You New York readers will probably relate to the “Thing I love about New York #758”: discovering that a great new hole-in-the-wall restaurant/coffee shop has opened up near you. On my way to work in Midtown recently, I found this gem of a coffee/tea shop called Cafe Galet (33rd between Park and Madison Ave). They have a great selection of European style teas and coffees, as well as some really fantastic pastries. Prices are great, the shop has a fantastic vibe, and the owner is very nice.
It isn’t often that you find a great neighborhood shop. Almost makes me want to light up a cigar and sit outside with a cup of their coffee, which is brewed strong and smooth. One of the best cups of coffee you will find in Midtown (and I’ve been here 5 years).
The Supreme Court today upheld the majority of President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act in a ruling today. You can read the full decision here – but careful, it’s almost 200 pages. I’ll be taking the next few days to read the full ruling and try to digest it.
Essentially, though, the Court has argued that the law is not constitutional on the grounds originally argued by the President’s administration: the Interstate Commerce Clause. Even so, Congress (apparently) has the ability under its authority to tax to use taxes to force Americans to buy insurance.
I’m skeptical, but open minded.
Will you be smoking a cigar to celebrate this ruling tonight? And what, if anything, do you think this decision means for cigar smokers in the U.S.?
As many New York Cigar smokers know, recent years have seen a huge shift of popularity towards cigars with big ring gauges. My Uzi Weighs a Ton – enough said. BestCigarPrices.com recently took some time on their blog to ask essentially “what accounts for the trend toward larger ring gauge cigars?” The company released a June 18th press release titled “Best Cigar Prices Explores the ‘Big Ring’ Trend in Cigars.”
The release actually just links to a post on the company blog, but I thought it was a pretty fascinating explanation. From the release came three basic reasons for the shift towards large ring gauges:
“Complex flavor: Cigars with a larger ring gauge tend to have a more complex and fuller flavor. This is due to the fact that there is more room to blend together different types of tobacco.
Cooler burn: Thicker cigars burn slower than thinner cigars causing the burn to feel cooler in the mouth. This is because there is more filler exposed to the air. For this reason, a cigar smoker with a heavy draw would benefit from smoking a cigar with a wider ring gauge.
Weight and feel: Some smokers prefer the heavier weight and feel of the larger cigars. Also, smoking a big fat cigar has often been interpreted as a symbol of power or status.”
Do you agree with their assessment? I found it a bit interesting that they didn’t point towards what seems to me at least to be the most obvious reason: fashion. Cigars are often thought of as hyper-masculine products, and what is more masculine – a large ring gauge cigar or a lancero? I find a bit more truth in that line of thinking than the reasoning above, but I could be wrong.
One thing I won’t budge on, however, is the closer of the post:
“One thing is for certain, you do get more bang for your buck with these behemoth cigars.”
I guess it really depends on how you define “bang”, but in my book, the amount or length of smoke really isn’t what it’s about. It is about flavor, and as David Alicea could explain to you, smaller ring gauge cigars actually offer a tremendous amount of flavor. And in the long run, I think they’ll be rediscovered, and that the big ring trend will prove to be fleeting.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I could (and do) talk at length about the amazing camaraderie and generosity of the cigar industry. I say it often, I’ve never met a jerk who was a cigar guy.
The first questions I am often asked by new or novice cigar enthusiasts in regards to humidors and cigar care are:
Will they stay fresh?
How long do cigars stay fresh/last?
What is the best way to keep cigars fresh?
I answer in a series of questions that will help me pick the right storage method for this particular person:
How often do you enjoy a cigar?
How many cigars do you anticipate storing at once?
Do you plan on storing boxes?
Do you plan on ordering cigars by mail?
A cigar humidor is a product that can be bought easily, but in order to get the best out of the cigars you plan to keep in it, you really should cater the humidor to the intended use. If a person is looking for a humidor for home and plans to enjoy a cigar about once per week, a small (25-75 cigar capacity) humidor will be perfect. That person won’t smoke frequently enough to need to keep a selection and supply on hand, so why by a humidor that is too large? Additionally, maintaining a humidor that is too large for your anticipated inventory is difficult and inconsistent.
Another person might be looking for a humidor for his/her office and likes to light up several times per week, and they share. I would recommend a medium sized humidor with a capacity between 100 and 200. This way, you could store 10 cigars in 20 different varieties if you like. More than enough room for someone who occasionally buys or is gifted boxes, and can handle adding a dozen sticks at a time or more.
If you do not currently own a humidor, that may be the best investment in your hobby. Humidors will last for decades if cared for. Small, quality desktop models with capacities starting at about 25 cigars could be had for as low as $50. Larger humidor capacities carry larger price tags. High end, premium humidors can cost $5K or more.
What to remember when buying a humidor: Choose function over style. Choose quality over size/capacity. A smaller humidor will be easier to maintain than a larger one. Most casual smokers will be served by a humidor with a capacity of 100 or less – Built-in hygrometers are rarely good. Do not get suckered in by a nice one. Choose the humidor for where it will be kept, match decor if possible
Why are they made of wood? All quality wood humidors are made using a specific type of wood. Spanish Cedar is universally recognized as the best wood to store, maintain and age cigars. Spanish Cedar’s natural properties have special significance to cigars; the wood retains a high amount of moisture, while releasing little to no aroma. Cigars absorb the aromas of their surroundings and can then impart that ingredient into the taste of the cigar.
How long will cigars last if kept in a maintained humidor? Indefinitely. On a recent trip to Camp Camacho in Jamastran, Honduras (Central America), I had the opportunity to speak (through an interpreter) with Sandra Ochoa, General Manager for Camacho Cigars and one of the most knowledgable women I have ever met in the industry. Sandra stated that through using the traditional (2+ centuries old) tobacco process, the majority of impurities are removed from the tobacco leaf. Impurities are what cause a tobacco leaf to become stale and lose it’s flavor/potency. Sandra stated that if a premium hand rolled cigar ever gets dry or becomes brittle, it can be revived to it’s former glory by keeping it in a humidor until it’s moisture & sponginess returns. Needless to say, it may take some time to revive a dry cigar, but it all starts with the right environment.
What is the ideal environment to store cigars? Almost generally, the 70/70 rule applies for storing and aging premium hand rolled tobacco. 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% relative humidity are ideal for tobacco. There is of course some preference to this rule, you can adjust the RH% up to 5% either way, same as the temperature, vor varying results.
Tobacco Aging? What are you talking about? Tobacco is a natural product that lives, breathes and ages. Cigars are loaded with natural sugars and oils that supply the cigar with flavor, strength, character and the foundation to improve with age. Freshly rolled cigars are not a delicacy, a 20yo cigar is. This is due to the marriage of ingredients that improve the taste and complexity of the smoke. An important item to understand about tobacco and tobacco care is that the leaf is naturally “hygroscopic” meaning it has the ability to readily draw in and release moisture from it’s environment. This traditionally has made cigars difficult to maintain.
OK, Big Ronnie, we get the broad strokes, but what do you rock? Big Ronnie’s “Babies”
Cigar Caddy – 5 Cigar (Portable) Cigar Caddy – 18 Cigar (Portable) Cigar Caddy – 40 Cigar (Portable)
Glass Top – 100 Cigar (Office) Boveda – 150 Cigar (Home)
Boveda – 150 Cigar (Home)I also have the 10 and 15 cigar sizes from Cigar Caddy somewhere, but I can’t find them. Ha.
My Portable Humidors I use my portable humidors whenever I travel, the 18ct fits nicely in my preferred carry-on bag, and the 5 stick I roll with on the daily. It fits nicely in my briefcase. The 40ct big boy is reserved for car trips when you want to bring enough to share.Typically, only the cigar obsessed will go the portable route, but once you have one, you’ll use it. You won’t feel bad about leaving the 5ct in your golf bag or glove compartment knowing that it’s humidified and your cigars inside are fine.
My Desktop Humidors I have had 3 desktop humidors since I began enjoying cigars. My first was a gift from a former business partner. I wound up over seasoning it, and it warped. Sad face. My 2 current humidors pictured below are a common glass-top humidor, and a premium desktop model made by Boveda.
Great, now I’ve a selected a humidor, but it’s dry. How do you season it and get it to the correct relative humidity (RH%)? There are at least a dozen reputable ways to keep humidors properly humidified. I have tried many over the years and despite the proliferation of propylene glycol beads, I still believe the best way to “manage” this process is with the products made by Boveda. They are small, liquid-filled packs that you simply place inside your humidor. Produced in different RH% levels of 65%, 69%, 72%, 75% and 84% (for seasoning). These packs will last at least 4-5 months in a properly seasoned humidor. They cost about $4/each and you will need between 2 and 5 for your humidor, based on capacity. You start with 1 pack for the humidor and add an additional pack for every 50 cigars your humidor holds. (i.e. 100 cigar humidor would use 3 packs). These packs are dry on the outside, and can be placed directly on your cigars, saving valuable real estate inside your humidor.
What is seasoning? The goal of your humidor isn’t only to keep your cigars fresh for smoking, but also to create an environment for aging, so you ensure that your investment in premium cigars gets even better with age. Again, there are many ways to season a humidor, but the method I prefer is also from Boveda. They make 85% RH seasoning packs specifically for preparing a humidor for cigars and humidification. The same metrics for humidification packs above apply here, except for seasoning, you need to leave the packs in your closed humidor for 2 weeks. Do not open it during this time. Once complete, load your favorite cigars and preferred RH humidification packs and you are all set.
Now I know how to buy a nice humidor, and which seasoning/humidification packs to pick, but what about cigars? That is completely up to you. The premium hand rolled cigar industry is filled with dozens of manufacturers who have wide ranges of cigars appealing to all taste palates. I would say, wander into your local cigar shop and ask anyone in there what they like. Most cigar lovers, especially ones in shops can’t wait to talk about cigars with anyone, especially women. You will be a rare commodity in a cigar shop, don’t let that stop you, guaranteed you will get personal attention.
Lame answer Ronnie, give me some recommendations! Fine fine fine, here are some of my favorite lines. I didn’t include any Cubans. Sizes are up to you.
Camacho Triple Maduro
Arturo Fuente Natural
Arturo Fuente Sun Grown
Davidoff Colorado Claro
Drew Estate Kuba Deluxe
Drew Estate Acid Maduro
Room 101 San Andreas
OK, OK, OK, not bad (for a first article), but what’s next? In the next edition of Big Ronnie’s Cigar 101 we’ll be talking accessories! Cutters & lighters & cedar spills oh my! With BBQ season right around the corner, there will be many cigar-appropriate occasions.
I’ll be covering how to prepare and we’ll review some do’s and don’ts.
Please be sure to let me know if you have any specific questions. I’d be happy to help you pick something you or your man will like. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While I was in Williamsburg Brooklyn, I stopped by Refugio Cigar House to have a stogie. I was curious to try the La Gloria Series N; people seem to love it or hate it. La Gloria’s Series N has a dark Nicaraguan oscuro wrapper making the Series N appear as a full-bodied powerhouse. However, there is controversy over whether La Gloria dyed the wrapper. Overall, the evening was excellent with Bob Marley and Latin music playing in the background.
Size: Robusto 5 ½ x 54
Wrapper: Capa Oscura
Appearance & Construction
The construction of the Series N was nice, with large veins on the wrapper. The Series N felt hard to the touch, which made me slightly worried about the draw, because the tobacco seemed tightly packed. The cigar smelled of leather, spice, and wood. I proceeded to cut the cigar with my v-cutter and tested the draw, which was slightly tight. The cold draw tasted of coffee, spice, and wood, and after toasting the foot, the aroma did not change.
Taste & Smoking Characteristics
The Series N began with a spicy charred meaty flavor. As the cigar progressed, flavors of black coffee with bittersweet chocolate appeared, with black pepper spice in the retrohale. Consistent flavors of bitter and sweet chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and spice remained throughout the hour-long smoke. During the smoke the cigar made my mouth and throat dry. This cigar is neither a power house nor a complex stick. The Series N went out once, when I rested it in the ashtray; it had an uneven burn that tunneled and a flaky salt-and pepper-ash on the two I tried. Despite the Series N’s flaws, I heard it compared to a German Chocolate cake, which is a fair comparison, and coffee would pair nicely with a cigar.
Overall, the Series N burned inconsistently with a flaky ash but the flavor profile is decent with a fair price from $6-$8. The price is reasonable but the cigar’s continual uneven burn and tunneling detracted from the experience.