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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cigar Anatomy: Final Exam Review

Premium cigars are composed of long filler, binder, and a wrapper. They are made exclusively by hand, although the bunch (binder+fillers) can be created using a Lieberman machine which assists the roller. In general, bunchers place 3 to 5 filler leaves* together and wrap them with a binder leaf, then place them in a mold and press.  The bunched cigars are rotated in the mold several times, about every 30 to 45 minutes, in order to create an even compression without a seam.  After the bunch is removed from the mold and press the wrapper leaf will be applied.  Wrapper leaves have their entire stem removed and each half of the leaf will be used on separate cigars.  These wrapper leaf halves are mirror images of each other so one will be applied right-to-left and the other left-to-right.  It is important to note that wrapper leaves are prized for their elasticity, tensile strength, consistent color and texture.

*Important Note: filler leaves have only half of their stem removed.  The half closest to the tip of the leaf is the thinnest part and it will remain; the thicker bottom half will be discarded. 

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pipes: Final Exam Review

The most popular materials for tobacco pipes are briar and meerschaum.  Briar comes from burls that form on the root system of the Heath tree while meerschaum is a white, clay-like mineral primarily found in Turkey.  Briar pipes are valued by their age, grain pattern, imperfections, and carving artistry.  Meerschaum pipes are known for their intricate carvings and ability to change color.  Both types of pipe will form cake, which is the carbon that develops along the inner wall of the pipe chamber and acts as insulation for the bowl, as well as promoting an even smoking experience.

While corncob pipes are considered the ‘quintessential American pipe’ because they were invented in America, Hookahs originated in India and were popularized in the Middle East.  Hookahs are considered an indirect smoking system because the smoke passes through water before reaching the smoker’s palate.

Accoutrements: Final Exam Review

Torch lighters require butane fuel to work.  While butane gas lighters are flavorless, liquid fuel lighters will taint the flavor of your tobacco.

Butane lighters must be purged before filling to release excess air build up in the tank.  The proper steps to filling a butane lighter are: turn volume down, empty (purge) gas chamber, and then fill with butane.

There are no ’self-sharpening’ cigar cutters.  The most invasive cigar cutter is the ‘cat’s eye’ a.k.a. V cutter.  Double guillotines have two straight blades while single guillotines have one.

A leather cigar case can quickly dehydrate a cigar while a resealable plastic bag can keep a cigar properly humidified for approximately a week.

Humidors can be made of wood, plastic, tin, or glass.  Furthermore, Spanish Cedar is not necessary for a humidor to work properly; it is a matter of preference and/or tradition.  When seasoning a humidor, one should not saturate the inside of the humidor with water as that can lead to extreme expansion which will damage the joints and/or seal.

Propylene glycol is used in reverse osmosis humidifiers while evaporation humidifiers require distilled water to work properly.

The two main types of hygrometers are analog and digital.  Digital hygrometers tend to be more accurate.

FAQ: Final Exam Review

A perfect guillotine cut will leave ample shoulder on the cigar head; it is best achieved by having a firm grip on the cigar shoulder.

The most common method to treat cigars affected by cigar beetles is freezing the cigars.

Ring gauge (rg) is the diameter of a cigar – in America rg is measured in 64ths of an inch.  Typically, thicker ring gauge cigars burn cooler and longer than thinner ring gauge cigars.  A cigar that is burning ‘hot’, or too rapidly will yield a pointed ember after ashing.

A well conditioned cigar (70% relative humidity (rh) & 70° F) can age and develop for a lifetime or more.  Over humidified cigars will produce an acrid and bitter flavor when smoked.

While plume, the crystallized evaporated remnants of cigar oils, can be a desirable trait of well aged cigars, mold is not.


Most cigarettes are not premium tobacco products because they contain RTS (reconstituted tobacco sheet), they are mass produced by machine, and they contain chemicals and additives.

Maduro cigars have undergone a longer fermentation to enrich and sweeten the leaf.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pipe Tobacco: Final Exam Review

Note: cigar tobacco varietals are considered DARK  while pipe and cigarette tobaccos are LIGHT tobacco varietals.

The 3 main pipe tobacco varietal families are Burley, Oriental, and Virginia;  Cavendish, Perique, and Latakia are types of pipe tobaccos.

Typically, Burleys are air-cured, Orientals are sun-cured, and Virginia pipe tobaccos are flue-cured.  Flue-cured tobaccos are exposed to contained heat and used primarily for pipe and cigarette tobaccos.

Virginia varietal tobaccos are a light tobacco which are very high in sugar content.  They are typically flue-cured and used for both cigarettes and pipe tobaccos.

Oriental varietal tobacco plants have small leaves which are very aromatic.  Their aroma resembles cigar tobaccos more than any other plants.

Cavendish type pipe tobaccos are made from both Virginia and Burley varietals.  They are steamed with sugar and/or flavorings in the water, stored under pressure (pressed), and available in a variety of shades/colors.

Perique type pipe tobaccos are an air-cured Burley varietal that are fermented in oak barrels; this process helps give Perique tobaccos their bold flavor and unique spice.

Latakia type pipe tobaccos are Oriental tobacco varietals which are sun-cured then fire-cured with aromatic woods; this process produces its characteristically rich and spicy aromas and flavor.

The primary pipe tobacco Cuts are Cube, Flake, Plug, Ribbon, and Shag.  Flake and Plug cuts need to be rubbed out for smoking.

Friday, July 10, 2009

History: Final Exam Review

By the time Europeans arrived in America they found the indigenous peoples had been fermenting tobacco and using añejamiento (aging) techniques for thousands of years.
John Rolfe was the first N. American settler to cultivate tobacco commercially in Jamestown, VA, in 1612.

Since the discovery of tobacco in the “new world”, punishment for tobacco use has included taxation, imprisonment, spiritual condemnation, and physical mutilation.

In 1676, the “cigar” as we know it today, wrapper, binder, and filler, was ‘invented’ in Sevilla, Spain.  At that time Spain only allowed agricultural production in Cuba, not manufacturing.

The 1700s were characterized by the spreading of tobacco factories throughout Europe.

During the 1800s, the invention of cigar bands and labels helped distinguish what seemed like generic products.  In the process, cigar makers pioneered brand identity, point of purchase and affective marketing.  The introduction of lithography helped cigar makers create cigar bands and labels that were (and are) extraordinary works of art.  Ironically, the quality and attractiveness of cigar bands/labels have little or nothing to do with the quality of the cigars they adorn.

In America, around 1905, there were over 70,000 registered cigar factories and 7 out of 10 men smoked cigars.

By the 1920s, the decline of the cigar industry was precipitated by the cigar rolling machine, financial crash of 1929, and mass production of cigarettes.

The ‘Cuban Revolution’ of 1959 instigated a mass exodus of Cuban cigar makers to the Dominican Republic, Central America, Canary Islands, and the United States of America.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I just returned from the 75th Anniversary of the RTDA, now IPCPR, in Houston. I thought I might sleep a full 24 hours today, but I got up bright and early. Despite my bloodshot eyes, aching muscles, and the loss of my voice, I am rejuvenated and more excited about the future than ever before. Great Cigar makers are proactively organizing and working to defeat the absurd taxes proposed by the Senate and Congress: this is truly a fight for our livelihood. For the first time ever, these artists and artisans are working hard to project the Credibility and Value of our industry, demonstrating the differences from a luxury, quality of life experience, and an unhealthy habit. We must separate ourselves from big tobacco.

The TU Seminar was a GREAT SUCCESS!! Beyond all expectations! Over one hundred people came to our public debut and the feedback was overwhelming. Tobacconists are thirsty for Credibility and we are just the organization to empower them to earn it. It seemed like I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without being stopped by someone who attended or heard about it. Tobacconists were so excited I was giving mini lectures on the sales floor, at vendor booths, in the bar, lobby and even in moving automobiles. Here is an excerpt from the introduction part of the Seminar:

“Welcome and thank you for coming. It is a privilege to be here, speaking to you: Retail Tobacconists, my favorite people in the world.

No other professionals have as much passion yet fight as hard for their integrity, credibility and success.

So, Tobacconists are my favorite people…… Great American Freedom Fighters, in the tradition of our Founding Fathers, Tobacconists are preserving our inalienable right to pursue our own happiness. Not “happiness” which is defined by our government, legislators, pop culture, warped statistics, or anything else. Happiness can only be defined by the individual. By me, for me. By you, for you.”
And then they applauded, so I will stop there.

As Mr. Jose Orlando Padron says: ‘ You must crawl before you walk, and walk before you run ‘. So we will heed that advice and take things slow, since every effort and decision we put in now is geared towards PRESERVING LUXURY TOBACCO FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

As usual, we are dealing with TU specific, or big-picture topics here. If you want some day to day coverage of the show, check out David Savona’s Blog on the CA website. I think he was blogging prolifically in his sleep; I don’t know when he found the time since every time I saw him he was drinking, smoking, or eating.

Friday, July 3, 2009

F-D-Absurdity: Electronic Cigarettes


On Wednesday July, 22 the FDA held a press conference which essentially banned e-cigarettes and tried to spin the information (as opposed to scientific data) so it seems like they are as bad as cigarettes.   Dr. Michael Siegel does a great job of outlining the lunacy of the FDA’s position in his article:  FDA Lunacy: Product We Know Will Kill 400,000 People This Year – Approved;  Product that May Well Help Prevent Many of Those People from Dying:  Banned.

Clearly, the FDA, lung and cancer associations, pharmaceutical industry, and anti-smoking groups hate the thought of e-cigarettes.  It seems they abhor the thought and/or act of smoking more than the negative health effects.  Perhaps the thought that people actually enjoy nicotine or sensory pleasures is unbearable to the nanny state and pleasure police so they must vilify any act that resembles smoking anything.

The horrible irony is that there are nicotine replacement therapies (nrt) whose side effects are SUICIDE, yet they are just fine by the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies that sell them; as well as the lung and cancer lobbies/associations (there are too many to name them all so please allow the generalization).

We all know that cigarette smoking is the most unhealthy of all our freedoms… and it will remain that way… unless they make them illegal or allow a product that will shorten the lives of 500,000 people per year (as opposed to the supposed 400k who die prematurely from cigarette smoking).  But, in a free and healthy society people must be able to take educated risks and live their lives as they please without infringing on the freedoms of others.

There will always be a “WORST” or “MOST UNHEALTHY” freedom/lifestyle choice/personal preference/activity/taste.  And that should be OK.  Society does not need to continually beat up and/or prohibit ‘the worst’ freedoms; a healthy society will just accept them and educate the population.  Otherwise, the most dangerous threat to freedom is the continual legislation and pursuit of health and safety.

In the end, I don’t believe that ‘Greed Is Good’ (to quote Wall Street’s Gordon Gecko)… But RISK IS GOOD – as determined by the individual, for the individual.  Risk is necessary to move civilization, technology, and individuals forward.   Risk is the foundation of the pursuit of happiness – the fundamental premise behind The United States of America.  Risk is good.

Dear FDA,
Please relax, smoke a cigar, and remember that WITHOUT FREEDOM OF CHOICE AND RISK THERE IS NO REWARD OR PROGRESS.  Clearly you understand that when allowing the sale of pharmaceuticals whose side effects include suicide, depression, heart attacks, etc…  FREE TOBACCO.  LET THE FARMERS LET THE PLANTS CONTROL THE NICOTINE.  And leave my coffee, alcohol, and chocolate alone too.