Do You Know Everything There Is to Know About Cigars?

Torrance Grey

Which nation, hands down, is most associated with cigars?

You say "Cuban," we say "cigar!" Despite a longtime U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, Americans are just as mad about Cuban cigars as people in other countries.

In what are cigars typically stored?

As the name suggests, a humidor is a box or case that provides a humid (but not too damp) atmosphere for cigar storage. Most humidors are made of wood.

What kind of wood are humidors often made from?

While cigars are more valuable when they're made of just one kind of tobacco, a good humidor is often built from a mix of cedar and mahogany woods. Manzanita, a scrub brush found in the American west, isn't often used.

What is used to wrap cigars?

While old copies of Communist newspapers would be awesome, it would also be impractical, as a lot of cigars come from capitalist countries. No, they're wrapped in tobacco leaf -- one significant difference from cigarettes, which have rolling papers.

Which of these is NOT part of a cigar?

A "corona" is a standard-shape cigar with a length of between 5 and 6 inches. It has one end open and one end capped.

True or false: Are cigars manufactured in the United States?

Tampa, Florida, is actually a significant maker of cigars. Tobacco itself, of course, is grown across the American Southeast.

Which of these is the name of a cigar magazine?

"Cigar Aficionado" is owned by the same publisher as "Wine Spectator," but the name is not the same. "Aficionado" was likely chosen because it is a term that evokes Spain and Latin America. "Smoke" is a rival publication.

After inhaling cigar smoke, how long should you hold it in your lungs?

Unlike cigarettes, cigars are made to be puffed. The smoke is not drawn into the lungs. This is part of the basis for cigar lovers' claim that cigars are healthier than cigarettes.

If a cigar is "tight," what does that mean?

A cigar that is too tightly packed and rolled doesn't allow rich flavors to develop. However, if leaves are too loose, a cigar will burn too fast. It's a tradeoff.

Which US president instituted the trade embargo which keeps Cuban cigars out of the States (Or tries to)?

Kennedy bought up more than 1,000 Cuban cigars before instituting the ban. (Sigh. Another idol of incorruptibility falls).

When a cigar is made entirely of one variety of tobacco leaf, it is called _____.

Naturally, cigars are a bit more valuable when they have this quality. It's not unlike whisky, which can be single-malt or blended.

More than anything else, cigars are popularly associated with _______.

Don't believe us? A survey showed that the readership of "Cigar Aficionado" reported an average household income of $194,000. There's a reason why rich men in cartoons are often shown waggling cigars.

Which of these is a renowned Cuban brand?

Cohibas are associated with Cuba's national cigar company, but there is also a Dominican brand of Cohibas. These latter kind are the only Cohibas that can legally be sold in the US.

What differentiates a cigarillo from a cigar?

Cigarillos are wrapped in tobacco leaf, like cigars (and unlike cigarettes). The difference is that they are smaller and thinner.

Which of these types of cigars are popular in Asia?

A cheroot is a small cigar clipped at both ends. Inexpensive to make, they were popular with the working man in South Asia, and make appearances in literature around 19th-century India and Burma.

Finish the saying: "_______ but no cigar."

This saying comes from the days when cigars were a prize in carnival games. (It's hard to imagine this happening in the health-conscious 21st century.)

"Oscuro" and "rosado" refer to what quality of a cigar?

The color in question is the color of the wrapper, the part of the cigar that is visible. Other colors include "candela," "maduro," and "claro."

On what occasion do men traditionally hand out cigars?

What's the theory here, really? "My wife has just put in the hardest 10 hours she'll ever live through ... Boy, I need a smoke!"

When a cigar is rolled entirely by hand, how is it labeled?

"Hecho a mano" means the cigars were machine-bundled but finished by hand. However, cigars completely rolled by hand from start to finish are "totalmente a mano."

In which presidential scandal did cigars feature prominently?

We can't go into details here. But suffice it to say that a cigar tube took on a strange role as a phallic stand-in in the biggest political/sex scandal of the 1990s.

Which of these is an argument for cigars being healthier than cigarettes?

Cigar smoking shouldn't be taken for a healthy habit, but it's almost certainly healthier than cigarette smoking. A lot of that has to do with the fact that cigarette smokers can easily go through a pack or more a day, while cigar smokers smoke on an irregular basis.

Which of these does a cigar NOT contain?

Sounds appealing, doesn't it? We'll stick with our daily cup of coffee, thanks!

What is the material at the center of a cigar called?

Despite the unflattering name, the "filler" is probably the most important part of the cigar. It provides most of the taste, and the tightness or looseness of its leaves dictates the quality of the smoking experience.

Why are cigars often machine-produced?

Cigar-making was mechanized for the same reasons that nearly all industries get mechanized: It's faster and cheaper. That's why machine-made (or at least machine-finished) cigars will cost you less than hand-rolled.

True or false: Does Cuba allow machine-rolling of cigars?

While hand-rolling is a highly-respected tradition in Cuba, the country's two state-run manufacturers also use machines. However, many people who take the effort to find Cuban cigars want hand-rolled ones.

Which of these is the world's biggest consumer of cigars?

That's right, the United States has an real taste for cigars. Germany comes in second.

Why would you own a cigar tube?

For larger numbers of cigarettes, you might own a cigar case as well. Some are even designed to preserve humidity, like portable humidors.

Why do you need a cigar cutter?

These look a bit like nail trimmers for pets. There's a circular opening and a blade that goes across, guillotine-style.

What is the name of the layer between a cigar's wrapper and its filler?

Binder leaves are bit tougher than the wrapper. They are also allowed to have some discoloration or irregularities, which the wrapper should not have.

What is "vitola"?

Cigarettes vary quite little in length and width and shape, but not so cigars. To a cigar lover, "vitola" is very important.

Which of these is the most common cigar shape?

"Parejo" means "similar" in Spanish; the name might come from the fact that this is the familiar or expected shape for a cigar. It's a cylindrical cigar with one end open, one capped, and straight sides.

Less-common shapes for cigars are lumped into the category _______.

This term essentially means "shaped." Shapes within this category include the "torpedo" and the "pyramid."

In old-time cigar factories, what was the job of the "lector"?

The "lector" read books to workers rolling cigars, to keep them from getting bored. This lovely tradition has largely died out with the advent of audiobooks, but is recalled in the stage play "Anna in the Tropics," about the reading of "Anna Karenina."

In which decade did cigars become trendy among women and the young?

Yes, for a time, we were all encouraged to believe that nothing was hotter that a sexy young woman smoking a cigar. We suspect this died out because men did not, in fact, find it sexy for their girlfriends to look like a 19th-century robber baron.

Which of these states is too far north to grow tobacco?

Surprised? Connecticut, generally thought of as a Yankee state, is home to "Connecticut Shade" tobacco. You can see the protective canopies over the fields as you drive some of the Nutmeg State's highways.

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About This Quiz

Cigars: What other indulgence can claim to have been loved by Communist revolutionaries in the jungle and robber barons in their Manhattan penthouses? This longer, thicker and more expensive cousin to the humble cigarette has origins dating back to Europeans' discovery of the New World, a storied history that includes a Communist revolution, a trade embargo, illicit smuggling and much more. Like coffee and chocolate, cigars are a treat from the equatorial world that many in the northern countries just can't live without. 

There are also a lot of misunderstandings about cigars. Are they so expensive that they're only for the wealthy? Are they healthier than cigarettes, or just as bad? Are they only made in Cuba, and if not, are the ones made outside Cuba any good?

Let's face it: There's just an allure about cigars that cigarettes will never match. Notable cigar smokers include many of America's presidents, top business leaders, and famous entertainers. Kennedy and Castro, mortal enemies otherwise, both loved a good cigar. Winston Churchill liked them so much there's a style of cigar named after him. Entire magazines are devoted to the subject of cigars and how they are best enjoyed. 

Are you a true cigar aficionado? Or just taking your first few puffs of this Latin American indulgence? Whichever the case, light up a Cohiba and take a shot at our quiz!

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