintain humidity in a humidor. There are several type of passive humidifier in the market:
The first one is floral foam in plastic cases, which normally comes with the humidor for free, and can use both PG solution and distilled water.
Floral Foam Humidifier
Care should be taken while using a floral foam (green foam) humidifier. They function fine, except after a while, they tend to leak water, which can damage both the cigar and wood. Foam also tends to hide mold spores which can promote mold growth. Periodically charge the foam with PG solution will assist in controlling mold growth.
These humidifiers use crystals instead of foam to absorb and slowly release moisture into the humidor, and require the use of PG solutions to control the humidity. (The crystals do not control humidity at all) There are three problems I encounter with crystal base humidifier:
The first problem is the PG solution is much more expensive than distilled water.Boveda Packs
Boveda packs are single use throws away humidification packs, and they are maintenance free. The pack will last from 3 months to 6 months, and when the packs are dry, just replace the packs with fresh packs. The Boveda and Fuentes (made by Boveda, come with most Fuentes cigar when purchase by the box) packs work in both directions, which means, unless they are totally dry, can be recharged several times. Since they are small packs, they can be distributed among the cigars for better humidity control for larger humidors. The only draw back of these packs is their limited life, and always has a hydrometer to monitor the humidity in the humidor.
So far, I have excellent results using these pre-calibrated beads. These beads are available pre-calibrated for a set humidity (60%, 65%, and 70%), and they work both directions (release moisture and absorb moisture). Care should be taken to hydrate the beads, pouring distilled water over the beads is not recommended. The beads needed to be hydrated slowly with moist air (I hydrate them while seasoning a humidor) to prevent the beads from cracking and generate heat. The major drawback of the beads is they are relatively expensive.
For larger humidors, 150 count+, it is wise to include in a small electric fan (electronic cooler fan on timer or an Oust fan without the smell good pack) to improve the circulation, to draw the moist air that tend to settle on the bottom of the humidor or trapped by the tray(s) to the top. A light breeze should be sufficient, a mega cfm cpu cooler that generate gale force wind is not required.
This is the more advanced method to control the humidity using convention household power or battery power. These units draw moist air (100% humidity) from a distilled water reservoir using an electrical fan, and circulate the moist air in the humidor. These are must have for larger 250+ count or cabinet humidors. Most self contained humidifiers include a water reservoir, blower, and built-in humidity controller (Cigar Oasis). Some units are design specifically for large desk top humidifier (Cigar Oasis Ultra). There are some self contained models that have separate connection that can connect remote circulation fan for better humidity control (Hydra). The larger units, intended for large cabinet humidors, have separate humidifier(s), circulation fans, and humidity control unit.
Cigar Oasis XL
Cigar Oasis Ultra intended for large desktop humidors
Hydra Humidifier with external fan connections
Cigar Oasis II XL for Large Cabinet Humidor
Combining both an active humidifier (Cigar Oasis, Hydra) and passive humidifier (Boveda packs, beads) will offer humidor owners better humidity control. The active unit will quickly replenish lost moisture due to opening and closing of the lid/door, leakage, and charge the passive humidifier. Where-as the passive unit slowly regulate the long term internal humidity of the humidor. My desk-top 250 count humidor has a Cigar Oasis Ultra and ½ pound of beads plus several Boveda packs to regulate the humidity, where-as my cabinet humidor has 2 pounds of beads distributed among the shelves and an active unit provided by Aristocrat.
Caution about Cigar Oasis
The Cigar Oasis build-in hydrometers are reported to be inaccurate, more than 5% off. My experience is similar with all three models (Cigar Oasis, XL, and Ultra). It is advised to use a separate hydrometer to monitor the humidity.
When I first smoking cigars, I thought cigar cutting is simple. I just took a single blade cutter, given to me free at the cigar shop, and chop off approximately ½” off the head of the cigar, light it, smoke the cigar, and start to wonder why the cigar is falling apart on me. One time I was at a cigar shop, and purchased an Ashton VSG Spellbound, and start to cut and light the cigar. All of a sudden, the owner asked me for the cigar, tosses it away, and gave me another Spellbound, which he cut and light for me. The cigar did not fall apart, and I have mouthful after mouthful of wonderful delicious smoke. The owner sat down with me (slow day) and educate me on how to cut and light a cigar.
Selecting the Right Tool
There are almost as many cigar cutters out in the market as there are lighters, and they price between free to several hundred dollars, but most good functional no frills cutters are priced around $40.
Single Blade Cutters
These are guillotine cutters that only have a single blade, and the blade presses the cigar against the body of the cutter, which tend to compress the tobacco and/or tear the wrapper. Most cigar smokers consider the single blade cutter inadequate, but a well made single blade beats any cheaply made double blade cutter. The cutter blade need to be sharp, and made of good quality stainless steel that can hold an edge. A sharp blade coupled with a tight fitting cutter body will minimize the chance of compressing the tobacco and tearing the wrapper. Also, the single blade cutters more compact and lighter to carry around as compare to the double blade cutters.
Zino Single Blade Cutter ~ $65
Davidoff Single Blade Cutter ~ $250
Double Blade Cutters
These is guillotine cutters that have two blades, and the closing action of both blades shears off the cap. Most cigar smokers recommend these cutters over the single blade, but from my experience, a cheaply made double blade with loose action actually cut worse than a well made single blade cutter. A good quality double bladed cutter has very sharp blades made of high quality stainless steel that retain an edge over extended usage. They also have tight fitting body that permits the two blades to slide over each other with almost no slop. Some of the better quality cutters that do not cost an arm or a leg are Palio and Xikar double blade cutter. For beginners, Cuban Crafters have a Perfect Cut double blade cutters that will assist cigar beginners to cut the correct amount off the cap.
Xikar double blade cutter – note the scissor type action
Palio double blade cutter with the stout rails and extremely sharp blades
Cuban Crafters Perfect Cut for Beginners
Punches are the easiest cigar cutter, and it skimpily punches a hole in the cap. The smaller hole direct all the favorable smoke over the pallet making the cigar more enjoyable. A second benefit of a punch is, when operated correctly, most of the cap remain intact and should not fall off while the cigar was being smoked. Punches can be purchase in only two or three different sizes for different ring gauge cigar. It is hard press to find a punch that will open a large enough hole for those 54+ ring gauge cigars (like the nub). One major drawback with punches is it only works with parejo and figurados with round caps.
Xikar Cigar Punch
Atoll “Eye” Punch
V-Cut Cigar Cutter
V-Cut (Cats Eye) cigars cutters are single blade guillotine cutters carve a v-shape notch on the cap of the cigar. The idea was to concentrate the smoke over the smoker’s pallet for better enjoyment.
V-Cut Cigar Cutter
Cigar Scissor and Knife
Cigar Scissor and Knife function similar to a single or double blade cutter, instead using a guillotine action; it uses a hinged action like a pair of scissors. Scissors are double bladed, where-as knifes are single bladed. Of course, smoker can choose to use a simple pocket knife (very sharp pocket knife), and in that case, all the smoker need to do is to score the cap around the cigar and flip the cap off.
Desk Top Cigar Cutter
Desk top cutters are more toys and conversation pieces in a cigar (or drawing) room. Some models offer a large variety of cutting options including straight cut, V-cut, and punches with different holes for different cigar gages. Desk top Cutters also offer better mechanical advantages, which makes cutting much easier, especially for large smoking parties or herfs.
Desk Top Cigar Cutter
Cutting a Cigar
There are basically two major types of cutting a cigar: punch or blade cut. A blade cut uses a cigar cutter whereas a punch uses a cigar punch. The difference, a punch tend to draw a little bit tighter, but concentrate the flavor and the smoke towards the tongue, and a straight cut tends to draw better, and yields mouthful of smoke. It is highly up to the individual on their own preference.
Where to cut a cigar-blade cut
For a parejo or a rounded head cigar, the ideal cut is just above the cap line, approximately ¼ to 3/8 inches. Do not cut beyond the cap line or the cigar will start to unravel. The proper cut should have a thin line of the cap holding the wrapper together. For the new smokers, it is easier to cut as little as possible and test draws the cigar. If the draw is tight, proceed to cut off more from the cap (use your own cigar cutter). It is a bit more difficult for pointed end cigars like a torpedo, which some have no caps or the cap is blended in with the wrapper. In that case, just cut approximately 1/3 to ½ ways up the taper end, and test draw. If the draw is tight, cut more.
There are two common cuts using a blade type cigar cutter, straight cut or “dick” cut. A straight cut is a simple cut from the cap, just about the “cap line” exposing the end of the cigar. This gives the smoker mouthful of smoke during a draw. Another type of blade cut is “dick” cut. The cut is slightly angled (45 degree) yielding an elliptical opening instead of a round opening, making a large opening and direct the smoke towards the palate. The problem with blade cuts are when done incorrectly, the cigar might unravel and may produce uneven burn.
Punch yields a smaller opening, no larger than the size of the punch selected. The cigar punch cuts a hole on the cap and directs the smoke on the palate. The draw is a bit tighter than any blade cut, but the burn will be slower, and burn more evenly. Another advantage of punching is the cap remains largely intact, which prevent the cigar from unraveling. If the smoker finds a punched cigar draws hard, the only way to remedy the draw is to blade cut. To punch a cigar, the user pushes the punch against the cap and twisting either the cigar or punch, which produce a “sawing” action on the cutting surface. When the desire depth is reached, with draw the punch, and the cap will be embedded in the puncher.
V-cut or cats-eye (aka English cut) cut concentrate the smoke over the palate, and produce a larger opening than a punch but smaller than a blade cut. This type of cuts is more personnel preference.
Before the days of cigar toys, it is quite common for a cigar smoker to “cut” the cap using their teeth. One should note that cutting with teeth is not biting down on the cap, because this will collapse the carefully constructed “straw” and smoke passage formed by the fillers. To cut by teeth, the smoker carefully shears off the cap using the front tooth and slowly rotating the cigar. It is easier done on torpedo, but can be done, with practice, on a rounded cap cigar.
The cap can be cut using a very sharp pocket knife, by carefully cut the desire shape opening using a “sawing” action. Sawing is important as it will prevent the knife from collapsing the smoke passages.
There are always questions asking if the cigar should be cut in the cellophane or out of the cellophane tube, and should the cigar be cut wet or dry. Cigar cuts more easily when it is out of the cellophane tube, especially using a sharp, well made cigar cutter, and it is almost impossible to punch a cigar thru the cellophane tube. Cigars are much easily cut if slightly moist by water or by licking (use your own personnel cutter or punch for hygiene reason) the cap.
After the Cut
Blow off or lightly brush off the loose tobacco using your finger to prevent small bits of loose tobacco falling into your mouth. After that, test draws the cigar before lighting. If the draw is tight, re-cut the cigar to remedy the tight draw.
Lighting a cigar can be just a simple act to smoke your cigar, or a ritual for some. On the other hand, improper lighting a cigar will result in uneven burn and tunneling, which will take away from your cigar enjoyment.
Selecting a Lighter
There are several different methods to light a cigar. The most common method is a blue torch, followed by a soft flame lighter, matches, spill, other methods, and the questionable fluid lighter (Zippo).
The torch produces a high temperature blue flame, which has optimum butane and air mixture. There are several different types of torches in the market, but those that produce a single point blue flame are preferred for cigar lighting. The multi-burner type torch, while impressive, can burn the wrapper (instead of toasting) and causes harsh flavor and uneven burn. The price range of torch lighters varies from several dollars (plastic made Chinese lighter) to several hundred dollars. One of the best torches is the DuPont X-tend, which cost around $120-$150. One thing to keep in mind while selecting a torch is most torches are electronic ignition, and these ignition units do wear out after extended usage. Zippo have came up with their own line of Zippo Blue, which uses their famous flint system to ignite the blue flame.
Xikar Torch Lighter
Colibri Torch Lighter
Soft Flame Lighters
These lighters produce a softer or a more gentle yellow flame. Some cigar smokers prefer a soft flame lighter than a torch, since a soft flame lighter do not produce a hot enough flame to burn the wrapper. The only drawback with a soft flame lighter is the amount of carbon or soot it can produce when using non-filtered butane, as evidence when lighting the disposable “Bic” lighters. This soot can adhere to the foot of the cigar and alter the flavor. It is highly recommended to use a refillable lighter filled with triple filtered butane for lighting cigars, and pipes. The price range of refillable soft flame lighters varies from a few dollars to several thousand dollars, and all will work as long as the correct butane is used.
Specialized wooden matches were produced for lighting cigars, which have much longer handle than the regular matches. On the other hand, fireplace matches will work equally well, and chances are cheaper than the cigar matches. Paper matches or match book are not recommended for lighting cigar, because they burn too quickly, and the paper produce undesirable taste and chemical that can deposit on the foot of the cigar.
Davidoff Cigar Matches
Strips of cedar used to light a cigar that is ignited with a candle or a fluid lighter, both of which can alter the taste of the cigar. Spills can be made taking the cedar sheets used in cigar boxes and breaking them apart along the grain. Using spills is one of the most elegant and slowest way to light a cigar, especially when a server or waitress were lighting the cigar for you.
There are other improvised methods used to light cigars, including using burning charcoal, red hot branding iron, burning branches, candles, or kitchen burner, basically any source of heat at hand. These methods are generally not recommended mainly due to fire and burn hazard.
Fluid lighters like Zippos are not recommended for lighting cigar because of the residual and smoke produced by the burning fluid can alter the taste of the cigar. On the other hand, some of the Zippo lighters are pieces of art, and is understandable for a smoker’s desire to use a Zippo on a cigar. Luckily, there are torch inserts available to replace the fluid inserts to convert a Zippo to a torch lighter.
Lighting a Cigar
There are three basic methods in lighting a cigar. The first and most common method is to toast and draw. The second is to light and draw, sort of light cigarettes, which most seasoned cigar smokers frown on. The third method is toast till the cigar is lit.
Toast and Draw
Toast and draw is the most common method to light a cigar. First the smoker gently and evenly toast the foot of the cigar by the heat produce by the flame (being careful not letting the foot touch the flame), and rotating the cigar. This usually takes a minute or two. Then the smoker will draw thru the cigar, while rotating and lighting the foot of the cigar at the same time, to ensure the cigar is evenly lit. Once the cigar is lit, the smoker then looks at the foot to see if the foot is evenly lit.
Light and Draw
Light and draw is basically how a cigarette smoker light their cigarette, but instead adapted to cigar lighting. The smoker draws thru the cigar while rotating and lighting the foot of the cigar at the same time. The cigar will light up quickly, and most times will produce uneven burn, and ruin the taste of the cigar because the smoker is drawing un-burnt fuel thru the cigar. Light and draw were usually employed by new smokers and cigar smokers that do not have patience in lighting a cigar, and were frowned on by most cigar aficionados.
Toast till Light
This is the most rare, time consuming, and elegant way to light a cigar. Basically the smoker slowly toast the foot of the cigar using the heat produced by the flame, until the whole foot was uniformly lit, before drawing thru the cigar, thus no un-burnt fuel or fowl taste that can enter and ruin the cigar. This method was developed for cigar servers (normally female) in Cuba when handing you a fully lit cigar (you do not want the server to draw on your cigar) using cigar spill.
This is a great FAQ, thanks for the tips!
New to the forum and was having trouble maintaining proper humidity in my humidor. FAQ answered all my questions and solved all my problems. Thanks!!
Recommended shopping venues? Cigars International?
cigarcyclopedia.com is now gone
These places aint too bad IMHO
lilbrown.com website sucks, phone your order in. They have everything.
Originally Posted By gaspain:
Originally Posted By danpass:
Recommended shopping venues? Cigars International?
check this site first, they list all retailers for lowest price, click comparison shopper
These places aint too bad IMHO
lilbrown.com website sucks, phone your order in. They have everything.
This site closed down at the end of Jan.
Custom Travel Humidor by: W3ap0n-X
$38 with free shipping.
And four of these:
$20 after shipping.
After adding a humidity stick I can safely carry 23 Churchill sized
cigars! My Pelican case is orange, though (which costs about $4 more on
I wanted to add...only three trays fit in the Pelican 1200. The measurements came out that four would fit (I thought) but only three did so I've only got an 18 count traveldor and after adding a humistick I can hold 17 churchhills and one robusto. A very indestructible case that I'm hoping will survive a float trip.
My husband and i own a cigar lounge we love cigars and protection we also have awesome pipes
Recommended shopping venues?
This online cigar site also provides many offers at discounted prices
Not sure if if it can be done, but is there a way to update the FAQ post as the photos no longer work?
Originally Posted By Ductape009:
Not sure if if it can be done, but is there a way to update the FAQ post as the photos no longer work?
If you have content you would like to add, I can edit the faq. But, considering its 8 years old....it probably needs re-writing and updating.
I don't have time to do it, but if you want to do it yourself...feel free to ask the mod of the forum and start a new one.