Origin stories are funny, most are myth once you ascend that rarified air into warlord. A scant few are better than the legend. This is one of them. It was August and it was hot…the kind of heat that hits you as soon as you walk outside and makes fills your nose with the smell of hot asphalt. The screaming was drowned out by a revving engine and the brief tire chirp. We were waiting on the last of us who would arrive, Jersey pacing like an expectant father. The door opened, and a chestnut brogue hit the ground. I rolled my eyes, spat on the ground and checked my chamber for the hundredth time. You could smell the burning homes and the drifting smoke created a haze in the hellish landscape. Hate rose like bile in my throat, surveying the destruction by the worst of us. I heard the metallic snick that could only be a cigar cutter. Then I heard the clink of a Zippo a fraction of a second before afterburner-like sound that could only be a butane torch. “Really?” I noted. Peering over his sunglasses, a smile appeared. “This is THE Cuban…it could be fun.” I knew what that meant, and had to admit the smell was intoxicating as the clack-clack of his bolt sent a round home. We started walking toward the screaming crowd. I looked over. Steel and aluminum clashing with the slate gray pinstripe, the man himself backlit by the flames from the houses and running melee of destruction in front of him. I almost chuckled at the incongruity of it all. We fanned out and I watched as civilization at last rose to defend itself against the madness of the chanting hoard. A half inch of ash fell to the ground, tapped against a gun barrel, a rifle was shouldered and the safety clicked off. Maybe they thought we were just there to threaten and posture…halfway through his Montecristo No. 2 and our the second magazines they knew we weren’t. It was a good day.
-Diaries of a Carolina Warlord
So what do you do when the media has now turned into an insane asylum, you’re stuck at home and range ammo is impossible to find? My preferred solution to detoxing from the insanity of the everyday is to find a decent book, a better small batch bourbon and an excellent cigar. While all three are a matter of taste, there is something intrinsically civilized and relaxing about slowing down and forcing yourself to de-stress for an hour.
All of this sounds nice, but cigars require more than grabbing one from your local tobacconist and smoking it. It’s often significantly cheaper to purchase whole boxes or sample packs of cigars, particularly when retail stores are experiencing significant logistical issues. As an example, most cigar stores local to me are operating on about 20-30% of their pre-Covid inventory. Like most things today, people have figured out how to do it cheaper and better on the internet. While I wouldn’t recommend buying entire boxes of cigars blind, there is certainly something to buying samples or your known favorites from online retailers. The process has largely become painless and I’ve not had any issues with it.
The first thing you need is something to cut the cigar with. For quality without breaking the bank, Xikar is the gold standard. Certainly more expensive than the $5 cutters at the counter, they are still priced reasonably and do exactly what they need to…cut. I have almost an entire box of cheap cutters that came with boxes of cigars or were SWAG at some event, but virtually all of them suck. They crush rather than cut the cigar, deforming it and a lot of times doing damage to the wrapper. While I prefer traditional cutters, Xikar also makes excellent punches and V-cutters. My recommendation for someone who is buying their first cutter is to get a traditional guillotine style cutter and branch out at a later time.
If you are going to buy two things to make lighting up more enjoyable, first would be a quality cutter and second would be a butane torch. Again, a gas station special works as well as you’d imagine. I also highly recommend ignoring people who go on about lighting it with cedar and other nonsense, particularly if you’re outside and not in a controlled environment with absolutely no wind. People like that are the square range crowd of cigar smoking…useless. While Xikar makes torches as well, I have had two go bad on me, and one returned under warranty that had the same issues again. There are better options out there, and ones that are comparable in price and work over and over. I have been blown away with the consistency of Colibri lighters, and cannot recommend them enough. Strangely enough, I’ve found my other go-to lighter is a butane insert put in a Zippo. I love the size and the sound of Zippo lighters and the insert is going on 7-8 years old and works every time. It may be ugly as sin, but it works.
Lastly, if you’re buying cigars that are not destined to be smoked that day, you need a humidor. Humidors can be electric, plastic, glass and the traditional wooden ones. Electric humidors are generally for serious smokers, many of the cabinet sized to allow you to age cigars for years. Xikar makes some nice plastic humidors that are great for camping, traveling and generally resemble a Pelican case in durability. The cheapest option I’ve seen and actually tried is a large glass jar with a Humipak in it. While it exposes your cigars to light, it is certainly an easy way to store them in a pinch if you don’t have access to your humidor or rarely smoke cigars and just need to store them for a couple of weeks. The most common, and what fits most people’s needs is a wooden humidor. There are tons of guides to season it, and you can experiment with different levels of humidity to find one that works for you…not that I’m saying 72% is the perfect one or anything.
Like anything, proper equipment can set you up for success. Smoking a cigar is one of the few things left in my life that is a stress reliever. The last six months the vast majority of my free time has been occupied by this site and martial pursuits. Taking time to slow life down and take a mental break is absolutely essential for your health. Work your ass off right now, while no one is shooting at most of you, but enjoy the present. One way to do that is with a cigar, and this will make that small taste of civilization that much better. On a related note, give the folks at Fox Cigar, they are an awesome. Not only do they have the best customer service I have ever seen with a cigar company, they also sell probably the best value in the US market right now, Curivari Seleccion Privada cigars. Enjoy, and stay dangerous!