Willy Cigars

President Guillermo "Willy" Carrazana

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Hand Made Cigars

When looking to buy good, quality hand-crafted cigars, you might be confused by the cigar ratings you read in magazines. How do the judges determine whether a cigar is a 70 or a 90? As subjective as rating cigars may be, especially when it comes to taste, they all use pretty much the same criteria. It is good to have some guidelines to help you determine whether you would buy a box of hand-crafted cigars, or use it as fertilizer.

When rating hand-crafted cigars, there are five primary categories to take into consideration, and these include the overall appearance (consistency of wrapper color, uniformity of the wrapping, oiliness and/or sheen of the wrapper leaf) of the cigar, the draw, or how easy or difficult it is to draw smoke through the cigar, the burn rate, whether it is too slow, too fast, or uneven, the construction, whether the cigar is too loose, too tight, or the wrapper unwraps during smoking, and finally, the taste (smooth, bitter, creamy, light, powerful, and at what point did these "tastes" present themselves - for instance, the cigar may have started out with a light pleasant taste but turned bitter halfway through smoking).

The complexity of hand-crafted cigars would also be part of the taste criteria. Some hand-crafted cigars have a rich, complex taste from start to finish; others build in complexity as they smoke. The finish is another. This is determined by the flavors left on the palate after taking a puff. Lighter hand-crafted cigars tend to have very little finish, whereas maduros and hand-crafted cigars made with stronger-tasting fillers have a very distinct finish.

These last two factors have more to do with the sensitivity of your taste buds than anything else. Concentrate on the five primary criteria and eventually you'll become a very good judge of character.

Once you found the right hand-crafted cigars for your taste, it is important to take good care of them. It is a good idea to keep several things in mind when caring for your cigars. First, get yourself a small, digital hygrometer-thermometer that can be moved around your humidors so you can really see what's going on inside. Secondly, when you have too many cigars in one humidor the cigars on the bottom are suffering so at this stage it's usually better to either cut down on the cigars you store or get another humidor. Thirdly, take out your cigars about once every month or two and lay them out on a white sheet and look them over for signs of deterioration, and finally, always separate your cigars according to quality and how long you plan to age versus smoke. Three humidors always give you a good variety to choose from. One for the Super Premiums some hardly ever smoke, one for your good, hand-crafted cigars, and one for your "Joe Blow" cigars.

Keep an eye on all your hand-crafted cigars and don't expect the humidor to do all the work. You should be successful in storing cigars and smoking your stash with the confidence that they will be in tip-top shape when you need them.


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