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    Administrator jhedrick83's Avatar  Cigar Bum Sponsor
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    A Noob's Guide to Cigars

    For all the lurkers and Cigar Noobs out there, here's a quick guide to help you get started.

    Noob Guide to cigars
    So you have smoked a couple cigars casually and enjoyed them. Now you want to start getting more serious about cigars but it seems like thereís a lot of info out there and itís a bit overwhelming. Hereís a quick Noobís Guide to Cigars:

    Types of storage (including pros and cons of each):
    If you are going to start diving deeper into cigars most people start with keeping some at home rather than just buying a single at the shop and smoking it there or on the Golf Course. The guy behind the counter at the shop might tell you that you need a nice humidor (oddly enough, he has some to sell!). You can get a humidor right off the bat, but you donít have to. In fact, you might be best served saving that money to use for buying more cigars! When you first get into cigars, itís always a good idea to try a wide variety of them to start developing your palate and see what you like and dislike. It helps tremendously to ďjournalĒ your experiences. Many of us use traditional notebooks, while others might employ a spreadsheet. These make for an invaluable, ready reference guide to tracking the development of your palate.

    So If you decide to forgo the traditional humidor right away, what else can you use to store cigars in at home? Anything that seals well! Tupperware, or a ďTupperdorĒ if you will, is a common and highly effective way for storing a small number of cigars. All you need is a Tupperware that you can fit some cigars in and something to help it hold your desired humidity level (weíll get to that later). Thatís all. If you go this route do your best to keep it from sitting in the sunlight all the time. That can cause spikes in your humidity and temperature levels as well as oxidation of the wrapper. You could also use a cooler, a.k.a. ďCoolerdorĒ.

    Here are some pros and cons of some of the popular storage methods:

    Traditional Humidor:
    Pros: Great aroma from the Spanish Cedar, can be very aesthetically pleasing, a natural resistance to mold and tobacco beetles.
    Cons: Can be expensive, cheaper humidors may not seal as well, the relative cost per stick of storage can be high.

    Tupperdor:
    Pros: Extremely cheap and reusable, hold humidity well, require very little in the way of humidification.
    Cons: Usually limited in terms of storage capacity, aesthetics arenít the best, allows light in which can cause fluctuations in temperature and humidity and allow oxidation.

    Wineador:
    Pros: Excellent seal, provides temperature control for those in warmer climates, usually has a fan for air circulation.
    Cons: More storage than necessary to start off (donít worry, youíll slide down that slope quickly!), has mechanical components that can break.

    Coolerdor:
    Pros: Relatively inexpensive, usually seals well, relative cost per stick of storage can be the lowest.
    Cons: More storage than necessary to start off as well, may require some trays/shelves depending on your purchasing habits.

    If you get a traditional wood humidor, you should read Donís ďHow to Season a HumidorĒ thread here.

    RH and Temperature
    So we have talked about what to store your cigars in, but almost more important than that, we need to talk about how to care for them once you have purchased them. First and foremost, you can leave the cellophane on or take it off, it really doesnít make a big difference.

    Now the proper Relative Humidity (RH) that you store your cigars in is a matter of personal preference. The usual range is between 70 and 60 %. That doesnít mean you want your cigars to fluctuate between those numbers, instead you want to find the percentage that you like the best and stick with it. Higher than 70% you can have a lot of burn/draw problems, sour/acrid flavors and run a high risk of mold. Much below 60% and you can dry the cigars out and lose the oils that provide flavor. While thereís a lot of talk that 70% humidity and 70 degrees is the optimal storage, there is a huge segment that think 65% is the place to be so donít be afraid to try something different. A great way to experiment with RH levels is this. Get a 3 pack of a cigar that you like, 3 different tupperwares and 3 different Boveda Packs (69%, 65% and 62%). Put one cigar in each Tupperware with one of the Bovedas. Allow a minimum of one week per percent drop in RH. This is to make sure that the cigar has acclimated to the humidity level so you donít get a funky burn. (I assume that everything I buy has been kept at 70% so if I want to smoke it at 65% Iíll let it rest for 5 weeks before I smoke it.) Smoke each of those cigars with the same beverage and see which one you like the best, you might surprise yourself.

    In regards to proper temperature, youíll want to store in the 60-70 degree range if you can. Again, what temperature you store within that range doesnít make an enormous difference. Just like with RH you want to avoid swings in the temperature inside your humidor so itís always good to store it out of direct sunlight. Stability is every bit as Ė if not more- important as the actual Temperature and Humidity numbers.
    There are several different ways to go about humidifying your humidor. So here are some pros and cons for humidification systems:

    Floral Foam (usually what you see in the humidification pucks that come with entry level humidors):
    Pros: It came with the humidor
    Cons: Mold prone, difficult to hold to a specific RH level, will only put out humidity not absorb. (Just throw these away, seriously.)

    Boveda Packs:
    Pros: Extremely simple to use, hold a specific RH, easy to tell when to replace them, relatively inexpensive, will both put out and absorb humidity if your level gets too high.
    Cons: Allegedly not rechargeable, depending on humidor size and seal quality you may need quite a few of them.

    Beads (Heartfelt, HCM, etc.):

    Pros: Set to hold specific RH level, reusable, maintenance costs are low, will both put out and absorb humidity if your level gets too high.
    Cons: Can be expensive to purchase initially, may take up more room than you expect.

    Electronic Systems (Cigar Oasis, Hydra, etc.):
    Pros: Good for a large cabinet, larger tanks make for less refilling.
    Cons: Itís electronic and can go crazy on you, some people report mold problems, can be very expensive to purchase., only release moisture; cannot absorb it if levels get too high.

    A note about recharging humidification mediums, ONLY use distilled water. Otherwise, you put yourself at risk for mold. A one gallon jug is usually $.99 at the store and will last a long time.

    So you have picked a humidification medium but now you want to be able to monitor your humidity and temperature levels to make sure thereís nothing wrong. So you need a hygrometer. At least to start with it doesnít have to be anything fancy, you can get cheap ones at Wal-Mart, your local B&M or all of the online retailers. If you can, get one that is adjustable so you can calibrate it to your desired RH. If you donít get an adjustable one thatís fine, we will talk about how to work around that.

    Hereís how you can calibrate your hygrometer. Get a Boveda pack that is the RH you prefer and a Ziploc bag. Place the pack in the Ziploc with you hygrometer, squeeze out almost all of the air and seal it up. Let it set out of the sun for 24-48 hours. Make a note of the RH reading on your hygrometer and adjust it up or down based on the RH the Boveda is set for. For example if my Boveda is a 62% pack and my hygrometer reads 60%, I need to adjust it up 2%. If you hygrometer isnít adjustable, grab a sharpie and write +2 on it, that way you know to add 2 to whatever it says. Now that itís calibrated just throw it in your humidor and you are good to go. You may need to re-calibrate each time you replace the battery in your hygrometer.

    If I was a total noob looking to get started, I would get a decent sized Tupperware and a couple Boveda packs to start with. That leaves more money for trying a greater variety of cigars. Once I know Iím into cigars for sure, then Iíd start slowly upgrading equipment (cutters, lighters, hygrometers, humidors, etc.).

    Maximizing your experience.
    So we have storage all buttoned up, letís talk about how to actually go about getting the most out of your cigar smoking experience. Hereís how I go about it. Keep in mind a lot of this is personal preference. I donít cut the head first, I toast the foot first. It helps keep the initial smoke from the light out of the cigar itself. I think it helps preserve the flavors at the start of the cigar and help ensure that each draw is relatively clean start to finish. Thereís nothing wrong with cutting the head and then toasting the foot, itís just a personal preference. When toasting the foot, make sure that the flame from your lighter doesnít actually touch the foot, you want to toast with the heat from the flame, not the flame itself. You donít want to scorch your tobacco. If you do, your first puffs will be of scorched tobacco and it will mess with your palate. You also expose the unburned tobacco to this scorch note, thereby compromising the flavors of the entire stick. Toast the foot until it is nice and evenly black, take your time, donít rush it. Once your foot is toasted, go ahead and light the cigar. Again, donít touch the flame itself to the cigar, when you are taking your initial puffs to light it, the heat will be enough. Rotate the cigar in your mouth as you light it to make sure you have an even burn to start with. Try to light it with a few slow puffs rather than huffing and puffing. You want to try and keep the cherry as cool as you can. Toasting also assists in ensuring you have a more even light/burn from the start.

    Once you are lit and ready to go, try to take a puff or two every 45 seconds to 1.5 minutes. Obviously, you donít want to smoke too slowly or it will go out. Smoking to fast is a problem too. If you smoke too fast, you wonít get an even burn and you will get a lot more harsh tastes from you cigar and increase the risk of tar build-up. A good way to see if you are smoking too fast or slow is to look at the foot of the cigar when your ash drops off. If the center of the cigar is sticking up, you are smoking too fast, if the outer edges of the cigar are sticking out you are smoking too slowly, if the foot is relatively flat, your pace is spot on. Another method to gauge your pace is to hold the cigar about a half inch behind the burn line. If it is uncomfortably warm, you are smoking too fast. Your draws should be fairly slow to help keep the cherry as cool as possible. Draw until you see the wrapper start to burn just a bit and then let it rest. That will help make sure you are burning across the whole cigar instead of tunneling. If your cigar is burning unevenly, before trying to touch it up with a lighter, rest it on the ashtray with the slower burning side down.

    When you are cutting your cigar, try to take as little cap as you need to. If you take too much, it might start to unravel on you. Also, donít try to tap the ash off constantly. A bit of ash will help keep the cigar lit and the cherry cool. While trying to keep your ash super long may look awesome, it doesnít offer any extra benefit than a half inch to an inch does. Itís just more to fall in your lap.

    How to review and why it matters.

    One of the best ways to really dive into cigars is to take notes or ďjournalĒ on what you are smoking. You donít have to write epic reviews, but keeping track of the flavors you taste, how it burns, how long you smoked it, the age of the cigar, etc. can be very helpful as you start to work on your palate and discover what blends you like. It can also help you guide yourself as you seek out new cigars to try. In my opinion, hereís the best way to go about it. Eat beforehand to help make sure that you donít make yourself sick in case a cigar surprises you with its nicotine content, but donít eat anything really spicy or that lingers on your palate. Grab a room temperature to warm beverage to go with it. Try to avoid cold beverages as they can numb your taste buds (thatís why cheap beer always tastes better ice cold!). Something like club soda or water with a touch of lemon will help keep your palate clean as you smoke, coffee works well too just be careful you donít add too much to it that it alters how you taste your cigar. Itís best to write your reviews when you have time to sit and just focus on the cigar itself. Break your review up into 5 parts.

    Part 1: Jot down the Cigar blend, if you can find it, write down what factory it came from, what type of tobacco the wrapper, binder and filler are and the size of the cigar (ďvitolaĒ). Before you light the cigar, inspect it. Smell the wrapper and the foot, write down what aromas you get. Is the wrapper oily, dry, toothy, etc. ? How firm is the cigar, does it feel under filled? If you cut before toasting, check the draw, how loose/tight is it? Of course, you can only check the draw if you cut before toasting/lighting; personal preference.

    Part 2-4: In your mind split the cigar into thirds, take notes on how each third burns, draws, tastes, etc. Keep in mind flavors may be hints of something, like a hint of chocolate with mostly tobacco flavor, donít expect chocolate taste to be the same a eating a Hersheyís bar. Donít forget to retrohale every once and a while as well. So much of what we taste depends on what we smell. If you will retrohale a decent amount you can get a totally different world of flavors that you are otherwise missing out on. So what the hell is retrohaling and how can I do it? Basically itís just slowly and gentlry blowing some of the smoke out through your nose. When you have a mouth full of smoke, blow about 80% of it out of your mouth. Close, or mostly close, your mouth with the other 20% in there, press your tongue against the roof of your mouth so the smoke is forced to the back of your throat and then just exhale through your nose like you are sighing. It may take some getting used to and it may burn the first time or two you try it, but it is worth it!

    Part 5: Write yourself a brief summary of your overall thoughts, what did you liked, what did you disliked, how does it compare to other cigars you have smoked, etc. For what you paid, how likely are you to buy it again?

    Writing reviews for yourself can really help you sharpen you cigar smoking skills and find your sweet spot in terms of the cigars you like. It can really help you see a pattern in the cigars you like and dislike. Posting your reviews here also helps others learn about a specific cigar and earns you a lot of respect from your fellow Bums!

    Great online resources
    So maybe you donít have a Brick and Mortar nearby, or the prices are super high, or the selection isnít great. Here are some great sites that you can order from online. These are places that offer excellent service and great prices. In no particular order:

    Famous Smoke Shop (Famous Smoke: Cigars, Humidors & Cigar Accessories) Ė The main site offers up almost any cigar you could want (except some of the hard to finds, true boutique or limited editions some of which you can call and order over the phone). Donít forget to check out the coupons for cash back or free cigars/accessories. Famous Smoke is also home to the Cigar Monster (Cigars Online | Best Cigar Deals of the Day | Cigar Monster) which runs specials as well as Cigar Auctioneer (Cigar Auction Online | Cigar Auctioneer) which offers up a few different styles of auctions. Donít forget to use the Cigar Bum discount code! 15% off orders >$50, some restrictions apply Code: CIGARBUM15

    Cigars International (Cigars, Humidors, Cigar Accessories, Pipes - Cigars International) - Similar offerings to Famous in terms of both product and experience. CI is also home to Cigar Bid (America's #1 Online Cigar Auction - first, best, biggest! - CigarBid.com) also commonly referred to as the Devil Site which is more of an EBay style auction site.

    Small Batch Cigars (www.smallbatchcigar.com) Ė An excellent place to find some of the boutique cigars or hard to find cigars. 10% off ALL purchases and free shipping Code: CIGARBUM

    Cheap Humidors (CheapHumidors.com) Ė Home to the Cigar Bum Samplers! They sell both humidors and cigars. 10% of all Purchases Code: CIGARBUM

    Cigar Federation (CigarFederation.com) - Another good source for boutique cigars. 10% off all Purchases
    Code: CIGARBUM10

    Atlantic Cigar (www.atlanticcigar.com) Ė Like Famous and CI they offer up almost everything. No discount codes but a good VIP rewards program.

    Neptune Cigar (www.neptunecigar.com) Ė Also, like Famous and CI they offer up almost everything. No discount codes but a good rewards program.

    Ammodors (www.ammodors.com) Ė If you want a truly badass and unique humidor thatís made in America, check them out! 10% on all purchases Code: Cigarbum

    These are just a few of the great retailers out there, but by no means a comprehensive list.
    "Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet."
    ― Maya Angelou


    Go Vols!

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  3. #2
    True Derelict Kidvegas's Avatar
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    @jhedrick83 great post lots of info... kudos !!


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    HE MADE ME DO IT

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