For about six years, not only in the developed countries but also in the rest of the World, people have been singing the same tune.
Indoors or in outdoor dining areas, people usually are not allowed to smoke either “cigarettes or cigars”. This may sound a bit egocentric but I definitely support such a ban on smoking.
In the dining areas where smoking is allowed, a fun activity would end up in smelling like an ashtray or the worse and more dangerous, secondhand smoking.
As a matter of fact, it is the other people that may be disturbed rather than the smoker!!!
I hate cigarettes so much so that I change my direction in no time at all to avoid the smoke coming onto my face while I’m walking.
Although if it’s cigars that we’re talking about, it’s beyond all questions that I have a passion for them.
As you may know, even this smoke-free world has some favorable, charming offerings for the cigar culture and enthusiasts.
For example, “cigar lounges” have lately become widespread among restaurants. Even in the U.S.A. where the anti-smoke campaigns have started first and bans on smoking have been a hot issue, cigar lounges are popular so much so that you may frequently come across them in different states.
On my recent trip to New York City; we could smoke our cigars without disturbing anyone in the comfort of Chesterfield armchairs of the cigar lounge at Carnegie Club, located in the south of Central Park.
Additionally, on my previous trip to Miami, I saw some people smoking their Cuban cigars accompanied by their favorite drinks or maybe a cup of “Marocchino” coffee in the garden of the restaurant, on the terrace or in the cigar lounge.
So, in a nutshell, even in a country like the U.S. where there are strict bans on smoking, some restaurants can respond to the needs of their customers with cigars rooms.
In recent times, such lounges have been increased in number in Europe. In the European countries like England, Germany, Italy France or Australia, one can often find a refined restaurant which has a cigar lounge or a special space for their cigar-lover customers.
Even one of my favorite cigar lounges, “The Garden Room” belongs to The Lanesborough Hotel in London and looks like a winter garden situated in its courtyard. “Olde Cuban” is the other one that I love the most; it is ironically in Singapore, a country known for its anti-smoking policies and strict rules on the issue.
A Brief History of the Cigars
Now, I’d like to talk about its history and the current issues on cigar which has been known as a prestige indicator and sometimes a symbol for friendships throughout the centuries.
When someone talks about cigars, the first to come to the mind of people is the island where Columbus had landed on before he ended up in America, in other words, Cuba. So this actually tells us that the history of cigars dates back to about five centuries ago.
Besides that, cigars were exported from Havana to Europe in the 14th century. But the issue of whether it was the Spanish or the Portuguese who exported the cigars first is still a moot.
And again, no one can argue about the fact that the Spanish and the Portuguese are the people who knows the cigars best and also smoke the best ones in the whole world.
Actually, the Spanish were the first people who made the first cigars and Sevilla was the area where the cigars were originated in.
Also the present method to roll a cigar was invented by the Spanish who used the tobacco leaves exported from Cuba by their colonies there at the beginning of the 17th century.
At the end of the 17th century, - one of the cigars that I like the most- Robustos started to be produced in Hoyo De Monterrey factory in London for the first time and soon became a popular cigar among the smokers. Compared to the other types of cigars, Robustos are smaller in size and can be smoked faster.
During those times, smoking cigars became such a common practice in London and Paris that the cigar vendors and places where the smoking was allowed started to mushroom everywhere. Even a type of suit was designed to avoid the stains left by ash, in other words, tuxedoes were invented.
The cigars were not only used for the pleasure but also some people rolled their secret messages in cigars during the American War of Independence. Additionally, European bourgeoisie bartered cigars for the luxurious textiles and houses.
While Havana cigar was in its prime in the early 1990’s, Turkey was eventually introduced to it in the end of 1990’s.
Despite this brief overview of the history of cigars, there is a centuries-old tradition and culture behind it.
As for my first introduction to cigars, it was in the parties during my younger years in Germany where found myself for my education. And of course, my only intention was just to look cool among my friends, without having any further information on its taste, culture or delicacies. Around mid-to-late 1980’s, it’s become an irresistible passion and a huge habit for me.
As I believe my passion for cigars will remain as long as my health permits, I can say that cigar has its authentic culture and people have to know about how to smoke it to make the best of it according to this culture.
In my view, there are roughly two types of cigars: Dominican and Havana cigars. As it is known, the Dominican cigars usually have a light strength because of the tobacco leaves used in their production. Havana cigars, on the other hand, have a strong taste due to their dense, spicy tobacco leaves.
The taste of the cigars ranges from lighter to stronger based on the type of their filler tobacco leaves, their density and their wrappers also called “capa” in Spanish. I recommend the new cigar smokers to start with the lighter ones and then move onto the stronger ones. This way, one can understand the taste of a strong cigar better and appreciate its quality.
In choice of a cigar, one should consider the qualities like its taste, strength, fullness and spiciness.
How to Smoke a Cigar?
There are some points that a cigar –smoker needs to be careful. First of all, before lighting his/her cigar, a well-informed smoker should consider if s/he disturbs the other people around to avoid disturbing other people at the expense of his/her pleasure. So, for this reason, one should always prefer to smoke in the places where the smoking is allowed and outdoor areas.
The truth is that there is an important procedure for smoking. This procedure is almost like a ritual and each phase of it has its own pleasures.
The first step of this process is, of course, purchasing a cigar. One should always prefer the high-quality popular cigar boutiques where only the fresh products are sold and consumed fast enough to avoid the products from going stale. In these stores, the cigars are sold in wooden boxes. One should control their quality by touching them lightly before purchasing it.
For there has been an excessive demand on Havana cigars, most of them on the shelves are rolled loosely and without care to meet high demands. Such cigars should be preserved in humidors to become ready to be smoked.
And following the purchase, one should have a high-quality humidor to smoke a good cigar before anything else.
The interior lining of humidors should be made of solid Spanish cedar wood. The reason behind this is that the Spanish cedar wood has a spicy aroma and creates a good combination with the tobacco. “Elie Bleu” is a good brand in humidors that you won’t regret buying.
Especially during the summer seasons in Çeşme where the air humidity levels could rise up to 60-70% after the sun-set, you should air the humidor by keeping its lid open for 5-10 minutes and changing the place of the cigars in the meantime. The most important reason why we do this is that mold may begin to grow in the humidor because of the increasing moisture if it is kept closed for a long time.
A moldy cigar does not mean it cannot be smoked again. You can gently clean the mold with a soft brush so that the cigar become ready to be smoked again.
What most people think about the art of cigar smoking is that “Learning to cut the cap of a cigar correctly is the hardest part of the job!”
The answer to the question of whether a cigar should be cut with scissors or a guillotine, or maybe punched is that it should be cut with a guillotine cutter in order to be properly smoked.
Although it is a common practice to cut the cap with teeth; according to a cigar aficionado, using a proper cutter is more appropriate way to do this.
It is definitely not recommended to tear the cap off with nails because it may harm the cigar.
I personally use cigar scissors to cut the caps. But whether you go with it or the other methods, avoid the methods that can harm a carefully-selected Havana cigar.
Regarding how to light up a cigar, it is best lighted up without putting it in your mouth and using “fidibus” which you can make by breaking the piece of cedar wood that comes with the Havana wooden cigar boxes.
If you don’t have any time and patience to do it, you can also use lighters specially made for cigars.
But if you’re one those meticulous cigar-lovers like me who think that the gasoline in a lighter or the substance used in matches may impact on its flavor, I definitely recommend fidibus.
Another issue that most people discuss about is:
“Should you keep the cigar ring on or take it off while smoking?”
In the old days, aristocracy used to put on their cigars golden or silver rings with diamonds, just to show their social class!
In our contemporary world, the factories stick appealing, gilded paper rings on the cigars.
The glue used to put the ring may sometimes stick to the wrapper. So if someone takes off the ring, it may harm and tear off the wrapper. For this reason, smoking the cigar with its ring on does not run against the rules adopted by the cigar culture anymore.
Besides the ring issue, it is definitely recommended to use a special cigar ashtray while smoking. Another point to be careful about is that you should keep the ash on the cigar as long as it is possible, because this indicates that you are a connoisseur.
So if you keep loyal to this procedure, you will have made the best of this passion. Of course there are no strict rules about cigars, so you may personalize your experience as well.
As for my personal choice, a cigar cannot be smoked “without a companion, no beverages, unprepared and anywhere”.
Bon appétit and enjoy the taste of life…