We recently got the opportunity to sit down and talk with Craig Vanderslice, known to his fans as Cigar Craig. He’s been smoking, reviewing, and writing about cigars for almost twenty years. He’s traveled all over the world, met with cigar makers in the Caribbean, and seeks out the best cigar stores wherever he travels. He’s also a big fan of NewAir cigar humidors, especially the NewAir CC-100. We talked to him about his hobby, his writing, cigar storage tips, and why the NewAir CC-100 Cigar Humidor is a great tool for cigar collectors.
How did you get started and what made you start a cigar blog?
I smoked cigars through the 80s and 90s but didn’t discover premium hand rolled cigars until about 1995. I started researching cigars on the internet, which was far more primitive than it is now. I began writing in a Usenet group about cigars, then traveling to meet people from the group to smoke cigars. As the Internet evolved, I got away from the Usenet group and my wife bought me CigarCraig.com for my birthday and I began writing my blog as an outlet to share my cigar adventures. Over the last six years I’ve posted hundreds of articles and developed a loyal following.
Why is it important to properly store a cigar?
Cigars need to be maintained at humidity levels in the 65-70 range to burn properly. Too dry and the burn too fast and hot and will taste acrid. Too moist and they will smolder, and if you can get smoke through the cigar it will be steamy and not taste the way the maker intended. Temperature is equally important, as it effects the rate which the cigar ages and prevents tobacco beetles from hatching. Their microscopic eggs are present in most cigars. Temperatures that are too high will increase the possibility of hatching, and the larvae of the tobacco beetle are voracious. They will ruin cigars by boring holes in them. While most manufacturers take various precautions against outbreaks, keeping temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit give one peace of mind.
Do you think the NewAir CC-100 is great for someone who is just starting?
I do. One of the great things about the premium cigar hobby is variety and the NewAir CC-100 provides room for a nice selection as well as space to store a box or two if one were to purchase in quantity. It has a great seal to hold in humidity and maintains a constant temperature to keep cigars in the right condition to be properly enjoyed.
Have you ever converted a wine cooler into a humidor?
I have not, but for many years I used picnic type plastic coolers for storage. Similar concept without the temperature control.
How long does it take to age a cigar?
Most cigars sold today have been aged properly in the factory before being available for sale. However, storing cigars for months or even years will allow for the tobaccos in the blend to “marry” with one another making a smoother smoke. Cigars stored under the proper conditions can be smokable indefinitely, I’ve smoked 30-year-old cigars that were very good, and have a cigar in my humidor that was made in 1977 that should be fine. That being said, a milder cigar may lose flavor over time, and stronger cigars tend to hold up better. Cigars from Cuba typically have instructions in the box to age for five years, as they don’t take the time or expense to age cigars in the factory as they do in other countries. It’s generally a good idea to let cigars that have moved through the postal or parcel service a few weeks to allow them to reach the right humidity, but that isn’t really aging.
What advice would you give to a new cigar collector?
Smoke as many different cigars as you can to decide what you like and don’t like. Hold off on purchasing by the box until you know what you like because your tastes may change as you smoke more cigars.
I see a different cigar on your Instagram all the time. Do you smoke a different cigar every day?
I have favorite cigars, of course, but I’m always trying new cigars. One of the reasons is because I write about cigars on my blog, and it would get pretty boring writing about the same cigars all the time. There are so many great cigars, it’s just fun to sample all the different kinds. I get in the mood for a certain type of cigar from time to time, so there are times when the cigars may be from different manufacturers but have a common type of tobacco and I enjoy tasting how different or similar they can be.
What’s inside your NewAir cigar humidor?
I have some of my best cigars in there now, including a box of Padron Anniversary 1964 Exclusivos, a bunch of individually boxed special edition cigars including the La Palina Pasha, as well as cigars I have “on deck” for review purposes. I like the drawer for the single cigars and appreciate the fact that I can put boxes and the coffin style packaging on the shelves.
How many cigars would you say you have in your collection?
I probably have somewhere over 1000 cigars, which is modest in some circles, but bordering on excessive in others.
Anything else you want to add?
More important than just the consumption of rolled up leaves is the friendships made by the simple common interest. I’ve been fortunate to meet many cigar makers, retailers, cigar smokers, and they are all pretty great people. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit factories in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic and continue to be amazed by the time and energy that goes into making a cigar. After seeing the process, I feel a responsibility to store my cigars right so that I can enjoy them the way the makers intended them to be enjoyed. It’s a wonderful art form and an enjoyable hobby.
Got any questions or comments for Cigar Craig? Leave them in the comments!