Monday, February 23, 2009

When a good cigar goes bad

So, you've just finished searched through your humidor for a special cigar, a pricey one, no doubt, too. You've got your libation picked out, your comfy chair, the HDTV, or a good read - whatever floats your boat when you want to relax with a good cigar.

Everything goes according to plan. The cap clips off perfectly; the cigar lights evenly; the smoke is thick, creamy and flavorful. You sit back and enjoy the ride. Suddenly, you hit a pot hole! The cigar is only a couple of inches in and it's burning unevenly. You study it. It's not that far off-line. You decide to pay more attention as you puff and rotate the cigar a little to help it burn more evenly. It'll straighten out eventually, you think. After all, it's a well-made cigar.

Another inch goes by. The cigar does begin to straighten out, but suddenly you notice the wrapper starts to come undone. Your stomach starts to knot-up a bit. I can't believe this is happening, you think. Well, at least it still tastes good. I'll ride it out.

You break off the loose wrapper leaf, but its to no avail. It just keeps unwinding. You continue smoking, but your mood is soured by the increasing problems. I've smoked these cigars numerous times and never had a problem with them, you think. Maybe it's my humidor conditions? Paranoia sets in. You put the cigar down, get out of your chair and go to the humidor. The humidity and temp are in range. You begin checking the cigars for suppleness, dryness. You get down to the bottom row, where you found the cigar you're smoking. It sure feels OK. Now you're thinking, Maybe I picked the odd funky stick. The rest can't possibly be like the one that busted on me. Or can they? Did I ruin a $100 box of cigars?

If this scenario sounds familiar, that's because I described a similar experience in one of my recent Retro-Smoke blogs. It's also one of the most frustrating experiences an ardent cigar smoker can have because it's often hard to tell whether the problem lies with the factory or with the cigar smoker.

Often, if it's the first time they've smoked the cigar, some cigar smokers tend to blame the retailer and ask for a return, even threatening to never buy from that retailer again. However, if it's a cigar has a consistent history of smoking well for you, it's more likely the conditions in your humidor than the retailer or the factory for that matter. On the other hand, even the best made cigars can turn sour for any number of reasons: from the odd lack of quality control at the factory level, simply the cigar itself, or to, yes, even improper storage on the part of the retailer.

So what can you do to prevent a good cigar from going bad? Not much, but here are a few tips that might help:

1. When your cigars arrive, open the box, take a few out and inspect them carefully. They should still be quite supple, even after their trip. If they feel only a little dry, they're probably fine and just need some time in the humi to "settle." The same goes if they feel a little too moist. As much as you may be dying to smoke that first cigar when they arrive, letting the cigars rest in your humidor for at least a week usually gets better results when you fire them up.

2. Try to keep the temperature and humidity in your cigar humidor as consistent as possible. Large fluctuations in temp and RH will negatively affect the cigar over time. It may look and feel OK, but remember, you're just skimming the surface. The problem could be coming from the filler tobaccos.

3. Rotate your cigars from bottom to top every couple of months. Unless you have a fan that circulates the air in your humidor, it's important that your cigars are not packed too tightly and that they get good circulation, which is why it helps to move them around. Most humidors have "dead zones" where moist air doesn't reach them.

The next time you have a good cigar that goes bad, don't jump to conclusions. The solution to the problem could be as simple as keeping a closer eye on your stash.

Your thoughts?

~ Gary Korb

2 comments:

Tom said...

A few years ago I retrofitted an old refrigerator to serve as a large humidor. At the time I was concerned about air circulation and had little battery powered fans in there to keep the air moving. Out of curiosity one day I removed the fans and measured the humidity in various parts of the humi with remote hygrometers. The reading was the same everywhere. I even put the sensor inside a cigar box, and then placed the box inside a zip loc bag. I gave the humi 20 minutes to stabilize and found the humidity reading was the same even inside the box as everywhere else in the humidor. Strange but true! I still think rotating cigars periodically is a good idea, but I don't worry much about "dead zones" anymore.

Cigar Advisor said...

Thanks Tom,
Based on your comment, I think you'll enjoy reading the feature article on www.CigarAdvisor.com this coming Saturday (2/28), which will also be the lead story in our weekly newsletter.

Happy smokes,
Gary