Cigar Guide Part III: Choosing & Smoking

How do I know what size is right for me?
You should pick a cigar for the amount of time you have available to smoke. If you are at a sporting event or on a golf course, choose a large cigar that will last for a long time. If you are in a cigar friendly restaurant and you want to have a nice after dinner smoke, (but don't want to stay there all night) choose one that will last about 30-40 minutes. These are just some examples. As you experiment with different sizes you will find one that you are most comfortable with.

What do the cigar ratings mean?
We use the ratings from one of the most trusted sources, Cigar Aficionado. Cigar Aficionado's ratings are scored on the 100-point scale:95-100 - classic90- 94 - outstanding80-89 - very good to excellent70-79 - average to good commercial qualityBelow 70 - don't waste your moneyTo check out cigar ratings for yourself on their website, Click Here

How do I open the end cap?
The most common way is with a cigar cutter. This means you will clip the rounded end cap off. Other methods are discussed in detail here.

Is there a correct way to light a cigar?
Absolutely. Your goal is light the end as evenly as possible. When lighting the cigar, it is best when you apply as little of the flame to the end of the cigar as possible. This will prevent the tobacco from getting charred, or carbonized, and imparting an unpleasant taste unto it. To do this, hold the flame about 2 inches away from the cigar, and slowly draw long puffs of air through the cigar. The flame should jump up to the cigar. With each new puff, rotate the cigar about a quarter of a turn. Continue this for 4-5 puffs and then inspect your work. If there is a tiny unlit spot, you can blow on it to accelerate the glowing coal to drift over to it. Then, take one or two steady puffs and then leave the cigar alone for at least 2 minutes, as the first 1/8th to 3/16th of ash builds. You have laid the foundation of a cigar that will burn perfectly.

How come my cigar does not always burn evenly?
Most uneven burns are a result of poor lighting technique. Therefore, patience should be applied during the lighting to insure that the cigar burns properly, and does not "tunnel" or "canoe". Your cigar is tunneling when the inner filler is burning down, and the outer layers, including the wrapper and binder, are still unlit. This will taste unpleasant, as you are not smoking the balanced blend. It will ultimately go out, as the inner core suffocates from lack of air. If your cigar tunnels you can try to fix it by using your cutter and clipping down the unburned exterior and then try to relight the cigar. A problem that is more common than tunneling is canoeing. This is when your cigar is imitating a canoe, by one half burning slower than the other. It can be caused by improperly lighting the cigar, or by smoking too quickly, puffing away like mad. The best way to fix this is to leave the cigar alone and let the slow side catch up as soon as you notice it is happening. The sooner you "back off", the sooner the cigar will even up. If you ignore it, it will get more and more pronounced. I do not recommend "flash burning" the slow half, as it will usually leave a burning taste on the rest of the cigar as you smoke it. Both of these syndromes can be prevented by correctly lighting the cigar. Very windy conditions can also make the cigar canoe to tunnel. Unfortunately, this is out of your control and is no mark against your ignition techniques.

Can I use any type of flame?
The goal is to use a flame that will impart as few impurities into the cigar as possible. The historical method was to use a splint of cedar, known as a "spill", to light the cigar. More practical and handy are wooden matches or mechanical lighters that use butane, both of which burn clean. Paper matches are undesirable because they have two elements that can taint the taste of the cigar. First, many paper matches are dyed with a pigment. Second, they are often treated with an accelerant chemical, which you can see as it boils off the first 1/4" of the match right after it is struck. By the time this chemical has boiled off, the match is too short to light the cigar. When using wooden matches, I recommend that you use two matches at once, spread approximately 1/4" apart. This will create a flame broad enough to light the whole end in one attempt. Rarely can you get the entire cigar lit with just one match, and if you need to start a second match you have already started the cigar off on an uneven burn. Other than a thin cedar spill, these are the only two sources for flame that I would advise. Never use a candle, or a lighter that used any fuel other than butane. And certainly never use a gas stove or stick your head into a campfire, as you risk lighting you hair up when you lean over it.

Do I remove the ring?
Removing the ring may damage the cigar, as the adhesive used to attach it is often attached to the cigar as well. It can be removed gently once the coal has burned down near it, as the heat will loosen it. It should be mentioned that in England and Europe it is considered vulgar to leave the ring on the cigar. There, proper etiquette dictates that gentlemen do not show off whatever prestigious brand they are smoking, and they sit around smoking "naked" cigars. However, following this decorum risks tearing the wrapper. At the risk of insulting any European smokers in the room, I would rather keep my wrapper untorn.

When do I tap the ash?
The ash is very sturdy and will hold up at least 3/4" of an inch, or more. Therefore, you should not be so concerned as to look for the ashtray after every puff, as you can damage the cigar by constantly trying to tap off a fresh ash. It can be easily knocked off about every 1/2" or so.

How far down can I smoke the cigar?
You can smoke a cigar as far down as long you still enjoy it. A great cigar will tempt you to burn your finger tips trying to get that last puff. When you have finished the cigar, drop it into the ashtray and let it burn itself out. Do not crush it down, as the exploded butt will smell terrible.

How many different types of tobacco are there?
There are literally hundreds of strains of tobacco plants. They are grown on almost every continent, although only a handful are suitable for premium cigar production. Most of these are Cuban seed varieties that have been cultivated in other countries. The leaves from most Cuban seed varieties often reach 14-18 inches in length.

How many different tobaccos are used in a premium cigar?
Typically, 4-6 types are blended together. The wrapper and binder are the first 2. The rest are fillers.
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Universal Exclusives

  • Southern Draw Kudzu

    Handcrafted in Esteli, Nicaragua, the Kudzu is Southern Draw’s inaugural cigar specially blended to complement the robust styles of craft brews, boutique wines and spirits. The velvety, oily wrapper is a beautiful aged Habano Oscuro with solid construction evident from the first touch. Along with rich flavor and a full bodied double fermented wrapper, are fillers and binders of premium aged Cuban seed Nicaraguan tobaccos. The blend offers subtle notes of spice, cedar and cocoa. Each cigar has been hand rolled and aged to perfection, allowing the flavors to marry. The temperature and burn rate produce an even, clean white ash. Each cigar has a guarantee perfect draw because every cigar is draw tested to exacting standards.

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