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Long and thick

 

CIGARS: SIMPLY SENSUAL


Sapna Kashyap/fnbworld bureau

 

Woman serving cigars

Cigars are manly. They are smoked by men with a distinct style. Its aroma and all that's passionate and sensual are a part of its persona. If you're ready to be a cigar smoker then go with a Cuban. Ideally, a cigar goes best with hard drinks such as Single Malts - indeed, a Jazz bar or nightclub with a live Jazz band would only be truly complementary.


fine cigars


The Cuban Habanas are top of the line. All other cigars from America, Holland, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua, wane in comparison. They are 20 per cent less in quality, taste and production. Like blended whiskies are before a single malt! And if you're beginning with a Cuban cigar, then begin with a Habano Grand Marque. Habano is a cigar that is manufactured in Cuba and exported by that country's sole agency, M/s. Habanos S.A., to the rest of the world.


They get their name from the port of Havana, capital of Cuba, where an unique blend of sun, soil and human skill go into the manufacture of cigars. Internationally, Cuban cigars were always known as Havanas, but now they are being identified as Habanos. There are 15 Grand Marques. A Grand Marque is a classic Habano. Cohiba, Cuaba, H. Upmann, Montecristo, Bolivar, El Rey Del Mundo, Trinidad, Punch, Rafael Gonzalez, Vegas Robaina, Hoyo de Monterry, Ramon Alones, Romeo y Julieta, Partagas and Sancho Panza.

 

                            


These are distinguished by their flavour and character, which are inimitable. It isn't easy to describe something as subjective as the flavour of a Grand Marque. The best way to educate your palate is to sample different Habanos and find a taste that suits you. Most beginners are intimidated by the vast choice. The Grand Marque comes in different sizes and lengths. And that altogether, there are 250 such descriptions. So how does a beginner make his choice? The answer is by individual taste. It is true, the business of selecting cigars and wines is almost the same. Everything depends on your taste. Try out, don't be opposed to having various cigars until you get hooked onto one.


They all taste different. It is imperative to know how to ˜tongue" or absorb the smoke in the mouth for taste. Cuban cigars are aged minimum five years. From the time the leaves of the tobacco plant are harvested, then cured, fermented, aired and packed, aged, filled, bound and wrapped, the process takes five years. And the five years is what gives a cigar its flavour. Cigars are a wonderful, manly habit. You want to become an buff ? Smoker's sizeability Choose a cigar depending on what you look like. If you are tall, a short cigar is definitely not recommended. If you are fat, a thin cigar is not for you. And vice versa. Choose the ideal Habano. Choose a cigar depending on what you look like.


Cigars have a wonderful aroma

If you are tall, a short cigar is definitely not recommended. If you are fat, a thin cigar is not for you. And vice versa. Other than this, the main criteria should be the flavour and aroma. Which means a cigar that goes with your palate. If you have strong taste-buds, if you eat spicy Indian food, or you have been a cigarette smoker, or smoked a pipe, then you will need a strong cigar. Right flavour/Size Graduate from light Habanos to medium-flavoured to strong cigars.


Beginners should start with something nice and mild. Like a Fonseca Cosacos, 5 3/8 inches long, ring guage 42. Or a Saint Louis Rey Regios, 5 inches long, ring guage 48. There's also H. Upmann Aromaticos, 5 1/8 inches long, ring guage 42. And El Rey Del Mundo Choix Supreme, 5 inches, ring guage 48. The medium-bodied cigars recommend are Montecristo No. 4, 5 inches long, ring guage 42. Or an H. Upmann No. 2, a torpedo-shaped cigar, 6 1/8 inches long and ring guage 52.


The Montecristo No. 4 is the largest-selling cigar of Cuba. It's a lightly flavoured, elegant Habano. The H. Upmann No. 2 is a great smoke, mildly medium, very smooth and subtle. From these, graduate to something nice and big. Like a Romeo y Julieta Churchill, 7 inches long, ring guage 47. Or a Cohiba Robustos, 4 7/8 inches long, ring guage 50. Cohiba is the world's most famous brand. It represents a range of very expensive cigars. Both, the Romeo y Julieta Churchill and the Cohiba Robustos make very good smokes. They are strong cigars, but there are subtle differences in tastes between them.


The ring guage What is ring guage in a cigar? It is a unit of measurement divided into 1/64th of an inch used to calibrate the diameter of a cigar. A cigar that has 32 ring guage is 32/64ths of an inch. Or 1/2 inch thick. Ring guage can simply be defined as the width of a cigar. It is important to know this because the thicker the cigar, the easier the draw. The smokes comes nicely. The burning takes place more evenly. A thin cigar, you will have to suck like a cigarette.


An occasion?


Select a cigar that suits the time and occasion. Like a mild cigar for the morning, a medium-bodied, medium-sized for after lunch, and a full-bodied cigar to follow a good dinner. If you smoke more than one Habano a day, the subsequent cigars should have equal or fuller flavour. Never follow a full cigar with a lighter one or you will not taste it. The occasion also affects the smoker's choice. A splendid Vegas Rubaina Unicos or a Montecristo No. 2 (both, torpedo-shaped), or even a Hoyo de Monterrey Double Coronas, are ideal for special celebrations or when closing a business deal.


Thumbing a cigar !


Before smoking, always check a cigar's condition (humidification) by gently squeezing and rolling it between the thumb and forefinger. It should be firm, but also have some give. It should be slightly springy to the touch. If it is hard and crackling, the cigar has dried out and will give a harsh burn and uneven draw. The wrapper leaf should feel like silk with the sheen of natural oils present. It should not be torn, nor mouldy, which means it has been over humidified.

 

Solitude

 

Most men prefer smoking in solitude. That's the best part of my day. I chose my cigars by what I am going to do. If I'm having coffee after lunch, I select a small to medium cigar. If I'm out in the evening and have a long night ahead, I pick a nice, big cigar that will see me through the evening. But beginners should get a smoking companion. Just to share experiences and compare notes about tastes.


Get the right stuff. Get yourself accessories that go with cigar smoking. Like a humidor, a cigar cutter, ashtray, and matchcase. The best brand for these is Elie Bleu of Paris. Cigars have to be stored at 18 degrees C and 70 degrees relative humidity. Habanos are delicate products. They develop and mature if stored in the right conditions. Their flavours become rounder and mellower with time. If a Habano is not in perfect condition at the time of smoking, it will burn badly and taste harsh. If you do not have a humidor, use the original cigar boxes. These are made of cedar or have a cedar veneer as a divider. Put the box in a zip-locked plastic bag after spraying some water on the box to maintain humidity.


Cutting


The cigar's head is sealed with a cap of tobacco that secures the wrapper. Before lighting, you need to create a broad opening in it. Use a guillotine cutter or cigar scissors. If you wish to take the band off the cigar, do so after five minutes of smoking. Unless, of course, the cigar is of good quality and you want to show it off. And peel off the band off the cigar gently, don't pull it off like a ring. Take your time lighting a cigar and do a thorough job. The whole foot of the cigar must be alight before you settle back to enjoy smoking it, otherwise the cigar may burn down unevenly.


The fatter the cigar, the more time you will need to light it. Lighting can be done with a wooden match or a butane lighter, both have odourless flames. Avoid petrol lighters, their flames release aromas which interfere with the Habanos' flavours. If your cigar goes out, don't leave it. Simply relight it. To enjoy a Habano, don't inhale the smoke. True pleasure is found in appreciating the composition of tobacco flavours, and these are best detected on the palate by your sense of taste. Relax with your Habano and mull over its flavour.


There is no need to stub out your Habano. Just lay it to rest in an ashtray when you feel you have had enough. It will go out quickly of its own accord. Let it die with dignity. Once you have selected your cigar, you will need to cut the closed end. All Havanas have a double cap over the head end - this end goes in your mouth. If you attempt to smoke a cigar the other way around, you will find that half way through it will unravel and take on the appearance of an exploded stick.

 

There are a number of ways of cutting the cap, ranging from the use of a thumb-nail, to portable guillotine cutters (both single and double bladed - see 'Accessories'), from cheap to expensive, to the more exotic cigar scissors and table-top cutters. The cut should be clean and level, or there will be difficulties with the draw and a risk of damaging the wrapper.


Cut the cigar so that an eighth of an inch of the cap is left around the cigar wrapper. It is not recommended that you pierce the cap with a pin, as this will interfere with the passage of smoke, make the cigar overheat and lead to unpleasant flavours from residues condensing at the point the cap was pierced. Cap hole-punching devices do work well as long as the diameter of the punch is at least a quarter of an inch. Wedge-shaped cutters are also not recommended, as these have a tendency to cut through all of the band on either side and the cigar wrapper can then unravel. Whatever you use, make sure it is sharp, and that you expose enough of the filler leaves under the cap to allow the smoke uninterrupted passage.


Lighting Up


When you light a cigar, use either a butane lighter (not one filled with gasoline) or a match. Anything else, such as using a candle, will tend to taint the flavour of the cigar, and will ultimately impede the passage of smoke through the cigar with particles from the flame. Avoid matches with high sulphur or wax contact (don't use paper matches). Take time and care to light the cigar. First, hold the cigar horizontally in direct contact with the flame, and slowly revolve it until the end is charred evenly over its entire surface. Put the cigar between your lips, hold the flame about half an inch away from the end, and draw slowly while rotating the cigar. Its end should now ignite.


Ensure an even burn has taken hold. Gently blow on the burning end to make sure the cigar is fully lit. Unlike cigarettes, cigars will naturally go out if left unattended. If your cigar goes out, don't worry. Remove any ash clinging to the previously lit end by tapping the cigar. Blow through the cigar to clear away any stale smoke. Re-light as previously described above. As long as the cigar has not been out for too long, the flavour will not be unduly affected. Continuous re-lighting of cigars will affect the flavour, and if a cigar is allowed to cool, then on re-lighting the tastes can become quite tainted and unpleasant (due to condensation of the smoke in the remaining part of the cigar).


Cigars are made from long filler tobacco leaves (another difference to cigarettes and machine made cigars). This means that the ash on the cigar, if it is a good one, should not fall off the moment it appears. There is no particular merit in keeping a long ash on a cigar, but neither is there any need to continually tap it to remove any excess ash. In assessing the quality of construction of your cigar, a long solid cylinder of ash is a good sign. There is no need to warm the length of the cigar before smoking it. This was done in the nineteenth century to burn off the rather unpleasant gum used on some cigars made in Seville. Today's handmade Cuban cigars use a small drop of flavourless, odourless vegetable gum at the cap end of the wrapper leaf.


The "End"

 

The final third of your cigar will be when the smoke is at its strongest. This is the time to part company before flavours become bitter and the effect of the cigar on your well-being may become detrimental. There is absolutely no need to stub or grind a cigar out to extinguish it. Left in the ashtray it will go out by itself: if you stub it out, it will release foul odours into the room. Once the cigar has self-extinguished remove any butts and ash from the room before they start to give out unpleasant smells. Cherish it Never dunk your Habano in a glass of wine. This not only distorts its flavour but also shows scant respect for the time and skill employed in its manufacture. Also don't flick the ash off the Habano as you would do with a cigarette. You should allow the ash to accumulate.


The appearance and formation of ash is a sign of how well-made a Habano is. Cigar quote Mark Twain had said, "If there are no cigars in Heaven, then I'm not going!" A fine Habano is a rare treat to the eyes, nose and taste-buds. All it asks for in return is your keen, passionate mouth!

 

The right way to smoke cigar

Cut the cigar’s head with a cutter so that the inner tobacco is revealed and the cap of the wrapper leaf cut away.

Don’t cut away so much that the wrapper begins to unravel.

Don’t remove the cigar brand because pulling it off could damage the wrapper leaf. If it really bothers you, wait until the cigar is warmed up and the band gum softened, then remove it. With a matchstick or a gas lighter (don’t use a petrol lighter because it spoils the taste), char the end of the cigar till it is totally blackened.

Do not inhale. Draw the smoke into your mouth, let it circulate and savour the taste. Allow the ash to fall off in its own time. Don’t flick it off. A long ash keeps the cigar burning evenly. When you see it beginning to crack up, that’s the time to gently tap it into an ashtray.

If the cigar goes out, simply re-light it after puffing out all the old ash and gases while you hold it over the flame. Never stub your cigar. This leaves a bad odour in the room. Besides, a good cigar deserves the right to die with dignity!


A cigar cabinetTHE RIGHT WAY TO SMOKE A CIGAR


Cut the cigar’s head with a cutter so that the inner tobacco is revealed and the cap of the wrapper leaf cut away.

Don’t cut away so much that the wrapper begins to unravel.

Don’t remove the cigar brand because pulling it off could damage the wrapper leaf. If it really bothers you, wait until the cigar is warmed up and the band gum softened, then remove it.

With a matchstick or a gas lighter (don’t use a petrol lighter because it spoils the taste), char the end of the cigar till it is totally blackened.

Do not inhale. Draw the smoke into your mouth, let it circulate and savour the taste. Allow the ash to fall off in its own time.

Don’t flick it off. A long ash keeps the cigar burning evenly.

When you see it beginning to crack up, that’s the time to gently tap it into an ashtray.

If the cigar goes out, simply re-light it after puffing out all the old ash and gases while you hold it over the flame.

Never stub your cigar


This leaves a bad odour in the room. Besides, a good cigar deserves the right to die with dignity.







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