Cigar FAQ Highlands Ranch

The most frequently asked questions about purchasing and smoking cigars from our Smoking Cave customers.

How do I select a Cigar?

Chose a Cigar that you are comfortable with, whether it be mild, medium or full body. A larger diameter cigar provides a cooler, smoother smoke and allows for better blending of the tobacco.The length of the cigar helps you determine the time taken to smoke. Chose a cigar that has been stored properly, and is ready to smoke.

Should I be careful when handling and holding a cigar?

A cigar is a dead leaf, it is delicate and perishable. Different types of cigars are sturdier than others. Though a cigar is delicate, you should not be afraid to touch and smoke it. Many people put great effort into creating the cigar, just so you can enjoy it.

How do I cut my cigar?

One end of a cigar has been closed or capped; this is called the head, and is the end you smoke. To do so you must remove part of the cap, cutting the cigar. When cutting the cigar, remove as little of the cap as is possible, so the cigar will not come apart or fray.

What is toasting?

This is an optional procedure which helps to give an even light. To "toast" you slowly rotate end or foot of the cigar over the heat of a flame, in an effort to preheat the cigar.

Is there a proper way to cut a cigar?

Cigars can be cut in a variety of ways. People use everything from expensive cigar cutters to their teeth. Two of the best methods for cutting are “guillotine style” cutters and “bullet style” punches. Both provide clean cuts and ample incisions to allow smoke to draw through the cigar easily. When cutting the cigar, the trick is to cut off enough of the cap without taking the whole thing off, thus keeping the cigar from unraveling. When using the bullet style cutter, you usually won't have this problem. Also, using a V-cut is another way to cut a stick. This apparatus is shaped in a "V" wedge that removes a groove in the cap of a cigar. Next to the usage of teeth, this is the oldest known way to cut a cigar. Smokers would use their pocket knives to cut the wedge before the invention of the "V" groove cutter.

Is wrapper color an indication of the cigar’s strength?

There seems to be a misconception that a cigar’s strength is indicated by the color of its wrapper. A dark wrapper is no more an indication of a strong cigar than a pale wrapper is of a mild one. There are some cigars that have a pale wrapper and will put you through a wall! It is, however, the color of the filler which truly reflects the strength of a cigar. The darker the tobacco, the more body and strength it will have when smoked. This type of tobacco is called ligero (lee-hare-o). It comes from the upper priming of the tobacco plant and has a higher natural concentration of nicotine, thus making it stronger. At the very most, a dark wrapper will contribute to a slight spiciness in taste when the cigar is smoked. These darker wrappers are called maduro. The manufacturers age the maduro wrapper leaf at a higher temperature than the "natural" wrapper leaf. This is what gives it the darker color and spicier sometimes sweeter taste.

What’s the best way to light a cigar?

Lighting your “stick” evenly is the most important thing to remember. When you first start, you may want to toast your cigar a bit, whether it is with a match or butane lighter. This will sometimes make it easier for the filler on bigger ring gauge cigars to light more evenly. Next, gently puff on your cigar while you hold the flame to the end of the cigar. Be sure to rotate the cigar so the whole end gets lit properly. Remember, the hottest part of any flame is right above where you can visually see the actual flame.

Is there a proper way to smoke a cigar?

Fill your mouth with a smooth easy draw of smoke, savor the complex flavor of the tobacco on the palate, and then gently exhale to remove smoke from your mouth. Feel the cigar in your hand, rotate the cigar between your lips, and enjoy all the textures received from the cigar. Remove the ash from the cigar just before it is ready to fall off. (Don’t worry, this does take practice.) The most important factor in smoking a cigar is to RELAX and ENJOY the CIGAR!

What's the best way to extinguishing a cigar?

A cigar is all tobacco, and therefore will continue to burn on its own for only a short time. When finished with the cigar, simply let it rest in the ashtray and it will go out on its own. The best time to let a cigar go out is when you are no longer enjoying it.

What is the best way to store a cigar?

Without proper storage cigars become worthless, dry, devoid of pleasure and most likely unsmokable. The best way to store a cigar is by putting them in a container which is able to maintain a 70 degree temperature and 70% humidity level. The easiest way is, of course, to purchase a humidor. Humidors are commonly made of wood and come with a humidification element. Most humidification elements contain some sort of water retaining medium which allows distilled water and a chemical additive to regulate the humidity.

Why do cigars come in different sizes?

Cigars come in a variety of shapes and sizes for several reasons. The most common reason is cosmetics. Some smokers would like a large cigar as opposed to a smaller cigar. Some people like big cigars not just for the way they look, but because of time commitment as well. It's nice to be able to smoke a cigar for a couple of hours and really enjoy it. Unfortunately, many of us don't always have a large amount of time to devote to our cigar. So, we opt for the smaller cigars. Also, when you smoke a smaller cigar, the flavor doesn't change as much from beginning to end, AND the smaller cigar tends to have a more concentrated flavor and strength. A common misconception is that if it's big, it will make you dizzy and nauseated. Many times it is the exact opposite. The smaller the cigar, depending on its filler, the stronger it will be.

How do I blow smoke rings?

The biggest factor in blowing good smoke rings is practice. With that in mind, try this technique. First, you need a cigar with dense smoke, and a place with still air. Don't waste your time trying to blow smoke rings in a breeze! Draw a thick puff of smoke into your mouth. Hold it there and open your mouth slowly. Make an "O" with your mouth, (maybe more of a rounded "oh") - definitely not a pucker like a kiss. Curl the tip of your tongue down, and pull your tongue all the way back. Now, when blowing a ring, you're actually not exhaling. You're just pushing out the smoke in your mouth with your tongue in short bursts - like a piston, only in a relaxed way. It's actually a really gentle motion. Push forward with your tongue, with perhaps slight recoil at the bottom. Keep at it - it's like riding a bicycle... Once you "get it" you'll wonder what the problem was!

What are the Parts of a Cigar?

Wrappers... The wrapper is the outside layer of tobacco on a cigar. It gives a cigar one of its primary flavor components. Wrappers are usually very high quality leaves, and are available in colors ranging from double claro, the lightest to Oscuro, and the darkest. Wrappers are very important to the taste of a fine cigar, and described in detail in another section of the FAQ.

Binders.... Binder leaves are the intermediate leaf used to hold the bunch of filler tobacco together. These vary considerably from one manufacturer to the next.

Filler... Filler is the bunch of tobacco found at the center of the cigar. Generally the filler is responsible for determining how strong a cigar will smoke. There are two types of filler: long filler, which contains the whole leaf running from the head to the foot of the cigar, and short filler, comprised of scraps of tobacco (often the trimmed ends of long fillers).

The blending of wrappers, fillers and binders determines the overall flavor of a cigar. There is an art to blending tobaccos and as you smoke different cigars, you will notice how the various tobaccos interplay with one another.

Are there any differences between the blends of different size cigars in the same line?

Manufacturers often use the same types of tobacco in different sizes, producing different tastes. Often the consumer will perceive this as the same "blend". There is a difference however - it's in the proportions of each type of leaf used. An experienced roller may use different proportions of the tobaccos in different sizes to allow for that size differences. In a smaller ring cigar, the binder and wrapper have a greater influence on the taste, for instance. The blender will allow for this difference by re-proportioning the filler blend. It's just one of those details that requires years of training among master rollers. (And of course, one of the reasons smokers will prefer the taste of one size over another of the same blend....

What is ring gauge and how is it measured?

Ring size is the cigar's diameter, measured in 64ths of an inch. Thus a 32 ring cigar will measure 1/2 inch in diameter. Although many catalogs list ring sizes, they may deviate from each by a couple of points on specific cigars.

We want to help you choose the right cigars

Cigars come in many shapes and sizes and colors. It is often difficult for a neophyte cigar smoker to get a complete understanding of the how these factors affect the taste. The shape of the cigar is perhaps the hardest thing to describe since there are no set standards used between cigar manufacturers. Usually it is best to remember the shape written on the box to remember what you are smoking. The size is measured by length and ring gauge (cigars diameter). One ring is equivalent to 1/64 of an inch. Some of the most common are:

Panatela (6 1/2 x 35)
Robusto (4 1/2 x 50)
Churchill (7 1/4 x 48)
Corona (5 3/4 x 42)
Double Corona (6 1/2 x 48)
A cigar with a larger ring gauge will have a fuller and more complex flavor and produce more smoke compared to the smaller ring gauge cigars. The larger a ring gauge the more a cigar maker can blend and combine different types of leaves. Color also plays an important part in choosing your cigars. What you see when you look at a cigar is the wrapper and it plays a role in the flavor of your cigar. Usually the wrapper is described by the country of origin or color.
Claro (light tan)
Maduro (darkest brown)
Oscuro (black)
Colorado (reddish dark brown)
Colorado Maduro (dark brown)
Colorado Claro (mid brown)
Also when you look at the wrapper make sure it is not too dry or too firm or too soft. Before you buy check for cracks or defective wrapper although when you buy from us we do this for you.

Size and Shape

The finest cigars in the world vary in size from about a 9X64 (which is one inch wide) down to approximately 4X30. The first number refers to the length of the cigar, in inches; the second is the ring gauge, or the thickness of the cigar, measured in sixty-fourths of an inch. Most cigar smokers gravitate to a particular size, so when considering the quality and consistency of taste and aroma of a cigar, your sense of comparability can be confused and it will be difficult to judge fairly unless you are smoking the size you are accustomed to. The same cigar blends in different sizes taste different, sometimes vastly different, because of the different ring sizes and lengths. A big ring gauge, 50 or 52, produces an immense volume of smoke compared with a 28, 36 or even a 42.
Heavy Ring Gauge - All cigars with a ring gauge of 45 and up.
Standard Ring Gauge - All cigars with a ring gauge of 40 to 44 inclusive.
Slender Ring Gauge - All cigars with a ring gauge of 39 and under

Why are wrapper leaves so special?
The wrapper is a very delicate leaf, and is only one layer thick around the cigar. It contributes a large percentage to the overall flavor of the cigar. Wrapper leaves can be grown in many places on the globe, and each variety contributes its own characteristics towards the cigar's flavor. A wrapper leaf is evaluated on the thinness of its veins, its oily sheen; it’s even coloring, and most importantly, its unblemished appearance. In order to achieve and maintain these desired characteristics, the leaves are often carefully and skillfully handled several hundred times from picking, curing, stripping, aging, and rolling. Binder leaves are often wrapper leaves that have been rejected due to some sort of cosmetic imperfection.

How is tobacco cured?

Curing tobacco is a sensitive process that depends on techniques and traditions that are hundreds of years old. Following the harvest, tobacco is removed from the fields and placed in large bulk piles within a curing shed. This shed will have several barn doors in the front and rear, and many doorways running along the sides. There are also vents on the upper portions of the structure. The purpose of all these openings is to control the interior temperature and humidity. By opening or closing the apertures, workers are able to counterbalance the effect of wind and sun exposure on the structure. Each bulk is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Inside these piles, heat is created as a by-product of the chemical reactions taking place. The core temperature is monitored daily and the piles are rotated inside out frequently to prevent the raw tobacco from cooking. This part of the fermentation is referred to as "sweating". These bulks may be turned many times during the following months until this stage is complete. It is during this sweating process that the tobacco releases ammonia and other undesirable’s elements. The tobacco is then put into rectangular bails, each about 150 pounds, and stored for a minimum of one year. Many producers will store it for much longer periods of 3-5 years. After this curing and aging period, the tobacco is judged suitable and shipped to the fabrica for rolling.

Do my cigars have mold or bloom?

Many cigar smokers mistake bloom for mold and vice versa. Let us clarify the difference between the two. Bloom refers to the slow rising of "essential oils" to the surface of a cigar. It first shows up as tiny (almost microscopic) crystals on the surface and can eventually make a cigar look slightly "dusty" with a whitish finish on the surface. Not only is it harmless, some prefer to see a little bloom, as an indication of strong taste. Mold, however, is a fungus, growing on overly humidified stogies. It is recognized as white, gray, or blue-green "fuzzy patches" with a definite dimension to them. Mold spreads by spores, so it's important to get rid of any moldy cigars immediately, before they contaminate your other cigars or the mold gets into the wood of your humidor. Mold appears when the relative humidity passes 85%. Saving the moldy cigars is going to be tough. Wipe off the contaminated cigars (contaminated ones only! - don't spread the mold!) With a clean paper towel, slightly moistened with distilled water. Separate the contaminated cigars from the others. Smoke the others as soon as possible. Make some kind of temporary humidor for those contaminated ones. Put it in the refrigerator. (Yes, its okay-refrigeration will dry them out without a source of humidity.) Be sure to clean and disinfect your humidor so this does not become a recurring problem. Your best bet would be to take them to your local tobacconist if this doesn't solve the problem. However, the majority of your tobacconists will declare them DOA. Molded cigars are very, very difficult to resurrect.

Setting Up Your Cigar Humidor

Remember, no matter what humidor you choose to purchase, care & maintenance are critical. Do not load up your humidor with your cigars just yet! Patience my friend. Follow these preparation steps below and you'll be on your way to a perfectly conditioned humidor.
1) Conditioning the Interior (Spanish cedar) First, before placing your cigars inside your new humidor, wipe the interior with a lint-free cloth dampened lightly with distilled water. This picks up any residue from the manufacturing process and also conditions the interior to accept a certain amount of moisture which will be prevalent once your cigars are placed inside your humidor. If this is not done, the dry wood may suck moisture out of your cigars and/or your humidifier.
2) Moistening the Humidifier Next, place your humidifier into a container of distilled water large enough to allow it to be submerged in the distilled water. The humidifier will be slightly buoyant, so you may have to reverse the humidifier's direction in the container to insure that it has been thoroughly moistened. It should take approximately 30 minutes of soaking to fully moisten the humidifier. Note: Never use tap water which may contain unsavory elements. Next, making sure the humidification unit is not saturated and dripping wet, place it in its rightful place in the humidor, close the lid and wait 24 hours. This completely conditions the interior of your new humidor to maintain the freshness of your cigars.
Why not fill with tap water? Tap water (as well as spring water) contains minerals which tend to clog the humidifier element. In addition, tap water contains chemicals which may impart an unpleasant odor to your cigars.
3) Calibrating your Hydrometer Dampen a towel (not dripping wet, but good & damp), then wrap the hygrometer in the towel for 30 to 45 minutes. Then quickly unwrap it and read the humidity. If your hygrometer is perfectly calibrated (few are) it will be reading exactly 100% humidity. Most likely, it will be reading somewhere between 80 and 90%. That's ok - if its reading 90%, then you know that when it's in your humidor and reading 65, your humidor is really at 75%. Next turn over your hygrometer and adjust the calibration screw accordingly.
Want to get a little more technical? No problem. Luckily, as nature would have it, when salt and water (NaCl and H2O for you studious types), are in a saturated solution at equilibrium, the resultant humidity is 75%. This gives are a fantastic reference point to calibrate our hygrometers.
Here's the procedure you should use: Get a bottle cap of some sort - any bottle cap will do! Fill it with regular table salt. Then place a few drops of water on the salt. DO NOT put too much water on the salt. The salt should only be damp, not a liquid solution.
Then put the bottle cap of salt and your hygrometer in a see-through, freezer bag. Seal the freezer bag & wait several hours (about six). The humidity inside the bag will be 75%. Compare it to your hygrometer. You will then know exactly how far off your hygrometer is, just like with the damp towel test, above.
That is it! Your humidor & its components are now fully prepared to recreate the optimum conditions for maintaining the freshness of your cigars!