Tips to Improve your Cigar Smoking Experiences
Do you inhale cigars? No. Cigars are not like cigarettes which are designed to deliver a quick fix of nicotine into your bloodstream when they are ingested into your lungs. Premium, handcrafted cigars are a far more nuanced indulgence. The primary components in a premium cigar, quite simply, are tobacco and water. No additives, no chemicals, no paper, no distasteful substances are crammed into the recipe of a premium cigar for the purpose of hooking you on it. The skill and the palate of the blender determines the inevitable profile of a premium cigar. From the seeds to the soil to the growing, harvest, and fermentation (or aging) of the tobacco, the best cigar-makers possess a wealth of knowledge in order to blend consistent, top-quality cigars.
Cigars are all about taste, flavour, aroma, duration, and gratification. Accessing the many flavours and transitions a cigar presents has much to do with how you smoke it. Cigars are meant to be relished over a period of time. We often liken the enjoyment of a cigar to savouring a vintage bottle of wine, a high-end glass of scotch, or even a meal at a four-star restaurant. As a matter of fact, a number of culinary terms are employed to characterize the many tasting notes and aromas that cigars deliver. Many of the world’s most celebrated chefs are big-time cigar connoisseurs. Why? Because cigars present another opportunity to access taste and stimulate the olfactory senses.
Could you imagine guzzling down a 30-year-old scotch in a single gulp? Probably not; you would really be missing the chance to experience the ultra-refined flavours that culminate in all those years. It is much better to slowly sip and savour. Extensively aged cigars like Davidoff Oro Blanco or Cohiba Robustos Supremos deliver a parallel type of experience. We have got some tips to help you better savour that cigar while you are smoking it, without inhaling, of course.
Tip #1: Enjoy Your Cigar Slowly
Take your time and treasure the moment. The making of a premium cigar is never rushed, and you should never feel rushed to smoke your cigar by hastily huffing it down. Often, we will take a whiff of the unlit foot of a cigar before we cut it, just to get a preview of what is to come.
Cut your cigar and spin it around in your mouth a few times. When you draw on an unlit cigar, the cold flavour will also foreshadow some the tasting notes.
Tip #2: Rely on the Art of the Draw to Savour the Flavour
Upon lighting your cigar, draw the smoke into your mouth, and let it stimulate your palate. After a few seconds, expel the smoke back out. Revel in the taste, both while the smoke is in your mouth and after you have let it go.
You will likely get a bit of smoke in your nose, as well. That is perfectly okay. Taking the smoke in through your nose is a great way to experience the cigar’s room note. You may even deliberately push the smoke out of your nose from your palate. A cigar’s spices can intensify a bit from doing this.
You should be able to get a relatively effortless draw as you pull on the cigar. Keep in mind, different kinds of cigar cutters will direct the draw. A punch cutter and a V-cutter will concentrate the smoke more directly on your palate, while a guillotine cutter will provide a cooler, looser draw that carries more smoke.
Tip #3. Different Shapes Deliver Different Draws
Ever wonder why cigars come in some many different shapes? Cigars that are rolled in a Torpedo, Perfecto, or other figured shapes (also called Figurados), will furnish a tighter, more concentrated draw. Cigars that are rolled in standard formats like a Robusto, Toro, or Churchill will offer cooler, easier draws that delivers a greater volume of smoke to your palate.
If you have problems smoking too fast, try a Torpedo, like a Montecristo #2. The pointed end will restrict the draw a bit and slow your consumption down.
Also, keep in mind that thinner cigars burn hotter and faster than thicker cigars. A standard Corona can display a lot of complex, rich flavour while a 60-ring gauge Gordo can feel a little bit like having a tailpipe in your mouth.
If you tend to inhale your cigar smoke too deeply, it may be useful to try a smaller format for a little more control over each draw.
Tip #4: Your Ash Will Provide You with Proper Cues to Draw
Lighting your cigar correctly is important, because a sloppy ignition will adversely impact the burn, and subsequently interrupt the draw. If the ash starts to meander in a haphazard fashion, you may need to touch up the lit end with your lighter a bit to make sure your cigar burns evenly.
As the cigar burns down, its flavour will change. That is to be expected. Draw on your cigar and witness the wrapper leaf gently retract as the ash consumes it. The heat your cigar delivers to your palate will also increase as the lit end draws closer to your lips.
Tip #5: Practice a Soft Puff
Draw the smoke into your palate a bit gingerly at first. Some cigar fiends love to fire up in an overwhelming spectacle of flame and smoke with embers tearing off in every direction imaginable, while onlookers glare over in a worried state with the utmost concern for the carpet.
This method may be just for you. But, if you are still figuring the whole cigar thing out, just take a handful of gentle puffs. You do not want to suck the smoke all the way into your lungs. If you happen to inadvertently inhale some cigar smoke, exhale it back out and remain cognisant of when to stop pulling a draw in (typically when it reaches the back of your throat).
Getting a puff or two into your chest can happen on occasion, but doing so deliberately and consistently will cause you to cough. Focus on holding the smoke in your palate and rolling it around in your mouth as you let it escape. Do not forget to push a bit out through your nose.
Tip #6: Notice How the Taste Changes
The heat, the smoke, and the oils that are inherent in your burning cigar will furnish a number tasting notes, some that are completely familiar and others that may seem new or foreign. A premium cigar that is well-blended tends to crescendo as you smoke it down, but at no point should it deliver bitter, acidic, or unwanted taste.
There are a number of longstanding arguments that revolve around a cigar’s “sweet spot.” Some folks swear the sweet spot is an undeniable segment of the cigar where its flavour and aroma are superior to any transitions that come before or after. Pay attention to how your sense of both taste and smell respond to your cigar. You know you have got a good one when you are thinking of going back for seconds halfway through.
Tip #7: Start with a Mild Cigar
If you are new to cigars, your best bet is to start with a mild blend as you get the hang of drawing the smoke into your palate, but not all the way into your chest. Mild Cigars are great options that should not deliver an overbearing dose of nicotine, polarize your senses, or make you woozy.
Gradually experiment with medium-bodied, then some stronger smokes, if you feel the urge to up the ante. Davidoff Nicaragua is a superb introduction to Nicaraguan tobaccos without taking any unwarranted risks. An approachable blend of nuts and white pepper presents a marvellously creamy profile. Just remember, indulging in a premium cigar is all about the taste and the passage of time.
DAVIDOFF 702 SERIES SPECIAL «R»
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuadorian 702
Binder: Dominican Piloto Seco
Filler: Dominican Piloto Seco | Dominican San Vicente Visus | Dominican Olor Seco
Factory: Cidav Corp, Inc. (Cigars Davidoff – Dominican Republic)
Production: Regular Production
Vitola: 4⅞″ × 50 Robusto
Release Date: Feb., 2017
About a decade ago, the restless and uncompromising Henke Kelner — Davidoff’s long-time master blender and brand ambassador, began to experiment with hybrid seeds. He crossed a pair of Cuban Habano seeds to create a wrapper that was designated the “125”. This new hybrid seed was then crossed with another Cuban Habano seed to produce a different wrapper named “702”. In June of 2009, Davidoff introduced the Limited Edition 2009 Selección 702 to the market.
Early 2017, Davidoff formally introduced a new line of cigars — the 702 Series. The 702 Series is unique in that it utilizes the composition of seven of the company’s most popular “White Label” vitolas, but with the original wrapper replaced by the Ecuadorian hybrid used in the Limited Edition 2009 Selección 702.
The Davidoff 702 Series Special «R» is one of seven new cigars to utilize the company’s proprietary Ecuadorian hybrid wrapper. The tobacco composition of the 702 Series Special «R» differs from the standard Davidoff Aniversario Special «R» in two ways. First, the latter’s Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper has been replaced by the bolder Ecuadorian 702 wrapper. Secondarily, instead of the Piloto Ligero used in the filler blend of the Aniversario, the 702 Series contains Piloto Seco —a bit milder but with increased complexity.
The Davidoff 702 Series Special «R» is a resplendent looking, small cigar; its overall length slightly shorter than a vitola that is normally classified as a robusto (4 7/8” instead of 5”). Its Ecuadorian 702 wrapper is fairly smooth — with only one visible seam, one elongated vein, very light tooth, and a nicely applied cap. The color of the cigar is an even mixture of chocolate and Peruvian brown with a very slight tinge of reddish-orange. A light oiliness on the wrapper produces a fine spun sheen in the afternoon sunshine, like a tobacco plant right before the evaporation of dew.
After the cap of the robusto is opened with a double guillotine cut — to ensure the maximum amount of taste from the wrapper, binder, and filler — the cold draw is virtually perfect, with just a slight, and desirable, amount of resistance. As a bit of peppery spice formulates on the upper lip, smooth flavours of assorted nuts, cedar, dried fruits, and natural tobacco immediately touch the palate.
After toasting and lighting the cigar with a soft, double-flame lighter, the first few draws produce a variety of aromas and flavors, which melds into palate-coating deliciousness. Soon thereafter, a tingle on the tip of the tongue develops — which is indicative of the Piloto tobacco used in the binder and the filler. As the robusto settles into the burn, Davidoff’s characteristic mustiness begins to flirt in and out of the profile. These initial notes blend toward a mouthwatering flavour profile that proceeds in a linear fashion from the front of the tongue to the rear of the palate. Flavours and aromas of cedar, espresso, and pecans mingle together in a heavenly balance. The retrohale is piquant and smooth — hardwoods and white pepper — and is an essential component in the enjoyment of this cigar. An excellent open draw produces a rather prodigious amount of smoke output.
As the Davidoff 702 Series Special «R» enters into its second third, the strength settles into the medium range, while the body of the cigar becomes smooth and round. The aromas and flavours present in the first third of the cigar continue to build, while notes of assorted berry, cream, earth, and leather appear in the mix, adding to the overall complexity of the cigar. The smoking experience during this third is very enjoyable and lush — even though a building dryness requires a substantial sip of San Pellegrino (One of the best sparkling water I reckon).
Room aroma is reminiscent of an oak and charcoal fire, smoldering on a cast iron grate at the bottom of a stone fireplace. The burn line is very sharp, holding almost two inches of dark-concrete ash, highlighted with streaks of obsidian between the densely compressed stacks. On the flavourful retrohale, the hardwoods and white pepper notes, present in the first third, are replaced by a mixture of red and black pepper with trace amounts of anise, cumin, and a mixture of minerals.
As it burns through its final third, the Special «R» continues to provide an outstanding smoking experience — complex, flavourful, polished, and sophisticated. With each puff, the espresso notes begin to display a slight increase in bitterness — while the flavour of a charred porterhouse steak, sprinkled with sea salt, appears as the robusto continues to incinerate. Aromas and flavours continue to be an elaborate combination of practically every category on the cigar tasting wheel — nuts, dried fruits, herbs, spices, and earth — while an increase in minerality produces a desirable amount of saliva on the palate. The burn line remains unwavering, with the ash naturally falling off in a final two-inch clump. It is a fine cigar.
WOULD I SMOKE THIS CIGAR AGAIN?
The answer to that question is, “Frequently.” While the pricing of the Davidoff 702 Series Special «R» is at the upper end, the cigar — like it’s little brother, the Davidoff Yamasá Petit Churchill — is well worth the price of admission. Both cigars have become part of my regular rotation of super-premium cigars, since they deliver very different flavour profiles.
The Davidoff 702 Series Special «R» is one of seven cigars in the company’s 702 Series. Utilizing a proprietary Ecuadorian wrapper first found on the highly-rated Davidoff Limited Edition 2009 Selección 702 — along with the binder and filler tobaccos from the standard Davidoff Aniversario Special «R» — this 702 Series robusto delivers primary tasting notes of berry, cedar, cream, earth, espresso, leather, pecans, and pepper. Unusually complex, flavourful, and smooth, the cigar produces a smoking experience that triggers all of the five senses of taste — sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and the highly-elusive umami.
There is nothing worse than anticipating a special occasion when it is finally time to fire up that premium cigar you have been hanging onto for months, only to discover your precious smoke does not quite look the same as when you laid it down in your humidor. Why do my cigars appear to have a coating over them – is this normal? Depends on what the coating is.
Cigar Plume Is Okay
Plume (also called cigar bloom) is a white or grey crystalline substance that simply derives from the natural oils in a cigar’s tobaccos. Plume appears as white spots on your cigars and is harmless. It indicates that your humidor is working perfectly and that your cigars are ageing – a welcome condition in any aficionado’s collection. Plume can be easily dusted off the cigar’s surface and will never form on the foot of your cigars.
What Does Cigar Mould Look Like?
Cigar mould, on the other hand, can be a catastrophic condition for any humidor or cigar collection. Cigar mould is bluish-green in colour and often exhibits a fuzzy, moss-like texture accompanied by a musty odour. If you check on your cigars regularly, chances are good you will catch any potential instances of mould before they really have a chance to spread, but recognising them is key. Mould can grow anywhere on your cigars, but if you notice anything growing on the foot, there’s a very high likelihood it is mould. If you suspect you have got a mouldy cigar, immediately remove it from the humidor. It is also wise to remove any cigars in close proximity to the mouldy ones as a precaution. Carefully inspect the inside of your humidor to make sure mould is not growing on the interior of the box itself. Toss out any mouldy cigars.
What Causes Cigar Mould?
Cigars can get mouldy due to a variety of circumstances. Most common are either over-humidifying your cigars or using non-distilled water in your humidor. Cigars should be kept at 70% RH (relative humidity). Storing your smokes above 70% RH greatly increases the chances mould will grow. We often recommend storing your cigars in the range of 65 to 70% RH. This will lower the probability for mould to set in.
The Best Ways to Prevent Cigar Mould
Following are few helpful tips for preventing mould in the first place. Maintaining a humidor is less work than watering a house plant, but caring for your cigars begins with an attentive approach.
Invest in a Digital Hygrometer
Insure that you are storing your smokes at an optimal humidity level with a quality hygrometer. Digital hygrometers are far more accurate than their analogue counterparts, for example. Digital hygrometers typically take a watch battery and will give you a very accurate reading. Even if your humidor came with an analogue hygrometer, relying on a digital reading is a sensible move. Knowing precisely what your humidity level is prevents the likelihood of over-humidification.
Only Use Distilled Water in Your Humidor
More importantly, make sure you are only using distilled water or a propyl glycol solution to fill the reservoir in your humidor. Using tap water, or even a fancy brand of bottled water, in your humidor is a recipe for disaster. Distilled water greatly reduces the risk mould will take root in your cigars or humidor. If you prefer a more hands-off approach, humidity pouches also make a great alternative to a traditional humidification reservoir. Humidity pouches don’t need to be refilled. Simply add the appropriate number of pouches to your humidor for the number of cigars you are storing and replace them when their humidity is exhausted (each pouch will stiffen up to indicate there is no moisture left).
Rotate Your Cigars
Rotate your cigars on a weekly or bi-weekly basis so that the same cigar are not always buffered up against the humidification unit. Move the bottom rows to the top and vice versa periodically. This exercise also gives you the chance to regularly inspect your collection, lowering the risk that an adverse condition can go unnoticed for extended period of time.
Do Not Over-Pack Your Humidor
Leave a little extra space in your box, roughly 20-25%, so that moisture and air can flow a bit more freely around your cigars. Doing so insures your humidor will not be overwhelmed with the collection you have got going.
Buy Your Cigars from a Trustworthy Source
Buying cigars from a street vendor during an exotic vacation is generally not a good idea. Stick to getting your cigars from a reputable retailer or online shop and avoid getting stuck with cigars that do not burn correctly, are made from poor-quality tobaccos, or worse – cigars that are infected with mould. Introducing even a single mouldy cigar into a pristine humidor can ruin your entire collection, plus the box itself.
Can I Smoke a Mouldy Cigar?
Knowingly firing up a mouldy cigar is never a good idea. Some types of mole may be harmless, but many are toxic, and none will provide any benefit to a cigar. If one of your favourite or oldest cigars is unfortunately conflicted with mould, our advice is chalk it up to a learning experience and toss it out. While some experts advise the use of isopropyl alcohol to eradicate mould spores either on your cigars or in your humidor, we generally think it is best to part ways with any mouldy product.
The only way to know if your efforts to get rid of mould work is to let a good amount of time pass after wiping down your humidor with isopropyl alcohol and re-humidifying the box (without cigars inside it) for an extended period. It takes time for mould to show up and you definitely don’t want to load up a questionable humidor with a new batch of expensive cigars if there is a chance the mould could recur and continue to infect your future collection. Do not take any chances.
Cigar enthusiasts will go to great lengths to protect the hand-rolled treasures they spend hours, weeks and years selecting and collecting with the anticipation of that one special occasion in which they will finally get to indulge in a cherished blend. The importance of a dedicated cigar storage system cannot be overstated when we are talking about protecting an artisanal, handcrafted investment, whether you hang onto your cigars for 20 minutes or 20 years. A quality humidor is the most obvious and practical means for properly storing and protecting your cigars, but it also can be the most expensive option. Thus, the two-part question often asked is, ‘does the price of a quality humidor (usually, several hundreds to thousands of dollars) extend the life of a cigar, and does it merit the significant cost?’ The answer is dependent on several factors, all of which can determine the longevity, and quality, associated with a cigar’s lifespan.
Cigars are made from naturally grown plant products. The lifespan of a cigar is influenced by atmospheric conditions. Stored in an environment that is too dry, cigars will eventually lose moisture and become brittle. In an environment that is too damp, cigars will take on additional moisture and become oversaturated. Either scenario will be detrimental to the cigar’s shelf life, as well as to its viability for smoking. Think of overly dry or damp cigars as you would firewood kindling … the first will burn too quickly, while the second will burn too slowly … and neither cigar will maintain its best qualities for texture, flavour, and aroma. A humidor mitigates these concerns by providing optimal conditions for your cigars to be stored in, and subsequently aged.
A cigar’s lifespan in a humidor should extend for many years provided the internal airflow and humidity levels are properly maintained. Personal preference can dictate the ideal humidity level in your humidor, but consider a range of 65%-72% as an acceptable standard. Additionally, suitable spacing between cigars is vital (irrespective of humidor capacity) to enhance circulation, keeping the tobacco fresh, sufficiently moist, and aerated. Rotating your cigars on at least a semi-regular basis is encouraged. If the same cigars are always the closest to your reservoir, or humidification source, it is likely they will absorb a disproportionate amount of moisture over time. Move the cigars from the top row to the bottom and vice versa every month, or every couple of weeks.
Humidors vary greatly in price due to factors such as build quality, aesthetics and size. Regardless of how big, elaborate, or expensive your humidor is, the key in its function is your maintenance. In most cases, you want to use only distilled water to avoid any potential for mould or bacteria. You want to make sure you are replenishing the reservoir, or humidification unit, at a regular interval. And, most importantly, you want to be sure you are accurately measuring the conditions in your humidor (preferably with a digital hygrometer) to be sure you are maintaining an ideal humidity level at an acceptable temperature. Pay close attention to your cigars. They will tell you what you need to know most of the time. Cigars should express a firmness that offers a bit of give, but does not crack or crackle from the application of just a touch of pressure between your fingers. Unwanted crackling and cracking of a wrapper leaf indicates dryness. By the same token, your cigars should not be overly spongy, where you can squeeze one like a toothpaste tube without any interruption to the shape. A cigar that is overly humidified will not burn evenly, or taste right. Cigars kept in your humidor should reflect a consistency similar to the state you would expect them to be in from a trusted retail shop. Keep in mind, not all cigars will express the same density, however, an attentive cigar lover is the greatest common denominator to ensure your collection lasts for eons.
Cigars can last for many years in a humidor that is properly maintained. But is that really all to consider? The short answer: No. Longevity does not necessarily always correlate with the greatest or most ideal amount flavour and indulgence one can experience from a cigar. Similar to fine wines, fine cigars will grow better with age, but eventually they will reach a peak for potency of taste and aroma. Once a cigar’s peak has been reached, its characteristics will begin to decline (even in the balanced environment a humidor provides) and it will yield diminishing flavour and aroma as time passes. Therefore, “younger” tobaccos, or cigars, have the potential for more enrichment over a longer period of time in a humidor, while cigars that have already been aged for several years before they are sold may not have as much to gain from an extended period of ageing in your humidor.
How long cigars will last and retain their vitality in a humidor is also dependent on a cigar’s makeup and how much attention, care and selectivity the cigar-maker exercised in creating the blend. We recommend experimenting a bit. When you already know you are fond of a particular blend, buy a handful. Smoke one on your way out the door of your local retail smoke shop, and smoke another after 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months, or even 6 years in your humidor and take note of the difference. The key is that you are tasting the flavour profile you believe best suits your palate and indulges your senses the most. Maintaining your cigars in a well-made humidor is the best way to guarantee your investment in cigars is protected. Fine, handcrafted cigars are premium, artisanal creations that deserve an optimal home until you are ready to light one up, whether it is 10 days or 10 years from now.
AVO SYNCRO NICARAGUA TORO
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
Filler: Nicaragua (Ometepe) | Dominican (Piloto Cubano, San Vicente, & hybrid Olor/Piloto) | Peruvian (Olancho)
Factory: Oettinger Kelner Cigars (Dominican Republic)
Production: Regular Production
Vitola: 6″ × 54 Toro (Box-Pressed)
Release Date: Aug. 24, 2015
AVO has always showcased a nice balance in the Davidoff umbrella, being made at Davidoff’s OK Cigars factory in the Dominican Republic; the cigars often feature more delicate and refined profiles, while retaining a moderately affordable price range. The intriguing aspect of this cigar, though, is the Nicaraguan tobaccos — giving the impression the cigar will feature bigger, bolder flavours than AVO’s usual endeavours.
Syncro Nicaragua Toro is a nice-looking cigar, it’s sophisticated with a luxurious, clean-cut band and the soft box-press feels sturdy in the hand. There are also a good set of other vitolas used, ranging from a short robusto (4×52), up to a hefty gordo size (6×60). As with all AVO cigars (currently), the wrapper is Ecuadorian, this time being of Connecticut seed, having a medium brown, Colorado Claro hue. I was very impressed with the construction, having invisible seams, very tight veins, and a dense, solid roll. Also of interest was the near-flat cap, similar to what you’ll find on many Cuban cigars.
AVO Syncro Toro has the look of luxury, and a closer examination shows pleasant aromas of dry wood, sourdough, and a petting zoo-like leather. With a cut, the pre-draw is medium resistance, with subtle notes of mineral and cedar. After lighting, the first notes are very Dominican, with a tangy, funky quality, soon followed by caramel and smooth coffee. The texture is very pleasant, having a smooth and delicate feel, making for an enjoyably effortless exhale.
At this point, the flavours are fun, but certainly nothing new or noteworthy. “Why is this called Nicaragua?” I found myself asking — which seemed to make itself known mere moments later! A restrained spice enters the mix around the half-inch mark. Of course, it’s not overpowering or in-your-face, just a nice kick of spice, coupled with a little saltiness on the palate. The profile is refined, with a nice creaminess of salted butter and sweet cream to go along with the newly formed punctuations of Nicaraguan zest.
Moving into the two-thirds mark, the cigar seems to settle into a comfortable base of coffee and cream. And while the flavours are less dynamic, the body is still developing — now feeling more full and complex. This lasted a good chunk of the cigar, but eventually additional flavours again emerged — showing notes of toffee, black licorice, peppermint, and root beer candy. The black licorice later moves into a cold anise and nicotine strength in the retro, which is something I don’t usually find on a Dominican cigar (hello Nicaragua!).
WOULD I SMOKE THIS CIGAR AGAIN?
No doubt about it! I have to admit, I hadn’t paid much attention to the AVO brand until some of the more recent updates last year (2017). But if Syncro is a sign of what’s to come, I think I’ll be coming back, not only for this cigar, but to revisit the entire line. The new AVO line reflects a similar reduction we saw with Camacho, bringing the core lineup down to a solid 4 cigars (5 including the new Syncro). I feel this makes the whole brand more approachable, with Syncro Nicaragua leading the way.
AVO Syncro Nicaragua Toro does exactly as advertised, "syncing" Davidoff's skill in blending Dominican tobaccos with enough Nicaraguan edge to keep you interested throughout. After smoking the cigar, I am honestly shocked of its affordable price point. There are loads of complexities and refined flavours throughout. This is definitely not a Nicaraguan cigar in character, which might be confusing, considering its name. But when you understand the concept and what they're going after, I think it's easy to appreciate what AVO has accomplished with their first commitment to the power of Nicaraguan tobacco.