In 1492, Columbus made two great discoveries: one, everybody knows. The other was the first recorded observation of a cigar being smoked. One of the explorer’s officers saw a tribe of Indians in San Salvador smoking large cone-shaped rolls of tobacco.

Since then, savoring a fine cigar has been one of life’s great pleasures. Traditionally, cigar smokers have comprised an exclusive fraternity of those who truly appreciate the best things in life, individuals of sophistication and refinement.

In the days before the Cuban embargo, much of the world’s high-quality cigar tobacco came from various regions in Cuba. The embargo changed all that. Many of the master cigarmakers and tobacco growers left Cuba, taking with them generations-old skills of tobacco farming and cigar manufacturing, along with whatever tobacco seed they were able to smuggle out. Today the best cigar leaf is grown in many regions of the Caribbean, North, Central and South America, Africa and Asia. The tobacco are gathered and brought to Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the United States where they are cured, blended and rolled into the fine quality cigars so highly prized by connoisseurs.

First, all cigar tobacco leaf must be aged and cured in order to produce the precise balance of characteristics the cigarmaker wants for a particular cigar.
Three are the basic elements in every cigar: the filler (the innermost tobaccos which form the body of the cigar), the binder (a middle wrapping of whole leaf or composite material which holds the filler together in a “bunch”), and the wrapper (a whole leaf segment which covers the entire cigar).
There are three major types of cigar construction: hand-made (cigars are made by hand from start to finish), hand-rolled (cigars are machine bunched), and machine-made (cigars use both long and short filler tobaccos, often of the same grade as the hand made ones).
There are three basic shades of wrapped leaf: candella or double claro (a light yellowish green shade, which produces the least aggressive taste and the most sharply pungent aroma), natural or english market selection (light to medium brown with a rounded taste and a rich, mellow aroma), and maduro (dark brown to mahagony/black which gives the cigar a zesty, full tobacco taste and aroma).

There are seven basic cigar shapes, each of which has a traditional name, although often they are given fanciful names by manufactures. The selection of a particular shape is strictly a matter of individual preference; however a cigar smoker should choose a cigar for comfort and appearance in addition to taste. It should both feel and look right in your mouth as well as your hand.

Yes, there is a correct way to smoke your cigar in order to get the best out of it. Here are the three basic steps.
Clipping – The head of a hand-made cigar has been sealed to hold in flavor and humidity, and must be cut or “clipped” to provide an easy draw. The correct way is to clip the head of your cigar neatly and cleanly with a cigar cutter especially made for that job.

There are three types of cuts: the pierce (a small hole punched in the end of the cigar), the guillotine cut (a straight-across slice with a razor-sharp cutter), and the “V” cut (who keeps bitter tars down at the deep end of the “V” and away from your tongue).
Lighting – To get the full enjoyment of the tobacco taste, light your cigar with a butane lighter, which produce an odorless and tasteless flame. A wooden match is also good but you must allow the head of the match to burn off first to avoid a sulfur taste. Never use a fluid type lighter or paper match as they can adversely affect the taste of your cigar. To properly light your cigar, hold it at 45-degree angle with open end (“foot”) down. Hold the tip of the flame _” from the foot without placing the cigar to your lips. Rotate the cigar slowly over the flame. This warms the cigar and releases the volatile oils in the leaf giving you full flavor right from the first puff. Be careful not to char or blacken the foot. After a few seconds, the end of your cigar will be ready for lighting. Draw gently on the cigar as you rotate it between your fingers with the tip of the flame about _” below the end. This procedure will gradually light the entire diameter of the cigar for an even, steady burn.
Smoking – Here is the best part! Sit back and slowly “sip” your cigar as if it were a glass of fine wine or brandy. Relax and savor the rich tobacco flavor; no need to inhale, the satisfaction is in the taste. At the end of your smoke, let your cigar go out by itself…

A Briar pipe begins as a “burl” (or growth) on the root system of the White Heath Tree, a squat, hearty, shrub-like plant which grows primarily in the dry, arid, rocky wastelands around the Mediterranean Sea. Of all woods, the Briar burl is unique for making pipes; it’s tough, porous and nearly impervious to heat. Burls for fine quality pipes can often be 50 to 100 years old when harvested for pipe making.
Once harvested, the Briar burls are cut by skilled craftsmen using large, circular saws to remove the soft and cracked portions, leaving only close-grained, extremely hard Briar wood. This remaining Briar is then rough-cut into small blocks, called “ebauchons”, in sizes and shapes suitable for fashioning into standard shape pipes.
When harvested, Briar contains considerable moisture, sap and resin. The ebauchons and plates are boiled in water for several hours to remove much of the sap and resin. This is followed by long periods of drying so that all traces of moisture are moved from the wood.
Once the curing process is completed, the Briar is ready to be shaped into pipe bowls. A variety of hand and machine operations are necessary to complete this shaping process. Once the bowls are shaped, they are fitted with mouthpieces or stems, hand finished, stained, polished and waxed. The new pipe is now ready to give many years of smoking enjoyment.

Your greatest smoking pleasure will come from learning and practicing the basic techniques employed by pipe experts. A cool, dry, flavorful smoke time after time will be your reward. Once you know the secrets of loading, lighting and tamping your pipe, you will enjoy the full richness and flavor of your tobacco. Your pipe will stay lit longer and give you full smoking satisfaction.

Text taken from: Cigar Smoker’s Guide and The Briar Pipe – Tinder Box International – USA, 1988 and 1990. Pictures taken from Internet.

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