CigarCraig

Take a Cigar for a Walk (in the Snow) – Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010

Here in South-Eastern Pennsylvania we rarely get more than a foot of snow at a time, let alone three storms in a season.  Today we got about 20″ on top of the 24″ or so we received on Saturday!    After spending the day going in and out trying in vain to keep ahead of the mounting snow, I realized I needed to take my walk to the local convenience store to pick up a Powerball ticket!  I had pulled a Chateau Real Maduro Gran Cru out to give to the snowplow guy when I saw him, but when he didn’t come around again I decided it was too much trouble to put it away.  I love these cigars, they have enough flavor and are constructed well enough to withstand the blizzard.  It was so good that I hung out on the porch for a few minutes after getting home to finish it off. Incidentally, I used my Drew Estate cutter on this cigar and got a perfect cut.  Remember to leave me a comment on Monday’s Blog posting for a chance to win one yourself! 

I have been contemplating making some website changes and moving this blog to a WordPress blog hosted on the CigarCraig.com server.  Have a look at the beta version at http://www.cigarcraig.com/blog/ and let me know what you think.  If anyone has any advice on how I can put an E-mail subscription on there I sure would appreciate it.  I have some other minor concerns, but that is the one item that is keeping me from taking it live.

That’s it for now!  I’m REALLY looking forward to spring!

Until the next cigar,

CigarCraig

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Italian Night – Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010

After dinner we were flipping through the channels and came across the Pennsylvania Cable Network’s PCN Tours show featuring the Avanti cigar factory in Scranton, PA.  The PCN Tours show is an hour-long, very simple, tour of manufacturing facilities in Pennsylvania.  DVDs are available for purchase on the PCNTV.com website.  The tour was given by Avanti Cigar Company President Don Keating.  It was interesting to  see how this 100-year-old company uses machinery and techniques that are unchanged in at least 50 years.  They make thousands of Italian style cigars every day and they age them for quite a while before they are packaged and shipped.  This company really prides themselves on creating a high quality and consistent cigar.   Ironically, my wife and her father came home with baked goods from Termini Bros today.  After devouring a delicious biscotti and a cannoli, I ran out to the drugstore and picked up a pack of Avantis.  I’ve smoked plenty of  Toscano cigars, I had some Antico Toscanos from Italy years ago and enjoyed them.  Typically they are rugged cigars, often called cheroots, or  stogies.  Nothing subtle about them either and since they are dry cured, they keep for ever.

I am also a fan of black licorice.  The Avanti’s dominant flavor is anise, smoking on is like eating a package of black Twizzlers.  The PCN Tour show showed them painting the cigars with anise liqueur, and they load it on.  I was surprised at how long this little ugly cigar lasted, it was about a 45 minute smoke. This was an interesting change of pace, and I will enjoy these from time to time, and they have fewer calories than a box of Good ‘n Plentys!

Sunday I took a walk to pick up my car and smoked a 10-year-old Dominican cigar that was from E-Stix.com, an internet reseller from the ’90s which is, sadly, no longer operating.  It was actually a tasty cigar, it held up well after all these years.  It was a Churchill sized cigar that lasted the entire 3 mile walk.

Enough for now!  Until the next cigar,

CigarCraig

Sunday Cigar Ramblings – Jan 23, 2010

Saturday night I had the opportunity to go to a local watering hole, Williams Downingtown Hotel,  to see my  friend Greg play with his band, Now and Then.  One of the great things about this venue, and I believe I’ve mentioned it here before, is that it allows smoking!  The fact that it is a stone’s throw from home helps too. Now and Then is a trio of highly talented  musicians who play a mix of music, ironically, from now….and then!  They do a great job with a selection of classic rock and newer rock.  As a drummer myself (retired), I always enjoy great live music, and these guys ROCK.  I lit up a Chateau Real Gran Cru Perfecto maduro to start the evening.  I usually let new arrivals sit for a while, but these just looked so good, and they are!  medium bodied with a nice coffee/cocoa flavor.  I brought one of these for Greg also, who joined me between sets and very happily lit it up and seemed to enjoy it.  Greg and I went to high school together, and when we reconnected last year we found that we share the love of cigars.  Our schedules have prevented us from actually getting together for a smoke, so it was great to finally be able to catch up over a cigar.  Thanks to Greg  for giving CigarCraig.com a shout-out! I should have left you a lighter in case that cigar went out again!

Greg asked me a question last night that I didn’t get a chance to answer, so I figure this is a great place to address the question.  The question was regarding hygrometers, digital versus analog, and calibrating them.  Let me speak to calibration first:  Most of us probably don’t  want to actually change the calibration of our hygrometer, especially if it’s digital.  We want to get an idea how far it’s off so we can make a mental correction (or, if you’re like me, you write the variance on the unit so you don’t forget).

Humifiers and hygrometers out of 2 different humidors.

Here’s a simple way to test your hygrometer:  Take a small container like a bottle cap, and fill it with salt. Make the salt damp with water (don’t soak the salt completely). Place the wet salt and your hygrometer in a ziploc bag, or an airtight container and leave for 8 hours. Your hygrometer should read 75%.

I’m old fashioned. I still use florist foam based humidifiers in my humidor and cooler.  I have an old Radio Shack digital hygrometer and an analog thermometer/hygrometer that I got at a hardware store.  I rarely look at them, and rely on feel and how my cigars smoke to give me an indication as to whether I need to pay attention to my humidity sources.  I also have had a little bottle of propylene glycol for about 10 years, but my gallon of distilled water is starting to get low.  In addition to being old-fashioned, I’m also lazy.  The latest technological advancement in humidification is the polymer beads. You can get these in pre-set humidity levels and they seem really simple to use.  You can physically tell by the volume in the container when they need distilled water added.  I haven’t gotten around to trying these yet, but Heartfelt Industries seems to be a credible source for these.

If your humidity gets too high, a simple trick I’ve used is placing a container of dry white rice in your humidor.  Rice is a great desiccant, although, now that I think about it, aren’t rice producing areas usually really wet and humid?  Ironic, isn’t it?

Obviously this isn’t new or original information, but just some of my experience over the last 14 years of keeping cigars.   Cigars want to be kept in a reasonably damp environment, 65% relative humidity works for me, and they want to be at a comfortable temperature, too warm and you risk insect problems, which is another post all together.  Other than that, it isn’t rocket surgery.  I hope this information is of value to someone.

Congratulations again to our January contest winner, DJ from Boston.  Make sure you check out yesterday’s post and see the video of the selection process.

Until the next cigar,

CigarCraig

Saturday Cigar Ramblings – Jan 23, 2003

Maybe I should just name this blog “Cigar Ramblings”.   When spring rolls around and I am back to smoking cigar more regularly I’ll be able to dream up some better post titles! 

Anyway, this week I received a box of Chateau Real Gran Cru Perfecto Maduros from JR Cigars Weekly Special.  I have really enjoyed the Chateau Reals in the past and $59 for a $140 box was too good a deal to pass up.  These are another traditional blend from Drew Estates wrapped in a Mexican maduro leaf.  While I usually prefer a corona or robusto, it was hard to pass up this beautiful perfecto.

Meet the CigarCraig.com Contest Selection Committee

Last Friday I held a contest here with the prize being a couple cigars I picked up at Holt’s Cigars when I was there.  Today I conducted the highly scientific and conclusive selection process and a clear winner has been selected.  Please watch this short video of the actual selection.  My judges are beyond reproach and the results are final.  Ellie (not pictured here) made the final selection.  The video was edited for time which did not effect the outcome of the selection.

Click here to see the video or go to http://www.cigarcraig.com/video.html to see the video.

The winner as selected by the famous and proprietary cat method is DJ from Boston, apparently your “here kitty” approach was a success!  Please e-mail me your mailing address so that I can get your prize in the mail!  Thank you to everyone who participated.  I’ll be having another contest in February so keep your eye on this space.  You can also subscribe to this blog and receive an e-mail every time a new blog is posted so you don’t miss out!

Until the next cigar,

CigarCraig

Sunday Cigar Ramblings – Jan 17, 2010

Saturday night’s “take a cigar for a walk” cigar was a Montecristo Edmundo which had been rolling around the humidor for 5 years or so, and looked lonely, so I took it for a walk and it was a good walk.  It had the flavors I expect from a Montecristo and burned very well.  This example had a small chip in the wrapper that tempered the flavor a little bit until it burned past it then the signature flavors kicked in.  I don’t know how to describe it except that I liked it.  Continuing the theme of cigars that aren’t readily available around here, tonight I smoked a 5 year old or so Fonseca KDT Cadetes.  The KDT Cadetes is a 4½ x 36 firecracker.  Time has been good to this cigar and it really delivered in the flavor department. I’ve always enjoyed the presentation of this line, the white tissue wrap is a nice touch and sets it apart from other marques.  It was a very satisfying half hour or so smoke that was a good accompaniment to the latest issue of Smoke Magazine.

Speaking of the latest addition of Smoke, I’m surprised every quarter when it arrives at how thin the magazine has become.  That being said, it does have some interesting articles about cigars.  There was a time several years ago that I would look at the panel of tasters and know several of them.  Not anymore, however the one familiar face that surprised me in this issue was Brian Propp, former Philadelphia Flyer player and broadcaster.  As a hockey fan it’s nice to see someone like that included on the panel.  Something about the fact that of all of the cigars reviewed were in the 90s with a few in the 80s kind of makes me wonder.  Are there that many great cigars out there now.  I’d like to see a dogrocket in there once in a while.  There are also articles about Ernest Perez-Carrillo and Matt Booth that caught my interest.

If you are interested in art, take a look at some of the art of Michael Godard (http://www.michaelgodard.com/), “Rockstar of the art world”.  We saw some of his work this past summer at a showing at Resorts International in Atlantic City that was shared with another rockstar, photographer Mark Weiss.  Godard’s work focuses on the good life, with a strange fascination with olives.  He has some cigar themed works that are very nice, although I’m told he prefers to smoke Marlboros.  Unique work to be sure.

On the blog front, I found “The Arzt of Cigars” on CigarMedia.tv to be quite interesting.  One of his points that resonated with me was his opening segment about the Cigar Rights of America, an organization that I’m proud to say I support.  The CRA is fighting for our rights to continue to enjoy a legal product.  Granted, there is no convincing the anti-smoking set that we are right, it’s like arguing religion.  The CRA works tirelessly to make sure we continue to be able to enjoy cigars without smuggling and sneaking around.  Support the effort if you are able.  Mr. Arzt makes several other points about reviews and the latest New York City law that requires anyone selling tobacco to display graphic posters with diseased lungs and gums and such, while at the same time the Health Department published a brochure telling heroin users how to shoot up properly.  Can someone explain this to me?  The inmates are truly running the asylum there.

Enough of my ramblings, until the next cigar,

CigarCraig

Friday Cigar Ramblings – Jan. 15, 2010

It’s the end of another week. Tonight’s “take a cigar for a walk” cigar was the Perdomo Fresco Torpedo. This is a budget priced bundle cigar, I had purchased a single a few weeks back out of curiosity for around $3.00,  bundles can be found for under $50. This was a pretty cigar with a Connecticut shade wrapper and measured a hefty 6½” x 54. It was mild to medium with a nice creamy flavor and an even burn. I really had no complaints about this cigar and will pick up a couple more sometime. The band is enormous and shiny! Good for 2 miles!

In today’s cigar news Swedish Match (Macanudo, Partagas, La Gloria Cubana, etc.) and Scandanavian Tobacco Group (CAO, Toraño) announced plans for a merger. You can read Frank Seltzer’s article about it on Cigar Weekly. My good friend and tobacconist Jason told me a couple years ago that the industry was consolidating, a prediction that is coming true.

As I’m typing I’m sitting in on the Dogwatch Cigar Radio‘s live Stickam chat. This was the first time I’ve done this and it’s interesting to listen in on the recording of the podcast. The folks in the chat are quite friendly. Stickam seems to be a little unstable though as it keeps losing the connection.  In the end, they went on to record the podcast without Stickam.  They had just returned from a trip to Estili, Nicaragua with a group of listeners.

Click to Enlarge

A few weeks ago I posted about going to Holt’s flagship store in Philadelphia. I’ve put together a modest prize pack from that trip (and I’ll probably throw another cigar or two in before I send it out) which is the prize in this months contest. The rules are simple: Post a comment to this blog post, about a cigar, constructive criticism, whatever. The winner will be selected in the usual manner: The entries will be spread out on the floor in front of me and I will gaze at them intently, the first one that one of the cats sits on will be the winner. I will e-mail the winner for their mailing address.  The contest will run until Friday January 22.

Until the next cigar,

CigarCraig

Cigar-ventures – Jan 10, 2010

Last night I did something I don’t make a habit of doing, I smoked a cigar in the house.  I don’t do this too often because, as I am writing this, I can still smell the lingering aroma of the CAO CX2 that I enjoyed while watching the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning.  After enjoying the Don Lino Africa the night before, I wanted more of that Cameroon flavor.  Interestingly, the CX2 is no longer listed on the CAO website, but a little research turned up that this is now a Famous Smoke Shop exclusive.  I had thought that I got this particular cigar in July 2008 at the IPCPR show, but I’m thinking I must have had it longer than that.  This sports a Cameroon wrapper and binder and was a really nice cigar.  I managed to get almost two hours out of this robusto.  As much as I enjoy the smell of cigars, and as nice as it is to sit back and relax in your living room with a good game and a cigar, I am not a big fan of “the day after” aroma. This practice will be reserved for special occasions.

Sunday my wife suggested we go to the mall so she could do some shopping and I could hang out at the cigar shop and have a cigar.  The King of Prussia Mall is one of the largest malls on the east coast.  International Tobacco is conveniently located in the mall, however it has an outside entrance and access to the mall is through a corridor.  All malls should have such an arrangement.  The shop has a decent selection of mostly traditional brands and they are priced reasonably well considering the mall location. There was a game on the TVs and the bar had coffee and soda available.  I bought a Casa Magna Belicoso to smoke there while my wife shopped.  I chose this one because it had been Cigar Aficionado‘s top rated cigar of 2008 and I was curious to see what the hype was all about.  It looks like someone forgot to update the website for this brand, and there isn’t a lot of information out there.  These are supposed to be sold in shops only, so I guess it’s not surprising that there isn’t a lot of info on the web.  I  took a seat at the bar and lit my cigar.  The Casa Magna was a good cigar, and the $6 price tag is not bad for a good cigar. I guess I was expecting it to be a really great cigar, but  I just didn’t think it was as good as Cigar Aficionado made it out to be.   Still, if you need to go to the mall, King of Prussia mall has an oasis in the middle of shopping mayhem where a guy can park his butt for and hour or so and have a cigar!   

Please remember to go to the Austin Chronicle and place your votes for the 25 Smokin’ Figurados, and leave a comment on the last blog post for a chance to win their CD (and a couple cigars to go with it!).  Also, I’ve changed the appearance of this page, please let me know what you think.

Until the next cigar,

CigarCraig