Not for aficionados only
We all have an image of a cigar smoker in our public consciousness – a wealthy businessman reclining in his office chair, relishing in every little puff of smoke as he finalizes very lucrative transactions. But cigars, while much more expensive than cigarettes, are not quite so out of reach – many people today who do not own multi-million dollar enterprises have made smoking cigars a lifestyle.
A bit of history
The origins of the cigar are quite a mystery, but it is quite certain they had their beginnings somewhere in
Central America where the tobacco trees grow. The name cigar comes from the Mayan word ciquar which referred to smoking tobacco for religious purposes. Northern American natives preferred to smoke it in pipes – it is
the Central and South Americans that we owe the current shape of the cigar to. It reached European shores during colonialism, along with tobacco in general. As tobacco was still very much a rarity, the tubes used to smoke them were very small, more reminiscent of cigarettes than contemporary cigars. Though it was rumored that cigars were originally rolled by sweaty mulatto girls on their knees, the manufacture of cigars were always done by men. As they became more popular and industrialization progressed, cigars became cheaper and easier to make, resulting in thicker tubes with compressed tobacco leaves. Preserving the taste In order to smoke well, cigars need to possess a specific level of humidity. For this reason, they are kept in humidors, which can look like anything from a cabinet to a small, cedar box. The perfect storing temperature must be around 18 to 20 degrees Celsius, with around 70% humidity. This keeps the leaves soft enough to not burn too fast, but also not too damp, so they can be smoked. A cigar with good humidity is firm to the touch and will return to its original shape when you press it with your fingers. Cigars also come in various shapes and sizes, known as vitola.
Cigar lovers, called aficionados, take handle their cigars with great care. Smoking cigars is a completely different affair than smoking cigarette. First of all, cigars are not addictive, so smoking them is never a necessity, a need to satiate some unbearable hunger.
Thus, cigars are smoked more occasionally, but also much more slowly. Smoking one cigar takes from thirty minutes to about an hour, and it is meant to be treated as a relaxing ritual, from the very moment you cut off the tip, until the very end. Which part of the cigar smoking process is the best really depends on who you ask – some say that when you reach the 2/3rds mark, all the flavor is gone, while others will say this is the moment when you get to experience new, fascinating tones.
Author: Wojciech Jaroszewicz President of Premium Cigars – sole importer of the Cuban cigar brands Davidoff and Dunhill on the Polish Market. Cigar afficionado for 23 years.