In the previous issue, we discussed the dangers that over humidification can pose to your cigars while in transit. But what about keeping your precious tobacco in the best condition while at home? A number of environmental factors should be controlled to keep your cigars happy.
Paying close attention to both temperature and humidity is of paramount importance, though minimising exposure to direct sunlight and regular movement should also be considered when finding a home for your collection. Before placing your cigars in your chosen humidor, however, they should be inspected.
Assuming there are no obvious signs of mould or over-humidification, as discussed in the previous issue, the next step is to check for more subtle defects.
Lightly squeezing a cigar along its length will give some idea as to whether there are any construction issues. A cigar kept in ideal smoking humidity of around 65 per cent should depress slightly but should neither crack nor feel spongey. Inconsistent soft spots could indicate hollow ‘caves’ (empty areas) where the cigar has not been packed properly, while particularly hard spots usually suggest the presence of a rogue stem (these should be stripped out of the leaf) or an over-packed area of filler, both can cause problems with the draw and burn.
Cigars from most new world producers will have been ‘draw tested’, a process using a special machine that measures air flow through the cigar before the cap is fitted. As a result, problems of this nature are rare. The same cannot be said, however, of Cuban cigars, which generally are not draw tested, though there are a few exceptions, Cohiba’s Behike range being one of them.
Small green or yellow spots will sometimes be present on wrapper leaves and are usually the result of small drops of water coming into contact with the leaf or slightly uneven fermentation. But don’t worry, these marks will have no effect on enjoyment. Similarly, tiny cracks, splits or holes in the wrapper leaf, especially at the foot of the cigar, are more often than not simply the result of jostling during transit.
Defects such as this that are around 1 to 2mm in size will not generally have any effect on the burn of a cigar and are not usually cause for concern. Large holes in the wrapper, however, can lead to problems while smoking and should be highlighted to the retailer and returned.
That’s not to say small holes should be ignored entirely, though, as they could have been caused by tobacco-beetle infestation. Usually an infected cigar will have multiple small (1mm) holes where the beetle has munched its way out of the tobacco. You definitely don’t want one of these little blighters getting into your humidor as they breed rapidly and will happily chew through your entire collection with startling speed if they get the chance.
Good retailers tend to be very vigilant when it comes to beetle infestation, for obvious reasons, but more care is required when accepting cigars from swaps, especially if you aren’t familiar with the other side’s storage conditions. It is good practice to freeze all sticks received from unfamiliar sources, and especially those that have multiple small holes, in order to ensure that no beetle larvae survive inside the cigars.
Place the sticks in a ziplock bag, then place the bag in air-tight container before freezing. A 24-hour period in the fridge is recommended before and after freezing to avoid cracked wrappers due to rapid expansion and contraction. If a cigar in your collection does show signs of mite infestation then all cigars that have come into contact with the contaminated stick should be frozen immediately in line with the advice above. If, God forbid, the contaminated cigar has been in your humidor, then this will require thorough cleaning, there are guides on how to do this online, the entire contents should be frozen.
Regardless of the type of defect, good retailers will exchange cigars with moderate to severe damage, obvious blockages, or beetle infestation and a full box swap will generally be offered if more than 1/3 of cigars in the box are showing signs of serious problems. Diligence early on when building a cigar collection will insure against disappointment down the line.
Sunshine on Easter ElchiesHoyo De Monterrey Epicure No.2 and Gordon & Macallan 12 Years Old Double Cask
It’s fair to say that the Epicure No.2 (4 7/8” RG50) is one of the more regularly encountered Habanos on the market and, as a result, may sometimes be overlooked by seasoned aficionados in search of something new. This isn’t helped by its reputation as something of a ‘training wheels’ cigar, of account of its light-medium bodied and delicately flavoured smoke.
However, these very attributes make it an ideal morning or after-lunch cigar and also lend it to pairing with whiskies that need to be given room to shine. The first third begins with aromas of hay, sawdust and just a hint of creaminess. Into the second third a grassy element develops with a floral note that brings to mind chamomile tea. The creamy character grows more prominent into the final third, as does strength, though only slightly, one need not worry about being knocked over if enjoying on an empty stomach or in high temperatures.
The Macallan 12 Years Old Double Cask, as its name suggests, has been matured in a combination of American oak and European oak sherry-seasoned casks, with more influence than the former. Lighter than its fully European-oak matured counterpart, but with none of the Bourbon-cask influence seen in the Fine Oak range, this dram offers a pleasant middle ground with some orange zest and baked apple notes backing up the traditional sherry-matured character. Together, best enjoyed in the sun, ideally by the Spey.
The Royal FamilyGordon & Macphail Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength Clynelish 2005 and H. Upmann Royal Robusto (La Casa del Habano)
The H. Upmann brand dates back to 1844 and was founded by Herman Upmann, a German businessman, and his brother who together purchased a cigar factory in Havana. Supposedly, the pair used cigars as promotional tools for their banking business.
The Royal Robusto is limited to 5,000 boxes of 10 cigars and only sold through La Casa del Habano shops. Measuring 5 1/3”, RG52, this cigar is made up of tobacco from the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba and is rolled at the José Martí factory. Notes of cedar, milk chocolate and hay characterise the pre-light draw, with a first third smoke dominated by a medium-bodied creamy palate. Espresso and black chocolate emerges and the smoke settles down at medium strength. Into the middle third a distinctive honey note can be detected, along with digestive biscuit and white pepper, the latter note develops significantly into the final third, along with a subtle floral character.
The cigar’s chocolate notes can be amplified through pairing with a suitable dram and this single cask Clynelish, from the family owned independent bottler Gordon & Macphail’s newly rebranded Connoisseurs Choice range, does a superb job of this. Matured in a refill sherry butt, the distillery’s characteristic waxiness has waned somewhat but can still be detected. It is complimented by notes of clove, milk chocolate, a nutty character in the vein of oxidatively aged sherry (almond specifically) and a prominent toffee note that coats the entire palate. With exposure to air or a drop of water, a dry, cognac-esque fruitiness emerges, along with red apple and the faintest whiff of cordite. The finish is long, with a hint of lemon zest.
Enjoyed together, these products represent the marriage of two iconic family owned business, two Royal families of their respective industries.
Where to smoke
Casa de Montecristo by Cigar Inn
A superb walk-in humidor and great service can be expected at this superb New York cigar lounge. A relaxed atmosphere by day changes into a more high-energy music spot vibe by night.
1016 Second Avenue, New York, NY, USA Tel:
+1 212 750 0809www.casademontecristo.com