Havanas, A Smokers Guide
Experimenting with Havana brands will introduce you to their different styles
of flavour and allow you to establish your preferences. Once familiar with them
you can chose the right brand to suit your tastes on any occasion.
When your mind is made up there is another point to remember. If you smoke more
than one Havana a day subsequent cigars should be of equal or fuller flavour.
Never follow a full cigar with a lighter one as you will not taste it. There
are cigars for morning, noon and night.
The size, or vitola of the cigar you chose should be guided by how much
time you have available for its enjoyment. A Havana's flavour develops in the
course of smoking, and often its true potential is not revealed until the
halfway mark, so chose a vitola you will nor be forced to part with at its most
enjoyable stage. Bear in mind that slow burning, heavy gauge cigars tend to
offer fuller than slender ones, even within the same marque.
Havanas are delicate products that develop and mature if stored in the right
conditions, their flavours becoming rounder and mellower with time. Furthemore
a Havana must be in perfect condition at the time of smoking otherwise it will
burn badly and taste harsh. Therefore it is essential that Havanas are stored
correctly right up until the moment of smoking.
To keep Havanas properly they should be stored at between 16°C and
18°C and in a relative humidity (RH) of 65 to 70 per cent. Placing your
Havanas in a humidor that is designed to provide the correct level of RH is the
best way to look after them.
A simple and reliable way to test the condition of a cigar is to hold it
between your thumb and index finger and squeeze gently. If it feels firm but
springy then it is in good condition; hard and brittle means too dry, soft and
spongy means too wet.
The head of handmade Havana is sealed with a cap of tobacco which helps to
secure the wrapper leaf in place. Before lighting you need to create a broad
opening in it, a job efficiently done using a guillotine cutter or special
cigar scissors, Make your incision across the shoulders of the cigar leaving
the bottom part of the cap in place to avoid the wrapper unravelling. Piercing
as a means of preparing the cigar is discouraged as the small hole it leaves
offers a poor draw and can focus heat and oils.
Removing the band at this stage can damage the delicate wrapper leaf. If you
wish to take the band off the best advice is to do so after smoking for around
five minutes, when the cigar has warmed up and the band is easier to remove.
Even then the band should not be pulled off, like a ring off a finger, but
rather peeled off.
Lighting is about following two simple rules; take your time, and do a thorough
job. The whole of the foot of the cigar the must he alight before you settle
back to enjoy smoking, otherwise the cigar may burn down unevenly. The fatter
the cigar the more the time will he needed to light it.
Lighting can be done with a wooden match (once the head has burned off) or a
butane lighter, as both of these have odourless flames. Petrol lighters and wax
candles should he avoided as their flames release aromas which interfere with
the tobacco flavours of your Havana.
If your cigar goes out halfway through you need nor abandon it, bur simply
re-light it. This is best done by first clearing any ash from, and then heating
the end of the cigar in a flame. After such priming the cigar will re-light at
To enjoy a Havana. you should not inhale the smoke. The true pleasure is to be
found in appreciating the composition of tobacco flavours and these are best
detected on the palate by your sense of taste. Relax with your Havana, and mull
over its flavours
Do not try smoking a Havana that has half gone out as it will only offer a
disappointing mixture of hot air and thin smoke. Half-lit cigars need to he
coaxed back to full burn with a touch of re-lighting and a few vigorous puffs.
Don't flick the ash as cigarette smokers do. Allow a long ash to form. Its
evenness shows how well your Havana is made.
There is no need to stub out your Havana.
Just lay it to rest in an ashtray when you feel you have had enough. It will go
out quickly of its own accord. Let it die with dignity.