Feel free to contact me with any questions about my commentaries, cigar reviews or cigar hunting in Costa Rica.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I will be the first to say, that there is nothing more beautiful than that WHITE ash... white like coconut shavings, powdered sugar, or snow... connected to that dark wrapper. Like a yin and yang of new and old- unused and used... but I digress.
White cigar ash is not always a good thing. White ash, in many circumstances is the product of chemicals, processing irregularities, and God knows what else. Some of these things could be dangerous. I never like the idea of my cigars having chemicals added... it just seems TOO "corporate tobacco" to me.
My simple point is that white ash does not always mean we are talking about a quality wrapper/cigar. That is a misconception that I have heard brought up many times.
Cuba is known as the cradle of the best tobacco in the world, but it is not necessarily know for being white. In fact, I had a conversation once with a older Brazilian who is a long time cigar lover that has been going to Cuba for a long time. He was explaining to me that Cuba was know that "latierra de la ceniza negra " or "the land of the black ash." Although I have not confirmed this with any other source, he informed me that since the beginning, Cuba was known for it cigars with dark ash. He is of Italian decent, and a tradition of "old world" smokers.
I have heard of and seen some wrapper leaves that burn very white; Criolle (Criollo), Corojo, and other unknowns coming out of San Juan y Martinez. From what I have heard, the curing process is very specific and the soil is prepared with things like peanut shells. BUT - In Cuba, we are talking about an all natural process.
I have smoked many great cigars without white ash, some had had nearly a black ash- In fact, I am smoking one right now. On the other hand, I have smoked some great cigars with a white ash, but be do not let your self be fooled into thinking that white ash is a sign of a good cigar.
As always, smoke what makes you happy- but do not get caught up in the legends.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Some time back I wrote a piece about wrappers (click here) where my goal was to point out some misconceptions about the wrapper. I will reiterate, that the wrapper role is mainly cosmetic, so get what you prefer... on that same note, there is a similar situation with cigar ashing.
One of the greatest things about cigar smoking is that there are no rules. Everyone likes different vitolas, cuts it differently, and smokes it differently- and as long as the smoker enjoys what they are doing- it is fine.
Ashing is an odd on for me to observe. I recently bumped into Show Me Your Ash, and it made me think about writing a post on the subject. I know nothing about the site, but they have a nice collection of photos if you follow the link.
The one that concerns me is the long ash. It is so very popular, but so nerve-racking. I say nerve-racking because I am a cautious guy, and too many times I have lost an ash on my shirt, pants, or worse (like the floor of my mother's house).
Sometimes I get nervous (mostly when I am drinking) just looking at a long ash, imagining the where and when it might fall. Like driving in a car on "E," and every block (like every puff) makes me more and more nervous.
I understand that a solid ash is the sign of a good cigar (but so is body and aroma)
I am a "no-ash" guy. I flick or twist it off as soon as I can. In fact, I picked up the habit somewhere of crushing the ash, and pushing it to one side of the ashtray. In addition, I am an animated talker, and I can't be waving my hands with an inch of ash ready to fly off.
For those of you that like to hold your ask, the trick is to be very cautious when you are taking a puff. When the ash is warm it is at it's weakest. After the cherry cools a little, the ash will hold to it better.
As always, do want makes you happy- but be cautious, especially if you are wearing white...
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The wrapper is called "capa" in Spanish, which translates more accurately to cloak or cape. The function of the wrapper is simply that a cape or cloak- and think of the wrapper as a nothing more than a cape wrapped around the cigar.
The wrapper is a special leaf. Smaller almost insignificant veins, oily silk-like texture, and an elastic anatomy are the qualities of a good wrapper. To achieve this, nearly every aspect of the of the agricultural and production process is very different from that of the filler.
There are several variations of color based changing certain elements in the process. The most common variations are listed here.
Why do I say that the wrapper is misunderstood... Just like an idiot in a nice jacket, what is on the inside it what makes the cigar. Do not be mislead, maduro or oscuro wrapper are not stronger. Oscuro wrapper may leave a stronger taste in your mouth, but that is coming from the unsmoked tobacco and isn't a good sign at all.
So in short, do not be mislead, and do not be tricked, the wrapper does not make a cigar stronger, nor does it make it better (if it is garbage on the inside). Don't get me wrong, a beautiful wrapper is a great way respect a great cigar, but my advice is- Don't get too caught up with the wrapper.
A pampered natural wrapper is what I prefer, slightly dark, and a little shiny, although the best cigar I ever smoked actually had no wrapper at all. It's binder was prepared and humidified like a wrapper. It left a raisiny flavor in my mouth, and I loved every puff.
So don't get caught up, and Enjoy!
Monday, May 23, 2005
I have noticed some queries coming in from the search engines about the history of culebra that come into the glossary page. The glossary page does not give anything more than a brief description of the cigar, so I am going to write a supplemental entry about these interesting cigars.
Simply speaking it is 3 extra-long pantaletas braided together, and intended to be smoked separately. The cigar is created by moistening all parts of the tobacco to a very high level (80%) so that it can be molded easily. There is a greater chance of draw issues in culebras based on their construction.
The average torcidor is not trained to make the culebra, although there are a few brands that have a line (like Partagas and Davidoff I believe) that can be found regularly. Generally, you need to get them from a tobacco artisan.
Historically speaking, the culebra (which means snake in Spanish) is a unique cigar that that has been around since early 1800s. There are two stories I have heard as to their origin:
- factory owners would give the culebra‚??s to their workers in an attempt to assure that the workers were not smoking the profits.
- much less fanciful, and probably more likely, it was pure marketing- an attempt by a factory to develop a new line by a business man (not a roller)