If You Think Cutting a Cigar is Simple, I Challenge You to Reconsider. Seriously.

Tad Gage
The simple answer is that clipping a cigar isn’t very difficult at all,
so does it really require much consideration? You whack off the head of the cigar so you can draw, and light up, right? For the truly cutter-challenged, most cheap short-filler cigars come with a pre-punctured head, but let’s not go there.

Sure, you can use one of those cheap (or free) plastic guillotine cutters, and they might work adequately in an emergency. If you’re happy with that cut, drop me a line because I have dozens of unused ones floating around my house in various boxes of junk. You’re welcome to them. I just hate throwing this kind of stuff away, and most have attractive cigar brand logos on them.

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The Wrapper TrickFebruary 9, 2012

Adam Davidson
From the Editor: During my interview with Alan Rubin, the President of Alec Bradley Cigars, Alan taught us a neat trick that we call "The Wrapper Test". It’s a fun and interesting way to test how much the wrapper leaf of a cigar contributes to the overall flavor profile of that specific cigar. The 1 minute, 50 second video clip is below. My friend, and colleague in the pipe business, Pipe Maker Adam Davidson decided to try this after watching the video, and he reports on his results below. – Kevin Godbee

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By Tad Gage
If you weren’t scared off by the first part of this article, and you’ve decided to set aside some cigars for your aging experiments, here are some things to keep in mind.
A lighter, milder or more nuanced cigar will more quickly lose intensity and complexity than a robust, full-bodied cigar. All tobacco softens in character with age, so a mild cigar won’t develop more body, nor will a full-bodied stogie become more intense. They’ll all decline in intensity over time because of exposure to air.

Pipe tobaccos, which are frequently sealed in air-tight tins that eliminate air exchange, can age happily for years or even decades. Most of us can’t store cigars in an airtight environment, although an interesting experiment would be to vacuum seal cigars in a food storage unit and see what happens. The downside of this would be the potentially detrimental effects of depriving the cigars of air and moisture for a long period.

Ultimately, What Occurs With Aging?

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By Tad Gage
As a cigar smoker, aging a finished cigar is the one aspect of the cigar’s journey that we have some control over.
For that reason alone, there’s some fun to be had! You may never quite know what you’ll get, but who doesn’t like playing mad scientist? There are as many opinions on this topic as there are smokers, so I’d like to offer my thoughts – not as a definitive truth, but as something for further consideration.

First, a few truths related to aging a finished cigar I believe are universal:

  • Cigars can and will change with years of careful shelf-aging under close to optimal conditions. Exposure to sunlight, extreme temperature changes, or excess or insufficient humidification will lead to ruin.
  • Bloom can occur on a properly humidified cigar. This fine, whitish, slightly crystalline occurrence on the wrapper and/or foot of the cigar is generally agreed to be oils/sugars that have emerged from the aging tobacco and have dried. Bloom can range from spotty to covering the entire cigar. It should be carefully wiped off with a tissue before smoking the cigar and is considered a positive indication of significant aging that has no appreciable impact on flavor. More on this later.
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By Tad Gage
There has always been a considerable amount of discussion, and information, about aging cigar leaf once it’s picked,
the value of aging tobacco for years in tercios (burlap or palm leaf wrapped blocks before leaves are turned into cigars) and the merits of aging cigars once they’re constructed. You often see discussions of vintage leaf and years of aging and maturing.

However, between the initial air curing of the tobacco leaves and their long, slow aging in bales as they await their final destination as cigars is a violent and not terribly romantic period in a cigar leaf’s journey. It is a decidedly nasty process that may also be the single most important stage in creating a good cigar -  Fermentation. Imagine a barn redolent with the stench of decaying vegetation. Consider the 12 labors of Hercules as punishment from the Greek gods for his destructive raging after his wife’s death. One of those tasks was to clean the foul-smelling Stygian stables in one day. While Hercules handily solved the problem by diverting a river to wash out the stables, there’s no such luck with a tobacco fermentation warehouse.

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The Value of a MemoryNovember 3, 2011

By Tad Gage
Beyond all the basics, there is a "certain something" about cigars and fine tobacco that captures our interest and passion. A cylindrical roll of well-aged leaves and the drifting blue smoke of a fine stogie tell part of the story, but not the full story. In the end, tobacco is as much about enjoying the moment and making memories, as it about the smoke itself. Not every cigar or situation will yield a memorable moment, but if you keep your eyes, ears and taste buds open, it’s surprising how many times a fine cigar can also yield a fine memory.

Fine dining is similar, which is why, I think, the words "dining" and "experience" are so often used together. I recall one meal where I asked the waiter to compliment the chef on my appetizer, and received in return a delicate pair of rabbit livers (not on the menu) along with my rabbit-venison-quail entrée. The company was good, the restaurant top-notch, but getting that rabbit liver "thank-you" is a fond memory that has stayed with me for 20 years.

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By Tad Gage
Cigar ReviewLet’s say you
don’t have any immediate plans to be a cigar reviewer, but maybe you’d like to better understand what the reviews are describing. Or, perhaps you want to be a better judge of your own smokes. In my decades of enjoying, writing about and making recommendations to friends, or cigar lounge acquaintances, I believe I’ve nailed a few basics that can be pretty helpful in selecting and assessing your cigars.

Keep in mind – it’s a lot tougher to select cigars online than it is in a shop. You’re not only looking at pictures of the best smokes, but you can’t smell or feel what you’re buying. It’s why I’m a big believer in buying one cigar and trying it before committing to several, or an entire box (whether in a shop or an online sampler). No matter how tempting a good box deal or a positive review might be, until you can see that cigar up close and personal (and then smoke it), you never know what will work for you. I have many friends, who have smoked a lot of fine cigars, who went all-in on a box or two and ended up with a box or two (short of two cigars) because they didn’t enjoy it … for whatever reason.

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