Before the fire

Storage conditions

The first step is the selection when an amateur draws the cigar from his personal humidor or when he walks into a specialized tobacconist. The aficionado will then probably opt for his predilection size among his preferred brands.

To meet the demands of the connoisseurs, the cigar will have to satisfy good conservation requirements. An optimal cigar aging has to be completed under specific and controlled conditions of temperature and humidity. This condition is essential for adequate preservation and conditions must be maintained between optimal ranges of 15-25°C for temperature and 65-75% humidity.

The good cigar constitutive humidity for an ideal tasting is from 12 to 14%. Permanently exchanging water and gazes with its environment, cigars can reach a perfect humidity level after acclimatization in a humidor if the right conditions prevail. Inside, temperature and humidity conditions must be controlled according to the aficionado’s taste and the cigars types.

A humidifying cellar may have varying sizes: a cigar pouch with a capacity for some cigars only for personal and punctual use, a common aficionado humidor with a capacity of generally 50 to 75 cigars, or, more for professional usage, a real room (walk-in humidor) with capacity to store dozens of cases.

But be careful, cigars with fine aromas are highly sensitive to strong odours and other external influences. The fragrant wrapper may be wasted if it is preserved in an inadequate environment. Cigars thus must not only be maintained in optimal humidity and temperature but also in an environment that is neutral to their perfumes.
Cedar is a wood with a developed bouquet that shows interesting synergy with the cigar wrapper. Cedar is probably the most used wood essence for environments with physical contact with cigars. This timber is found everywhere from cigar boxes to the shops shelves, the manufactures escaparates, or the commercial or private humidors.
Having a natural ability to capture ambient water by its porosity, the wood shows a little humidification inertia as humidity is released over time and thus might preserve the cigars for some hours in a gentle environment.

The choice of a module

The aficionado should always select a cigar that matches her/his direct desires. Self-decision should be the criteria and not – like in a lot of cases unfortunately – indirect imposition by social standards. Reading experts’ articles, friend’s advice, magazines or blog comments is important in the development of one’s curiosity but enjoying a cigar is following ones intuition and desire.

Besides the visual aspects, the size, diameter and shape of cigars bring a real difference to the tasting.

Compared with thicker ring gauges, smaller diameter cigars are characterized by a faster and denser smoke in the mouth. This physical concept is called venturi effect: for a same taster (and therefore constant puffing force), the smoke flow speed increases with smaller cigar section. Another result is the relative increase of the combustion temperature because of the more vigorous activation of the burning.
The physical smoke impact is therefore relatively stronger on the palate for thinner cigars. Also if comparable blends are considered, absolute aromatic richness of smaller ring cigars is reduced for two main reasons: (1) the higher combustion temperature reduces the flavours during burning; and (2) the cigar contains fewer leaves.

Compared with longer sizes, shorter cigars will have the smoke filtered over a reduced distance (foot to head). The resistance is smaller and the smoke temperature will be higher.

Visual approach

The first sense used in the approach of a cigar is sight. Like for nearly everything, visual analysis is the starting point for assessing the quality of a cigar.

The rolling quality and the attributes of the wrapper can be gauged through a simple and quick glance. Nice wrappers have uniform and bright colour, no tears nor scratches. Also the veins should be as less pronounced as possible.
The leave porosity as observed at the foot of the cigar allows for one to check the cigar density. This important parameter can also be assessed by touching the torcido all along its body but will only be definitively confirmed during combustion.
The cigar brand and its authenticity can be analyzed through observation of the band.

An examination for holes in the cigar can also detect the presence of Lasioderma sericorne. The larva of this insect beetle attacks the tobacco in leaves of in cigars and can cause many perforations. This ruins the cigar forever.

Among the major problems that one can detect during a visual analysis of a cigar are: lack of brilliance, important veins, alambrillo veins (serpentine), spots (green, white or black), flag wrapper (cape bandera) and tears.

Touch approach

After careful observation, a cigar aficionado generally passes to the phase of touch for further assessment of his cigar.

The amateur will gently touch his fingers on the wrapper, in assessing her physical features and simultaneously estimate the degree of moisture. Contact between silky skin and the wrapper promises interesting aromatic diversity.
But analysis through touch starts by checking the degree of compactness and the uniformity of density torcido. A cigar of homogeneous density, being neither too loose nor too tight, suggests a quality shot.

Among the major problems that can be detected through the touch analysis are: a dry binder, a body too tight or too loose, irregular rolling a cigar and drive.

Smell approach

With cigar in hand, the taster can flatter her/his olfactory sensations by passing the cigar under the nose. During this movement, some even roll the torcido to capture its entire flavour.
A more vibrant idea of the cigar tasting quality can now be envisioned.
This assessment may however show some limitations because the wrapper aromas (in its most volatile parts) can be easily, totally or partially, spoiled by inappropriate preservation conditions or simply dirty fingers.

Among the major problems that can be detected through the smell analysis are: lack of aromas, or dusty or ammonia odours.

Hearing approach

In addition to touch, evaluation of a cigar’s humidity may also involve hearing. Approaching the cigar from one ear while rolling it and pressing it gently between thumb and forefinger, you may hear a slight cracking sound. This indicates an adequate degree of moisture.
During environmental modifications, the cigar humidification can be too fast causing the wrapper to be more humid than the filler. In such case, more time is required to optimally moisten the cigar in balance with its controlled environment humidity.

Among the major problems that can be detected through the hearing analysis of a cigar are: significant or limited cracks from inadequate levels of constituent humidity.


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