Cigar Czar CHETAN SETH says selecting a good cigar is like selecting a fine wine, and can be a long journey. But he’s a veteran of this road. Here is his expert advise to help the beginner along the way. Read Detail story in UppercrustIndia, The lifestyle Magazine.
1. Choose the ideal Habano
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. 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 tastebuds, if you eat spicy Indian food, or you have been a cigarette smoker, or smoked a pipe, then you will need a strong cigar.
2. Choose the right flavour
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 I would 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.
3. Know your 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.
4. Choose a cigar for the 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.
5. Check the 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.
6. Find a friend
I 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.
7. Get yourself gadgets
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. It 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.
8. Cutting, Lighting, Smoking, Parting
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 abandon 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.
9. Don’t disrespect the cigar
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.
10. Indulge yourself
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 tastebuds. All it asks for in return is your unhurried, undivided attention.