So you’ve picked up a box of Diplomaticos Nortenos, prime regional edition Cuban cigars, in a popular robusto format. These are medium to full body, to be paired perfectly with a rum and coke, maybe some Macadamia nuts and some dried fruits if you feel a little peckish. This is what the experts suggest you pair one with, anyway.
You’ve opted to make the investment in the Diplomaticos – a box of 10 would retail for north of $430 – because you want to get serious about cigars. The popularity of cigar smoking is trending upwards again, maybe even up to those heady levels in the 1990s. During the Era of Pandemic we are all looking for leisure activities within the comforts of our own four walls. And there’s no better comfort than the relaxing, smooth draw, and nutty, creamy flavours, of a fine Diplomatico.
But perhaps you are still relatively new to the game. Here are five things Cuban cigar aficionados would never do, according to Cuban cigar aficionados.
Cuban cigar: Lighting a cigar before roasting the foot
Now what the hell does that mean? Roasting the foot? If you really want to enjoy a cigar, though, you want to light it correctly, so it burns properly. The objective of toasting a cigar is get a slow, gradual burn going. You want the filler, wrapper and binder lit evenly. If you light it too fast, and only get the filler, you’ll be looking at an uneven burn. We have seen situations where the lit part tunnelled into the middle of the cigar, while the wrapper was intact.
Flavour is another reason to roast a cigar. By roasting the foot first, you burn the initial ammonia and harshness from the cigar. That eliminates that bitter first draw.
With a torch lighter, hold the cigar at an angle, and keep the foot a few inches above the flame. Don’t let the flame touch the tobacco. Let it ignite slowly. Rotate the cigar. Check the foot of the cigar to see that it’s burning evenly. Blow on the foot of the cigar gently if it isn’t. You want it glowing red, maybe 1/8th an inch of ash, that’s it, before you take a first puff. Remember Cuban cigars are premium. You want to make sure you fully enjoy all it has to offer.
Don’t store it in the fridge
Storage is a huge issue, of course. Get a humidor, so the cigars are kept in similar conditions where the tobacco grew. You want to preserve those essential oils so the cigar keeps it flavour.
A humidor needs to be properly seasoned, humidity between 65-70 per cent. Temperature should be between 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Cigars are sensitive to the environment they are stored in. And tossing it into the fridge, with the cool, dry air, will just dry it out quickly.
Don’t inhale while smoking the Cuban cigar
Smoking a fine Cuban cigar is not the same as smoking a cigarette. You don’t inhale the smoke. Instead, you draw the smoke into your mouth, to better savour the flavours and taste.
That’s especially true with a Cuban cigar, like one of those Diplomaticos. You are talking about a premium experience, above all other varieties. There are roughly 200 different stages that go into the production of a single Cuban cigar. And nowhere in the world do they grow tobacco better than in Cuba. That’s where the rubber really hits the road. So each Cuban cigar has its own flavours, tastes, strengths. The idea is to take your time and enjoy all of that.
You might have also heard the term “retrohale”, something aficionados do. Retrohaling is letting most of the smoke out of your mouth with the last bit of smoke released out of your nose to heighten the subtleties of the flavours. This is not to be confused with inhaling.
Cutting too much of the cigar (past the shoulder of the cap)
Don’t bite the cap off, or use scissors to clip the cigar. Use a cutter. There are two kinds – a straight cutter that removes the entire cap, and a V-Cut, that cuts a wedge or notch into the cap. Be careful you don’t cut off too much. Cut just above the rounded shoulder of the cigar’s head.
If you cut too much, so that the cap is entirely removed, the wrapper leaf will likely fall right off the binder. What you don’t want to be doing is unwinding wrapper. The cigar will also burn too hot and too fast if you cut it too high.
These guys are great at explaining what to do and what not to do when cutting a cigar:
Putting a cigar out and re-lighting it another day
I actually saw a guy try to do this once. He smoked half a cigar, then let it die out, and announced he would be packaging it for another day. This is what I wanted to do to him:
If you try to package the cigar, like one of your Diplomaticos, for another day, it will smell charred and sooty when you take it back out of your humidor. You’ll be blowing off small pieces of ash. Cigars taste best when you smoke the entire thing in one sitting.
If you want to smoke half a cigar and store it for another day buy a White Owl. Those wonderful oils in that splendid Cuban cigar will only crystallize when it cools down. So it won’t taste the same when you re-light it. And as said a premium cigar is all about preserving those essential oils.