Cigar Aficianado before The Magazine

The old cost of doing business in the land of the free and home of the brave, thanks to H. L. Mencken:

The fact that the Hon. Jacobus Hook gave away 62,350 cigars during the year 1912 has aroused the jealousy of the Hon. James Young, and the two are now engaged in a gigantic struggle for the 1913 championship. The Hon. Mr. Young, so I hear, has sent such huge orders to Havana that he is getting 25-cent cigars at 3.33 cents apiece. Meanwhile, Colonel Hook has added 150 hands to the force in his private fabrico at Pinar del Rio, and, in addition, he has bought land for a new factory on Gay street. His expenditure for cigar bands alone will be $1,500 this year, and he will cut down 125 acres of cedar forest to make boxes. His leading brands continue to be the La Cuerda, the El Hofbraeu and the Pride of Old Town. The first named is a demi-blond cigar, cut in Empire style, with a violet band and a high, spicy flavor. The second is a short, squat brunette, with a scarlet bandeau around its equator. The third is a long, rakish smoke with pale, xanthous spots, suggesting flecks of mayonnaise. It is a very powerful cheroot, with fumes strong enough to loosen the scalp, and Colonel Hook reserves it for newspaper reporters, job-seekers and the judiciary.

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26 thoughts on “Cigar Aficianado before The Magazine

  1. SDB – why don’t you just do both like the Hoosiers in Central Indiana where I used to live did – smoke your cigar down to a butt and then stuff the remainder into a pipe in order to smoke the rest? Disgusting, in the least, but that was common.

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  2. George, not just a Hoosier habit. Done it many times myself when I was smoking a really good cigar, I used to grind up the butts after cutting out the burnt part in a blade coffee grinder and add a pinch of two of them to a blend that needed a bit more body.

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  3. I confess that sometimes I covet having lived in that era….even just for the fellowship of awesome smoke.

    “The third is a long, rakish smoke with pale, xanthous spots, suggesting flecks of mayonnaise”

    I have rarely seen a mature cigar evidenced by bloom on a cigar since the mid-1990’s. The reason for the nice cedar boxes was so cigars could be aged for 4-6 years without risk of tobacco beetles and moths eating them prior to distribution. Most cigars I encounter now are pliable and not fully set up or what we used to call, ‘wet’. A mature cigar can be sublime when immature cigars hardly ever reach this pinnacle at any price. But who has the patience? Even a really nice ‘wet’ cigar is better than no cigar… even if is a rip off.

    Grinding cigar butts….whew doesn’t that defeat the pursuit of an awesome smoke? I know good pipe tobacco has become crazy expensive but buying excellent tobacco seed (check on-line–several excellent sites) , growing and propagating your own seed and curing your own pipe tobacco is nothing special. …. not any more special than growing green beans and canning them. Growing tobacco is simple. For me it’s finding the time to set up the flue apparatus to cure the tobacco.
    Jeff

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  4. Jeff, for the record I have never ground up more than about the last 1/2 inch or so of a cigar. Pipe tobacco is, based on a cost per hour of smoking, cheaper than cigar smoking, by a lot,, and is the main reason I returned to pipe smoking after 15 years of stogies only. Now enjoy both, as I have for most of my life, but really good cigars have gone through the roof. I do agree re: aging. Makes a huge difference. Same with some pipe tobacco.
    Odd thing is that in recent years I have found seconds that are ready to smoke upon arrival, and firsts of the same brand name, ordered from the same source, that have not fully set.

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  5. If it is the least bit mushy when you clip it, the cigar is over humidified. This can be from improper storage somewhere along the way, including your own humidor, but much more often than should be the case the manufacturer is simply skipping the aging process, or does not have the facilities to do it right. I pretty much stick everything in my humidor for a month or two before smoking. I no longer do anything fancy or complicated, just Tupperware containers,the cedar strips you can salvage from boxes, and Boveda humidity packs, but I only have about 200 or so sticks on hand.

    Back in the days before Marvin Shanken ruined the world by turning wine snobs loose to write about stogies in Cigar Afficianodo, you could mail order directly from La Gloria Cubano in Miami. Your check would be cashed immediately,your cigars would show up eventually. You would open the cardboard box they were shipped in and inside would be 25 sticks wrapped in a sodden Miami Herald. I would pack them as tight as I could in a cedar box, put the box at the bottom of my Tupperador, and a few months later I would have box pressed square LGC’s . Delicious.

    Aging is a different story entirely, and if you want to play in that park, bring money. Their are auctions in London where aged Cubans bring stratospheric prices. Also true of pipe tobacco. Sound tins from some English blends can easily bring $200 or more if they are old enough, certainly ones from pre 1980 bring that and more. And I am talking about two ounce tins.

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  6. @Dan That’s interesting. I had no idea… So how long can I age cigars in an airtight container? Is the same true of pipe tobacco – it would improve by letting it age in a humidor?

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  7. @SDB, there are cigar forums where this topic is endlessly debated, much more than my current needs justify paying any attention to. I would say that the consensus is probably that you need some air exchange, not complete airtightness for an extended period. I have three modest sized Tupperware containers and just as a matter of routine the one I am in the least probably gets opened no less often than once a month. You do need to pay attention to humidity, for me the Boveda packs are a very convenient solution, but I have the sense that other methods are preferred for really long term storage.

    Cigar humidors are too moist for pipe tobacco. Probably 62% humidity would be ideal, but few pipe smokers I know worry about that. Tins are just fine for long term storage, just keep them at room temperature and normal air conditioned humidity. Bulk blends can be stored for decades in plain Mason jars. Lots of guys (well, and girls)like to open a tin, smoke a few bowls, try something else and come back to a previously opened tin. I would say after a few weeks you might want to put the contents in a small Mason jar. I was visiting a friend back in December, he had nine half pint Mason Jars of different blends that were in his rotation on a table next to his easy chair in the living room. You can do a search on http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/ under the topics cellaring or storage and get all kinds of opinions on the topic. I am sure there are similar forums for cigars.

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  8. Dan, you’re sounding more Anglican than Baptist (sorry for profiling).

    So I should assume that every cigar I buy is immature? And if I wait (I have a humidor with a glass of cheap whiskey in it) two months the cigars will be fine?

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  9. No, but a lot of things are rushed to market. I would not recommend your humidor set up, but Tupperware and Boveda packs are very economical. As a matter of routine, I freeze everything that comes in immediately (plenty of instructions on how to do this on the internet-avoids the cigar beetle, which is absolutely not a hypothetical threat) , then let the sticks rest in my largest Tupperware/Boveda container for a month or two..The sticks are always at the least “set.”

    Would they benefit from further aging? Probably, but it would be marginal IMO for the lower end sticks I buy. If I still bought Cubans, I would (and did) go for a more elaborate setup that allowed for longer term aging. I rarely smoke things like Opus X, or the plethora of boutique sticks that are out there, but if I did I think they, too, would noticeably improve with more aging under proper conditions. That is just not the park I play in and has not been for many years. Two months is, for me, long term planning. I know what I like, buy it in reasonable quantities when it is on sale, and my modest storage arrangements have been proven over time to be adequate. But there are folks who go to a lot more trouble than I currently do or will, they are just in a different situation. There are a lot of high tech things out there, and a lot of information on various forums, which I am only vaguely aware of. The Boveda packs are a relatively new thing, and they have worked for me now for a couple of years.

    Pipe tobacco is a different story. There are reasons to fear dramatic tax increases and restrictions on internet sales that would, for me, be a real issue, so I have a fairly large stock on hand and lay in more as sales and my budget permit. (Roll your own tobacco has been taxed to the moon and you can’t sell it in interstate commerce anymore. Some manufacturers have relabeled Ryo tobacco as pipe tobacco, and avoid the tax and sales restrictions. This is perceived as a loophole. My experience tells me that loopholes get closed, frequently with virtually no notice.) That pipe tobacco improves with age is for me a bonus, but not my motivation.

    I don’t dance, so my Baptist credentials are in decent shape, if not impeccable.

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  10. Heh… thanks for the link to the pipe forum. I found out about a nearby tobaccoist that appears to have quite a selection of pipe tobacco.

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  11. You are lucky. I only have two choices, one strictly cigars, one a small selection of pipe tobacco But the site I linked to has commercial sponsors that more than fill my needs, and I have relied on JR and Mike’s for many of my cigar needs even before there was in internet.

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