We live in a world where traditions have all but dissipated in the wake of this new ‘self-centered’ universe where people feel it is okay to do whatever the hell they want, wherever they want. Since when is acceptable to wear pajamas in public like they are clothes? Why do people feel it is okay to sag their pants to expose their underwear? Why do people wear hats and caps at the dinner table at home and inside restaurants? Self-respect and human decency is all but gone, except for inside a cigar lounge where ‘cigar etiquette’ is front and center.
A noteworthy gentleman, Zino Davidoff, is credited for cementing the “cigar etiquette” foundation that we still practice today. Davidoff’s book, The Connoisseur’s Book of the Cigar, written in 1984, addresses the philosophical and the physical aspects of cigar smoking, including etiquette. There a few ‘rules’ that may seem a bit too ‘prim and proper’ for to the twenty-first century like holding the cigar between your thumb and forefinger rather than between your forefinger and middle finger like most smokers do, and removing the band so as not to advertise which cigar you are smoking. Today, bands are a great conversation starter because people like to discuss what each other is smoking. With that said, here are the Top Five practices of ‘cigar etiquette’ that every smoker should follow when at a cigar lounge.
1. Cigar Preparation (foreplay): When preparing your cigar and priming her for action be sure to gently cut the cap with a genuine cigar cutter such as a guillotine cutter, cigar punch, V-cutter or cigar scissors. Don’t use a knife or a box cutter, and most of all, don’t bite-off the cap. It’s just bad taste, and the latter can cause a number of problems, particularly unraveling. If you don’t have a cutter, then borrow one.
When toasting (massaging) the foot, take your time, and keep the flame as far away from the foot as possible while still being able to char the tobacco. If you use a torch lighter, you can easily ruin a cigar by holding the flame too close. And please hold the cigar in your hand when toasting, not your mouth, so you can see what you’re doing. When the tobacco begins to glow red, gently blow on the foot to spread the heat across the entire foot. This may require a little extra toasting, especially if the cigar has a lot of oily ligero tobacco in the blend. (Those leaves are usually the black areas that don’t take right away to the flame.)
Finally, whatever you do, don’t just put the cigar in your mouth and light it like a cigarette or you can overcook it, which often results in a lousy light and a bitter smoke. You need to put the cigar in your mouth and hold the flame away from the foot and twirl the cigar in your mouth in a circular motion to evenly distribute the heat in order to create an even burn. There is no rush, go slow and steady to get it right the first time. The light and burn play a critical role in the delivery of the flavors and the overall enjoyment of the experience.
2. Smoking time: Have you ever noticed how some cigar smokers finish their cigars in record time? It is not a race. A slow and steady smoke time delivers the truest flavors and enhances the overall smoking experience. The rule of thumb is to puff on the cigar about once a minute or two. It lets the cigar cool down a little, and allows you to savor the flavors and aromas the blender intended. Besides, cigar smoking is supposed to be RELAXING. Take your time and savor it. Otherwise, you may find the cigar isn’t living up to its rep, and that could be your fault for not being patient. If you don’t have time to spend an hour and half smoking a cigar at that very moment, then either buy a smaller vitola or hold off until you have the time to relax and enjoy the experience. It defeats the purpose to rush through the smoke and swallow the cigar.
3. Ashing: A lot of cigar smokers get a kick out of seeing how long they can get the ash on their cigar. It’s a fun game, but normally not a good way to smoke. How many times have you had the ash land in your lap or explode all over your shirt? That is extremely embarrassing, especially when at a cigar lounge. A one half to about an inch of ash is about right.
The ash also acts as a filter allowing the cigar to smoke a cooler, which allows the smoker to enjoy the smoking experience much more thoroughly. Once you get to that one inch point, gently tap the ash into an ashtray. You can also roll the ash against the wall of the ashtray to shape it into a neat little cone. Whatever you do, NEVER tap it on the floor.
4. Putting out your cigar: When you’re finished with your cigar, just place it gently in the ashtray and let it go out on its
own.Are you a “nubber?” You know, one of those cigar smokers who smokes his or her cigar down to the very last inch or more? There’s nothing wrong with that as long as the cigar is still delivering pleasant flavors. With today’s wide array of tasty cigars, there are many that will taste good to the very end. However, some of the time the cigar will start to burn hot or taste harsh and bitter during the last inch or two. If you continue to relight it just to get every penny out of the cigar, it will only get worse. Moreover, if a cigar turns bitter early on and doesn’t change, you should put it down and let it go out. It’s not going to improve no matter how long you stay with it, so let it go. When you do let it go, don’t snuff it out like a cigarette. Simply lay the butt in the ashtray saddle and it will extinguish itself. Snuffing it out only causes it to release a sour odor and leaves an ugly mess.
5. Chain smoking: Don’t ‘chain smoke’ your cigars and you will get more ‘bang for your buck’. Most of us know of a guy who is a ‘chain’ cigar smoker. Not one minute after he puts his cigar out, he fires up another great tasting, complex premium cigar. There’s nothing wrong with smoking several cigars in one sitting if you can handle it, but give your palate a break! Try to wait at least a half an hour before preparing your next cigar. You might also want to cleanse your palate with bitter lemon or lime soda. By chain smoking you can get palate burnout. That first cigar may have tasted great, but without a hiatus between smokes, don’t be surprised if the next cigar doesn’t taste good. Here again, the whole point of cigar smoking is to relax and enjoy the flavors and aromas. If you take your time during and in-between smokes, you’re more likely to get your money’s worth. Most people in the business, from growers to blenders to brand owners smoke three to five cigars a day with ample spacing in between. For me, three is ideal. One in the morning with coffee, another at around 1:00 in the afternoon after lunch and my final one after dinner about 7pm. That time-lapse between cigars allows one to get the most out of each smoke, in order to consistently enjoy one’s daily cigars.
Cigar smoking is a relaxing hobby, so relax and enjoy your next cigar, but remember look like a gentleman while doing it because cigars are and will always be a symbol of class and celebration.