Natural blemishes With a product as natural as a cuban cigar it is not surprising that occasionally blemishes show up on the wrapper. It is important that these blemishes are fully understood as none of them affect anything other than the appearance of the cigar
CUBAN CIGARS IMPERFECTIONS
Green Patches These can form if the leaf is folded in on itself, or pressed too closely to its neighbouring leaf during the curing process. This prevents oxidation and so stops parts of the leaf from assuming a golden brown colour. However, as they have been cured, fermented and aged their taste will be unaffected.
White Spots These can appear if there is a tiny hole in the cheesecloth which covers the shade grown wrapper plants. When the sun passes through the hole onto a dew covered leaf it can bleach a tiny white mark. In Cuba it is said that cigars marked this way are ‘lucky’ or ‘blessed’ because they have been ‘touched by an angel’.
Bloom This white powdery substance occasionally forms on the outside of cigars. It occurs naturally and is encouraged by any sudden increase in humidity. Simply brush it off and place the cigar back on sale. Although it can look quite unpleasant to the untrained eye it is, if anything, the sign of a well kept cigar.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
One threat to the condition of cigars stands above all others in its severity – the Lasioderma Serricorne, or the Tobacco Weevil. Weevils eat tobacco and can tunnel through the filler leaves, perforate the wrappers, and render cigars unsmokeable.
Since 2005 Habanos SA has frozen all of their cigars in Havana before exporting them. This process destroys the weevils and they are now an extremely rare problem. However it can still cause a lot of damage unless treated correctly.
Below are some guidelines on how to minimise the risk and also what to do if confronted with an infestation:
- Keep the humidor at the correct level of relative humidity (65-70%) and temperature (16-18°C).
- Ensure that the humidor only holds cigars purchased from official importers. Do not store customers’ cigars unless they were purchased on site.
- Inspect cigars regularly for signs of weevil. The signs are holes in the wrappers, a fine dust on the hinge or in the bottom of the box and the weevils themselves.
- If suspicious isolate any box of cigars that may be infected from the main stock. • Place all infected cigars into zip-lock bags and put them into the freezer for 3-4 days.
- Next transfer the cigars to a fridge for 2-3 days before bringing them out and returning them to room temperature.
- Discard any cigars that show weevil damage and place all the undamaged stock back on sale
Does the colour of the wrapper give an indication to the strength of a cigar?
No – though wrapper colours vary between boxes, from Claro (light brown) to Maduro (nearly black), it is the blend of the filler leaves that dictates the intensity of flavour and aroma. If anything the wrapper leaf provides a ‘top-taste’; dark wrappers add a touch of sweetness and light wrappers a hint of dryness.
How can I check if Havana cigars are in good condition?
There are several different types of hygrometers available to buy that will provide you with a reading of the relative humidity within your humidor. However, a simple and reliable way to test the condition of a cigar is to hold it between your thumb and index finger and squeeze gently. If it feels firm yet springy then it is in good condition; hard and brittle means too dry, soft and spongy means too wet. Over-humidified cigars where the wrapper has split are unfortunately ruined.
If cigars dry out can they be revived?
It is important to store cigars correctly at all times. Unprotected cigars can quickly dry out, becoming fragile and running the risk of damage. If kept too dry for too long they will permanently lose their natural oils and taste. If the cigars have lost moisture over a short period of time and feel a bit hard, they are easy enough to revive. Simply place them back into a well maintained humidor and allow them to reacclimatize. This may take a few days to accomplish. Cigars that have dried out over a longer period of time are more problematic. It is always worth trying to revive cigars from this condition, as the alternative is to just throw them away, but success is far from guaranteed.
Should I store Havana cigars in a fridge?
No – fridges are dry environments that will only serve to remove all the natural moisture within a Havana cigar. Also, fine cigars readily absorb smells that are in abundance in refrigerators.
Do Cuban Cigars in the tubeb need to be stored in a humidor?
Tubed cigars maintain their condition out of a humidor longer than un-tubed cigars. The cedar-lined aluminium tubes help preserve the cigars from damage and drying out. For long term storage it is still advisable to place them in a humidor
How do I pair drinks with Havana cigars?
The general rule is that light spirits, champagnes, white wines, some of the lighter reds and beer will go with cigars from the light to the medium categories. Dark spirits (rum, whisky, cognac, etc), fortified wines and full bodied red wines tend to be more often paired with cigars from the medium-to-full and full categories. When choosing a drink to pair with a cigar remember that, although new combinations can be interesting and a lot of fun, it is unlikely your palate and preferences will alter too much, just because you are smoking a cigar. People seldom change the style of whisky they like or suddenly start enjoying Port, just because they are also smoking a cigar. Try to match up the strength and depth of flavour of the cigar and the drink. It should be a meeting of equals, with neither one overpowering the other- a conversation rather than an argument.
Do cigars pair with food?
After a rich meal with a high fat content or one that is heavily spiced, a fuller flavoured cigar is often preferred in order to deliver a flavour that can compete with the robust tastes already on the palate. A lighter meal tends to lend itself to a lighter style of cigar.
What if I can’t recall the name of a cigar that I have enjoyed?
You may have recently enjoyed a particular cigar but trying to remember exactly what it was can be tricky.
Keeping the cigar bands in your wallet, or taking a quick photo on your phone, can be invaluable aidemémoires. They can also provide shop or terrace staff with extra information when making a selection. Do not be afraid to ask to view the humidor as seeing the cigars can also help jog your memory.
What is the best time of day to smoke a cigar?
The best time to enjoy a cigar is when you feel like smoking one. Although the most traditional time is probably as a digestif after dinner, there really is no ‘correct’ time to smoke and many people prefer afternoon, or even morning cigars, the best. However, the general rule (never forgetting that all rules are made to be broken) is that lighter cigars suit the earlier part of the day, medium flavoured cigars for the afternoon and fuller flavoured cigars are better enjoyed in the evening, perhaps after a dinner.
Can you re-light a Havana cigar if it goes out?
Yes – first tap it gently in an ashtray to remove any excess ash, then blow through it to clear out any stale, residual smoke that may linger within the filler. Now reapply a flame to burn away the edge of the wrapper as with a new cigar. This is only recommended if the cigar has been extinguished for less than an hour or so.
Cigar Knowledge and Information about Cuban Cigars