161 - March 1, 2007
Beat the Heat
The recent (and ongoing) heatwave, coupled with
the distressed look on a customer’s face as he told me his cigars were being given the “Freezer treatment”, made me think that I should remind you about the dangers of heat to your cigars:
This time last year (and previously) I spoke of what to do to avoid a visitation of the tobacco beetle (Lacioderma or Lasioderma serricorne). Essentially, cool is paramount for storing your cigars - 19ºC to 21.5ºC. If your cigar is stored at too high a temperature for too long, the dreaded beetle, embedded deep in the cigar, may hatch and eat its way out of your lovely Robusto, leaving a neat hole that renders the cigar unsmokeable. But you don't have to run around with a thermometer. You know the cool place in your home or office, the place where you would be comfortable in a jacket, even in summer. That's where you should keep your cigars. Don’t leave them on the table after lunch, and think about the temperature when you take your cigars out with you – the cubby-hole and boot can get very warm.
But how do you know if the little thug has paid you a call – what damage does he cause, and what can you do about it?
The beetle starts out as a harmless egg, laid deep in the tobacco leaf. Under suitable conditions (humidity and excessive warmth) the egg hatches and the resultant worm eats its way out of the cigar, leaving a small round hole and a trail of fine tobacco dust. It usually seems to stick to one cigar, but occasionally it travels along other cigars, eating as it goes, and creating a trough on the surface. At some stage the worms metamorphose into tiny brown beetles which are often found in the bottom of the boxes and may even fly to other boxes continuing the damage.
In Durban in the 1960’s, before the days of air conditioning, this was a real threat in shop humidors.
My Dad used to import “Burma Cheroots”, but as he said “The shipping out of Rangoon was so slow, the weevils (beetles) got more than we did”. We visited a top cigar importer in the UK about 25 years ago. One of his agency lines was the same range of Burma Cheroots. When they arrived they were sorted in a safe place into “beetled” or “clean”. The latter were stored in what had been the butter room – the coldest room in the basement of the old school building which was the company warehouse.
An Air Force Group Captain told us how, when there were too many holes in the cigar to block with the fingers like a flute payer, they used to stick matches into the holes to seal them.
The beetle problem is common to all cigars. Many manufacturers now freeze the cigars, especially before shipping to, or through, hot regions.
But the beetle is determined, so look out for him. If you find any signs of his presence, even in just one cigar, Rick Hacker (in The Ultimate Cigar Book) suggests you remove all the cigars from your humidor or the box and search for his body. What you do if you find it is up to you, but get rid of it.
He continues “Next put all the apparently healthy cigars in a plastic zip-lock bag, gently force the air out of it, seal it, and place it in the freezer. Leave it there for at least 2 days. 3 is even better. Then, take the bag from the freezer to the refrigerator so that the cigars will thaw out slowly and will not go into shock and split. This is the only time I can recommend putting cigars in the refrigerator. Once the cigars have thawed, remove them from the refrigerator, take them out of the bag and slowly let them return to room temperature. Do not put them in the sunlight to speed up the process or they will split their wrappers. Once again I tell you this from personal experience. In the mean time, completely clean and aerate your humidor. Now you can put your cigars back. The bug is dead. The cigars can be smoked. You have made the world safe. For now.”
There is quite a bit to keeping your cigars in good condition,
but I can’t repeat too often – the primary rule is “keep your cigars cool!”
Our first cigar special of the year was the half corona. We put in quite a bit of stock, so there are still a few available. Can’t say the same for the Robusto Selection from December – but here we are with another Robusto (almost) Selection, at prices pre-budget. The true Robusto size is accepted as 124mm x Ring 50, although a number of cigars size 127mm x Ring 48 are classified as Robusto, eg Upmann Connoisseur No.1.
From March 8
Almost Robusto Selection
Saint Luis Rey Regios 127mm x Ring 48 R111.00
El Rey del Mundo Choix Supreme 127mm x Ring 48 R112.50
Trinidad Coloniales 132mm x Ring 44 R119.00
(The last, a thicker Petit Corona, is our “almost” – does it smoke very differently?)
That should keep you going for a while, until the budget increases are implemented.
(And we all know what has happened to the price of cigars again!)
No.161 March 1 to March 14, 2007
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