Taking your Smoke on the Road
The old saying “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em” is a lot easier said than done these days. In the history of the cigar, I doubt it’s ever been so tough to actually smoke one, if you do have one – especially if you are traveling. The reasons:
- Many major cities have enacted some type of public smoking ban, and this trend is on the rise.
- Most hotels have already enforced, or will soon enforce, non-smoking policies.
- Since the terrorist actions and threats beginning with 9/11, lighters – and more critically cigar cutters – are banned from commercial flights.
Having just gone through it again recently, I thought I’d offer a few tips to ease the frustration:
- First, find a place to smoke. Of course, outside of your hotel is the obvious choice, but being outdoors is not always the most convenient or comfortable option.
- TIP 1: Talk to your concierge, a local acquaintance, or get on the Web to find a nearby, cigar-friendly bar or restaurant. If you travel to the area on a fairly regular basis, do the research and find your spot.
- By following the first tip, you should have no problem gaining access to a cutter at the restaurant/bar.
- TIP 2: Hold off on the urge to do the old bite-and-spit routine. Last week, I made this mistake, and the bite can be lethal to a cigar. Most often, it damages the integrity of the cap (layer(s) of wrapper tobacco) placed on the head end (where your mouth smokes the cigar), which helps to secure the entire wrapper leaf. A damaged cap can cause an unraveling and loss of the wrapper leaf of tobacco, which is usually considered to be the most critical part of the cigar’s anatomy. It is likely the most expensive leaf of tobacco in the cigar, and provides a significant component of its taste.
- TIP 3: Invest in a key ring punch, but avoid the long metal “bullet” punch (for obvious reasons). I have never had an issue with airport security with my non-descript grey key ring punch, and you can get an effective one for under $10.
Please share your thoughts with us – we love to hear from you.
Okay…let’s get smokin’!
5 Vegas Gold
Size: 6.0 X 50
This is one of two newer blends for 5 Vegas, pronounced “Cinco” Vegas, as in uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco (that’s numbers one through five in Spanish, as those of us who were forced to take a foreign language sometime in their schooling already know). The 5 Vegas Gold is substantially different from the 5 Vegas original blend, which is a good cigar in its own right. For starters, the Gold is certainly milder than the medium-to-full-bodied original. Secondly, the tobaccos and place of manufacture differs. The Gold is made in Honduras, using Honduran and Dominican tobacco, while the original is a Nicaraguan-made cigar utilizing Nicaraguan tobacco.
- Wrapper: Connecticut Shade
- Filler: Dominican, Honduran Blend
My work week had been fairly hectic leading up to this hump day lunch break. The area that I live in had record rains the day before and damp, warm air prevailed. I smoked the Gold on the back deck (overlooking the woods) with a simple glass of ice water. If I truly want to get an unbiased taste of a cigar, especially one that I have not tried before or one that is classified as mild, ice water is a good pairing. Also, it was not a bad idea to drink water, especially as I was “on the hook” at my day job all afternoon.
Look and feel:
The wrapper color was the light honey tan for which many Connecticut shade leaf wrapped cigars are famous. The cigar appeared flawless and smelled light and sweet, as far as cigars go. Construction appeared to be of premium quality, but looks can be deceiving (read on).
Aroma and Taste:
Initial puffs were mild with a touch of the Nicaraguan earthy flavor, though there is no Nicaraguan tobacco in the cigar. I was somewhat fooled.
Half an inch into the cigar, a peppery spiciness emerged for just a few puffs – certainly not powerful but you couldn’t miss it either – then disappeared, for a few puffs, then returned again briefly before the smoke settled into its mild yet flavorful equilibrium, with little to no pepper remaining. Though the first inch needed some babysitting, possibly due to the unusually humid conditions, it eventually became self-sufficient. The rest of the cigar provided a nice burn, copious smoke, and a mild, pleasant taste.
The cigar was marketed as mild to medium flavored, but I would definitely classify it as a mild smoke.
Other items of note:
- The burn: after a rough beginning, no problem.
- The cut: a guillotine administered straight cut.
- The nicotine strength: Mild
But wait. “Not so fast, my friend,” as Lee Corso likes to say on College Gameday: Less than halfway through the cigar, the wrapper began to split ahead of the burn – not enough to have any impact on the smoking, but a definite negative effect on the appearance. It was as if the heat was expanding the cigar near the burn, and the wrapper split instead of expanding with it. In this case it was not a big deal, given I was sitting on my deck; however, if I decided to smoke this during an activity, like golf or shooting pool, it would not have fared as well, and likely would have come apart. In this case, I only deducted 0.1 points off of the overall score, as I am assuming the split was a fluke. or a sign that my humidifier’s temperature and relative humidity need adjustment.
RATING: 8.7 (on a scale of 1 to 10)
A good, mild cigar and a nice one to cut your teeth on, if you lack experience; however, it also possesses enough complexity to appeal to the seasoned smoker in the mood for a milder cigar. I’ll be keeping an eye on the “wrapper split” in the next one I smoke.
Food for thought: "If
I had taken my doctor's advice and quit smoking when
he advised me to, I wouldn't have lived to go to his
funeral." – George Burns at age 98
DISCLAIMER: At the risk of sounding too much like a TV commercial, I do want to sincerely state: This feature is NOT intended to advocate the smoking of cigars any more or any less than you already do, nor do I intend to influence the non-smoker to begin smoking cigars. Make no mistake about it; CIGAR SMOKING MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH.