Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The winner of the 2010 Really Good Cheap Cigar Award is...

The winner of the very prestigious Really Good Cheap Cigar Award for 2010 is...a really good cheap cigar. But first, a little about the Really Good Cheap Cigar Award. This coveted award first came into the public eye, um, now. This is the first annual (if I decide to do it again next year) award presentation and I am the sole rule-maker and judge. The results are totally insignificant because I do not have the budget to try all that many cigars on an annual basis. I just smoke what I run across or what is recommended to me by friends and trusted tobacconists who know what I like. And that I don't have a lot of money.
On the other hand, by selecting the Quorum Corona, you're going to think I actually know what I'm talking about.

I hesitate to tell the world about this cigar, because some of you who have never tried one will seek them out and probably love them and then buy them regularly. Ten years ago, I wrote a review of the Flor de Oliva Robusto because it was an amazingly consistent, flavorful cigar for a remarkable price. I received a thank you email from Jose Oliva and he sent me some cigars. Very nice.

Then the price went up. I still buy them. I still love them. They are still very reasonably priced. And I'm pretty sure the 13 people who read my review didn't cause a spike in their sales, but I'm just sayin'. I hope the Quorum doesn't take a quantum leap.

Anyway, the Quorum Corona Naturals (and probably their other sizes as well) are almost in a league of their own. Hand rolled, long Nicaraguan filler and binder, an Ecuador-Sumatra wrapper creating a consistent burn and a smooth but rather rich, medium bodied flavor. WTF? How can you beat that? I puchase them at a local tobacconist for about $27 for a bundle of 20. I see them online priced anywhere from $29 to $40. I'm certainly not going to tell my local guy that he's cheaper than the internet. :)

On a scale of one to ten, and not just for budget cigars, I'd give the Quorum a solid 8.997488. Again, because I can.

So, the hands-down winner of  the 2010 Really Good Cheap Cigar Award is the Quorum Corona Natural. Now, hopefully the manufacturers will send me some freebies.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cigar smoking tips and bits of advice I've learned over the years. Are they all true? Who knows?

I've been smoking cigars for many years and have visited hundreds of humidors across the continent. In my travels I have met many other cigar smokers and we often share little tips (some of which are probably total B.S.). Here are a few of the things I've learned:

  • Don't lick or moisten your entire cigar. If it needs more moisture it probably isn't humidified properly.
  • As you light your cigar, slowly rotate it over the very top of the flame without drawing. Then when the outer edge is darkened and slightly singed, begin drawing as you continue rotating.
  • Never flick your ash off (hee hee, he said "flick your ash off"). If you must remove the ash, gently rub the ash on the rim of your ashtray or elsewhere.
  • Don't use Zippo or Bic lighters to light a cigar. The flame gets crazy and flickers all over the place giving you an uneven light and burn.
  • Don't buy expensive Colibri lighters. They are way too sensitive and a pain in the ass to mail back for repair/replacement. I currently have about $250 worth of useless Colibris.
  • Do buy the much cheaper Firebird lighters (distributed by Colibri, but I don't think they make them). The also have SST torches (or something similar) for precise lighting and seem to last MUCH longer than more expensive lighters.
  • Do not put cigars in the freezer. Seems like a no-brainer but I have run across many who have done this.
  • As much as you may love cigars, never eat one.

Okay, I'm obviously running out of actual tips. If you have others, please send them for me to share here and on Twitter.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Candidates should go after the criminal vote

They say that more than 80 percent of the American adult population has committed a serious crime in their life, even though they may not have been caught. So, I was wondering why politicians don't actively go after the criminal vote. With a promise to go easy on crime, you may just get a reasonable percentage of those voters. These clever politicians could instill fear into the masses with speeches about how you may not have been busted yet...but you will be. "And who's gonna be there for you? Certainly not the 'lock em up and throw away the key' candidate."
The debates would be very entertaining. "My opponent is easy on crime." And the response? "Yep." Next question.
They could have a platform which promises to go easy on deadbeat dads...and the moms who kill them.
It is believed that most career criminals do not currently vote at all. This would give them incentive to get out to the polls, thus increasing the number of registered voters. Generally considered a good thing.
And the possibilities for campaign slogans are endless:
"Do the crime, not the time."
"Go on a spree, I'll set you free."
"Smoke a joint. Don't be sent to one."
I think I may be onto something here.

Grass cutting cigar competition - La Finca vs. Tambor Dominicano review

I don't know about you, but if I'm not going to be able to sit and fondle, admire and enjoy a cigar, with a nice glass of scotch and very little risk of anyone interrupting my almost zen-like smoking experience, then I'd rather not smoke a really good cigar. Okay, if I could afford it I'd probably always smoke a more expensive stick, but that ain't the case.

So, last weekend, when I was going to be out working in the yard and cutting the grass, I chose two inexpensive cigars to stick in my mouth and puff away as I tackle my chores. So I'm clear, I didn't stick them both in my mouth at the same time. I smoked one. Then the other. Let's get ready to mumble!

As I often mention, I like a cigar that will take a biting and keep on lighting. But, ideally, with a minute or two break between puffs, a reasonably decent cigar should remain lit and take only a little coaxing to deliver a full smoke-filled kick.

I started my lawn cutting chores last weekend with a La Finca Cazadore (45 ring x 6.5 inches). I recently purchased a bundle of these cigars when I re-posted my review of them. This time, I was rather disappointed in the unravellability (yes, I make up my own words) of the outer wrapper. This was especially true if you didn't smoke the cigar in one session and put it in a cigar-saver to re-light later. They get quite dry and the wrapper becomes brittle and peels off. A real pain and it greatly increases your risk for burning a shirt.

However, when lit and smoked end to end, it held up quite well. Although the ash isn't smooth and pretty, it burned evenly and didn't require any re-lighting. Smooth it ain't. Spicy? A bit. Full bodied. Decent grass cutting smoke.

Upon completing the lawn and the La Finca, I took a short break and started faze two: weed whacking, edging, blowing and smoking a Tambor Dominicano Churchill Maduro (50 ring x 7 inches). These cigars have a nicer visual first impression than the La Fincas, but they're actually a bit less expensive. You can find them for less than 25 bucks for a bundle of 25. Yay! A buck a stick.

But.....they kinda suck. I bought a bundle about six months ago, and only smoke them when all of my other options are gone. I probably hadn't smoked one in the past three or four months, so I'm thinking that the fact that the smoking experience wasn't all that bad this time may be a result of keeping them properly humidified for that period of time.

As I recall, my biggest complaint with these cigars is that they do not burn evenly. And I hate when a cigar burns down the middle, which they do all to often. I'm thinking it's poorly rolled filler with no long leaf running the length of the cigar.

This particular stick started as they always seem to...rough. Once the ash reached about an inch, it was only half an inch on the other side. But, somehow, without coaxing it recovered and burned evenly the rest of the way. Not bad. Good draw. Decent outdoor nose burn. Medium strength. Kinda spicy I think, but I have a real difficult time identifying spicy unless it involves habaneros.

So, which was better? I'd have to give my vote to the La Finca. But, weather permitting, there may be a re-match this weekend.

Monday, September 27, 2010

JM's Dominican handmade corona earns everyday cigar vote

In my continuing search for great inexpensive cigars, I ran across the JM brand in my most frequently visited party store. I know, I know, I always say to NEVER buy a cigar from someplace that also sells porn and Tiparillos, but I mentored the store owners and at least knew that they were attempting to properly humidify their stock.

They had a small humidor (perhaps 100 cigars) and had a small quantity of about four or five brands. One day, a couple of years back, I overpaid them for a Don Tomas out of desperation. It almost fell apart as soon as I removed it from the wrapper.

I immediately went back into the store and voiced my concern. One of the owners apologized profusely and said I could just take another cigar. No way. What would be the point of that? Unless you give me your entire stock and let me try to revive them to smokability, then I don't want another cigar out of this humidor in the condition that it and its contents are in.

So, I took a pint of vodka instead.

In the course of our conversation, I recommended some specific cigars that they might carry and suggested that they actually use the dried out humidification system they had in the in the humidor. I think they thought that you put a little water in it once and you're good for, say, two or three decades.

Over the course of the next couple of months we had many discussions and I even recommended where they might purchase some decent cigars that they could sell for a reasonable price and make a decent profit.

Last week, I stopped in the store and noticed that their humidor was decently stocked and the humidification system looked recently attended to.

One of the cigars they were offering was JM's Dominican Corona. Through the wrapper it looked like a decently constructed stick. The corona measures 5 1/2 by 42 and boasts a Sumatra shade wrapper with Cuban seed, long filler tobacco. Handmade in the Dominican Republic.

The party store was selling them for $2.99. Through intense interrogation, he told me how much he actually paid for them and I haggled him down to two bucks in return for all of my free consulting work.

Upon removing the cigar from its cellophane wrapper, I discovered that the cigar was already punched. Odd. Did someone lick it (like I do) before using a cigar punch on it? I'm going to look into to how and why they do this. I'll let you know if I find anything out.

Anyway, back to the smoke. I was slightly surprised by the smoothness of not only the cigar (medium bodied), but also the smoothness of the ash.

Unfortunately, because of the locations where I most often smoke cigars (car, garage, yard in mild wind), I don't get to test the ash to any recordable length. On this occasion however, I did have the get to let it grow to nearly an inch and was pleasantly surprised by its texture.

The strength maintained throughout without getting too bitter at the end and it has a bit of a creamy taste. Not pasty creamy, but pretty tasty creamy. The nostril sensation, when you allow your face to be enveloped in a cloud of smoke, was nicely stimulating.

These cigars can be found online for as little as $1.25 each in boxes of 50 making them a very suitable candidate for an everyday cigar.

My rating is 87. What does that mean? I dunno. But it sounded about right. :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

You know it's not the right place to buy a cigar when....

Unless you're really desperate, here are some tips on where not to buy cigars.
Do not buy a cigar from an establishment if:

They also sell porn.

They even stock Tiparillos and those little R.G. Dun flavored cigars.

You inquire about a "cameroon" and are taken to the cookie section.

They're  crushing up White Owls and smoking them out of a hookah.

Follow on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cigarponderings

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Does anyone at your local cigar store know anything about cigars?

I think we all know that the best place to buy cigars and get a great deal is on the internet. There are literally hundreds of places to find cigars, and many of them have exceptionally good prices even considering the additional charges for shipping.

But dammit, there's nothing quite like meandering around a walk-in humidor and exploring new or forgotten smoking options.

One of the big problems finding a local tobacconist is that a lot of these little mom and pop cigar shops only have a humidor to supplement their income from selling hookahs and cigarettes and there probably isn't anyone there who knows the first thing about cigars.

I stop by five or six different establishments from time to time, and have come to know what they carry which fits my taste and budget. But sometimes it's frustrating when you're looking for a recommendation for a new smoking experience. If the proprietor or employee isn't a cigar smoker, they're probably going to recommend a cigar that isn't moving or what the salesman told them is a big profit item.

One cigar shop which I used to frequent hired a kid in his early 20s to man the store. When I walked into the humidor it was at least 80 degrees and the humidity was well over 85%. I asked "the kid" why the humidor was set so high and he informed me that when it's set that high it keeps the cigars moist (aka: wet) and they are perfect to smoke an hour after purchasing. What???

I asked him if there was any extra charge for the cigar beetles obviously hatching and destroying the cigars.

On another occasion, I stopped in a tobacconist and noticed that the machine-rolled robusto rejects were priced at $5 a stick. When I asked why they were so expensive, I was told that they use very high quality tobacco to create these cigars. Again, WHAT??? These were the same cigars that you can buy anywhere for a buck and a half (not that you ever should).

First rule: unless it's an emergency, never buy a cigar from a place that has their humidor on the counter (probably without a humidification system or hygrometer). Second rule: if you're new to the store, ask the proprietor for a recommendation of a six dollar, medium bodied cigar and see what they come up with. It's usually immediately clear if they have a clue.

I'm lucky enough to live close to two excellent sources of cigars, Smokers Only in Eastpointe, Michigan and probably the second best cigar store on the planet, JR Cigars in Southfield, Michigan (the first best being their original store in South Carolina).

Please email me your cigar store recommendations, locations and horror stories to cigarbizarre@gmail.com

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brutally random cigar thought and cigar euphemisms for taking a dump

Color blindness defies cigar wrappers

One out of every two times (that's almost 50%) I try to wear a pair of black pants, I end up with dark blue ones instead. I even go so far as to hold the pants up to a bright light bulb and take the pants into different rooms to verify their blackness.

Then, sure enough, when I get to an office building with florescent lighting, the goddam things are blue. Obviously blue. Doesn't-go-with-the shirt-and-tie blue.

On the other hand, my eye has no trouble distinguishing a Dominican Sumatra cigar wrapper from an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper.

I'm just sayin.'

Cigar Euphemisms for Taking a Dump

Here's just a few. You got any?

Pinching a Partaga

Dropping a Dominican

Clipping a Corona

Making a Macanudo

Ripping a Robusto

Churning a Churchill

Flinging a Fuente

Heavin' a Havana

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Flor de Oliva bundles bury bigger budget butts

I have loved Oliva Cigars since I first gently bit into and lit one many years ago. And I always said that their cigars (expecially their bundled maduros, in my opinion) we worth considerably more than they were charging for them. So, I guess I shouldn't complain that their prices over the years have increased to be in line with the quality of these fine Nicaraguans.

The Maduro robusto bundles feature a medium to full-bodied cigar (5 x 50) with all Nicaraguan long filler. Sweet? Kind of. Nutty? A bit. Great taste and burn for a cigar costing much less than comparable quality cigars? Absolutely!

Although the price increase over the years has kept it from being my everyday smoke, I still pop for a bundle every now and then and make it my number one in-between cigar.

Part of my criteria for judging a cigar is how well it handles re-lighting (a reality in all of our lives since finding the opportunity to smoke an entire cigar is rare) and the Oliva bundle cigars can take a biting and keep on lighting. The Oliva bundled cigars are all long-filler, expertly hand-rolled and create a sturdy ash that compares to much more expensive sticks.

You will still find them online for about $35.00 for the natural and $50.00 for the maduro in bundles of 20. I'm quite certain they used to always come in bundles of 25, further inflating the price. But still an amazing deal.

I first discovered Flor de Oliva cigars probably 12 or 15 years ago. At that time I had some Cigar Pages on one of my comedy web sites. Those pages are still there, even though they're quite outdated. Feel free to visit them and send me insulting emails about how lame they are.

Back then, I did a review of the Oliva bundles which was ultimately found and read by Jose Oliva, of the Oliva family. He contacted me, thanked me for the positive review and proceeded to send me a bundle of the robustos and a box of their new (at the time) box-pressed cigars. A very nice and appreciated gesture. Now, if I could only get all of the other cigar manufacturers to do the same, I could save a big pile of money and take care of some of the other "necessities" in my life.

I keep telling the kids that the powdered milk is going to taste a lot better once Daddy gets the water turned back on. But look at that ash. :)

Based on taste, burn and price, these cigars get 8 out of 10 smoke rings.

Friday, September 3, 2010

La Finca Cazadore - Does it pass the initial inexpensive cigar test?

Aside from showering and brushing my teeth, there are very few things that I do everyday. I don't watch television every day, I don't eat breakfast every day, I don't have sex every day (at least not that anyone else knows about). But one thing I do do every day is smoke a cigar.

Of course, I'd love to smoke a Cohiba or Romeo y Julieta every day, but hey, I'm just a dime-a-dozen, cheap, two-bit stand up comic with three kids and grown-up responsibilities. 
A while back, I went into one of my local tobacconists to purchase a bundle of Flor de Olivas when I noticed that they now carried La Fincas in bundles. I know I've smoked this Nicaraguan before, and my recollection was that I liked it. So, I put back the Flor de Oliva's and bought a bundle of La Finca Cazadore's at only $19.95 for a bundle of 25. Wow! What a great way to fill out the empty space in your humidor.

The Cazadore's are a 45 ring x 6.5 inch cigar, pretty full bodied with an almost creamy taste. I fired it up in my garage (more on good places to smoke later). The first time I smoke a new brand I like to make sure I'm in a wind-free environment. After ingniting the stick I took a big draw and created a cloud directly in front of my face. Not bad for an all-filler cigar.

The La Finca definately passed my initial test. I liked the strength and lack of bitterness. It may be a bit too strong for those of you who like a mild or medium-bodied cigar, but it you like to combine smoothness with a bit of a nose membrane burn, you'll love these reasonably priced cigars.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Welcome to the cigar blog for REAL cigar smokers

I love a good cigar. Unfortunately, the cigars I enjoy most are way out of my price range. Let's face it, Cigar Aficionado magazine is out of my price range. You can imagine how annoyed they get at my local tobacconist when I stand there reading the latest issue cover to cover while smoking my $1.19 robusto reject.

Fact is, Cigar Aficionado and other elitist cigar publications aren't directed at the average cigar smoker. With the phenomenal popularity of lighting up a decent Dominican or a nice Nicaraguan, it's the basic Joe and Joanne who are frequenting the countless tobacco shops that are popping up on street corners and in strip malls everywhere.

I'd love to smoke a $30 cigar while sipping on a snifter full of $90 single malt scotch. But, in the meantime, I'll continue my quest for a decent $2 smoke while drinking my Lauder's on the rocks.

So, Welcome to the cigar blog for the rest of us. Please feel free to email me your thoughts and discoveries. And check back often. I will be reviewing cigars, accessories, publications and whatever the hell I feel like.