Howto: Smoke a Cigar

After having a romance with cigars on and off for a year, I finally figured it out.

The one that busted my cigar cherry was la aurora barrel aged.

Fantastic stuff.

For all I wrote about smoking hookah, cigars were more macho and had the added ability of being portable. I had smoked a pipe on and off also, but the pipe tobacco never turned me on as much as the hookah.

There’s something inherently macho about smoking a cigar. Maybe it’s the early episodes of I Love Lucy where Dizzy Arnez smoked a cigar, or maybe it’s every World War 2 general with a chewed up one hanging out, but the machismo of it was always there for me.

The flavor, however, was not.

Filthadelphia here is famous for the Philly Blunt.

These are terrible, terrible cigars and I’ve come to realize that the people who smoke them do so for the wrapper. Take that how you will. It is not a good indication of a locally made product or even something you would like to consume in general. If you’re going to get into this, spend a little to get a lot. The la auroras are about $5/per.

To actually get the flavor out of a cigar, it’s the opposite of smoking a cigarette, but it’s the same idea behind the hookah. You’re not trying to burn the tobacco, you’re trying to “cook it”.

The Howto:

  1. Buy a decent cigar cutter. The plastic ones have never worked for me. If you have a razorblade, use that.
  2. Take the cigar cutter and examine the closed end of the cigar. This is called “the cap”. There’s a bit of a raised portion where they rolled it where the cap meets the body. You want to cut the cigar to leave this raised portion, and you don’t want to split the wrapper, so give yourself maybe a quarter inch of cap against the body.
  3. Put some spit in there. Not to soak it, but you do want the tobacco at the end to expand a bit to make a semblance of a filter.
  4. Take your lighter (butane/propane is OK, unlike what hellboy will tell you), and toast the end. This is where you evenly heat the end of the cigar to glowing. It may help to toke at this point but it will taste like crap.
  5. You want to barely keep the end lit. Toke a bit to “draw in” the cigar. What you’re doing is establishing ash on the end. The ash workes like a charcoal fire, it lets you very slowly draw on it while keeping the tobacco under it lit without being too hot. Do not ash a cigar.
  6. You’re doing it right if you get “spicy” and “hot” flavors from the cigar. It seems they need about an inch of ash on them before you can start tasting.
  7. When you start barely seeing a glow from the end when you take a slow draw and the ash is established, you will notice the “spicy” goes away and the cigar “cools down”. Literally. Now is the time to slowly draw the smoke in your mouth to start tasting it. The La Auroras I was smoking offered up a different flavor each draw.
  8. Roll the smoke around in your mouth, and also try drawing with your tongue in different places for different flavors. I was pleasantly suprised when I touched my tongue to the top of my mouth between draws and got “chocolate” flavor.
  9. When the cigar is about halfway done, the ash will fall off. See step six. You probably won’t need to retoast the cigar, but when you lose the ash you lose the flavor.
  10. Finally, when the cigar goes “sour”, you have two choices. The sour is from the humidity. Either be done smoking, or retoast the cigar to finish it. I found the La Auroras just gave me a “tea” flavor. While pleasant, it wasn’t terribly interesting.

Other tips:

  • The labels are thermally activated. It’s not uncommon to have them simply fall off once the cigar warms up. Make no attempt to smoke the label, but trying to get them off before the cigar heats up usually breaks the wrapper.
  • If you own guns or can bum a shell off someone, take a shell casing and sharpen it. Push a knife into the throat point-first and rotate to create a sharp rim. It’s an easy cap-cutter now and the perfect size.