Navigating Cigar Lounges

March 21, 2024

“If I cannot smoke cigars in heaven, I shall not go.” Mark Twain

Think of cigar lounges akin to an ancient grand church sanctuary. They have readily understandable, implicit rules to insure all patron’s enjoyment and comfort. If you consider and understand lounge etiquette, your experience will be enhanced as well as that of those surrounding you. Dress appropriately; engage in polite conversation; be mindful of your smoke. No phones or other electronic devices, as cigar lounges encourage their patrons to be present in the here and now – unscathed by family or work pressures.  Many large cities have exceptional cigar shops. New York, Chicago, LA, and Scottsdale Arizona Cigar Shops house massive inventories and even sometimes carry their own brands of cigars. Smaller cities often have good cigar shops, too.

Escape from the hustle, bustle and grind and enter into the classical world of cigars, where ‘Cigar Etiquette’ is priority. Let’s consider for a moment cigar culture customs and nuances to enrich your smoking experience.

Cigar culture is an escape into taste and tradition. Enjoying your smoke while demonstrating the proper etiquette will both enhance your personal experience and honor the history, craftsmanship and uniqueness of each cigar.

Before you entertain entering a cigar lounge, you have considered the basic principles of entering any public place wherein your colleagues will be considerate, calm, collected and enjoying a nice smoke. Your attire is appropriate, and if necessary, you own a smoking jacket depending on what others will be wearing and of course your hygiene is impeccable as you may well be in a close group setting.

Purchasing

Most cigar lounges will not let you bring in your own cigars. If you stop and consider it, buying in-house effectively supports the industry and culture of cigar smoking. It also contributes to the entire local economy and culture of which they are an integral part of. However, some lounges offer locker rentals and usually if you rent a locker in their humidor you can bring in your own cigars and store them for a small fee.

Not only that, but cigar lounges have the newest varieties and a larger selection than you maintain. Allow yourself to branch out and enjoy new and perhaps unfamiliar brands.

What to smoke…decisions…decisions. With the wide selection available at your fingertips, spend a pensive moment and consider the vast collection available.

Cuban, Nicaraguan, origin, shape, size and wrapper trapping will play into your decision. The size and shape will contribute to duration and intensity of your smoke. A milder flavor will be signaled by a lighter wrapper; darker wrappers may signal a more intense smoking experience.

Now that you have decided upon your smoke, let’s review some tips to make your smoking experience and the experience of those around you the best possible. Consider the following topics, many of which are elaborated on herein.

  • Appropriate attire – consider a smoking jacket
  • Maintaining good hygiene is crucial
  • Follow posted rules
  • Purchasing – From the cigar lounge – big variety
  • Polite social conversation – be gentle
  • Electronic devices stowed – Hold Your Calls
  • Maintain a respectable distance –honor space
  • Maintain a balanced fund of cigar knowledge and fun facts
  • Be welcoming in sharing the lounge space
  • Mindful of your smoke
  • Respect staff members on their job
  • No need for band removal
  • Don’t lick your cigar.
  • Don’t hold the cigar up to your nose.
  • Don’t chew your cigar.
  • Lighting
  • Ash gently.
  • Beverage pairings
  • Be aware that patrons may be waiting
  • Leave your area clean, tip appropriately.

HOLD YOUR CALLS

Atmosphere is everything when smoking a great cigar and thus social setting is no different. Deep in personal conversation while yapping on your phone is distracting to others who are there to relax and it is very disrespectful to those around trying to get their zen on. It’s also sidelining your own experience. Do the world and the entire lounge a big favor. Leave your phone alone. Set it to vibrate and if necessary take important calls outside the lounge.

NO LICKING

No need to lick cigars before you light up. You may have witnessed the occasional cigar connoisseur lick his cigar or even (no) stick the entire cigar in his mouth. While it’s totally legit to imbibe in a cold draw after you cut your cigar, it’s not necessary to lick it first.

And don’t ask to borrow a buddy’s cigar cutter after you’ve already had your cigar in your mouth. Only borrow a cutter before you put your cigar in your mouth

DON’T CHEW YOUR CIGAR

Resist the temptation. Yes, the cigar head will accumulate saliva as you are smoking. Even so, it is against cigar etiquette to chew on it. It just is a bad habit and it might damage the construction. Then you would be in a pickle.

TIME TO CUT

You have greeted the staff, chosen a smoking area.

It is time to master the art of cutting your cigar. Using a straight cutter or guillotine-style cutter is the easiest. The straight cutter will provide more airflow thus an easy draw. Your cigar should be cut at the cap right above the shoulder – right where the head of your stogie begins its taper. If you cut your cigar too deep, you risk getting loose tobacco in your mouth as well as the problem of having the wrapper leaf unraveling as you’re smoking. In case you prefer a tighter draw, you may want to consider a punch or a V cutter. This most likely will increase your cigar’s intensity as the smoke and oil are concentrated through a smaller opening. The rituals of properly cutting and patiently lighting a cigar are pivotal. Utilize a high-quality cutter to provide a clean cut, thus avoiding damage to the cigar.

BAND OFF

(Don’t Take the Band Off Until You Get Near the End)

Obviously, you don’t want to smoke the band, but you don’t have to take the band off your cigar before you light up. Some smokers choose to remove the band so as not to show off. The original purpose of the band was so that the cigar would not discolor your fingertips. If you do choose to remove the band, first smoke your cigar until the lit end is roughly an inch or two away from the band before you remove it. The heat from the cigar loosens the adhesive on the inside of the band, and you can gently peel it off sans tearing the wrapper leaf. Many cigar bands are impressive while providing record of what you smoked in case you want to buy another one.

LIGHTING

Master smokers know the trick to lighting a cigar. You will hear them say “Toast it but don’t over-roast it.” Whether you light up with matches, a lighter or cedar spills, hold the flame 1 to 2 inches away from the cigar’s foot. If you err and bury the cigar within the flame, it will burn unevenly and you may taste fuel and blackened tobacco. If your facial hair is on fire you probably need to back it away a bit.

Patience is indeed a virtue and you will need to have it when lighting your cigar. You will rotate slowly over the flame so that the entire roll is evenly lit. Inhale as you slowly turn the cigar. If you own a high-performing butane torch, you can persist and touch up areas that missed an even burn.

Once you have successfully lit your cigar you will want to flip it and blow the lit end which will have a red-orange glow. You have accomplished an even ash. Excellent, well-made cigars burn straight as their ash stays intact for a few inches.

AMBIANCE

Deeply appreciate the flavor when inhaling into your lungs. Relax into your chair. Clear your mind. Take a cleansing breath. Draw in, savor the taste and the experience. Rest your eyes. Exhale. With this approach you are settling in for a quiet, refreshing experience and allowing your body to be present and relish the cigar experience as they designed it. Be patient. If you rush you could overheat yourself and the cigar – resulting in a bitter taste. Not good.

ASH YOUR CIGAR GENTLY

In a cigar lounge most likely you will be resting in front of a nice glass ashtray which holds lots of ashes. These also feature cigar rests, or stirrups, which allows you to set your cigar down between puffs and not worry about your cigar rolling off.

No need to bang your cigar against the ashtray rim. This could cause the wrapper to crack, unravel and create an uneven burn. Instead, gently twist your cigar ash off centered in the ashtray. Resist the temptation of a long ash. While ashes are easy to brush away, don’t wait too long to ash as it can get messy.

Smudging up someone’s furniture and maybe even your clothing by falling ash is no good. There also is a real danger of ruining a friend’s drink by failing to monitor your ash. Use the trays provided in order to keep your own ash manageable. Never ash onto the carpet or wood floor … that’s atrocious.

BEVERAGE PAIRINGS

Your cigar experience will benefit greatly from the proper beverage pairing. Aged whiskies or rums are common pairings. There’s room for experimentation such as coffee or perhaps an aged wine.

TAKE OUTS

(No Half-Smoked Cigars in Your Humidor)

So as life can roll, you had to take that call and your smoking good time was interrupted. It happens. The question is…Can you save that smoke for later? Well, kind of. It is not going to taste like it did when you first lit her up. First step is to lay it on the ashtray and let it go out naturally. Once it is completely out, cut the ash, and then place it in plastic. Note: It will only be good for 1 or 2 days at the latest.

Don’t attempt to keep a half-smoked cigar inside your humidor, or your pocket, or even your car’s glove compartment. The aroma will be strongly evident in any area you placed it.

ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END

Sadly, as in all good things, time has passed too quickly and you are all done smoking. It’s time to honor your cigar. Gently place what’s left onto the ashtray. Do not grind it into the ashtray which may cause it to emit an unpleasant aroma. Handcrafted cigars are humidified and because of that moisture the cigars will burn out on their own.

Pay attention and watch to be sure that your cigar is fully extinguished upon leaving the cigar lounge. You don’t want to attract Smokey the Bear.

As you vacate your smoking area, be sure to leave it better than you found it. Tip your waitstaff if appropriate. Tomorrow holds promise of another great day and another great cigar.

 

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