Frequently Asked Questions About Tobacco & Cigars
The information on this page is partially based on opinion. No warranties are expressed or implied as pertaining to accuracy and you should not base important decisions on this information.
Why is tobacco fermented and what does it do?
After fresh tobacco has been harvested and cured (by air, flue or fire curing), it must be further processed in order to make it a premium product. This applies to the leaf used for all parts of a cigar - filler, binder, and wrapper.
The process is known as fermentation and must be carefully monitored at all times. Essentially, the bales of cured (and dried) leaf are received, moistened, and laid up into large piles called "bulks." The centers of the bulks generate heat and are monitored so that they are not allowed to exceed 115 to 130 degrees F.
The leaves in the bulk are rotated out from center to outside and the heat allowed to build up again. This process is repeated, as necessary, from four to eight cycles until the generation of heat levels off. Each cycle or rotation is know as a "sweat." The "sweating" or fermentation process releases nitrogen and other chemical compounds. It also reduces the nicotine content.
After fermentation has been completed and the leaves re-dried, the tobacco is again restacked into bales or barrels and allowed to age. This aging process helps to enhance the flavors and the burning qualities. It is this step that sets aside premium, high quality cigar manufacturers, an hence their cigars, from the inferior ones.
Common signs that the tobacco leaf has not been fully fermented and aged include:
One last point, once a cigar is made, the tobacco in it can no longer be fermented. A cigar must be maintained and under the proper storage conditions, may mellow and improve with age. That said, if unfermented or un-aged tobacco is used in the making of a cigar, no amount of time will improve its characteristics.
How should cigars be stored?
Like any hobby that includes attitudes, opinions, and egos, there are many opinions on how to properly protect and preserve your cigar investment. There are many opinions on this subject. Most agree that 70% relative humidity and 70 degrees F are desired. This is a ratio so as the temperature decreases, humidity needs to increase in order to keep the cigars at an optimal moisture content. A decent humidor with regular attention to charging its humidifier are critical.
One source I read stated that even at these conditions, the cigars will eventually dry out. They stated that 73% RH will, "keep cigars perfect forever."
The temperature inside the humidor must not allowed to get too hot. High temperature and high humidity create an incubator for insect pests and mold. Dry cigars, on the other hand, have less flavor, aroma, become harsh, and flake off in the mouth. Dryness causes wrappers to unravel - a common problem with improperly stored cigars.
What should I do if my cigar goes out?
It is best to smoke a cigar all the way through. This means that you are in a position to relax for an extended period of time and not be subject to interruptions or distractions. However, it happens. You rest it in the ashtray, for just a second, and when you return, it has ceased glowing.
The main thing is to keep a cool head and not panic. As with all practices involving cigar procedures, patience is key. First, accumulated ash needs to be removed from the tip. This can easily be done by snipping off the end with a sharp cigar cutter.
Begin to light the cigar allowing it to burn with a bright yellow flame. Gently blow through the cigar for a few seconds to burn off any tar that may have built up. Continue to enjoy as if it were freshly lit.
Is it true that the higher the price, the better the cigar?
Heck no! Is that ever true about any product or service? There are always great products whose supply is too short for actual demand and therefore command a high price. More often than not, it is effective and clever marketing that is in play.
All things considered, it is the properly cultivated, harvested, cured, processed blended tobacco leaf that determines the ultimate quality of the cigar. It is the cigar roller and the quality control methods in place at a company that determine the consistency of a cigar product line over time.
Another thing that raises the price of a cigar without guaranteeing any affect on the actual quality is fancy packaging. Someone has to pay for individual glass or aluminum tubes or the beautifully finished and labeled Honduran mahogany and Spanish cedar boxes.
In the end, determining the actual value should not be left to others. The loudmouth with an opinion nor even purported unbiased articles in magazines will be able to tell you when a cigar is worth the money. It is your own wallet and palate that will determine this for you.
Who says size is not important?
O.K., that is supposed to be an attempt at humor. But the question of "whether the size of a cigar is important" is a valid on.
Generally, people tend to settle into routine and ritual. It is a human nature. Many things contribute to this and without getting into the psychology of these characteristics, leave it to say that after a period of time, we all know what we like and tend to stick with it.
When comparing the tastes and aromas of various cigars, size does matter. The bigger the ring gauge, the greater the volume of smoke produced, and the more influence it will have on taste and aroma. The same blend of tobacco, rolled by the same person, but in a different ring gauge, will taste different.
When comparing different cigars by different manufacturers, it is more fair to use the same ring gauges, and to a lesser degree, length. Although the length of a cigar affects the taste to a lesser extent than the diameter, it is still a factor.
If I grow tobacco, do I need a license or permit?
It is difficult to draw out the answer to this question. In the 21st Century, a stigma attached to the use of tobacco products to the point that although it may not be illegal, it has become shameful and socially unacceptable. The answer here is not intended to be a statement of legality so do not take our answer as authority. This information is only intended as a starting point for you.
First, throughout the history of the United States, a personal patch of tobacco was a common, almost expected sight in a farmstead's home garden. Seed companies have catered to this practice since catalogs began being printed.
According to the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, "The Tax and Trade Bureau does not license, or require a permit for, growing tobacco. In addition, the Tax and Trade Bureau does not regulate the sale of tobaccos that are not tobacco products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture may regulate the growing and sale of such tobacco. You may contact this department at their web site at www.usda.gov."
Basically, it is hard to find anywhere where they come out and say that it is o.k. to grow your own, but they will admit that it is not illegal and that there are no regulations on amounts grown for personal use. Bartering or selling tobacco products is regulated and taxed.
If you are concerned with the legality of growing tobacco in your area, contact your local agricultural extension agent. If you are outside of the United States, you should start with your ministry or department of agriculture.