Cigar 101 – Keeping a Cigar Log
The BCP marketing director and I were juggling between “cigar journal,” “cigar diary,” and “cigar log” for the title of this post and we decided that “cigar log” is by far the manliest name for it—kind of like a captain’s log. But whatever you call it, it can be a very helpful tool for any smoker. A cigar log can be especially helpful for beginners, because it allows them to isolate certain characteristics that they look for in a smoke and match them up with the manufacturer, shape and size, and the country (or countries) where the tobacco was grown. I’m a firm believer in the idea that there’s no wrong way to enjoy a cigar, but I do think that there are better ways than others to review one.
When reviewing a cigar, it’s important to try to cut out as many distractions as you can. If you’re sitting in a cigar bar or closed space with a bunch of other smokers, you may find that it’s hard to isolate and identify a lot of the tastes in your own cigar because of all the different kinds of secondhand smoke. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t enjoy a smoke with your buddies, but if you intend to try to take notes on the cigar, it’s better to do it in an open-air setting, unless, of course, you’re all smoking the same cigar.
When it comes to the actual process of taking notes, everybody does it differently. Some prefer to have a rigid template for reviewing, and some prefer freeform notes. More recently I’ve been loosely organizing my notes into four sections—pre-light, first third, second third, final third. As for notes about appearance, draw, and construction, those usually go in the margins. Definitely make a note of whatever you drank with the cigar so you can remember which drinks go well with which smokes.
Picking the right beverage to go with your cigar is very important—something too strong could overpower the cigar, and some tastes, regardless of strength, will ruin the flavors in a cigar. Generally speaking, the stronger the cigar is, the stronger your beverage can be without overpowering it, but I’ve never had a cigar that didn’t go well with coffee. If you’re looking for some suggestions, check out our posts on alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage and cigar pairings.
After smoking, sometimes it’s nice to have a keepsake—some smokers, myself included, like to save the band from every cigar. This can sometimes be difficult if the roller goes a little nuts with the glue. If this happens, try putting a dab of water on the glued part of the band—since the glue is water soluble, it should come right off. In the interest of protecting your cigar, you shouldn’t try to take the band until the burn line reaches it; otherwise you run the risk of pulling off some of the cigar’s wrapper leaf. Some cigar smokers take pictures of their cigars as they burn down, like Paul, one of our graphic designers, who frequently posts his on our Facebook page. This is a good idea if you want to monitor the burn—see Brian Hewitt of The Stogie Review’s trademark Tower of Burn (scroll down)—and could also help if you’re trying to identify a cigar.
I think that half the enjoyment I get out of smoking a good stogie comes from comparing it to ones I’ve smoked in the past, and the easiest way to do it is to look back on my notes. I hope this helps anybody who wants to start reviewing cigars, even if you’re not going to publish them, and if anybody has any more suggestions for logging and/or reviewing cigars, feel free to post them in a comment.