Do you enjoy smoking cigars? Have you been an avid stogie smoker for quite a long time? Are you also the type of person who occasionally likes to show off their cigar smoking skills? If the answer to all these questions is “yes”, you might want to consider entering into a cigar smoking competition. But where do you start, and for some people, they may not even know what one is.
What Exactly is a Cigar Smoking Competition?
Cigar smoking competitions, often known as "slow smoking" competitions, are events where participants compete to see who can smoke a cigar for the longest time without relighting it. These competitions often have strict rules, such as the type and size of the cigar to be used, how to light it, and how to smoke it.
Participants start by lighting their cigars within a specified time frame. Once lit, they must keep the cigar burning without relighting. If the cigar goes out, the competitor is usually disqualified. The challenge is to smoke the cigar at a pace that keeps it lit without smoking it too quickly.
Judges monitor the competition to ensure fair play and adherence to the rules. They may measure the remaining length of the cigar at certain intervals to determine who is leading. The winner is often the person who can keep their cigar burning the longest while adhering to the competition's guidelines.
How are Cigar Smoking Competitions Typically Judged?
Each competition might have its own specific set of rules and judging criteria, so these points that we are going to touch upon can vary:
- Preparation and Lighting: Participants typically start with the same type and size of cigar. The initial phase involves properly cutting and lighting the cigar. This is often done within a specific time frame, and the quality of the cut and light can be part of the assessment.
- Duration of Smoking: The main objective is to smoke the cigar for as long as possible without it going out. The winner is usually the person who smokes their cigar for the longest duration. Competitors are not allowed to relight their cigar if it goes out.
- Cigar Handling Rules: There are specific rules regarding how the cigar can be handled. For instance, participants might not be allowed to put the cigar in an ashtray or cover it in any way that could limit its exposure to air.
- Ash Length: In some competitions, the length of the ash is also judged. Competitors might be required to maintain the ash for as long as possible without it falling off.
- Smoke Rings and Tricks: While not common in all competitions, some events may include points for style, such as the ability to blow smoke rings or perform other smoking tricks.
- Conduct and Etiquette: Competitors are often expected to follow certain etiquette rules, and failure to do so can result in penalties. This might include how they interact with other competitors and judges.
- Final Length of Cigar: At the end of the competition, the remaining length of the cigar might be measured. There can be penalties for smoking the cigar past a certain point.
What Types of Cigars are Used in Cigar Smoking Competitions?
These competitions typically use specific types of cigars to ensure a level playing field. So, there are some key characteristics of the cigars used in these competitions in order to achieve this.
Characteristic #1 Standardized Size and Shape
The cigars are usually of a specific length and ring gauge (diameter):
- This length allows for a prolonged smoking experience, which is essential in competitions where the duration and technique of smoking are judged.
- The ring gauge of a cigar affects its burn rate and draw. A medium ring gauge is preferred in competitions to balance these aspects.
A common size is around 5 to 6 inches in length with a ring gauge of about 40 to 50, or another size can be approximately 7 to 9 inches in length with a ring gauge usually around 47 to 52. This standardization ensures that all participants have an equal starting point. As far as shape goes, generally, a Parejo shape is used. Parejo refers to a straight-sided cigar with a rounded head. This traditional shape provides a consistent smoking experience.
Characteristic #2: Mild to Medium Strength
The cigars chosen are often mild to medium in strength. This choice is made to accommodate a wide range of participants, including those who may not be accustomed to stronger cigars. The wrapper is often a natural, medium shade. This choice balances flavor and burning characteristics, again vital for competition.
Characteristic #3: Quality and Consistency
The cigars are generally of high quality to ensure they burn evenly and consistently. This factor is crucial as an uneven burn can significantly affect the smoking time.
Characteristic #4: Limited or No Pre-Cutting
In some competitions, cigars are given to the participants without being pre-cut. This rule adds an element of skill, as the way a cigar is cut can affect how it burns.
Participants are usually expected to bring their own cutting tools, such as a cigar cutter or a sharp knife. The way a cigar is cut can vary based on the type of cigar and the smoker's preference. Some common cuts include the straight cut, the V-cut, and the punch cut, each offering a different smoking experience.
The ritual of cutting and lighting the cigar is an integral part of the cigar smoking experience, especially in a competitive setting. It showcases the smoker's expertise and respect for the cigar, contributing to the overall enjoyment and assessment of the cigar smoking process.
Characteristic #5: Specific Brands or Blends
Some competitions may use cigars from specific brands or particular blends known for their consistent quality and suitable characteristics for slow smoking. To expand on that:
- Consistency: Using cigars from a specific brand or blend ensures that all participants are on an equal footing. Since the quality, size, and characteristics of cigars can vary significantly across different brands and blends, standardizing the type of cigar used in a competition allows for a fair comparison of smoking skills.
- Sponsorship and Promotion: Many cigar competitions are sponsored by specific cigar brands. These brands provide their products for use in the competition, often in exchange for promotional considerations. This is a common practice in various competitive events, where sponsoring companies supply their products to gain exposure and marketing benefits.
- Control of Variables: In a competition setting, controlling as many variables as possible is essential for fairness and accuracy in judging. By using a specific brand or blend, organizers can control factors like the cigar's length, ring gauge, strength, and flavor profile, which could affect the duration and style of smoking.
- Quality Assurance: Selecting a reputable brand or a well-known blend ensures that the cigars used in the competition are of a high standard, reducing the likelihood of construction issues that could unfairly impact a competitor's performance.
- Preference for Certain Characteristics: Some competitions might be designed to highlight certain aspects of cigar smoking, such as endurance (how long a cigar lasts), flavor complexity, or smoke production. Specific brands or blends might be chosen because they exemplify these characteristics.
- Tradition or Theme: In some cases, the choice of a particular brand or blend might be driven by tradition, the theme of the event, or a desire to celebrate the heritage of a specific cigar-making region or style.
What Types of Prizes are Won at a Cigar Smoking Competition?
The prizes for these competitions can vary greatly depending on the organizers, sponsors, and the scale of the competition. Basically, some competitions are more focused on the community and experience, offering modest prizes, while others, especially those with major sponsors, might offer more luxurious rewards.
Common types of prizes include:
- Trophies or Medals: These are often given as a symbol of achievement and can range from small and modest to large and elaborate.
- High-Quality Cigars: Winners may receive premium cigars, which are highly valued in the cigar enthusiast community.
- Cigar Accessories: This can include high-end lighters, cutters, humidors, and other cigar-related accessories.
- Cash Prizes: Some competitions may offer cash prizes to the winners.
- Travel or Event Tickets: Winners might receive tickets to cigar-related events, festivals, or even trips to cigar-producing countries.
- Membership to Exclusive Clubs: Access to exclusive cigar clubs or societies can be a prize.
- Branded Merchandise: This can include items like shirts, hats, or other merchandise from cigar brands or the actual event sponsors.
- Recognition in Cigar Communities: Often, the prestige and recognition within the cigar-smoking community can be a significant reward.
Can You Get Disqualified from a Cigar Smoking Competition?
Yes, participants can be disqualified from a cigar smoking competition for several reasons. Again, the specific rules can vary depending on the organization and the nature of the competition, but common reasons for disqualification might include:
- Breaking Competition Rules: Most competitions have a set of rules that participants must follow. These might include regulations about how to light and smoke the cigar, time limits, or restrictions on how much of the cigar must be smoked.
- Using Prohibited Items: Some competitions might prohibit certain lighters or cutting tools. Using disallowed items can lead to disqualification.
- Tampering with the Cigar: Altering the cigar in any way that gives an unfair advantage, such as drilling it to increase airflow, is typically grounds for disqualification.
- Unsportsmanlike Conduct: This can include rude behavior towards other competitors or judges, cheating, or not adhering to the spirit of the competition.
- Health and Safety Violations: Ignoring safety protocols or engaging in actions that could be harmful to oneself or others can also result in disqualification.
Show What You Can Do in a Cigar Smoking Competition
Cigar smoking competitions aren’t just about endurance; they also celebrate the art and culture of cigar smoking. Participants often gather in a social setting, sharing stories and enjoying the leisurely pace of smoking a fine cigar. These events attract cigar enthusiasts who appreciate the craftsmanship of premium cigars and the skill involved in smoking them properly.
Remember, each competition will have its own specific set of rules, types of cigars used, and criteria for disqualification, so it's important for participants to familiarize themselves with these guidelines before competing.