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Vaguely Quarantine related blog

Well… It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, hasn’t it!? It looks like it’s only going to get more interesting. I know we’re all sick (great choice of words, Cal) of the influx of “Here’s our plan for COVID-19” emails from every company we’ve ever given our email address to, so I’m not going to dwell on that too much. Suffice to say, we’ll be here until we basically get forced not to be. If we do get forced to close the retail shops, we will try to keep things running on the mail order side and for customers in the local area to our Chester store, we should hopefully be able to do local deliveries in the Tur-mobile (our company van

It’s hard to tell what situation we’ll be in at the time this goes live, but at the time of writing we’ve just had the PM’s announcement to avoid social gatherings and non-essential travel. So, there’s a reasonable chance you could be reading this either while working from home or under some kind of self-isolation circumstances. Now, I’m very much an “every cloud” type chap, so let’s have a look on the bright side and have a look at some XXL cigars that can be enjoyed, now that we have some extra me time and can spend slightly longer with cigars than we usually could. Yes, that is my tenuo

us link to tie current events into cigars and tobacco. Hell, it was either this or “My top 5 Coronas,” but that seemed in pretty bad taste…

Sancho Panza Sanchos

I’m not messing around this week; I’m going straight in with one of the biggest Havanas available. The “Sancho Sancho” is a Gran Corona Vitola, which means it shares the famous Churchill format’s 47 ring gauge (a big enough cigar in and of itself). However, at 9 ¼ inches long, the Sancho Sancho towers above the 7” Churchill. As a bonus, many of the Sancho Sanchos I’ve seen have been from 1999, so are extremely well aged, but even the younger ones tend to have at least 15 years ageing on them, which has really allowed the semi-sweet, woody blend to shine.  You’ll need to allow at least 2-3 hours to let this cigar gradually and sumptuously reveal its flavours to you, but man, it’ll be a good 2-3 hours!

CLE Asylum cigars

As the name implies, these cigars are a little bit insane. While the previous entry shows Havana cigars aren’t afraid to reach out into large sizes, New World cigars are a whole, well… New world. The CLE Asylum range are classic Nicaraguan cigars, with dark, oily wrappers and a powerful blend, with notes of strong espresso and a fiery spiciness simmering just below the surface. Among others, they feature two eyebrow raising cigars; the 7” x 70 Hercule and the 6” x 80 Goliath. To be safe, I’d clear a good three hours for either of these cigars.

Alec Bradley Texas Lancero

Everything’s bigger in Texas! This is one of the tried and tested “Extreme” sized cigars. Rather than coming from a company exclusively makes borderline comedically sized cigars, the Texas Lancero is made by Alec Bradley, one of the best regarded and most popular New World Cigar makers. So you know this isn’t just a novelty cigar, it is a true, premium hand made cigar, that just so happens to be over an inch in diameter! Featuring a combination filler from Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica, this hefty cigar is rich and complex, but manages to maintain a cool smoke, even in its final third, which is impressive, considering its intimidating gauge.

Honourable mention for Pipe Smokers: Mr Brog – Mason

Just so the pipe smokers don’t feel left out, here’s one of our biggest pipes! With a bowl that stands at nearly 10cm tall, Mr. Brog’s Mason pipe can take an enormous amount of tobacco, that you can puff away at for hours!

I hope that’s given some ideas for anyone who is quarantined or self-isolating! Stay safe out there, people!


Store Manager @Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

Some things to look forward to… Finally

As I write this, still slightly damp from the sleety rain that bombarded me when I nipped out for lunch,  I can’t help but reflect jealously on C.Gars’ own Mitchell and Roy, whom – if you follow us on social  media – I’m sure you have seen are hard at work out in Cuba, for the annual Habanos  Festival. This is where upcoming Havana releases are announced and sampled, so as solace to those of us still shivering in the UK, I thought I’d give a quick run down of what we can expect to arrive out of Cuba soon.

Romeo y Julieta Linea D’oro

Romeo y Julieta celebrates its 135th birthday this year and to mark the occasion they are releasing a brand-new line; Linea D’Oro (Gold Line.) This will feature three brand new sizes, all of which will be trend-friendly, heavy gauge offerings. Look forward to seeing the Dianas (5 11/16” x 52,) The Hidalgos (4 15/16” x 57) and The Nobles (a 5 5/16” x 56 Figurado.) A significant thing to note here: the 57 gauge Hidalgos will be the heaviest gauge Havana to be available in regular production (previously, we haven’t seen anything above a 56 gauge outside of Edicion Limitadas and even then: only very occasionally.) The Nobles will also be the heaviest gauge figurado Havana to date.  I’ve always been a big fan of heavy gauge Romeos, so I’m very excited to see this chunky trio arrive in the UK.

New LCDH & Havana Specialist Lines

Montecristo are also releasing a new cigar to celebrate a milestone birthday (their 85th anniversary.) So, they are releasing the Herederos; an elegant 6 3/8 x 47 offering. This shares a ring gauge with the legendary Julieta No.2 (More famously known as The Churchill) format, but is just over half an inch shorter. These will be exclusive to Habanos Specialists (which all Turmeaus establishments are) and Casa del Habanos.

Speaking of La Casa del Habanos; the franchise turns 30 this year so a new LCDH Exclusive is being released. Funnily enough, the Juan Lopez brand is celebrating a milestone birthday, their 150th. So, the new LCDH exclusive, the 6 11/16” x 52 Juan Lopez Seleccion Especial is being released as a joint celebration of the two occasions.

…and even more:

We can also look forward to seeing the following:

Partagas Tropicales (6 7/8” x 54) 175th anniversary humidor

Bolivar Belicosos Finos Reserva (Cosecha 2016)

Hoyo de Monterrey Primaveras (6 9/16” x 48)

And the first announced 2020 Edicion Limitada: The Partagas Legado (6 3/16” x 48)

So that’s everything we have to look forward to. Just remember the old adage of this trade; “This is Cuba…”  As any regular cigar smoker knows, Cuban cigar releases run on a particularly erm… “Laid back” time scale, so we might not see all of these cigars this year… or next year, but they’re on their way. Which are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments or via our Social Media outlets.

Personally, I’m always down for a new, heavy gauge Romeo, so the Linea D’oro is very exciting. I’ve also never had a Partagas Edicion Limitada that I didn’t love, so I can’t wait to try the Legado.


Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester.

Cuban Hidden Gems

When you have the choice of hundreds of cigars, it’s only natural for some to rise to the top while others fall by the wayside. The funny thing is there aren’t really any bad Havana’s, it’s just a case of some being less popular than others. So, this week I’m going to take a look at some of the Havana cigars that I feel deserve a lot more love than they get.

Ramon Allones Specially Selected

I’m putting this first because it could be argued that they do have a reasonable following. In fact, they’re what you might call an “Insider cigar,” in that they seem to be extremely popular with members of the cigar trade. Ramon Allones is easily one of my favourite brands personally and it’s only the fact that the range is somewhat limited that holds them back for me. I’m certainly not alone in this, as many of my colleagues rate them extremely highly and they also seem to be a favourite among the directors at UK Havana cigar importers Hunters & Frankau. Colloquially referred to as the “Rass,” it is a full bodied Robusto, with extremely rich notes of cocoa, toffee and spice. Sadly, it’s often overshadowed by the other powerful Robustos, namely the Bolivar Royal Corona and the Partagas Serie D No.4, which make for some extremely tough competition.


Fonseca KDT Cadetes

Fonseca is a very underappreciated brand in general, which I’ve always found perplexing. They’re a super approachable blend and their unique tissue wrapping makes them eye-catching, while offering some physical protection. They’re also particularly well priced when compared to other, similarly sized Havanas. The KDT Cadete is an easy smoking, inexpensive cigar so If you’re ever looking to introduce a friend to Havanas, these are a perfect choice. Sadly, they are often outshone by more established mellow brands, like Hoyo de Moronterrey and H. Upmann.

Vegas Robaina Familiares

This one really baffles me; not only is it a great blend to begin with, but it’s also one of the few corners of the Habanos portfolio where you can reliably find well-aged stock. I don’t think we’ve ever stocked a box of that didn’t have a box code from 1999. So you can consistently pick up a Cuban Corona with 20+ years ageing, for under £20. What’s not to love? As I said, the blend itself is absolutely amazing; rich chocolate and treacle notes, it’s like a pudding you can smoke!

Upmann No.2

This is quite an interesting case; H. Upmann is a popular brand in general and couldn’t be considered a “Hidden gem” by anyone’s metric. However, not every format within a brand can be as popular as others and -while it certainly has a few devotees- H. Upmann’s Piramides, the No.2, is one that a lot of people seem to skip over.  It’s understandable when you consider that some of its rival Piramides are some of the most popular formats in their respective brands, or in some cases: the entire Habanos range (the Partagas Serie P No.2 and Montecristo No.2, in particular.) On its own, however, the Upmann No.2 is a fantastic smoke. I have a real thing for mild, creamy cigars with a big ring gauge, giving copious amounts of delicately flavoured smoke, to tantalise your palate, rather than bombarding it.  Expect the classic Upmann creamy coffee notes, with a slight, subtle hint of black pepper.

Romeo y Julieta Churchill Tubed (Anejados)

Ok, ok, so I’ve broken my own rules a lot in this list (but I’ve always been a bit of a rebel… I even ate a Cuppa Soup from a bowl once…) but I realise this one might seem like I’m taking the proverbial Michael even more than the rest. Romeo y Julieta is one of the most famous cigar brands in the world and the Churchill is one of its most famous formats. So how can I call it a hidden gem? Well; they recently released a Tubed Churchill to join the Anejados (aged) range and it seems to have passed a lot of people by. Cigars selected for the Anejados range are usually aged for 5-8 years, but the Churchills they have chosen are from 2007! So, we’re already talking 13 years of ageing at the time of writing, not to mention that 2007 was already being considered a fantastic year for Havanas, even as close to it as 2010, when the cigars had barely even begun to age. So you can imagine how incredible they are now. So: It’s one of the world’s most popular brands, in one of the best formats, from one of the best years in the last decade or so, aged for 10+ years… people should be tripping over eachother to get their hands on these and I honestly can’t understand why they aren’t. Get them before everyone realises!

Those are five of my top picks for cigars that don’t get the love they deserve. Let us know what you think if you give them a try. Alternatively, what cigars would you consider underappreciated? We always love to hear your opinions, so let us know!


Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH – Chester

Cherried Alive

One thing I find myself repeating a lot when I write/present pipe tobacco reviews is “Cherry is a very popular and frequently used flavour for pipe tobacco.” It’s true; if you look at basically any brand of pipe tobacco that makes flavoured blends, you can bet your last penny on them doing a cherry flavoured blend. However, even with all those cherry flavours available I don’t think I’ve ever done a comparison or ranking of all of them, as just because something gets done a lot, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done right!

Century Black C: B23

This is what I’d call our “Classic” black cherry blend. It has a nicely varied base consisting of Virginias, Burley and Cavendish. The cherry flavouring definitely takes the forefront of the taste, but that’s not to say it totally overrides the taste of the tobacco; the slightly sweet Virginia and toasty Cavendish do occasionally poke their heads through the flavouring. If you’re looking to try out cherry blends, this is a great place to start.

Kentucky Black C Cav

I like this one for being quite different. It definitely has a cherry taste but it’s a much more tart, tangy cherry, that occasionally flits into more floral territory. Also, despite most cherry flavours calling themselves “Black cherry,” this is one of the few blends that extends the “black” to the tobacco itself. It is a deep, jet black Cavendish that gives a rich, sweet undertone that contrasts beautifully against the tanginess of the casing.

Alsbo Ruby

We’re moving into Scandinavian territory now with “The Remarkable Dane,” Alsbo Ruby. As you might well know, Scandinavian aromatics are characterised by a slightly more reserved approach to casing than their American brethren. This means the taste is usually more balanced between tobacco and casing. This isn’t to say the tobacco is strong; Alsbo Ruby’s mixture of cured Black Cavendish, Golden Virginias and fine Burley is pronounced without being overwhelming and balances nicely against the unusual black cherry & wild cherry combo of the casing.

Borkum Riff Ruby

Sticking with Scandinavian aromatics, Borkum Riff Ruby is a Cavendish style blend, made from fermented Burley and Kentucky tobacco. As is the trademark style, the cherry casing is noticeable, but doesn’t totally dominate the taste of the tobacco. There is a pleasant, toasty and sweet taste from the tobacco, which harmonises nicely with the casing. Speaking of which; the cherry taste is pleasantly fresh and they’ve also snuck a hint of vanilla in there, but cherry is very much the focal point of the blend.

CC Flake

This one only just snuck onto this list. For the sake of consistency, I’ve tried to limit it to pure cherry blends, hence the lack of flavours such as “Cherry & Vanilla” or “Sherry & Cherry.” However, in CC flake the initials stand for “Cherry Cream,” but I’ve decided to let it in as – in my experience – “cream” tends to be more “flavour text” (no pun intended) within naming conventions and lets be honest: cream doesn’t really taste of much anyway, does it? So, slightly longer than necessary preamble over: I think this one shapes up really nicely against the competition. The fact it’s the only flake on the list gives it the advantage of being versatile, but the flavour is very pleasant too. There is a toasty character to the tobacco which combines well with the light cherry flavouring and almost gives a flavour of cherry pie.

That’s one of the first times I’ve tested and compared a load of cherry flavours in succession and I’m pleasantly surprised at how varied an extremely common flavour can be. If I had to pick a favourite, I’d lean towards the CC Flake, simply because of its versatility. However, it seems like it’s a hard flavour to go wrong, as it appears that cherry and tobacco is as natural a combination as peanut butter and chocolate. Now, if someone could just make a peanut butter and chocolate flavour blend, we’d really be talking!


Store Manager @ Turmeaus & La Casa del Habano – Chester

The birth (and subsequent rebirth) of Trinidad

As part of La Casa del Habano franchise we are very fortunate to have access to the most comprehensive range of Havana cigars in the UK. This gives us quite a unique view on the current cigar zeitgeist as we sell brands of hugely varied levels of popularity. From legends such as Cohiba and Montecristo, that even the most casual cigar smokers have heard of, to comparatively unknown brands, such as Fonseca and Rafael Gonzalez, we sell them all and get to see how people respond to them.

One brand that has been fascinating to observe over the last few years has been Trinidad. Relatively speaking, they’re an extremely new brand. Released in 1998, they’re barely toddlers compared to some of the centuries-old industry standards and for a majority of their life, they flew under the radar.  This has always mystified me, as the Trinidad blend is amazing. Creamy, delicately sweet and aromatic, they are often compared to Cohibas, which is fitting as they both originated as diplomatic gifts from Cuba, before being released to the public in small amounts.

So, why the apathy towards them? Other than the slightly confusing naming convention (I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had someone say “No, I said I wanted a cigar from Cuba, not Trinidad!” when I’ve recommended a Trinidad) in my experience, it was down to one main issue: unfortunate timing.

As I said, Trinidad was launched to the public in 1998 and at the time it was available in one size only: the slim, elegant Fundadores, which measure up at 7 ½” by a 40 ring gauge. Within ten years of their launch, smoking bans had started to creep their way across the globe and long, 1hr+ burn time cigars like the Fundadores began to decline in popularity, in favour of shorter, stockier, more compact cigars. The Fundadores were eventually joined by three more vitolas in 2003; the Reyes, Coloniales and Robusto Ts, but out of the four sizes, only the Robusto T could be considered a heavy gauge cigar. However, the Robusto T was already overshadowed by Robustos from far more established brands and it was eventually dropped from their portfolio. So, it came to be that Trinidad remained an often overlooked hidden gem; Slim, graceful relics of a bygone era, lost in the ocean of their stouter, more contemporary rivals.

However, in the middle of the 2010s something happened; something called the Trinidad Vigia. Standing proudly at 4 1/3” and a hefty 54 gauge, the Vigia was a true cigar for the time. People who had previously overlooked the brand started trying it and those people started loving it. The Trinidad blend had always been fantastic, but now it was being showcased in a far more accessible format and it really didn’t take long for word to get out about it.  Over the last few years Trinidad has grown to be one of our best-selling brands at La Casa del Habano – Chester. The fact that in the last year the Vigia has been joined by two more, similarly chunky Trinidads (The Topes and the Media Luna) with a third – the Esmeralda – due to hit stores any day now, shows that we’re not the only cigar shop to see this cigar brand rise from the ashes.

All in all, it’s been amazing to watch the Trinidad trend change over the last few years, from a relatively unknown brand, to one that can stand toe to toe with the big boys of the industry, all in the space of just 22 years, all thanks to one small (or should I say big?) change of direction.  If you’re yet to try a Trinidad, I can’t recommend them enough. We now have the Esmeraldas available!


Store Manager @ Turmeaus & La Casa del Habano – Chester.

This one’s in the bag

The UK tobacco trade is a funny old thing. Well, by “funny” I really mean “often near tear inducingly frustrating.” From the extremely heavy tax, to the rainbow of blends and flavours of cigars and pipe tobaccos we aren’t allowed to carry for whatever reason, there’s always something. One thing that has stood out to me in the decade-plus that I’ve been in this trade (Crickey…) is “Snus.” Hugely popular in Scandinavian countries, Snus is basically a teabag-style bag that contains a snuff-like tobacco, which is placed between the lip and gum. I’d been given a few bags to try from various people over the years and I’d always enjoyed the sensation and taste, but the powers that be had always prevented it from being sold here for… reasons.

Now, this is very much still the case. However, a few enterprising sparks have created “Chewing bags.” Functionally, these are basically the same as Snus, but are juuust different enough to be classed as a different product (For example, the chewing bag tobacco is finely cut whereas snus tobacco is finely ground) and can therefore be sold in the UK. I’m no expert in Snus, having only had limited experience with it, but as far as I can tell, there isn’t any discernible difference between the two.

While they aren’t something I use often, I do really enjoy the odd chewing bag. They have a very unique flavour and are genuinely quite invigorating. As a self-confessed caffeine fiend, I occasionally find myself hit by a caffeine crash and I’m often amazed at how much a chewing bag perks me up when I’m in danger of nodding off at work. It’s been amazing to see how much these have taken off in the last year, going from something unheard of in the UK, to something available in a variety of flavours and even some tobacco-free “nicotine pouches.” Even the newsagent around the corner from our Chester shop stocks a few now!

The range has exploded so much in the last 12 months, it can be quite baffling to get your head around at first, so here’s a few of my personal favourites to give you some ideas.

Thunder Iceboom

Not gonna lie: It was partially the name that attracted me to this one. However, once I tried it, I realised these bags had a lot more going on than just a cool name. Their fresh mint and fruity flavour are extremely refreshing, but their nicotine strength is definitely high enough to get your attention.

Oden’s Siberia -80 Degrees Blue

These are one of our best sellers in Chester, which goes to show one thing: our customers are brave and like it strong! They have an extremely high nicotine content, which is balanced out with a very cool and refreshing spearmint flavour. With so many menthol varieties of tobacco out there, I always like it when a brand puts a twist on the formula with a spearmint taste instead, so these are a winner in my book too!

ZYN Citrus (Tobacco Free)

Here’s an interesting quirk of chewing bags: the “Tobacco free” versions aren’t completely awful! Anyone who has ever tried a tobacco free smoking mixture/cigarette will know what I mean… However, I was very surprised when I tried my first non-tobacco pouch. The nicotine is extracted from the tobacco, but everything else is left out. ZYN pouches are also available in a menthol flavour, but I’m a big fan of citrus flavours, so I was naturally drawn to these. They have the same satisfying tingle and are just as invigorating as the tobacco versions. They also taste absolutely delicious, like a bag of lemon sherbet with an added punch of nicotine. Well worth a try!

If you’ve been intrigued by these new products popping up, now’s a great time to try. They’re a very unusual way of tasting tobacco, as well as being discreet (and consumable anywhere!)

-Calum, Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

The menthol ban: What you need to know.

Remember 2016? It was a bit of a downer year: Political chaos (at least we’re not still talking about Brexit, four years later, eh…? <sobs internally>), a tidal wave of celebrity deaths and the introduction of some of the most prohibitive tobacco laws to date. Yes, this was the year where “plain” (read “disgusting”) packaging, minimum pack sizes and a ban on all “Characterising flavours” were all introduced to the UK. Well, at the time of writing (end of January) 2020 is starting to look like the new 2016. Not even a month into the new decade and we’ve already had devastating fires, scary virus outbreaks, some deeply saddening deaths (RIP Kobe, Terry Jones and many, many more… already!) and just to keep in line, the continuation of 2016’s tobacco flavour ban.

2016’s initial flavour ban focused on what they called “Characterising flavours” which basically translates to anything that is an “actual” flavour, e.g. Cherry, vanilla, chocolate, etc. However, menthol flavours were given a reprieve… until 2020. So here we are; on May 20th 2020, on the four-year anniversary of the initial ban, they’re back to finish what they started in 2016, by banning all menthol flavoured cigarettes and rolling tobacco from the UK market. Because smokers aren’t allowed to enjoy being smokers, remember?

If you’re a menthol fan, you might be asking “Well, is that it then?” Fortunately, the answer is no; while the ban removes actual menthol cigarettes and rolling tobacco from the market, there are still some options for anyone who wants to keep enjoying the taste:

Menthol Tips: This is the most obvious and easy solution. While menthol tobacco will be off the table, menthol flavoured tips will not be included in the ban. This is the option that a good proportion of roll up smokers use for mentholating their cigarettes already, so they’ll be breathing a cool, menthol-tinged sigh of relief that they’ll be able to continue doing so.


Flavour Cards: Ok, so menthol tips are a good solution for roll up smokers, but what about premade cigarettes? There is an equally easy, but lesser known solution: Flavour cards. These actually work in the same way that menthol cigarettes are flavoured now; it’s a heavily scented card that can be put into a pack of cigarettes or tobacco in order to transfer the flavour (in the same way current menthol cigarettes are lined with a heavily menthol scented foil for flavouring.) Leave in for around an hour to transfer the flavour, the longer it is left, the more pronounced the taste will be. These also come in a variety of flavours, including some cool twists on menthol such as Double Mint and Lime & Mint (AKA: A Mojito!).

Flavour Sprays: These handy little sprays use the exact same flavouring that Gawith & Hoggarth used for flavouring their range of Auld Kendal flavoured rolling tobacco, prior to the 2016 ban, just in personal form. On top of their classics, such as Cherry and Vanilla (and Cherry & Vanilla) they also feature a standard menthol and a spearmint flavour spray. Officially, these are designed for tobacco, but they can potentially work with cigarettes too, you’ll just need to let them dry before smoking. The aforementioned cards are much more practical for premade cigarettes though.

Coarse cut: As was the case with the initial flavour ban, the law applies specifically to rolling/fine cut tobacco. “Coarse cut” tobacco is technically pipe tobacco, but it is the finest possible cut it can be before being classed as a rolling tobacco. This means it is possible to use it for rolling (you might just find it needs a bit of shredding beforehand) but none of the rolling tobacco rules apply to it. So it will still be available in menthol, as well as a variety of other flavours.

So, there you go; 2020 might already be shaping up to be another rough, uncertain year, but at least menthol smokers have one less thing to worry about.


Store manager @ Turmeaus Chester

Setting up your Humidor

Havana cigars mature like fine wines, in fact they will continue to improve for up to their first 15 years and in many cases much longer, but they do need a little basic care.

The humidifier in your humidor should be topped up with either humidification solution or distilled water (available from most petrol stations). Humidification solution is a mixture of distilled water, polyglycol and a mould inhibiter and will guarantee that your humidor is kept at 70% relative humidity (+/- 2%).

Try to site your humidor in a location with a temperature, which never exceeds 70°F. The temperature range you are aiming for is between 66°F and 70°F. The relative humidity that you are aiming for is ideally 67–70%. You should be able to use the humidor as soon as you add the water to the humidifier, there is no need to wait a few days.

To test the condition of your cigars, press with the pad of your thumb just below the band of the cigar. The cigar should feel firm but springy if it is in good condition; if it feels hard and brittle then the cigar is under humidified. If it feels soft and spongy, then the cigar is over humidified.

Havana cigars need fresh air! Be sure to open your humidor periodically and be sure to rotate the cigars, i.e, if you are not smoking regularly, at the end of each week put the cigars from the bottom layer of the humidor to the top layer of the humidor and so on.

>View our PDF Humidor Set Up and Care Instructions here.

Filling the Humidifier
– Fill a cereal/soup bowl with distilled water or humidification solution.
– Immerse the humidifier into the bowl until it soaks up the maximum amount of water/solution.
– Remove humidifier. Wipe/shake off any access water/solution.
– Place humidifier back in your humidor.
– You can re-use any access solution to top up the humidifier when needed.
– Simply store it back in the original bottle.

Visit our store for a full range of Cigar Humidors.

To age or not to age… that is the question!

‘ To age or not to age’ … that is the question ! ( with thanks to our friend Reuven Zasler for this article)

Aside from my own hands-on experience concerning the topic of ageing, as well as the positive experience of other enthusiasts, there exits a body of literature, albeit quite small and chiefly confined to certain websites, which deals with this subject. The various writers agree – almost unanimously – as to the benefits of “long-term” ageing. Only one expert seems to dissent: Mr. Sebastian Zimmel, the “Cigar Doctor” of the excellent European Cigar Cult Journal which is published in English and German and appears every three months. Mr. Zimmel, who answers readers’ questions, has twice, within the past year or so, claimed that cigars cannot age like wines, and are best smoked when they are “fresh.” Such claims obviously aroused the curiosity of not a few subscribers, including yours truly, for Mr. Zimmel saw fit to clarify his position. Unfortunately, his “clarification” turned out to be gross distortion of his original statements.

On the other side of the ageing-issue spectrum stand connoisseurs of unimpeachable authority such as Min Ron Nee and Vahe Gerard. Mr. Gerard, for those who may not know, owns and operates the very distinguished cigar enterprise Gerard Pere et Fils (as well as its website) and was chosen “Man of the Year” in Habanos merchandising by Habanos S.A. at its recent Habanos Festival. Additionally, he has authored several aesthetically pleasing books on cigars, and is one of only two authorized purveyors of Habanos since the legendary Alfred Dunhill and Zino Davidoff (the other being Christopher Wolters) who has been permitted to offer for sale custom-brand Habanos. Mr. Gerard is mentioned in this writing since a significant portion of his considerable income is earned by aging premium cigars for his well-heeled clients.

Mr. Min Ron Nee, a renowned Hong Kong collector and connoisseur, unequivocally states his views on the ageing process on pages 6-11 of his widely celebrated “An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars.” I am quite convinced that were it not for Mr. Nee’s shining modesty and self-depreciation, he would challenge Mr. Zimmel to a duel.

Pre-Ageing 101: Balancing Act
Immediately upon bringing home newly-purchased cigars, one should gingerly transfer them to a well-regulated humidor and leave them entirely unperturbed for a period of two to four weeks. l believe this practice is applicable even to cigars which have been aged prior to acquisition, inasmuch as the change in climate, namely, temperature, relative humidity and proximity to other cigars, is liable to destabilize the chemical balance within the tobacco leaves, resulting in less than optimal enjoyment if the cigars are smoked in such a condition.

Pre-Ageing 102: Preparing Cinderella for the Ball
It is no secret that tobacco leaves that are destined to comprise cigars need to be cured, that is, dehydrated, after harvesting. The curing process alters the leaves’ colour from green to golden brown, but its chief purpose is to rid them of their sap, which contains bitter tannins.

Having been cured, the leaves are then subjected to two (or three, in the case of leaves which will constitute the Cohiba vitolas) fermentations, the objective of which is to remove the remaining sap and initiate a chemical change which destroys the nicotine therein but leaves behind important oils which are not merely benign, but have a very beneficial effect on the cigar’s aesthetic potential to deliver a pleasing bouquet and flavour. Unfortunately, there is also a downside to the fermentation processes, for in addition to purging the leaves of undesirable materials, they also create ammonia – the very same pungent substance used in powerful household cleaning fluids. This rather offensive by-product is once again created when, just prior to rolling, the fermented leaves are made pliable by moisturizing them so as to facilitate their manipulation.

Aged Pre Embargo Romeo y Julieta cigarsAnyone who has ever experienced tobacco fermentation first-hand, or has had the dubious “pleasure” of having to employ an abrasive cleaning agent, need not be convinced of the odious qualities of ammonia. Could anyone imagine tasting anything that smelled so atrocious? In point of fact, if you are one of those who has bemoaned the mediocre taste of young cigars – you indeed have, for the presence of lingering traces of ammonia is partly responsible for your predicament.

As indicated above, the manufacturers once stored their finished cigars long enough so that by the time the smoker lit up, all traces of ammonia had long been history. Sorrowfully, this stockpiling practice itself is now history. A final note concerning the riddance of ammonia: since exposing fresh cigars to air greatly hastens the elimination of this matter (as well as the short-term ageing process), it is highly recommended that one open the lids of one’s humidors at least once a day. This routine practice is, of course, also essential for checking humidor temperature and relative humidity, as well as for rotating the stored cigars, so there is a triple benefit in performing it.

Invitation to the wedding
The three types of tobacco leaves which constitute the filler – ligero, which bestows strength and flavour; volado, which ensures proper combustion and seco, which adds finesse and sophistication, need time to “marry.” In other words, they have got to blend if they are to furnish the taste and fragrance which characterize a premium cigar. This blending action is facilitated chiefly through the secretion of oils harboured by the leaves, which is brought about by properly regulated temperature and humidity within the humidor, and periodic exposure of the cigars to air (as previously indicated). The oils secreted by each tobacco type tend to migrate within the cigar and interact, thereby producing the blend. Further on in the ageing process, the blended oils migrate to other cigars in the vicinity (that is, inside the humidor), initiating an interaction of the blended oils. This phenomenon explains why it is unwise to age Cohiba Esplendidos alongside Partagas Lusitanias.

From Mellowness to Excellence
As a result of the amalgamation of the oils and hence the merging of the tobacco-leaf types, it can be said that the cigars in question have reached “maturity.” In this state, they will assuredly delight the senses, but they may not have peaked out yet. This is because cigar ageing is a continuous occurrence (assuming the cigar continues to receive proper maintenance) in which the tannins continue to decompose, thereby effecting a constant chemical change in the integrated filler tobaccos. This in turn will bring about a richer, more complex flavour, an even more agreeable aroma, and improved burning and drawing qualities.

Be that as it may, there are thorns amongst the roses: firstly, although ageing is indeed perpetual, it cannot perpetually improve a cigar, which will eventually peak out and then experience a gradual decline; secondly, although most hand-rolled cigars will improve with proper ageing, not all brands and vitolas will show significant improvement; thirdly, diverse brands and vitolas will peak out at the end of different durations of ageing; finally, different strokes for different folks: since taste is decidedly subjective, one smoker’s determination of “peak-out” may very well not be another’s. Nevertheless, certain generalizations can be made which are likely to be quite helpful to the enthusiast who wishes to establish personally ideal storage periods. First of all, in consideration of the relationship between the particular brand/vitola and storage duration, it may be generalized that the stronger the brand/vitola, the more slowly it ages, and hence the longer it needs to be aged so as to effect peak-out. It would follow, then, that a Bolivar Belicosos Finos would peak out after a much longer storage duration than would a Fonseca No. 1.

A generalization may also be made concerning the relationship between the cigar’s production date and the effect a certain period of ageing will have upon it: the more recent the date of manufacture, the greater the effect of ageing. For example, six months of ageing will markedly alter the traits of a recently produced cigar, whereas it will have a negligible impact on a twenty year old cigar.

A fly in the ointment
It was mentioned beforehand that exposing stored cigars to air accelerates their ageing, which would seem to be very desirable indeed, especially for those of us who possess less of the virtue of patience. Nonetheless, there is , of course, a catch: the oxygen in the air, whilst speeding things up, also has a negative impact on the quality of the ageing process, thus precipitating less beautiful and complete results. The only remedies for this, as you might guess, are 1) not to open the original packaging and humidor till the termination of the storage period, and 2) wait patiently with a stiff upper lip. You can’t have your cake and eat it.

Spooks, demons and goblins
Assuming he/she favours several cigar bands and vitolas, it would be truly advantageous for the cigar aficionado who wishes to scientifically determine all of their peak-out times to be a well-to-do masochist. The mental, financial and material resources required for such a venture would be vast indeed, so if you are somewhat less wealthy and anal, you will need to compromise and settle for a relatively less comprehensive plan of action.

Let us assume, for the sake of example, that one wishes to start from scratch and accumulate a decent collection of well-aged smokes. Initially, having procured a modest inventory of cigars, it would seem that one must cope with a vicious circle (or a Catch-22 or conundrum, if they sound less threatening): if one stores the cigars, they cannot be smoked; conversely, if one smokes the cigars, they cannot be stored.

There is, happily, a way out of the forest. One can begin amassing a modest store of aged cigars by setting aside a fixed percentage of newly purchased smokes, in accordance with one’s financial state and degree of self-restraint. This simple system will ensure a growing reserve of nicely aged cigars whilst guaranteeing a supply for the here and now. For each new “purchasing binge,” I would recommend the obtaining of two types of cigars: those that may be enjoyed even when relatively fresh, such as the Hoyo Epicure No. 2, and those which need at least a few months to mature minimally, such as the Partagas Serie P No. 2 or the Ramon Allones Belicosos.

Once the enthusiast has been stockpiling for, say, six months, he/she should now possess sufficient smokes for a monthly tasting which would be instrumental in ascertaining peak-out.

O Magnum Mysterium
Cigar maturation and ageing are phenomena which have by no means been thoroughly investigated and documented by the scientific community (or, for that matter, the cigar-smoking community), and, as such, remain shrouded in mystery and conjecture. Even so, there exists a body of useful information which has been compiled as the result of experience and trial and error. Cigar smokers who want to know what cigar smoking is really about should take the trouble of acquainting themselves with this data. They would do well to enable their sumptuous investments in pleasure to spread their wings and blossom, for ageing exceedingly enriches an already eminently delectable experience.

Best wishes

Reuven Zasler

How to cut and light a cigar?

How to cut and light a cigar, this is an art that will maximise enjoyment of your chosen smoke. Every Havana is made from three components; filler, binder and a wrapper leaf that is sealed at the cigar’s ‘head’ with a cap made from a piece of wrapper leaf.

To cut a Havana, you need to remove most of this cap with a single slicing movement across the shoulders of the cigar. A guillotine cutter or special scissors are best suited to the task. The bottom section of the cap should remain, as it secures the wrapper leaf and, therefore, the contents of your chosen cigar.

You may have heard talk of piercing the end of a Havana with a match to prepare it for smoking, but we don’t subscribe to this method, as it causes poor draw.

The main bone of contention is the band, the question of whether to remove it or not has probably been debated ever since cigars were first made. Most of the meticulous ‘banding’ of Havanas is done by women; the process apparently requires a feminine touch. The most sensible advice seems to be to remove the band only after the cigar has been alight for five minutes or so, by which time warmth will have made it easier to remove. Any earlier attempts at removal could quite easily damage the wrapper leaf.

This, it must be said, is quite justified. The wrapper (or Capa) comes from the Corojo plant, and costs more to produce than all the other tobaccos in a Havana. The wrapper is also most precious because it dresses the cigar, dictating its appearance.

Consider all this, and you will agree that even when the sensible 5 minute rule has been followed, you would still be advised to peel rather than pull off the band.

Our recommended brand of cigar cutter is Colibri, with Colibri, you’ll be assured that your cigars are prepared with a precise cut.

View our full range of Colibri Cutters here. 

Lighting your cigar
Quite unlike lighting a humble cigarette, the noble Havana is demanding, and requires more time and attention. The fatter the cigar, the longer it will take, because you must be sure to light the whole of the foot to avoid uneven burning. Cigars are also fussier in terms of the type of light used. Petrol lighters are to be avoided because their aromas interfere with that of the Havana’s tobacco. The best implements are the odourless flames of wooden matches (but let the head burn off first) and butane lighters.

Appropriate flame in hand, you should first char the end of your Havana to increase the chance of its even ignition. Once glowing, gently blow on it to make sure that it is burning evenly. Further increase its chances by rotating the Havana in your fingers whilst drawing the flame onto the cigar.

It is not unusual for a Havana to go out before its smoker has finished enjoying it! The many first time cigar smokers amongst us did wonder what we had done wrong and thought about abandoning our charred remains! But it is easy to reinstate full burn status with some gentle re-lighting, without even putting the cigar to your mouth. Clear the ash from the foot of the Havana and then heat it in a flame. If in doubt, we discovered, always re-light, because you will be disappointed if you try to smoke a Havana that has partly ‘died’. Oh, and one more point to remember don’t tap your Havana during smoking.

Reproduced with kind permission of Hunters & Frankau – December 2000
(Havana cigar importers with over 200 years experience)