THE ART OF ROLLING
Before the torcedors can lend their fine hands to the rolling of a masterpiece of smoking pleasure, they must wait for the leaves to perfect themselves. This comes after, first, a six-week curing, then sorting by color and fermentation to stabilize the flavor (when the bales must be checked every four hours and be protected against temperature variations). More sortings follow, particularly for color and to determine filling, binding or wrapping quality potential. Then the leaves are de-veined and sprayed with water to return lost moisture before they are laid on the roller's table.
Expert rolling of the critical wrapper leaf calls for years of training to develop an experienced hand. First the torcedor stretches the leaf a bit, then places the bunch of filler and binder leaves on top of it. After rolling the wrapper leaf 3 1/2 times around the bunch, the construction is trimmed with a rounded cutting tool called a chaveta. The cigar is finished with a crown cap, fashioned from a circle of leaf. The perfect wrapped set will boast uniform length, diameter and draw.
Don't settle for anything less.
THE HUMIDOR TOUCH
Stored properly, a good cigar will keep indefinitely. And a humidor is your best storage bet, as it will keep your cigars from drying out and becoming stale. The ideal conditions provide a temperature range of between 68 degrees and 72 degrees F (20 and 22 C), and between 68 percent and 72 percent humidity. Standard size humidors usually accommodate 25, 50 or 100 cigars, but can be built to accommodate any number.
Your humidor can be as simple as a sealable plastic container with a sponge for hydration or as sophisticated as a finely crafted piece of mahogany furniture, lined with Spanish cedar and costing in the tens of thousands of dollars. Whatever your budget allows, definitely do NOT make your refrigerator your humidor. A refrigerator will dry out your cigars, which will also absorb the refrigerator's odors.
A CUT ABOVE
Every fine cigar needs its head or crown--the part that goes into your mouth--cut before the pleasures of smoking can be experienced. There are many cutting devices on the market for as little or as much as you want to pay, and which offer a variety of cuts. Most prefer the Guillotine type cutter, both the single and the double bladed. The cigar punch is also very popular, and the V and the scissors cutters both have their fans. It's important to cut carefully, with the goal of a making cut with a deep enough penetration to ensure a good draw, but which will not ruin the head or cause bits of tobacco to break off into your mouth.
These numbered circles represent the cigar's ring gauge or diameter of the cigar. The ring gauge of a cigar affects the draw or pull of a cigar and should always be consistent for each cigar type.
LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE
To light your cigar, use a butane lighter or wood match. Never use lighter fluid or a candle, as these will taint the cigar's flavor. Warm up the end or "foot" of the cigar by rotating the cigar over the flame. But do not allow the flame to touch the cigar. When the foot becomes slightly charred, start to puff in and out. This allows unburned gases to be expelled from the cigar and will provide a more even lighting of the cigar.
And remember, smoking a cigar should be a long, enjoyable activity. Don't rush it. Savor these special moments. And allow the ash to grow a bit. It will protect the burning end and ensure a smooth and satisfying smoke.