Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Seasoning your cigar humidor and "50/50" solution

By Gary Korb

Proper setup, or "seasoning" of your cigar humidor is crucial if you want your premium handmade cigars to age well over time. I've been receiving a lot of email lately with questions on this subject, especially from new cigar smokers about the use of 50/50 wetting solution, like the following message:

"I received my cigar order, which included a humidor and my first cigar sampler. I made the mistake of not getting the activation solution for the humidor with my order and now I have had the bag with the cigars sitting around for 2 days. It might take me a couple of days to track down a 50-50 solution but today I started humidifying the humidor. I have the green foam core and I think I can just add a few drops of the solution once I get it."
- H.A.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, don’t worry about not having 50/50 solution. Just use distilled water and completely soak the green oasis foam unit for up to an hour, because green oasis foam needs lots of time to completely absorb the water. You can add the wetting solution later, but you want to make the mix more like 80% H2O-20% PG. The reason for this is, straight 50/50 tends to clog green foam humidifiers over time. You'll get better results with a more diluted mix. It's also better to have the 80/20 mix upfront, because dripping straight 50/50 will only affect the areas where the drops were absorbed.

The cigars should also be kept in the bag during this waiting period to preserve whatever humidity is already in the bag.

I don't mean to sound like a shill, but lately I've been suggesting to a lot of cigar smokers that they think about converting to a crystal-based humidifier like the ones made by Xikar. They hold 450X their weight in water, so they last longer, are less messy, and more reliable at keeping a constant 70% RH than your average foam core unit. Of course, if you've already got the parts you need to season your cigar humidor, you might as well use them. Let the humidor stabilize for a while, and decide later if you really need to "upgrade."

As it is for most situations in caring for your cigars, patience is a virtue.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Weekend Cigar: Cusano 59 Rare Cameroon Preferido

By Gary Korb

One of the better cigars on my menu this past weekend was the Cusano 59 Rare Cameroon Preferido. In case you've been paying more attention to the activities of the presidential candidates, the Cusano 59 Rare Cameroon selection is one of the new line extensions from Cusano Cigars. A couple of months ago when Mike and Joe Cusano paid a visit to Famous Smoke Shop, I tried the 59 Rare Cameroon Robusto. That was a pretty good cigar, but size and shape do make a difference, and I was much more impressed with the Preferido which is rolled to a voluptuous 5¾" x 58 double perfecto.

This cigar had two things going for it that I admire: 1, the toothy, high-grade African Cameroon wrapper, and 2, the shape itself. The pre-smoke had an appealing cedary flavor and drew easily. Once lit, the cigar burned perfectly with a long firm ash. The flavor was well-balanced and very smooth with a predominantly "woody" character, laced with a note of sweetness. The finish was relatively clean, and in the final third I detected a faint hint of caramel.

I smoked the cigar with a glass of Offley's Tawny Port, which brought some of the darker tobacco flavors to light. This cigar smoked well for a solid hour and I left only about a half inch in the ashtray.

Overall, a well-rounded, medium-bodied cigar, not all that complex, but with plenty of flavor. If you’re a figurado fan, I highly recommend this cigar as a tasty, late afternoon or after dinner cigar.

Although the Cusano 59 Rare Cameroon cigars are still relatively new at retail, I'm curious if anyone else has had a chance to try these cigars. If so, please comment so we can compare notes.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cigars and taste buds

By Gary Korb

First, to give props where due: This post was inspired by an article my Famous cohort Hayward found at StogieFresh.com, "The Science of Cigar-Drink Pairings" by Rob Gray, Ph.D. It's a very good article, well worth reading if you enjoy libations alongside your cigars.

Dr. Gray writes: "Just like any color can be created by some combination of the 3 primary colors - red, yellow and blue - any taste is some combination of the 4 primary tastes: sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. While it was once believed that the taste buds for these different primary tastes were located on different parts of the tongue (sweet taste buds on the tip of the tongue, for example), it has since been shown that we have sweet, sour, bitter, and salty taste buds all over our tongue and the inside of our mouth."

Dr. Gray's point is confirmed in this Wikipedia entry on Taste Buds:

Contrary to popular understanding that different tastes map to different areas of the tongue, taste qualities are found in all areas of the tongue. The original 'tongue map' was based on a mistranslation by Harvard psychologist Edwin G. Boring of a German paper that was written in 1901. Sensitivity to all tastes occurs across the whole tongue and indeed to other regions of the mouth where there are taste buds (epiglottis, soft palate).
I've debated with many an experienced cigar smoker whether they taste certain flavors in cigars, and some contend that they never taste anything like "leather," or "berries," "coffee bean," or other flavors as often described in the reviews of a certain cigar publication. I've even done polls on it. Whatever the case, the average human tongue has about 10,000 taste buds and the brain remembers what we taste, so the flavors you taste in your cigars are either there or not. It's completely subjective, which is why Hayward and I often compare notes when we sample new cigars.

I often taste some of these flavors. Nutmeg is particularly prevalent in some Puros Indios cigars (now Reyes Family Cigars). I've also tasted the coffee and cocoa bean flavors associated with Padron cigars, as well as woody flavors like aged-oak and sweet cedar in cigars by Arturo Fuente and Davidoff.

On the cigar evaluation sheet I received with a sampler from Kinky Friedman cigars, they have a list of "Common" flavors, which include field grass, hay/straw, oak, birch, cedar, coffee, tea, roasted nuts, and green peppercorn, etc., against "Rare" flavors like eucalyptus, olive, fern, celery, pine wood, cinnamon, blackberry, fennel, whiskey, and far too many more in either category to list here. I've never seen an evaluation sheet so comprehensive. And let's not forget that the olfactory senses have a lot of bearing on what you taste as well.

So, whatever you taste in your cigar, remember, it's not just coming from any particular part of your palate, but from your palate as a whole.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Weekend Cigar: Two Dynamite Dominicans

After returning home this past weekend from the IPCPR Show in Las Vegas, I needed some additional quality cigar smoking relaxation time. Because I shipped my cigars home from the show (hopefully, they'll arrive safely today), I wasn't able to dip into any additional new cigars, but I did kick back with two really class acts.

Friday evening I paired a La Aurora Preferidos Connecticut No.1 (6" x 58) with a glass of Dow's Boardroom Reserve Tawny. Not only is this one of my favorite cigar shapes, but I've now added it to my list of all-time favorites.

La Aurora Preferidos cigars are sought for their oak barrel-aged Dominican tobaccos and robust character. But this Connecticut version, although full-flavored, was amazingly creamy, smooth and burned perfectly with rich woody flavors. In fact, I remember speaking with José Blanco of Tabacalera La Aurora at the show, and he was telling me how the Connecticut leaves are specially cured and extra long aged to ensure they are entirely free of any bitterness, which makes the smoke that much more balanced and sweeter, too. If you like Connecticut wrapper you can't do much better than the La Aurora Preferidos Connecticut cigars series.



On Saturday night I took out a Davidoff Puro Dominicano Robusto (5 1/8 x 52) from a box of 10 that I received at the Davidoff cigars dinner at last year's RTDA show in Houston. Since this was a very limited edition cigar, they're hard to come by, but you can sample one in the Davidoff Robusto Collection, which are available at appointed Davidoff merchants.

I paired it with a glass of Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur that I discovered earlier in the day at my local Wine & Spirits store while purchasing another bottle of Port. I figured it might make a good match, and it did. The sweetness of the liqueur combined with the hearty flavor of the Puro Dominicano made a superb combination, although the liqueur may be a little too sweet for some tastes. The cigar burned perfectly, and built from a very smooth and relatively medium-bodied smoke at the start, into a very complex and robust cigar by the third act. If you like full-bodied fare and can get your hands on one of these, go for it. It's one of Davidoff's best cigars in recent years.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

IPCPR Show Special #4: Thursday, July 17


I met with Nick Perdomo yesterday in his booth and had a chance to sample one of his new Perdomo Patriarch® cigars in the Corojo wrapper. Totally AWESOME. Rich, flavorful and buttery smooth. Last year it was the Perdomo Habano. I don't know how Nick does it, but every year he seems to top himself. If you'd like a great deal on some of his golden hits, check out today's Famous Smoke Shop IPCPR special. It's also a winner.

Famous 5 Perdomo Cigars & Lighter - $39.95 (reg. 63.99)
Our 5 Perdomo Cigars & Lighter offers 5 of the best cigars from Tabacalera Perdomo, plus an attractive Perdomo table cigar lighter that stands a full 3½-inches high. Ranging from the milder Perdomo Champagne R to the full-bodied Perdomo Sun Grown R, these highly-rated cigars really have to be experienced to be appreciated. Talk about a "smokin' deal," this is it! Here’s what you get:
1 Perdomo Champagne R - 5 x 54
1 Perdomo Cuban Parejo Rothchild - 4 3/4 x 50
1 Perdomo Lot 23 Robusto Natural - 5 x 50
1 Perdomo Reserve Cameroon R - 5 x 54
1 Perdomo Reserve Sun Grown R - 5 x 54
1 Perdomo Logo Vector Thundra Table Cigar Lighter

Until I return home, when I'll have lots more information and reviews on many of the new cigars that were introduced at the show, enjoy!
~ Gary


Please Note: The IPCPR sale ended on Friday, July 18, but you're welcome to purchase this item at the everyday low Famous Smoke Shop price.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

IPCPR Show Special #3: Wednesday, July 16

I did a great video interview yesterday with Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley Cigars. His company has grown from a modest independent to one of the hottest boutique cigar labels in the industry, and even more recently has earned outstanding scores for his new Tempus cigars selection. How'd they do it? Attention to detail and giving cigar lovers what they want: great taste, quality and value. Check out today's IPCPR Show Special from Famous Smoke Shop - a delicious 9-cigar assortment of Alec Bradley's best blends at a killer price.


Alec Bradley 9 Cigar Sampler - $19.95 (reg. 28.99)
When it comes to creamy-smooth, rich-tasting and complex cigars, no one does it like Alec Bradley Cigars. This very affordable flavorfest gets you 4 pairs of their outstanding Occidental Reserve Connecticut & Double Maduro, Medalist, and MAXX cigars, plus one of their new Maxx Traditional cigars.

Here's what you get:
2 Alec Bradley Medalist Robusto - 5 x 52
2 Alec Bradley MAXX "The Fix" - 5 X 58
1 Maxx Traditional Toro - 6 X 50
2 Occidental Reserve Robusto - 4 7/8 X 50
2 Occidental Reserve Robusto - 4 7/8 X 50

Please Note: The IPCPR sale ended on Friday, July 18, but you're welcome to purchase this item at the everyday low Famous Smoke Shop price.

Happy Smokes,
Gary

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

IPCPR Show Special #2: Two for Tuesday, July 15

Hi y'all. We had a great dinner with Rocky Patel last night at Tao in The Venetian. Awesome oriental cuisine. In honor of that, and the breakfast we're having with Cusano cigars this morning, I've got a really nice "twofer" for you. Here are today's IPCPR CigarAdvisor specials:

#1. Rocky Patel 10 Toro Sampler - $39.95! (reg. 56.99)
This 10-cigar Rocky Patel gift set isn't called the 'Ultimate Toro Sampler' for nothing. If you love big, full-flavored cigars, this must-have collection sports 5 pairs of Rocky's top-drawer blends including the highly-rated Nording and the phenomenal Olde World Reserve. Hurry, these have wings!
Here's what you get:
2 Nording Toro - 6 1/2 x 56
2 Olde World Reserve Toro - 6 1/2 x 52
2 Rocky Patel Edge Lite Toro - 6 x 52
2 Sun Grown RP Toro - 6 1/2 x 52
2 Super Fuerte Toro - 6 x 52


#2. Cusano Factory Tour 8 Robustos - $39.95! (reg. 42.99)
Can't get to the Cusano factory for a tour? We're bringing it to you, featuring 8 of their finest cigars in 1 enticing collection. Among these absolute stunners are the highly-rated Cuvee 151, Rouge, & Blanc cigars. Also features the bold LXI Sungrown and well-balanced 59 Rare Cameroon.
Here's what you get:
1 Cusano 18 Paired Maduro - 5 x 50
1 Cusano 18 Robusto - 5 x 50
1 Cusano Corojo 97 Robusto - 5 x 50
1 Cusano LXI Sun Grown Robusto - 5 x 50
1 Cusano Rare Cameroon Robusto - 5 x 50
1 Cuvee 151 Robusto - 5 x 50
1 Cuvee Blanc Robusto - 5 x 50
1 Cuvee Rouge Robusto - 5 x 50

Please Note: The IPCPR sale ended on Friday, July 18, but you're welcome to purchase these items at the everyday low Famous Smoke Shop price.

Happy Smokes,
Gary

Monday, July 14, 2008

IPCPR Show Special #1: Monday, July 14


Hayward here, your friendly neighborhood Famous Smoke Shop writer. I'm filling in today for Gary Korb, whose departure for Las Vegas (among other things) succumbed to Murphy's Law. He's looking forward to filling you in with all those details and more as the show gets underway.

This is the first in Famous Smoke Shop's series of cigar specials, all designed to bring the IPCPR show to you. Without further ado, here's the lowdown:

For the duration of the show, save $11+ on the Arganese 6 Cigar Sampler, plus get Free Ground Shipping! Arganese are a recent addition to the world of premium handmade cigars, and are worthy of your humidor, indeed. For just $19.95, you get 2-each of the Connecticut Robusto, Maduro Robusto, and Nicaraguan Robusto. In order of appearance, these are flavorful medium-bodied, medium- to full-bodied, and full-bodied cigars. At just $3.33 a cigar, it's a killer deal on some killer cigars.

Folks, this is a deal you'll want to waste no time laying claim to. As we've secured the IPCPR deals for Cigar Advisor readers only, remember to use the links provided. Also remember to check back for show updates and new IPCPR Show Specials, which we'll be posting daily.

Please Note: The IPCPR sale ended on Friday, July 18, but you're welcome to purchase this item at the everyday low Famous Smoke Shop price.

-Hayward

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Warn the kids, but keep the cigars"

It's dubious at to whether Governor Schwarzenegger read my recent blog, Anti-smokers: Get off of Hollywood's back, but in an AP news story that appeared today, the cigar-smoking Gov. was quoted as saying:
"I personally don't believe that we should erase cigarettes in movies. I don't believe that we should erase when someone smokes a cigar in a movie. I think that we should remind people and kids all the time about the dangers of smoking," the governor said.

"To all the sudden tell actors not to smoke a cigarette in a movie when they portray a character ... is ludicrous. I think this is going too far," he added.
Mr. Schwarzenegger's comments were made at a news conference at which the major studios announced they will include anti-smoking public service announcements on DVDs and films rated G, PG and PG-13 that include smoking scenes. For the whole story, read: Schwarzenegger: Films shouldn't 'erase' smoking

Its all good that the motion picture industry is taking steps to warn young people about the effects of smoking, but as I indicated in my posting, the studios shouldn't have to kowtow to pressure groups who want them to remove smoking scenes from films marketed to young audiences.

Thank you Mr. Governor not wanting to terminate that aspect of the film industry.

IPCPR Show Daily Cigar Specials!
Starting Monday, July 14, I'll be posting my reports from the show on the new cigars, events, and more, including daily IPCPR special sales. So be sure to check out CigarAdvisor.com for show updates and take advantage of these money-saving deals.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Relative Humidity and Cigar Storage

One of the most oft-asked questions I get concerns the proper ratio of temperature to humidity needed to keep cigars fresh in a humidor. Now, we have all read about the "ideal" 70/70, but many cigar smokers cannot always achieve those conditions in their cigar humidors or keep them consistent. So, I dug up an old article I'd written several years ago about what is "relative" humidity and how it relates to temperature. Ready to learn a little science and math?

Relative humidity is a measure of the amount of water in the air compared with the amount of water the air can hold at the temperature it happens to be when you measure it.

Air temperature (Celsius) / Water vapor air can hold at that temp (Saturation vapor pressure)
30°C (86°F) / 30 grams per cubic meter of air
20°C (68°F) / 17 grams per cubic meter of air
10°C (50°F) / 9 grams per cubic meter of air

Based on the above "table," here's how relative humidity works: Imagine that you measure the air's temperature at 30° Celsius (86°F) and you measure its humidity at 9 grams per cubic meter of air. You would divide 9 by 30 and multiply by 100 to get a relative humidity of 30%. In other words, the air actually has 30% of the water vapor it can hold at its current temperature. Cool the air to 20°C (68°F). Now we divide 9, the vapor actually in the air, by 17, the vapor it could hold at its new temperature, and multiply by 100 to get a relative humidity of 52.9% (53% rounded off). Finally, when the air cools to 10°C (50°F), we divide 9 by 9 and multiply by 100 to get a relative humidity of 100%. The air now has all the vapor it can hold at its new temperature.

Once again, the way you measure "relative humidity" is to divide the actual vapor pressure by the saturation vapor pressure and then multiply by 100 to convert to a percent. So, to get the "ideal" 70°/70% conditions in your humidor (give or take a degree or two) you would need a temperature of 68°F and saturation vapor pressure of 11.55 grams per cubic meter of air.

What this amounts to is, the less heat you have the more humidity required, and vice versa to keep the climate balanced.

Now that you've taken "Humidity 101," let me direct your attention to a illuminating article in the July/August 2008 issue of Cigar Snob magazine by Colin Ganley. Titled "Keeping Your Cigars," Ganley reports that the ideal conditions for your storing and aging your cigars are actually very cool temperatures with an average relative humidity of 67%. Indeed, from my own experience I've found that an RH closer to 65% is quite suitable.

I suggest you read "Keeping Your Cigars" because you'll really learn a lot about humidity levels, but there are some other great tips about tobacco beetle issues and proper storage of your cigars. When the window opens, on the left-hand side of the page where it says "Go to page," type in 18 and click "GO."

Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lancero cigars: Where's the beef?

Earlier this year, there was a buzz going around about the increasing interest in Lancero-shaped cigars. The Lancero (also referred to as a "Long Panatela") averages in size at about 7-inches x 39 ring. Although many manufacturers already include Lanceros in some of their lines, others have recently begun introducing them to supply the demand.

Some of my peers have varied in their opinion about the Lancero from, "Its just a passing fad. That shape has never been a big seller," to "Yes, the Lancero is a very underrated shape, and actually quite good."

Frankly, when I was younger and just getting into cigars, I was drawn to the Lancero shape because I thought they were kind of cool-looking; something like James Bond would smoke. But for most cigar smokers, Lanceros probably just aren't "beefy" enough for the following reasons:

1. Too thin to really sink your teeth into.
2. Too effeminate looking; it's a Lady's cigar.
3. Its dimensions don’t' offer enough tobacco for the money.
4. Its dimensions don't offer enough flavor

Well, after having smoked a couple of new Lancero cigars I think this is a shape that certainly deserves a second look.

Let's take reason number 3 above for example. Sure, you can buy a box of 20 Joya De Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Lancero at 7½" x 38 for $75.99 a box, or you can buy a box of 20 Joya De Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Churchill at 6 7/8" x 48 for $73.99. From an economical standpoint, the Churchills may appear to be a better investment. But most cigar smokers tend to prefer a certain size because that's what gives them the most pleasure. It's also true that each size in any given premium cigar line will taste differently than the others; just take a look at the vertical tastings in Cigar Insider or Cigarcyclopedia.com.

That leads me to reason number 4. I recently tried two Lancero shapes. The first was a Gran Habano Corojo #5 Lancero (7½" x 40) rolled in dark, oily Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper. The second was an Oliva Serie V Ligero Lancero (7" x 38) with mouthwatering Nicaraguan Habano sungrown wrapper.

Here's the deal: Both cigars smoked smoothly and bloomed into a very enjoyable full-bodied smoke; as good as any Toro I've had (my usual size), and in some ways even better. Because of the long length and lesser amount of filler tobacco, the flavors are more intensified as the Lancero smokes, so you not only get a much more full-flavored experience, but a more complex one, as well. So, even a Lancero from a mild or medium-bodied blend is going to be much richer in flavor.

If you haven't already smoked a Lancero, I suggest you try at least one of the cigars mentioned above. You'll find the beef.

Monday, July 7, 2008

My Weekend Cigar: Cuesta-Rey Centro Fino Sungrown Churchill #1


Over the Fourth of July weekend, I found myself smoking a "first" for me - a Cuesta Rey Centro Fino Sun-Grown Churchill #1. What's even more interesting is that I found this cigar in my stash from last year's RDTA show in Houston. Yes, I still have a pretty decent load of cigars left over from last year's show; can you believe it? And I'm leaving for this year's newly named "IPCPR" show in Las Vegas this Sunday.

Most of the weekend weather here in the northeast was not particularly suited for smoking outside, but late yesterday afternoon the sun poked its head out, and I wanted a nice long cigar to make up for the two prior days while I enjoyed a good read out on the deck. The 7" x 49 Cuesta Rey Centro Fino Sungrown Churchill #1 was just the ticket.

This line is reportedly the most "full-bodied" of the Cuesta Rey cigars. To my palate it was no more than medium-bodied at best, but it was "full-flavored." The cigar drew and burned well, exposing a firm ash during the first act, but a ligero leaf positioned a little off to one side caused it to burn unevenly at the midpoint. Eventually, it did work itself out.

What I enjoyed most about this cigar was its natural sweetness laced with rich, woody, oak and cedar flavors. I also like good Sumatra wrapper, and one of the central features the Cuesta Rey Centro Fino Sungrown cigars are the Ecuadorian sungrown Sumatra-seed wrappers that surround a Dominican ligero longfiller blend. This is not a complex cigar, but for me complexity isn't necessarily a criteria for total enjoyment. However, consistency is, and although it did pick-up nicely in strength during the last third, the sweetness of the smoke remained consistent all the way through.

Overall, a darn good cigar, especially if you like sweet tobacco flavor. Kind of makes me wish I hadn't waited until now to smoke it, but perhaps I can procure another next week at the show. ;-)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Anti-smokers: Get off of Hollywood's back

By Gary Korb

An emaxhealth.com article I came across last week titled "Hollywood Urged To Rid Child Movies Of Smoking" caught my attention for two reasons. First, I'm a movie fanatic, and secondly, I'm sick and tired of special interest groups telling filmmakers how to make movies. According to the lead, one year ago the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) said it would make films marketed to children smoke-free. Here are a few excerpts:

"We are still waiting for Hollywood to do the right thing," state Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said today. "The MPAA must act now to protect children from the harmful influence of movie stars smoking gratuitously on film. We cannot sacrifice the health of another generation through indifference and inaction."

"Research shows that deaths attributable to youth exposure to on-screen tobacco will be greater in the U.S. than drunken driving, drug abuse, criminal violence and HIV/AIDS combined," Commissioner Daines said.

Today the American Medical Association objected that in the new movie "The Incredible Hulk," the character Gen. Thunderbolt Ross, played by William Hurt, is rarely onscreen without a cigar in hand. The PG-13 movie opened on Friday. "This is a bad-guy character, but that's not a justification to portray him as a smoker," Dr. Daines said. "There are plenty of bad guys in the movies who don't smoke."
Let's get real. I don't want to see underage kids smoking any more than most reasonable people do. I've got a 10 and a 6 year old, myself. But movies are protected by the First Amendment. Moreover, they reflect society, and like it or not, society has a certain segment of people who smoke. Let's not start prohibiting screenwriters from creating characters who have a proclivity for smoking cigarettes or cigars. If you don't want your child seeing a movie that has characters smoking, don't take your kids to see it. Plus, I wouldn't classify "The Incredible Hulk" as a "child movie." "Mary Poppins" - now that's a child movie.